Saturday 14 November 2020

Guerrilla War (NES review)

Developer: SNK
Publisher: SNK
Released: 1989

Guerrilla War is an overhead run 'n' gun game that was first released in the Arcades in 1987.

As the guerrilla leader, you must secretly land on shore to protect your small island from the domination of an evil dictator. There's ten stages and while your main weapon is a machine gun, power-ups such as flamethrowers and screen-clearing bombs can be collected. The game's most striking aspect is the number of bullets, grenades and enemies that can litter the screen at once; it's remarkable and the sheer carnage keeps you fully engrossed throughout every moment. This does result in some slowdown and screen flicker, but it only becomes overly noticeable in later stages. The effect this does have though is that you're usually wildly outnumbered, which makes for some incredibly difficult gameplay and you'll likely die often while trying to avoid the swarm of bullets coming your way; this is undoubtedly frustrating, but I do like how unlimited continues are available at the cost of your high score being reset, as it allows novices / moderately-skilled players to see everything the game has to offer. This enables Guerrilla War to shine, as it includes a good amount of scenic and mission variety (e.g. having to swim while fighting your way back to land, and an underground section where you need to rescue hostages), as well as sections that force you to scroll left and right instead of just straight ahead. The bosses feature large sprites and tons of diversity, and it's interesting how they almost resemble a shoot-em-up as you quickly dodge their attacks to get a shot in of your own. The controls are decent, but the lack of the Arcade's rotary stick does lead to some errant firing in the heat of the action.

Guerrilla War is a technical showpiece for the NES and it's mightily impressive how SNK managed to squeeze every ounce from the console to allow so many sprites on screen at the same time. The gameplay is also great fun with plenty of variety, but there's no doubting that some will be put off by its punishing difficulty.

Random trivia: The game ROM contains hidden messages from the programmers.

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