Review by NessEggman

"The tale of a man and his bird..."

Overview

After an apocalyptic nuclear war, the world is struggling to recover while mutant monsters roam the earth. A Great King has arisen and is using the power of eight jewels that were created in nuclear explosions to restore peace and order to the world. Eight power-hungry dukes each take control of one of the mysterious, powerful "eight eyes" in an attempt to take over the world. When the dukes banish the king to the nuclear wastelands in their squabbling, it is up to Orin the Falconeer to take down the dukes and recover the jewels for the king and save the world from destruction.

8 Eyes is a platforming game that places you in control of both Orin, a swordfighting hero, and Cutrus, Orin's faithful falcon partner. The game uses a simple platforming formula to create a interesting adventure on the Nintendo Entertainment System. At first glance, players may notice some similarities to other games. The way the character controls and the way stages proceed seems similar to Castlevania series, and the ability to select stages in any order (and that order giving you an advantage over another stage's boss) may seem similar to the Mega Man series. 8 Eyes, however, creates a unique experience with its own gameplay mechanics and style.

Gameplay

The game flow is fairly simple: you one of eight countries to visit as Orin where you must fight your way through a duke's castle, battling monsters and knights while uncovering hidden treasures, in order to obtain one of the eight jewels. When a duke is defeated, in addition to a jewel, Orin obtains a new sword that deals extra damage to a specific one other duke, thus the stage order can be chosen in a way so that you always have the upper hand against the next duke. At the end of the game, you must place all of the jewels in a proper order or you will lose the game. The proper order is a puzzle you solve by reading scrolls hidden throughout the stages, each giving a hint on the order that the jewels must be placed.

The dukes' castles are where the core of the game takes place. In each castle, Orin faces many enemies he must defeat in order to advance. The enemies have attack patterns that must be memorized and responded to in somewhat specific ways. It is possible to defeat a certain enemy in a variety of ways, but you can't expect to run up to enemies and hit them or just jump over enemies you don't want to face. You must use strategy and careful, precise timing to defeat the enemies once you have learned their patterns and uncovered the way to defeat them. After learning the pattern of a particular enemy, you may find that it is in a more difficult placement later (such as on a ledge or below a staircase) that makes you have to tackle it from a different angle. Boss characters usually have a more difficult pattern to read and react to. With every enemy and boss, you will find yourself trying to discover "safe spots" to stand and the "perfect timing" to strike and make your move.

Some enemies will slash at you with weapons. You must guide Orin to rush in and stab them between slashes, dashing back out of the way before they can slice at you again. Some enemies may throw knives or shoot arrows at you, and you can knock their projectiles away with your sword, inching your way closer until you can land a kill.

Players who do not like this careful and precise style of gameplay may be turned off from such a game, especially if they are used to more free-flowing games like Super Mario or Kirby where enemies are casually defeated or dodged without much effort or thought, and pattern memorization and reaction time is not crucial.

Even memorizing the enemies' patterns, the game still has a good deal of difficulty. Sometimes enemies can be quite difficult to dodge, and the dukes usually put up quite a fight. In order to balance this, throughout each stage, many health upgrades and special weapons are available for Orin to find. These items are lost at the end of each castle, so you must hunt for these hidden items in every stage. This gives the game a feel of exploration in addition to the feel of battle, and hunting down these items is crucial to your success for most players. This also allows advanced players to challenge themselves by purposefully missing power-ups.

8 Eyes has some unique gameplay features that make it stand out from other platforming titles of its time, and these features revolve around the second playable character, Cutrus. When playing a single-player game, you can use combinations of buttons to send Cutrus from Orin's shoulder, where he can fly around and attack enemies himself. Cutrus can find hidden items and damage enemies, even bosses. He has his own health bar and can pick up recovery items just like Cutrus. This means you get to control two characters at the same time while playing.

If you play a two-player game, the second player gets to take control of Cutrus -- flying, attacking, and exploring. While Cutrus cannot leave Orin and travel to different areas without him, it creates a unique cooperative experience where each player controls a character with different movements and controls.

The controls of the game seem difficult at first with many button combinations to control both Orin and Cutrus. Orin and Cutrus also attack somewhat slowly, but this is because the game focuses on precision and timing. If you miss-time your attacks, you are punished by being hit back during your recovery. Players who are used to quick games with simple controls like Super Mario may find it difficult to adapt at first.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics of 8 Eyes are nothing amazing to look at. The menus are not well-stylized, and the game sprites look a bit awkward sometimes. Characters are animated well, however, and seem to move properly. Because each stage is composed of floors and staircases, all which look about the same shape and size, the stages don't seem to have much personality. Enemies don't have a lot of variety in appearance, so you'll be seeing a lot of similar enemies throughout the game. The game does try to keep up on variety, though, with decorations looking a bit different and themed in each stage, and each duke is a unique character (though they are mostly racial stereotypes). At the end of each stage, you are treated to a scene where a mutant serves you and the duke tea. It's very cute!

The music, on the other hand, is where the game shines the most. The music is very well-composed for an NES game of its time. The soundtrack is quiet diverse, and there are many tracks to listen to and discover as you play through the game. Because the eight stages are based on different world cultures, there are elements of many different styles of music mixed into the soundtrack. It is well worth a listen, and the music fits the mood of the game and makes you want to explore the castles more.

Praises:
+ Large castles with many hidden items to uncover
+ Two unique characters to control simultaneously
+ Large amount of difficulty for advanced players
+ Interesting cooperative two-player mode
+ Wonderful soundtrack for an early-mid NES game
+ Cute tea scenes with the dukes

Complaints:
- Slower-moving, precision-based gameplay may be unappealing to some players.
- Lack of extra lives makes difficulty a bit tedious at times.
- Gameplay can get repetitive as you get further into the game.
- Controls may have a steeper learning curve for some players.
- "Correct" stage order/sword order is arbitrary guesswork

Conclusion

The essence of exploration, the ability to control both Orin and Cutrus, and the large, cultured soundtrack make 8 Eyes and interesting and fun experience. Advanced players who enjoy exploring stages and looking for secrets and learning enemy patterns and mastering their games will find a lot of enjoyment and gameplay in 8 Eyes. Players who like to take their time and really learn the game will be able to play the game for a long time. Beginners or players who don't want to take the time to explore or defeat enemies with precision may tire of the game quickly or find it too difficult. Players who want a fast-paced, easy, or more free game may enjoy other platformers instead.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/27/11

Game Release: 8 Eyes (US, 01/31/90)


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