P.O.W.: Prisoners of War (NES)

P.O.W.: Prisoners of War Box Art

P.O.W.: Prisoners of War

System: NES

Release Date: September 1989

Developer: SNK

Publisher: SNK

Genre: Beat ‘em Up

SNK is back and luckily they aren’t tormenting me with another iteration of Ikari Warriors, no, this is P.O.W.: Prisoners of War! You are code name Bart and it’s up to you to infiltrate the GOON organization looking to shut down world trade in order to make fat cash off of smuggling. Your plan is to get captured and then destroy the entire operation from the inside.

You begin by blowing up your cell at a P.O.W. camp and then start punching, kicking, and shooting through four levels of GOONs. I had this game as a kid and remember it differently than it actually plays. I guess 30 years is a long time… The A Button kicks, which is stronger than your B Button punch. At least, until you get the brass knuckles powerup. That makes your punch a way better attack. Powerups are found in side screens, either tents, trucks, or other entrances. You have to take out a swarm of enemies and receive brass knuckles, bullet-proof vest, or life restoration.

Enemies come on screen and take different numbers of hits, but you don’t know for sure how many they’re going to take until you hit them enough. Some enemies are equipped with knives, which do a lot of damage if they hit you. Occasionally, there will be a knife drop, which is good for one throwing attack. Conversely, if you see an enemy equipped with an M-16, he might drop it when you knock him down. Now you shoot with the A Button in bursts of three bullets. If you can line your enemies up, you can take multiple down in one hit. The B Button becomes a rifle butt, which you’d think would be great, but the hit detection is incredibly flawed. You’re better off shooting and going back to punches and kicks.

Bosses are at the end of each level. The chopper at the end of level one requires collecting grenades and throwing them back. This feels like I’ve done it before, but can’t put my finger on it. The second level boss is much easier if you have a bullet-proof vest, which causes bullets and thrown knives to bounce off you. He also throws dynamite, which basically kills you if you’re caught in the explosion, but can be avoided by jumping with the A and B Buttons together. The instruction manual gives the height of the final boss as 7’8” and his weight as 231 pounds. That’s Manute Bol thin…

Graphics: 1.0

The backgrounds are decent, but there’s a ton of flickering when it comes to sprites.

Sound: 2.0

SNK composes some alright music. It’s at least frantic enough to get the feeling across.

Gameplay: 1.0

Attacks are slow and the hit detection is off. The M-16 should make me feel unstoppable against enemy knives and kicks, but it doesn’t.

Difficulty: 1.5

The levels drag on and if you run out of lives, it’s back to the beginning of the level. At least there are unlimited continues.

Fun Factor: 1.0

You can probably get some enjoyment out of this, but it’s not going to be a whole lot.

Overall Grade: 1.3

P.O.W.: Prisoners of War earns a D+. It’s a tough sell when you’ve played better games in the genre.

P.O.W.: Prisoners of War Video Review on YouTube