Monday, October 11, 2010

NES Month: To The Earth

To The Earth
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Release: NES: November 1989
  • Genre: Shooter
  • Players: 1
  • Rarity/Cost: Common (US$1-10)

Chances are, if you own an NES, you own a Zapper, the gray or orange light gun sold with three different hardware bundles (the Deluxe, Action, and Power Sets).  And a good chunk of you probably only play it with Duck Hunt, which was packed into those bundles.  But what if you want something else to shoot at with the Zapper, if only to justify your purchase?  Turns out there are about a dozen games compatible, in part or in whole, with the Zapper.  One of them is To The Earth, published and developed by Nintendo and released in November 1989.

In this game, you "control" a spaceship which must travel all the way from the planet Neptune back to Earth, hence the title.  There are four stages in this game, where you travel to Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, and finally Earth.  Yes, they skipped Mars for some reason.  Maybe it was on the opposite end of its orbit or something, but more than likely they could only make four levels and didn't care where they started.

Gameplay is simple enough.  You just shoot down as many enemy spacecraft as possible with your Zapper.  One thing you'll notice is that everytime you shoot and miss, your health will go down a bit.  The other way to lose health is if an enemy drops a bomb on you; shoot them before they hit your hull to avoid taking damage.  You regain a chunk of health for each enemy you hit, however, so good players won't have to worry about their health for much of the game.

Shoot down enemy bombs to stay alive.1

There are three kinds of items to help you along the way.  Once you start causing some chaos, a red icon will appear on the lower-right corner of the screen; shoot this to trigger a bomb of your own and clear all enemies off the screen.  An "E" icon, when it appears at the lower-left of the screen, instantly restores some energy, and a comet will give you a barrier, letting you take several hits without taking damage.  You'll need all the help you can get, since the onslaught of enemies grows faster and faster as you move on.  It's enough to wear out your trigger finger, especially if you're using the original Zapper, which had a lot of resistance on the trigger.

As tough as this game is, it's rather short.  Like I said, there are only four levels, and the whole game takes around twenty minutes to complete.  That said, it's short but sweet.  Between this and Duck Hunt, it's a shame that Zapper-compatible games aren't all that meaty, but you'll appreciate the extra immersion - and in this case, the extra challenge.

Control: 3 planets out of 5
Design: 4 planets out of 5
Graphics: 4 planets out of 5
Audio: 3 planets out of 5
The Call: 85% (B+)

1"To The Earth - NES Screenshots".  MobyGameshttp://www.mobygames.com/game/nes/to-the-earth/screenshots.

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