Nightshade: Part 1 The Claws of Sutekh

Metro City is in a bit of a bad way. Sutekh, formerly Waldo P. Schmeer turned evil criminal mastermind, is organizing the local criminal factions together for his budding world-domination scheme. Unfortunately Vortex, the local spandex-clad superhero, is nowhere to be found. So what’s a city to do? Someone needs to step up and meet the challenge head-on. That person is Mark Grey, mild mannered bookworm. But once he dons his fedora and trenchcoat he becomes Nightshade, amateur super hero. Unfortunately, as soon as he starts his crime-busting career he’s caught, tied to a chair, and left next to an exceedingly dangerous bomb that’s going to explode ‘any second now’… We join the action immediately after said chair-tying and have to save Nightshade, diffuse the trap, escape the sewers, and foil the evil villain’s plans.

Time to get started.

Nightshade is kind of like those text-adventure games that I like so much but am really bad at combined with action games that I also like a lot, but am also reasonably good at. Its blend of these two game types would be good enough for me, but the game also has some of the best writing I’ve ever seen in a game. Even today it holds up.

So what is is you actually do in this game? The short answer is that you travel the city, thwarting evil, and generally trying to figure out what happened to the previous hero when he tried to do what you’re doing. Unfortunately, when you start out nobody knows who you are, so you have to beat up local thugs and do good deeds to up your popularity. Do that and folks will be more willing to help you in your quest.

You’re probably also going to fail at this the first few (dozen) times you try it. Lose all your life somehow and you’ll be captured and put into an ‘inescapable’ death trap. Fortunately, four of them aren’t actually inescapable. Unfortunately, the fifth one is. So you get five chances to win the game. And for a while you’re going to need every single one of them for figuring out how to disable the Ludicrously Overpowered Electric Torch, what Uncle Rodney’s Crunchy Weasel Flakes are for, and why there’s a lone box labeled “Herrings: Red” on one screen.

This game is my favorite game on the NES. I played it to death trying to figure out the inventive puzzles, and just to see the dialog. I also had competitions with my friends where we would compete for rankings. The game gives you a percentage complete and a corresponding ranking depending on how much of the game you’ve completed. Though it’s a bit flawed, I’ve managed to get 100% complete without actually finishing the game, meaning I’ve gone from ‘Complete Weed’ status to ‘Hero of the City’ status without actually saving it. Ah well.

As much as I like this game, I almost never played it. I saw the spread it got in Nintendo Power and thought it looked OK, but it’s when I went to a friend’s house and he had rented it. We spent most of that weekend trying to unravel its secrets, but were ultimately unsuccessful. I would then rent it several more times, but didn’t purchase it. This was mostly because I was unemployed and the game was too rare to show up at any second hand shops. But, in a stroke of almost unfathomable luck, several years later Wal-Mart was clearing out some of their very old stock of video games. How old? Well, Nightshade came out in 1991, and Wal-Mart was selling Nintendo 64s, which came out in 1996. So, prehistoric stock in video game years. In the bin was a cache of NES games, including Startropics, Startropics 2, and a lone copy of Nightshade. I’m not willing to say it was fated for me to get this game or anything. That might be a little much. But, I know enough to grab a deal. A great game for a system of yesteryear (that I still have in working condition) for a paltry $5?

Yeah, I’m not passing that up.

One Response to “Nightshade: Part 1 The Claws of Sutekh”

  1. [...] a list of the ‘Top X underrated NES games’, Shatterhand invariably makes the list (and Nightshade doesn’t). I just can’t fathom why, unless these people are playing a different version [...]

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