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Gremlins 2: The New Batch (NES) artwork

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (NES) review


"No one would blame you if you saw Gremlins 2: The New Batch sitting on a used game store shelf somewhere and quickly looked past it. There have been plenty of awful movie-based video games over the years, and the NES certainly wasn’t immune to this phenomenon. Look closer, though, and you’ll realize that this particular game was developed by Sunsoft, a company that produced some of the best software available for the original Nintendo console."



No one would blame you if you saw Gremlins 2: The New Batch sitting on a used game store shelf somewhere and quickly looked past it. There have been plenty of awful movie-based video games over the years, and the NES certainly wasn’t immune to this phenomenon. Look closer, though, and you’ll realize that this particular game was developed by Sunsoft, a company that produced some of the best software available for the original Nintendo console.

Set across five stages that each contain two or three levels, Gremlins 2 does a good job of converting the movie’s plot into the game format. For the uninitiated, the tale centers on the opulent Clamp Tower, home to a variety of offices and businesses, which recently was overrun by mischievous monsters called gremlins. It’s up to the little mogwai, Gizmo, to put an end to their schemes before they can escape the tower and cause even more trouble. Nicely animated cutscenes move the story along between stages, and each level is based on locations within Clamp Tower that were shown in the film. Sunsoft pushes the boundaries of the Nintendo’s graphical capabilities by offering detailed sprites for Gizmo and the gremlins. The large sprites and multiple moving obstacles do cause a great deal of flicker, which can be distracting during some of the more hectic moments in the game, but it’s hard to complain much when the overall visual quality is what it is.

Gremlins 2 is a unique platforming title, thanks largely to the overhead perspective from which everything is viewed. I’m hard-pressed to think of another game that uses that perspective while relying so heavily on precision jumps, and that’s part of what made this game stand out so vividly for me over the years. Gizmo’s move set is limited to jumps and attacks that use various equipped weapons, which range from tomatoes that he’ll toss, to a paperclip bow. Careful use of Gizmo’s skills will allow him to reach the level exits, on his way to the boss gremlin that waits at the end of each overall stage.

That all sounds simple enough, right? Well, before you start planning to breeze through this adventure, be advised that Gremlins 2 isn’t messing around when it comes to difficulty. The gremlins aren’t actually even the real threat most of the time; obstacles and tricky jumps will sap Gizmo’s health far more quickly. Learning to jump diagonally is a vital skill, and patience is a critical virtue. Each level ratchets up the platforming challenges so that by the time you reach the final stage, there’s almost no room for error.

The somewhat punishing item and continue systems compound the difficulty posed by the platforming segments. Each time Gizmo kills an enemy, the defeated foe will drop a crystal ball that works as currency. You can spend it on items at the shop (remember the little curio store where Gizmo came from in the film?), but they only appear once per level. Gizmo can select from three random power-ups, but no matter how many crystal balls he’s carrying in his wallet, he can only make one choice. Gizmo has no extra lives at the outset, and when he continues he loses all power-ups and currency. Most of the time when I came across a shop, I badly needed to refill my health and that meant that I was forced to lose out on vital items such as extra lives or weapon boosts. Ideally, you’d want to master the opening stages so that you can stock up on things and let that carry you through the game’s remainder. If you just try to power through on a single attempt, expect a lot of frustration.

Fortunately, player skill eliminates the need to rely on power-ups… most of the time. Gizmo controls like a dream, jumping exactly as instructed with speed and precision. Even though I died many, many times (though not as often as I did when I played as a child), I rarely felt “cheated”. Nine times out of ten, my deaths were my own fault. Learning the level layout paid off with sweet victory. Besides, it’s easy to get a handle on where Gizmo will land once he leaps, thanks to his telltale shadow on the ground. Though it can be difficult to tell what constitutes a safe platform in some instances because of the overhead perspective, I rarely had any real problems.

Boss battles add yet another layer of challenge to an already difficult adventure. Sadly, only four of the five stages feature a big gremlin baddie to joust against, but those four foes offer some of the most memorable moments in the game. Unlike a lot of older NES games, the bosses in Gremlins 2 can take a substantial beating before finally going down, and a lot of nimble jumping and strategic attacking is required to win the day. The scales can be tipped in Gizmo’s favor with some of the shop items, but again, it was very rare for me to reach a boss with anything extra. That meant that these fights were quite tense and rewarding.

Besides being easy on the eyes and offering a great workout for the thumbs, Gremlins 2 also pleases the ears. Composer Naoki Kodaka does a wonderful job of capturing the tone and mischief of the original movie score. You may remember Kodaka for his work on other popular Sunsoft titles like Batman, Blaster Master and Journey to Silius, so it should come as no surprise that Gremlins 2 sounds every bit as good as it plays.

Gremlins 2 was one of those unbeatable games for me when I was a child, and revisiting it now as an adult reminded me of the game’s quality while proving that the punishment the title once dealt my younger self was always fair. The final stage and boss fight really tested my abilities, even now, but once those end credits rolled I felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment. It’s great when a cherished game from your past confirms its value in the present, and I can wholeheartedly recommend seeking out a copy of Gremlins 2 so that you too can enjoy every challenging second of it.

Rating: 8/10

AlphaNerd's avatar
Freelance review by Julian Titus (April 14, 2013)

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