"See, Nemo carries with him an apparently endless supply of bubblegum. Naturally, any good beast appreciates something on which to chew, so you can chuck some of it at a creature, watch for it to start blowing bubbles, then ride it. The creatures that most instantly come to mind are a mole/badger sort of thing, a bumblebee, a crab, and an ape."
Perhaps mistakingly thinking that anyone in the United States gave a rat's arse about the Little Nemo license, or maybe just not caring and going with the theory of, ''Hey, this is a good game so they'll buy it'', Capcom released Little Nemo: The Dream Master into the United States with all the fanfare that would accompany a normal person walking down a normal hallway in a normal school. Coverage in Nintendo Power wasn't enough to make this a game a whole lot of people remember, but for those who played it, the game offered enough excitement that its price in used game stores is higher than one might expect.
The idea driving the game is simple: you are a boy who has dreams. Each stage is, in fact, a dream, from the forest populated by giant mushrooms, to the rooftops, to the upside-down world, to the final, massive stage that is Nightmare Land. The protagonist, Nemo, has quite the imagination.
Capcom brings these dreams to life quite well. Everything is animated in the usual Capcom style, so this title feels about like one of the company's Disney games. The rich color pallette is perfect, too, because this is a mostly light-hearted adventure. What helps to make it that way are the animals you'll meet and befriend. See, Nemo carries with him an apparently endless supply of bubblegum. Naturally, any good beast appreciates something on which to chew, so you can chuck some of it at a creature, watch for it to start blowing bubbles, then ride it. The creatures that most instantly come to mind are a mole/badger sort of thing, a bumblebee, a crab, and an ape. Oh, and there is a lizard and a frog. Each creature can go different places. The lizard can climb up the sides of walls, the bee can fly, the crab sort of swim, and so forth. Often, several creature types will populate a particular area, which means you have to decide which companion will help you get past the current obstacle.
The idea is really cool, probably the reason Capcom went for it. And since each stage has such variety (you'll go from one massive level to the next and not doubt for a moment that you've definitely advanced to a different area), getting to the next area and then exploring it can be genuinely exciting. What isn't so exciting for everyone is the challenge level. I remember renting this game for a while, and I ended up using codes to skip around to the various stages. Most of them were quite hard for me, and I only finished a few of them. Then a little later, I met someone who let me borrow the copy. With my sharpened skills, I again tried the level select thing. Mostly it didn't pay off, but I finally did manage to complete the game. The simple fact, though, is that a lot of the people in the apparent target audience won't be so fortunate. There are some genuine challenges, places where you'll be tempted to pull out your hair because even a slight mistake can mean a sad defeat.
No matter how you look at it, though, Little Nemo: The Dream Master is one of the most atmospheric, delightful titles the NES ever saw. That likely accounts for how hard it is to find, now. If you manage to find it in a bargain bin, grab it. Someone else might well be looking for it, too.
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Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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