The Handheld Chronicles #1-Nemesis Review

Once, in a kingdom far, far away, there lived this magical thing called Retrogaming Times Monthly, and despite my own personal opinions on this thing, I diligently posted (sometimes filling an entire issue by myself) some of my most favorite articles series, filling me with great pride. One of them was known simply as The Handheld Chronicles, reviewing some handheld titles of yesteryear, although to be fair, most were on the original Gameboy handheld system. Well after some deliberation I decided to bring it back, except this time we are going to look at titles on other handhelds as well. You may be asking yourself how a guy like me finds time to do the important things, like eat, sleep, poop, and create new Rob Luther jokes, but the fact is none of that is important. All that’s important to me is creating quality content for this fine community, even though creating quality Rob Luther jokes is a close second.

A comedy gold mine..and that's just in the bicuspids.
A comedy gold mine..and that’s just in the bicuspids.

So I made up a small list to get started and away we go. Now keep in mind, I’m not a big fan of shmups, but I’d be blind if I didn’t notice there are an abundance of them on the handheld systems. I also know there’s at least one person here who would love the idea of me covering such games on at least a semi-regular basis.

And they're a hoser and a half..heh.
And they’re a hoser and a half..heh.

Nemesis is the first of many games I will be covering, so let’s get our weapons ready for this intergalactic adventure!

Sound: 9
There are trends, or in some cases near phenomena in retro gaming that never ceases to amaze me, and one of these is how impressive audio quality can be coming out of the Gameboy, and I don’t just mean in the sense of “Oh, ok, I can hear something” but the fact that the composers behind Nemesis, while seemingly just taking the classic Gradius tunes and tweaking them, have done so in a way that you’d expect to sound terribly coming out of such tiny speakers, but have managed to do so with the same quality and efficiency as one might find in a Konami console hit. I’d also like to add that when you’re known for having great composers behind your games, it would be easy, too easy in fact, to simply phone it in and do minimal work, especially in the case of Nemesis, a remixed, scaled down version of your traditional Gradius action, but Konami has great soundtracks because the composers due the exact opposite of lazy work, they go above and beyond with any game they make, regardless of what hardware it is on, and that’s certainly apparent here. If you’re someone skeptical of the audio capabilities of the Gameboy, don’t be shocked if you play this and are searching for the nearest pair of headphones to plug in and enjoy as you blast away enemies.

Nemesis soundtrack, Bart Simpson approved. All other shmup soundtracks can eat said shorts.

Graphics: 9
Yes, most shmups, especially when limited to handheld systems, can often be plagued with boring, barren wasteland levels, and enemies that are a bit too repetitious in appearance and attack, but Nemesis does the very best with what’s there to use, creating some cunning enemies and some surprisingly huge and detailed bosses. When you’re playing a shmup, one of the biggest complaints you can get from gamers if you’re a developer is lag, and with it, flickering or blurry enemies that take time to formulate and are often destroyed with little fanfare. I found that Nemesis is both fast and easy to navigate, your eyes able to fully grasp what you’re looking at despite the obvious absence of color. At no point was I attacked by something I couldn’t see coming, thus being able to focus on my strategy as enemies came to do battle with my ship. I’d also like to add that in some shmups it may appear that power ups almost look messy when all set up, a real cluttered mess, and Nemesis didn’t suffer from any of that. I could see my power ups while still being able to navigate my ship safely. Gradius is one of the most beloved shooters because it is simple yet fun, and Nemesis shows that graphically speaking, in the levels, enemy, and boss design, that this same kind of feeling can be captured on a much smaller scale.

Gameplay: 9
While many can gripe that perhaps Nemesis is far too short a game, I appreciate it for what it is, a fun and entertaining game to pass the time. I mean, isn’t that what portable gaming is all about? Why did we buy those hideously tacky and cumbersome carrying cases to put our games in? So if we want on an agonizing car trip our parents dragged us on, or sat at home while it rained outside, and I know as a kid I wanted something I could pop into my Gameboy and enjoy for a time until I moved onto to whatever other cool thing I was able to do as a kid (I know, I know, Atari Man, you were cool as a kid?)


Plus if you love shmups, or are a sadist (or even both!) you can play the game over again on difficulty level B, as in “be prepared to cry” over how ridiculously hard this level of play is. Oh sure, you can have 99 lives, but as Konami has clearly shown us over the years, there could be a 2 for 1 sale on lives and you could open your old piggy bank, take out a loan, and even inherit your Aunt Gretchen’s pension fund from her Dumb and Dumber inspired worm store and you still could fall victim to not having enough lives to complete this game. I mean, what could possibly be worse, Lloyd Christmas?

Right you are, my friend. Right you are. Aspen it is.

Overall: 9
Nemesis is a strong contender for one of the best examples of a quality shmup on a smaller scale. What many gamers fail to understand is that not every handheld port, whether varied, or mimicked from their console brethren is able to create something as good if not better than what the franchise is known for on consoles, but Nemesis makes it seem almost too easy for developers to take something fans of a genre are fond of and giving gamers the ability to enjoy the same quality they are expecting with the added ability to take it wherever they go. For someone like me who isn’t a huge fan of shmups, I thoroughly enjoyed Nemesis, and look forward to covering some more Gameboy shmups in the future.

Oh, I almost forgot. Whenever I saw this..


I instantly thought of this..


Because really, isn’t that what all great shmups are about? Compelling morons to figure out how to put 3 pieces of a silver monkey statue prop together? It’s how all great space wars began, of course.

Join me next time as I take a look at a game known as Solar Striker, which I am sadly certain has nothing to with Sunny D and it’s ability to help you strike things a lot easier.

Until then, take care, and remember, just because it’s handheld doesn’t mean it’s edible.

Yeah, you got a better closing? Whatevs, man.


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