Console: NES 

Company: Irem 

Release Date: September 1987 

Genre: Shoot 'em Up  

Number of Players: 1

Save Feature? No

If Sqoon wins anything, it would have to be for being one of the most obscure NES games of all-time. This is for good reason too as the game has no real bright spots or originality to attract avid NES fans. Even so, Sqoon is a great play for old school gamers who value gameplay over...well...everything else. The game isn't great but still, it reminds us of the good ole' eighties.

Overview: For some reason, I was in the mood to write a review for an NES game that very few people know about. Sqoon was the first game to come to mind because, honestly, how many people outside of the remnant of diehard NES fans know about this oddball? Back when the NES was king, how often did you hear someone say "Sqoon is such an awesome game!" It wouldn't be much of a gamble to say that those words have never been uttered in the history of mankind. Hmmm...maybe I should get that quote patented! Anyway, since Sqoon is such an unknown and is also one of the earliest NES games in existance, it seemed like a good candidate for this review.

So why is Sqoon such an unknown you ask? Well, one reason would have to be that, at the time of its release, two of the greatest video games ever in Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda were still ruling the universe. After playing those groundbreaking classics, do you think that a game with a name as ridiculous as Sqoon would get a fair shake? Nooooooo!! And shortly after Sqoon's release a couple "no-name" games by the titles of Metroid and Kid Icarus were released. To add insult to injury, you can't forget that the holy grail of shoot 'em ups, Gradius, was released right around the same time as Sqoon. Simply put, Sqoon was released at the worst time possible. It was sandwiched between two sets of legendary classics that remain popular to this very day. Not only that but Gradius took off and became the most successful shoot 'em up series in video game history. Sqoon, on the other hand, simply disappeared and was never heard from again. To be perfectly frank, Sqoon never had a prayer from the beginning; there was a one in a million chance that this game would take off. The fact that Nintendo Power magazine gave Sqoon very low ratings (in the 1.5-2.0 neighborhood) didn't help either. Thankfully for Irem, games such as Metal Storm and Kickle Cubicle eventually got them on the map.

So what exactly is Sqoon like? Well, in terms of gameplay and feel, it's like a demented cousin of Stinger (1987 release by Konami). The entire game takes place underwater and, instead of controlling a spaceship/stinger, you get to do battle with a submarine! While this may sound innovative, it gets even more zany when you consider the fact that the submarine itself has eyes and even a mouth! EYES and a MOUTH?! Now Stinger was a pretty weird game but at least the stingers didn't look stupid. I don't mind taking a trip from reality (after all, isn't that the purpose of playing video games in the first place?) but this is just plain ridiculous! I couldn't help but laugh at the craziness of it all; even for 1986, this was silly!

Okay, I'm losing it fast. I guess that Sqoon has that effect on gamers like myself. Let's just talk about the game shall we? :) Seriously, if you've played a shoot 'em up like Gradius, you at least have some idea of what to expect. While the main goal is to destroy all of the underwater vermin heading your way (I'm not even going to try to explain the enemies to you.), your secondary objective is to rescue prisoners (represented by stick figures...I might have known). By dropping bombs at the right locations and rescuing prisoners, you can earn points and better weapons...a definite plus. In addition to fighting off the hordes of weird enemies and rescuing stick figures, keeping the fuel supply of your submarine that is literally alive is crucial as well. As you can see, Sqoon is actually quite involved for such an oldie!

Graphics: For being such an early release, the graphics in Sqoon really aren't all that bad. Everything is very colorful, the attention to detail is better than you'd expect, and, apart from being wacky beyond all reason, the enemies are at least unique. The only real problem with the graphics is that every stage looks exactly the same (the opening section of each stage is unique though) and after a while, the blue water begins to make me nauseous. It just gets stale and it doesn't give you the impression that you've made any progress. It almost makes you want to turn the game off and just play Gradius.

Music: If there are any bright spots in Sqoon, it would have to be the game's music. While the title theme isn't much to write home about, the main stage tune is actually very good; it's even hummable! It's nothing superb but it gets the job done. The only problem is that it plays in pretty much every level of the game and even a great tune can get annoying if you have to put up with it for two hours straight. Although each level has a brief diddy at the beginning (some of these tunes are quite good actually), it goes right into that same main theme. That's where Sqoon feels dated.

Regarding the game's sound effects, everything is pretty average...standard stuff really. However, I can't recall hearing the enemy being blasted sound in any other NES game. Weird. I like the sound where you blast cannons and mines with the submarine's bombs though.

Play Control: The submarine controls pretty well overall. If you can move around and press the A and B buttons, you'll be fine. I like how when you rescue people, you have to go to the surface and press the A button rapidly to bring the people to safety. It tests your button mashing skills and was innovative for the time. Learning how to shoot those worms and other mysterious characters with bombs is important as well. You can earn a rare 1up or some extra bonus points this way. Just learning how to use your bombs in general is extremely important.

Challenge: Although Sqoon isn't nearly as tough as Gradius or Life Force, it presents its own set of challenges. Since it only takes one hit to literally knock your submarine to the ground, there is very low margin for error. While one hit point is pretty standard for a shoot 'em up, some kind of a force field option would have been nice. There is absolutely no mercy here! One hit and you're grounded. While this can be frustrating at times, the game never seems to get difficult to the point of insane frustration. It's a very beatable game although, like many games of its time, there is no real ending (everything just repeats).

Storyline: Oh my! Even by 1986 standards, the story is a joke to say the least. Basically, legions from Neptune have sabatoged the Earth by melting the polar ice caps and imprisoning all surviving humans. Since the entire Earth is now covered in water, only an underwater vehicle can stand a chance at defeating the Neptunians. Hence, the submarine with eyes and a mouth is the only hope for humanity! My advice: Make sure that you're wearing lead underwear.

Although I do give Sqoon's background story high marks for innovation and at least some attempt at thought, I give it even higher marks for being absurd to the point of insulting my intelligence. C'mon! This is the best they could do?! All I can say is that at least it's innovative. No matter how stupid, I'll give credit to people who at least try. This is a pathetic attempt but is an attempt nonetheless. And, keep in mind, this is a 1986 game pak after all. I'd rather have a story like this than a 2004 game with an "aliens taking over the world" story. Standards weren't as high back then but they are today. Still, this is about as bad a story as they come.

Funfactor: Even with all of its glaring flaws, I still enjoyed playing Sqoon. As long as you don't expect the world and you prefer gameplay over graphics, it's safe to say that Sqoon is worth playing. I know that I've picked on it but, in all seriousness, Sqoon really isn't all that bad. The play control is pretty good and if you want to play one of the original NES shoot 'em ups, give this game a try. Just make sure that you find it dirt cheap on eBay! Even though the replay value is virtually nil once you conquer the game once, it's always fun taking a trip down memory lane...even with a game as silly as Sqoon.

Negatives: My main problem with Sqoon is that everything just seems to scream "mediocrity." Like I said in the intro, nothing really stands out about this game that makes you want to go out of your way to play it. That's probably why it ended up being one of the most obscure games in history. Frankly, you could never play this game and you wouldn't be missing a thing. Still, I recommend the game to true NES fans; it's worth at least one playthrough.

While the graphics and music are by no means bad, they are very average. Since every stage looks the same, you'll grow tired of seeing blue very fast. The fact that the main theme plays throughout the whole game doesn't help either. Also, when the main challenge of a game is keeping your attention for more than an hour, something is very wrong. And the game's story...well, I'll just say that it wouldn't fly if the game had been made in 4000 B.C. and leave it at that.

Also, replay value is about as low in Sqoon as any game out there. There is absolutely no reason why I would play this game after beating it. There are just too many better games out there.

Ratings: Graphics: 3.0 Music: 3.4 Play Control: 3.5 Challenge: 3.0 Storyline: 2.5 Funfactor: 3.5 Overall Score: 18.9 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Mystery Meat


Last Updated: May 21, 2006
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