Monday, August 13, 2012

NES Replay: Abadox

Abadox Title Screen
Developer: Natsume
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Released: 1990
Deja Vu: All Over Again
In NES Replay, we go through each NES game from A-Z to see if they're any good. Today: Abadox.

I assume that many who read these replays know that I've played quite a few NES games in my day. One of the games I had frequently seen but never actually played is Abadox. Finally, with this series I had a chance to remedy this.

When you start up Abadox, you're a lone man flying around destroying enemies in a vaguely organic environment. You blow up your enemies and get powerups while descending deeper into this gigantic organic being.

Something about Abadox seemed oddly familiar, though. I had a feeling that I'd played this game before. Now, you could be snotty and say that a lot of side-scrolling shooters play alike, but that's not fair. This was beyond playing a game in the same genre. Did I play Abadox at some point and not remember it? Either way, if I played it, I didn't remember it playing this poorly.

For one thing, your character moves far too slowly, and his sprite fills up too much of the screen, making it hard to avoid attacks. Since one stray bullet can kill you, this is a huge problem. Second, there is a LOT of sprite flicker. Now I'm not going to rip on sprite flicker in general, and I've avoided mentioning it thus far since it's one of the more endearing aspects of 8-bit and early 16-bit gaming in my opinion. However, in Abadox it's so bad in some points that you can't see your own player while trying to dodge moving obstacles.

Abadox Screenshot
In this screenshot, there are at least three
bullets that the the boss fired missing,
a part of his body, and some of my
own bullets. Aside from that, it's fine.
It gets even worse if you get a powerup and the boss is firing several projectiles. The sprite flicker is so bad that you can't even tell a bullet is coming toward you until it hits you. For a shoot-em-up, which demands twitch reflexes and a keen eye for what's coming, this is absolutely unfair.

I can gauge how good a shoot-em-up is by how much I feel I have to cheat to advance. A game like 1943 was difficult, but I always felt like if I tried one more time, I could get a little further. That's the sign of a well-made shoot-em-up. With Abadox, I had to continually use save states, and even then, I felt like I was only evening the odds.

Yet, I remembered playing a game similar to this one, but... better. What was it?

I finally remembered: A little game called Life Force, also for the NES.

In Life Force, you take a smaller ship around and destroy an evil organic being from the inside out, while the walls deform around you and you literally blast through veins and blockades to advance. It plays better, is superior technologically to Abadox, and is a deeper game.

Which came first? Abadox was released in the States in 1990. Life Force was released in 1987, three years before Abadox.

So what Natsume did in this case was take a three-year-old concept, copy it almost word-for-word, and then make it 50% crappier. That's... I don't know what that is, but it's not worth playing.

Final Rating:

Next Week: Action 52
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