Jaws, the first film to domestically gross over $100 million dollars and usher in the era of blockbusters that continues today with films such as The Dark Knight and Bangkok Dangerous. This past weekend marked the film’s 35th anniversary. And there is no better way to pay homage to this watershed film than to play its 1987 video game developed by Westone and published by LJN for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
I have vague memories of the game; mostly of my friend telling me it was great. Said friend, “Its hard as shit and I only beat it once in college, one of my most proud days.” While some critics say the game is based off Jaws: The Revenge (the fourth film in the series starring Michael Caine), I would point naysayers to the game’s box art, which does not feature the words “the” or “revenge” anywhere in its borders.
Do you see the Michael Caine anywhere? Me neither.
You start the game and immediately are welcomed by the iconic red letters “JAWS” floating firmly above frothy white and blue waves. The personifies terror in the sea, and acts a final warning before you dip your toe in the water by pressing start, thus sealing your fate.
You begin the game in your sailboat and, gently, you sail around. A tender breeze is almost felt at your nape, and then, suddenly, “you hit something!” Tossed into the torrid ocean, you are armed only with a spear gun and must fend for your life against jellyfish and stingrays, just like in the film. Power-ups such as Shells, Crabs, and Starfish are your prizes for cutting down these creatures that wish only to mutilate you via swimming in straight lines and horrifyingly zigzagging. If you are not swift enough to evade these frightful brutes, you will be dispatched, signaled by a scream that will not only make your hair stand on end, you will be lucky if it does not turn stark white from terror.
You can trade in your seashells to power up you weapons and eventually unlock radar to track the beast and a mini-submarine, which of course shoots cannonballs. In between your trials of terror, you can let off some steam by taking flight in a seaplane and bombing jellyfish to pad your high score. But all of these are only false machinations of fear. The truest distress will only overtake you once Jaws emerges. My God....
She appears monstrous on the screen, at least the size of three jellyfish. Three! Her path cuts hot through the water, a wiggly missile seeking blood. And guts. I call the monster “she” because she sends her babies out to kill you. Mother’s little darlings mimic their mother’s every move. It would be a tender moment of child striving to be like parent if your life essence wasn’t being threatened with digestion inside a cartilaginous skeleton or two. If you have not powered your cannons up to at least level four or five, Richard Dreyfuss will be attending your burial at sea, closed casket of course if any remnants of you wash ashore. And that is a large if
SPOILERS FOR THE END OF THE 1987 JAWS NINTENDO ENTERNAINMENT SYSTEM VIDEOGAME FOLLOW. DO NOT READ ON OF YOU HAVE NOT COMPLETED THE JAWS FOR THE NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM.
Once Jaws has been cannon balled to near death, she rears herself for one last charge. The game sharply changes into a first person boater. With no warning, information, or guidelines, you must steer your trusted ship turned weapon The Orca and thrust its mast into the gullet of the fiend. With this final spume of blood, you defeat the creature. Celebrating by taking flight off into the orange and pink sunset. Having survived this ordeal, I can assure the only color you will remember is crimson. The blood will never leave your mind, the briny water only searing it into your soul.
The terror is over, but who is the true monster?
END OF SPOILERS FOR JAWS FOR THE NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM.
Do not take this as a tribute, but as a warning. Steven Spielberg created an opus that wrecked swim lessons for years. Jaws for the Nintendo Entertainment System ruined lives.
Happy Anniversary Jaws.
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