I’ve never had a G.I. Joe toy in my entire life (erm, when I was a kid, that is) but its smothering influence was indeed felt here in Malaysia. I did watch the cartoons, though and while I prefer the Starcom series (and its range of toys as well) nothing really stands in the way when video games come into the picture.
I first played this game at my cousin’s house. Still recalled it as though it was last week – a hot afternoon at his old house in Damansara Jaya. “Hey, what are you playing? Enough of Super Mario Bros already. Thought to show you both a cool new game I was playing. Really? Is it any good? We, uh, need to enter the password codes – just so that we could skip the first few levels….which are boring.
In hindsight, it was probably not wise at that time to enter the cheat codes so as to enter the later levels (which could get really absurd) and without the benefits of accumulating power-ups in the earlier levels, those harder missions are simply unplayable (more on that later).
Still, it was an instant favourite of ours – although the game was intended for solo play, it had an initial three characters to play with (at the default level of difficulty at least) and as there were three of us, the requirement for equal playing share was satisfied (at least on paper).
My brother would choose Blizzard (weird choice), cousin would prefer Snake Eyes (don’t know why, maybe he looked cool) and I’d go for Captain Grid-Iron. Now, the NES system is also infamous for creating instant enemies between friends and even cousins when virtual injustice is done. Stuff like – hey, you’ve been playing with this one character for too long already – it’s my turn (subconscious obsession with playing could occur); that gun power-up belongs to me and you have bloody taken it – you’re so damn @#$@%#% selfish (when goodies pop up from defeated foes and are bouncing about the screen); Aiyo, how could you miss that wall grip? Now we have to climb up all the way to the top again!
This game had a close semblance to the 1st Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle game where a single player could switch between turtles but the main difference is that this title has tangible stats to work around with whereas the TMNT game relied heavily on the use of Donatello and various exploits like the infinite pizza trick to restore health and to stockpile the scroll weapon.
When beginning a game from scratch, you may (actually, you must) choose up to three different Joe heroes to fight with. Your enemy is obviously the minions of the Cobra Command.
The game’s structure is unique in that –
(a) every G.I. Joe hero gets a chance to head the team (meaning that you would have no choice but to select the character at least once). There are six levels in the game.
(b) each level is divided into three sections (except the last level where General Hawk takes command). The first is the normal run-and-gun level, the second requires you to plant a certain amount of bombs in a compound within a timeframe and the last is the passage to the level’s boss and escaping the base which is already rigged with time bombs.
(c) each hero has variable stats and differing abilities. For example, Snake Eyes’ ranged weapon consumes no bullets and is useful for conserving much-needed ammo, especially on the difficult levels where your enemies are tougher to kill. Blizzard’s weapon (although quite weak) can penetrate through walls and barricades. Each hero presents a tactical quandary to the player and it could be quite fun to experiment a little with the roster.
(i) Weapon power-ups – Denoted by a gun icon. Assuming that your character is starting off fresh from 1A, collecting four of these power-ups would result in an upgrade to its weapon, which will be crucial in later stages of the game. The maximum level is 4 (i.e. after 3D).
(ii) Health – denoted by a K icon, which is most likely K-rations (now obsolete in practice anyway). Each regular health icon gives you a small boost in health (two units for first two levels of difficulty, only one for the hardest). Flashing health packs restore full health and are highly desirable.
(iii) Bullet – ammo is pretty scarce in this game and it would be in your favour to collect these as much as possible (ten in regular levels, only five for the most difficult). A flashing bullet icon grants you thirty rounds of ammo.
(iv) Life upgrade – denoted by an inverted chevron symbol. Each Joe soldier could get three of these to max out his life / health bar. Take note that these don’t restore life.
(v) Kevlar armor – grants temporary invincibility against enemy attacks (even when seated in a vehicle). While it makes you immune to weapons’ fire for about 20 seconds, it does not save you from the inevitable doom of falling into pitfalls.
Stamina – the initial health that the characters have. Each soldier could boost his health (in small increments) three times;
Jump – how high the hero could jump. There are lots of jumping in this game and there are some areas where inadvertently jumping down bottomless pits could result in deaths;
Punch – I think the better word would be melee (or melee skill) since Snake Eyes wields a katana sword instead. Regardless, this aspect covers hand-to-hand combat. While rarely utilized during the easier sessions, higher difficulty levels could force players to ration their ammo use instead of going trigger happy, especially when the bullet icon doesn’t appear;
Weapon – the strength of the ranged weapon. Basically, you would take down most enemies with gunfire, especially the hard-hitting bosses and it would be an understatement to say that the game essentially depends on how well you manage your squad’s heavy artillery and the roster thereof. Allocation of weapon power-ups are also essential and it goes without saying that the better weaponry should be prioritized over the weaker ones.
Duke’s a very good support character to have. Once you have upgraded his weapon to full potential, you may well rely on him to take down most enemies all by himself. His weapon is not the best although his default stamina rating and jump ability more than makes up this slight disadvantage.
Like I said above, I’m baffled as to how my brother (video game genius of the family) could choose such a underpowered character of choice. Not only is Blizzard inept at weaponry, his melee skills also suck and his jump rating is also something to sneeze at. At the very least, his shots could penetrate all walls with impunity although they aren’t very powerful at all. Other than level 2 (where he is operations leader), I won’t draft him into the lineup much at all and even then, he won’t be seeing much combat action against the bosses.
(3) Snake Eyes
Snake Eyes poses a real quandary. On one hand, his jumping is second to none, meaning that he could reach power-ups and other goodies at higher shelves of terrain. On the other, his ranged weapon is comparable to Blizzard’s, which is to say – not much. His jitsu of power, however, doesn’t drain your arsenal of bullets at all, making him an excellent explorer (hint : the time-bomb levels, especially playing for the first time). Overall, he makes a pretty good team member when his weapon is fully powered-up as you could conserve much ammo for later theatres of battle.
(4) Captain Grid-Iron
My favourite character in this game. The Cap’n is well-balanced in all aspects, save for his slightly inferior stamina (not a very fit sportsman, is he), but his weapon strength and reliability up close makes him an almost automatic choice in most levels. I’d often power his character up early as he could defeat 1st to 3rd level bosses very quickly.
(5) Rock & Roll
R&R also makes his inclusion in most team rosters a headache. His weapon (when fully upgraded) is unbeatable and can subdue most enemies very quickly, although this stocky character can’t jump very high which affects his navigability in those god-awful climbing stages. I’d pick him for the first few levels to level up his weapon piecemeal until he could achieve at least 3A standard by the start of the fourth level so that he could take on the Road Pig himself.
*(6) General Hawk
*Only available in the final mission. If his amazing jetpack is available from the start of the game, nearly all the missions would be a breeze. His character is probably the best of all (and not because of the jetpack ability) as his weapon is top-notch and his health is pretty good.
This casual (emphasis on ‘casual’) walkthrough is based on the premise that you’re new to the game. For the 2nd and hardest level of difficulty, always level up your favourite core character first and bring him along all the time, while leveling up the team leader if resources permit.
Lock and load: I always pencil in Snake Eyes to benefit from his jump skill to reach a power-up which only he can. Don’t waste these weapon power-ups. It doesn’t really matter whom you take on the first round as Duke alone (at max power-up, which is definitely attainable across all three levels of this mission) is capable of defeating all the mission’s bosses. If you don’t want to invest too much on Duke, you could easily swap with a Joe soldier of your choice.
A very straightforward map. Collect power-ups and all goodies as you go along. Remember to pick Snake Eyes so that he could help reach the weapon booster located very high up. Just select SE and press jump and before he reaches the icon, tap ‘Start’ and assign the benefits to a Joe of your choice. The boss is the unimpressive Cobra Condor which comprises of two separate components. It starts off hovering from the left and releasing missiles at you and once it has sustained serious damage, its smaller component would break off and swoop at you from left to right and vice versa. Snake Eyes could easily take it down but feel free to do as you please.
See those check-marks in white? Those are bomb spots. You have to find all the c-m all over the map, but in this particular area, it isn’t terribly difficult. There’s a secret passage beneath the rightmost part of the water at the top of the map where you could easily acquire two more weapon boosters. There’s another alternative route from the bottom which is less dangerous but difficult to scale as the respawning destructible rocks could get in the way if you don’t get the jumps right.
Boss – Raptor
This boss is only dangerous if he starts swooping offscreen and then thumping the ground that you walk on. Otherwise, he’d just alternate being stationary left and right while his pet falcon also sways from side to side. Shoot at him when he’s not moving and you’ll send him to the grimy waters below in no time.
It’s another straightforward, on-the-rails path. Collect power-ups when you encounter them, dodge the jumping swimming things and stay out of the pink overhanging maulers’ way and the rocketman hanging near the exit and you’ll be safe.
Boss – Range Viper
Not a particularly difficult boss since he doesn’t deal an awful lot of damage and fires missiles in the air from time to time and walks around.
Lock and load: It won’t be a bad idea to take Snake Eyes along for this one, purely for his grenade-throwing skills during the level 2-1 boss, the Cobra Sea Ray. SE seems to be able to lob grenades at a higher rate than his other fellow comrades. Otherwise, he’d be helpful to conserve some ammo but little else. If you can, you might want to upgrade his weapons a little so that the next level’s bounties could be apportioned to other team members as well. Team leader, Blizzard could take a nap for this one unless you have chosen to max his weapon up in the Amazon mission. I’d ordinarily choose Captain Grid-Iron to supplement the force as he would have ordinarily been given a chance to max up in the 1st mission.
A tricky map with lots of pitfalls, leaping Cobra soldiers, Cobra hoverbikes seeking you out, missiles launched from afar with deadly accuracy and static gun defences manned by some soldier with a taste for pink. Grenade-tossing soldiers are also devastating. Don’t forget to crouch. You may choose to use your best powered-up soldier to navigate this level. There are weapon upgrades in small caverns which are accessible from the right side at the end of the passage. The boss is the Cobra Sea Ray which is the simplest boss of all – just switch to your melee mode, press the up button and toss the grenades away. You’ll come away unscathed.
When you start the level, it would be advisable to take control of the Cobra Chopper which is accessible from the right platform downwards. To enter a vehicle, simply press down when near the driver’s seat. A damaged vehicle can never be repaired and any vehicle may be ditched at anytime by pressing the A button. The Chopper is a great way to start the acclimatization process in utilizing vehicles during the course of the game, which could be pretty useful in many of other missions in the game. This baby is also equipped with spread fire weaponry and can eliminate most enemy forces in no time at all. Maneuvering this compact vehicle is also not too difficult and you should be able to breeze thru this level with guns blazing.
However, this level would be quite difficult without vehicles as there are three bomb spots and one is cleverly tucked away at the western wall which is best reached by the Chopper. As kids, we often lose the chopper to enemy pot shots and ended up going all the way to the exit point on foot.
When you encounter an enemy Chopper hovering into position to come right at you, pause for a moment and see if you can take it out. If you can have a clear shot, do it – if not, stay where you are and just unleash your full load of weapons at it. The best way to approach the eastern sector is to travel from the bottom and work your way upwards.
As if that is not enough, there are also teleporting soldiers (dressed in green) which appears at the general position that you were at for the last five seconds or so and they keep respawning and are as annoying as hell.
Boss – (three) Cobra Buzz Boar
This boss is one of the hardest as it’s really difficult to time the jumps to avoid being mowed over. From time to time, one or two of these would take a breather and start firing its weapon which covers a decent radius in a circular motion. You could try standing directly below the Danger sign and start firing your weapon upwards to release a Buzz Boar for your own use although it doesn’t add much to your arsenal and controlling a Buzz Boar is difficult for beginners. The best bet would be to use your secondary hero to inflict as much damage as possible first before replacing him with the strongest character to deliver the coup de grâce. Remember that the last surviving Buzz Boar will suddenly speed up its movement and attack, so don’t be caught unaware.
Here, you’ll get to toy around with the Buzz Boar in a slightly more relaxed setting. From the start, you’ll need to head left all the way to claim the vehicle. It may be slightly disorienting at first but once you adopt the mindset that it will stick to anything it is on (even hanging upside down), you can go far with this nifty little equipment. It can jump like any normal vehicle would, so you could make sure it clings to the ceiling while you bulldoze your way to the boss. The trick is to take your time with it – enemy choppers are usually within range of its twirling shots and can be taken out from afar. Head towards the far right to meet Metal-Head.
Boss – Metal Head
One of the tougher bosses around. He’ll fly in from the right side and launch a missile which, upon impact, would explode into a fistful of rocks which can hurt quite a bit. I’d normally hit him with Snake Eyes’ ranged weapon first since it doesn’t take up ammo, lower his hit points by a fair bit and then swap with Duke / Grid Iron who could quite easily turn him to mash.
New York City Sewers
Lock and load : Since Snake Eyes is chosen by default, it doesn’t really matter whom you would choose to bring along. It may be likely that at least two Joe heroes would have its weapons at full efficiency already and can be rested in favour of those who have not had the chance to shine. The NY sewers are probably the easiest levels in the game, mainly because the team leader himself is also capable to take on the entire level himself if you choose to.
The main elevator descends into the bowels of New York, allowing you some time to engage enemies as they appear beneath you. My cousin introduced the method of just using Snake Eyes and his katana sword to destroy enemy troops as they appear. Sometimes, the goodies that appear will bounce out of the screen before you could grab them, and there’s little you could actually do about them. The sub-boss in this level is the Cobra Fang II which is not very difficult at all. You may choose to destroy it with grenades or Snake Eyes’ jitsu weapon. Unlike the Cobra Sea Ray, its ordnance cannot be destroyed with your weaponry and you’ll just need to get out of its way.
Wall-climbing here isn’t terribly difficult but you’d be doing it a lot here.
This level is more difficult than the earlier two bomb levels and can be frustrating at times, due to the forked pathways. There are quite a number of fake walls in this level and some ones which could be broken down. The power-ups in the cell rooms in the lower portion of the map is always accessible by breaking down the walls from right to left. Always aim to conquer the basement first before heading to the upper tiers and you will come out ahead. Immediately where you begin, you may imagine the upper tier as all sections immediately accessible above the two spherical objects in the picture above. Having the Buzz Boar is helpful once you have cleared the basement as the vehicle’s weapons can’t seem to break down masonry.
Boss – AI Comp
I really dislike this boss and not because it’s hard but because it is one ridiculous piece of sh*t. It more or less retains its position at the beginning, spewing out random bullets at you while having its claw mechanism below always trying to grab at you (and which can hurt plenty). In short, it lacks originality. From the start, take refuge on the safety rock on the left and never relinquish that spot whatever the cost! It will then come at you, filling up the whole screen and knocking your stuffing out. Take the opportunity to hit its eye and it’ll be gone in a wink.
It’s another reasonably easy level, once you have access to the Cobra Mech located near your starting position but on the 2nd tier all the way to the left. You can access the Mech by the path as shown above. Once you have assumed control of this powerful vehicle, make your way all the way back to the right (but before the wall) and drop down one tier. The Mech is probably the easiest to maneuver. Its weapons also cover a large area of effect and are powerful, so you shouldn’t run into too many problems until the exit point.
Boss – Overlord
Not the hardest boss around. Once he appears, he’d be firing off his missiles at you (jump over the first ballistic then duck the second) and he is vulnerable until the upper portion of the vehicle is also sent flying at you. (which will come back) Don’t bother shooting at whatever is left on the ground since it is invulnerable at this point until it joins up again. The process is repeated until it is destroyed.
Lock and load : This mission is rather difficult in that there are two formidable enemies along the way – the fearsome Road Pig and Voltar. I’d normally pick Rock & Roll and Duke for this mission with Snake Eyes and Blizzard a rare possibility (if they hadn’t had their weapons sufficiently upgraded). Snake Eyes would have the edge in rock climbing in the 2nd level and save you lots of bullets (and take lots of them if necessary) whereas Blizzard could rely on the penetrating bullets to forge an easier path upwards when staying on the easternmost ledges in the 2nd level as well. The Road Pig is difficult if you are not well-equipped but should be easier when you time his boulder-throwing.
The early portion of this level is easy – although some of those abseiling heavy troopers and pesky Cobra Choppers roam about. Once you reach the limestone area (or at least that’s what I think it was), keep your eyes peeled for a secret passage on the western wall ( press downwards) and claim a Mech. The Mech is a hardy climber but there are still quite a number of enemies (and goodies as well). A trick is to keep pushing the mech to the top by hopping side by side and firing on all fronts. If your character did not sustain much hits, you could ignore the K-rations and some stuff. The boss at the top is the AGP which will teleport into all (possible) nine cardinal locations on the screen (first appearing in the centre) and create a destructible illusion in a position which it has occupied. With the mech, this boss is toast in as little as 5 seconds.
Technically, this is a rather challenging mission most likely because of its sheer vertical climbing and also the numerous enemies that dot the landscape. There is one area which have those indestructible flame-throwers to add to your woes. You should time your approach as these wall-mounted installations have a measured firing sequence which is quite easy to predict. There is a Buzz Boar located at the bottom right hand corner of the map. Use this to scale the long middle channel (although you may be forced to take a hit from a well-placed flamethrower at the top of the long passageway). You could search out some wonderfully constructed gif images of the entire map to plan your next move or refer to a more comprehensive walkthrough / FAQ.
I normally use this level to upgrade the last remaining Joe soldier who has not been prioritized in the earlier stages and to conserve bullets for the upcoming last stages.
Boss- Road Pig
One of the toughest boss in the game. To get to him, you’d need to climb a treacherous yet straightforward patchworks of green conveyor belts along the way. Getting hit by the rocks deals lesser damage than getting up close with the Road Pig himself.
This is where Rock & Roll earns his reputation. Once you have rained RP with your best firepower, go down to the 2nd platform immediately and keep to your left (as RP would be chucking rocks at you), wait for the rock to bounce off the first platform and then jump back upon the same yourself.
If you lose balance and end up dropping where you started, try to have the weakest character shoulder the falling boulders (you could shelter from these by predicting the path of the rocks) so that your soldier with the strongest firepower could make it to the top. By all means do not step onto the platform that the Road Pig is on as explained above.
From the start, take out the rocket turrets at the right wall, head far right and drop down to claim your chopper. This will help you ascend this level and meet the boss in no time at all. Just remember to swing right to left and vice versa, dodging enemy bullets and rockets. If you’re feeling prudent and sorry about missing out on those weapon upgrades (although by this stage you should already have maxed out every member of your team), be prepared with Snake Eyes to make the climb easier.
Boss – Voltar
This boss has plenty of hitpoints and is not easy to take down even at the easiest level. You’d have to read his movement pattern to be able to outsmart him. Watch for the laser beams at the side (they would pulse first, giving you a 1-second grace period to clear out) and avoid hitting the (Andean) condor at the top. He was quoted as saying that dead Joe soldiers would be vulture meat but would not likely be fed to his pet.
Lock and load : With an extended bomb stage and a rather difficult stage 3, it’s best to come equipped with the best men on the roster. If you’re low on bullets at this point of time, which I suspect you are, you may want to use Snake Eyes again. He could easily take down Globulus on his own as well and could help clear out the defensive installations in the bomb stage. In addition, SE is also great to have against the annoyingly lengthy first boss, especially if you could bag yourself a couple of ammo refill when taking out the soldiers that come out of the Cobra Bugg.
This area is very straightforward – there are some hidden caches of weapon upgrades like the one Blizzard is standing up on. Just press down to collect them. Some dune surfaces also contain weapon upgrades, so be sure to check them out. Midway across the level, an enemy chopper would appear – just take out its three gun turrets and it’d bother you no further.
Keep heading right all the way, collecting all the weapon upgrades pack and soon, you’ll meet the boss.
Boss – Cobra Bugg
If you plan to save ammo for the long trip ahead, you could switch to Snake Eyes. Take out the first turret, then the hatch (where soldiers on hoverbikes come streaming out), then the driver + second turret. The driver tosses grenades from time to time, so avoid those. If SE runs low on health, just select another Joe hero – there’s plenty of health packs in the following area.
This is another long and tedious level. Fortunately, there are some vehicles to make your task easier – the favourite choice is always the Cobra Chopper. As the level is already big enough as it is, you may want to refer to the impressive gif images of the levels (walkthrough) to make sure that you’re heading the right track. Just use the Cobra Chopper at all times and you’ll breeze thru this area.
Boss – Globulus
This abomination is easy to beat although somewhat difficult to reach. From the get go, you’ll have to carve out a stepping stone on either your left or right and then jump on the freshly-made path. Once there, you could bore holes above you (but don’t go trigger happy as each step you destroy means one less area for you to hang on to.) Essentially, try to forge a clearing like shown in the picture above. Snake Eyes could take out the Globulus himself. You could take hits from time to time but don’t worry about that too much.
This level is fraught with pitfalls and dangers – there are lots of those entrenched infantry and each hit you receive will make your character stagger backwards…..into a bottomless pit. Blizzard may be somewhat useful here as his bullets do go thru walls although if you do go safe and sensible (not trying to breeze thru this area), this level would be very straightforward as well.
Boss – Destro
The first part of fighting Destro is relatively simple, just get under this hovering machine and unleash a hail of bullets till it comes down. Make sure to avoid hitting the craft or you’ll be in a world of hurt. Then the hard part begins. Destro will keep at the right of the screen and will try to attack you with a wave weapon or some sort while the screen keeps moving and your character is chasing the action. There are also many bottomless pits which you should jump to avoid and one hit from the wave (while not entirely devastating) could make you recoil and inadvertently fall into the pits. If you are able to take control of a fully upgraded Rock & Roll, this level would be easier.
Back home in the base, General Hawk informs you that Cobra soldiers have been relatively loose-tongued in their secrets and have revealed the location of Cobra Commander himself. Hawk also acknowledges that the heroes have not been paid their salaries in the earlier stages and calls for solidarity while the situation is addressed by the good general himself.
Lock and load : With General Hawk leading the field and wielding an unupgraded weapon, you will need all the firepower you could muster in this level. I often hoarded enough ammo to be able to choose Duke and Captain Grid-Iron for the last level but you could still stick with Snake Eyes to protect your ammunition usage as this level is also long and treacherous. Blizzard would be able to take out those annoying rocketmen but little else. Rock & Roll is also pretty good here if you want to clean up obstacles in a go and you have plenty of ammo to waste.
Again, there are some good FAQ written about this subject – so do go and refer to them at your leisure. Another thing to note is, General Hawk’s jetpack could be more useful than a vehicle on this level due to its simplicity of use but it would be better to take a vehicle to protect your soldiers while they go around planting the bombs around the map.
Here’s a hint to get you started – when the level starts, immediately go to your right and break the floor beneath you to get to the first weapon upgrade for Hawk and the first check mark.
If there are enough requests to do a detailed walkthrough (with pictures), you could count on me to do it – there’s just not enough space in this post, though.
Boss – Cobra Commander
This boss is not the easiest but he does give the impression that such is the case. From where you start, assuming that General Hawk is already maxed out and healthy, you could hover him in the position highlighted above, dodging the laser shots (that could men into naked lizards) and evading the seated commander’s grenades which he would fling at you from time to time. Be careful of the pits and the electrified floor as well. Just keep firing at the boss on the left and soon, he’ll hit the dirt.
Then the credits will roll, showing the names of the Bosses encountered and you’ll be rewarded with a password –
If you have beaten the hardest level, you’ll get the following screenshot –
Then, you’ll also get another note of thanks from Ken Lobb himself which comes as an anti-climax –
You won’t see this kind of messages appearing in any video game created in this decade ever.
While it is a difficult game, it’s probably one of the classics of the NES which is thoroughly engaging and long enough to satisfy the average video gamer. Overall, it’s a five star title, which could do without the occasionally cheesy dialogues / speeches. Well, at least they aren’t hitting the pizza parlor (TMNT) or hamburger joints (Bad Dudes) after this. The Joes are gonna collect their wages!