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Battle Chess – NES

Battle Chess – NES

Battle Chess Box artPlatform: Nintendo Entertainment System

Developer: Beam Software

Publisher: Data East

Release Date (NA): July, 1990

Genre: Board and Classic Games

Nerd Rating: 3.5 out of 10


Can that be my review? I mean, what more do you want me to say about this plastic casing that contains something some people in certain areas might refer to as a game? I think the introductory phrase of this piece encompasses all the information you need to know before embarking on a rousing go of Battle Chess.

Furthermore, why would I pick such a title to review? Because I own it. And I’ve had the misfortune of playing it.

Bear in mind that it is essential to know the particular port I’m reviewing before I dive head-first into this slab of concrete- er, evaluation.

Battle Chess is a fun, tongue-in-cheek rendition of a classic board game as old as time.

-Wait. What?

“Did you just have a sudden change of heart?” millions of readers simultaneously remark to themselves. “What sort of credibility could I lend to an individual of such indecisive tendencies?”

You do have a point, but before you ready the pitchforks and torches, allow me to elaborate. When I paint Battle Chess in a positive light, I refer to the PC version. Interplay impresses us with its charm and wit by taking a dry and intellectual game into the realm of wacky comedy (a demonstration of things soon to come from this young developer). Challenge the computer or rent a friend and watch as your human chess pieces come alive only to engage in sensational, graphic battles. Sure, the animated clashes will become repetitive after a while, but hey, at the end of a duel between two knights it doesn’t matter who wins; seeing them recreate the famous Monty Python Black Knight sketch will set aside any dispute you may have with your opponent – everyone wins.

The original is not a perfect game, but if you’re going to play chess, why not do it in style? That is, unless your only means is through the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Now I love my NES. And I love Battle Chess. But sometimes when you mix two things you love together, like, let’s say, ice cream and a deep frier, you’ll want to vomit. And that’s exactly what happened when some cash-grabbing tycoon thought, “Hey, let’s bring that Battle Chess game to the Nintendo!”

Well. Thank you cash-grabbing tycoon. Because now we have a stunning example of ineptitude on our most revered console.

Battle Chess Title

God help us all

Battle Chess BasicI’ve been building up to it long enough, so let’s get into the nitty gritty of this gritty shitty port. Chess is a slow and thoughtful game where opponents engage in a highly cerebral competition of strategic superiority. Taking your time to consider all possible actions is to be expected. But after all that is done, watching the miserable spritely abominations exert themselves across the board at a fraction of a snail’s pace just might cause you to forget what the hell you were doing in the first place.

And did I mention it’s ugly? Actually, upon closer review I must admit it possesses that charm most 8-bit games are naturally endowed. But all that aside, it’s quite a visual mess.

The colors are minimal and bland. The pieces are a lazy attempt to capture their PC counterparts. There’s almost nothing to look at as far as background is concerned. Oh, and as if the game couldn’t be any uglier, once the combatants encounter each other (after a nice little do-si-do to get into position) they are transported into a realm I can only assume is hell considering how murky, lifeless, bleak, and hopeless it appears. From there the characters become an even more grotesque representation of themselves. They duke it out with actions that are slow, vague, confusing – and even more so due to the harsh renderings of cries, groans, and the sound of clashing metal.

Battle Chess Pawns

Speaking of sound…

Don’t even get me started on those unpleasant little blips that assault my eardrums. Every single step of every single character is your television crying for help. The audio processor works so hard at emulating something consonant to what you would hear in life, but fails at every screeching attempt. And music? Nope! Aside from the droning title tune and terror-inducing menu noise, your ears are greeted only by the characters’  lovely infernal thuds emanating from your out-dated speakers.

Battle Chess Pause

This ain’t no Battletoads! Only unpleasant noise from this pause menu

Did I mention that the Nintendo tones down the violence, robbing Battle Chess of its fun and charm??

So what else is there to say about this game? Nothing really. Playing it is like a chore. It’s a chore to watch your impotent players lumber across a lifeless board. It’s a chore to wait as the computer runs through every possible scenario like Joshua trying to win World War III in War Games. It’s a chore to even take this game out of its case and plug it into your system.

The bottom line is this game is slow. Not the kind of slow that you can endure through patient abeyance, but the slow that is the dragging of nails across a chalk board. You can input your move then get up, make a sandwich, turn on the TV, eat your sandwich, accidentally fall asleep on the couch, wake up, then return to your game only to discover that the computer is still drafting the proper counterattack to your previous play.

If you’re going to play Battle Chess, I suggest you choose the one for PC. There are four different kinds to choose from, all accounted for on the Battle Chess collection CD-ROM. Playing the NES rendition of the game will cause you to wish yourself at the receiving end of the pawn’s innocuous spear.

Written by ZB


Since the tender age of four, I have been playing video games to occupy my free time. Raised on Nintendo and Sega Genesis, I have an extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for the classics. Also an avid collector, I have accrued such consoles as the Atari Jaguar, Super Famicom, Odyssey 2, Sega Nomad, just to name a few.

Got any questions, comments, concerns, or threats? Feel free to email me at I am happy to hear your feedback!


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  1. I first played this game at school in fifth grade on the PC. I loved it, and went on a quest to find a copy for my computer. Of course when I ran across it for Nintendo I had to pick it up, but I found that I never had any motivation to play it. Ever. It’s so slow that it’s hard to sit through and it takes forever.

    But hey, I know what that’s like. I have very fond memories of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Video Game adventure. And that game is horrendous.

  2. FrozenMallet says:

    I had this game on NES when I was a kid. I never played the other versions on PC. Maybe that’s why I have fond memories of this one.


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