Who doesn’t love riding a flying ostrich or stork and stabbing every other rider out of the sky? Although the arcade game is over five years old, it’s nice to play this game again—and on my living room TV no less! Get ready, ladies and gentleman, for the arcade original Joust on the Nintendo Entertainment System! Although ported to other gaming machines, the NES version is probably the closest you’ll get to the arcade machine.
The premise of the game is simple—the player is a knight riding on the back of a flying ostrich. He or she must face off against other bird-riding, lance-wielding knights in a grand battle royale. Players attack by positioning their rider above the enemy and pouncing. The higher lance will prevail, reducing the enemy to an egg. The egg must be collected or it will hatch into a new rider. A fun demonstration screen shows new players how to play the game—no manual required.
Joust is fun and easy to play, but difficult to master. Each wave gets faster and tougher, but having a second player always helps. If you’re up for the challenge and don’t mind a few game overs, the game offers endless adventure across a strange world.
The game looks good on the TV screen. The graphics are well rounded and just as good as the arcade version, with a nice mix of brown and bright, contrasting colors. The birds look like birds and the levels resemble their arcade counterparts. The characters, however, barely resemble knights at all. They’re blocky and unremarkable. Also the game retains the static black background that is so reminiscent of the early ‘80s games. Most players have come to expect more graphical detail in their home games.
The title screen music has a quaint medieval flair, but is largely forgettable. The rest of the game really falls short in the music department. For the majority of the game, all players hear are boring sound effects. It beats the bleeps and bloops of the Atari 2600 version, but honestly it isn’t much better. Compared to the sound effects in other games from this year and earlier (like Gun.Smoke, Mega Man, or Super Mario Bros.), it just sounds like noise.
All of this can be overlooked when it comes down to playing the actual game. Fighting Bounders, Hunters and Shadow Lords atop a flying ostrich is just as much fun at home as it is in the arcade. In the NES version of Joust, HAL has created a faithful home version of the arcade classic, despite some of the audio/visual flaws. The game’s controls don’t seem to be as tight as the arcade and it can be mildly annoying and repetitive to constantly tap the “A” button to stay in flight. Otherwise, the game plays well and once players grow accustomed to the smaller NES controllers it’s pure fun.
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
Joust is fun, fast arcade action, bound to eat your free time like so many quarters in the arcade. So what are you waiting for? Drop what you’re doing, grab your lance, take to the skies and don’t forget to watch out for pterodactyls with Joust on the Nintendo Entertainment System!
Based in Colorado, David Buck is an author, musician, and media specialist. In his spare time, he composes music, writes science fiction, and builds scale models, mostly starships and movie cars.