Saturday 2 November 2013

Pirates! Review (NES)

Set between the periods of 1560 and 1680, Pirates! has you terrorising the Spanish Main searching for fortune, fame and a beautiful wife to retire with. Starting out as either a French, Dutch, English or Spanish character you can choose to play it safe and be an upstanding member of your country or simply go around attacking everyone that gets in your way, this however is not advised as you will need somewhere to dock from time to time.

The game contains so many different sections it's hard to know where to start. Most of your time will be spent sailing around the map screen presented from a top down perspective, while sailing you run into other ships which brings up an information screen. From the screen you can then decide if you want to run, attack or hail for news. 

Attack the ship and the game switches to the battle screen, much like the map screen this has both you and the enemies ship battling each other, get close enough and ram into the enemy and it switches to the fencing screen where you must defeat the enemy captain and take control. This is just a fraction of what goes on in Pirates!You can attack towns, both from the sea and land, hunt for buried treasure, visit taverns, trade with merchants, talk to governors, get married and search for missing family members among other things. 

Graphically, everything is nicely done without being amazing. The map screen is fairly small but this does allow for a wide area to be seen at once making it easier to work out where you are, although there is a historically accurate map included with the game to help you out. Business in towns is shown in screens of information but still remains engaging, while battles are well done with different graphic novel style pictures representing a change from one screen to the next, all helping to add to the feel of being a pirate.

In terms of gameplay the title excels itself. For such an old game there is so much depth it's incredible. While raiding towns and ships for gold sounds like a simple affair other factors must be taken into account. Your crew need to be kept fed and in gold or else they will get angry and eventually mutiny against you, this means you have to be careful when taking on new men as if too many arrive the amount of gold and food for the others will be reduced. 

Sailing is easy to master with a wide range of ships being available to suite any players needs. Combat is also very well done with gunnery and fencing being straightforward affairs in terms of controls. Furthermore, there are a number of elements that mean each new game is different from the last. For instance, different skills are available at the start of your adventure meaning you excel in a certain area, there are also six different time periods to choose from giving you a variety of historically accurate periods to adventure in with each offering something different. 

Pirates! is such a good game that it's hard to think what the world would be like without it. Though on the NES, even today it is hard not to get caught up in it and lose days of your life in the hunt for Spanish gold. Everything is a class act and you can even become a Duke or other upstanding member of society as a reward from governors. It outshines the newer console versions in terms of gameplay and challenge as well. Brilliant, fun and innovative in the way all games should be, find it if you can and don't worry if you have lost the map you can get another one on the net fairly easily. 


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