|Super Spy Hunter|
As you might imagine this title is a pseudo-sequel to the original Midway arcade game. After the success of the original Midway did release an arcade sequel, Spy Hunter II, but that game wasn't very good or popular and became a mere footnote. So instead of instead of bringing that game over, Sunsoft decided to craft an original sequel for the NES and thus we have this title. Now this game went largely unnoticed due to very little press and bad timing, since the Super NES was taking off around the same time. So is Super Spy Hunter another overlooked gem in the vast NES library? Let's take a look.
This game has a pretty basic story. You are agent SSH of the C.I.A. and are out to stop a group of international terriorists known only as "X" from threatening the world with a super weapon. All the other agents have tried to stop them but failed and now you represent the last hope the world has.
In this game you drive your super car through six stages of vertically scrolling shooting action. The core gameplay is just like the original title; you zoom down the different twisting streets blasting any enemy cars and choppers out to end your mission. However this version has a number of different features that set it apart from the original. Your car is armed with a forward-mounted cannon and an adjustable twin cannon mounted on your roof, all of which shoot pulse blasts that can take out both ground and air-based enemies. You also have a life meter which enables you to take mutiple hits before you perish instead of the one-hit kills in the original. You still get help from weapons vans that drive along the road but now you blast them and try to catch the icons that pop out. The red trucks can give you upgrades that give you rapid fire, extend your life meter, and power-up your car several times eventually transforming it into a sleek blue roadster. The blue trucks give you secondary weapons such as tire slashers, oil slicks and super bombs that can be saved and used when you need them. In Level 5 your can can also change your vehicle into a boat for some nautical shooting action and a plane for aerial combat. At the end of each level a monster boss tries to stop your orpgress, and you must take ii down to proceed to the next level.
The graphics in this game are amazing. The cars all look nice and have some nice details, especially the bosses which are large and very detailed. What really stands out is the scenery which is rendered very well and has some great special effects, such as when the screen bends as you go through curves, a bridge that sways in the wind in Level 1, and in level 4 when you shoot up into the air and can see the road coming in below you. The scrolling is also done very well and gives you a sense of speed. There is a bit of slowdown when the action gets to intense but it's minimal at best. The music is also very good, with rockin' background tunes that fit the action well as you zoom down the roads or battle a boss. The sound effects are solid but nothing special.
The gameplay is arcade shooting action at its finest. It's very easy to get into but also features exciting on-stop action. Plus each level has its own challenges to overcome which adds a little variety to your mission. The controls are pretty easy to use and work very well, though sometimes it's easy to smack into a wall when you're moving too fast. The game's difficulty is a little on the high side but with enough practice it can be beaten. However one major issue is than after your car perishes, when you begin your next life you go back to four bars of energy and your car degrades one level. This can be problematic especially when you restart at a boss with a car too weak to stand much of a chance. Also while you do get unlimited continues, there's no game-save feature, meaning you have to start from the beginning every time and many of the levels are pretty long.
So overall Super Spy Hunter is another excellent title for the NES and tons better than the origial Spy Hunter cartridge. Those that have fond memories of the arcade original will feel right at home, and the fast and furious action will satiasfy any shooter fan. Even the difficulty issues do detract too much from the overall experience. Anyway you look at it this title is yet another incredible late release for the NES and another hidden treasure that's worth tracking down.
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