What's Missing on NES Part IV - The Expensive Stuff
Of all the things to potentially like about the Nintendo Switch Online NES app (or whatever you call the darn thing. This is the 4th one of these articles and I can never remember the official wording of the name because it’s absurd. Whatever…), the potential to get some of the NES library’s most expensive gems into the hands of a whole lot of people who would never get to play them otherwise, is probably the biggest draw, at least for me. We’ve run down three lists already of games that are worth the effort to get up and running on the service, but this list here is the one that I feel is far and away the most important.
The NES has seen a surge in collectability over the last 10 years or so. That bubble is starting to burst a tiny bit now, as folks are gravitating more toward SNES and Nintendo 64 for their ludicrously overpriced eBay gouging. That said, most of the rarest of the rare when it comes to NES games haven’t seen much in the way of falling prices. In many cases, this isn’t really much of a problem. Those items are priced the way they are because of genuine rarity, not because of their quality. Cheetahmen II is genuinely awful, Bubble Bath Babes and Peek-a-Boo Poker are essentially NES porn, and Flintstones: the Surprise at Dinosaur Peak is middling at best. Some of those pricey games, though, were genuinely really fun and never found the audiences they deserved. Putting them on the Switch Online service wouldn’t just be a great way to get people to finally give them a try, and maybe even breathe new life into long dormant intellectual properties, but they would add an incredible value to the service as a whole.
Anyway, here’s 10 super expensive NES games that should find their way to Nintendo Switch Online.
Bubble Bobble Part 2
Last week I finished off with Fire n Ice, which just as well could have been on this list because it’s a pricey one. But for as far back as I can remember, Bubble Bobble Part 2 has always been “the” expensive NES sequel. I landed myself a copy of the game back when I worked at FuncoLand, and even then it was way more expensive than just about every other NES game there was. Bubble Bobble Part 2 from Taito is not a masterpiece. It isn’t even as good as the first game in most respects. What it is, though, is a very cool evolution of the Bubble Bobble formula that’s well worth the time it takes to play, even if it isn’t necessarily worth the cash it costs to find the darn cart. Two of the things Bubble Bobble is most known for are its infectious music and awesome co-op multiplayer. Bubble Bobble Part 2’s music is nowhere near as memorable as the original game’s, and the simultaneous co-op is inexplicably gone. Those are pretty big blows, but it makes up for them in a couple of ways. For one, it’s a much better looking game. Gone are the flat black backgrounds, and in their place are brightly colored stages full of life and character. Also, the animations on Bub are really nice. They somehow made him even cuter than he was in the first game. There’s also some boss characters and fun new gameplay twists thrown throughout the game that keep it feeling fresh and like a genuine sequel to Bubble Bobble, unlike Rainbow Islands which feels completely unrelated. It’s a great choice to end up on the service.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Panic Restaurant is just some weird cooking game for NES, or maybe even some sort of Burgertime ripoff. In reality, Panic Restaurant is far stranger than that. Panic Restaurant is a platformer about a chef who beats up food monsters with a frying pan to save his restaurant which has been restaurant-napped by an evil magical chef, ...or something? Clearly, the premise is classic old-school NES game insanity at its finest. It’s from 1992, so it was a pretty late addition to the NES library, and it shows. The graphics, sound quality, and animation are all really nice. Of course that also means this game has never been all that accessible, even when it was originally released. The name doesn’t carry much weight outside of the collector’s space, and its US box art is hideous, so putting it on the NES Online service is the perfect opportunity to get more people to play this overlooked gem. And hey, it’s another Taito game. Look at that.
Bonk, at least here in America, has always been associated with the TurboGrafx-16 to my knowledge. At a certain point, Bonk games went multiplatform, but Bonk was positioned as the Mario style mascot for the TG16, and I kinda feel like that’s where he’s always been, even if he did wind up on other platforms like the Super NES with Super Bonk and such. So in 1993 (or 1994, I can’t find an exact release date for this one) when Bonk’s Adventure was ported to the NES, the SNES was already out, the NES was way past its prime, and with Bonk already so closely associated with a competing platform, it’s no wonder this game flew under everyone’s radar. It’s a pretty solid port, too. Obviously the TG16 version is superior, but as far as taking a 16-bit game and making it work on NES goes, this was very well done. Some of the sprites are smaller, and the backgrounds aren’t quite as vibrant, but the core of the game remains intact, meaning it’s a really fun little platformer with a ton of personality. The TG16 version has been re-released numerous times over the years, but the NES port hasn’t, and as you probably know by now, it fetches quite a pretty penny. With Konami owning Hudson, and Konami’s relationship with Nintendo being pretty decent these days, this one would be a great fit.
We’ve talked about Irem a couple times in these articles, but next to Kung Fu, Metal Storm is probably the game of theirs that is begging the most to be made readily available again. This game has garnered quite a cult following over the years, with Limited Run and Retro Bit creating actual physical NES carts of the game to sell this very year. But the game in its original form was released on NES in 1991, putting it at the tail end of the console’s life, and featuring some of the trappings that come along with it like really cool animation and some great visual effects like background scrolling and such that the NES isn’t exactly known for. It’s a tough as nails action platformer about a mech that can essentially reverse its own gravity at will. As far as super collectible late NES games go, Metal Storm is one of the more high profile releases, so adding this one to the NES Online library would probably make some big waves.
Power Blade and Power Blade 2
Hey, look! It’s Taito again with another cool NES game that nobody’s played. Neither one of these games have ever been re-released, and while the first one sits comfortably in the “fairly expensive” range for an NES game, Power Blade 2 regularly fetches a couple of hundred dollars loose, which makes them both perfect for this list, and NES Online. They’re both action platformers about a dude who totally isn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger throwing a boomerang around to blow up robots or something. They aren’t exactly graphical powerhouses, but they’re both really fun to mess around with. As far as I can tell these two are genuinely uncommon. I’ve never actually seen them in person, and only ever played them via emulation.
If you’re like me, you probably know about this game because of Nick Arcade, where it frequently appeared. I always thought it looked pretty weird, but also pretty fun. I never got around to buying one for myself though, and with complete copies going for about $100 these days, it’s one of those things I occasionally kick myself for. Toki is a cool little platfomer about a monkey who spits stuff. It’s got a cult following, and even earned itself a fancy remake earlier this year on Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC. It started out life as an arcade game and was ported to a lot of platforms, but at least as far as I can tell, the NES port is what most people know here in the US (probably because of Nick Arcade!). And that NES port was published by… Taito! Who would have guessed?
Let’s give Taito a break and take a look at a forgotten Capcom classic. Snow Brothers is freaking awesome. It was only published by Capcom here in the US though. It’s actually a port of an arcade game by Toaplan. It has a lot in common with Bubble Bobble, and I personally discovered the game on Nick Arcade (man, that show was weird). This is another one I was lucky enough to grab back when I was working at FuncoLand, and it stands as a pretty fun game to play today. I assume it never really caught on because it came out in 1991 and the SNES was right around the corner. This game is EXPENSIVE, too. Loose carts go for just under $200 and a complete can fetch over $500. Getting this game in any flavor today would be cool, but with its multiplayer component, it’s an especially good fit for the NES Online service.
Ahh, Sunsoft. Those guys knew how to make an NES game, and they kept on making great stuff right up to the end of the NES’s life. Ufouria: The Saga is the first game in the Hebereke series that was never officially released in the US until the Wii Virtual Console, and even then they just plopped the PAL ROM into the service and the emulator ran it with the music all screwed up because it ran the ROM in NTSC. This game is fantastic though! It’s extremely weird, with off the wall character designs around every corner, but it’s a blast of a little Metroidvania game, and it’s so well worth seeking out today, if you can play it properly. Since it wasn’t released in the US, there are repro carts out there that fix the sound issue and play the game at the proper speed, but if you really want to get an original PAL cart, it’ll cost you upwards of $80. We already have Blaster Master on NES Online, so we know Sunsoft is down to be involved in the service, and they put Ufouria up on both the Wii and Wii U Virtual Console services, so maybe we can get it on Switch? I know I’d gladly play it again.
Mr. Gimmick (or just Gimmick depending on what part of the world you’re from) is arguably the best looking NES game ever made. It’s no slouch in the gameplay department either. This is another high-quality NES game from Sunsoft that did a great job of pushing the boundaries of the NES hardware while never making its way outside of Japan. Well, it was released in scandanavian markets in 1993, but that’s it. Japan got it in 1992, which as you know wasn’t exactly the best time for the Famicom and NES, and it’s such a shame it’s been so terribly overlooked because it’s easily one of the best platformers on the console. You play as this little green toy monster who can shoot and ride on stars, and the game uses this mechanic to great effect all throughout. It animates beautifully, has great looking stage designs, and the music is top notch. In 2002 it was included in a PlayStation Sunsoft collection, but that version is hardly the optimal way to play the game. Both the PAL and Famicom versions go for hundreds of dollars complete or loose, so tracking down an official way to play it is tragically difficult. I have no doubt that if it were to find its way to NSO, it would be very well received.
Of course, next to Nintendo World Championships, Little Samson is probably the most well-known NES collectors item out there. The game is absurdly expensive (thanks in no small part to some nasty price gouging and artificial demand via hoarding in the collectors market) but darn, if the game isn’t still well worth playing today if you can manage to find it. It was developed by a company called Takeru who previously developed another Famicom hidden gem called Cocoron, but outside of these two games and something called Nostalgia 1907, they really haven't done much else. But you know who published Little Samson? Freaking Taito! The game is chock full of great platforming action, awesome character designs and animations, and catchy music. It’s one of those expensive games that deserves to be expensive, albeit not THAT expensive, but that’s a different story entirely. I’m not sure why this game has never been re-released. It has a reputation, and it doesn’t seem to be wrapped up in any sort of rights issues. It’s just a great NES platformer that deserves another shot in the spotlight, and NSO is the place to do it.
There’s more. Of course there’s more. There’s always more. But those are the ones that come to mind as perfect choices to add to NSO to GREATLY increase its value. These expensive gems aren’t just cool collectibles, they’re among the best games ever released for the platform, and if there was ever a group of games that prove the NES library still has a ton to offer, it’s this. If even half of these games show up on NSO it will increase the value of the service tenfold. But if you ask me, every one of them deserves a spot, and would do wonders for the service if they got the chance to shine again.
What do you think? Any other expensive NES games you’d like to see hit NSO? Come back next week when we take a closer look at the games that would best take advantage of NSO’s other focus, online multiplayer!