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'Dr. Chaos' on the NES

A Retro Review

Dr. Chaos is one serious game, and you’ll either love it, or hate it… or maybe both.

Released in 1988 in North America by FCI Inc., and officially titled Dr. Chaos: Hell’s Gate in Japan, you take control of some guy, the younger brother of Dr. Chaos… I guess. I mean, your older brother is some kind of mad scientist, and to further his experiments, he locked himself away in a mansion in the woods.

Evil Dead, anyone? Hang on….

I read that the brothers are named Dr. Ginn Chaos and Michael Chaos. Man, that’s a cool last name!

Evidently, the crazed doctor unwittingly unleashed some kind of demonic evil and was captured by a creature called Canbarian—like the kandarian demons of Evil Dead, huh? Naturally, you want to help your brother, so you go to the mansion to investigate, but arm yourself with a crappy sword. Why a sword? I have no idea, but you find handguns, machine guns, and grenades all throughout the mansion.

Yeah, this was obviously a mansion owned by anti government radicals before your brother got there, but it’s cool, because you’ll need all those weapons in order to blast through bats, rats, blobbies, and other indescribable monsters like the bird chick from McDonald’s

The game is mostly a side scrolling platformer, but also includes a first person perspective when you walk into the mansion’s rooms. That’s where you search for power ups like extra health, ammo, and entrances into the demon world.

You travel from one demon portal to the next, having to locate them in a fashion similar to Metroid—you have to find certain pieces of equipment like the water breathing helmet, and high jump boots, in order complete levels, kill demons, and acquire pieces of a freaking laser gun, the only weapon capable of harming Canbarian. It’s a surprisingly good game!

The good-

The music, graphics, and animation are all fantastic. This game truly showcases what the NES was capable of, and way back in 1988, and it doesn’t just look and sound good; it’s a lot of fun to play. You search through different rooms in the mansion, sometimes punching holes in walls, open windows, and closet doors, and all to either work your way through the maze, which is the mansion, or to find the demon portals. Finding everything can be a challenge, though, and you need to find everything in order to complete the game.

The bad-

There’s not much to talk about here. Admittedly, on a first play through, you’ll have no idea where to go, and most demon stages won’t allow you to go beyond a few paces because you’ll either drown, or you won’t be able to jump high enough to progress. Furthermore, before you find extra health tanks, you’ll be stuck with 99 hit points, which won’t get you very far; everything is out to kill you, and you’ll get creamed before you can scream Klaatu Verata Nicto!

I think this is the reason some people don’t enjoy playing Dr. Chaos; the difficulty is a bit skewed; it’s too hard at the onset, but once you get two health tanks and some machine guns, you’re pretty much unstoppable, so then the game gets really easy, but you’ll feel like a rat in a maze, running all through the basement and the attic, and even trying to reach a shack at the back of the mansion.

Overall, this is one of my favorite NES games. It holds a great deal of nostalgic value. When I was kid, we didn’t have internet and walkthroughs. We had Nintendo Power, though, but my parents weren’t about to buy me a magazine that taught me how to play a game, so I’d just run all through the mansion, trying to find everything. Unfortunately, I got stuck at one point, and wasn’t able to complete the game.

I remember staring at the cover of the game, trying to figure out clues, as if the cover artwork was a true representation of the game’s layout, but Hell, I was like 6 years old. I finally kicked this game’s ass when I was about 30 and all without a walkthrough—not that big a feat, I know, but it was all worth it to get that amazing ending…

Don’t worry. I won’t spoil it for you.

Play Dr. Chaos. I give it an A score. This is a game in need of a sequel or remake. I’d go so far as to say that this game is what led to the Resident Evil series. There may be no actual correlation, but it’s a similar premise, and a remake in the Resident Evil style, I think, would be greatly received.

Thanks for reading.

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