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8 Eyes (NES) artwork

8 Eyes (NES) review

"Everyone compares 8 Eyes to Castlevania, and gamers are split down the middle on which is better. If you couldn't tell by my score, I'm of the “Castlevania is better” persuasion. Both games are marked for having extreme challenge, though the implementation of the challenge differs in both. Castlevania has simple gameplay, but would rather give you difficult situations that require timing and skill. It's m..."

Everyone compares 8 Eyes to Castlevania, and gamers are split down the middle on which is better. If you couldn't tell by my score, I'm of the “Castlevania is better” persuasion. Both games are marked for having extreme challenge, though the implementation of the challenge differs in both. Castlevania has simple gameplay, but would rather give you difficult situations that require timing and skill. It's much more effective. 8 Eyes falls flat by complicating basic combat and having situations that are only challenging because of said combat. Simplicity of gameplay combined with challenging situations makes a side scroller enjoyable. 8 Eyes flounders by being needlessly complicated and frustrating. This slows the game's pacing down, and makes it a dull adventure worth skipping.

Like Mega Man, you get to select the level in which you want to play. Each one is a different castle in a different country owned by a different evil duke. Some of these levels are straightforward, like Spain, but others, like Africa, are a convoluted and confusing jumble of rooms, stairways, hallways, and drops offs. The goal of each level is simple: find the evil duke, kick his ass, then have tea with him. He'll hand over a crystal, or an “eye”, and you'll be rewarded with a new blade. This blade doesn't dish out extra damage to regular enemies, but rather does extra damage to one particular duke. Sounds like Mega Man creeping in again. Unlike Mega Man, you don't get to keep this blade through the entire game. When you beat the next duke, whether he's the one that's weak against your new blade or not, you lose that blade and gain a new one. It sounds neat, but feels needlessly complicated. Where this game sounded non-linear before, it now sounds like there's some linear pattern implemented in a very awkward way.

The first thing you'll recognize when you step into the first castle is the graphical style. Those blocks that make up the environment... that staircase... even that giant bat swooping down from the ceiling near the beginning of Spain... It's Castlevania, and there's no doubt that the game looks like Konami's classic. It may not play exactly the same, but the effect of the presentation is still cheapened by having such an blatantly inauthentic look.

This might leave you hoping for some of the awesome horror-based enemies and bosses for which Castlevania is known. Some of the enemies look as though they were lifted straight from Castlevania, like the aforementioned giant bat. Near that bat in Spain is a knight clad in purple armor that looks a lot like the spear knight from Castlevania, and here come some bats that fly in a very similar pattern, and ghosts and skeletons that look familiar. As for this game's unique enemies, they're nothing I'd want to write a thesis paper on. They're usually men in loin cloths or in tunics wielding different weapons like swords, tonfas, knives, bows, etc. There's even a guy who bears a striking resemblance to Jesus, doing high kicks like he's Chuck Norris. Great, it's Walker: Jerusalem Ranger.

Taking out these enemies should be simple. Most side scrollers would have you run up and hack at them, and then move on. There's a reason they do this: it's because it keeps the game fast-paced, action-packed, and simple. It's where you put the enemies and situations you must deal with that make side scrollers challenging. 8 Eyes tries to get away from that. Most of the enemies take more than one hit. This already complicates things. It means you spend more time sticking and moving rather than advancing forward. This kills the pacing. You also only have a small blade with which to dish out damage. Your range practically extends as far as your breath. The attack range of most enemies in the game is far beyond this. When enemies attack, they relentlessly lash out with strike after strike. Even if they're not hitting you, they'll just stand there and stab at the air. Since their range is so far beyond yours, you cannot hit them most of the time without taking damage. This leaves you having to wait until they're done attacking only so you can rush in and make a quick strike. The enemy will start lashing out again, prompting you to dodge and stand off to the side so you can start the process over again. Doing this for one enemy isn't so bad. Doing it for a whole level--and even a whole game--full of enemies is horrendous. It makes the levels take way too long, and given the overcomplicated design of some of them, you may lose interest before you even reach the boss.

Of course the sword is only your main form of offense. Like Castlevania you get subweapons like daggers, crystals, and boomerangs. But here's the catch: these weapons only work on certain enemies. They'll fly right through certain enemies without dealing damage, or do next to no damage, or even one-shot certain enemies. Again, overcomplicated. It means you have to experiment with every subweapon on every enemy to have a rhythm down. Enemies drop crosses constantly which increase your weapon usage like hearts in Castlevania, but even with these it seems like you don't get enough to deal with all the enemies. Thankfully, you don't lose subweapons when you grab new ones. Hitting select allows you to cycle through the ones you've found in the level.

One of the only neat things about this game is the other “weapon” you have, and that's your trusty companion, a bird named Cutrus. Cutrus will spend most of the time rested on your shoulder, but hitting up and B will send him out to help in combat. By hitting down and B, you can command him to attack. The one problem with this is that you have to wait for him to fly close enough to the enemy and be at just the right angle to swoop down and nail them. He usually flies back and forth as though he's lost, and doesn't tend to gravitate to enemies much. If he happens to be too far away from the enemy, then you have to wait for him to get closer. Enemies don't stand still, so you really have to wait for Cutrus and the enemy to align before you can try to do anything. Like the subweapons, some enemies are immune to Cutrus, and others can only be defeated by Cutrus.

That's right, some enemies are even immune to your blade.

Because of the needlessly complex fighting and weapon immunity system, it's easy to lose life. In most levels it's virtually impossible to dodge enemies and it's difficult to find life increasing power ups. This leaves you feeling thin by the time you get to the boss, if you do get there. In most cases that boss will slap you around like a cracked out Vegas hooker. No problem, I'll just respawn and... No, never mind, you only get one life. If you die at the boss, who takes forever to get to, then you have to start the whole long drawn level over again. You get infinite continues and passwords, but even still the game feels very unforgiving.

So you've mastered the game, got the timing down for combat, learned how to beat every boss, and you got to the Ruth for the grand finale. You bring her to her knees, make her beg, and then have tea with her. Even though you've defeated the final boss, you haven't beaten the game. You now have to arrange the eight eyes into the proper order from left to right. Not only do the colors have to be placed in a specific position, but in a specific number order. Not only does white have to be in the third position from the left, but you have to place it there first. You might wonder how you could possibly know this. It turns out that the first seven levels all have scrolls hidden in them which give you clues on how to position the eyes. These scrolls, like the pot roasts in Castlevania, are hidden within the walls and can only be found by hacking away at them. So not only do you have to traverse every infuriating and long drawn level and beat the boss, but you have to slash at random blocks throughout the castle until you happen upon a scroll.

Either that, or you consult a FAQ.

Or hang yourself.

8 Eyes still deserves some praise for being stable and playable, and for trying to get away from the old side scroller tropes. Even if the gameplay is original, the presentation is not. Much of its visual material looks like it's repackaged from Castlevania, even if the game doesn't play exactly the same. No, Castlevania plays much better. It sports a simpler combat system with well designed levels and a staunch, but somewhat forgiving challenge. 8 Eyes is needlessly complicated and unforgiving, and the added complexity makes the game feel slow and boring. Thanks, but no thanks. I'm sticking with the Belmonts on this one.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (January 02, 2011)

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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