Monday, January 21, 2013

NES Replay: Airwolf

Developer: Acclaim
Publisher: Acclaim
Released: 1989
Eyepatches?: Eyepatches!
In NES Replay, we go through each NES game from A-Z to see if they're any good. Today: Airwolf.

I'm sorry for anyone who has fond memories of them, but I'm just going to come right out and say it: The 80's were stupid.

The 80's were a time where people wore neon legwarmers, women wore giant shoulder pads in their dresses that made them look like linebackers, and hair metal was actually possible. Everyone looks back on their pictures from the 80's and can't believe how silly they looked, or how awful their furniture was, or how enormous their glasses were. If they don't feel that way, they're probably still dressing as if the 80's were an ongoing concern.

This was never more apparent in TV and movies. Every movie had a diamond-smuggling subplot. Men could have enormous mustaches. TV shows could have characters wearing eyepatches unironically, at least until Jamey Sheridan broke the Un-ironic Eyepatch Barrier on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and he had a good excuse (he had Bell's Palsy, so don't make fun of him).

With the 90's, the age of irony began, and that was the end of the 80's cocaine-fueled sincerity. No longer could you play a TV show straight about a man and his talking car or a man who could turn into an animal (called Manimal!) You had to couch every goofy concept in 11 layers of irony or have it laughed off the air.

There is just too much excitement here.
I can't handle it.
That brings us to Airwolf, a TV show about a man who has a secret high-tech helicopter stolen from the government that he uses to accomplish secret missions. The main character's last name is Hawke. Ernest Borgnine was also on Airwolf, at least until they unceremoniously killed his character along with everyone else and tried making the show with an all-new cast and stock footage of the helicopter.

The 80's, ladies and gentlemen.

The game Airwolf isn't good, just like most of the rest of the 80's. Your mission is to fly around and kill enemy aircraft while searching for people that need to be rescued. The flying isn't very interesting, as it plays just like After Burner but with slightly spongier controls. Since the controls are a little rougher, it makes it hard to dodge enemy bullets, so you take damage more frequently.

There's also a problematic issue when it comes to the enemy planes. You need to steer away from bullets at times. In a game where you're heading straight ahead all the time like After Burner, sharp turns aren't a problem, since you're still always facing forward. However, in Airwolf, you're trying to fly towards objectives. Sharp turns can leave you completely disoriented, and since there are very few landmarks on the screen, you have to refer to your little minimap on the bottom of the screen that has a tiny, tiny arrow which shows the direction your helicopter is pointing. One time, I turned straight into the border of a level and was unable to get my helicopter unstuck. I crashed. Just like the TV show!

Hey! Look at that! I missed the obstacles! Now
all I have to do is land- CRASH
Rescuing people is a disaster, too. Whenever it's time to rescue someone, the game cuts away from the flight screen to a screen where you control your helicopter as it descends carefully to the ground so that the person can get in. As soon as this screen begins, your helicopter is already descending unless you quickly gain control. That means that many times your rescue is thwarted as soon as it begins as your helicopter crashes against a telephone pole almost immediately.

Every level is the same. You fly around, kill planes, look for your people to rescue, and escape.

"Ah ha!" you may say. "I have caught you in a trap! You loved Air Fortress, where every level is similar, but you don't like Airwolf, where every level is similar."

There's a difference, though. While it's true that every level in Air Fortress follows the same basic rules (Fly in, make your way through the fortress, destroy the core, and escape) there are several distinct phases, and each one plays slightly differently (not to mention extremely well). Every level is a little different, as there are new enemies and new obstacles every time. If you can't tell, I still really love Air Fortress.

In Airwolf, every level is the same. Not similar, but the same. There is no change in what you're doing or how you're doing it. There's no thought process involved while you're playing, just "fly around and try not to die."

So, to sum up, Airwolf is much like the 80's themselves: A lot of flash, but probably best forgotten.

Final Rating:

Next Week: Al Unser Jr's Turbo Racing

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