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P.O.W.: Prisoners of War – NES

P.O.W.: Prisoners of War – NES

2362104-nes_pow_2Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System

Developer: SNK

Publisher: SNK

Release Date: 1988

Genre: Beat ’em up 

Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed by: bbpower


In terms of beat ’em up games, P.O.W.: Prisoners of War is an overlooked and undervalued title for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The story of this one-player adventure has you playing as a muscular bad ass who is a prisoner of war and breaks out of your cell. Players are instantly on the run and have to fight through guards to get out of the P.O.W camp. pow-prisoners-of-war-04

This fun, yet incredibly challenging game, will take players though six painstaking levels to conquer this game and defeat the enemy. To put it frankly, SNK must have wanted gamers to really earn the right to say this game was beaten. The first few levels are not too difficult, but the last couple are down right hard. The last level is nearly impossible, almost to the point of why even try.

The first level is the actual P.O.W. camp, second is the Enemy Base, third is the Jungle, fourth is the Enemy Warehouse, fifth is a Tank level, and finally the last is another Jungle. The music on each level is different and actually not bad to listen to, so while you are kicking ass without taking names you can enjoy some good jams.

The protagonist in P.O.W: Prisoners of War is skilled at fighting and has much at his disposal to beat some serious ass on his mission to stop the forces that captured him. There are power ups that can be won from battling enemies in “rooms” throughout levels. The rewards are: brass knuckles, armor to stop bullets and throwing knives, and a full life icon. All of which are crucial to coming close to beating this game. If you get hit too many times, your armor vanishes and you will have to obtain another in the next level. Each of these items are lost at the end of each level and have to be found on the next, which to me is an unnecessary challenge. What? He loses them in between? I think not. A real prisoner of war escaping isn’t going to throw stuff aside and say, “I can find another. No big deal.” Get real, SNK.

There are a few different types of enemies that take a different number of hits to kill. The first is the normal infantry guys wearing green camouflage. They usually go down with only one kick or punch. Sometimes they carry throwing knives that can be taken from them. Some have semi-automatic machine guns with limited ammo and grenades that can be dropped for you to pick up. These items are very useful and crucial to success. Another type are tough black dudes that pack a knife and there are blue guys that are martial artists and have more techniques to gut you and take many more hits to defeat. All the skins are similar throughout the levels, but their wardrobe changes and their difficulty and movements are sped up to increase the difficulty. There are even scuba divers players will have to take on and they are no walk in the park, especially wading through water.


The bosses on each level are a fun challenge and are all different. Some bosses players can get away with not having the arsenals to help, and some others it is at the utmost importance to have the armor and extra power from the brass knuckles. Either way, the boss skin diversity is good, yet they are fun to fight.

A negative about this game is it is too easy to die and when you do, your arsenals are lost. So, if you die going into a boss, you are essentially screwed in some cases. Also like many NES games, there are limited continues. Gamers have to be on their toes and have a healthy and responsive controller to have the fast movements needed to take out enemies. Another issue I had with this game is the last level. I do not want to give anything away, but it is incredibly hard. I finally got fed up with making it that far and not beating it that I regrettably summoned the magical powers of  Game Genie to give me some lives to muscle through the final stage. When you get pissed enough, you resort to cheating to show the game who is boss.

My final criticism is sometimes when battling the scuba dudes, you will whiff your punches, which consequences result with a knife in the chest. Not cool since you clearly hit them, and with those muscles it would be a busted jaw. It’s a fine line in the programming, which in my eyes is a glitch and fortunately the only glitch that comes to mind while dissecting this title. pow-2

I love this game and have been playing it since I was about four years old. My cousin had it growing up, so I would ride my bike down to his house to partake in the action. I have many fond memories of this title and even playing the better two-player arcade version at Chuck E. Cheese’s as a kid. P.O.W.: Prisoners of War earned itself a Nerd Rating of 7 out of 10. As far as I am concerned, this is one of the best NES beat ’em up games out there.

I was tempted to give it a higher score, but there are some little things added to this game to make it as I feel too hard. Also, the lack of enemy diversity seemed like a cop-out to designing more people and to shave development costs, which is understandable, but still could have been made better. Also, the lack of a two-player mode in the NES version makes it half as fun as it could have been. However, this is a bargain buy costing gamers less than $6-$8 for premium copies. Usually it can be scored for under five greenbacks, so grab it while it’s hot and start kicking ass! Game on!

Written by Nerd Bacon

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