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Predator - NES (1988)

by John Szczepaniak - February 6, 2011

American Cover

There were two main strains of Predator game developed back in the day: one for European home computers like the C64, and the other by infamous film licensor Pack-in-Video, who developed an MSX2 and a NES version (apparently; some sources claim Klon developed them). We're focusing on the PiV games, specifically the NES release which is so horrible you can't help but wonder if it was intentional.

Considering that the Predator film (June 1987) was about a commando running around fighting an alien in a jungle, PiV could have easily gotten away simply with copying the original arcade Contra (February 1987). All film licences take liberties with the source material, so it wouldn't have mattered that later levels took place inside military bases and alien nests. In fact they could have just copied the first level, over and over. Konami showed that muscles and guns in a jungle make for awesome action. It should have been easy.

Instead Predator on the NES is a mashed-up mess. The fact that Arnold is wearing pink hot pants and white go-go boots, plus has to fight enemies which include moving rocks and butterflies, can probably be forgiven since licence liberties are de rigueur. What's less acceptable is that he slides around like his boots are made of ice, and the fact that power-ups do more harm than good. By default you can only punch, but if you pick up the grenades you might as well reset, since they are worse than useless. Sometimes you get a machinegun or a laser, but these only last the level.

Predator (NES)

The game pretends to be clever by offering multiple branching pathways, so that you have to replay it four times over to see all of them, except that all of the routes consist of the same generic and infuriatingly difficult jungle and cave stages. The layouts are slightly different, but there's no point to the different paths. From start to finish every stage is abysmally designed, with tiny slippery platforms above bottomless pits and giant impassable barriers beset by endless waves of enemies. In fact even the developers lacked faith in their designs, since they included a suicide button for when you get trapped in impossible situations - yes, the game actually expects you to kill yourself if it gets stuck.

But those are the best bits. In the unlikely event you make it beyond stage 4 the game starts throwing "Big Levels" at you, which look like they were programmed using a ZX Spectrum. These are auto-scrolling areas with a broken conveyor belt for the ground and garish colour clashing. Arnie also takes up so much of the screen that it's near impossible to avoid the bubbles attacking him. These buggy levels look not only unfinished but as if they belonged to some other game entirely (Action 52 perhaps?) and were only stuck on at the last moment to quickly finish off development.

But you want to know what the biggest travesty is? It's that the MSX2 version looks similar but is actually fairly competent. It's an action adventure platformer with a selectable array of weapons, expansive stages to explore, and clever touches like if you fall down pits you don't die, but end up in a river which takes you to an earlier part of the stage. Some stages even try to look like Metroid. Plus Arnie is decked in appropriate military garb. How we ended up with two so disparate versions will forever remain a mystery.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Klon

Publisher:

Genre:

Themes:


Predator (NES)

Predator (NES)

Predator (NES)

Predator (MSX2)


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