2011/07/15 18:24:43 UTC by Kyle Smith

Retro Gaming Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (NES)

What do energy drinks and coffee have in common? They both send a giant rush of caffeine through your body and keep you alert. Why do I ask? Well, these are top tier weapons to combat the “Dream Master” Freddy Krueger with.

Of course, if you are familiar with the premise of A Nightmare on Elm Street you’ll know that staying awake is your best bet against Freddy. Should you fall asleep, he will have control of your dream and comes up with the most unpleasant nightmares.

Just like the other successful horror franchise Friday The 13th, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street got introduced to the 8-bit gaming console known as the Nintendo Entertainment System in October 1990.

Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Developer: Rare

Publisher: LJN

Release: October 1990

Initially I noticed something different about this game; something that is rare for this genre. Through the power of either an NES Four Score or NES Satellite, the multi-player function allows three other friends to enjoy some four player action. There are roughly 25 NES games that support this function and this is the only game I will be reviewing that will have this kind of support.

After you select how many players you want to play with, the game throws you right onto Elm Street. Assuming you selected “1 player” you get some generic looking character that doesn’t seem to be anyone in particular from the movies. There is no prior discussion and you just have to make your way down Elm Street avoiding different kinds of enemies.

The enemies are very similar to most other horror games. You come across such enemies as bats, snakes, zombies, skeletons, rats and spiders. If you take any more than four hits you will lose a life against any enemy. The developers could have become a little more creative with their enemies to be honest. It’s another gripe I have with these retro horror games.

Your objective is to search for Freddy’s bones that are scattered all over Elm Street in locations such as random houses, a cemetery, junk yard and the Elm Street high school. Once you have collected all of his bones, you need to burn them in the high school’s boiler room. It certainly pays homage to the movies in that regard.

The design of the game is pretty straight forward and you continue on either right or left until you have reached your destination. It’s not very hard to navigate because the game will only allow you to enter your next location.

A minor issue I had with the games design was related to the bones. Freddy’s bones are placed strategically in certain locations where you would generally have to look twice before noticing such images. I found myself advancing through the stage only to find out I had to go back and find the missing bones that I swore I didn’t miss. It became a bit tedious and I almost expected bones to be in the most absurd places. Another problem with the bones is that they are exactly the same. The bones are apparently of the leg shape variety. Nothing major but certainly we could have used a bit more variety.

As you progress through the game, you have a sleep bar at the top of the screen. It represents how tired you are and is referred to as a “sleep meter”. It slowly drains as time goes on and if you don’t drink coffee that is laid about, you will fall asleep. Should you fall asleep, the monsters are a lot tougher to deal with.

While in a sleep state, finding an upgrade will transform you into one of three “Dream Warriors”, just like in the third installment of the Nightmare movie series. You can turn into an Acrobat, Shadow Warrior or a Necromancer. They all help you in combat against the stronger monsters while you are asleep.

A problem I had with the “Dream Warrior” aspect was the fact that when you are one of them you seem almost invincible and you really would just stay asleep instead of going back to the generic, low range, fist throwing male. You can walk over to a radio in the levels and it wakes you back up, if you want to avoid the stronger enemies.

One feature this game had that Friday The 13th lacked, was the ability to attack while in midair. I find that to be a huge asset in this game and it was surely missed in Friday The 13th. Also, unlike Friday the 13th, music was a strength in this game. I did not find my ears bleeding at the same repetitive midi. I found myself humming back the songs hours after I finished the game. They’re catchy, what can I say? In fact, this game seemed to cover a variety of songs given certain situations. Including the iconic “one…two…Freddy’s coming for you” song. This is played while you have been sleeping for too long and he is ready to “battle you”.

Once you have collected the exact amount of bones you are needed to complete each level, you then experience a boss battle with one of Freddy’s parts. Such as his glove, his head, Freddy in bat form, Freddy in ghost form and even fighting his glove and head at the same time.

Some of the battles can become tricky. If you aren’t ready for his bat and ghost form to produce other bats and ghosts while you are fighting him. I found myself focusing too much on Freddy that I forgot about extra enemies and they were the ones that ended up killing me from time to time. It certainly makes things interesting towards the end of the game. Other than that the boss battles seemed to lack depth. They were different forms or parts but they certainly acted the same and had very similar patterns making it feel like I’ve already done this before.

Overall, I’d say this is a solid NES horror game and something that I would go back and play again. I enjoyed this much more than Friday The 13th. The game is not long at all and you should have it beat in no more than 5 hours. I’ve always felt Freddy Krueger had a strong presence on screen and an impact on my life growing up. He’s always been my all-time favorite horror icon. I’d recommend this to any horror fan or gamer who pursues side scrolling games. This game by no means is perfect, but it does enough to keep alive the legacy of Freddy Krueger.

“Whatever you do don’t fall asleep.”
– Nancy Thompson

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