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NES Obscurity Quicky!

As I've mentioned several times in the past few months, my taste on old video games has shifted a little over time. And nowhere is this more evident than the game at the top of my "buy on sight" list. It's definitely a middling game, a game I sold years ago thinking I'd never want to play it again...but lately I've wanted to give it another shot.
So, in that spirit, and as we enter the final month of 2015, I've found a bunch of other games that I once sold, but recently bought again. I'll be talking about my original and new impressions of these games, just in case old games would be forgot, and never brought to mind, cuz For Sold Games (I've)
Game I've Sold long ago #1: BreakThru
What's this game about?
Data East presents the touching love story of a Jeep who will stop at nothing to rescue his kidnapped aircraft!
you play as a jumpin', shootin' jeep/truck thingie, in this somewhat-high speed shoot-em-up.
What did I remember about it?
Basically I remember it having a very low margin for error: your driving area was generally limited to a small part of the screen, the enemies and their bullets are relatively big, and you have to go ramp up to full speed if you want to be able to jump over the larger obstacles...
(which tend to show up with very little warning)
On the positive side, I remembered it was a pretty easy-to-beat game.
What impression did it make this time?
Well, aside from the very-much remembered "you have to know to speed-up to jump road-spanning obstacles", there were three things that stood out after playing BreakThru again:

1. Heat-Seeking Rocks...and a little while later, heat-seeking missiles. But mostly rocks. Also, in discussing these, we'll address the game's BAD DIFFICULTY CURVE:
It turns out the overall game isn't too difficult, but it almost has an "upside-down difficulty curve". The last two levels are incredibly easy. There's a really really hard jump in the middle level which may be the hardest part of the game, but the most challenging enemy type appears in the 1st level:
The aforementioned heat-seaking rocks and/or missiles!
Unless you slow down to the slowest pace, there's no way to "fake out" these "heat-seeking rocks". Their trajectory is entirely determined by you; in video games, dangerous projectiles often lock on-target the moment they enter the screen, and you can fool them by changing course after you've seen them.
Not so, here: if you're traveling at all quickly, the rocks are designed to hit the ground at about the same time as you reach them, landing directly on/in front of your jeep. You either have to jump, shoot them enough that they disintegrate, or slow waaaay down (making it hard to get back up to reasonable jumping-speed)...all because these hunks of dirt somehow have the tracking sense of a bloodhound crossed with a carrier pidgeon.

2. It's Data East-levels of Cheap!
So, as you've seen above, the backgrounds are rinky-dink, the rocks are squigglies. But also the people are tiny and most of the enemy tanks have no animation:
Additionally, there are some places where they haven't done the best of job making 'curved backgrounds' join smoothly:
(This isn't a glitch, that's how it is programmed to look)
But I think the most cost-cutting effect in the whole game is the Bunker thingie: while it looks pretty sharp and sprays bullets at a high rate, let me just show how they represent the Destroyed bunker:
Un-Destroyed Bunker:
Destroyed Bunker: It just gets a "non-animated explosion" picture, that stays over it until it scrolls off-screen.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Data East did not make the most high-quality NES games.

3. Unlimited Continues + Checkpoints after almost every obstacle = makes the game a little too easy
Here we see an old game tradition, the Between-Lives Game Map Screen:
Left: Map 1 at the beginning. Right: Map 1, Checkpoint 2
The first level, which can probably be completed in under 5 minutes if you played flawlessly, has almost half a dozen invisible checkpoints. It certainly feels like there's a checkpoint beyond every 2-3 obstacles...so if you die, you end up only replaying a screen or two.
As a mediocre game-player but world-class game ENJOYER, I'm usually not one to say "they should make this harder!" But given how short the game is, they might want to up the challenge a little bit.
For example, you get 3 lives and infinite continues. But there's no difference between losing a life and Continue-ing: both of them start you at your most recent checkpoint. The game would force you to play a little better if losing Lives started you at the last checkpoint, but having to Continue started you back at the beginning of your current level...then at least you have to play well enough to beat an entire level in 3 lives.
While it's not quite in the Wizards and Warriors or Guerilla War category of "just keep playing and eventually you pretty much have to win", it certainly feels like each death only sets you back one or two screens.
Well, those are the biggest impressions...
But I noticed a few other things worth mentioning:
  1. The jumping controls are wonky: you need to accelerate to the faster speed(s) to be able to jump any respectable distance. But part of your landing sequence AFTER the jump DE-celerates you...meaning you need more runway to jump again.
  2. The game's single Power-Up is kind of Pointless even if you manage to nab the "parachuting triple-shot" power-up, the 'normal' version just gives you 15 shots of triple-shot. You'd need the "parachuting fat pill" version to get infinite triple-shot. Also to nab the power-up, you need to Leap while it crosses your path...but the game is built so there's usually lots of things trying to kill you when it parachutes in...or worse, if you jump to get it, you might not have enough runway to jump AGAIN afterwards; see point A)
  3. But for a bright spot...there are helpful enemy patterns you can recognize -- as I mentioned the other week, shoot-em-ups can be kind of fun when you learn enemy's attack patterns, and you can figure out their weaknesses. In this case, a few enemies have dependable blind-spots that you can use to your advantage:
  4. For example, soldiers only shoot straight ahead, and These tanks only shoot forwards or diagonal-DOWN.
  5. and at least the game gives good advice!
Watch out for falling rocks!
Well, that's it for this week...
But tune in next week for another game that I've sold, and recently re-bought!
(and tortured grammer attempting to reference "Old Lang Syne". You guys understood that's what I was going for, right?)
— carlmarksguy, 2015-12-07
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