Jaws

NES

Review by Joe Santulli

Bandai

Action

Graphics: 8

Sound: 3

Gameplay: 5

Overall: 4


I can remember the first time I saw the movie Jaws, because it was the first "R" rated movie I was allowed to see (more about my folksí liberal decision making a bit later). In a packed movie theater in Jersey City on a Saturday afternoon, I watched the classic thriller unfold, hoping it would never end. The suspense! The horror! A leg floating to the bottom of the sea! What more could a young boy want? Well, as it turned out, quite a lot of video games. But Jaws - the movie - certainly held me over for a long, long, time. Iíve seen the movie dozens of times since that day but I always think back to my first encounter with the killer shark on the big screen that Saturday.

While recently playing the Bandai game Jaws for the Nintendo Entertainment System, I felt a similar tug from the past. Yes, this is exactly the way I remember the game. I remember spending days trying to beat it, then taking a completely different approach and whipping it unexpectedly. The game doesnít attempt to follow the movie script: you spend most of it hiding from the big guy until youíre powerful enough to take him on. You get tougher by traveling from port A to port B, and of course in-between you are attacked by various denizens of the deep. In the gameís climax, you face Jaws mano-a-shark. Not terribly exciting. Maybe I was expecting the original movie, starring Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, and Roy Scheider. What I got instead was the fourth movie, starring the woman who played Roy Scheiderís wife in the original movie.

Itís one of gamingís strange phenomenons that certain titles can survive the test of time and ultimately be called "classics", while others lose their charm over time. Although Jaws came to us sometime in 1987 the experience was somewhat "fresh" to me at the time. Today, however, it is readily apparent that the game simply combines several proven formulas and slaps a big movie license on top. When I recently dusted it off to play for this review what sprang into my head was "Seaquest meets Air-Sea Battle in the land of Shark! Shark!" (OK, so odd things often spring into my head). I donít know why I didnít look at it that way in 1987, maybe itís because there werenít all that many "Seaquest meets Air-Sea Battle in the land of Shark! Shark!" games around. Or maybe itís because this Jaws game was fun to play. Or maybe itís just the movie license thing, which wasnít looked down upon as much back then but has a miserable history today. How things have changed.

Compared to other games of its time, Jaws still packs some graphic power. Theyíre terrific - everything looks like what itís supposed to, thereís lots of color and just enough animation. There are several different challenges thrown at you - collect sea shells (theyíre like money) by harpooning jellyfish, stingrays, and small sharks; get extra shells by scoring on the challenge stage (which plays like an Air-Sea Battle boat stage); chip away at Jawsí power. The final stage is where you get to impale Jaws with the bow of your ship. The controls are tight, no complaints there either.

The problem I have with this game NOW is that itís just plain dull. It takes way too long to build up enough power to take on Jaws and by that time you wonít be interested anymore. Every time your diver is killed by a lucky jellyfish your power level goes back to the bottom, which is like starting over. During this long quest you are forced to listen to a terrible droning tune. No option to turn it off. Come to think of it, there are no options for anything at all.

I wouldnít rate Jaws lower than the oceanís floor, but itís definitely sleeping with the fishes in my collection.

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Last updated: Sunday, December 28, 2003 05:41 AM