The Lost Sequels: NES Rarities

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Happy new year, everybody! I hope the holidays brought much happiness to everyone, with time well spent with our families and friends. Hopefully, some of you scored some good vintage games to keep you busy as well. I’m writing this prior to Christmas, so time will tell if my wish for a copy of Earthbound was fulfilled. Let’s go ahead and get down to business. The Nintendo Entertainment System, as we all know, ended its life cycle in 1994. The 16-bit wars were now under way, and unlike its contemporary, the Sega Master System, the NES bowed out a couple years before the SMS did in Europe and South America. (The SMS saw new releases overseas up until 1996). But that isn’t to say that the NES didn’t go down swinging. My favorite niche of games are those late NES releases. Not only were some stellar games being released right up until the end, Nintendo also released the NES-101, which was a top-loading console with a redesigned controller, much in the style of the SNES.

SONY DSCI actually got one for Christmas, the year after the Electronic Talking Battleship betrayal. I still hadn’t gotten my SNES, and maybe my Grandmother, who gave it to me, mistook it for a Super NES. This was no big deal, of course. Most of my friends had a SNES by this time so I wasn’t missing out. But let me tell you, I fell in love with the new NES design once I got it home. Sure, there was no new hardware under the hood, but it looked so streamlined and modern, it provided the cosmetic update that the system deserved when competing with more powerful systems. This new design also reflected on the higher quality of releases the system was seeing towards the end. Speaking of which, today we are looking at some sequels to great games we loved on the NES in its heyday. A lot of you may have never played them at their time of release, because we were too busy playing games like F-Zero and Mortal Kombat II when they came out. This is a shame, because at that point with the NES we were finally beginning to see what the system was truly capable of, especially in those last two years of it’s lifecycle. These days, most of the games we will look at are fetching ridiculous prices due to their rarity, which was a side effect of limited production and lack of interest in the system at that point in time. Here we go!

RCPROAM2 box art smallerR.C. Pro-Am II (1993, Tradewest)

Our first game on the list is R.C. Pro-Am 2, a follow-up to 1988’s R.C. Pro-Am, which was actually the first NES game I ever owned, not counting Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt. Why it took six years to produce a sequel is beyond me. Pro-Am 2 took everything we loved about the original game to the next level. This time around, 4 players could go head to head simultaneously, on 24 new tracks, which themselves had a great variety. Now we had ramps and bridges thrown into the mix, on 3 different types of tracks. There were standard racetracks, off-road and inner city settings to make the game a little different. Also available were better upgrades and new weapons, such as buckshot and a freeze beam. The graphics, while not overhauled, were an improvement. The catchy music was also back as well. There was also a bonus tug-o-war stage to break up the action.

rcproam2 better screenshotTrue to its form, Pro-Am 2 could prove to be difficult, to the point of throwing a controller. Nothing like looking like you have a race in the bag, only to have an airplane come down and destroy your racer, costing you the race. Critics at the time cited the game for being more of the same as the first, but when you look at how great the original was, what more could Tradewest have done with it? What we ended up with was a more polished version of the original that was well worth a purchase. Nintendo Power magazine listed R.C. Pro-Am 2 as the best NES game of 1993, a questionable award given the small field of games to choose from. What I think ended up hurting this game more than anything was it’s late release, which hampered its sales. Had this game been released in, say, 1990, it would be considered a classic. But still, Pro-Am 2 was a great game, and one of the less expensive games for those like myself who collect these things.

Contra Force Box ArtContra Force (1992,Konami)

I actually had this game, and after seeing how much its worth in this day and age, find myself regretting trading it in at FuncoLand back in the mid 1990’s. Contra Force is more of a spin-off from the original series than a true sequel, this is evident in the fact that it wasn’t even designed to be a Contra title. It was actually a North American localization of a cancelled Japanese game called Arc Hound. The reasons for its cancellation are unclear; and truthfully, when you look at the body of work of the Contra series, this game barely qualifies as a traditional Contra title. Not that this is a bad thing, on the contrary, I loved this game. Long story short, terrorists are threatening Neo City and it’s up to you and your team of grunts to stop them. To accomplish this, you have a variety of means to do so, many of which were never seen in a Contra game after this one.

contra forceLooking at the game on the surface, you can tell how it qualified as a Contra title. Side scrolling, shooting the bad guys type stuff. The game runs much deeper than that, and we walked away with a better game for it. The game has two types of stages: side scrolling and the top down view we first saw in Super C. You play as the leader of a team, which consists of 3 additional soldiers: a heavy weapons expert, sharpshooter, and demolitions specialist. Each has differing strengths and weaknesses, and they each have 3 lives. You lose all 3 lives, that character is gone for the rest of the game, taking his special ability with him. The weapons power up system is different here as well. Instead of a different weapon upon snatching the power up, your team member’s ability is enhanced to the next level, out of a total of 5. What was really cool is when you didn’t have a second player to join in, the computer could take control of your second man, although his effectiveness was limited due to the limits of the NES’s hardware. This was ambitious on Konami’s part, but didn’t quite work out as well as they could have hoped. But still, I think this game is great; the level designs were very imaginative and well executed. I remember thinking how cool this game was at one point, where in a top-down stage, I was running across the wings of bombers shooting bad guys trying to jump to the next plane, and the wind effect pulling my soldier off the top of the plane. Like I said, true originality at work there. Contra Force is one of the more rare NES games out there, so be prepared to spend some money if you’re in the market for this one.

Ducktales 2 box artDucktales 2 (1993, Capcom)

For a lot of people, this is the big one. When talking about rare NES games, most folks mention Ducktales 2 right off the bat. I feel this is mainly due to the huge write up Nintendo Power gave the game at the time of its release. This is one of those titles that my wife and I are always out on the hunt for, and she has always said the original is her favorite video game of all time. Ducktales 2 might have been the last game Capcom released for the system, and was truly one of the last great NES games. For this installment, Capcom left most of the gameplay the way it was in the first game, which drew some criticism from various publications. But hell, if it isn’t broken, why try to fix it? The plot revolved around Scrooge McDuck’s nephews finding pieces of a treausre map, so the gang sets off to collect the missing treasure. The problem is, after you’ve done that, Scrooge’s nemesis, Glumgold, kidnaps his niece, Webby, and from there you go off to rescue her.

Ducktales 2Like the previous games, Ducktales 2 did receive some flak due to it being so similar to the original. The game takes you to new locations such as the Bermuda Triangle, Egypt, and the lost civilization of Mu. In the first part of the game, you can select your stage like in the original. The gameplay remained largely the same, however Scrooge could now use his cane to interact with the environment on a larger scale. For example, you could now use it to pull levers, or if you found a stretchy flower, you could hook on to it, pull back, and let it throw you across large chasms. There were also other odds and ends as well. The graphics weren’t a radical departure from the first either, but were definitely more polished, coupled with that trademark Ducktales music. Overall, the sequel improved on the first and left the player with a solid experience, for those who actually got their hands on a copy. Due to it’s limited production, there aren’t many copies floating around out there. Last time I checked, an unboxed copy runs roughly $90 on various websites. Unfortunately, flea market dealers are hip to the game’s rarity, so unless you have that much money laying around for a 21 year old Nintendo game, it may be best to just keep an eye out for it at yardsales.

RR2 box artChip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers 2 (1994, Capcom)

In many ways, the original Rescue Rangers game can be considered a companion piece to the first Ducktales game. Both games are distinctively different, but there was a link between the two, as they were both top-notch titles. That being said, following the 1993 release of Ducktales 2, it only seem fitting to follow up with a Rescue Rangers sequel as part of the swan song of the NES. In this story, Fat Cat, who was defeated at the end of the first game, is at it again, and has stolen a mystical antique urn at a warehouse. Chip, Dale and the rest of the gang are on the case, in an attempt to stop him. Like Ducktales 2, the game has two parts. The first, in which ghosts are released by the urn, you have to defeat all of the ghosts and put them back into the urn. From there, you head to an amusement park for your final showdown with Fat Cat.

RR2 gameplayLike its spiritual cousin, Ducktales 2, Rescue Rangers 2 was met with some of the same praise and criticism of being more of the same. The graphics saw marginal improvement, and the gameplay was identical. The flicker and image breakup issues went unresolved, but RR2 was just as solid as its predecessor. That did nothing to take away from the overall quality, which says a lot about how well designed the game was. Many reviewers at the time expressed wonder at the fact that this game wasn’t released on a 16-bit platform. The game departed from the non linear course the first game took, with the map being omitted in the first part of the game. The controls, as always were above average, but RR2’s downfall ultimately was the fact that it was very easy to complete. The game proved to be even more rare than Ducktales 2, and that reflects in its current value, but it is only about $30 more expensive than Ducktales 2 on average. This is another one of my eternal video game chases, and hopefully one day I’ll hit the right yard sale.

Rad Racer 2 box artRad Racer 2 (1990, Square)

This game differs from the rest of the bunch, seeing that it was released in 1990, at the height of the NES’s dominance of the console market. I included it today because for some reason it experienced a lack of popularity among players, for reasons I do not understand. The original Rad Racer was one of the early NES releases, and was wildly popular. Rad Racer took home console racing above and beyond what we had previously seen with games like Pole Position on the old Atari systems. Years later, Rad Racer 2 hit consoles, featuring better gameplay, and graphics that went way beyond the original. I tend to look at this game as one of the earlier examples of the boost in quality some NES games exhibited as the system aged.

Real Rad Racer 2

This game was a lot of fun, and it took you to new locales, such as Las Vegas, New York City, and the California Desert at twilight. The gameplay remained largely the same, but the added bells and whistles of the sequel made for a good purchase at the time. The controls were much smoother than the first game as well. The music was drastically improved, even giving players the option to choose their music at any point in the game. There was a feature called “Sing Yourself,” where no music was present, leaving the player to sing whatever he or she wanted. You gotta love that dry video game humor of the 8-bit era. The game’s drawbacks included only one vehicle to choose from, as well as an unwarranted difficulty level. Seriously, it was like the enemy racers went out of their way to wreck you! I have no idea why this game wasn’t more popular when it was released, but the fact that it had a full production run means you can usually pick up a copy for less than ten bucks just about anywhere. Is it a rare game? Absolutely not. But it is one of the lesser-known NES sequels.

zoda's revenge box artZoda’s Revenge: Star Tropics II (1994, Nintendo)

Released in 1994, Zoda’s Revenge was the second to last game ever to be released for the NES. That distinction belonged to Wario’s Woods. Zoda’s Revenge also has the distinction of being the last exclusive NES release, that never saw life on another platform at the time. Back in 1990, Nintendo came out of nowhere with the original, which is widely regarded as one of the best games available for the system. The depth and presentation of the Zelda series was given new life with the advent of the wildly successful Star Tropics. Four years later, we got a very impressive sequel, that sadly, most gamers never knew existed. Our hero, Mike, is called to investigate a cypher on a space pod found by Mica, who he rescued in the first game. Upon successfully reading the cypher, Mike is thrown back in time, where he must search out the Tetrads, which was a reference to Tetris, as that are what the pieces from that game are called. Once Mike can locate all of the Tetrads, he can return to his own time. During the course of the game, you discover that Zoda, Mike’s nemesis from the original, is still alive, and is also in search of the Tetrads to escape from the past. The plot thickens from there.

zoda's revenge screenshotThe game is similar to both Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and the original Star Tropics, as it has an overworld map and a top down world, where all the combat and puzzles take place. The game is spread across 9 time periods, including Medieval England, the Wild West, the Stone Age and Ancient Egypt. Along the way, you’ll run across historical figures like Sherlock Holmes and Leonardo da Vinci, who will help you along the way. This game was HUGE in terms of content, also featuring numerous new weapons and puzzles, along with new enemies to defeat. The music was well done and appropriate for the flow of the game. Players who were fortunate not to miss this one were treated to a lengthy experience akin to Final Fantasy or the Legend of Zelda. I’m not kidding, there was months of mileage you could have gotten out of this one. I remember renting this game, along with Tecmo NBA Basketball from Blockbuster, and never even taking the basketball game out of the box. The good news for us modern age collectors is that Zoda’s Revenge was marketed with the NES-101 in mind as an effort to boost sales. This resulted in a regular production run, and the game is readily available, and therefore on the lower end of the price spectrum. I picked up my copy for about 8 dollars at a used game store last month.

All of the games discussed today were very high-end for their time of release, when you look at the rest of the NES library. They are extremely difficult to find in the wild, for the most part, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get lucky and find one of them without spending a lot of money. Part of the joy of collecting retro games is two-fold. One aspect is that we get to relive our earlier years and remember those great memories. The other is the thrill of the hunt, and the sweet taste of victory when you take one of these babies home. For myself, its also owning a piece of gaming history, and thankfully it’s no longer a guilty pleasure. So get out there, have fun, and maybe you’ll get to see what you’ve just read about, first hand.

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The Lost Sequels: NES Rarities , 8.3 out of 10 based on 3 ratings

I am a full time Firefighter/EMT living in the United States. In my spare time, I split my time between modern games on my Xbox and the rich universe of the systems we all grew up with.

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