Games like: Action 52 “Streemerz” (NES), Bionic Commando (NES), Unihara Kawase (Famicom)
Streemerz recreated by Arthur “Mr. Podunkian” Lee as part of the Action 52 Owns project was first released in Flash format. Some time later, the game was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) by Faux Games.
Homebrew games were my gateway to indie games in the first place. From playing brand new games for old hardware like Battle Kid to rom hacks like Rockman 4 Minus Infinity where the developer takes the original formula and absolutely crushes it into something else. The work that some of these people do with the limitations of old is absolutely amazing.
I first experience with Streemerz was on Ouya through the EMUya app. EMUya is a downloadable app that focuses on emulation of NES games through roms that are either sitting on a USB flash drive or on Ouya’s hard drive itself. Along with the emulator, EMUya also has a homebrew store that allows players to get their feet wet in the homebrew scene. I felt like the controller (although well designed) didn’t do the game justice and decided to play it on another means.
The Action 52 Owns project is a group of pro game developers that take the awful versions of the Action 52 games and recreate them into great games. Streemerz was one of those games that, in my opinion, showed some promising gameplay but was poorly executed. Arthur Lee took that concept and created what is now the Super Strength Emergency Squad – Zeta, or Streemerz.
Normally I would be touting how great the Xbox 360 controller works for emulators, and it does. The controller has a decent directional pad and is big enough for my fat hands. But for a game that is designed to work on the NES, why not play with the NES controller? You can find a NES to USB converter over at retrousb.com for a small price. Or if you are lucky enough, you can load the rom onto your Power Pak and play on the actual hardware of the all-powerful NES.
You play as Joe, soldier for the Streemerz army, set to destroy Master Y’s floating fortress before his plans of Earth’s destruction are played through. After setting the charge, it is up to you to navigate through the fortress and make it to the escape pod before Master Y and fly to safety. Your weapon of choice: a streamer which works much like Bionic Commando’s bionic arm.. You do not have the ability to jump or to directly attack any enemy so other than walking left and right, your streamer is your only form of advancing. The gameplay is designed around avoiding dangers by climbing the streamers to different levels or using them to jump over enemies.
Mastering the streamer is a very difficult thing to do. The streamer is shot at an angle that you can not control. You also can’t fall straight down, which will cause issues as well when falling from one screen to another avoiding danger. At points you will only want to have the streamer out for a second giving you the closest movement to a jump in the game where other times you’ll need to grab onto a ledge that is clear across the screen timing it just right to avoid the enemies projectiles while in the air.
With the completion of each level, the game introduces a new gameplay mechanic to interact with that changes the game slightly. This could be parts of walls that will not allow you to attach a streamer to or rings that are spread throughout a stage to help your streamer connect to reach new areas.
The music, obviously, is 8-bit style and fills the game correctly. At some points the music feels a little weak, especially now considering the great artists over at the O.C. Remix. If this game would have been released during the NES’s lifespan, I think the music would have made a bigger impression on me. I still don’t think I’d be playing through my car stereo on the way to work.
Scattered throughout the levels are bags of money; something that was left over from the Action 52 Streemerz. There are 16 bags in total and is a nice little addition to the gameplay. Some of the bags are well hidden requiring you to really search each room while others are hidden behind very difficult puzzle platforming. Collecting all of the bags of money will unlock a new gameplay option from the main menu (or so it says. We’ll go over this later).
Your main enemies in Streemerz are Master Y’s balls which just hang (ha ha get it) in a single space waiting for you to run into them taking you down in a one hit death. You also battle pie throwing clowns. This, again, is an homage to the original Streemerz that was very “clown” oriented. Some of the clowns will be simply walking back and forth creating moving death walls or stand in one spot throwing pies.. Yes… pies.
Almost every room has a save point that allows you to restart immediately after a death. Some of the save points are in perfect spots knowing that you are going to take more than just a few tries to get past the room. Towards the end, you will be going four and five screens before you see a save point. With a 1-hit death, this can be really frustrating battling through tough landscapes only to take a jump too late and fall to your death having to start over from the beginning. Much in the disdain of NES games.
The main story is only about 30 minutes long of gameplay. Too short in the reality of indie gaming, but again, being based off of an Action 52 game, this doesn’t come as a surprise. From the main main though, there are a couple of different game options. Along with a time attack mode which is perfect for speed runners and a timed challenge mode known as Superb Joe, which takes some of the levels from the main story and makes them even harder, there is also the Streeeeemerz mode which takes the original levels and flips them on their head with a new gameplay mechanic. You play as Dr. Tary, the creator of the V6-15D, with his overwhelming sense of negativity about his position in life and his weight, he’s able to switch gravity allowing him to walk on the ceiling. Think of a Streemerz version of VVVVVV. Although a nice touch for an added feature in the game, this version of the game is even shorter and feels much easier than its original main story.
There is also a version of the game where you get to pay as Master Y himself. According to the main menu, the option is hidden behind a bunch of question marks stating you have to collect all of the 16 moneybags to unlock the game mode. I just finished the game and was allowed to play as Master Y. I only played through a few levels and I didn’t see any differences from the original game play except for the sprite swap.
Streemerz is an entertaining game that took a great gameplay mechanic from an awful game and made it into something great. The whole Action 52 Owns project is a great attempt to try and rewrite history to fix a bomb that went off so many years ago. If only someone was willing to port all of the games to the NES format and slap it in one single rom just like the original Action 52, I would be pleased. Until then, I will continue to play great homebrew games on my PowerPak using the original hardware and NES square box controller.