The NESmaker software is a big development in the, uh, NES development scene. While once you needed to have a hefty understanding of 6502 programming, creating games for the NES is more accessible to the layperson.
It’s largely just a GUI that makes it easier to visualize your game’s content while also allowing you to plug in various code snippets that handle the functions in a game. It makes things almost too easy, which means one day, I can maybe get down to creating my spiritual successor to Hoshi wo Miru Hito.
Greater access to the platform also means that we’ll be seeing more games on the hardware, which brings us to The Adventures of Panzer: Legacy Collection.
The Adventures of Panzer: Legacy Collection is a compilation of the two games in the series, with the first being released in 2021, followed by the second in 2023. Being made in NESmaker, the games are compatible with actual NES hardware, and they did have a physical release. This collection, however, makes the games available on more modern consoles.
The two games run in the emulation platform that most Ratalaika releases of old games run on, such as Cyber Citizen Shockman. It features the basics, such as save states, rewind, and a basic CRT-style filter. It’s pretty barebones, but it’s priced accordingly. That is to say, it’s slightly more expensive than just buying the ROM files for the two games on Itch.
The Adventures of Panzer has the eponymous Panzer coming out of retirement to round up his (surviving) comrades for a new mission. Because he’s a cartoonishly self-centered egotist, none of his old friends actually like him, so the game is about going from level to level to beat them into submission.
Both games are very simple platformers, which makes them kind of onerous to describe. You jump, sometimes on floating platforms, and when something is in front of you, you press the attack button to try and remove it. To The Adventures of Panzers’ credit, the movement feels responsive.
In the first game, Panzer has a variety of magical spells, of which I only found use for two: a projectile attack and a self-heal. Each level ends in a boss, and the quality of them fluctuates wildly but never really manages to impress. Along the way, you meet various characters who just stand around and crack jokes.
The Adventures of Panzer 2 takes place sometime after the first game. Panzer sets out with the remainder of his friends to get revenge when some personal property gets vandalized. While still being a pretty standard platformer, it adds in a Mega Man-style level select, and the ability to bring along another character. While Panzer himself can only use a healing spell now, you can switch to your chosen ally and use their abilities. There’s also a hub world, which allows you to do a pair of simple quests between levels.
Neither game is very impressive, but neither is that bad. My main issue with the first game is being forced to start over every time the lives run out. You can work around this in the Legacy Collection by using save states or rewinding. You run the risk of making the game too easy at that point, but it’s up to you as to whether or not that’s even a concern.
There was nothing I really hated about The Legend of Panzer games. The level design is extremely basic. The bosses are sometimes fun, pattern-based affairs, while on other occasions, they’re annoyingly chaotic. None are terrible. Likewise, the game’s art is fine but nothing special.
There were, however, a few things that irked me, but mostly for personal reasons. I was never able to get over how the characters look. Their sprites are 16×16 pixels, but they’re rendered to look like they’re 8×8. That could make for a decent art style if you’re going for, like, a Pico-8 or Game Boy look, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Some of the other characters make use of their 16×16 size for added detail, as do the backgrounds. In fact, some of the 8×8-looking main characters have finer details that don’t even match the resolution of the rest of the sprites.
Some players might not even notice this, but the lack of consistency was like sand in my underpants. I just couldn’t get over it, and it bothered me the whole time.
Likewise, it became apparent as I played that The Adventures of Panzer is heavily influenced by World of Warcraft right down to trolls that speak in a Jamaican accent. The game is never mentioned by name, but characters even make jokes directly about it. Like, they’re not apropos of anything in The Adventures of Panzer; they’re jokes about World of Warcraft. It kind of just expects that you get the reference.
What bothers me about it is that this, combined with the fact that I think all the secondary characters are based around actual people and their OCs, makes The Adventures of Panzer feel too familiar. It’s as if the game was made mostly to entertain a small circle of friends and acquaintances, and I’m kind of on the outside.
And, honestly, that’s not a problem. Well, it is, but I mean, the existence of such a game is understandable. If someone is learning to make games on their own and they find inspiration from the people around them, then that’s an absolutely valid way to get to an end result. And if they want to release it for everyone else, then they totally should. And if they want to charge money for it, they definitely deserve it. And if they get noticed by a publisher who offers to port the game to other platforms, then that’s groovy, too.
It kind of makes me feel weird about reviewing it, though. If I’m not part of the intended audience, then I’m just some stuffy critic who is applying unrealistic standards to it and branding it with a score at the end. I fully support and even celebrate the existence of something like The Adventures of Panzer: Legacy Collection. But whether or not I recommend it is another matter.
So, to digress, The Adventures of Panzer: Legacy Collection features a pair of okay platformers that will probably have more value if you have an affection for the NES platform. They’re really nothing that you have to play, but for a relatively low price tag, you can get a glimpse of someone growing as a game designer. And that’s pretty cool in its own right.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]