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Back to the Future II & III (NES) artwork

Back to the Future II & III (NES) review


"I’ve been playing “Back to the Future II & III” for nearly two decades. The first time I played it was at the house of my mom’s friend, on her son’s Nintendo console. I couldn’t figure it out back then. Time passed, then came emulation. I was playing a lot of old games that I found were easier than I remembered, because I was older, smarter, more skilled. “Gee, why don’t I revisit that funky ‘Back to the Future’ game,” I thought. Into my computer the file was downloaded. I loaded up the emulator..."



I’ve been playing “Back to the Future II & III” for nearly two decades. The first time I played it was at the house of my mom’s friend, on her son’s Nintendo console. I couldn’t figure it out back then. Time passed, then came emulation. I was playing a lot of old games that I found were easier than I remembered, because I was older, smarter, more skilled. “Gee, why don’t I revisit that funky ‘Back to the Future’ game,” I thought. Into my computer the file was downloaded. I loaded up the emulator, booted the ROM and gave it a go. After an hour of wandering around a futuristic, neon-decked wasteland, I was no closer to finishing the game than I was when I started. I still couldn’t figure it out.

During these decades, I’ve managed to work just one thing out: you’re supposed play mini-games, win prizes, and deposit the prizes somewhere. Where? I can’t say. There is no map of the assorted environments you wander around in, and their layout is not conducive to manual mapping. You can only figure so much out on paper, before you give yourself a headache. Consider the game’s time travel mechanic, inspired by the central premise from the “Back to the Future” movies. You can remain in the present, jump to the future, or backtrack to the past. Do you know what this means? Overlapping areas across different decades. Places that you can only access by jumping to one decade, entering a certain area, and jumping back in time. There’s no map but what you make, and good luck plotting out the convolution.

Oh, I don’t doubt that someone could beat “Back to the Future II & III”. It’s not difficult in the sense of having tough enemies and formidable obstacles. You can lose all your lives, but there’s no limit to how many continues you can use. Someone with the right mixture of desperation and determination could unravel all the endless dead-ends and obscure rooms, but I doubt they would find satisfaction. This is the sort of video game were there is defeat in victory. You can only win if you accept the game’s awful conditions, rules designed to beat you down, make you hop and jump across sprawling expanses of bleakness and anti-life. Who wins when “Back to the Future II & III” is defeated? The game gets the last laugh, because it got you to invest hours in its terrible wares.

Do you really want me to go into detail? I’m afraid there isn’t much detail to go into. You’re Marty McFly. The DeLorean drops you off into a bleak, alternate reality. There are doors that lead to rooms, where you acquire or drop-off items. In between entering and leaving rooms, there are extended sequences where you run and jump on/over generic, mindless creatures and goons. The one bright spot is when you find the remote for the DeLorean, which opens up time travel. Time travel opens up more places that are like where you were before, except with different graphics. Sometimes something neat happens, like when you encounter a time travel copy of yourself. Then the moment passes, and you’re back to going from point to another, from a road to a dead-end, from a road to a door, from a road to another road.

Like I said, there are no interesting obstacles like the “Mario” games. The non-linear exploration is not as absorbing as “Metroid” or “Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue”, because you do a lot of going no where without finding anything really interesting. No upgrades, tools, bosses…just the road, ever present, ever consistent. Reaching the end is all there is.

Rating: 2/10

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Community review by joseph_valencia (July 03, 2009)

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