- Vertical + Horizontal NES shooter
- Graphics are…gory. Literally. As in you are inside a monster.
- All the graphics also look quite good for being on an NES
- Shooting is generally very fun and controls are tight
- Hard as all hell
- Dying resets the whole stage
- Dying also makes you lose all your powerups, and at a base level you are pretty worthless
Abadox (subtitled “The Deadly Inner War”) is a Natsume joint despite the rampant Milton Bradley logos all over the cover. I’m a fan of Natsume, with them having made some pretty great Super Nintendo games (the Lufia series and Pocky and Rocky, to name a few). This game, Abadox, is a fairly run-of-the-mill space shmup that has more than a few parallels to Konami’s Lifeforce, both in visual style and the hybridization of vertical and horizontal shooting. The real trick with Abadox though?
It’s hard. Like…really hard. Holy cow.
The plot of Abadox is…uh…well, apparently you are going inside of a giant space monster and killing it…from the inside out? I guess? Each stage represents different parts of the alien body, from the surface to the heart to the lungs and parts of the skeleton, and so on. The visual style of this game is really what kept me coming back (and popping it into my NES now and again), it just looks…amazing. Like, in a totally gory gross way. I love Konami’s Lifeforce because the visuals are just absurdly weird. You fight in space Egypt, a lava town, inside a blood vessel or something, Easter Island Heads…Land, and so on. Here, the scenery is equally bizarre. It all looks phenomenal, disturbing, and great. You could say this is the goriest NES game ever made.
Abadox‘s shooting is fairly standard: you kill certain enemies for power-ups, which in turn buff up your guns and provide such things as spinning shields and the like. Touching a wall or an enemy (or an enemy shot) is instant death, so you have to be super careful when navigating through tight corridors. In a Lifeforce style twist, the game switches between vertical and horizontal stages, and another cool trick is it has a handful of vertical stages where you go down instead of up. Sadly, you don’t go left instead of right in any horizontal stages, but I appreciate the variety.
So you boot up this game for the first time, seeing as you read this great review on Sharkberg that talked it up and you stopped reading after seeing the Abadox logo. You start the first level and within five seconds…you die. And it starts you over.
And then you realized you should have read the rest of the review. Because Abadox ain’t foolin’ around when it comes to “NES hard.”
Abadox is very difficult (or perhaps I should say “punishing”). The main reasoning being you die in a single hit, and on death it often restarts the entire level. It also strips of all your powerups, and your starting gun is exceptionally weak. Some basic enemies take multiple shots from it to die, which is just no fun. Enemy placement is also diabolical at times, with stuff popping out from all sides and most levels being very tight corridors. You also have a limited number of lives.
Through intense memorization I was able to eventually beat the game, which felt like a crowning achievement. I will say: Levels 2 and 6 are considerably harder than most other levels (making the difficulty curve all over the place), and despite the difficulty it never felt “cheap.” In fact, just mindlessly blasting (like you can do in a lot of NES shmups) often was not the solution, meaning I had to employ actual strategy in some areas. Kudos for that!
I enjoyed the music, which felt like a good blend of atmospheric noise and general musical tunes. While none really popped out like, say, Gradius, they fit the theme of the weird, creepy game well. I just wish it had more music overall, as Stages 1, 4, and 6 all recycle the same music. The sound effects, too, are generally recycled from other NES games. Try and spot them all?
As mentioned earlier, I love the way this game looks. It might be my graphically favorite NES shmup just for how weirdly detailed it is. It’s safe to say there aren’t any other games that look like this on the NES, except maybe that one blood-stream level from Lifeforce.
So is Abadox some kind of classic? Is it worth picking up? Well, if you like punishing shmups with weird-ass graphics, then…sure. As a Natsume joint you at least know it’s decent, and despite its difficulty I had a great time playing it. While people who don’t like the genre won’t be converted by Abadox, those who enjoy them will find a lot of fun here.
Plus, it looks so very, very gross. Best feature ever.