It’s time to fire up that toaster/Betamax player hybrid known as the Nintendo Entertainment System (what is top loader?), as we collectively (figuratively, this is a text-based ride) grab another gargantuan cartridge for some more retro gaming good time fun! That’s right, Olly023 is like some sort of Nintendo King, amirite? Anyways…FELIX THE CAT!
Yes, Felix! The NES (like most consoles, really, but the NES gets much flack over it) was renowned for poor licensed games. All you have to do, though, is look in the right places and if by magic, a whole bunch will pop up and smack you in the face! With awesome! Games like Bucky O’Hare, Popeye, Asterix, etc. – it’s far from all Predator and Jaws. Felix The Cat is one of the good’uns and that’s without bias. To explain without bias, it must be noted that a young Olly023 was quite the Felix mark. Something about that cool black cat and his hijinks tickled lil old me. In fact, I had an official Felix VHS and some random pendant necklace…Thing. Yeah, that may not sound like a lot, but when you felt the power of recession as a child you take what you can get!! Moving on!
Released by Hudson Soft, exclusively in the North American market, it’s understandable that the limitation of area (despite the consoles dominance there, but this was during the rise of the 16-Bit machine) and time period, namely: late 1992, have ultimately lead to the title being rather overlooked in the grand scheme of things. Many of the later NES releases, I feel, were actually superior for many a reason than through the golden age that so fondly in an obviously nostalgic manner eclipse titles such as Felix in the Top X lists. Shame, really. RGG has your back though, Felix
Story-wise, there aint much to write home about, as it’s not really the crux of what makes this particular cation (geddit, CATion? Like action with CAT in the title? SHUT UP!) platformer so gosh darn enjoyable. Alas, let Olly023 fill you in on the general details: You play as Felix (YAY) as he goes on an epic journey through magical lands, aided by his magic bag, all to get back his catnapped girlfriend Kitty, who was taken away by some mad professor bloke who thinks he’s all that (BOO). Needless to say, Hudson must have been up for weeks trying to think this one up. S’all good. The story is actually explained nicely through a little cut scene (with written dialogue included), in which the Prof makes it clear he wants Felix’s magic bag. Felix is all ‘NAWW SON!’ and heads off out after the call.
Generally speaking, the gameplay matches the story in terms of simplicity. A to jump, B to attack…And that’s all you need to know! The controls are tight and responsive, timed just right with the mostly smooth animations. Not having the overall mechanics be too demanding, or worse yet; confusing, the focus can lay simply with the pure enjoyment that’s on offer by entering Felix’s world.
One key ingredient that spices things up is the use of magic/items. The more the player powers up Felix, the different his abilities become. You got Felix simply waving his wand (ooer) to a sparkly display, turning into a tank thing and much more. I kid you not. Tank Felix! These are the elements added to the experience to make it all the more unique. These power ups are all dependent on the level, too. Whether on land, in flight, on boat, underwater or for one level SPACESHIP~! The power ups don’t last forever, either. So you have to have an element of wiseness (I invented that word, I thank you), keeping an eye on the health bar, which depletes both over time and with collision with enemies (standard). There are a total of nine worlds and eight bosses to defeat as you progress through the game.
Progressing won’t be the most taxing thing on Earth, mind. The difficulty curve is rather gentle, so felt I. Meaning, unlike games such as Ghosts N Goblins, this is a NES title you can happily recommend as entry level, for that minimum of potential controller smashing from pure rage fits. Perhaps easier than the average, yet that’s not to take anything away from what a good game Felix is. It is sometimes nice to not be plagued by cheap deaths and dodgy AI. After all, there may be ‘old school NES frustration’, but there’s also bad design and mechanics, neither of which are on display here. Thankfully!
Visually speaking it’s a corker. It manages to balance the look and feel of a cartoon with the obvious graphical limitations of the NES to an absolute tee. Every sprite is bright, distinguishable, well animated and not overly pixelated. The typical flickering issue also sticks to a bare minimum which is always welcome, too. Right from the opening level you’ll be swept up in the lush use of the NES colour palette and perhaps even surprised by some instances of background detail, such as faces in the clouds or decidedly nervous looking trees. Have to give the developers total props, but arguably by 1992 you’d expect the pros to know what they’re doing. To continue on with the cut scene that opened the game, various others are shown in the same vain where the Prof rings up Felix to tell him of his impatience. Pretty sure that guy would love social media.
Musically, it's typically upbeat and jaunty, but has its moments of dread when the atmosphere calls for it. Nothing is out of place to the ear in conjunction with the eye. Though perhaps not the kind of music you'll be listening to in your down time, it is well composed and perfectly acceptable for the game in question. I dig it, at least. Sound effects are good, too!
The levels themselves are varied and packed to the brim with enemies to defeat. There’s platforms to jump about with, a whole bunch of collectables (Felix heads, jars of milk, etc.) and just about everything the average gamer would expect/want/need, ideally. The look and feel of the game world(s) are mostly memorable, too, even if they don’t particularly stray from formula. Much like Mario with his pipes, Felix can enter a large bag to get some of that bonus stage action. Also, it’s impossible to get lost. Seriously. As if you weren’t sure by way of it being, y’know, a side-scroller, there is occasional signs planted to show you the way. REJOICE. Although perhaps blander in design in many respects, the underwater levels get my excitement going, as I just love the animations in them (snorkel, turtle and SUBMARINE). Overall, everything’s so cutesy, colourful and fun that it’s difficult not to fall in love. The final boss level is fairly impressive looking, too.
In terms of length, once you’ve got to grips with things which really shouldn’t take long at all even for the less seasoned player, you can probably clock in a time of just about an hour or so, unless you’re speed-running. Darn speed runners! Point is, it’s a one sitting title but one you’ll probably have much fun returning to again and again, just as it’s not overly taxing yet is fun as all heck. In my opinion, that is.
Hudson’s Felix The Cat is obviously doesn’t lead the way in depth, nor is it an exercise in complex design. It does what it does and does it gloriously well, which deserves it praise and recognition, from where I stand. Oddly it is one that sits in limbo, being neither overrated, nor underrated, per se. The people who rate it, myself included, tend to rate it well. Those who don’t rate it typically haven’t had the opportunity to get their play on. Which is unfortunate, really.
Personally, I loved Felix The Cat. Not just the character, d’uh! The game! On Nintendo (Entertainment System)! It just sucks I couldn’t play it as a kid from being stuck in the PAL territory, as it’s definitely something I would have picked up for next to nothing at the Cash Converter in Shirley (for all your previous generation gaming needs, circa: mid-90’s, of course). Hudson typically made great titles and it’s no surprise that this is another game to throw on that pile of sassy goodness. It did also get a Game Boy release, but that had a few levels less and lacked the colour (shock horror). If you have the chance to get your paws on Felix, you should. You won’t regret it, retrobates!
Verdict:- If you fancy a solid but not an over-the-top difficult by any stretch action-platformer on your (NTSC) Nintendo Entertainment System, Felix The Cat fits the bill perfectly. Certainly recommended for fans both of the genre and the character the game is based on. Perhaps a wrong time, wrong place release wise – but this being the 21st Century, the outside world now has little excuse not to jump all over this gem.
Go out and play it, by any means necessary. If you don’t like it, though – we may no longer be able to be friends. Coz Felix is DA BEST!
Second Opinion:- The problem with consoles like the NES is that they don't have my game on them!
Another problem is that some really great titles are buried under the slew of Nintendo's own franchises, this is one such game. A USA only release and the fact it hit in 1992 when everyone and their mum was playing Genesis over there in the land of the free absolutely didn't help.
What we have here though is a quality platformer with all the bases covered regarding fun and a nicely paced growing challenge of gameplay. The music aside, which although not bad is not in the same league as the other parts like the colourful and visually striking graphics is maybe the only blot on this fine title.
So this robot puts two thumbs up in the air and waves them around like he just don't care because I like this game... A lot!
Transbot Scores:- 8 out of 10