Nintendo seems committed to releasing new games each month for the NES and SNES Online service, as well they should, since the justification for having the service at all hinges mostly on how important cloud saves are to you.
Nintendo Switch Online dropped four new titles last week to add to their growing collection of NES and SNES games, and the obscurity is strong with these titles. Let’s dive right in.
Eliminator Boat Duel (NES)
The real find here is Eliminator Boat Duel, a one or two player game that has you engaging in high stakes power boat races with 8 competitors, like hippie stoner Aquarius Rex. Coming in at the tail end of the NES’ life cycle, 1991, this game—that I’ve never heard of—is so strange that I had to see if this was ever released in America. It was. The cover art had the look of…you know what, here’s a picture of it:
This game is a product of a bygone era. It probably wouldn’t exist in today’s climate, unless it was marketed as a tongue-in-cheek parody of salacious games (a la the Dead or Alive volleyball game series).
The game has a high jiggle factor to it as well. Each race begins with a buxom, bikini clad blonde jumping to start the race—and all the movement from gravity that it entails. The winner of each race is rewarded a trophy, handed to them by a different, yet similar, dead-eyed, buxom, bikini clad blonde.
Before you knock the game for a disappointing—but not entirely shocking—lack of diversity, it should be noted that close races that end in photo finishes get instant-replay, after a group of bikini clad women jump up and down (in slow motion) demanding, “We want slo-mo!!” In this instance, we not only get the two standard buxom blondes, but we also get a brunette, and a purple-haired woman as well. Their impressive tans suggest they are on loan from a Hawaiian Tropics beauty contest.
The game itself—if I can pivot away from the silly attempts at preteen titillation—is a mix of the overhead isometric angles R.C. Pro-Am and Cobra Triangle used, interspersed with short segments that feel like Rad Racer but with speed boats.
You race a series of wacky characters, like hippie Aquarius Rex, who feel like they were meant to ape the different boxer personalities you would encounter in a standard Punch-Out!! game. The only problem is, once the race starts, you don’t see these characters. It’s just the boats, making the individual racer personalities a nice touch, but a tad inessential.
Between races you can use your winnings to power up, or repair, your boat in dry dock. This had the potential to add a little strategy to the gameplay, but I found that I wound up maxing out my own boat relatively early on, meaning I often had a ton of money, and nothing to spend it on outside of minor repairs.
Eliminator Boat Duel is probably not going to morph suddenly into a cult classic simply because it has gaudy box art and jiggling woman that even the most self-serious game reviewers would likely deem indifferently-problematic. It is however a fun little diversion that might keep you and a friend entertained for an hour or two.
Shadow of the Ninja (NES)
When I heard the title of this game, I swore I had played it. As it turned out, it was just the fact this bland imitation of other, better games just had a title that sounds like an amalgamation of better game titles. Any ninja game on the NES is immediately going to get compared to Ninja Gaiden, the ultra-hard 8-bit trilogy of games, and Shadow of the Ninja does not even belong in the conversation with that game.
Now, I am not the biggest Ninja Gaiden fan. I liked the first one, but I never cared for the controls in that game. SotN tries to evoke mild feelings of Ninja Gaiden, but its bland colors, uninspired level designs, and forgettable enemies give you no real reason to play this game. About the most unique thing your character does is pull ups.
In a world where Ninja Gaiden exists, there is no need to play Shadow of the Ninja, because you should be playing The Messenger. Seriously, buy The Messenger. It’s brilliant, and perhaps the first video game to elicit multiple belly laughs from me. It’s an absolutely cracking video gaming experience.
You could say this NES offering lives in the shadow of many, far more accomplished ninjas: Ryu Hayabusa, the Shinobi guy (he was probably named Ryu too), Kid Niki (he of the clan of radical ninjas), the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the ninja from that thing you’re currently thinking of.
Ultimately, this game is just guilty of committing my ultimate crime: being forgettable. I realize I may have piled on a bit, though. My apologies, Faceless Ninja. I tried to gauge how you were taking all this criticism but I couldn’t read your face.
Smash Tennis (SNES)
The only thing about Smash Tennis that I found even remotely interesting was that the linesmen looked like little Reservoir Dogs.
It’s a tennis game. Sometimes you can power-up and like, do a Smash Tennis or whatever, but that’s pretty much it. I mostly just quoted lines from the movie while I played. Again, much like my feelings toward Shadow of the Ninja, it’s the future, and we have Wii Sports and Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis now, so we don’t really need this game.
Pop’n Twin Bee (SNES)
This is apparently the 6th game in the Konami shoot-em-up series. I actually enjoyed playing this one due to nostalgia. You see, there was an NES game called Stinger, also by Konami, that is semi-officially part of the Twin Bee series.
In Stinger, you commanded a goofy little ship battling anthropomorphic items, all seemingly afflicted with Rare’s googly-eyed syndrome. Pop’n Twin Bee is very similar to Stinger. In both, you fly around, avoiding enemies, shooting orange bells out of clouds, acquiring power ups, and fighting large bosses, while avoiding an onslaught of enemies in pastel, cutesy, bullet-riddled hellscapes.
Shoot the orange bells repeatedly and they change color, offering different boosts. Blue bells make you faster for example. Stinger’s levels alternated between side-scrolling and overhead levels, whereas Pop’n sticks to the overhead perspective throughout.
You not only shoot enemies in the sky, you also drop bombs on enemies below. The action is fast paced and confusing, and you only have one life, but the game does offer you respite in continues and a life meter, which you can replenish by finding hearts from ground enemies.
It all became a little repetitive over time, but it is a fun co-op game if you’re one of those people that, unlike me, has real human friends to couch co-op with.
The Nintendo Switch Online service is not exactly its best self just yet. There is much work to be done. Retro games, and obscure finds like these four above, are nice, but I seriously hope the online service evolves. These weird little offerings from the vault should not be the main draw of the service. I may even have some suggestions, comments, critiques, I might share in the near future, once I complete The Messenger.