Video Game Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (NES)

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I have a deep, passionate love for horror games.  Fifteen years ago, when other kids were out renting and buying Mario and Zelda games, I was always playing games like Castlevania and Splatterhouse 3.  My infatuation with killing zombies, aliens and demons probably borders on the deranged.  Even though it is not technically a horror game, the NES game A Nightmare On Elm Street is one of the games that started up my early pixelated bloodlust.


Freddy is telling us that this is a 4-player game.


A Nightmare On Elm Street follows the journey of "Nameless Male Teenager #1" as he tears through the evil buildings and areas on Elm Street, collecting the scattered bones of Freddy Krueger in order to properly dispose of them.  Along the way, the main character encounters such menacing enemies as bats, rats, snakes, Frankenstein-zombies, spiders and giant flies, all whom are set out to destroy you.  Naturally, all of the excitement that comes in the form of bat-dodging would make nearly anyone sleepy.  Don't fret, because the hero comes equipped with a "Zzz Meter" so you can track how sleepy your character is.  If the character does fall asleep while running however, the dream world infuses with and corrupts the waking world, turning it into a gothic deathtrap.  Also, all of those seemingly harmless bats, spiders and snakes turn into skull-bats, Freddy-spiders and wolves, respectively.  Scattered throughout each level are cups of coffee and radios to help keep you awake.  The coffee is found in the waking world and fills up your "Zzz Meter" so that you stay awake longer.  The radios are found in the dream world and serve as a sort of wake-up call.  If you touch a radio, it blasts out some searing rock riffs to bring you back to consciousness.


Freddy's badass glove can't trump the power of the girly javelin-throw.


In all seriousness, much of this game is spent ensuring that if you fall asleep, you do not stay asleep for long.  If you stay asleep long enough, a familiar tune starts to play ("One, two, Freddy's coming for you!") and Freddy does indeed come for you.  They basically serve as energy-draining mini-boss battles, with the main boss.  Its a cheap tactic, but we all know that Freddy isn't a good sportsman.  With so many enemies coming after you, plus a form of Freddy to battle at the end of each stage, how in the hell are you expected to defend yourself?


I have waited my whole life to see a ninja battle a giant fist.


In the waking world, you only have your bare knuckles to use to defend yourself.  In other words, you end up punching a lot of bats and snakes in the face in order to dispose of them.  That might sound ridiculous to some, but to me, it sounds pretty Chuck Norris.  In the dream world, however, you are bequeathed three dream powers.  The first of these you find turns you into a leotard-wearing gymnast, complete with the ability to jump extremely high and throw javelins as weapons.  As "glittery" as that sounds, it is actually a really effective power in the game.  The next two powers are found at nearly the same time; the ninja warrior and the necromancer (or wizard for the layperson).  The necromancer power is the worst of the three, despite allowing you the ability to hover.  The ninja power is the best because not only can you harm enemies with throwing stars, but as you jump, you do a flying jump-kick that can harm enemies.  You can harm enemies just by pressing the jump button.  That is a pretty sweet thought, huh?


Ride the snake.


Your purpose in this game, however, is not to run around doing David Lee Roth-type jump kicks or even to run away from Freddy.  Your purpose in this game is to traipse through each area on Elm Street (regular houses, Freddy's house, the cemetery, the junkyard and the high school) and collect the bones of Freddy.  As you collect the bones in each area, you are then greeted by a particular form of Freddy.  The forms include a giant Freddy glove, a giant Freddy head that unleashes deadly tongues after you, a giant Freddy bat, a giant Freddy ghost, and of course, Freddy in his typical form.  Most of the bosses in the game are fairly easy, but getting to them will take a lot of life out of your character.  The cemetery and junkyard levels are particularly difficult to complete while avoiding damage, as you have environmental dangers to avoid as well.  After you have collected every bone of Freddy and defeated each of his forms, you pitch all the bones in the famous furnace and watch them burn.  Freddy's dead.  End of story... right?


The skinny-armed ghost makes the dreamworld extra spooky.


The Verdict:  This game is famous for being bashed in a video review by the Angry Video Game Nerd.  It has also been bashed by just about everyone else on the internet who has done a review of it.  It gets unjustly bashed for its frustrating regeneration, absurd enemies and easy-to-figure-out boss battles.  Well, everyone else on the internet, allow me to retort.  I've read that many people think that the regenerating enemies in this game are a product of bad design and bring down the quality of the game.  Meanwhile, these same people see the same quality in the NES game Ninja Gaiden and call it "challenging."  Some people think that the spiders, snakes, flies and bats in the game are too ridiculous to be enemies in any game, let alone a game about Freddy Krueger.  These same people jizz their pants at the thought of killing random blob and worm-like enemies in the caves of a Zelda game.  Some people naturally assume that since it was put out by LJN (makers of some of Nintendo''s worst games) that it too would be a disaster of a game.  However, this game was just distributed by LJN -- it was actually developed by a little company called Rare Ltd. (they also developed Battletoads and Wizards & Warriors).  My point is this: A Nightmare On Elm Street hasn't gotten much of a fair shake.  It is a very solid platformer that does more justice to the franchise than the fourth and fifth movies did, much less the vapid remake.  And while, overall, the game doesn't stand out amongst the many NES classics, there is one aspect of the game that does make it stand out: the musical score.  The musical MIDI pieces in this game are so catchy that getting them out of your head is almost as difficult as getting Freddy out of your head.  Overall, based on the NES standard of games, I give A Nightmare On Elm Street a solid 6.5 out of 10.

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