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Monday, May 12, 2014

NES Replay: Rush'n Attack

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Released: April 1987
For our younger readers, I have a question: Do they still do duck-and-cover drills in school?

If they don't anymore, here's what they were. For years, the US was terrified that the Russians (or Soviets) would destroy us in a nuclear war. For some reason, they decided that the best way to protect kids was by having duck-and-cover drills. We would hear a siren, and all the kids would get underneath our desks and cover our heads so that in the case of a fiery death by nuclear bomb, we would be protected by the nuclear-resistant coating on the school desks [citation needed].

This is what it was like in the US for 50 years. We knew, just KNEW, that the godless communist Soviets were going to blow us up with a nuclear bomb and then launch a full ground invasion so we had to be prepared any way we could. In reality, the vast majority of Russians were just trying to keep their head above water in a horribly corrupt system, but the citizens of the US had no way of knowing this. To us, the Russians were a technical powerhouse and we had to fight them however we could.


So what does this have to do with Rush'N Attack? Read the title of that game again. In Japan and Europe, this game was called Green Beret, but for the US, it was re-titled so that it could play on the fear of the Russians. It's kind of sad looking back on how the US viewed another country, but it's our cultural legacy, and there's not much to do about it except point at it and shake our heads.

In the meantime, how is Rush'N Attack? It's surprisingly good. It's a side-scrolling action game where your main character's only weapon is a knife, and he's faced with wave after wave of bad guys as he infiltrates military bases. Along the way, he can pick up a gun, an RPG, and other momentary powerups.

Rush'N Attack feels like an early draft of Contra. I mean, if they would have replaced the hero's knife with a gun, it would be halfway there. It also feels like an early, early draft of Metal Slug, if you can believe that. I don't know if anyone who worked on Rush'N Attack worked on Metal Slug, but I wouldn't be shocked if there were.

Konami demonstrated that they understood completely how controls had to work in a game. The controls are responsive, and there's never a sequence where I felt that I died because the system didn't respond in time. I died for many other reasons, like getting shot or kicked in the head, but it was almost always my fault.

I also have to give a special shoutout to the ladders in Rush'N Attack. Yes, the ladders. When your player jumps at a ladder, he automatically grabs the ladder in mid-air, which can save you a second or two. In other words, you don't have to be standing on solid ground in order to climb, or jump and press the up key on the D-pad, but just jump at the ladder. It was a way to rethink controls and limit the complexity at such an early juncture, and it deserved some special praise in my book.

If there's a flaw in Rush'N Attack, it's that there isn't a whole lot to do but run from right to left and kill people. Sometimes, that's all you need in a game, but as later games would show, there was a way to do that without veering into repetitive territory. Still, Rush'N Attack really works, both as a time capsule into a strange period in our history and as, you know, a game.

Final Rating: