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Nintendo Power's Best Reviewed Movie Games
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on August 02, 2016   |   Episode 97 (Show Archive)  

   
Gamers have always had a love/hate relationship with movie game adaptations. While we love the idea of playing as one of Hollywood's biggest action heroes, it's common to hate the finished games. It's because most movie games are cynical cash-ins that a lot people know to avoid. Today we're going to be talking about the 8- and 16-bit movie games that don't suck, at least according to Nintendo Power. Join me as I count down Nintendo Power's Top 10 Reviewed Movie Games.



Jurassic Park
Between The Fugitive, Free Willy and Cliffhanger, the summer of 1993 was full of crowd-pleasing blockbusters. But no movie was bigger, tougher and more destructive than Jurassic Park. The Steven Spielberg hit went on to make $357 million at the domestic box office and over a billion dollars worldwide, making it the fourth highest grossing film of the 1990s. It was a time when people couldn't get enough of dinosaurs, and Ocean was there for Super Nintendo owners with their very own Jurassic Park game.

Nintendo Power loved this top-down adventure game, raving about the impressive graphics and gameplay elements ripped straight out of the movie. They weren't as impressed with some of the first-person interior mazes, but didn't feel like it ruined the overall experience. Most other critics agreed, with some going even further. For example, it got a perfect five out of five from GamePro, SNES Force gave the game a 92% and Die Hard Game Fan said Jurassic Park "truly takes the SNES to its limits -- without the use of a Super FX chip." Believe it or not, Nintendo Power had one of the lowest scores, yet certainly high enough to secure its spot on this list.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
It's hard to imagine a job more stressful than negotiating the rights to the cartoon characters in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The 1988 blockbuster did the impossible: It brought some of Disney's most beloved characters into the same universe as Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and the rest of the Looney Tunes stable. Thankfully, all that hard work paid off, as the Robert Zemeckis film became a big hit with both critics and movie goers, and went on to become the second-highest grossing movie of 1988 (topped only by Rain Man).

I can't imagine anybody at LJN losing any sleep over negotiating the rights to the Who Framed Roger Rabbit video game. The Nintendo Entertainment System adaptation isn't all that interested in a universe where both Donald Duck and Daffy Duck exist, because it spends most of the time dealing with the original characters made just for the movie. This didn't seem to bother Nintendo Power, who gave it a 4 out of 5 and loved the game's sense of humor. They were one of the only outlets to review the NES version, with most other magazines opting to look at the well-received Game Boy port. Based on this Nintendo Power review, perhaps they missed out.
Godzilla: Monster of Monsters!
While most games on this list are based on specific movies, Compile's 1989 Godzilla: Monster of Monsters! game is inspired more on the mutant lizard's 35 years Japanese monster films. It's kind of a best-of collection, giving us a chance to go up against many of Godzilla's most famous friends and enemies. It's not a very good game, but don't say that to Nintendo Power, who gave the game a 4 out of 5 and liked the melding of genres. "It's action! It's strategy! It's a battle of ferocious titans with a galaxy at stake!" shouts an exacerbated Nintendo Power editor.

Other critics weren't nearly as impressed. In fact, I think it's safe to say that most other magazines hated Godzilla: Monster of Monsters! "Godzilla started with a very unique idea but didn't fully realize its potential," begins Electronic Gaming Monthly's Jim. "The side-scrolling action scenes get repetitive, with a limited number of enemies attacking. The inability of Godzilla and Mothra's to turn around is also annoying." Nintendo Magazine System agreed: "What could have been a brilliant monster-based game of destruction and mayhem is in fact a ghastly scrolling plodalong which suffers dreadful flicker and frustratingly awkward gameplay."
Alien 3
I think it's safe to say that both Ridley Scott's Alien and James Camerson's Aliens are near-perfect science fiction films that have withstood the test of time. While I've met a few people who don't care for Ripley's battle against the Xenomorphs, it's rare to hear anybody call them worthless films. That's not the case with David Fincher's ill-fated follow-up, Alien 3. When it was released in 1992, both critics and longtime fans were disappointed in this dark and dreary sequel. But I would argue that this is not a worthless film, because it gave us an incredibly fun Alien 3 video game on the Super NES and Sega Genesis.

Nintendo Power gushed over the "great action, excellent graphics and sound, and a wide variety of mission to keep things interesting." In fact, they went as far as to call it "maybe the best action adventure since Super Star Wars." Nintendo Power gave it a 4 out of 5, which ended up being one of Alien 3's lowest scores. GamePro gave it a perfect 5 out of 5, it got a 94% from Nintendo Magazine System, SNES Force awarded it a stellar 92% and both Die Hard Game Fan and Electronic Gaming Monthly offered up 8s and 9s. Alien 3 is one of the rare times when the game is actually better than the movie.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Joe Dante had no interest in making a sequel to Gremlins. After his 1984 horror film grossed more than $150 million, the director declined to continue the franchise. But Warner Bros. insisted, offering triple the budget and giving the director complete control over the final product. Dante gave in, creating a strange, almost satirical sequel that he would later refer to as "one of the more unconventional studio pictures, ever." The movie bombed, bringing in just $41 million and stopping the franchise dead in its tracks.

SunSoft didn't have to go through any of these struggles when making their Nintendo Entertainment System adaptation. This was their first stab at the license and didn't have the pressure of living up to one of the most beloved movies of the 1980s. It's just a dumb action game, and Nintendo Power was fine with that. They liked the "8-directional scrolling," "great cast of enemies" and the ability to turn into "Super Gizmo."

Nintendo Magazine System also enjoyed Gremlins 2, giving the game an 87% and noting the "decent graphics, awesome sound and top-notch playability." EGM's Ed Semrad said "Gremlins 2 takes all of the best parts from Blaster Master and Fester's Quest and throws in any missing elements there may have been." The rest of his colleagues weren't as convinced.
The Hunt for Red October
In a year when Arnold Schwarzenegger went to Mars, Demi Moore saw a Ghost and Dick Tracy had a love affair with Madonna, it was a claustrophobic submarine film that ended up leaving the biggest impact. The Hunt for Red October brought together Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery in the year's top grossing Cold War thriller, ultimately grossing $122 million and officially kicking off the Jack Ryan franchise.

Nintendo Power loved The Hunt for Red October, but only on the Game Boy. When they went to review the high-profile NES game, they gave it a 2.9 and spent the whole review complaining. But there was something about the Game Boy version that registered with the magazine, as they went on to call it "the ultimate two-player battle." EGM was not as kind, with Martin Alessi concluding that the sub moved too slow and unpredictably. The rest of the EGM staff gave The Hunt for Red October fives.
Super Star Wars
For as long as video game consoles have existed, developers have been trying their hardest to recreate the magic of Star Wars. While most early efforts failed to live up to the beloved film franchise, that didn't keep persistent programmers from trying again. For many, Super Star Wars was the first game to live up to the promise, and critics were quick to call it one of the best games of 1992.

Nintendo Power gave Super Star Wars a 4.3 out of 5, tied with Lemmings, Mickey's Magical Quest and Out of this World as the magazine's fifth best reviewed 16-bit game of all time. They called it a triumph for action games, loving the variety of moves and how much it lifts from the movie. They weren't alone, as the rest of the gaming press lavished praise on Super Star Wars. Electronic Gaming Monthly called it "a dream come true for Star Wars fans," while Ed Semrad said Super Star Wars is "easily one of the best games of the year." It got a 93% from Nintendo Magazine System, 95% from both Computers + Video Games and N-Force, and a perfect score from GamePro. The lowest score came from Super Play, who ended up giving Super Star Wars an 89%.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
When it was first released in 1991, critics bemoaned Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the type of cookie cutter Hollywood blockbuster with no heart or soul. They complained that it felt rushed; carelessly slapped together to meet an all-important release date set years in advance. Audiences didn't listen, as Kevin Costner's take on the classic hero made nearly $400 million worldwide and still remains the top grossing medieval times action film of all time.

Critics may have had mixed feelings about the movie, but Nintendo Power loved Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves on the 8-bit NES. They raved about the fast gameplay and stellar graphics, suggesting that Virgin made the most out of the license. Other magazines weren't as convinced, but there did seem to be a split among critics. For example, Electronic Gaming Monthly had reviews ranging from 4s all the way up to a 7 and 8. It was a mixed bag, not unlike the movie it's based on.
Batman: The Video Game
Long before everybody took to Facebook and Twitter to complain about questionable casting decisions, geek community lost its mind at the news that Michael Keaton would be playing the part of Batman. Many wondered if Mr. Mom would be able to pull off the sophistication of Bruce Wayne and the ass-kicking of his Dark Knight. As it turns out, he could. Tim Burton's Batman grossed more than $400 million worldwide and spawned a series of successful sequels.

This new take on Batman was not only a hit at the box office, but also on the Nintendo Entertainment System. This is one of the few movie-to-game adaptations that critics agree on. Nintendo Power called it a "terrific new action Game Pak" and gave it a 4.5 out of 5. It's tied with The Adventures of Bayou Billy as Nintendo Power's sixth best reviewed NES game of all time.

While not as enthusiastic as Nintendo Power, most other critics agreed that Batman was a cut above the standard movie game. That said, both Computers + Video Games and Electronic Gaming Monthly complained that the game was a bit of a letdown. EGM's Steve said the game was too dark, which may "capture the mood of the movie, but it does detract a bit from the overall appeal of the title." CVG complained that the game doesn't follow the plot of the movie. Not enough enemies doing the Batdance, I guess.
The Three Stooges
Stars of both feature films and comedy shorts, The Three Stooges found new and creative ways to abuse each other across five decades. Much like Godzilla, this Nintendo Entertainment System adaptation takes inspiration from many of the most memorable moments in the Stooges storied career. And with a score of 4.7 out of 5, this 8-bit mini-game collection is one of Nintendo Power's best reviewed games of all time. No joke.

The magazine was impressed by the variety of stages and abusive sense of humor. They liked that it wasn't just a typical 2D platformer, but a mini-game collection with a wide variety of activities. The rest of the gaming press wasn't as wild about the exploits of Larry, Curly and Moe. Electronic Gaming Monthly gave it tepid scores, calling it a collection of "simple obstacle courses." They complained that there wasn't a lot of excitement, but at least "the graphics and sounds are absolutely incredible."

As hard as it is to believe, The Three Stooges ties Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos as Nintendo Power's second best reviewed NES game of all time. This Activision release was only topped by Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, which earned a 4.8. I'm starting to think Nintendo Power took one too many hits to the head before reviewing The Three Stooges.
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