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NES Obscurity Quicky!

Yes, it's time to talk some more about...
I've been playing quite a bit of this game since I wrote my first article on it, and now I know how most of the game and its items work. It's really quite a complex little game, especially for one that came out in 1986!
I've broken out the power-ups into the following categories:
  1. Extra Weapons
  2. Level Boss Items
  3. Points Only
  4. OTHER!
Extra Weapons
There's a couple of weird quirks that apply to all extra weapons:
When you shoot extra weapons, you ALSO shoot one of your normal throwing knives (This is why I call them "EXTRA weapons")
Most of the time you can switch between using any of your extra weapons (or none at all) by pressing the select button. Since you keep every new extra weapon you pick up (as in, it doesn't replace any previous extra weapons), you may have to press Select a number of times to get to the one you want (or just switch to your normal knives).
...however, when you pick up a NEW extra weapon, you have to shoot it at least once (or lose a life) before it can be UN-selected.
An extra weapon automatically DE-selects itself after you've used HALF of its ammunition. For example, if you've picked up 20 fireballs, the fireballs will be DE-selected when you have 10 remaining, and you have to press Select again to re-select them. Of course they'll be DE-selected again when you have 5 remaining...or, if you were to stop using it when you had 14, then re-selected it later, it would de-select itself at 7. What an odd coding decision!
You can't use them during Miniboss fights, but you CAN use them during Level Boss fights.
Well, that's that. Let's look at the four special weapons!
Shuriken: Travels about the same speed as your throwing knives, but like all Extra Weapons, this keeps going even after it hits an enemy. You get 20 shots per pick-up.
Fireball: travels in slower, wider pattern than your standard daggers. You get 20 shots per pick-up.
Boomerang: It slowly wanders off the edge of the screen, then comes back a minute or two later. While it has a tiny bit of 'enemy seeking' powers, it's mainly great because when you pick it up you turn blinking and invulnerable for about 30 or so seconds. You only get 4 shots per pick-up.
Feather: This is like the boomerang, but less purposeful. It seems to wander slowly off the screen when you shoot it, and NOT return later. However, you still get a long period of invulnerability when you pick it up. You get 4 feathers per pick-up.
Level Boss Items
Flute: appears when there's only 1 thing left to kill/gather in the normal skull castle levels. It lets you summon a helper to block the level boss's bullets. To summon that helper, you have to know that you must run to the far left corner of the level boss's screen and kneel.

You can get one flute per skull castle, but I'm not sure why you'd need more than one: even if the first helper (the unicorn) is shot so much it leaves, you can call it back by kneeling again...

Scroll: lets you fight the level boss. Or, to be precise: if you touch the Yellow Birdhouse on the map AND you have the Scroll, the Negative Image of Cher appears and then you can battle the boss on the Yellow Skull Pagoda.

It may appear in any skull castle when there's five things left to kill/gather, and if you grab it you don't need to go into any further skull castles (unless they're blocking your path to the Yellow Birdhouse or Pagoda). But if you haven't gotten the scroll before you win the final skull castle, it is guaranteed to appear in the final one, AND that level's exits won't appear until you've grabbed it (wow, they programmed the game to avoid unwinable situations!)

Points Only
These give you various amounts of points, and nothing else. Though they often give you LESS points than the other power-ups described on this page, each point-boost is handy: you get an extra life every 20,000 points.
Birdhouse (500 points), Japanese Characters (1,000 points)
Eye Thingie and Firey Thingie This pair of rare little critters show up together (and are seen overlapping above), then usually split up at some point and march in opposite directions. They only give you points, I think...(though the Eye Thingie looks like the "Eyes: x2" icon at the top of the screen that shows your remaining lives, I don't think they automatically give you a 1-up, even if you grab both of them).
OTHER!
Crazy Speed Boost Smiley Red Dude: If you pick this up, you will run so fast you'll usually end up getting killed by an enemy who appears from the edge of the screen.

However, if you proceed in stops and starts, you can have great fun with the fact that the speed of your normal throwing knives is affected by your speed at the time you launched them: during some of your stops/starts/turns when you're juiced up on the Crazy Speed Boost, you can end up launching a knife that travels incredibly slowly :)

Miniboss Door Warning Animals: If you pick up these animals in a skull castle, then when the two doors appear at the end of that skull castle, the animal will be marking the door which DOESN'T make you fight the miniboss.
Yes, it turns out that all those great minibosses are more of a punishment than a requirement: every level you're given a 50/50 chance of being able to avoid them altogether.
Speaking of which, let's round this out with two...
Bosses/Levels I didn't have pictures of last time!
This is that other miniboss I mentioned last time: his eye is closed most of the time by the large bottom lid, and thus can't be shot. Of course when it's closed he can't shoot eye-beams at you either, so I guess that's fair. Also he pals around with Frankenstein's monster!
Here's the other Blazing Inferno background! Its enemies are just skeletons, which is pretty bland compared with most of the enemies in this game.
And there's so much more!
If you beat Level 1 and Level 2 (each of which have different bosses), you're back in Level 1's map again, but with EVEN MORE DIFFERENT enemies to fight in the standard 4 level types...and the Level 3 boss is different from the Level 1 and Level 2 boss!
To summarize, there's a lot of different drawings of enemies crammed into this little cartridge. I honestly don't know WHY they did that, but they did!
Anything else you'd like to add, Pitfall Harry?
— carlmarksguy, 2013-03-29
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