On paper Cobra Triangle sounds like the cheesiest action game to hit the Nintendo Entertainment System. It's a clone of R.C. Pro-Am, only on the water and with weapons at your disposal. You can almost hear the synthesizers in wailing in the background as you chase a mullet-wearing drug smuggler. And did I mention that there are sea monsters and pirates? Yup, this is the kind of ridiculous even Don Johnson wouldn't be a part of. And yet, this insane concept makes for one of the very best 8-bit games of all time.
I don't feel like I'm overselling Cobra Triangle, this really is one of my all-time favorite NES games. It's a traditional overhead racing game that decided to be a fast-paced shooter. Players control a speed boat racing around labyrinthine mazes picking up power-ups, blowing up boats and getting to the finish line. This is an intoxicating mix of action and racing, two things that are handled flawlessly in this 1989 masterpiece.
What keeps Cobra Triangle from becoming yet another Spy Hunter knock-off is its set of diverse goals. Although there are plenty of missions where players will be asked to race to the finish line, there are also a number of other mission types to master. For example, in one level players are told to get move four large floating mines to the other team's base. In another stage it wants us to perform tricks in order to earn extra lives and bonus points.
The water adds yet another layer to Cobra Triangle. A level may start with one task, but the strong pull of the current may prevent players from having an easy go of it. Or in another situation players will need to avoid whirlpools and even sea monsters. Rare has made a game that is constantly surprising and impressing the home player.
Speaking of impressive, the game's presentation is first-rate. Although they had a very limited color palette to work with, Rare managed to give each a unique touch. Not that players will have much time to notice. The game speeds along, making this one of the most exciting games on the 8-bit NES.
The game controls exactly like R.C. Pro-Am, another game developed by Rare Ltd. Much like that 1988 racer, Cobra Triangle can be a little tricky for anybody not used to remote controlled vehicles. Thankfully this game eases players into the tricky control, making this a significantly less frustrating experience.
The game rewards players for sticking with the learning curve and mastering the aim. Cobra Triangle offers a substantial amount of quality content, all done in fresh and inventive ways. This is easily one of the greatest 8-bit games ever made. It's a shame that neither Rare nor Nintendo updated this classic action game. It's not too late, perhaps 2011 could be the year of the Cobra!