Retro Gaming Review: Jaws (NES)

2011/07/24 22:38:34 +00:00 | Kyle Smith

Let me be honest here, I've always had a strong fear of sharks. For as long as I can remember images of sharks and the idea swimming near them have always made me cringe. The Steven Spielberg masterpiece known as Jaws was released to cinemas in North America on June 20th 1975. It was frightening then and to this day still holds up well amongst other monster movies. In my mind it's the best monster movie ever made

There was then a release of the first video game based on Jaws, or more specifically the fourth installment of the series. This came out four months after the fourth movie. The developers had a tall order of making this game continue the legacy of Jaws. Could they possibly make this game even slightly as terrifying as the original movie?

Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Developer: West One

Publisher: LJN

Release: November 1987

This is the third straight LJN published game I have reviewed. The first two I played were hit and miss. While neither are video game master pieces by any means I found that I could enjoy A Nightmare on Elm Street. I can't say the same about Friday the 13th.

The game starts you off in a boat at a dock; you take control of your ship and sail around the world. The objective of the game is to defeat Jaws; in order to do this you have to collect conch shells which are extremely valuable in this game. You want to go around and collect as many shells as possible in order to buy upgrades to your weapon.

While sailing around, you will encounter random battles that are more commonly found in the RPG genre. You will know when you encounter an enemy because it will claim that "you've hit something!" and you will fall from your boat and be brought to an underwater level.

You find your character in a scuba suit with what appears to be a harpoon gun. During this time you will fight against such enemies as a jellyfish, stingray and baby sharks. The stingray's will move in a horizontal pattern underwater and usually take a few hits to kill. The jellyfish will move in a vertical pattern from the ocean level all the way to the surface. The baby sharks are the toughest to kill taking at least a handful of shots and will keep coming back if you don't finish them off in their first run through.

The jellyfish take the least amount of hits to kill, but are a lot more frustrating throughout the game. If you get hit once you lose a life, a certain amount of shells and get transferred back to the starting dock. Once you have died three times the game is over.

When some of the enemies are killed they will drop certain items. That being a star which will give you extra score. It's nothing of real use unless you are going for a high score. Other items include a crab which will give your diver bonuses such as swimming speed and improved harpoon damage until you die. The last item that you will find during your underwater adventure would be the conch shells.

After a random amount of time you will be transferred back to your boat and you can continue on your way to the other port. During your (short) journey you may find a submarine lying around the ocean. If you go over it you will then have a submarine at your disposal when you fall in the water again. The sub has better speed, quicker attack rate and allows you to get hit twice before you die. Should you get hit while in the sub you will lose it and be back to your typical scuba diving character.

Other encounters you will come across while heading back and forth between the two docks is of course, Jaws himself. A fin will pop out of the water and if he swims into your ship he will knock you into the water prompting a message "you've hit Jaws!". He will then move in a similar pattern as the baby sharks, except if you don't have enough power upgrades you have no chance at killing him.

Depending on where you are in world you may enter a couple different underwater scenarios. For instance if you are near the dock or a small island you will be in a shallow water level, which in my opinion makes it harder. Should you be in a more open environment you will be at a deeper water depth giving you more of a chance to avoid incoming enemies. I thought that was a nice touch of realism to the game. It made things a bit more interesting to this otherwise repetitive game.

Throughout the game you will be randomly put into a "bonus scene". Essentially what you do is you take control of a plane that fly's over the water and you drop cannon balls on jellyfish (yes you're reading that correctly). It's very odd to say the least. For every three jellyfish you kill you get one conch shell.

Once you have collected a fair amount of power from the docks the enemies get faster and we see less of the stingrays (which i found to be the easiest to kill) and more of the baby sharks.

Eventually once you have enough upgrades you will want to fight Jaws. When you take his power meter down to nothing the game transfers you to a "first person view" of your boat. Jaws will come at your ship and you have to use your strobe device which will force him to breach the water's surface and get him to jump out of the water for a brief time. I won't give away the rest of the game but if you've seen all the Jaws films, you will know how it ends.

The game to me got stale rather quickly. It was just far too repetitive and lacked a lot of depth. The star item was pointless and they should have allowed you to have more continues based on your score. Like most other games when you have collected enough "coins", "rings" or reach a certain score you will get an extra life. All you do is fall in the water kill the same enemies over and over to get shells that eventually lead to an upgrade and then you battle Jaws when you are strong enough. I beat this game in no more than two hours; even for a NES game that is cutting it real short.

I was not impressed with the music; it really leaves nothing to be desired. Considering the size of the game I would have thought the graphics would have been better. With nothing much in the game I figured they would have put a bit more effort into that department.

The movie added to my fear of the water and sharks. To this day I still worry about going into large bodies of water. This game did not have that effect on me; in fact it didn't do much of anything for me. I see little to no replay value in this game. The movie is great and I would easily recommend it to anyone but I'd suggest staying away from this game.

"Come on into the water!"
- Chrissie Watkins