Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Shatterhand (NES, 1991)


It's time for the baddest game on the NES: Mutha-fuckin' Shatterhand! This is one of the most underrated games on the system. In it, you play as a Not-Terminator and punch your way through a bunch of platforming levels. Why is it called that? Apparently the guy's name is Shatterhand, which is a crazy coincidence considering he grew up to have a metal hand. I hope that's his last name at least. First name is probably something like Dave. This guy is so metal, he punches out his own God Damn logo! Brought to you by Jaleco!

This was in one of the first Nintendo Powers I ever read, Volume 29. So it's kind of a formative game for me the same way Power Blade is. They're very similar games in general. Note how NYC is in the background and it's all shredded. No word on if that was caused by a nuclear war or Dave Shatterhand just losing his temper at the housing prices.

The cool thing about this one is that you can summon these robot drones as a sort of pet and they unleash all kinds of different moves depending on what symbols you pick up in what order. You can control what symbols you get, so once you know which drones work well, you can get them pretty often. If they take a few hits, they poof until you collect 3 more symbols. It's kinda like the Fire Flower concept on steroids. Some of the drones are really good, some aren't. The best one is probably the ricochet bot.

You can also get a power suit by collecting the same set of symbols while you already have a bot out. This blocks damage temporarily and lets you launch a really potent fireball. It's a lot like the suit in Power Blade.

Of course, we get the typical Nintendo Power maps that give you a heads up on what's going on in these levels. There's a stage select (with a very unorthodox five levels to choose from) but it has an intro stage before that. TBH I'd have just made the intro stage into a regular stage and had the stage select be six choices. One of the positives about a stage select in this era is that you usually don't have to go through a stage to get to that choice. Especially in a game with no saves or passwords. Having a stage before it every time you play takes some steam out of it.

More Nintendo Power in a bit.

Intro movie! Well it's really just this one shot. This dude will punch a solid steel robot right in the face! Dave Shatterhand gives no fucks!

"Guy's just on PCP. Probably broke every bone in his hand."

Our hero (?) primarily attacks with punches. ...actually that's all he attacks with until he finds enough symbols to summon a drone. While potent, these short range attacks are kind of hard to work with. This game is definitely at its toughest in the first third or so of every level when you don't have a drone pet. Those white block things give up the symbols needed. They innovated on putting them in the air like Mario, plus this gives you something else to punch.

I get my first drone pet. This one shoots lasers! I was totally winging it at this point and not referring to NP to make sure I got the best ones. Which was fun because I didn't know what I'd get.

If the background has a fence, you can hang onto it and use it to vault up onto platforms. Or just climb along the fence. Super Mario World might have gotten something from this game! Tit for tat, Jaleco! ...probably not.

First boss is ::checks NP:: Balzire. The only man with the BALZ to take on Mike Shatterhand! I keep a distance and pelt him with lasers.

All of that finally gets me to the stage select, and it's one of the better stage selects on the NES. Each screen gives you a rough idea of what you'd be dealing with in that level. Get through all of these and you're rewarded with a steel Muay Thai knee right in the nether-regions because the final stage is ridiculous.

First stage of that group is the Pollution Zone, Act 1. Now I've got an important question. Is this dude entirely terminator endoskeleton underneath, or is it just his arms that are metal like Jax? I need the instruction booklet.

This dude is even punching out the title on the instruction booklet! He gives zero Fs!

Alright this pretty much explains everything. Looks like Mike Shatterhand's real name is... Hermann. Welp:

The metal is only his fists, nothing else. Glad we cleared that up. They're still definitely Terminator-inspired...and Robocop-inspired. Because this storyline is basically Robocop. So the next time they do a Robocop Vs Terminator game they should have both of them stop fighting and just start beating down Dave Shatterhand. Then have Harlan Ellison sue him!

Some loot boxes don't have any symbols at all, but rather grenades that detonate almost instantly and damage you. This game isn't playing! Imagine if occasionally in Mario, you hit a ? block and it just EXPLODED. Is this how he lost his hands? Stuff just randomly has grenades in it in this world? You order a burger, open the box, and BOOM.

This next part has a somewhat obnoxious section where you have to use fencing to jump across a gap without falling in lava. At least the lava isn't instant death, and you can take quite a few hits. For the most part the level design in this is decent for the era.

Next boss is a pair of robots that don't move in sync like a Gemini Man, so this fight has the potential to go real bad.

However, I found that you can stack them up against the side wall and just wail on them (turbofire helps) while they jump up and down.

After all that they turn into this giant snake thing, but again turbofire makes short work of it. For a second I thought it was comedy gold that the game was throwing another boss at the player here.

Let's see what's left. There's some verticality in these stages. They're very linear. I mean it's a pretty standard NES game, but it doesn't do anything particularly wrong.

The game managed to get the back of the poster for Volume 29. Only the raddest and baddest games get the back of the poster!

Looks like it shows all of the levels besides the final level. They really went all out for Shatterhand. That's 'cause this game is rad to the MAX and they knew it. The dude is wearing sunglasses and everything!

Next I get the flamethrower bot, which is illegal under the Geneva Conventions.

What the hell is this Doom refugee doing here? MAC WANTS THE FLAMETHROWER.

Next boss has the ability to cling to walls and zip around, like Neon Tiger in Mega Man X3. ...just like that. Huh.

Next stage has a lot of underwater sections, with no Rush Marine to help out either.

I find that yes, you can bring the power suit into boss fights if you get the right symbol right before the boss room. This helps a ton, obviously.

Next stage is a cave that isn't offensive at all. Speaking of inoffensive, definitely looking forward to the much-needed Sweet Baby Inc rewrite of Shatterhand. There will be no shattering, no hands, and the robots will all be built off of Google Gemini.

"Whirrr. Elon Musk is worse than Hitler!"

There's also a Gravity Man style section where you can run on the ceiling. I don't even know who's copying who at this point! Mega Man 5 was a year after this. Did Capcom copy Jaleco? Who does number two work for??

Next boss is a cool idea, some sort of ghostly apparition. In practice it's a super easy foe because you can just knock it off the screen repeatedly. That's right, Bill Shatterhand PUNCHES GHOSTS.

The last (center) of the five stage select levels takes our hero to a city being cluster bombed. What's with all the Geneva Convention violating?

The sword-bot is cool in a very NES sort of way. Thing would be at home in Ninja Gaiden.

Fitting that I brought a sword because the boss here also has one...and it's as big as mine. Let's see how he uses it.

After getting through all of those tough-but-fair levels, you arrive at the final level. And oh man. This is where Shatterhand just decides it's time to F the player in the A. This level has a bunch of instant death traps, and sends you back to the beginning of the level if you die at any point. No checkpoints here, where you really needed them.

Not only is the level itself a lot more challenging than the others, it also makes you go through ALL of the bosses before fighting the final boss. Yeah, seven boss fights throughout the level, in one level, on one life. Bear in mind that you're not any more powerful than you were when you fought them the first time, don't have weaknesses to use against them, nada.

This last level desperately needed to be divided into 3 levels. Two boss reduxes in each level. Or better yet 3, with the final boss having a level to himself. Putting seven bosses in one level, with dangerous hallways between them and no checkpoints... What were they thinking?

Get past all of that and the final boss is a power suit! So yeah, you fight him twice in this level technically. The key here is to bring your own power suit and just slug it out. Would be helpful if bosses in this game had a life meter. Their lack of life meter really stands out in its omission, given how many other NES games of this type made sure to include a boss meter.

Doug Shatterhand arrives after a long journey, holding his arm. Did he just blow up a pipeline? What is he, the CIA?

He then turns to the camera and gives a thumbs up. It's kind of like that one meme with the little kid and the house fire.

Rad to the max game here that'll put hair on your chest, or make you ovulate if you're a woman. Would recommend, but I think Power Blade does most of what this does only better. Still, this is a real classic and the Nintendo Power entry for it is like quintessential NES-era NP. The only way this could have been better is if it was called Shatner-Hand and starred Captain Kirk giving people double-chops.

SHATNERHAND is fuckin' metal as fuck!

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