Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On the NES there was no Call of Duty, there was Heavy Barrel

One of my absolute favorite co-op experiences to be found on the NES would have to be Heavy Barrel developed by the late Data East. The game is actually an arcade port of a game of the same name, and it is addicting as all get out. Basic premise: you're a red dude. If you have an extra controller and a friend, they are the blue dude. Red dude and blue dude team up to kill all the grey dudes. As it should be.

Even at the time, Heavy Barrel didn't do anything revolutionary. It just did everything right. There as a weapon upgrade system by which you shoot the red enemies to collect keys, which in turn can be used to open chests that contain different items. There are a few special chests that fill a meter at the bottom of the screen, that when filled completely, unleashes the ultimate weapon the heavy barrel. The weapon has a wide radius and can be fired indefinitely for thirty seconds, and will destroy any enemy in the game in one shot.

In modern gaming, games with scripted enemy placement are looked down upon as having bad AI. In the NES era, that was the norm, and I wouldn't have it any other way. After playing the game enough times, you start to learn how many enemies pop out and where, which is crucial if you plan on surviving to see the game to its completion. Learning the location of the heavy weapon pieces and other vital equipment is vital, you don't want to waste any of the all important keys after all. Buyer beware: while some may consider buying the Data East Arcade Classics collection for the Nintendo Wii that contains Heavy Barrel and 14 other Data East games, it feature what I consider to be the far inferior arcade version of the game. If you can find a copy of an NES cartridge, that would be the way to go.

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