RELEASED: November 1990
AVAILABLE ON: NES
DEVELOPER(S): Beam Software
Created by Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru, and debuting as the main villain of an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man in early 1974, Frank Castle, a.k.a. The Punisher, is one of the most popular cult characters of the Marvel universe. Armed with no special powers except incredible willpower fueled by pure hatred, Frank thinks that death, perhaps spiced up with a little bit of torture from time to time - if he's in the holiday spirit - is the only true form of justice. Especially after the huge critical and commercial failure of a 1989 feature film starring Dolph Lundgren, The Punisher was one guy you never thought to star in an NES game; enter LJN with their absurd ideas. Absurd and oozing with the usual stupidity or not, The Punisher for the NES is honestly one of LJN's best and positively innovative games.
Punish 'em fools
Driven by the violent deaths of his wife and children, Frank Castle delivers his own brand of shotgun justice on the streets of New York City under the alias of The Punisher, Hitman, Jigsaw, Colonel Kliegg, Sijo Kanaka and Assassin team up with the crime lord Kingpin to drive the city to the ground and take down the dark vigilante in the process.
From a guy who's into contrast and brutality such as me, it should come as no surprise that The Punisher is one of my favourite Marvel characters, and even though the few Punisher games I've got lined up ain't that promising, it's great to have Frank Castle as the last true star of this year and a half long marathon. The character himself and alone paves the way for a good exit before the few ensemble games that'll wrap it all up. Frank firmly believes in justice just as any superhero does - he just has his very own vision of justice, which usually involves a lethal hail of bullets. He's like the polar opposite of just about every other costumed freak out there - doesn't even use a mask, just that black spandex overall with a huge skull on it. It's like he wants his face to be the last thing scumbags see before dying. Poetic. Pointless, but poetic.
|Copy-pasted graffiti. Real expressionism.|
The graphics are quite good for an NES game, there's enough variety between backgrounds although not that much when it comes to enemies. There's hardly any music at all; just a high-pitched theme song, a boss theme and a... saxophone solo. I'll get to it.
So there's really not much I can say about The Punisher. It's a left-to-right rail shooter with a total of six levels, with two stages and a boss battle each. Your goal is to kill (almost) everything that moves, with your primary weapon assigned to A and a secondary, very limited weapon for boss fights and gang-ups assigned to B. If you get a 100% kill ratio in one stage, you gain a gun upgrade for the next stage, which makes your progress a bit faster and comfier. Enemy bullets are slow and easy to dodge by simply strafing to the opposite direction on the screen. If you get careless and lose all of your lives, it's back to the beginning of the whole game, in the vintage arcade style this whole genre derives from.
|Back at the docks!|
The Punisher is not really that difficult, it just takes a lot of dedication I'm guessing only kids can spare - although I can't really see myself allowing a seven-year old to play The Punisher. Of course it's got no blood or any other excessities, it's a very tame game, but they might get so excited they'll go after the 2005 game, which is known to gross out even some adults, there's no telling what it'll do to a kid. That game ain't on the list, though, in case you're wondering - but I might go for it at a later date, it sounds quite interesting in terms of brutality. Now for the final judgement on this one: a surprisingly decent game in a very stale genre, published by a whorehouse that hardly ever got anything right. Deciding on whether that was an insult or a compliment is hard even for myself, but I guess the insulting part's just a reflex. Mild entertainment for the bored masses, which is more than I can say about 99% of LJN's catalog.
+ The Punisher!
+ It's a rail shooter (simplicity)
- It's a rail shooter (level design)
- There's no point in having civilians just sitting around, plus it's dumb
- Running out of ammo in boss fights forces you to suicide
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