Even though it has been nearly a year since Double Dragon hit the NES, it still remains one of the most popular games, both at home and the arcades. It comes as no surprise that Konami, my favorite game developer, has entered the fray with their own beat’em up game: The Adventures of Bayou Billy. You play as Billy West, who is the local heroic tough guy and amateur crime fighter. Your personal nemesis and local crime lord, Gordon, has kidnapped your girlfriend Annabelle. You must navigate though nine stages across the state of Louisiana in an attempt to rescue her and put an end to Gordon once and for all.
In addition to the traditional five fighting stages, there are two combat driving areas and two Zapper-optional shooting levels. Not many games spring to mind that offer so many varieties of action in one game. The fighting stages are fairly reminiscent of Double Dragon. You’ll move through the stage encountering 2 or 3 villains at once and you must defeat them to move forward. You can punch, kick, or jump-kick. Many enemies have weapons that can be picked up when dropped. These include: throwing knives, clubs, whips, and a pistol. Having a weapon is a necessity, as this game is a lot more difficult than other fighters on the NES. If you pick up the gun, you press Select to activate it; but you’ll need to find ammo, which is in short supply. Thugs also drop body armor and meat, which (like Castlevania) acts as a health replenishment. The fighting stages feature about ten different henchmen to defeat. In the swamp levels, you’ll also need to fight off bloodthirsty alligators and vicious hawks. If that wasn’t tough enough, most stages feature a final boss showdown to really test your twitch game skills.
In stages 2 and 8, the gameplay drastically changes. These stages are in first person mode and you can either use the Zapper or a controller. The screen automatically pans across and you must shoot and destroy the countless hordes of enemies and helicopters. Much needed items like health and ammo appear and you need to fire at them to pick them up. This game style plays like Operation Wolf, but is a massive improvement. This is surely the best Zapper game, and it is almost disappointing there are only two stages of this action. If you don’t want to hook up the zapper, this is still quite fun using the controller. In this and the fighting stages you have a health meter that depletes when taking damage. You begin with three total lives and five continues.
In stages 4 and 5 you escape the bayou area as you drive your Jeep to New Orleans. Your goal is to successfully reach the end goal, which is marked with a progress meter. In these stages there is no health bar, so any damage you take you immediately lose a life. So, if you take three hits on the long drive it’s game over. If you go off the windy road and hit a stanchion you explode. If you hit another vehicle, a rock, or if an attack plane bombs you, you blow up. It is also possible to run out of gas, so be sure to pick up the sole gas can in each stage. These stages move quickly and are brutally hard. They take a tremendous amount of practice and skill, but I loved the challenge and it was so rewarding when I finally got through them.
It comes as no surprise that Konami has stunning graphics and a rockin’ soundtrack. The characters are large, detailed and distinctive, and have plenty of character. They grunt when hit and a few of the bosses even briefly speak. Like Blades of Steel and Double Dribble, we are treated to the title screen with a voice-over as well. Not only do we get a fun cast of characters, but also in between stages there are cutscenes with Gordon taunting you with the tied-up and scantily dressed Annabelle. These don’t compare to Ninja Gaiden as far as storytelling, but are still impressive and give you another incentive to continue on. The settings take you from the Bayou to the Back Roads, onto the Interstate, then The French Quarter, and finally Gordon’s Mansion. All of these have terrific attention to detail and add to the presentation – the trees and water look phenomenal. All the stages have terrific music, but like Contra, a few are recycled. We get five total songs, plus the cinema sounds. There is also a sound test mode at the title screen that allows you to listen to all the music and the effects.
There is a lot of variety in gameplay here and should appeal to anyone looking for the next great action game to play. It is an improvement from the NES version of Double Dragon, and with nine challenging stages this should take you some time to complete. Cool characters, settings, great music, and cinematics add to the fun. The drawback would be the lack of a 2-player mode. The driving stages wouldn’t really work and probably would have to be written out, but adding a companion in the fighting areas – like Annabelle’s sister or someone – would add to the lasting appeal of this game. Perhaps there will be a sequel to address this complaint? Although this is a really challenging Game Pak, the overall game length clocks in at about 35 minutes if you’re able to master each stage, thus limiting replay value.
The Adventures of Bayou Billy Review
- Graphics - 9/109/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 8.5/108.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
Konami has proven over and over that they make superb games. I love how they dabbled in the brawler market and incorporated other types of gaming. It’s been awhile since I had the Zapper out and I’m glad it’s getting some use. Now I’m curious to see if Konami does anything with the Power Pad or R.O.B. the robot!