Wednesday 7 September 2016

Shatterhand (NES review)

Developer: Natsume
Publisher: Jaleco
Released: 1991

Shatterhand is a side-scrolling action game that's exclusive to the NES.

Your mission is to travel across seven stages and defeat General Grover, leader of the rebellious Metal Command. You attack with cybernetic fists but help is also available from hovering satellite robots that appear once you've collected combinations of letters from item boxes; these robots fire when you throw a punch and grant you access to cool weapons such as lasers and grenades. Initially, the level structure appears linear, but once you've beaten the opening stage a map appears which allows you to choose any of the next five levels. While the level design isn't spectacular, everything is cleverly structured to challenge you in terms of different enemy types, environmental hazards, or combat in narrow areas. This keeps you on your toes and forces you to strategise by thinking about what's ahead and how you're going to tackle it. The standout moment occurs in Area E, as gravity flips and you find yourself battling upside down! The stages aren't particularly lengthy but if you die the checkpoints are spaced out (at least there's unlimited continues). The game is tough but fair, and the quality of the gameplay and combat is what keeps you progressing. The ability to mix and match robot weapons is one of the best features as it encourages you to experiment and adapt power-ups for each situation. Each boss fight is memorable including the battle against jumping creatures that morph into a centipede, and a boss that takes place on a vertically moving platform while deadly spikes surround you. The animation is stunning and the catchy, melodic music really captures the intensity of the action.
Shatterhand is a solid title with some great ideas and gameplay that combines elements from Ninja Gaiden (1989, NES) and Mega Man (1987, NES). While the level design is a bit uninspired, the interesting combat, power-ups and enemy types make up for it and ensure that the action always remains highly engaging.
Random trivia: This is one of the few NES games to feature parallax scrolling.

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