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The Rube’s Review: NES Black Box Games (Part 2 of 3)

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May 16, 2012

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The Rube’s Review: NES Black Box Games (Part 2 of 3)

Hey, so you came back for Part 2 of our NES Black Box Games review (if you missed it, be sure to check out Part 1). Cool Beans! Now the Rube will try his best to do a quick review for all 30 NES Black Box Game Paks. I’ll tell you if it’s any good with a 1-5 star rating, let you know if it’s available as a Wii download and if you’re going to have to hunt for it (Common, Semi Common, Hard to Find, Rare, and Scarce). Also, I’ll try my best to give you an average price for each one… you’d be surprised how much a couple of these “common” Black Box Game Paks go for.

Just joining us? Get the whole review…

Read Part 1 of 3
Read Part 3 of 3

Action Series:

BALLOON FIGHT

Hunt: Semi Common/Hard to Find | Wii Download: Yes | Avg. Price: $5-$15

Not my favorite game but a lot of people love this one. You’re a balloon-flying pilot flapping around from platform to platform, trying your best to knock down your other birdlike opponents. How? By landing and popping their balloons, duh! You are equipped with 2 balloons and once they’re gone *POP!* into the watery abyss you go!

If you get bored with the 1-player or co-op 2-player version of this game, there’s a game mode that’s a challenging side scroller to see how long you can keep afloat. Most gamers LOVE THIS GAME! I would rather play Joust since Balloon Fight is a dumbed down version of the Midway ostrich flying game… but a classic is a classic and just can’t be argued by one man… *grumble* fuck’n piece of shit…*grumble*

STARS: 5/5… Rube gives it a 1/5

CLU CLU LAND

Hunt: Hard to Find | Wii Download: Yes | Avg. Price: $10-$20

This one is a little weird. You play as Bubbles, a brave little bubble fish that swims around a maze, dodging sea urchins, and making gold coins appear. Your goal is to swim around, exposing all of the coins, which end up making a pattern/picture.

For NES’s first puzzle type game it is very fun but didn’t do too well as a launch title, making it kinda hard to find. Chances are that you won’t see a lot of these in the open market and might have to resort to ebay to fill the hole in your Black Box Collection. If you’re a puzzle fan, you’ll be in for a treat!

STARS: 4/5

ICE CLIMBER

Hunt: Hard to Find | Wii Download: Yes | Avg. Price: $5-$20

This is a true example of what I call a “GO FUCK YOURSELF!” game. Don’t let the cute polar bear with sunglasses on the box fool you. HE IS YOUR ENEMY! This game is HARD! You start as an Eskimo with a mallet trying to break ice blocks above you (in a mountain?) to jump to the next level. There’s tons of obstacles such as baby birds, fat yetis,, falling stalactites… but your worst enemy is the ice itself since it’s slippery as shit, causing you to fall through a hole and killing you. Oh, and did I tell you that it’s all timed. Your goal is to reach the top of the mountain, do a bonus round involving getting eggplants and catching a ride on a flying pterodactyl before your time is up… WTF?!?!?!?!?!

I really like this game; especially in 2-Player mode, which is almost impossible to coordinate any game plan to get to the top before your 40 seconds are up. 9 times outta 10 you or your friends will die due to either getting pushed off the ice by one another or one of you falling through the ice at the bottom of the screen as it scrolls up as the other player continues his upward journey. Eventually your friend will (oh and THEY WILL) throw his/her controller outta anger and tell you to GO FUCK YOURSELF! Not recommended for first dates.

STARS: 5/5 for you, but drops to 1/5 as your friend storms outta your house.

KUNG FU

Hunt: Common | Wii Download: No | Avg. Price: $1-10

One of the first in the long line of “I’m on a never-ending quest to save my girlfriend” NES games. You are Thomas, a black-belt Kung-Fu Master that must defeat 5 levels of flying fist foot fury to save his girlfriend, Sylvia from the sinister Mr. X. The graphics are pretty stale with very little variation of enemies… but you know what, WHO CARES?! As one of the first video game “beat‘em ups”, Kung Fu is a lot of fun.

Other than the challenging levels, I also enjoy the action packed 8-bit tune and sound effects, especially the BBBIIIIOOONNNGGGGG!! Followed by a haunting evil laugh when you lose a life. With two game options, two different levels of game-play, and 2-player function, Kung Fu is totally worth the hunt!

STARS: 5/5

PINBALL

Hunt: Common | Wii Download: Yes | Avg. Price: $1-$10

To be honest, it’s so basic that it’s boring and since you would play real pinball on a flat horizontal surface and this is a vertical screen video game, it just throws you off.

Not one thrill to be had… even the dancing penguins and special appearance by Mario on the bonus screen can’t save this game. You’ll play it once and just forget about it.

STARS: 1/5

SUPER MARIO BROS.

Hunt: Semi Common (See Below) | Wii Download: Yes | Avg. Price: $1-$10

This game is about… Who am I kidding? If you don’t know by now, then there’s something seriously wrong with you! One of the best games ever created by Nintendo. Great game play, graphics, and storytelling. Even the most skilled gamer that knows every enemy pattern and hidden secret will never get tired of playing this game.

Super Mario Bros. should be the most common game in the NES library, BUT you’re going to see more of the Super Mario/Duck Hunt Combos than any other NES Game Pak out there. Just from looking at your local flea market that you might get Black Box Blinded (Gamer equivalent of snow blindness) and miss a basic copy of SMB in the mix… but trust me, they’re out there. You just have to dig!

STARS: 11/5

URBAN CHAMPION

Hunt: Hard to Find | Wii Download: Yes | Avg. Price: $5-$15

Even though it might not be the first, for most gamers this was their first VS. Fighting game. The premise is quite simple; Beat the shit outta the other player, from block to block, until you knock him into an open manhole. Nothing simpler than that. I’m a big fan of this game but most gamers will find it boring within a couple of rounds. It might not be as flashy as Street Fighter or Tekken but that’s part of it’s charm… It’s just two guys from the neighborhood going at it. Who knows what started the bout? A girl? Owed money? Fake Celtics tickets? All you know is that it’s two average guys that are pissed about something.

Once in awhile you’ll have to dodge a thrown flowerpot from an apartment above, but other than that it’s your typical good old fashion street brawl! Even though it’s a little hard to find, it’s still considered one of those “Crappy NES games” by most and you should be able to find it somewhat cheap at a local garage sale.

STARS: 3/5

Arcade Series:

DONKEY KONG

Hunt: Common/Semi Common | Wii Download: Yes | Avg. Price: $10-$17

This one is definitely an arcade classic! Jump-man (aka Mario) needs to save his girlfriend Pauline from some circus ape gone rogue named Donkey Kong. That’s it. The story is really that simple.

Even though it’s missing one level (Pie Factory/Cement Foundry?), it’s exactly as enjoyable as the arcade version ever was.

STARS: 5/5

DONKEY KONG JR.

Hunt: Common / Semi Common | Wii Download: Yes | Avg. Price: $10-$15

Most NES fans do get thrown off by this game for two reasons. First, your big enemy is Mario… yeah that Mario. You play as Donkey Kong Jr. on a neverending quest to save his father! Second, in addition to going back and forth on platforms and dodging enemies, you have to climb vines/chains. Other than the levels being in the wrong order and missing some of the animated segways, DK JR plays exactly like its arcade version. It’s a very fun and still one of the Rubes favorites.

STARS: 4/5

DONKEY KONG 3

Hunt: Hard to Find | Wii Download: Yes | Avg. Price: $10-$20

Donkey Kong is awesome. Donkey Kong Jr. is pretty good. Donkey Kong 3 is… well… as a Donkey Kong game it’s “meh!” Why is Donkey Kong in a greenhouse and who the hell is Stanley? We want Mario! We Want Mario!! WE WANT MARIO!!! Anyway, the goal of DK3 is for Stanley, armed with a bug sprayer to defeat Donkey Kong and his army of deadly insects before they steal all of his plants. This premise makes for a lame Donkey Kong game but strip away the big ape and what you have something that is fun and challenging. I would definitely give this game a try.

STARS: 4/5

MARIO BROS.

Hunt: Common/Semi Common | Wii Download: Yes | Avg. Price: $10-$15

First let me address the #1 thing people notice when they play this Arcade Classic, WHY ARE THE CRABS AND FLIES MISSING A 1/4 OF THEIR BODIES? It beats the hell outta me. All I know is, after all these years, this game still rocks! Grab a friend, give them the second controller and play co-op, which starts as a friendly game and ends up as a good old fashioned game of “GO FUCK YOURSELF!”

STARS: 5/5

POPEYE

Hunt: Semi Common/ Hard to Find | Wii Download: No | Avg. Price: $3-$15

Since I reviewed this game last month, I’ll keep it simple. This is one of my favorite games. Other than the Sea Hag not throwing bottles during the first round of 3 boards (Olive’s home, The city/docks, and Pirate Ship) it’s the exact same game you would find back in 80’s arcades. The only downside is that there still isn’t a jump button, which discourages a lot of gamers. During it’s launch, Popeye couldn’t compete with Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. and was a poor seller, making it a hard game to come by.

STARS: 4/5

Education Series

DONKEY KONG JR. MATH

Hunt: VERY RARE / SCARCE! | Wii Download: Yes | Avg. Price: $40-$75

Just a bad idea… mixing Donkey Kong Jr. with Math. BAD NINTENDO!!! BAD! Even if you want to play this game, to answer a simple math problem (A + B = 42) involves multiple moves of adding and subtracting just to get the right answer. It’s just a pain in the ass… but it could’ve been worse. Japan got Popeye Lingo as their Educational game. Since no one bought this launch title, it’s pretty hard to get and you probably won’t be seeing this at a garage sale.

STARS: 1/5

Robot Series

(NOTE: Will require an older model TV, ROB, and included accessories to play)

GYROMITE

Hunt: Common / Semi Common | Wii Download: No | Avg Price: $1-$10

You have a choice of two games. Game A involves you controlling Prof. Hector through his monster filled laboratory and disarming piles of dynamite before time runs out. Sounds simple until you have to use/control your Robotic Operating Buddy to move these gyromite pillars up and down. Good thing: if you time it right, you get to squish the following monster(s). Bad thing: if you time it wrong, you’re the one that gets squished… which happens 99% of the time.

Game B involves you moving the gyromites (via ROB) up and down as a sleepwalking Prof. Hector continues his journey across the lab. Most 80’s kids only played this a couple of times since it was such a pain to set up ROB, his accessories, and looking around the house for enough batteries to work the damn thing. Lucky you can still play this game with a second player, but only with a really good friend, since a friendly game of Gyromite can easily slip into an angry game of “GO FUCK YOURSELF.” Even though in theory this game should be easy to get, the inner game components (to save $$$, Nintendo used the same 60-pin Japanese version with a an American 72-pin adapter) were considered valuable in producing an America Adapter to play Japanese games on the NES… but still you should be able to get his for a couple of bucks.

STARS: 2/5

STACK UP

Hunt: SCARCE! | Wii Download: No | Avg Price: $40-$$$

Out of all of the NES Black Box Games, Stack Up is the worst and the hardest one to get. Since it is the only Black Box Game Pak that the Rube doesn’t have (yet) or hasn’t played, I had to base this review from other online reviews and gameplay. Stack Up looks like you can either play a game of Memory, Bingo, or a stacking game that involves you giving commands to ROB (via gamescreen) so he can restack the included colored tokens from point A to Point B in the right order.

Due to it’s oversized packaging, and extra game pieces/ROB attachments, it probably (at the time) cost a fortune. You can find this Game Pak on ebay, usually around $40 but for the true NES Black Box completest, the price for a full set in box will carry a hefty price tag ($200 min). This game looks like a total waste of time, but since I’ve never personally played it I honestly can’t give it a STAR rating.

STARS: ?/5

THE RUBE’S PRO TIPS

Other than Stack Up and Donkey Kong Jr. Math, the Rube wouldn’t spend more than $8-$10 tops on a Black Box Game Cart(s), but sometimes (out of frustration) you may have to rely on eBay, craigslist, or even a used game dealer for that quick fix. If this is the case I would definitely try to buy a lot/bulk sale, especially for you guys/gals starting out. Keep the ones you want and sell the rest.

Most used game shops will buy your Black Box Game Pak leftovers for $1 each so unless you need fast cash I would recommend saving one or two lot/purchase leftovers and sell them as a big lot on ebay. Start the auction at $1 per game (Ex: 20 games for $20). Usually the auction will go for $2-$3 a game, letting you break even and giving you more pocket change for the hunt.

STAY TUNED FOR PART 3…

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About Author

The Rube

The Rube is co-owner of Rusty Quarters Retro Arcade & Museum in Minneapolis, MN. He is also a Special Effects Artist, Master Chef, and Multiple Threadless Design Winner. Other than writing reviews and doodling, he enjoys watching bad movies, building monster model kits, and collecting games for the Nintendo Entertainment System.