NIGHTMARE IN THE DARK
written by Yukuridanshi
screenshots by Mouse_Master
Let's face it, none of us wanted to see the Neo era come to a close by witnessing the worldwide shutting down of SNK. Understandably, many of us were elated to hear that SNK would be reopening in Asia, and that there would indeed be a KOF 2001. Before those announcements gave us that much-needed new hope, however, we looked primarily to this little game called Nightmare in the Dark to breathe new life into the MVS format. And it does just that, although perhaps not as much and for not quite as long as we had all hoped it would.
To set the record straight, as it turns out NitD is NOT a "side-scrolling action/platform game." Yes, there are platforms, and yes, there is plenty of action, but each level consists of a single, static screen in which you fight off hordes of zombies by setting fire to them. Larger-scale enemies include various undead creatures such as mummies, mini-bosses and bosses join the ranks, and expectedly they are progressively harder to dispose of. Once each enemy on the screen is vanquished, you are "warped" to the next level and the cycle repeats.
Graphically, the game lives up to expectations. Each sprite is well-drawn and the still screenshots don't do the fluid animation of the characters justice. The color palette of the game also suits the mood well given the game's central theme. On the downside, the animation, while fluid, is about one grade down from that of Metal Slug, and the enemies lack personality, another point where the Metal Slug series was strong (it helped that a Metal Slug X machine was situated right next to NitD in drawing these comparisons).
NitD leaves little room to compalin in terms of music/sound effects. From what I heard of the soundtrack, the level tunes had a fairly catchy beat that neither added nor detracted from the gameplay. The game's sound effects are a bit on the tinny side but nonetheless adequate.
Gameplay-wise, NitD is a mixed bag. The controls are simple and straightforward, and at the same time the AI is quite challenging. There are also a variety of power-ups to be had, and the effects when setting fire to an enemy are quite amusing. On the other hand, while it is possible to jump directly up a platform, it is not possible to jump down, and when there are zombies on the same platform and those both above and below you, you're screwed. This is counter-intuitive and impairs one's ability to battle with the larger enemies effectively.
When we look at on why we loved the Neo, we focus on one thing. Content, content, content. Surely, the game fails to match up to in any respect the slaughtering and slashing excitement of Samurai Spirits or the intense action in the pulse-pounding Pulstar. Hence the Neo leaves a legacy with which this game doesn't resonate well. At the same time, anticlimactic as it may be, NitD is a fun diversion and worthy of some of your time, as well as a conversion to the home cartridge format; for at the end of the day, NitD is living proof that the MVS is alive even to this very moment, and if it could also prove the same of the home system, well...that'd be pretty cool, wouldn't it?
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