Sunday, November 3, 2013

Freddy vs. Jason...on The NES!

Part of being an icon in the 1980's meant a few things. At some point you met Michael Jackson, did a Pepsi commercial, or starred in your own video game. If you were a mega-star, you did all three. It's no surprise then that horror figureheads Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees starred in their own digital adaptations.

I recently re-visited these two 8-bit thrillers to see which (if either) stood the test of time better. So read on after the jump for a clash of the terror titans back when they had more limited color palettes.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 


Hmm. Great graphics!

Freddy is up first. Developed by Rare and published by LJN, the original pitch was that you played AS Freddy Krueger. Apparently this great idea got shot down because of retails admonished the Texas Chainsaw Massacre game for Atari where the player got to be Leatherface. "MURDER SIMULATOR" they cried! So what we get instead falls into the realm of a C grade platformer, where you and up to three friends play as kids on Elm St. who run around punching rats, bats, and some sort of zombie police force. In between jumping and punching you collect bones in an attempt to re-assemble Freddy. The game follows the Dream Warriors canon so each player gets a "dream form" that has extra powers. You'll use these powers to jump and punch...only better. Seriously, there is a LOT of jumping and punching.  You'll also need to keep your sleep meter full by drinking coffee, lest you fall into the dream world. At the end of each stage you'll battle a piece of Freddy, usually attached to a chain or some kind of orange rope-chain. This continues ad nauseum until the final boss fight with Freddy where you'll have to shoot him with your dream powers and then place his bones in a furnace. It's pretty standard stuff for second rate NES games of the day.

Friday The 13th

The killing power of rainbows

Now onto Jason. As a preface, just know that Friday The 13th for the Nintendo Entertainment System is fairly infamous and has earned multiple awards for "Worst Something Something in Video Games", and the accolades are well deserved. Playing Friday The 13th is torturous, to say the least. Unlike Freddy who patiently waits for you to punch through his army of snakes and zombie spiders, Jason actively and brutally wants to deliver you a 'Game Over' screen. You play as a group of counselors at camp Crystal Lake, and you're trying to protect children.  Spoiler Alert: you're going to fail. Jason is a nigh unstoppable force. He randomly pops up on the map in cabins and begins to quickly slaughter kids and other playable counselors, many times before you even have a chance to react. It's like the video game equivalent of a car crash. You're panicked and frustrated, and may ask why this is happening to you. The only people who could possibly get enjoyment out of this game are hardcore masochists who enjoy unfair odds and poor game controls. If you beat the odds and somehow survive long enough to navigate the insane cave and forest network to find Jason's mother, you're treated to a sub-boss fight where her flying head tries to bite your face off. Kill her and you'll be armed with a pitchfork that might let you stand a chance against Mr. Voorhees in an ultimate face off. It's all very upsetting and makes for an awful, if memorable, experience.


I am giving this one to Friday The 13th. While Freddy's joint is the more competent video game (likely due to Rare being a legitimate development team), LJN clearly scoured every nearby mental institution they could to assemble Jason's programming staff. It seems like the mantra for its design was "make them suffer", and I think the overwhelming feelings of futility and oppression in Friday The 13th makes it the superior survival horror experience. So there you have it. They are both AWFUL video games, but have totally sweet 1980's box art that no graphic designer would ever risk their job over nowadays without claiming it's "ironic".

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