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A Nightmare on Elm Street - Freddy's NES Nightmare

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A Nightmare on Elm Street - Freddy's NES Nightmare
Screenshot © Acclaim Entertainment, Inc.

In 1989 the most anticipated video game for horror movie fans finally hit the Nintendo Entertainment System. A Nightmare on Elm Street the video game promised to deliver all of the freaky fantasy and brutal violence of the film franchise, but the only nightmare that it ended up delivering was every gamers fear: A cheap, poorly designed game that has no passion for the film series on which it's based.

The Basics:

  • Title: A Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Developer: Rare Ltd.
  • Publisher: LJN Ltd.
  • Release Date: October 1989

The Good

  • A funny nostalgic game to play at a party and make fun of with your friends.
  • Collectible for the Nightmare on Elm Street completest fan.

The Bad:

  • Unbearably repetitive and unengaging gameplay.
  • Poor design that confuses the player to the point of frustration.
  • Not even slightly in the feel or tone of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.

The History:

Throughout the ‘80s, the slasher movie genre was king of the cinema, with major blockbuster franchises such as Friday the 13th and Halloween topping the box office with each sequel they churned out. Unlike most of these films that featured unstoppable killing machines hungry for teenage blood, the one franchise that stood unique from the rest was A Nightmare On Elm Street.

What made Nightmare so unique was, it coupled the slasher genre two other pop culture crazes that were on fire in books, comics, magazines, and movies: Fantasy and the Supernatural. While the other franchise movie psycho killers were human (undead or otherwise) Freddy Kruger, the Wolverine –style glove wearing madman who lived in a nightmare dimension could control his victim’s dreams.

When New Line Cinema released the first Nightmare on Elm Street film in 1984 the company was 17 years old and known for distributing b-move fodder such as Reefer Madness and producing Alone in the Dark (no not that Alone in the Dark), but Nightmare series ended up being the indie studios first major hit, pushing them into the big time. Soon the studio would be known as the “house that Freddy built”.

By 1989 New Line Cinema had released four Nightmare films and had discovered the wonders of merchandising. Freddy was quickly becoming less of a frightening horror of our nightmares and more of an anti-hero similar to The Joker from Batman. Soon Talking Freddy Dolls, Yo-yos, and "Fright Squirters" were lining toy store shelves; but this was the '80s and no self-respecting movie license franchise would be complete without their very own video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Throughout the '80s entertainment media company MCA/Universal acquired LJN Toys, Ltd. and used the company to manufacture and distribute toys based on their movie properties. The video games division of LJN brought major licenses to the Nintendo Entertainment System such as The Karate Kid, Jaws, and even Major League Baseball. With the strong success of their games division and their licensing business model LJN started snatching up licenses from other movie studios that didn't have their own games distribution channel.

In 1987 LJN struck deals with Paramount Pictures for Friday the 13th, and New Line Cinema for A Nightmare on Elm Street, both for exclusive rights to create a NES game based on the respective franchises. In 1988 they announced the deal and that the two titans of slasher horror would be making their gaming debut.

The release of A Nightmare on Elm Street for the NES was highly anticipated and built quite a bit of buzz. Everyone from Nightmare fans to hardcore gamers were anticipating what creative approach would be made to a game based on such a creatively fantastical franchise.

Everything from speculation to false reports befell the game. From Nintendo Power falsely announcing that Freddy would be the playable character, to critics of the game referring to it as a terrifying, gore filled, bloodbath. In reality Nightmare the game was none of these things.

The Game:

The basic premise of A Nightmare on Elm Street for the NES has you controlling a generic muscular Springwood teen searching up and down for unlocked buildings on Elm Street while punching and jumping over critters such as giant snakes, giant rats, and bats as well as dodging boulders that mysteriously fall from the sky; and all this while you’re still awake.

When you find an accessible building and sneak inside the game enters a platform interior where you search for Freddy's bones. Now the enemies that you sock and leap around include giant flies, giant spiders, more giant rats, and bats.

In addition to a health gauge Nightmare includes a constantly depleting sleep meter. While the meter can be slowed down via coffee power-ups, it eventually diminishes and sends the player to beddy bye and into Freddy's nightmare dream world. Basically the dream world is the exact same, only darker and with the enemy creatures replaced with Boggles (demons), Shamblers (zombies), skeletons, Freddy Gloves growing from the ground, skull headed bats called Deathwings, old school ghosts (white sheets with holes for eyes), jumping Parana fish, bubbles (yes bubbles), and spiders with Freddy's head on them.

Once you've located all of Freddy's bones in the level you battle a Freddy boss and move back onto Elm Street. Bosses include a giant Freddy glove with a long chain arm, A chomping Freddy head on a long chain neck, a floating Freddy hand and head, a bat with a vampire head, a ghost with a Freddy head, and Freddy Kruger himself. Defeated bosses leave behind a key. Touch it and your transported back onto Elm Street.

The final level takes place in the boiler room where you must battle all of the bosses again before finally being able to deposit all of Freddy's bones into the furnace and end his dreams of terror forever..."or has it?"

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