Review by Retro
"Good night. Sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs bite."
Wouldn't we all like to be a dream master? I know I would. I don't care whether I'm dreaming about hooking up with a woman I have a crush on or about bowling underground with huge pieces of Kellogg's Corn Pops, it would be cool if I could choose what I dream, or to have several similar dreams in a row.
A little boy named Nemo does the latter. He receives an invitation from the King of Slumberland. Come to find out, the honorable King has been taken away by the dreadful King of Nightmares. Whether he becomes a real life hero or whether it's all just a long, imaginative dream, Nemo has it in his heart to try and rescue the King of Slumberland in order to get the land of dreams back in its normal state in this fun one-player game.
Wearing pajamas and armed only with a bag of candy that never runs out, Nemo bravely sets out on his journey. The adventurous Nemo will explore many dreamy atmospheres such as a mushroom forest full of overgrown fungi, a land that's set in puffy clouds that are several miles above sea level, and of course, the spooky land of nightmares itself. Nemo must perform potentially deadly stunts such as avoiding piercing spiked ceilings that rise and fall as he is riding a life sized toy train, and he even has to dodge plates that are being thrown at him inside his own house!
Nemo might be in the mood to take a little break and eat a few pieces of candy from his backpack, but he can't! You see, there are a few kinds of enemies that are here to make your quest even more hectic. Whether it's a toy hot air balloon that drops deadly bombs, a snail with a spiny shell, a flying white creature with a sharp saw for a head, or just a speedy little fish from the deep seas, the most that a sugary piece of candy can do to a nemesis is stun it for a few seconds.
If it wasn't for the many friendly creatures that offer a helping hand, Nemo would be as good as dead. All he can do by his barefooted self is run, jump (he can't do either very well), and throw candy. Feed certain smiling animals three pieces of candy, and they will blow a bubble out of their nose. This doesn't mean they're drunk; this is their way of telling you that it's safe to hop on for a ride.
Nemo will either ride on the back of his new friend, or he'll literally become the living critter. Using the various animals will help you out immensely in the game, to say the least. While transformed into a hornet, Nemo can fly up to the previously unreachable heights and shoot stingers at enemies; hermit crabs can pinch things to death and they can bury themselves and move around in the underwater sands; lizards can vertically climb walls and fit through tight spaces that Nemo can't. Those are just three examples of the many ways in which you can use the animals (and there are more of them, like gorillas and frogs!) to do things that an everyday boy like Nemo couldn't even dream of doing.
The real reason that Nemo should be riding or turning into these animals isn't to have a way of actually defeating enemies, or to have a good time. In each of Little Nemo: The Dream Master's eight huge stages (except for maybe the last one), Nemo must find and collect a certain number of keys that are scattered about all over the place. Each stage has a door at the end of it that is covered with a few unbreakable locks. This door is the gateway to the next stage, but without enough keys, you can't open it.
And that's pretty much it. Get far enough in the game and Nemo just might get the chance to fight a boss and he could do something he doesn't want to do, which is meet a girl. Years ago when I was Little Jason: The Video Game Master, I saw the box art and the screenshots for Little Nemo: The Dream Master and it struck a certain chord. I didn't want to rent the game before buying it. I just wanted to buy it right then, and nothing was going to stop me.
One of my friends from school, Dustin, just happened to be at the electronics section of Wal-Mart at the same time I was. Of course, he also couldn't wait to get his hands on the same game. Seeing that I was mad and on the verge of springing at Dustin with fists of fury, his mom decided to go ahead and let me have the last copy of the game. I can tell you now, over 12 years later, that Little Nemo: The Dream Master was definitely worth fighting over!
The NES is my favorite system of all time mostly because of the numerous classic 2-D platformers that were made for it, and this game is one of my favorites from that genre. I really liked the idea of using the animals to do things and to get to new places; that made it different from all the other platformers back in the day. That tactic paved the road for later classics such as Yoshi's Island and Donkey Kong Country 2, which also used this innovative technique to draw gamers in. Not to mention that the game is loads of fun to play. Its challenge is evenly balanced, and it has a lot of good graphics and sounds.
You might have a nightmare every now and then when you go to bed and dream, but you will not have anything but good dreams from playing Little Nemo: The Dream Master. If you're a fan at all of classic 2-D side scrollers or platformers, get this game right now.
GRAPHICS - The graphics range from being average, to being excellent. A few of the enemies, such as the snails, could've had better animation. Other characters, such as Nemo and the enemy stumps, are very well drawn and animated with style. Most of the environments are colorful, bright, and very well designed. From the shaking leaves of trees, to the jaw-dropping blimp and city of the intro, many parts of the game will have you saying ''wow'' when you see them and remember that this is an NES game. Grade: A
SOUND - Audio is another of Little Nemo's strong points. Whether you're listening to the sound of splashing water as Nemo goes for a swim, an animal eating a piece of candy, or the puffing engine of the fast moving train, the sound effects are all pleasant to the ears. Even better is the game's music. From the soothing track of the intro, to the indescribably catchyness of the Night Sea stage, to the fast paced beat of Nightmare Land that tells you that something about the area just isn't friendly, Little Nemo's music will keep you hostage from start to finish. Though there's not much of a quantity of tracks to listen to, there is a lot of quality in them. Grade: A+
CONTROL - If Little Nemo: The Dream Master has one downfall, this is it. It's easy to do most things with precision, such as fly, swim, and run, but it's not so easy to jump just like you want to. I've always had a few problems judging how far Nemo, the lizard, and the gorilla will jump, and it's difficult to control how high you jump when you're a frog. But, like most things, practice makes perfect. Or in this case, almost perfect. You'll probably always have a misjump or two in a game of Little Nemo, but there's not a place that's impossible or that will keep you from beating the game, so it's not all bad. Grade: C
REPLAY VALUE - I haven't played Little Nemo: The Dream Master as much as I have some of the other NES platformers such as Mega Man 2 or Super Mario Bros. 3, but it's still up there somewhere on my most played list. It never gets old using Nemo or the animals to search every crack and crevice for the keys that will unlock the world of the next engaging stage. This is a classic that you'll always treasure. Grade: B+
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 06/26/01, Updated 12/13/02
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