Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars
Released in 1989 by SNK, who notably also developed similar series Ikari Warriors, Guerrilla War is a frenetically fast-paced, top-down shooter for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Following the noble quest of one or two guerrilla fighters aiming to take out the ruthless despotic king of their South American nation in a plot eyebrow-raisingly similar to the plight of Che Guevara, players slaughter thousands of enemy military soldiers while also trying to rescue bound hostages.This is a game that is fondly remembered by countless retro gamers everywhere, for reasons that become apparent just a few minutes into its virtual war. Is it worth the massively positive sentimentality, or do we view our past gaming through rose-colored lenses?
This explosive, pulse-pounding experience starts right away as your modest guerrilla force lands on the beach of the island and is immediately attacked by the anonymous, innumerable soldier forces. Armed with a machine gun and grenades, you have infinite ammo of both, and holding down A and/or B enables autofire.
That alone makes this a great game, like an overhead version of Contra with military instead of aliens, and actually a bit faster gameplay, if I may say so. Enemy fighters come in waves of two, or three, or six and ten at a time, with occasional vehicle units, both ground and air, trying to take you out as well.
You will find hundreds of hostage characters throughout the game, for which you earn 1,000 points for rescuing (simply move into them) or lose 500 points if they die in your crossfire. Also, you will often be able to enter a small tank, that makes you invulnerable for a limited amount of time and has more powerful firepower.
Finally, in addition, two important notes of fun: First, you receive stackable weapon power-ups throughout the game, as you travel from the coast, to the jungle, then through the palatial fortress via a map-based animation after each level. This means that not only can you find familiar favorite guns like the rocket launcher and the spread gun, but they can combine, along with inventive new add-ons like the crazy item that makes the first explosion of any fired round blow up into three more rounds fired a little farther forward in an exploding spread. Secondly, the game has infinite continues, and you restart play from exactly the point you died. This means that, rather than be terribly and horrifically difficult like similar games of its ilk, you and perhaps a friend can go into battle knowing that, if you persevere, you shall be victorious. You will die very many times along the way, though.
Colorful, well-rendered, and appropriate, Guerrilla War sports fairly good graphics for the NES. They are certainly not the best, but players can tell that care was taken, and love was put in by the graphics guys, to ensure that it was a more enjoyable experience. The only drawback is that, at times, so much is happening on the screen, with so many sprites, that it does have some flickering issues. However, there is surprisingly little slowdown, which makes for an unstoppable juggernaut of crazily quick-paced gameplay.Sound
Explosions in all their 8-bit glory, the relentless sound of spent ammo, and the occasional cues of boss hits and death all abound in their bloodthirsty ode to violence in excess. The sound effects are just fine, and the music is appropriately upbeat, like a 1980’s action movie theme on constant loop.
Creativity and Innovation
Other than the gruff bosses at the end of each stage, most of the enemies are the same throughout the levels. The genre, the plotline, even the weapons are all arguably unoriginal. This may only make it all the more spectacular and admirable, then, that this game provides such a distinctly separate experience from all others. Even compared to the most cutting-edge games with motion detection and virtual reality, Guerrilla War is a blast by all definitions, from start to finish.
They sure do not make them like this anymore, and probably never will. Guerrilla War was the type of game you would play with your friend every few weeks, just to shoot the bull and pass time, and really get into the bullet-biting action. For providing a singularly thrilling session of gameplay, and for still holding up as a great video game on its own merit, Guerrilla War gets a memorable four stars out of five.