When I reviewed Halloween on the Atari 2600, I mentioned that I'm not a fan of slasher flicks. Part of the reason is that the plots depend too often on disposable protagonists acting stupid just to get sliced up, but mostly it's because of how cliched they tend to be. The only slasher franchise I actually like is A Nightmare on Elm Street. The idea of a killer that invades his victims' nightmares, turning their own dreams against them, leads to plenty of creative ways to kill off the disposable characters. A game based on the franchise would have had plenty of potential, but most of the potential was lost in this NES game. Really, did you expect better from LJN?
The game isn't based on any of the individual movies; rather, it's based on just the character of Freddy Krueger and a handful of ideas from the whole franchise. That's actually a great idea since singling out one movie in particular could've been too limiting for the game. Your goal is to explore about a half-dozen locations along Elm Street to find and collect Freddy's bones to be destroyed in the school's furnace. Enemies are all over the place, and even Freddy attacks at random times. Also, all players have a sleep meter that sends them to the dream world when it empties. In the dream world, the enemies are stronger, but some special powers can be gained as well.
The gameplay is generally okay. The platforming is tight if a bit simplistic. The enemies can get in some cheap hits here and there but not often enough to be a problem. The visuals work well with plenty of color and smooth animations. I even like how well things change when I enter the dream world. Even the music is pretty good.
The problems seriously skewer this game. Since a randomizer is used to determine the order of the stages, traveling between the locations on Elm Street is a pain since it's never clear where the next objective is. Unavoidable hazards pop up constantly. You actually have to keep track of how many hits you had taken yourself since there is no onscreen life bar. Worst of all, the boss fights are outright terrible. Cheap hits are out of control during the boss fights. That would be tolerable if the fights were interesting, but the designers got lazy. The first fight is just Freddy's glove on a wire! The later fights are just as unimaginative. Was this the best they could do? Why not have Freddy take some of the forms from the movies like the snake from Dream Warriors, the comic book supervillain from Dream Master, or the demented chef from Dream Child? Hell, I wouldn't even have minded the ridiculous stuff from Freddy's Dead!
A Nightmare on Elm Street had the potential to be a cool game, but the potential was squandered. What's left is a game that is very average. The scariest part is that "average" is amazing by LJN's standards. This game isn't the total nightmare that I expected given LJN's reputation. However, if I never played it again, I wouldn't lose sleep over it.