Retrospective: Knight Move for the Famicom Disk System
By TideGear (Adam Milecki)
Alexey Pajitnov, the creator of Tetris, is truly admirable. Any time I've seen footage of the man he seems so friendly and happy. It takes someone truly special to produce something as astoundingly fun as Tetris while living in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This was not his only achievement, however. He's created several other great, albeit lesser-known, puzzle games, games like Knight Move for the Famicom Disk System...
Just as Tetris is actually based on a plastic tetromino puzzle, Knight Move is an action/puzzle game based around the relatively peculiar movement of a knight chess piece. It could have been a big hit if Nintendo had placed it in arcades and on the NES, though probably not nearly as big a hit as the beautifully simplistic Tetris. Sadly, Knight Move did not fair so well.
Nintendo has rarely shied away from radical ideas and the US has seen it's share of Nintendo's fervor for doing things a bit differently. Unfortunately, the Famicom Disk System (or FDS) is one piece of hardware we never officially saw stateside. It was a disk drive that attached to Nintendo's Famicom (the Japanese version of the NES) and enabled the system to play games from rewritable floppy disks known as "disk cards." These were Famicom/NES games, though the FDS did add an extra sound channel to the Famicom's existing sound hardware enabling FDS games to offer slightly more advanced sound. The disk drives broke frequently, however, and the games where subject to very long load times (although, not when emulated) as well as needing to be flipped over. These factors combined with the ease of pirating FDS disks unfortunately outweighed the advantages of the FDS.
In Knight Move, the player takes control of a knight which is only able to jump in it's unique 2-and-1-to-the-side way. The gameplay has more action than one might assume as the knight is constantly jumping. With each jump, the player must pick where the knight should land before it does so. Landing on spaces darkens them until they disappear, creating a hole. Creating several holes in a row racks up points very quickly. The only way to replace holes with new squares is to advance the round by collecting 1 or more (depending on whether is game type A or B) heart(s). Hearts even move in game type B. One might assume advancing the round is good but it should actually be avoided until completely necessary as it makes the action quicker and harder to control. The game has two selectable single player game types and a simultaneous 2 player versus mode. Type A is fairly simplistic compared to B.
The dreamlike graphics and quirky music are also quite enjoyable. It could almost have been licensed by Disney as an Alice in Wonderland game. That would have done a lot for it's success, but I believe in keeping games as the developer intended. With an addictive scoring system and unique gameplay involving quite possibly the coolest of all chess pieces, I was loving this game in no time.
NOTE: It's fairly easy to emulate FDS games in most NES emulators but you will need an FDS bios ROM as well as a dumped FDS game! FDS disks are writable and write back to themselves so it's somewhat hard to make "clean" dumps of FDS games. Fortunately, I'm aware that No-Intro's dump of Knight Move is indeed clean!
NOTE 2: Knight Move had a sequel of sorts for the PC called Knight Moves. (Note the plural, "Moves".) It switches the gameplay up somewhat and adds enemies. However, it lacks a 2 player mode and I don't enjoy the pre-rendered 3D medieval fantasy graphics as much as the look of the original.
For more information, see Wikipedia.