Genre: Action, Arcade
Total time played: 1.5 Hours
Short review: A very respectable port of a brutally violent arcade classic full of memorable sleazy bad guys. But, all the violence and gore is negated to parents of kids who played the game because you are a police officer killing drug dealers.
Interesting links related to N.A.R.C.
My First Time
My cousin Chris rented this game and invited me over to play it shortly after it was released. It was the first truly violent video game I had ever played. As a side note, Chris is also the person who introduced me to Mortal Kombat a few years later when he found the arcade cabinet at a gas station in the back of our neighborhood.
Chris and I spent hours trying to beat N.A.R.C. We both loved how crazy looking the bad guys were and loved the rocket launcher that blew them to bits all over the screen. We eventually got to the final boss, Mr. Big. No matter what we did we couldn’t beat him. We even used the game genie and were unsuccessful, no matter how many bullets or rockets you hit him with he wouldn’t die.
A few years later, Stephen, a high school classmate traded me his copy of N.A.R.C. for the Green Day album Kerplunk that I bought after falling in love with with the album, Dookie. I ended up not liking Kerplunk at all so had no issues trading the album to relive the sweet memories of blowing up drug dealers.
How to play
N.A.R.C. was originally an arcade game and the NES port is spot on (with worse graphics). The game was originally meant to suck quarters so be prepared to die a lot, this is what I would call a bullet hell shooter. The point of the game is to move to the exit of each stage without dying while busting bad guys.
Along the way you will encounter a colorful list of characters who want to kill you. You must stop them by any means possible:
shoot to kill – use either your machine gun or rocket launcher to blow away the baddies. When you kill the enemies they will sometimes drop items which include:
Machine gun ammo
Rocket Launcher ammo
The first two item drops are pretty self explanatory, more bullets for shootin’. The drugs and money are points that are tallied at the end of each stage. This is where strategy comes into the game.
You will get 1,000 points for each pile of money collected throughout the stage and 2,000 points for each pile of drugs. To earn an extra life you need to gain 100,000 points. The game starts you off with 3 lives and there are no continues so strategizing to get the most points out of each stage is a must.
There is one other way to take out some bad guys. You can “bust” them. This involves walking right up to them and just standing over top of them, after a couple of seconds you have arrested the bad guy and earned 5,000 points. What this means is 20 busts equals 1 extra life.
There are plusses and minuses for busting enemies. The major plus is that you get 5,000 points for each bust making this a necessity to stay alive in the later stages. The negatives are that the enemies you bust never drop extra ammo for your weapons which you will need to take down enemies that you can’t bust. Also, because you have to get up close and personal to bust an enemy it makes it riskier and you will get shot a lot.
For me, the secret was to bust 80 guys on the first level to earn a 4 extra lives on the easiest stage with only 1 enemy type to worry about. From then on I just ran through the stages trying not to die.
One last thing, most of the stages require a key card to exit. The key card is randomly dropped by an enemy on the stage. You can only get the card by shooting the enemy. Luckily the enemy tends to drop the card in about the same place in each stage but sometimes you might need to kill 20 or more people to have him drop the card.
Walk – Use the D-Pad to move left and right and up and down around the mean streets of whatever city you are supposed to be in.
Jump – double tap the B button. Jumping is really only needed in stage 3 to get past the dumpsters blocking the road, but I also jumped around a lot as I found it was harder for the bad guys to shoot me if I moved in crazy patterns and jumped constantly.
Duck – hold the B button to duck. This comes in handy when you are attacked by dogs, the only way to kill them is to duck and shoot. Don’t worry, they don’t really die, they turn into puppies and run away.
Machine Gun – hold the A button to shoot your machine gun. Most enemies can be killed rather quickly this way.
Rocket Launcher – tap the A button. This is the gun that made me fall in love with this game. Some of the enemies will literally explode into body parts when hit with the rocket launcher. Since this weapon is so powerful the ammo isn’t that plentiful.
Let’s meet the bad guys
Level 1 – Das Lof Gang Members (left – NES) (right – Arcade)
Weapon – Shotgun
Can be busted
These guys walk around hunched over with a trench coat. Every few seconds they open the coat and shoot a shotgun that was hidden inside. These guys are the most common enemy in the game and the easiest to bust or kill.
Level 2 – Dr. Spike Rush (left – NES) (right – Arcade)
Weapon – giant needle
Can be busted
In level 2 you meet Dr. Spike Rush who is wearing a black leather jump suit and shoots giant needles at you. If the needle hits you it is going to drain a good portion of your health. The closer you stand to this guy the less likely he will be able to hit you with his needle.
Level 3 – Joe Rockhead (left – NES) (right – Arcade)
Weapon – crazy hand to hand combat
Cannot be busted
Level 3 introduces you to Joe Rockhead aka Joe Crackhead (I’m sure Nintendo made them tone down the name). Mr. Rockhead is fast and large and if he touches you prepare for a beat down. You can blow him away with a rocket launcher (although he doesn’t explode) or shoot him with multiple machine gun bullets. This guy is tough, I usually just outrun him.
Level 4 – Kinky Pinky (left – NES) (right – Arcade)
Weapon – knife
Cannot be busted
Kinky Pinky is fast and if he gets too close you will be stabbed over and over until you are dead. He will take multiple machine gun shots or one rocket launcher hit.
Level 5 – Sergeant Sky High (left – NES) (right – Arcade)
Weapon – gun and flamethrower
Cannot be busted
This guy runs full speed in a straight line across the screen. Usually he appears so fast he is hard to dodge but if he happens to appear at the top of the screen when you are at the bottom there is no fear of getting injured as he will just blindly run across and off screen in a matter of seconds.
Level 6 – Mr. Big Henchman (left – NES) (right – Arcade)
Weapon – guns
Can be busted
These guys appear in large number, run erratically around the screen and shoot pretty much non-stop. On top of that they take a bit longer to bust.
Level 7 – Mr. Big (left – NES) (right – Arcade)
Weapon – wheelchair, guns, tongues (yes, really), flames, skeleton head
Cannot be busted
This is the final boss in the game. After knocking him out of his wheelchair with 3 rocket launcher blasts you fight just his head. This is a tough fight.
- You must knock both the sunglasses and hat off of Mr. Big’s head to reveal his true form. To accomplish this you must jump and as you are falling back to the ground time a rocket launcher shot to hit Mr. Big’s glasses and hat. I’m not sure how many shots it takes to do this, it may be one perfect shot but I never experienced that.
- Mr. Big will turn into a skeleton with a long spine once his hat and glasses are gone. Luckily the skeleton doesn’t shoot projectiles. This part is really easy if you know what you are doing and really hard if you don’t. I can’t tell you how many times I made it this far only to run out of bullets and had to kill myself and start over.
- Stand with your feet just slightly above the bottom line of the tiles on the top row of the floor. When the skeleton head swings down to be at its lowest point shoot your machine gun. From what I can tell you have to shoot the top of each vertebrae of the spine to kill it. Once all vertebrae are gone Mr. Big is dead.
Throughout the game you run across some amusing backgrounds. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Adult Books XXX – Kinky Pinky’s Theater – Hotel Le Snob
Even though there was only one boss in the game the colorful cast of characters and varied enemies in each stage mixed with the hilarious back drop of the slums makes this game a riot to play. The fast paced action of an arcade shooter mixed with the mild strategy of collecting points for extra lives while trying to stay alive makes this a great 1 or 2 player game. It is probably partially the nostalgia talking but I liked this a lot more than I expected.