Little Nemo - The Dream Master Review by: EirinnDream On, DreamerS
leep. It's a wonderful thing, isn't it? Says the guy typing this review out at three A.M....
Little Nemo - The Dream Master is about a young boy by the name of --you guessed it-- Nemo (boy you're clever) who receives a distress message from the dream world princess and begins his great quest to save happy dreams, one bedtime at a time! Odd perhaps, but you can't say it's an overused plot anyway.
The game's controls are crazy easy to learn, and are as follows:
-D-pad = Move
-A = Jump
-B = Attack/Throw candy (Yes, throw candy)
-Start = Pause/Unpause
elect = Change weapons
And that's all that you need to know to get started, well that and a little bit that I will mention later in this review, but if I tell you everything now you won't have a need to finish this review, and quite frankly I need all of the tricks that I can utilize to uh..."encourage" people to read my reviews in their entirety. It's not cheating...
While they may not be the absolute best graphics on the system, they certainly do offer a good idea of what the NES was capable of. The levels are sharp as far as 8-bit platformers are concerned and can challenge some of the more renowned titles on the beloved Gray Toaster-Console that powered some of the finest games of it's time.
The characters are well made and there are a fair amount of them, but they aren't what pushed me to rate the graphics so highly. Rather it was a combination of their animations and the backgrounds, and their animations is what I plan to address here.
Simply put, the animations are perfect. They're smooth, and there are so many different variations that each sprite takes that I can hardly imagine how much of a pain making them would have been. During the game, Nemo will take his usual kid form to start with, but he soon begins using his candy to get the different creatures to "give him a ride" though honestly it looks more like he wears them than anything much of the time. To give you an idea of how many transitions Nemo's looks take during the full game, I'll say that off of the top of my head I can remember five and I'm likely forgetting at least one. You know the graphics artists must have wanted to throw something at the project leader when he/she told them how many different appearances Nemo would take on during the course of the game. For each new look that Nemo takes on they had to make at least ten sprites to animate him, and sometimes more depending on each new look's abilities. I sincerely hope they received a large paycheck when all was said and done.
But enough talk about the amazing work the artists did on Nemo's various appearances and animations (seriously, it's even more amazing than pizza!...or at least pizza flavored chips, which I totally want right now), let's move on to the great backgrounds.
Nemo has several levels to traverse, though the exact number eludes me at the moment. Suffice to say that the graphics designers had their work cut out for them yet again. Quick! Somebody call the labor board! Capcom is clearly overworking these poor artists...those MONSTERS! Still, artist abuse or not, the backgrounds are very well done, especially in the last level. Perhaps it's my recent experience in graphics designing that has brought me to appreciate just how much labor was clearly put into these backgrounds, or maybe it's the fact that I know how few people actually appreciate or grasp the trouble they went through adding all of that painstaking detail. Just pause the game and look at the trees in the backgrounds of the outdoors areas: all of those little waves designating the leaves and branches. Then there's the waterfalls, in one instance the buildings, and other various things that if I yammer on about here you'll quit reading, and the graphics section is far too early to lose readers. Please stick around through the Story at least. Please? I'll give you a cookie....
So with plenty of good looking sprites, tons of animations, nice looking level designs, awesome backgrounds, and those nice little hand drawn characters in the cutscenes that I somehow forgot to mention but am too lazy to add in at four A.M. (yeah, been writing for a half hour already), the graphics of Little Nemo easily earn their right to stand among the giants of the NES days.
-Well made sprites
-So many transformations to keep things fresh visually and gameplay wise that I hate to think of the amount of work that it took
-Some of the best backgrounds of any NES title I've seen
The music, oh the music. It's like a tiny 8-bit orchestra playing a "the best of NES music" concert. Seriously, I loved the tunes that much, and they fit the game so well. From the lighthearted tune in the mushroom forest that just sings childhood dreams, to the dark (or at least the closest this game can get to dark) tune of the final level and final boss fight. The music is almost always sure to please. It's one blemish is found in the opening tune that plays prior to the start screen while you're watching the story begin. It's fitting enough, but after about ten seconds your ears will begin bordering on hurting and you'll want to mute it (still, it sounds better than a Justin Beiber song. I really need to stop picking on Beiber...he's just such an easy target). Do just that: mute it, because you kind of need to sit through the entire opening scene if you want to have any idea as to what's going on. In fact, feel free to unmute it as soon as you see title screen, because the tunes from here on out are something you do not want to miss. And really the opening tune isn't bad, it's just so overpowering. A tragedy really.
That brings us to the sound effects: they're pretty solid and I really have no complaints to lodge against them at all. In fact, I have to praise the audio designers for their good work here making the hardware produce such good sounds. They definitely sound 8-bit, but only in the best way possible, they have a certain charm to them. And my personal favorite is the sound the creatures make after you feed them enough candy to swing a ride from them: they snore (I assume it's a snore. Looks like they're as
leep to me) in this super cartoony way, the best way I could define the sound is to say that it's completely and utterly adorable. It's easily the cutest part of the game aside from the story. Well done, Capcom.
And so in the end, we find our ears being treated to catchy and well fitting 8-bit tunes all game long as well as some sweet sound effects, apparently as Capcom's way of apologizing to us for putting us through that dreadfully long ear torturing opening tune.
-Great music once you get past the ear torture that is the opening cutscene tune
-Good and sometimes downright adorable sound effects
-They didn't leave it to Beiber (not that any of you get that reference. Man I'm old)
-You've almost made it to the Story section!
Okay, first hear me out: I don't have any cookies. Well, I did have some, but Vizzed told me that if you get a new cookie it'll log you out, so I left them behind. Sorry. But if you still read on, I'll give you a hearty "thank you" comment. I'm telling the truth this time too!
Next, had this been on any system after the NES/SMS days it would have gotten a lower score, but since I'm trying to be fair and compare it to other games from it's time, I have to say Little Nemo - The Dream Master ranks right up there with some of the better in-game storylines in 8-bit games. The story is simple, but it's cute and easy to follow. You don't need additional information from an instruction booklet in order to follow it, and it's chock full of cutscenes and cute little anticdotes that anyone who has been a child (and I'm fairly certain we all have...except maybe Light Knight or ender44. Even if they have, they're too old to remember) will certainly be able to identify with. In fact, some of these moments will be even funnier to those of us who have had any part in the raising of a child. You'll know what I'm talking about when you see it.
To put it simply without ruining it for you, the story is about a little boy who one day is visited by a messenger from the dream world. He informs the boy that the princess of the dream world has sent him to the boy to ask him to come play. Once he arrives however, he finds that the king of Dream World is in terrible trouble, and they need help rescuing him and saving all of the good dreams before they're all stolen by the evil bad dude guy.
And so Nemo embarks on his quest to save the dream world, but as you might expect, one can only help save the dream world from the bad guys whilst one is as
leep and actually inside the dream world. So with that our pint sized hero sets out on his journey and makes his way to the final confrontation, moving closer and closer as each night brings him into a new dream sequence. It may be simple, but it's certainly cute and more original than so many other games of it's time were.
-Original concept for a game
-Adorable and straight forward story
-I got a chance to make fun of LK AND ender. Best review ever!
While no one factor in Little Nemo merits this rating, each portion of the game works together to earn it. The first thing I'll cover is the number of levels, which is --if memory serves-- around five or six which isn't so great, nor is it just awful for an NES game. Still, it's a little below average and is thus the downfall of the Depth category.
Next: The gameplay. Now traditionally I would cover this more in the Addictiveness section, but this time around it merits mention in the Depth category as it factors in greatly for the depth rating.
The goal of the levels in the average 8-bit platformer are simply to get from point A to point B (usually the far left of the level and the far right respectively), but not so in Little Nemo - The Dream Master. No, in this platformer you start off at the left side of a level like you would expect, and the exit is indeed at the far right of the level, but the exit is a door with several locks on it. Now in order to open the door you of course need to unlock the locks, and as you might guess that takes keys.
Now here's where it gets interesting: you must find and collect all of the keys in each level before you can unlock all of the locks and open the door. Think of it like the ancestor of modern platforming concepts where you have to collect so many stars/orbs/gems/name-a-collectible before opening the next level, only not only can Nemo not enter the next level without enough keys, he's trapped in his current dream until he finds them. So maybe instead of "Little Nemo - Master of Dreams" it's more like "Little Nemo - Fighting A Coma". Any way you slice it, this is a huge boost in depth for an 8-bit platformer.
Then there's the level designs: now we know that we'll have to collect all of the keys in order to leave each level, but how difficult can it be to find hidden items in a sidescrolling 8-bit game? Granted, it isn't too terribly diffficult, but it may be a little trickier than you would think. You see, these levels aren't set on a single flat plane like most of it's contemporaries were. Instead there's usually at least two (and often three or more) "layers" if you will, to each level. These additional areas of the level may be accessed by "getting a ride" (more like fusing with) a mole to dig underground, or they may require a ride with a bee, or the help of a fish. You never know what each level will have you doing just to reach another area to find the next key, and sometimes these areas are hidden very well, and at least one level has a key hidden a little unfairly, but I'll leave that up to you to figure out. After all, what is an old school platformer without a little frustration?
And how about those "rides" that you get with various creatures? So I've hinted at this a few times already, but to make it a little more clear, here's how it works: throughout the game you'll run into different creatures that will help you out if you throw enough candy to them. Now the game calls this "giving you a ride", but it appears what actually happens is that they fall as
leep (or perhaps fall into a trance) and you may then walk up to them and Nemo will fuse with them. So say you feed a bee a few pieces of candy, he'll go to s
leep(?) and you may then fuse with him to become part Nemo part bee, and fly around the level (virtual candy that doesn't have to be crushed...and isn't boring?? Who knew this was possible? Take that, King!). Same goes for all of the other creatures such as the hermit crab, and the mole. There are a few exceptions however when Nemo literally rides the creature, such as the lizard...thing.
This is easily the most important game mechanic and will not only be useful, but absolutely necesarry in order to finish the game, or even the first level for that matter. Now a good game gives you several fun things you can do, but a great game gives you several fun things that you must do in order to finish it, and incorporates them into the game in a seamless and highly enjoyable manner, and Little Nemo does just that. You'll have a blast seeing what all Nemo can do with his new found allies, utilizing their skills is almost always great fun, and you'll be doing this a lot and with several different types of creatures. Thankfully the creatures that will help you somehow always manage to be easily identified, still, don't touch them until they've had enough candy or they'll hurt you just like any other enemy. Candy, man: it's what makes the childhood world go 'round...and go hyper.
So with a refreshing twist on objectives for a platformer of it's time, a nice approach to level designs, and an innovative abilities/fusion system, Nemo and his candy addicted friends earn themselves every bit of the rating they get for depth.
-The key system adds an interesting change to an otherwise extremely predictable genre
-Ride/Fusion system gives a unique and highly enjoyable gameplay experience that few other titles of it's day can match
-Smart and detailed level designs make finding everything you need in each level (and the hidden secrets) a lot of fun
-Sending virtual creatures into a sugar induced coma has never been more fun!
-Candy. Much. Uncrushed. Fun. Candy
Little Nemo - The Dream Master is a game that I'll definitely come back to at some point, but just how soon or often that will be, I cannot say. The game as a whole is very refreshing as I already said, as it takes you down an entirely different path than you'd expect from a platformer from it's time, and it manages to not only be innovative but also fun. And while it may not be the most addicting game you'll play, it's definitely one of the more adddicting NES games out there. Sadly, this rating reflects how addictive it is as far as games in general go, so instead of a 7 or 8 (which it likely would have received if compared against other NES games alone for addictiveness like it was for graphics), Little Nemo will receive a considerably lower score as I can think of a decent number of games from the 16-bit days and onward that I'd rather play again.
As for how well the game can hold you, it kept me playing from start to finish with little to no breaks to play other games. It's fairly engaging, and full of charm that will likely hold your attention for a decent length of time if platformers are at all your cup of tea.
-It holds the player's attention well enough
-It's fun if you enjoy platformers at all
While the game itself isn't exceptionally challenging in any one spot, you will likely run out of lives a few times. Thankfully the developers were kind enough to offer a continue system so you can pick right back up in the level you lost your last life in, but you will have to return to the beginning of the level. Still, it's far less punishing than most games of it's time which gave you a set number of lives and no continues, effectively sending you back to the first level when you ran out of lives...in the last level...against the final boss...with a now broken controller and a controller shaped hole in the wall.
Long story short, Little Nemo - The Dream Master will challenge most of us, but will also leave victory entirely within question if you're willing to keep trying at a given level until you conquer it. Got patience?
-It's somewhat challenging, but the continue system makes it's difficulty the forgiving kind
While it may not be the best game out there, or even the best NES game out there (it is one of the best though), Little Nemo - The Dream Master is certainly deserving of this rating as it truly is "exceptional". It's the exception to the rule on the level of fun you would have with the average NES title, and it's a cut above what you would expect even from a good platformer. It's easily one of the better 8-bit games I have tried personally, and it's overall just a really good game for any era.
So it's all led up to this I suppose, my closing statements where I tell exactly how I personally feel about this game as a whole. Simply put, Little Nemo - The Dream Master is definitely worth playing, and if it's priced reasonably, worth a purchase. in fact if I were buying games for an NES collection, I would easily pay $30 for this one, it's really just that good. So if you're into old games at all, try this one out; tt's good enough to appeal to most retro fans and certainly good enough to please fans of old school platformers. Little Nemo delivers plenty of 8-bit fun, especially considering it's low Viz price tag.
This is a game unlike any I've played, and one I will never forget about, it's that memorable. And while it may not be perfect by any stretch, I can't help but think we would have done well to have made more games like this back in the day, and perhaps even use some aspects of it's gameplay and story in modern day games. As for my personal rating of this game, this is one time that I can walk away feeling that my personal rating and my "professional" rating of the game are pretty much the same, as I would give it around an 8 or so. Now what are you waiting for? Go enter the world of childhood dreams and embrace your inner dream master. After all, it's not like you have any cookies to eat, so you might as well get something out of reading this review. Why not make it finding a good game?