Gauntlet (NES)

Gauntlet Box Art


System: NES

Release Date: July 1988

Developer: Tengen

Publisher: Tengen

Genre: Action

We’ve got a well known arcade port on tap with Gauntlet. You choose from four characters to enter Morak the Evil One’s Gauntlet. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses. Thor, the Warrior, has exceptional fighting power and can wipe enemies from existence quickly with his throwing axe, but he’s slow and can’t shoot through diagonal gaps on walls. Thyra, the Valkyrie, is the balanced character, who benefits most from a high armor rating. Merlin, the Wizard, has a strong shot, and exceptional power with the bomb, but is quickly eaten up if attacked. Questor, the Elf, is pretty weak on attack and defense, but he’s incredibly fast, allowing him to outrun his enemies.

There are 100 levels in Gauntlet that can be traversed and a password system allows you to walk away and come back, so you don’t have to do it in one run. This is a welcome feature, because after an hour of play time, I was stuck between rooms 32 and 33 and if I was going to play through the whole game, I would have needed a break to recharge. In the levels, there are monster generators that spawn enemies at a quick clip. If you want to stop the baddies from constantly coming for you, shooting the generators should be a priority.

You have a power meter that constantly ticks down as time goes on and as you are hit by enemies. Power can be regenerated one of two ways, by finding the exit in a treasure room (these can be found every several levels), or by finding bowls of gruel or jugs of whiskey around the level. It’s important to keep the enemies away from them, though, as your life giving items can be destroyed by an errant shot. You may also find times where panic sets in as you’re surrounded by a horde of power draining bad guys. This is where the bomb potion comes in, with a touch of the B Button, you can eradicate a large swath of them. Obviously, the Wizard hits harder here than the Warrior.

On each level, you’ll find treasures which you want to collect. As you reach certain milestones, you will earn an increase to your maximum power level, which is sorely needed as you continue on your journey. There are other powerups to find through the dungeon, some are super helpful, like the attribute potions which give you permanent bumps to your skills. Others are super annoying, like the temporary reflective shots. They’d be cooler if you could shoot multiple shots at once, but you’re only allowed one on screen at once and if it’s constantly reflecting, you can get caught by enemies if you make an accidental bad shot.

Graphics: 2.0

I think it’s neat that they achieved so many enemies on screen with background tiles. The slowdown can get horrendous, though.

Sound: 3.0

I like the music. The sound effects are fine. The digitized voices are entertaining.

Gameplay: 2.5

The game controls well and there’s enough depth to it for replay.

Difficulty: 3.0

There’s difficulty inherent through the game, especially with the slow warrior in treasure rooms. If you don’t find the exit, you’re at a disadvantage.

Fun Factor: 2.0

An hour and a half of play flew by, and I wasn’t upset about it, but after I was done, I thought that I’d never get that time back.

Overall Grade: 2.5

Gauntlet earns a B-. It’s on the low end of the scale, but I think Gauntlet works fine as a game from 1988. It’d probably be more fun with someone to play it with.