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Image Fight – NES

Image Fight – NES

Image Fight NES coverPlatform:  NES

Developer:  Irem

Publisher:  Irem

Release Date (NA):  July 1990

Genre:  Vertical-Scrolling Shooter

Nerd Rating:   3 out of 10

Reviewed by:  Variand


Irem pretty much had a stranglehold on the side-scrolling shoot’em ups in the early arcade and console days.  It seemed like R-Type clones were everywhere in the early 1990’s, and several of them came from Irem.  Image Fight is one such game, but instead of being the same side-scrolling clone we’d always seen before, Image Fight turned gamers heads… 90° counter-clockwise turn.

Worse than Taco Neck Syndrome

Vertical action over one of the only backgrounds in the game.

Vertical action over one of the only backgrounds in the game.

Where the majority of all shoot’em ups scrolled from left to right, Image Fight scrolled from top to bottom and gave a bird’s-eye view of the action.  While it can be a bit jarring at first since the areas to your left and right can feel a bit cramped,  it’s quite a bit liberating to have the vertical movement we’ve all wanted in the particularly harrier situations.  If this vertical-scrolling action truly bothers you, then you must have sucked at Frogger, but you could always just tilt your head to the left while you play.  And if you feel like living on the edge, you can go crazy and tilt your head to the right to get a perspective of being the bad guy with all the would-be heroes attempting to defeat you.


Being that this was made by the same developer as R-Type, Image Fight has a number of the same gameplay elements.  Power-ups can still be found and collected to give you additional firepower, and many of them are incredibly similar to those found in its predecessor.  However, it’s worth stating that the power-ups are significantly fewer in variety than the R-Type games.  There are really only 2 types of them, though each has multiple variants.  These are the Nose piece and satellite turrets.

Homing missiles are just another type of nose piece weapon

Homing missiles are just another type of nose piece weapon.

The satellite turrets can be either locked straight ahead (up) or what I refer to as “drag,” where these will turn to face the opposite direction you last moved as if being dragged.  The nose pieces, however, have several different variants from diagonal or straight ahead lasers to a random “bubble gun” that shoots randomly ahead or diagonally ahead right or left, and even includes a weapon that will straight to both sides.  My favorite nose piece doesn’t become available till much later in the game, but will shoot straight until it is in line with an enemy before turning to drill it from the side.

The nose pieces cannot be overridden by another, but they can be knocked off by brushing it across an enemy.  This can be challenging as rarely do enemies sit still long enough for you to give them a kiss with the front of your ship.  So be cautious when choosing the nose pieces.  Picking the wrong one could lead to some very bad situations.  It would often be better to ignore weapons that are of little value, rather than getting stuck with it, and having to pass up much better weapons.

While you could beat this boss with basic lasers, it would be difficult to do so.

While you could beat this boss with basic lasers, it would be difficult to do so.

There is a life system included in the game, however, after you’ve run out of lives, you are prompted to continue, so you can play indefinitely.  While you can continue to play to your heart’s content, there are instances when you might just want to call it quits.  When you die, you lose all your power-ups.  This leaves you severely under prepared for the challenges ahead as you’ll be forced to recollect weapons.  Having to try to take a boss out with just your base lasers can be nearly impossible for some of them.  Continuing would just be a waste of time since you won’t find power-ups during the boss fight.

Image Fight is also the first shoot’em up that I’ve encountered that allowed you to control your movement speed.  It has 4 levels of speed from slow, moderate, fast, and ludicrous speed.  Space Balls references aside, every time I played on speed 4, I ALWAYS rammed myself into the first enemy, missile, or wall I saw.  So unless you’re twitch control is well above average, I would suggest locking the speed into 3, and leaving it alone.

Ranging from Uninspiring to Ear Bleeds.

The sound in Image Fight is some of the most inane music I’ve ever heard.  It does little to set the mood, and when it’s not droning on or trying to be dramatically moody, it can be just downright distracting.  Nothing is better than a high-pitched, squealing alarm during a boss fight to make everyone in the house want to rip the console from the shelf and bash you in the head with it.  My parents used to force me to play this on mute when they were home, and now over twenty years later, I find myself still muting it to save my own sanity.

Dude, where’s my background?

Then entire second level is played on a plain blue screen.

Then entire second level is played on a plain blue screen.

I’m not sure as to why, but it felt as if Image Fight hates backgrounds.  In most games of the same genre, there is usually some sort of scrolling background behind the action to bestow a sense of movement.  Image Fight instead uses monochromatic backgrounds in several of its levels as if you were playing over a blue or black screen.  While this isn’t much of a complaint, there just isn’t a lot of personality that these backdrops would usually give a game.

The game sprites themselves feel a bit bland as well.  Compared to its predecessor, R-Type, Image Fight’s graphics lack any real artistic design.  Even though Image Fight came out three years after R-Type, the graphics in Image Fight actually look and feel more dated.

Wasn’t the name catchy enough?

While not containing the same flare that others in the genre possess, Image Fight had enough of the basics to make at least a playable vertical scrolling shoot’em up.  Its lackluster graphics, audible assault on eardrums, and bland personality will leave most people marking this one as a pass.  If you’re a die-hard fan of the genre and have become bored with the other R-Type clones, Image Fight might be for you.  However, if you’re looking for a memorable game to fill your hours, go ahead and skip passed this one.

Do you disagree with my assessment?  Do you think that Image Fight was the best shoot’em up on the NES?  Tell us about it by leaving a comment below.

Written by Variand


Agree or Disagree with something? Want to request a review a specific game? Just want to troll? Leave a comment, Twitter @Variand, or email me at Or feel free to find and frag me on Xbox Live (GT: Rukhan), PSN (Variand), or Steam(Variand99).

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