Freddy Krueger has become one of the most recognizable villains in the world, with 5 movies and a TV series in the last 6 years. With LJN bringing Friday the 13th to the Nintendo last year, it was only a matter of time until the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise got its own game. Originally A Nightmare On Elm Street was described as a game where you played as Freddy trying to murder various kids. Obviously this would have had a hard time passing Nintendo’s approval process and it wouldn’t have been worth the angry parents and negative press. So, instead the developers modeled the game after the third film in the series, Dream Warriors, which coincidentally happens to be one of my favorite horror movies of all time. Potential buyers may be initially put off by a game based on a film and the large LJN logo on the cover, but this game was actually developed by Rare, which has built a strong reputation for themselves with games like IronSword and R.C. Pro-Am.
The objective of this game is to defeat Freddy, collect his bones, and throw them in the furnace, which loosely follows the plot of the third film. You play as Elm Street teenagers in a side-scrolling overworld. Common enemies such as snakes, bats, wolves, and rats populate Springwood. You can punch, dodge, or simply jump to avoid them. There are several homes and areas that you may enter in a randomized order. These buildings contain more enemies and a fair amount moving platforms. Here you must collect a certain number of bones to progress to the inner layer, and eventually battle with a form of Freddy. Once you clear the building you return to the overworld and go to the next available area.
This game has some unique gameplay mechanics that make it standout in comparison to so many other action games. If you’re familiar with the movies, you’ll know that Freddy is a ghost who attacks and kills his victims through their nightmares. In the game you have a Sleep Meter that gradually decreases. When it hits zero you enter the Dream World. Here the area becomes more sinister and the enemies more horrific. Locating the boombox wakes you up, and collecting cups of coffee keeps your sleep meter up. In the film, Dream Warriors, the characters are able to use special powers in their dreams to fight Freddy. In the Dream World, you can become a Ninja, Acrobat, or Necromancer. All of these forms allow you to shoot a specific projectile weapon and use a bonus martial arts attack. Becoming a Dream Warrior is important in the boss battles with Freddy.
Although the common enemies are more difficult in the Dream World, combat becomes easier with these special powers, which leads into one of the biggest issues in this game: the difficulty. Unlike Friday, which is one of the hardest (and unfair) games, this title is fairly easy and short to go through. You have 5 lives and 3 continues. When you die (usually from falling in an abyss) you pick up immediately where you perished. Collecting the bones isn’t overly challenging either. While they are not right out in the open, this game isn’t loaded with secrets, hidden areas, and critical thinking like a Zelda title. Simply collect the bones, avoid the enemies and hazards, and defeat Freddy.
The boss battles with Freddy are all fairly similar and underwhelming, usually being much too easy. However, if you dilly-dally too long in the Dream World, you’ll hear the iconic ‘1-2, Freddy’s Coming For You’ theme, thereafter Freddy will arrive for a battle, similar to Jason showing up randomly in Friday. There are about eight total areas. Aside from several Elm Street houses, there is also the high school, junkyard, and graveyard. While I’m not saying this game is a complete breeze, a weekend rental should be all it takes to go through this.
As I mentioned before this game was developed by Rare, and with Rare comes David Wise. Wise is a wonderful composer who has done the score for over 20 Nintendo games, like Marble Madness, IronSword, and Snake Rattle N Roll. I adore his unique and recognizable style and he mixed his own sound and the horror theme perfectly. There are a ton of songs here, with each house and area getting its own theme — along with great overworld, boss battle, and intro themes. The music is both spooky and memorable.
Graphically we are treated to a really cool intro screen, and the design of Freddy is pretty good. However the interior of the homes could have had more character and better imagery. Some of the common enemies are pretty uninspiring, as are the characters. After playing Maniac Mansion (with each character having their own skills, personality, and look) this game was a letdown since these characters (Mike, Tony, James, and Erin) all pretty much look and control identically.
The controls need some work here too, as they feel very slippery, which can be a real problem when jumping on the moving platforms. A real eye-opener here is the ability to play this with 4 total players, a rarity when it comes to action games. While this experience doesn’t enhance the game very much and causes additional challenges all trying to stay together; I applaud their attempt as it is so unusual to find a game where 4 friends can all play at once. Honestly this game is still the best being played solo.
This game will draw some comparisons to Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, just watered down a lot and much easier. However, Nightmare has some great ideas and I was so happy to see one of my favorite franchises get a very respectable and enjoyable Nintendo game. Even though I liked Friday the 13th, despite its major flaws, this a far superior game. It’s wonderful to see more horror themed games to play, especially during this Halloween season.
Rare did a nice job taking ideas from the third film and incorporating them into the game. It would have been fascinating and really improved the overall game to see the characters from the movie (like Nancy, Kinkaid, and Kristen) and assign each of them a specific skill. The soundtrack might be Wise’s greatest and the game looks solid, especially when we warp into the Dream World. Generic enemies, slippery controls, and lack of difficulty hold this game back quite a bit, but still a game I’d highly recommend trying out — and a must for fans of the franchise.
A Nightmare on Elm Street Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 5/105/10
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
I’ll be forever curious to see how this game would have turned out if you were able to play as Freddy. So many great films have had atrocious video game adaptations, so it was a really nice to see this one turn out so well. I would love to see more horror themed games, either from other great film series such as Halloween, Hellraiser, or Phantasm; or based on scary novels — like Stephen King’s It or The Shining.