Monday, March 21, 2011

Retro Reviews: Little Nemo: The Dream Master

Little Nemo: The Dream Master was released in 1990 and developed and published by Capcom.

Little Nemo: The Dream Master was based on a 1989 film, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (which is actually quite good), which itself was based off an early 20th Century comic strip, Little Nemo in Slumberland, created by Windsor McCay. Doesn't that just scream movie and video game adaptation?

Little Nemo has you playing as Nemo. In 1905, while sleeping one night Nemo is visited by an emissary of Slumberland who arrives in a large blimp. He is invited to visit Slumberland to play with the Princess of Slumberland, Camille. He is initially hesitant but after being offered candy (nowadays that would trigger all sorts of red flags), he agrees to go as long as he doesn't have to kiss her. It turns out that Slumberland has been taken over by the Nightmare King and King Morpheus (no not that Morpheus) and it is up to Nemo to travel through Slumberland and to the Nightmare Land to save the day.

Little Nemo, much like a majority of Capcom's NES titles, was a platformer with some exploration elements implemented in most of them. Through first 7 stages, Nemo must find a certain amount of keys to open up a door at the end of each stage. Nemo himself is fairly defenseless and has overall limited abilities. Pretty much all he can do is jump and throw candy. Throwing candy has two uses. The first, mostly useless one, will stun an enemy for a few second but isn't really useful. Where it is useful though is when you find certain animals. Feed them 3 pieces of candy and they will become docile so that you can use them and their specific abilities to find the keys that you would otherwise not be able to find. For instance the frog can jump higher and jump on enemies, the lizard can be used to climb walls, the bee can fly and shoot stingers or the mouse can also climb walls and use a hammer(yeah....) to break down walls and defeat enemies. There are more including the mole, gorilla, hermit crab and fish that are pretty much used in one level and have fairly simple uses. There is one more option that Nemo has that doesn't show up until level 8 and that is the Morningstar. Nemo actually carries it with him throughout the game but can't use it until then. What he can do with it is hit enemies with it and charge it for an energy attack, which is very useful with the 3 bosses you fight in level 8, which are the only bosses in the game.

Nemo's general lack of fighting skill is what makes this game fairly difficult. Not only are some of the enemies incredibly hard to avoid but your animal friends will also hurt you until you feed them sufficient candy. It isn't the hardest game ever but it is a solid challenge.

Graphically this game is standard fair for Capcom. Which can only be a good thing. Especially coming in later in the NES's life the graphics feature nicely animated sprites and lots of colors. The levels all have their own unique themes and look very different from each other with amazingly little in the way of reused stage sprites, though many of the enemies will recur.

The music in the game is also a highpoint. Of course being Capcom this to be expected as well. From the whimsical themes of the early stages, to the dark, scary sounding theme used in Nightmare Land or the extremely fast paced and energetic credits theme, there really isn't a bad song in the game. Some are more memorable than others but they all fit the game wonderfully. The SFX are kind of lacking. Just standard whacks and such. Nothing bad just not great.

In the end, Little Nemo: The Dream Master is a fantastic platformer from Capcom in their NES heyday. It is up there with the Mega Man games and Duck Tales as an all-around great experience and is as fun to play today as it was when I played back in the day.


+ Varied Graphics
+ Fantastic Music
+ Varied and large stages
+ Good challenge
- Nemo lack of useful standard attack and lack of great maneuverability
- Inappropriate plying of children with candy.

And as a bonus, a video review by the Happy Video Game Nerd (warning: some swearing):

And a little vanity on my part: A playthrough of the game I did a couple years back and posted to YouTube:

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