Rollergames – NES
Publisher: Ultra Software
Release Date (NA): September 1990
Nerd Rating: 5 out of 10
Reviewed by: Variand
I’ve never quite understood Roller Derbies, nor how they ended up being like American Gladiators, World Wrestling Federation, and NASCAR rolled into one with leopard print, spandex bodysuits, and the most voluminous hair that only the 1980’s could be proud of. But somehow, that’s exactly what happened, and they referred to this cacophony as Rollergames. And of course, Konami went ahead and ignored 90% of the source material to make Rollergames, the game.
Rollergames consists of 6 teams broken up into the Western Alliance teams of T-Birds, Hot Flash, and Rockers, while the Eastern Empire consisted of Maniacs, Violators, and Bad Attitude. What they should have been named is “Faces” and “Heels,” because it’s quite blatant that is how it goes. In fact, even the announcers flat out tell you that the good teams need to defeat the evil teams.
About as cliché as any WWF storyline, you’re notified immediately after pressing start that the [unnamed] owner has been kidnapped by the evil teams, and “The 3 good teams can only rescue him.” You know, because they can’t call the cops, or sit down to discuss their differences and explain that without the owner running the business, they won’t get paychecks. No, 3 good teams can ONLY rescue him. Translation for the win.
Closer to the original than E.T.
The game itself is a far cry from the TV series, and almost as a slap in the face to the show, the only time the actual “derby” part of the game is even referenced is a 2-second image of the Rollergames’ Figure-8 rink. The intro and in-between level cutscenes are portrayed as if they are recording an episode of the TV show.
You are first greeted by the two announcers, David Sams and Chuck Underwood; though they are never named, their likenesses are unmistakable. The three managers of the evil teams are also dead ringers for those from the Rollergames show. Even Wally George makes an appearance, though he seems much too happy. And that’s the extent of the similarities to the show.
The rink sure has changed.
Rather than following the template of the TV show, Konami chose what appears to be a post-apocalyptic, near-future setting with crumbling highways, decrepit buildings, and gangs ruling the territory – or it could just be downtown Detroit. Players will traverse any number of area types from crumbling streets to a trash dump, sewers, and even a jungle – not sure how roller skates work there though, but they seem to do just fine. Each of these areas is controlled by one of the evil roller teams, and the player must defeat the team manager to continue to the next area. Between each of the zones is a highway level in which the player must bob, weave, and jump over obstacles in order to reach the next zone.
For its time, the graphics of the game are stellar. Character sprites are well drawn, though they all are missing a face – a new take on the “faceless hero.” Environments and enemies have a high level of detail. The only visual complaint I have is that occasionally when sprites overlap, parts of the player sprite can turn invisible, but generally it’s not an issue.
Rock and RollerGames
The level music for this game is some of the catchiest I’ve ever heard, and if you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself humming or whistling the tunes long after you’ve turned off your system. The music also does a great job matching up to the levels and environments.
Gameplay and Controls
The game goes back and forth between side-scrolling beat’em up and action platforming, but for the most part, it requires massive amounts of trial and error to learn the correct path or jumping pattern. A slight bit of controller lag compounds this issue by being just enough to prevent your reflexes from jumping over or dodging the obstacle.
Each of the three teams has a different advantage. T-Bird is a larger guy, so he’s slower but beefier. Hot Flash is a cliché 80’s valley girl and is the fastest of the group. Rockers fall somewhere in the middle of power and speed. As you play the levels more and more, you’ll learn which team is better suited for which level, however, it is possible for any team to beat every level.
Fighting is not difficult as the AI is sluggish to move or attack, and they are extremely easy to dodge as well. Most damage taken from enemies will be from them popping out unexpectedly or by getting jumped from behind. The locked fighting sections only send 2 baddies to you at a time, so it’s fairly easy to control the flow by bouncing back and forth between the two enemies.
The most annoying portions of the game are the points when the simulated 3D is broken by blatant 2D collision detection. If a bomb is dropping from the top of the screen with a shadow showing it will be hitting at the bottom, and you touch the sprite while it’s on the way down, even though you’re at the top of the screen, it will count as a hit. This means you’ll take quite a bit a damage that you would otherwise not have expected.
Game is now over and you are victorious
Regardless of the dissimilarities with the show, the game is fun and addicting. Simple but challenging gameplay will prevent the game from getting old, and the polished action makes this an easily replayable game, however, the lack of any real depth leaves it utterly passable at the same time. As a result, it is a game you’ll enjoy playing, but not miss if you don’t.
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