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Rambo for the Nintendo Entertainment System – Review

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Rambo for the Nintendo Entertainment System – Review
Packshot © Acclaim Games Inc.
A disappointing platformer that steals much of its design from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, provides lackluster gameplay and frustrating controls, yet still manages to achieve the impossible by taking all the action out of Rambo.

The Basics

  • Publisher: Acclaim
  • Developer: Pack-In-Video
  • Release Date: 5/1988
  • Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Genre: Platformer

The Good

  • Some comedy value in how weird and un-Rambo like it is, but the laughs aren’t worth the frustration.
  • At the end you can frag Marshall Murdock by turning him into a giant frog.
  • Alternate ending gives the choice to not save the POWs.
  • Unlimited continues.

The Bad

  • Extremely frustrating controls with a lag time that often causes you to be hit by your enemy before you can even fire.
  • The password saves are too long, overly complex and don’t always work.
  • Most weapons consist of knives and arrows. You don’t get a machine gun until deep into the game.
  • Although you do eventually get to battle some bad guys, most enemies consist of giant spiders, bats, killer birds, piranha, and a floating skull-ghost thingy. Very un-Rambo.
  • RPG-style path choices are mostly cosmetic. If you don’t select the choice that moves the game along, it’ll just redirect you to the answer the programmers wanted you to choose.
  • Used the Zelda II: The Adventure of Link code, simplified the design, removed the RPG elements, and didn’t add anything of note besides low quality graphics.
  • With no in-game map, cardinal directions that are inaccurate, and environments that all look alike, you are guaranteed to get lost.
  • Rambo’s design and outfit makes him look like an overweight ballet dancer.


  • Switch between six weapons and health drinks.
  • Most of the game is played by Rambo, but one small section has you play the non-combat female roll of Co Bao, his jungle guide.
  • Password Saves


Screenshot © Acclaim Games Inc.

The emotionally charged study of a Viet Nam Vet suffering from extreme Combat Stress Reaction in First Blood wasn’t appropriate for a video game, but the sequel, Rambo: First Blood Part 2, rectified this by replacing drama with hardcore action and lots of explosions. This made it ripe for the video game pickings.

As it was before the days of exclusive rights, every system out at the time had a Rambo game, each with a different publisher and developer. Ocean Software released a version for the Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC, Sega developed one for their Sega Master System, Mindscape snatched the PC rights, creating a text-based game and the Nintendo Entertainment System rights went to Acclaim. Although all the other publishers released their games under the films full title, Acclaim shipped theirs simply as “Rambo” giving it a more official/ultimate sounding name.

The NES version of Rambo was developed in Japan by Pack-In-Video, who saw the instant success of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and decided to rip the Zelda II code, simplify the content, reskin the graphics and pack it around the movie storyline. Since it would be another year before Zelda II reached US shores, Rambo got to hit the States first.

The Game

After all the carnage he caused in First Blood Part 1, Rambo finds himself in the big house for a long stretch, until the hardnosed Marshall Murdock offers him a chance at freedom. Murdock wants Rambo to go deep into the jungles of Vietnam and prove there are still POW’s being held captive, but under no circumstances is he to attempt a rescue.

When the game begins it fakes an RPG style by offering multiple paths; however this is only cosmetic as you are always directed back to one specific choice that will continue the game. The most humorous of these moments is when your given the choice to ask your female guide, Co Bao, “Where is the camp?” or “What do you think about me?”. If you’re playing an insecure Rambo and ask how you look, she answers with “What? You look good.” and Rambo literally smiles.

While Rambo is mostly known for duking it out with evil soldiers, the majority of enemies consist of snakes, wasps, bats, tigers, killer birds, piranha, giant spiders and a floating skull/ghost thingy. With so many of these it’s easy to deplete your ammo, but lickilly these woodland creatures carry extra knives, arrows, explosives and health that you can pick up off them once defeated.

Your weapons consist of a handheld knife, throwing knives, arrows, grenades and a machine gun. For most of the game you use the knives, as they are exact duplicates of the Zelda II mechanics, with Link’s sword being replaced by the handheld knife. Eventually you’ll get a machine gun and find enemy soldiers, soon after which you are captured.

Screenshot © Acclaim Games Inc.
Once Rambo is held captive you take control of Co, who has no weapons or skills besides her femininity. Luckily the evil soldiers don’t find it odd that there is a woman walking around their camp, as Co helps Rambo make his escape.

If you know where you’re going, the entire game can be played in about 30 minutes, however with no in-game map and cardinal directions that make no sense, you can end up wandering around the same environments for hours. For instance, when Co tells you the enemy camp is East, and you go in that direction, it leads you back to the boat that took you to the island. In order to go North or South you must stand on special N and S block gateways that take you to a different screen, but there is no way to determine how this bizarre environment is laid out as it does not stay consistent.

The controls are another of Rambo’s big problems. Even when prepared for an enemy attack, the response is so delayed that you’ll get hit before you can even pull a knife or fire off a shot. This is especially difficult with enemies that require multiple hits like tigers and killer birds. Luckily there are a series of health potions, and unlimited continues.

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