Jaws (NES) is the Retro Game of the Day for 13 June, 2016

“Smile, you son of a…”

One of my favorite movies of all time and a triumph of storytelling, 1975’s Jaws may not have been technically the best film (featuring a not quite convincing shark), but the way it was presented was a cinema masterpiece.

The problem with movies is that gaming tries to turn many a movie into a game, and do so in a way that follows the plotline and scenes to appeal to those who have watched the movie, and in the end, the game suffers for it.  Jaws for the NES dispenses with all of that and just places the player into a plain shark hunt, featuring basically nothing from the film but the titular shark in the game and some references to Jaws: The Revenge.  The gameplay is a bit repetitious, as it has you as a diver shooting jellyfish, rays, and small sharks in order to collect items that either speed you up a bit (crabs), give points (starfish), or act as the in-game currency (shells) to upgrade your equipment and power, including a shark radar to locate Jaws, power-ups, and a speedy submersible that can absorb one hit.  The goal is to locate Jaws, shoot it an insane number of times to drain its health, then enter a mode where you lure the weakened Jaws out of the water and run it through with the end of your boat.  Adding to the gameplay variety is an occasional bonus round where you bomb jellyfish from a sea plane to gain bonus shells.

Even though the gameplay can get a bit tiring, it is a very satisfying quest to stab the great beast (even though the act of doing so is very difficult thanks to the random movement of Jaws towards your boat) and a very fun game that is successful because it doesn’t try to appeal to the movie audience, something other movie games should keep in mind.

As with other NES games, I use mednafen as my emulator and with a game pad, the gameplay is as close to perfect as emulation can be.

And you don’t even need a bigger boat.