Adventures of Bayou Billy (1988, Konami)
The games we remember from the golden era fall into two categories: the classic, undeniably great ones... and the ones so ridiculous we can't forget them. They're not even necessarily bad (although many of them are), but they're just so... well, bizarre that they become etched into our memories for decades.
This is one I've wanted to visit for some time now. I saved it for a rainy day.
Adventures of Bayou Billy is a retooling of a Famicom game called Mad City, which was released in 1988. When exporting the game to America and the PAL region in 1989, Konami decided to redo a lot of the graphics and scale up the difficulty a little. They also added something fairly rare at the time: DCPM-coded digital voice samples. What's actually neat about the game is that it's three games in one: you will do some hand to hand fighting, some action driving, and some shooting (either with the Zapper or the controller).
In either game, you play Billy West, a survivalist and ex-soldier who lives in the bayou and spends most of his time fighting the crime lord Godfather Gordon. Guess what Gordon does to get your attention and set up one big showdown in the Big Easy?
That's right. Your scandalously curvy girlfriend, Annabelle, is in trouble! Gordon not only has time on his hands, but apparently a lot of money to throw away on your murder as well, since you'll deal with threats ranging from gators and thugs to airplanes and helicopters. The baddies (even the gators) drop food, weapons and armor occasionally, and these help a lot since Billy actually isn't all that great of a fighter. His repertoire consists of a punch that has lousy reach, a kick that has slightly less lousy reach, and a jump kick that looks like some Riverdance shit. Some enemies even drop guns, which give you bullets for yours. When I say “some,” I mean “very few.”
In stages 2 and 7 you have to scoot carefully along and shoot it out with more of Gordon's goons; depending on the game type selected, this can be done with the Zapper (plugged into the other controller port) or the controller (via a movable crosshair). The latter technique is much slower and will probably get you killed. You always magically have bullets in these stages, regardless of how empty your bullet counter is in the street-fighting portion of the game.
Stages 4 and 5 are kind of like a racing game, except blue jeeps and prop planes are constantly trying to murder you. In the original Famicom version, your jeep had a life bar, but in the US version, one mistake kills you. I guess they figured that since us Americans are obsessed with cars, we'd appreciate the hardcore hell-on-wheels version.
Bayou Billy is a pretty respectably hard game, right from the beginning. It's so hard that it has a practice mode. I can play any of the three game types in practice mode and get my ass annihilated halfway through. The actual game is damn near impossible for me; I admit that I had to watch a longplay just to get a look at all of it. The bosses in the main game seem uncompromisingly brutal in that way beat-em-up bosses often are, with huge hit ranges and more durability than a Panzer tank. Once you make it to New Orleans, things get super ridiculous, with circus strongmen and full-on gangster gunmen joining the fray as regular enemies. In fact, the first fight you have in the front yard of the mansion is with three men armed with guns. Inside the mansion things get outright absurd during the final showdown:
The graphics are pretty cool, meeting the standard for Konami games of the era with rich colors and decent texturing. Enemy design isn't terribly creative, but the swamps and streets of Louisiana look alive and are rendered with authentic detail. The music for Bayou Billy is a hidden diamond; I am especially enamored with the default side scrolling stage music and the boss theme. Konami rarely screws up the music part of anything, and this is no exception. That fighting stage music is probably something you could put on in a club and people would make the best of it! The voice samples (there are only two of them) are all right, but they're characteristically fuzzy and it's obvious that they were added as an afterthought.
I'd give Adventures of Bayou Billy 6/10. It's not a great game, but it's a weird game. It took a novel approach to diversifying gameplay, it had great music, and it's one you remember if you encountered it back then. After all, fighting alligators with a stick is pretty hard to forget.