Nintendo Entertainment System
Where to begin with this one. While the previous reviews of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (review here) and Halloween (review here) made evidently clear that they were not good games, the video game based upon the Friday The 13th series is much more notorious. I believe the main reason for that is because the game was much more famous. Whether or not that is due to being on the NES as opposed to the Atari 2600 or just being much more mass produced, Friday The 13th has a reputation for being one of the absolute worst games ever made. You talk to any person, horror fan or otherwise, who grew up in the late 80s and there is a 99% chance that they have played the game, and hated it. It seemed like so many of my friends back in the day had the game, which is odd considering it’s a video game based upon an extremely violent series of slasher films. So, 25 years later, is the game really that bad? Or was it just so difficult that it gained a reputation as being horrid?
Oddly, it is a mixture of the two. As a lifelong gamer, I can safely say that it is far from the worst game I’ve ever played (that distinction still belongs to Call Of Juarez on the Xbox 360). I will state right now that to gain maximum enjoyment and minimal frustration for this review, I did use some Game Genie codes. I have in the past, using an emulator completed the game without the assistance of codes, but I wanted it known in the case of this review that the almighty Game Genie was used.
The plot of the game revolves around, well, have you ever seen a Friday movie? You have the choice of playing as one of six camp counsellors, three male and three female. Regardless of who you choose, your job is to go around Camp Crystal Lake lighting the fireplaces in some of the cabins, while also protecting your fellow counsellors and children from Jason himself until a final showdown where you kill Jason, or did you?
While in recent years it has become less hated, Jason’s appearance in the game has always been baffling. He wears a purple jumpsuit and his trademark hockey mask is a baby-blue color. A few years ago NECA released a figure based on his appearance in the game, and it has quickly become a sought after collectors item.
As you progress through the game, you are tasked with lighting the fireplaces as already mentioned, and fighting off Jason in random attacks. You earn upgrades to your weapons as well. Each counsellor starts with a rock that is thrown in an arch-like manner making it damned near useless. Throughout the game you can earn much better and stronger weapons ranging from the knife, a torch, an axe or Jason’s favorite bladed friend, the machete. Getting the machete or the axe is an absolute must as it kills many of the standard enemies in one or two hits, and does much more damage to Jason himself.
You also need to explore a cave (I have seen every Friday movie several times and I can’t think of a local cave at Camp Crystal Lake) where you will find Mrs. Voorhees’ decapitated head and you must defeat her several times to earn the upgrades required to finish the game. In total, you must defeat Jason and his mother three times through the course of the game. Upon your second defeat of Mrs. Voorhees you receive her sweater, most famously used by Ginny in Friday The 13th Part 2. With the sweater equipped you take less damage from Jason during battle. Your reward for the third and final battle with Mrs. Voorhees is a pitchfork, the most powerful weapon in the game and the one you will use to finish Jason off once and for all.
Given the well-known difficulty of the game you would think that you would receive some kind of cool ending, but not in the slightest. You receive a screen advising that you have finally killed Jason, or have you?!? This screen is accompanied by an image of Jason sitting on the ground looking like a dejected Kindergartner who was just scolded by his teacher.
In the end, Friday The 13th for the NES isn’t nearly as bad as the reputation it has earned, but it certainly isn’t good. I recommend if you are going to revisit it, keep the volume minimal since the music is awful, and throw on some Alice Cooper songs featured in Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. At least that way you can keep some semblance of your sanity.
Stay tuned for more Arcane Arcade coverage as I will be revisiting the other big horror game from the 8-bit era, LJN’s A Nightmare On Elm Street!