Did you ever wonder what a movie tie-in game for a blockbuster comic book movie would look like if it was made during the days of the NES? I’m not talking about a game from the LJN library like Beetlejuice, Jaws, Friday the 13th and countless others, but rather something more along the lines of the classics like Sunsoft’s Batman, Capcom’s The Little Mermaid and Konami’s Batman Returns. That’s exactly what the trio of Dave Clark, AKA Pacnsacdave, Kamaal Brown and John Riggs did when they created Guardians of the Galaxy for the NES, a terrific ROM hack of an underrated Konami comic book game that without a doubt is the 8-bit Guardians game of your dreams that everyone should support should you have the means to do so.
I found out about the existence of the NES Guardians of the Galaxy game via a piece written by Chris Baker for the website Glixel on the day that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 came out in North America. Essentially the game is a hacked version of the NES game Bucky O’Hare, a personal favorite game of mine on that system, where Bucky and his team are replaced by Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, Groot and Drax and the enemies similarly are Sakaaran soldiers instead of anthropomorphic toads. For the purposes of a base game in which to insert the Guardians of the Galaxy property, I can’t think of a better game than Bucky O’Hare with its diverse planet levels and gameplay based around using different character abilities to get through levels.
As there was no concession to change the base game other than to swap sprites, it’s strange to see characters like Gamora, Drax and Groot using guns and projectibles (it made me think of the opening exchange between Star-Lord and Gamora in Vol. 2’s opening) but the between level dialogue creates context as to why they’re using different weapons from what they’re normally accustomed to. Gamora, who takes the place of Blinky, for example, talks about how she stole a Sakaaran weapon while Rocket says he was literally climbing the walls waiting to be rescued, hence he has the abilities to climb walls like Dead-Eye Duck could in the base game. My favorite post rescue exchange is between Star-Lord and Drax which I openly laughed at but won’t spoil here for anyone who wants to play the game. I thought Drax with his dual knives would’ve been better suited to be the wall-climbing character while Rocket would be a better replacement for Willy DuWitt who has the most powerful gun in the game, but I’m assuming it was easier to swap the sprites the way they did. Also, who am I really to tell these talented people how to put together something like this?
It’s not only great how the Guardians take the place for Bucky and company, but how the villain characters from the film are interchanged with those from Bucky O’Hare. The Green Planet boss who is Toadborg in Bucky O’Hare is instead Korath the Pursuer and the Blue Planet boss is Nebula instead of Alnegator. Both show up later during the final stages as well along with Ronan the Accuser who is replacing the Toad Air Marshall and all three are implemented so well it’s like they were always there to begin with. About the only cases where the hack doesn’t quite work is some of the ships that can’t escape their toad shape and the boss of the Yellow Planet whose last weak point is not quite as pronounced as in the original game to the point where you may not know where to shoot it if you have never played Bucky O’Hare. Otherwise though if you were told this was built from the ground up having never experienced Bucky O’Hare, you would believe it.
My NES died a number of years ago so mostly these days I play carts on my Retron-5 on my HDTV and an FC Twin when I get the opportunity to play on a CRT TV. Given this isn’t an official NES release, it of course doesn’t play on a Retron console however it worked fine on my famiclone device. There was a few instances where the game glitched out during a sequence in the Red Planet and during a boss fight, but not to the point where the game was unplayable. I’m not sure if this was due to the fact that my console is not an official NES and sadly I have no way to really test it as I don’t own any NES console. Those minor issues aside, this is a solid one-to-one hack of Bucky O’Hare with a Guardians of the Galaxy skin which we should all be grateful exists.
About the only thing that could make Guardians of the Galaxy for the NES perfect is chip tune versions of tracks from the Awesome Mix, but given that the music from Bucky O’Hare is already incredible, you won’t even miss it. Bucky O’Hare on the NES was already an excellent game and putting a Guardians of the Galaxy skin on top of that somehow makes it even better and also gives you an excuse to reexperience a game you may be intimately familiar with for the first time. It’s too bad that games like this aren’t made officially by companies anymore as I’m sure there be a market for them, but I’ll take this as a consolation any day.
You can buy Guardians of the Galaxy from Pacnsacdave’s Etsy shops HERE.
You can check out his other ROM hack’s at his official website HERE.