hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

RetRose Tinted: NARC

5:11 PM on 07.29.2008 // Conrad Zimmerman

Drugs are bad and there's no time in the popular history of drug use when drugs were worse than in the 1980's. Nancy Reagan was encouraging us all to, "Just Say No," while her husband was preparing to launch the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, giving us our very first Drug Czar. 

Meanwhile, Williams was hard at work on a game that would present a more direct approach in the "War on Drugs". NARC hit the arcades in 1988 and was one of the first games to use the digitized graphics that would later help propel the popularity of Mortal Kombat. The graphic violence in NARC drew considerable fire from parents and critics, as enemies could be exploded and their flaming, dismembered appendages would fly in all directions.

NARC may be in no small way responsible for the modern vilification of videogames. It reminds me of a simpler time, when every kid was in danger of becoming a murderous junkie instead of a crazed killer trained on videogames. I played it a bit in arcades but my real memories all come from the NES port because, well, there simply wasn't anything else quite like it on the system. Hit the jump and see if the game was worth all the flak it received.


In NARC, you play as Max Force or Hit Man, two narcotics enforcement officers whose mission it is to clean up the streets and take down a drug kingpin, Mr. Big. It's a side-scrolling shooter with swarms of enemies that can be taken down either with your automatic machine gun or rocket launcher. The game has six stages, ranging from the streets to drug labs and Mr. Big's penthouse fortress, and can be played with a friend cooperatively.

As you move your character through these mean streets, you'll encounter all manner of drug-related stereotypes and kill them. Peddlers armed with shotguns are the most common resistance you'll meet, and I don't just mean in terms of their frequency. Everything else in the game is an exaggeration or just outright goofy.


Drug chemists attack you by throwing huge, hypodermic needles that make your character flash like the technicolor perspective of an acid trip. Crack addicts, so high that they're completely immune to pain, will take all the ammo you can dish out at them and only bounce off-screen when hit by missiles. A rapist clown, named "Kinky Pinky", chases you with a knife. In a way, I'm not sure if the designers were making fun of drug users or the perception of drug users.

In addition to mowing enemies down, it is also possible to arrest many of them. By moving in close, they'll go through a painfully slow process of being handcuffed and then fly up to your score, "BUSTED" printed across their backs. Arresting enemies scores more points than killing them but killed enemies may also drop baggies of drugs or cash to help pad out the difference. 

As I stated before, most of my experience with NARC comes from its 1990 port to the Nintendo Entertainment System. Released by Acclaim, it's one of the most accurate ports of an arcade game from that time period I think I've ever played in terms of content. All of the levels and enemies made the transition more or less intact, minus a couple of minor requests from Nintendo.


Of course, it's going to suffer in comparison to its arcade progenitor on the basis of graphics and sound. What they managed to do with what they had is pretty impressive, though. Sequences between levels in which you are introduced to new enemies compare very favorably and characters in-game have a decent amount of animation to them.

Where it comes up a bit short is in the gameplay. The arcade cabinet featured four buttons for shooting your gun, shooting your rocket launcher, jumping and crouching. Due to the NES controller only having half that many buttons, jumping and firing rockets were implemented by tapping the button quickly. It's a solution but one that can be pretty frustrating when in the heat of battle and unable to get a rocket to fire because you've held the button down too long. 

The difficulty level of the port is also an issue. The game itself may not actually be any more challenging than it was in the arcades, control issues aside. In the arcade, however, you could continue your game by plopping in another quarter. NARC for the NES has no apparent continue system and forces you to begin the game from the very beginning every time.


The violence level of this game is absolutely ridiculous, there's no argument there, and I can see why parents made such a fuss about it.  The key word in that sentence, though, is "ridiculous". The whole premise of two cops wearing motorcycle helmets and taking down an army of pushers and addicts is completely silly and it's laughable that something like this could cause controversy.

Laughter is really the only reason to play NARC. The act of playing the game becomes fairly dull after a few minutes because, apart from one level where you can get into a car (then crash it immediately and have to walk anyway) and the absurd boss sequence at the end, it never changes. The game is the same from the moment you start until the moment you quit and the monotony of it will ensure that the latter comes quickly.


Still, it has a rapist clown. That has to count for something.

Conrad Zimmerman, Moustache
 Follow Blog + disclosure ConradZimmerman Tips
An avid player of tabletop and video games throughout his life, Conrad has a passion for unique design mechanics and is a nut for gaming history. He can be heard on the comedy podcast () and str... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

ooktar avatarooktar
Defeated a sniper in MGS V by dropping supplies on his head. 10/10.
Nat Monney avatarNat Monney
I'm with 3 other guys and we're about to release a mobile game we started almost 3 years ago. What should we do ? [youtube][/youtube]
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
Guys I'm on a train what should I do?
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Traded in a bunch of old Star Trek novels and other books at a used bookstore. Made $10 and got Tori Amos' "Strange Little Girls" album along with it. They made me take the William Shatner novels back. Smart clerks.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Can this be Toy Story 4? [youtube][/youtube]
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Also I will be reviewing freedom wars. I didnt make it to the end. I will not be kind to it. There will be blood.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Yeah....been there before.
techsupport avatartechsupport
MGS V review: When using a character other than Big Boss for missions, the intro credits still say, "starring Punished 'Venom' Snake." Sloppy work, Kojima - no wonder Konami dumped you. 0/10.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Grim Fandango......some real good sruff here. As soon as I complete it (vita version, of course) will probably see about a write up. Not perfect, but theres some good stuff here. Glad it got brought back from obsolescence hell.
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
*sigh* If only Disqus had a "block/ignore user" option :/
Must. Use. This. Blog. More. But. School.
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
Just started playing Hyrule Warriors again. Man is that game fun. A bit mindless at times granted, but fun nonetheless.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
I ate vanilla ice cream and didn't put on any chocolate syrup. Now wondering if that was racist whitewashing #thanksjed.
Jiraya avatarJiraya
The cat dragged in some action figures !
[img][/img] [img][/img] [img][/img] [img][/img]
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
There's a Custom Soundtrack folder in MGSV. I can't think of a better thing to put there than the old episodes of podtoid I've been running through lately. I'll be fultoning guys and Holmes will be puttin' on mesh tank tops. Perfect.
Shinta avatarShinta
MGSV Pro Tip: Turn your brightness down to 0. It actually makes the view distance for the guards correct, and doesn't make nighttime the best option for you every single time. When guards shoot flares in the sky, the lighting looks like Dragon's Dogma.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Proof I listened to too much Weird Al growing up: I really do hear "Living in America" as "Living with a Hernia."
Nic Rowen avatarNic Rowen
I've been playing a shit ton of Heroes of the Storm recently. It's my first MOBA and I'm SHOCKED at how much fun I'm having. Anyone else into it? Would love to get some games in with Dtoiders.
Script avatarScript
I would wait for a chance to play the game by myself, but I just have to know. Is David Hayter in MGS V in any way? Please no spoilers.
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
Guys, serious question... How can I make D-Horse to poop?
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -