Oct 20 2011
Nightshade: Or How You Learned About an Obscure NES Game and Loved The Bomb

In 1992, Ultima Games (a subsidiary of Konami of America), released a fairly unknown titled called Nightshade. It wouldn't reach any sort of big sales, bombed, and never went on to receive sequels, even though they put "Part 1:" right on the title screen. However, it's been said that the game could have ties to the Shadowrun series. Those who have played this game will tell you it's either one of the worst games they've played, or one of those that's well worth taking a first or second look at. I'm right around the later. Categorizing what type of game this is can be tricky. It's got the point and click adventure elements like Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island have, but combat puts you into a special battle screen similar to a Double Dragon or Street Fighter.

Nightshade stars a trench coat, fedora and sunglasses wearing superhero of the same name, who's taking crime into his own hands in Metro City after the city's actual Superhero, Vortex, goes missing. Crime lords have taking over the city, and Nightshade finds himself at the beginning of the game in the sewers tied to a chair by the crime lord Sutekh. Sutekh has placed a bomb behind him, and he only has seconds left to live. Once you have control of your character, you'll need to walk yourself in the chair behind a brick wall before the bomb explodes. Failing to do so will take about half your life away.

From here, the game plays out adventure style except you can actually move Nightshade around on your own rather than pointing to where you want him to go. Your A and B buttons bring up the pick up and examine type tools, and stop all action on screen so you can use a cursor. Unfortunately they didn't design the layout very well.

Select - Brings up your examine, pickup, operate and other such options, as well as inventory.
A- Takes you right to examine, your items and is also your OK/Confirm button
B- Takes you right to operate, and works as the cancel button

Both buttons will take you to your inventory if you press B after.

Pressing Select again at anytime will cancel out the current menu actions you're doing and take you right back to being able to move Nightshade around.

As you examine items, pick them up, and make your way out of the sewers, you'll find the city is made up of a 5 by 8 grid, and you're free to explore within the confines of what you can get past with the items you've picked up. You'll also be denied entry to certain areas or not giving items until your popularity meter fills to certain points. Yes, you gain popularity. This is done by helping out citizens of the city and defeating enemies. Don't worry, they put a popularity meter right above your life bar so you can keep track.

Mortal Kombaaaaa.....oh wait..wrong game

Battling in this game throws you into a sort of fast paced beat-em-up style screen after simply touching an enemy. These battles are part of what can make or break the game for some people. They can be difficult unless you learn their patterns, and loosing all of your life means being placed in a trap by Sutekh. There are five traps total to be placed into, with the fifth one being impossible to escape from. Failing means game over, and starting back from the beginning of the game. So yes, you can potentially loose all of your life in the first battle of the game, then die in the first trap.

Nightshade: Do you expect me to talk?
Sutekh: No Mr. Lampshade, I expect you to die!

You'll notice as you play that there's quite a bit of humor in the game. Characters will refer to you as Lampshade, examining a grate near the beginning of the game brings up the dialog box of "Wow, what a great grate". Using a bone on a dog to make it stop chasing a cat will make Nightshade say "Knick-knack patty-whack". For the most part the game doesn't really take itself seriously, kind of like the Monkey Island series, and you start to wonder if that whole Part 1 at the title screen was also a joke. Even one of the evil plans that Sutekh has in store for the city is ridiculous (I won't give it away).

Like Crystalis, my previous review, this game can be found on the cheap. Chances are you can pick it up for under $15 or break just over $20 to get it complete in it's box. Emulation won't do you much good on this game due to it's coding, but you can play a pretty good portion of the game if you can ignore the graphical glitches. There's also plenty of videos around the web that will play through the entire game. On a personal note, I'd love to see this game come back as a revived series in episodic chunks as is popular these days for adventure games.

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