“Honey? What is this strange looking laptop doing on our dinner table?”
“I put it there after some guy in a trench coat dropped it off, I think he was another shady Government type.”
“Oh. Hm, well, it comes with a DVD…looks like it doesn’t have any keyboard just a slot for the disc…strange. Let me just insert that disc and see what happens.”
“Good Morning, Mr. Sage. Dr. O and his secretary have been kidnapped! As always, should you or any of your I.M. force fail, the secretary will disown any knowledge of your actions. This message will now self destruct in 5 seconds. Good luck Mr. Sage!”
I’ve always been a big Mission: Impossible fan, I enjoyed the 1988 series quite a lot but I was really hooked when I got my hands on a VHS tape of some of the 1966 shows. So when I saw the ad for a NES game by Konami/Ultra Games I was pretty excited and as usual bugged the local video store workers until the game actually came out.
I read the manual on the drive home very carefully and all but slung the cartridge into the open NES when I got through the door and then very quickly my excitement was curtailed. Because I found out something at that moment…this game was hard…and when I say hard I mean that it is sometimes unfairly difficult because I’m pretty sure that when you lose the game an astral image of its designers appear to point and laugh at you! Okay, maybe that only happens to with my NES…last time I buy electronics from a gypsy. Anyhow, I tried to the very best of my ability to beat the game before I had to return it to the store but unfortunately it proved to be superior to my skills as a gamer.
Lucky for me a couple of months ago I was able to find a copy of the game at my local comic shop and even more it was the exact cartridge that I had played 20 years ago!
So after getting it home again after all these years, I plugged it in the NES, watched the very impressive opening sequence before pressing start. A really nice Midi version of the Mission: Impossible theme that even includes an 8-bit hand of Peter Graves that lights the fuse and does a more than fair job of replicating at least the spirit of the 1988 opening television show opening.
After pressing start you learn a bit of info that I included above, the Sinister 7 have kidnapped Dr. O and his secretary, who is in fact Shannon, a member of the I.M.F. herself. She has been able to send you a clue as to their whereabouts and the first place you need to check out is Moscow!
To aid you in this task you have your choice of three I.M.F. members. Max Harte, Grant Collier, and Nicholas Black. Each with their own set of skills to lend you in the rescue of the kidnapped Dr. O and Shannon. During the game you can pause and switch to any of the agents on the fly.
Max is incredibly slow (the manual explains this is because he is wearing a very heavy bullet proof vest) but he has a machine gun so at the very least you do not have to get up close and personal with your enemies, his secondary weapon are bombs that he can drop and then detonate.
Grant’s main weapon is his fists and speed, I had the most luck with him while playing even if you are forced to take some damage being so close to the bad guys. His second weapon is sleeping gas that can come in very handy when you have to avoid sentries who can trigger an alarm and bring an end to your agent.
Nicholas has boomerangs as his main weapon and since he is a thespian of the highest degree his secondary weapon happens to be a disguise kit so that he can for a limited time walk freely amongst the enemy.
The entire game is from an overhead perspective and for the first level you start off with Max and you are standing in the middle of a street in Moscow, buildings/stalls are on the top and bottom of the screen, and you may freely enter the structures that have a little arrow on the ground pointing towards them. Perhaps Jim realized how difficult this mission was going to be and arranged for some help for his agents in letting them know where to go?
Sometimes when you enter one of the structures you will find yourself in a bar where you can talk to the bartender and he will give you some useful information, this also happens with storerooms where you talk to a trench coat wearing spy/agent, but that sometimes turns out to be a trap so you have to be careful depending on which agent you are using as when he calls out the alarm you will be swarmed by the enemy!
Back on the street you must also be wary of vehicles, they usually give you a little car horn beep-beep before running your agent down. If you are using Max, considering how slow he is, you have to very careful. There are soldiers and little old ladies wandering the streets as well, but beware for those little old ladies might also be the enemy in disguise, it’s okay to take them down after they’ve attacked you but if your bullets or explosions happen to harm an innocent then you are immediately arrested and a helicopter comes to take you to prison. You will be able to get back any of your agents that have fallen in the line of duty by completing a level, of course in the later stages there are certain parts of the game that are tailor made for certain members of the team and their skills so it can get real frustrating real fast when you lose a member.
Eventually you will find your way underground into the sewers and this is where the puzzle aspect of the game manifests itself. You’ll need to find levers that disable the trap walls throughout this level because if you are playing Max or Nicholas it becomes a problem when you are crossing a walkway and the wall moves forward to push you into the murky waters of the sewers and the refuse reeking arms of Death.
On stage two your team finds itself in a speedboat racing through the canals of Venice. Think Spy Hunter and you have an idea of what to expect. Enemy speedboats can be shot and their are “logs” that you can use to jump in the air, just make sure you land back in the water and not on any of the surrounding buildings.
Stage three leads you to the Syrinx Temples of East Berlin. This time every single person you encounter in the temple is an enemy…so it’s okay to get tripper happy with Max and his machine gun. Once again you will go underground and enter a trap filled maze-like level but this time you’ll have to avoid statues with swords that are intent on ending your mission as you are stuck on conveyor belts to move about. An online source helped me with this area and recommended that you count out the timing of the swords before moving. Just a bit further in the level you will encounter magnets in the walls that pull your bullets or boomerangs off their mark. Using Grant is the best bet in those situations. You will have to backtrack eventually and then get to see those statues are not quite through with you yet.
You will eventually come to the boss of this level and boy howdy is it a difficult fight, he’s a Ninja I guess and he will spin in one spot while his ghostly clones throw shurikens at you. Also the floor beneath your feet will start to crumble and then fall away if you stand in one spot too long. So by using Grant you can kind of move in circles around the boss, punching at him as you go, trying to avoid the shuriken and a deadly fall.
Stage four finds you and your IMF team in the Persian Mountains. The key to this level is being able to pause and switch quickly between Max and Grant as you try to cross bridges that collapse while avoiding being shot at and push off the mountains by enemy agents with shields. When you reach the boss…finally…you’ll need Grant’s skill with his fists once again, because the enemy is holding Dr. O and Shannon hostage with him as he moves about the room. If you shoot, hit, boomerang the hostages then you lose an agent so this is why Grant works so well in this fight. You can hide behind crates and barrels until the boss moves close beside you, you can pop out from your cover to hit him once and then dodge back behind cover before he shoots you.
Stage five finds you skiing your way down the Swiss Alps, trying to avoid collapsing holes that appear in front of you as well as enemy agents, helicopters, and natural obstructions. You can use your ski poles to attack enemies that get near you and you are able to jump in the air by skiing over ‘ramps’, which just look like three black dots in a row to me. Memorization is the key to this level and it took me many, many, many tries to get pass it.
Stage six finds you in Cyprus and I cannot put in words just how truly difficult this stage is. Well, I guess I can, I still haven’t beat it. Which is why it took so long to get this review turned in…you see I promised myself I would defeat this title, gaining a small bit of my dignity back from my youth and then write the review, crowing a bit about this NES achievement. However I appear before you with my hat in my hands and ask that you have some small measure of pity on this game reviewer. Mission: Impossible remains triumphant and I have been laid low as a gamer…again.
I really do like this game, the music is very catchy and has a slight Castlevania feel to it, the graphics are more than acceptable. The title has nice little moments that make me smile, like securing a passkey, where the security badge photos of the enemy are replaced with the IMF team. Using the agents feels very true to the television series.
But the greatest hurdle is of course the punishing difficulty of the game. I’m not sure how many hours I’ve put into the game but it’s surely in the three digits. I’ve had to turn to various sources online to help me and IMF team to get as far as I’ve have but in the last stage there are some moments where it seems to me that it will take just a bit of luck to get through.
As much as I like the game I believe that the difficulty will cause most players to throw their controllers down in disgust and walk away, rightfully so, which is sad because it really has a lot of things going for it. Maybe if they would have had a better testing group this would be considered one of the classics of NES gaming. I am forced with a heavy heart to give the game 3 stars out of 5 only because of the difficulty.
Oh, this review will self destruct in five seconds…