Review by SMuffinMan
It's the Man Behind the Mask!
The franchise of Friday the 13th at the time was absolutely booming, but all they had were movies. LJN would go on to purchase the rights to produce a video game based on the popular movies. Unfortunately it fell to heavy criticism at the time and that harsh criticism continues to this very day. Friday the 13th was among the many NES titles I owned, and I often played this more than even Super Mario bros. 3 or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, though both of those are just amazing as well. This game just kept calling me for some reason and I could never say no. Might have been due to the fact that I wasn't allowed to watch the films at the time, I'm still not sure. But I feel it's as excellent as any of the other classic NES titles, and we'll discuss why.
Story: 10/10: There isn't much of one but it works. You take the role of six teenaged camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake. Camp Crystal Lake is home to and is inhabited by a notorious mass murderer named Jason Voorhees and his machete has got your name on it! You'll have to take him out before he takes you out, and also you'll have to protect the children from the hockey masked psychopath. The game takes place over three grueling days, so beware!
Gameplay: 10/10: This is one of the more lamented mechanics of the game. At the start, you the have six counselors to pick from to play as. Each character has a different starting point on the game's map of Camp Crystal Lake, which can be adventageous later in the game, and I'll get to that in a bit. So you choose your counselor and you're ready to go. You'll have a life bar in the top right corner. In the middle of the top status bar, it will show what weapon you're currently wielding. Each character starts off with a rock as a weapon. Though due to the weird graphics, these could also be skulls, but stones make more sense. It doesn't matter either way as it doesn't hamper the gameplay. It's a sidescrolling game, and you your weapons at your enemies. Again, at first, you start off with rocks, which have an arc when you throw them, so be sure to compensate by ducking if you have to. Eventually you'll see a knife pop up, which will replace your stones. The knives shoot straight out, so it's best to find these as quickly as you can. Since Jason was the only antagonist in the series, they had to come up with something else to fight as you make your way to him. Along the way you'll find zombies, crows, and wolves. Enemies, every once in a while, will drop an item besides a weapon upgrade, such as matches to light fireplaces or medicine to heal yourself when your life bar empties. This medicine can also heal other counselors if you run into them. This game, despite it's linearity, actually has quite a lengthy sidequest that entails lighting these fireplaces, and that sidequest pays off with super powered weapons. So it's your choice if you want to do that or do the bare-bones version of this game.
While walking around, evenutally you'll hear a beeper going off, a "Jason alarm" if you will. When this starts going off, a timer will start counting down in the top left of the screen. At this point, you have to switch to your map and there will be an indicator showing where Jason is currently threatening a cousnelor, or even the kids if it's on the waterfront. You'll have to quickly make your way to that house and fight Jason himself. If you make it in time, the counselor will thank you, but it's not over yet. Look around a bit in the house and you'll run into the big guy himself. Jason's life appears in the bottom left of the screen. This part plays sort of like Punch-Out which is pretty cool, except you can't block. Jason will sometimes just use his fists or he may use his trademark machete, which really hurts! After doing a bit of damage to Jason, generally two mini-bars on his life bar, he'll vanish for now. Also, while in a house with a counselor, you can switch to that counselor if you'd rather use them, which you might want to do if your current character is low on health. You can even transfer your weapon to the other counselor here if you want to, so no worries. Also, keep in mind that while roaming around the map, beware of zombies walking *away* from you and the sidescrolling coming to a stop. Guess what? You've run into Jason out in the open! You fight him here as you normally would a zombie. But remember that now he can do collision damage as well as hurling axes at you, so be careful. Especially because when Jason gets really low on health, he'll stop vanishing and you'll have to finish him off in that fight. If he's right at that point in his life bar at the end of the last time you fought him in a house and you run out into him in the open, I weep for your soul. Upon fully depleting Jason's health, he'll appear to be dead, but he comes back and this time he's faster and stronger. And he'll do it one final time after that, where he's always in super speed mode. He becomes really hard at that point and is the sole reason I couldn't beat this game until I was 17.
Graphics:10/10: The graphics in this game are pretty standard for a third party game on the NES console. They did a great job with the environments scrolling in the background as you move along though, providing a fluid sense of gameplay. When it turns from day, to dusk, to night, it's noticeable. Absolutely everything gets darker. I do have one small gripe and that's with the sprite for the skull and/or stone. It's really hard to discern which one of those two it is, but it's not enough for me to even knock one point off. They did a really good job on Jason's sprite as well, making him really recognizable. He's a hulking beast in a purple jumpsuit and hockey mask. Something I also liked was that they seemed to put a lot of detail into the wolf enemies. The wolf sprites and Jason's feel borderline SNES graphics, they look simply fantastic. The environments overall are pretty good as well, not just the way they scroll, very detailed, with maybe the exception of the cave area. The woods look absolutely dark and gorgeous, and really help set the mood if you happen to venture into those areas. Granted, the zombies and counselor sprites don't have voices, resulting in a mixed bag. It's just that the good outweighs what little bad there is by far.
Audio: 10/10: Admittedly, this game as an extremely repetitive soundtrack. Though didn't Castlevania II: Simon's Quest also have a pretty repetitive soundtrack? I thought that was a bad game, but the music was so catchy, I played it through to the end. Same thing here, you'll be hearing the same song quite a bit, and in my personal opinion, it's a pretty catchy song. Granted the song will change to a more foreboding tune once you enter a cabin, helping set the mood, that Jason could be around any corner waiting to just destroy you. And when you do encounter Jason, whether indoors or out, you'll hear a loud "woosh" upon his entrance, where the song changes to an upbeat, frantic, adrenaline pumping tune. To this day, this remains one of two games that can make me jump because of Jason's surprising entrances, coupled with the "woosh" sound effect. When an 8-bit game can actually make you jump, that's pretty good. The soundtrack overall really helps immerse the player and often gives a sense of impending danger. And the Jason alarm is quite loud so you'll be sure not to forget about your mission, just in case.
Overall: 10/10: Friday the 13th remains one of my favorite NES games and I still play it to this day. The controls are simple and the music is catchy, making it easy to pick up and play. Plus you get to take out Jason Voorhees himself. What more could you ask for? This game gets a lot of undeserved hate in my opinion, some rather peeved just because you don't play as the big guy himself. For others, they can't stand the soundtrack. This game is pretty much love or hate, so I'd recommend renting it from GameFly or something before you decide you want to play this title. Who knows? You may actually end up enjoying this game.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Friday the 13th (US, 02/28/89)
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