IREM on the NES – Metal Storm, Hammerin’ Harry & More (w/ Game Dave) / MY LIFE IN GAMING


[ COURY ] Japanese developer IREM found success
in the early 80s with arcade games like Moon Patrol and Kung Fu Master. For a long time, they avoided the home console
market, instead licensing their games out to other developers like Sega and Nintendo
who would then do the ports for their own system My first experience with an IREM game was
with their magnum opus, R-Type, which is probably the most influential and celebrated game in
their library. I always thought it was kinda weird that R-Type
was never officially ported to the NES. Instead IREM, opted to release a haphazard
smattering of arcade ports and original titles on the console over the years. So, I thought it would be a lot of fun to
take a look at a sampling of these games… You know, I don’t have a lot of experience
with most of them, so I might just need a little help. In this episode… IREM on the NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM. [MUSIC: “Principle” by Matt McCheskey] [ GAME AUDIO ] After licensing some of their biggest titles
to other developers, who would handle their releases in the US, IREM finally took the
plunge with Sqoon. [ GAME AUDIO ] Developed by Home Data, this obscure title
has you taking control of a tiny pink submarine out to save the world from invaders from the
planet Neptune. Seems they’ve enslaved our race and melted
all the polar ice caps, submerging the cities of the world…underwater. Sqoon takes your little sub around the world,
liberating one nation at a time. As you finish off each enemy base, the levels
seamlessly scroll into the next country. [ GAME AUDIO ] It definitely gives you a nice sense of progression..and
drives home that the entire world is covered in water. On the other hand this makes for some pretty
boring scenery. You’ll be mowing down legions of enemies
consisting of sea creatures and alien crafts with your torpedoes and depth charges. But those are all secondary – the main thing
you gotta worry about is this counter down here. This is your fuel…your constant source of
stress. It lasts 60 seconds, so rescue hostages as
fast as you can to get refills. For one the the more obscure NES titles, I
was honestly hoping for Sqoon to be a bit of a hidden gem. My hopes were quickly dashed almost as soon
as I started playing. At least IREM would fulfill their destiny
of making the best naval based shooter ever, 10 years later, with In The Hunt ten years
later. [ GAME AUDIO ] After Sqoon, there was a rather large gap
in IREM published games in the US. They had a publishing agreement with Broderbund
that lasted until 1990 and covered such games as Deadly Towers and The Guardian Legend. They’d return the scene with Kickle Cubicle…a
game I only recently found out was any good. You know, I think I Try might have more experience
with this game than I do…. [ GAME AUDIO ] [ TRY ] Actually, Kickle Cubicle is actually
the only Irem game that I’ve ever played. I first read about it in the one-hundredth
issue of Nintendo Power, which lists it as the ninety-fifth greatest game of all time. But it was the comparison to Adventures of
Lolo that really sold me. [ GAME AUDIO ] You play as Kickle, who sorta looks like a
snowman, but the label art makes him seem more human… like a toddler. Anyway, he lives in the Fantasy Kingdom, which
has been turned to ice overnight by the evil Wizard King. Kickle has the power to manipulate ice… I dunno, maybe he really is a snowman. He can shoot ice at enemies, which freezes
them into a cube… pretty similar to turning enemies into eggs in Lolo. The main thing you gotta do is kickle the
cubicles, er, uh, kick the cubes into the water to form bridges to get around the level. You can also create ice pillars to block enemy
movement, or redirect ice blocks. Your objective in every level is to collect
all of the “Dream Bags,” which are supposedly how the Wizard King trapped the residents
of the Fantasy Kingdom. I thought Kickle was just a Scrooge McDuck
collecting bags of gold, but nope, apparently he’s saving people. Oh, and by people, I mean like, I guess they’re
probably mostly food and stuff, like this corn dude, he’s the first guy you meet. He’s pretty cool. Then this tomato tells us that the boss monster
is scaring the princess. Now that’s just mean! One of my favorite parts of the game is when
this vine sprouts and takes you up to the first palace – woah! Another similarity to Lolo? It uses a single track for every freaking
level… [ GAME AUDIO ] Kickle Cubicle is a pretty decent game, but
I have to admit I was kind of disappointed. On a superficial level, yes it does seem to
have a lot in common with Adventures of Lolo. But in practice, it’s actually far more
like an action game than a puzzle game… it has a very arcadey sort of feel to it…
hm? Oh, right, that’s because it WAS an arcade
game. [ GAME AUDIO ] Definitely get Kickle Cubicle if you’re
into arcade games with single-screen action levels, but if you’re expecting a puzzler,
look elsewhere. [ GAME AUDIO ] I know I mentioned it earlier, but you know
R-Type, right? The arcade game that redefined the side scrolling
shoot em up genre in 1987? Well, just a year after that stormed arcades,
IREM decided to take a crack at making a vertical scrolling shooter with Image Fight. Released in arcades in 1988, it was ported
to several home consoles, including the NES in 1990. [ GAME AUDIO ] Image Fight opens with a cryptic message that
reads like system boot up information. Going into this fresh, I was initially confused…but
gave it little thought. What followed was a fairly standard shooter
– which to be fair, wasn’t exactly the NES’s strong suit. [ GAME AUDIO ] Your spaceship is initially equipped with
a standard pea shooter gun, but you’ll soon pick up at least three gun pods of two different
flavors. The blue pods simply fire straight ahead,
and the red pods will fire in the opposite direction that you’re moving. You can add to your firepower with attachments
for the front of your ship, called Forces. Obviously inspired from R-Type, these give
you different kinds of attacks like homing lasers and angled shots. These can also be lifesavers since they’ll
absorb one enemy shot. You’ll lose the gun, but hey, you still
have your life. For such a late game on the NES, the graphics
are extremely sparse. Most levels have no background graphics to
speak of at all. The music? Also pretty substandard.. Shooter soundtracks tend to be some of my
favorites, so I was pretty bummed that this bordered on obnoxious.. [ GAME AUDIO ] Remember when I said there was a boot up message? Well it turns out that levels one through
five were just a test…an…image projection..of a fight…with aliens. An IMAGE FIGHT, if you will.. When stage 6 begins, then it’s time for
the real craziness to begin. This is no drill, and thus the rest of the
game plays out your battle against this immediate and REAL threat. While this little twist made me smile, the
rest of Image Fight is actually pretty poor. It’s obvious that most of the attention
went towards the PC Engine port, which is vastly superior…but alas, we never got that
here in the US. [ GAME AUDIO ] Speaking of not being released in the US…maybe
I’m breaking my own rules for this episode, but I feel like a showcase of IREM’s NES
games is incomplete without a look at one of their best games on the console…even
if it only came out internationally. What is it? Well, I’ll let our old friend Game Dave
tell you all about it. [ GAME AUDIO ] [ GAME DAVE ] When construction workers go
bad, Hammerin’ Harry shows up to save the day. This arcade action platformer was released
for the Nintendo Famicom in 1991. [ GAME AUDIO ] It did make its way to the NES exclusively
in Europe, but that horrific cover art needs to be forgotten. Yuck. The arcade version was fun, exciting, colorful
and even offered voices. But even the NES and Famicom version managed
to squeeze in some crunchy, digitized voices. [ GAME AUDIO: Ouch! ] An evil construction crew, the Rusty Nailers… …have demolished your home for absolutely
no reason, and Harry is out for revenge across 5 stages. You can swing your hammer to attack, hold
it up to attack above you and avoid enemies that fall and pieces of debris. You can also shield yourself by holding forward
with your hammer. And if you hit downwards, you can do a pretty
stunning ground pound attack. You’ll also come across some items to power-up
your hammerin’ skills, like the spinning hammer, which attacks in all the degrees. All 360 of them. Other pickups include hardhats, which give
you some health. Medicine, which can recover your health. Clocks to slow down the enemies. Lighting bolts to clear all the enemies on
the screen. And of course, the super jump pants. Graphically this is a pretty nice looking
game for 1991 on the NES slash Famicom. The enemy sprites are varied with guys on
jackhammers, and dudes hiding in crates. And I love how when you slam them with your
hammer, they go flying off the screen. And the music is catchy! Especially the music in stage 2, which is
my persona favorite. [ GAME AUDIO ] You’ll be fighting everything from construction
chiefs to machinery and equipment…that just wants you dead for some reason. But I do have to admit, some of the boss battles
end entirely too quickly. If you look at stage 3, you take out this
car with some guys in it, and it doesn’t take very long. It should take longer to destroy an entire
car with a wooden hammer. [ GAME AUDIO ] This game is ridiculous and I love it. Love it! [ GAME AUDIO ] [ COURY ] Man, Hammerin’ Harry looks awesome. I can’t believe we never got it here in
the US…those lucky Europeans. Actually, I take that back because while they
got Hammerin’ Harry…we got METAL STORM. [ GAME AUDIO ] Developed by IREM subsidiary, Tamtax, Metal
Storm released in 1991. Even though I owned a Genesis at that point,
NES rentals were still far more abundant than 16 bit games. I’d read about Metal Storm in some magazines,
so I had to give it a try when I saw it. [ GAME AUDIO ] Metal Storm is all about playing with gravity. At any moment you can flip the polarity, sending
your feet toward the ceiling. Reverse it again and you’ll be right side
up. This starts out simple, but believe me, manipulating
gravity at just the right time can get super tricky in later levels. You’re certainly not helped by the fact that
a single hit will cause your mech to erupt into a giant explosion. This thing sure doesn’t look like it’d
be that fragile. Like giant laser beams I get, but tiny bullets? What’s this thing made out of? [ GAME AUDIO ] You do get a number of power ups, and yes,
thankfully, one of those powerups allows you to take an additional hit which is very welcome. Others include a more powerful gun that can
shoot through certain walls, a shield, and most importantly, the ability to turn your
mech into a fireball when shifting gravity polarity. This is probably your most valuable power
up. Being such a late NES release, Metal Storm
is naturally a gorgeous looking game. Most impressive is how the developers utilized
programming tricks get parallax scrolling in several levels when the NES hardware only
supports one layer of scrolling. Combine that with gravity shifts and screen
looping, it can be easy to lose your bearings or get hit with an enemy bullet that was hidden
in the background.. The soundtrack is also pretty good, though
we’re spoiled with the excellent first stage theme right out of the gate. It never gets better than that, but that’s
ok because stage one is probably one of my favorite tunes on the NES.. Metal Storm didn’t sell real well when it
came out, but over time it’s gained quite the reputation of being a hidden gem on the
NES. And thus, the price has been continually escalating
these past few years and sits well over 100 dollars at this point. Is it worth the going price? Hmmm, I’d say no, but it’s a very good
game regardless! [ GAME AUDIO ] Outside of Metal Storm, IREM’s output on
the NES in the US was pretty spotty, at least in my opinion. Maybe if we had gotten Hammerin Harry here
in the US, my impression would be a lot different. Despite supporting the NES a fair bit over
its lifetime, it’s obvious that IREM’s focus was still heavily on the thriving arcade
scene, y’know, can’t blame them, that’s what they were best at.

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