CLASH AT DEMONHEAD / Vic Tokai / NES
Clash at Demonhead, another cult animu nerd favorite that I just completely do not get. I mean, I see the potential - it basically plays like a cut-rate version of Mega Man, with ideas from other quite decent games like Bionic Commando and Rygar shoplifted on in as well. I just don't see how people can look past the janky, clunky gameplay to actually think that sitting down with this thing and playing it for minutes/hours on end is an enjoyable use of time.
The story: Billy "Big Bang" Mullethead is a trooper in one of those wacky Japanese Goemon-esque worlds where flying skeletons plot acts of terrorism and all that sort of thing. For reasons very poorly explained, he'll have to travel around some island collecting the "six medallions of the Governors" in order to ... stop something bad from happening, one speculates? Unless they bothered to elaborate in the manual, I don't recall the game ever telling you exactly why the hell you're cavorting about shooting everything that moves to begin with. For all I know this guy is some heavily armed delusional paranoiac and I'm participating in a killing spree.
The story really doesn't matter, unless you want to try to argue that LOL IT'S WACKY AND RANDOM AND QUIRKY JAPANESEY somehow makes up for the fact that the game is not at all fun to play. It isn't even the gameplay so much - think a slightly less precise version of Mega Man - but the completely thoughtless level design and enemy placement that seems like it was intentionally laid out to piss you off as much as possible. It's one of those irritating super-old-school games where your main character is stiff and has a lot of movement and firing direction restrictions put on him, and nearly every enemy is designed to come at you in a way that it's really hard/awkward to deal with them given those restrictions. It was a shitty trend in action game design that is thankfully long since dead, but Demonhead was still within the era where it was considered commercially acceptable to use, and unfortunately they use the hell out of it here.
The game's overall structure is a little odd - the entirety of it takes place on a series of interconnected roads, and each road is basically a fairly short level. You travel about the island on these roads in a non-linear fashion, seeking out the six Governor medallions, as well as shops wherein you can purchase upgrade equipment like healing items, better weapons and jump boosts. This should have been the strength of the game, but the sameiness (and the frustrating layouts) of all the different roads makes exploration tedious, and the game just kind of drops you off with little clue as to how to proceed effectively. It does give you seemingly infinite continues and a password system to ease the pain, but with boring graphics and a really annoying and repetitive soundtrack, what reason is left to bother pushing through?
Unless you have a real hard-on for generic Japanese anime "wackiness", I suggest you stay off this island.
* Gameplay Video
The Hideous Box Art