The Fair Shake

The Untouchables: NES

Last week I was browsing Netflix after my girlfriend went to bed and I came up with the 1987 gem ‘The Untouchables’. Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, and Robert DeNiro all star in this exaggerated telling of the real life story of how Elliot Ness worked to take down the criminal kingpin Al Capone in 1930’s Chicago. Someone at Ocean thought that this very violent movie (even by today’s standards) would make a great video game on several home gaming and computer systems back then, including the venerable Nintendo Entertainment System .

The title screen you'll see an awful lot of.

The title screen you’ll see an awful lot of.

The game came out in 1990 for the NES. Surprisingly, for a dreaded ‘licensed game’ it fares a tick above average. Several scenes from the movie are recreated with varying degrees of success, such as busting up the booze ring being run out of the post office, stopping whiskey from crossing the Canadian border, and of course the ‘baby carriage’ scene, minus the squibs. You mean you haven’t seen it? Sigh.

They should have called both the movie and the game the “TOUCHABLES”. Not because of some latent sexual tension between the main characters, but because half of them die in the movie! Way to be ‘untouchable’, am I right? The same thing happens during a few stages of game-play. You’ll swap between characters (which incidentally, changes NOTHING on screen except your avatar pic and name) to stay alive, most likely losing a few guys in the process. It doesn’t matter who makes it, as long as someone does, unlike the movie.

You'll see this one too.

You’ll see this one too.

Some stages have you shooting guys hanging out windows, sort of a “Hogan’s Alley” but with a controller, while others have you either shooting certain people in a side scrolling level, or, um, rolling around on the ground, shooting at whiskey bottles. (Another sentence I never thought I’d put to print. ) One stage has you finding and shooting men with gray hats who are carrying evidence. I know if I were carrying nondescript ‘evidence’, I’d do my best to blend in, but whatever. The plot of the game does follow the movie for the most part. Some liberties were taken to make a playable game out of a given scene, such as chasing guys around a warehouse or seemingly endless stairs with a baby carriage.. I don’t remember the train station being THAT big. Ocean did work in the “Take him” scene at the end of the movie. Compared to other movie gems like Back to the Future, this one follows the plot-line exactly!



I have to say, the graphics here aren’t really bad, but for whatever reason, the NES version is limited to a yellow/gray palette for what feels like the entire game. Which means, you’re either shooting  Dick Tracy or Inspector Gadget. The quality of the avatar faces surprised me, as did the crates of booze with the Canadian leaf on them (OMG just like in the movie! I said.) The game has an odd mechanic where you finish a stage then go back to the title screen. The first time this happened I thought my game was screwed up. There’s an unlimited amount of continues, and you’ll use em all. I REALLY wish this game allowed the use of a Zapper along the lines of Bayou Billy. The crosshairs in some stages are controlled by the D-Pad and they are stupid hard. Rolling around on the ground like you’re on fire gets a little tiresome too. The music is decent and varied, so at least you won’t listen to crap while you die all the time.

I have to tell you, this is one of those games I’m not supposed to like. It’s licensed, made by Ocean, it has targeting cross-hairs with the D-Pad, and it has a goofy title/continue/end of level setup. You WILL get tired after 3 stages of ‘shoot the guys in the windows’ when there’s less and less time during each stage. I feel like I deserve a medal from the damn U.S. Treasury Department after slogging through that, but I was pleased with the overall progression of the game as I got past those alley shootouts. If you’re a fan of the movie, and really, who isn’t? Give it the Fair Shake, it won’t disappoint.