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Rush'n Attack (NES) artwork

Rush'n Attack (NES) review

"I now pronounce you man and knife."

Nostalgia's a hell of a drug. It doesn't disorient you or leave your head swimming, but sometimes numbs the pain or weariness of a rough day. You might think fondly back on the things you enjoyed as a kid, saying to yourself that they "don't make them like this anymore." The next thing you know, you're searching your mom's house for your old NES, hoping your buddy accidentally left his Rush'n Attack (aka Green Beret outside of North America) cartridge in it. You figure you're in the mood for a game rife with hand-to-hand combat, laughable premises, side-scrolling action and Russophobia, and your memories of running home from school to play this title tell you that it might scratch that itch.

Five minutes of playing take you back to the '80s, ten minutes retrain your rusty skills, fifteen hook you in so you stubbornly can't stop playing... An hour goes by and suddenly you remember why you shelved the title ages ago...

To the game's credit, it lovably laughs in the face of realism. As the story goes, the USSR arms a secret weapon. Spoiler: it's a nuke, because what else would it be? That's not much of a secret, Gorbachev. The US responds to this crisis by making fun of the poorly hidden "secret" and sending just a single soldier in to fight off Russian opponents and disarm the nuke.

With a knife.

He only has a knife. And he's just one dude.

And he's fighting the whole damn USSR... Bless '80s gaming.

As soon as you start, the opposition attempts to kill you via shoulder check. Several unarmed soldiers bound toward you while an alarm screams in the background, and you drop them with quick stabs of your commando blade. You notice right away that most of these guys don't possess any rational means of offense, and resort to naught but colliding with you. They can easily be thwarted, sometimes two or three at a time, because all you have to do is stand still and repeatedly strike while they run into your knife. They practically stab themselves! After a few seconds, though, the game tries to change it up by sending foes who execute sweet flying kicks. You deal with these guys by either spamming your attack (which only works about eight percent of the time) or jumping six feet in the air and sticking your weapon out. Needless to say, they also fall easily.

The experience starts off pretty addictive, because there's more to playing than merely cutting up opponents. You have to consider your own position, the speed of your targets and priorities as well. For instance, when you encounter a standard walker coming at you quickly from the left and a jumper plodding along pleasantly from the right, you need to figure out where to position yourself on the fly, and which soldier you should assassinate first. You also have to take into account other hazards, such as snipers, landmines and dudes lobbing grenades from environmental fixtures.

Keeping your head above water for the first part of level one is easy. Enemies run at you at reasonable intervals, and you only have to stop occasionally to dispatch them before moving on. Treading carefully is the name of the game, as is not letting your adversaries overwhelm you. If too many troops emerge at one time, you're likely to suffer a horrible, chest-bumping death. On top of that, yellow-clad weapons experts appear every so often and opt to not use the arm they're carrying. That works out well, as you mow these hombres down and steal their grenades, RPGs, handguns or Super Mario Bros.-like invincibility stars. Although these goodies speed up the mass killing process and allow you to advance more quickly, they're limited either by ammo or time. The former two items run out after three uses, while the gun and star eventually fizzle out.

...much like the game itself.

Sure, it starts off a stabberific good time with simple mechanics and arcade sensibilities. However, you realize this is going to be a wonky mission the moment you attempt to hop over a landmine by pressing the A button, only to step full force onto the sucker and blast into a thousand pieces. Yeah, this one of those NES games, where Up serves as the jump function instead of A. Strangely, this design choice didn't raise any questions at Konami, such as, "Hey, what if the player needs to jump while standing next to a ladder?" The answer: you ascend the first few rungs, then perish when as a forehead smashes into your hip. This issue becomes more common as you advance, too, because ladders practically litter later stages.

Soon enough, even the core mechanics prove tiresome because every level provides the same experience. It doesn't matter if you're on stage one or six, your objective remains "advance to the right, stab the same few targets repeatedly." Even with the aforementioned planning-on-the-fly mayhem on offer, the proceedings devolve into a struggle to maintain your interest in the face of repetitive action.

Eventually, you question the authenticity of your memories. You climb a ladder, only to inadvertently leap once you reach the top, landing directly on a nearby enemy. You pad for miles, catching glimpses of more or less the same environments and halfhearted deviations in regards to stage design. Level one is very much a straight line with only a few places to climb. Later levels provide multiple tiers to choose from while advancing, but the result is ultimately no different. You only end up with three flat, boring floors to choose from instead of one. Before long, you think that this couldn't be the game you grew up with, because you only remember solid mechanics, decently designed levels and a few standout segments.

And yeah, sometimes you bump into neat moments, but even those prove to be underwhelming. Attack dogs serve as a level boss at one point, and you deal with them by lying on the ground and repeatedly stabbing the thin air until all of them run into your knife. You also fight jetpack-donning soldiers who fire a reasonable number of bullets at you. You defeat each of them with a jump and single poke each. Oh, and the gyrocopters later on? One prick from your blade even pops those like explosive balloons.

Challenge factor is the only thing that buoys the experience a little, but even that doesn't mask Rush'n Attack's lack of variety, plain level design and somewhat wonky mechanics. Nostalgia can be a great escape from modern nightmares, but it sometimes has a habit of leaving out the unpleasant parts of our old favorites. You might've forgotten how tedious and frustrating Konami's classic can be, but now it's time to acknowledge that it's probably best left in your memories. Maybe, in this case, there is a reason they don't "make them like this" anymore...


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (February 28, 2020)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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