The NES and Arcade versions of Gauntlet are kind of the same, and yet a bit different. They both make you take charge of a warrior, valkyrie, magician, or elf and traipse around a series of dungeon rooms, killing what eventually feels like millions of monsters. The main difference, though, is that in the arcade version the game goes on for as long as you have quarters and in the NES version you have a definite goal and an end-game.

Your goal is to navigate the labyrinthine gauntlet, slay the dragon, and open the mysterious vault to save the kingdom. What’s in the vault? I don’t really remember, mostly because I never had a manual to this game and I didn’t make it very far.

The kicker to this game is that to get the secret combination to win the game you have to go through a series of secret rooms, and the way to said rooms is usually in a pretty non-obvious location. Maybe in a breakable wall, maybe in a breakable wall that you can’t tell is breakable, maybe it’s one particular exit in a cluster of half a dozen exits, or maybe something else. Oh, and the combination changes each time you play. You don’t have to find the combination, of course, but if you don’t and you manage to make it to the end of the game, well then you lose. The game likes to play with your head… which, if I had complete control over a game’s design, I’d probably make mine do the same thing.

I guess it kind of goes without saying that I never finished this game, never even came close. I played it off and on for a couple of Summers before I found my first digit of the combination, and then realized that I had to find a combination. I don’t really know how people were supposed to figure this crap out. Especially in the days before the Internet cheat sites.

The main thing I liked about this game was the music. It’s definitely got some of the better examples of chiptunes on the old NES, and is certainly in my top few for the system.

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