Friday the 13th (NES, 1989)

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The 1980s were the height of the slasher genre. It seemed like every week, another horror movie featuring teens being killed by a masked slasher was released. One of the most successful was “Friday The 13th.” In the wake of “Halloween” in 1978, producer Sean S. Cunningham decided to join the slasher bandwagon. Since Halloween was named after a holiday, Cunningham decided to name his movie “Friday the 13th,” buying a full page ad in Variety staking claim to the title before the movie was ever written.

The plot was really simple: a group of camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake are knocked off one by one by a mysterious killer. In the original Friday the 13th, it is Mrs. Vorhees, who was enraged that the camp counselors were too busy taking drugs and having sex to save her son, Jason, from drowning in the lake. All the counselors at the camp were murdered until one remained, Alice, who removed Mrs. Vorhees’ head from her body with a machete.

The movie was a huge success for Paramount Pictures, and a new franchise began. The sequel began with lone survivor Alice meeting her end at the hands of the surprisingly alive Jason, as revenge for killing his mother. A new group headed to Crystal Lake and met the same fate as the counselors from the first film, but instead of a surprisingly agile older woman, it was a hooded Jason. It was really the third one (presented in 3-D!) where it all came together. Another unlucky group of people came to Crystal Lake. One of them, Shelly, was a prankster who brought with him a hockey mask. Once he was killed, Jason took the mask and wore it. A new horror icon was born.
Considering the success of the series, it is no surprise that our friends at LJN decided to make a video game version. The game is generally regarded as one of the worst games in NES history. While I cannot deny that it is a fatally flawed game, it still holds a fond place in my memory. It was one of the first games I ever played when I got it along with Super Mario Brothers and Dragon Warrior at Christmas.

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The game is pretty much a combination of the first four movies in the series. It is a summer day at Camp Crystal Lake, and Jason decides to take out everyone. You start out playing as one of 6 camp counselors, 3 male, 3 female. It is a missed opportunity that it seemed like no thought was put into the name of the characters. None of the counselors you could play as appeared in any of the movies. It wouldn’t have taken much effort to go through the movies and get names of some of the characters that appeared throughout.

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During the game, you can switch to any one of the other counselors, depending on what you need at the time. Some characters are faster and more agile than others, others will have better health and/or weapons you need to battle Jason. As your counselor, you move through Camp Crystal Lake, fighting zombies(?) and crows(?) along the way. I understand the need to have obstacles throughout, but zombies were never a threat in the movies, unless you count Jason.

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Intermitintly throughout the game, the “Jason alarm” goes off, alerting you that a counselor and their group of children at a certain cabin are threatened by Jason. You pretty much have to head directly to that cabin and fight off Jason to the best of your counselors ability. Throughout the game you have the opportunity to get different weapons that can damage Jason. Once Jason’s energy bar is depleted, he is defeated, but he comes back again faster and harder to kill. It is only after he is defeated a third time that the game is truly over.

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In the cabins, the game switches to something similar to a first person game, with the player moving through empty, strangely layed out rooms. I won’t deny that I still jumped every time Jason popped up to attack you while you moved through the house. This Jason looks strange, with a purple suit and blue mask. Your best line of defense is simply ducking Jason’s attacks, and attacking when you can.

The graphics aren’t good at all, with the characters being particularly bland looking, while the children in the cabins aren’t even given faces. The music is grating, not even including the “ki ki ma ma” that should have been a no-brainer. The backgrounds are all the same, so it is easy to get lost, particularly in the caves and forest. It is in the caves that you find a secret passageway that hides Jason’s mothers head, which attacks you. This is another thing that confuses me. In Friday the 13th Part 2, Jason’s mother’s head is in a shack in the forest. But in the game it is in the caves. The forest is right there!

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It is odd that something as filled with sex, drugs, and murder was able to be translated into a game that could be put right next to Super Mario Brothers at the store, but so goes the 80s. Just the idea of making a slasher movie into a video game is interesting. Not to mention the fact that Jason is going after little children in this. He NEVER went after children in the movies, he only went after the horny, drug taking teenagers.

The game ends very anticlimactically, but in keeping with any slasher film.

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In conclusion, the game, while flawed, is still entertaining to me. The bad elements, although they are numerous, are endearing to me. But it is probably because I was 7 and easy to please when it came to the new world of video games, when I first played it. I would say the game does capture enough of the atmosphere of the movies to be worthy of at least a look for fans of the series. It is interesting that there was never a new version for any next generation console. I think the horror atmosphere of the series would translate well to the more adult generation of games now, as well as the first person perspective now more common in games.

One thing you have to give the game credit for is the greatest game over screen of all time:

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