Name: The Punisher
Genre: Rail Shooter
Region Reviewed: NTSC
Year of Release: 1990
Let’s cut to the chase. The game I’m reviewing today has real “arcade-style” action, super crisp graphics: state-of-the-art for the NES, fully animated backgrounds – shoot everything in sight and hundreds of enemies, thugs and targets! Or, so says the back of the box.
Who says crime doesn’t pay? Coz this is THE PUNISHER!
This aint the side-scrolling arcade beat-em-up (which had a sexy if flawed port on the MegaDrive) that me and Daddy023 killed it in the Chinese on, oh no. This is the third-person rail shooter (think T2: The Arcade Game, but you see Frank’s back) on the Nintendo Entertainment System! Released in November 1990 in North America, developed by Beam Software (Melbourne represent, right 5NATCH?!) and published/distributed by Acclaim/LJN.
Living in the region of PAL that is Europe, I never had the chance to play this first time round (despite actually owning a NES, unlike the rest of Europe) but with the magic of being older and the magic of magic and other magic and magical magicness, one Olly023 can now play it. Thusly? Olly023 can REVIEW IT!
What’s the story? I dunno, you’re Frank Castle and you’re in New York and there’s some baddies and so you murder dem fools. That’ll do. As the game is The Punisher and you are the Punisher, you don’t mess around. Everyone gets gunned down as you casually rail through levels blasting the crud out of throwaway enemies and battling bosses such as Jigsaw, leading up to you taking down the almighty KINGPIN. Standard. And satisfying!
I’ve already mentioned T2: The Arcade Game, so if you’ve ever played that on MD (or whatever), then yeah that’s exactly what you get here. If you have not played that, then the game is simply explained thusly: each level, you scroll left to right through a street, you aim Franks gun/body with the d-pad and cause pain through a hellfire of shrapnel via the all-important B button. That’s everything there is to it. As simple is as simple does, but enjoyable brain-dead fun all the same. Good gameplay doesn’t always need to be challenging, nor revolutionary – sometimes it just needs to be a fun experience, which The Punisher, for moi, is in spades. It’s entirely suitable style of gameplay for the source material it attempts to adapt (The Punisher line of comics), so why the heck not!? True facts, people. One addition that would have been wonderful, however, would be to make it a two-player outing. “BUT FRANKS SOLO”, aight. Cool. But the aforementioned arcade beat-‘em-up 2P could be rocking Nick Fury, so why not the same here? It may have been a bit frantic for the NES, but m’eh. Fun, darnit!
There’s three choices off the bat as to what location you set out in and who you’re hunting, which gives you a bit of mild variation in non-linear terms, but as previously mentioned there aint much of a story going on here as is, as whatever you choose you’re just mowin’ muthas down regardless. So, yeah. That’s that, I guess.As you progress you’ll be hitting papers and such that will give clues as to where it wants you to go and tips to get yourself a better highscore, not that you have much of a say on the matter. There is also numerous items to nab like the ever handy grenades, life and bullets, etc. Almost every part of the environment can be shot to pieces, which is genuinely a nice touch on the ickle 8-bit system. Who knew manholes and stop signs would equate to hidden power ups? Well, now you do. Yeah! Giving away all the knowledge!
Each chosen section has multiple stages, with the third of each being a boss battle. Once you’ve beaten the bosses of said sections, you’re treated to a screen with the poster (as that’s how the area select is shown) with a massive bloodied RIP written across it. Violence in a Nintendo game? In America!? Better call yo’ momma!! Speaking of momma, you get your shot at the mother of all crimelords (The Kingpin) once you’ve beaten the main three areas, as his poster appears on the selection wall.
Music wise..? Well, you have to really hum your own tunes as this a game of cold, hard silence. Well, other than the sounds of firing off a few rounds. That said, when you pass some cool cat rockin’ his saxophone on some steps, the game does kick in with a little ditty, which made me laugh every time. Easily please, I guess. But yeah, lack of real music on the OST hurts it for me, which is a shame. There is a tune played on the intro and while moody and attempting to set the tone, doesn’t particularly stand out as memorable. Sax guys’ melody is memorable though. Mostly funny, but memorable. Oh, there is boss music, too. So I’ll let the regular stages pass, maybe. Actually, no I won’t. Perhaps they should have just had the sax guy follow you around. Add dialogue panels between him and Frank. Could be Frank’s hero band. Yyyeah! That’s be AWESOME. Hey, game; go do that!
Can’t fault the controls at all. Everything is smooth, obvious and on-point, the d-pad moves the crosshair around more smoothly than a SNES’ mouse, so yeah. Absolutely no complaints. Simplicity in motion, working as needed. Why fix what isn’t broken, huh?
The back of the box revels in the graphics of the game and admittedly it looks pretty good for the NES. There’s minimal flicker or slowdown and everything is clearly definable where you need it to be. It is very dark, though and doesn’t exactly push the colour palette to its limits, all things considered. Lots of black, purple, brown and…yellow. Yeah. Although, with so much destruction and chaos allowed, this gets an easy pass. Does it? Yes it does. The brighter levels are those in doors, naturally. But the dark look reflects the lone wolf at night ideals of Mr. Castle, operating in shadows, but not being very quiet with the amount of bombs he’s lugging about. Oh yeah, sax guy is even indoors, too. Homies all over da place!
The game is straight pick-up and play, coin-op inspired fun times. The instant playability and gratification of utter violence every step of the way really does equate to a joyous experience. In much the same manner that The Punisher: War Zone relished in the brutality of Frank Castle’s outings, this game is no different, just over a decade before hand and in a different medium. I like it, at least. It’s far from taxing and you’ll never be confused as to what’s going on, which’ll have you fist fighting the Kingpin in no time. Lacking in variation, music and many other things that would technically make a game great, this is simply very good on its base level of baseness.
In short, go keep the streets safe by causing more destruction to New York than Godzilla does Tokyo, rack up a highscore and most importantly have fun. Yes, it’s an LJN game on the NES, but unlike some would have you all believe? They aint all bad. Go give it a shot and put the boot in to crime!
Verdict:- I know, it's like Jam with a 7 for Banjo; but, Punisher is genuinely is a good game, but much of that comes from the license. Just remember, a 5 isn't bad, it's just average. The base average. The average of the average.
Unfortunately for The Punisher on NES, it doesn't have enough to push itself over that level and into something on a whole other tip. But what it does do well, it totally exceeds in. You'll see how high the playability score is and that should be enough for you to give it a shot.
This isn't a groundbreaker, it's not a must own for the system; but it is an overlooked title that will likely get lots of unjust hate. It's far, far from a bad game and is in many respect good. Deal.
There also exists a Game Boy port with a cameo from Spider-Man, which will probably cost you less if you NEED the cart. There is a few changes, however.
Second Opinion:- This is a tricky one for Transbot because he actually doesn't like this title but appreciates that some folk may.
It's just a poor Operation Wolf or Dynamite Duke affair and the colour scheme is woeful beyond belief so it's hard to get into it.
Is it average? Transbot is not so sure on this so he will have to go lower, sorry Mr. Reviewer person but this bot has spoken...
Transbot Scores:- 4 out of 10