Ah, Sunsoft. What the deuce happened to you guys? Back in the days when 8bit was King, a little game publisher named Sunsoft was nearly as renowned as places like Capcom, Konami, and Sega. They put out games that looked great, sounded excellent, played quite well - sure, they were often fairly derivative, but they always oozed with quality, love, and attention to detail across all the marks. I don't know why they never made it to the next level with their peers - I'll assume it just got harder to push high-grade product out the door as development costs began to skyrocket, and since they didn't have the deep pockets of their fellow studios (no coinop division perhaps? Too conservative in their outlook?) they sort of disappeared into the ether. Anyway, today we will look at one of their bigger games, Gremlins 2 for NES.
Released in 1990, Gremlins 2 saw the light of day just as Sunsoft was hitting it's stride. They had a fairly decent lineup history under their belts, and any serious NES gamer worth his salt knew what to expect from their titles, as mentioned above - harder-than-average games with lots of audiovisual goodness and just enough rhythm to keep your eyes plastered to the screen.
Sort of an odd license for them (then again, following the Addams Family, it wasn't THAT unusual!) they tried to follow the summer movie buzz with this one. They actually pulled a good game idea out of it - you control the little cutesy protagonist (ughhh!) in a world full of chaos. Fortunately they didn't get hung up on the cutesiness and instead concentrated on what mattered - kill lots of things and escape the level without getting obliterated!
This game employed an overhead 3/4 view, something they'd been employing for some time new (Fester's Quest, half of Blaster Master) and by this iteration a lot of the flaws had been ironed out. The game is a fun "escape the maze" quest punctuated bythe usual graphic touches these guys were known for, and enough platforming to keep the player busy. It's NOT an easy game - I never beat it - but for the NES, it's fairly attractive and certainly worth the effort to try!
Look at these cutscenes, can you believe that this is the same 8-bit processor that output Urban Champion and Balloon Fight? Gremlins is a dead franchise and has been for years, but if you are a gamer who enjoyed the heyday of the NES and never loaded this Game Pak into your Control Deck, you could do a lot worse than to have a look at it now.
You can expect to hear me rant and rave on a lot more Sunsoft games in the future...!