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Retrospective: A Triple Shot of NES Games from Irem

Not long ago, I discovered something I found quite interesting. I have many favorite NES games but I noticed three games in the bunch that I especially like were written by Irem (famous for the R-Type series, some of my favorite shmups of all time.) Not only are these games completely different from each other but they're well designed, challenging and a lot of fun. Today I bring you The Guardian Legend, Kickle Cubicle, and Metal Storm!...

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The Guardian Legend ("Guardic Gaiden" in Japan) was actually developed by Compile but produced by Irem and is a hybrid shmup/adventure game. The story revolves around a heroine similar to Samus from Metroid who is sent to a gigantic space station set to destroy Earth. Our heroine has a suit with the amazing ability to actually become a space ship.

While searching the space station with adventure gameplay similar to a Legend of Zelda game, you must explore and combat enemies to obtain keys and weapons and advance toward your goal of saving Earth. Often throughout the adventure, you'll have to enter a "corridor" where you will switch to shmup-style gameplay. The shmup portions play a lot like one of Compile's shooters, such as the Zanac or Aleste series. Completing the corridors gives you keys and weapons as well. Overall, it makes for a great varied game that feels pretty huge and epic for an NES game.

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Earlier this week I wrote about the Adventures of Lolo series of games. Kickle Cubicle ("Meikyuu Shima" in Japan) is a cute and addictive action puzzle game similar to the Adventures of Lolo series (aka Eggerland) combined with aspects of the arcade game Pengo. The main character Kickle must save his home kingdom that has been frozen.

He has two icy abilities, one freezes enemies often turning them into blocks of ice, the other creates cylinders of ice that act as barriers. Much of the gameplay involves kicking the created blocks of ice into the surrounding water. This enables Kickle to collect the various goodies around each stage needed to complete it. A wide variety of enemies and great level design make for a fantastic and severely underrated action/puzzle game!

  The Japanese version of the game, "Meikyuu Shima", is slightly more challenging and also features the ability to select the order in which you play levels in each "land". Therefor, I recommend the Japanese version over the US or European versions. No knowledge of the Japanese language is necessary to play! (See the Wikipedia entry below for more info on version differences.) An Arcade version also exists entitled "Meikyu Jima". It appears to be the same game although I have yet to confirm that as I have not yet played it much.

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Metal Storm ("Juuryoku Soukou Metal Storm" in Japan) is a sci-fi side-scrolling platformer/shooter (similar to the Contra series) where you pilot an "M-308 Gunner" mecha with the ability to toggle gravitational pull from above to below and visa versa. The game's level design requires you to use this ability to effectively travel through each stage while blasting enemies at the same time. Overall, it's a great game that's a bit like Contra with a puzzle aspect.

  The Japanese version of the game, "Juuryoku Soukou Metal Storm", is slightly more challenging and also features some cool animations not in the English release, as they required translation. (Lazy localization!) Therefore, I recommend the Japanese version over the US version. No knowledge of the Japanese language is necessary to play!

All three of these games are fantastic and deserve sequels and/or remakes. It's possible because Irem is still alive, kicking and even making a remake of the first two R-Type games called R-Type Dimensions!

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