8-Bit Infantry Wars Part III: Rush’n AttackJanuary 24, 2014
So I was trudging through Ikari Warriors for the NES, thinking it was next in my 8-Bit Infantry Wars quest, but thankfully I was wrong. Why? Because a glitch 3/4 of the way through level two trapped me and I about destroyed my entire collection of games in true rage quit fashion. I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t handle it, but luckily I didn’t have to. At least not yet. In terms of our timeline for US releases, our next infantry game in the 8-Bit era would be Rush’n Attack for the NES, an interesting title that’s almost more platformer than run-and-gun, but it has most of the elements I’d say are required. You’re part of some unstated special forces, you have a gun, and you do run, a lot. Like, it’s almost all you do. Sadly this one is overlooked by most NES fans, who generally go straight to Contra and never look back. Can’t blame them, great game. But hey, this one’s from the same company (Konami), and you get to kill everything, basically, with a knife. Who in their lives hasn’t at least once thought about taking on an entire army with a knife? Your dream can now be realized, your fantasies fulfilled.
Unbeknownst to at least some NES fans, though, Rush’n Attack, like several of Konami’s early titles, was actually an arcade release of the same name, with generally the same gameplay, though there are differences. This wasn’t unusual, as most home systems stretching back to the 2600 and prior used arcade ports to sell units. With the NES and its then-more advanced capabilities, why not yet another infantry game with a few twists? Kill everything with a knife? Powerful weapons you can use on a temporary basis? Those Russkies we were taught to hate back then? This can all be yours. You can see the original in the video above and compare it to the NES gameplay later, but please note that the arcade vid has cheats enabled so it’s not as easy as it looks. Anyway, the idea was simple, and fitting for the the era of Cold War stupidity. “Hey, let’s have the player kill a bunch of Russians,” said the creator. Thus, the title is a somewhat clever play on the word ‘Russian’, though it was originally entitled ‘Green Beret’ in Japan and carried this moniker for some home ports.
Now, aside from what the video seems to imply, the NES version was different on several levels, one of those being the damn difficulty. Trust me, the guy doing the video above practiced this one to Hell and back because there’s no other way to complete it that quickly unless you hex cheat the crap out of it via an emulator. Rush’n Attack is hard, monstrously hard. The first level is easy to complete, even on your first try, but from there the Russians waste no time turning your one-man-knife-army into a fragile shell of a man who dies with a single boot touch. What’s with that, anyway? It’s a paradox I could never understand; enemy boots kill you, but your boot upon the enemy also kills you. Who thought of that fallacy? It’s irritating, but back to our task.
The NES version added an excellent soundtrack that’s completely absent from most of the arcade, and this is one of its finer points. It has a cool, soft drive. Being that the system was known for its sound chip, they made good use of it here. In addition, two levels were added as well as several alterations. In spite of the fact that the game is inherently violent, one weapon, the flamethrower, was removed. You still have the grenades, but also a missile launcher, invincibility star, and handgun, the latter two functioning for a limited time period instead of giving you limited shots. Strange they would remove the flamethrower if it was a violence issue — we’re talking about a game where the player is killing about two thousand soldiers or so and gutting dogs with a knife, so, you know, what’s a little flame action on top of that? The controls on your dog gutting quest are easy to figure out; you have your main knife attack on Button B, Button A for additional weapons, and movement/jumping via the directional pad. Doesn’t sound so hard, does it? WRONG (ALL CAPS).
Rush’n Attack is deceptive. The first level is a breeze, with a rather kind way of introducing the player to how it functions. After that, have fun. About 10 seconds into the second level, things begin to change. Bullets fly from every direction, karate soldiers are jumping all over the place, mines appear more frequently and often where enemy placement makes quick action foolhardy. The most difficult aspect of playing is the jumping, which is only performed using ‘Up’ on your controller (or diagonally), and will place you precariously on many a ladder, so an enemy runs their chest into you and kills you with pure pec power. That will take you a couple of fails to remember. Many sections require precision most casual gamers just won’t have without practice, a lot of practice. And the programmers made damn sure to throw you curve balls here and there, typically having you run into a trap with enemies that appear and cause you to run into a mine or are impossible to kill in time. The bosses can be somewhat frustrating, too, especially later in the game, where certain moments require a good memory as opposed to skill. The Autogryos in stage four, for example, are pathetically easy, but the gun soldiers right before they appear need to be killed in a particular way, otherwise get ready to taste their steel. Some things you just can’t see coming, so slow movements leave you in a better position if you go that route. But even then the bosses are on static screens and if you’re not paying attention, it’s over.
In spite of these issues, Rush’n Attack is a fine game overall. The gameplay is fast and challenging, it simply lacks a natural difficulty progression and instead opts for the “well here it all comes at once” approach starting in the second level. But hey, now you can live that “everything vs. me and a knife” dream, and might find yourself rapidly flicking your hand at people for a few days after, as your brain gets that frenetic twitch out of your system. We all like to remember the days of the “one many army” from films, and Rush’n Attack lets you live it.