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Written by  :  ETJB (455)
Written on  :  Jan 11, 2010
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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A Nightmare on LJN Street

The Good

A Nightmare On Elm Street is perhaps one of the best franchises in the ‘slasher’ film genre. Yet, surprisingly frightfully (no pun intended) few efforts have been made to adapt the horror film into a video or computer game. In point of fact, aside from the NES adaption, there is only one other for the personal computer.

Now, LJN was not known for producing the best video games around. For better or for the worse, they had the rights to adapt video games based on several popular franchises (i.e. Marvel Comics superheroes, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street) that often met with a high degree of disappointment from fans of the comic book or film franchise. Thus, when I say that this game is actually above average you need to understand how good and bad that really is.

In the NES adaptation of A Nightmare On Elm Street, you and up to three other friends (with a special device) have to locate all of Freddy’s bones so that they can be burnt in a basement furnace. The game’s side scrolling format is not especially creative, but it does have two major features that push this game above the LJN norm.

You start the game in an ‘awake mode’ where you most punch or jump over various enemies on your way to a particular level (i.e. a house, cemetery or high school). Yet, along with your regular health bar you have a slowly declining sleep meter, which, upon depleting, sends the player into the dream world.

On the surface the dream world does not look especially different, except for the fact that the minor enemies transform into more supernatural foes. Yet, special icons are scattered throughout the levels that, once in the dream word, allow you to transform into an acrobat, ninja or wizard.

You can easily switch between these various ‘Dream Warriors’ and you have unlimited use of all their special attacks. It is a pretty cool feature, well handled that takes the game up a notch from a standard side-scrolling platform-style game.

The Bad

Granted, this game is not without its faults. Back in the day, The Big ‘N’ [as they were called] had some pretty strict rules about what sort of content could be depicted or referenced in a game for their home console system.

Needless to say, the R-rated horror themes had to be significantly toned down for the 8-bit world, which may make more contemporary players frustrated with a game that is a far cry from post-ESRB industry of survival horror.

The graphics and sound are above average. There are lots of little touches in the game that show some real creativity. For example, When you die, your character floats to the top for the screen as an angel and if you play in the four player mode, two of your wizard Dream Warriors will be witches.

Yet, the regular clothing that the playable characters are wearing does not remotely look like anything a teenager would be wearing and Freddy himself got a bit short changed in this game.

While he does make periodic appearances in the dream world and as the final boss, his attack patterns are so similar that he is something of a disappointment compared to the various bosses, based on monsters that the celluloid Freddy transformed into.

The game also has few items to collect, beyond the bones and the dream warrior icons. Yet, you can get cups of coffee to stay awake longer or boom boxes to wake up, but little to restore your precious health bar.

Outside the dream world, the playable characters are pretty weak and all that punching gets old fast. Last, but not least, when you finally beat the game, you are treated to a pretty short and uninspired ending.

The Bottom Line

The NES adaption of A Nightmare on Elm Street is probably one of the best games to be released under the LJN label. It has above average graphics, sound, cool use of the Dream Warrior powers and demonstrates that someone at LJN was familiar with the franchise. The game is probably worth a play, especially if you have got three extra friends, but don’t expect Resident Evil-style survival horror and do expect to finish the game wanting a bit more.