Honest Review – Friday the 13th for the NES

Continuing our retrogaming horror series, let’s look honestly at Friday the 13th for the NES

Friday the 13th for NES has a bad reputation, due in part to a video “review” by the Angry Video Game Nerd (back then he was the Angry Nintendo Nerd).

When AVGN gets hold of a game, it can be hard to shake that stigma, even if the game isn’t that bad. Don’t get me wrong, I fully enjoy the Nerd and his antics, and agree with a lot of his gripes. But not always. Remember, AVGN is just entertainment and you still need to form your own opinions. 

Here’s this. Parents beware.

AVGN has a particular vendetta against the publisher LJN. Which—to be totes fair—is not totally unwarranted. LJN’s movie tie-in games are notoriously not-great. As a publisher, LJN engaged developers that were willing to quickly churn out games to capitalize on whatever movie was hot at the time. Or perhaps there was more to the story? We might revisit this topic later, ghetto fam.

At any rate, Friday the 13th for NES came out in February 1989, five months before Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan and nine years after the original slasher hit theaters. So it definitely was not rushed. 

Friday the 13th for the NES indoors
The indoor scenes are fine. Ignore the haters!

But is it any good at all? AVGN said no. Actually, he says he likes it “like puke up a donkey’s ass!” But to be honest, his gripes felt a bit manufactured. 

It’s not a perfect game by any means, but if you’ve seen the episode, you know that the whole video was a gimmick to get Jason Vorhese (played by Mike Matei) onscreen with James Rolfe to torture him by forcing James to play the game. It was funny. But it wouldn’t have worked with any other game. And AVGN only reviewed “games that suck ass.” So to do the gimmick, Friday the 13th had to be a bad game.

Alright, let’s take an honest look at Friday the 13th for NES 

First impressions

The very first impressions of this game are kind of notorious. The opening animation when you turn on the game is Jason’s mask being pierced by a knife. A single, discordant note plays, then silence. It’s probably as chilling and creepy as an 8-bit game intro can get. 

The box and cover art are simply great. Nothing fancy, but the gaudy rainbow colors are somehow horrifying. As a kid, I definitely wanted to try this game.

Let’s play

Two years ago I recorded a let’s play of this game and I think it’s pretty enjoyable, never mind it only has 17 views. Keep in mind when I played it I was just as influenced by AVGN as many retro gamers are. It’s weird to watch now, as my opinions have evolved somewhat. Anyway, I’m just gonna leave it here…

This was fun. I should do it more.

Graphics

The graphics in this game are not bad at all. The scenery around the lake is definitely up to par for this era, and there’s a nice parallax that not a lot of games employed at the time. The character sprites are totally acceptable, even if the choice of monsters is totally cliche for a horror game.

Friday the 13th for the NES - purple Jason
I think he looks great in purple.

And yes, we might as well note that LJN’s developer took a lot of creative license on the enemies, given that the movies didn’t have hordes of monsters to throw in a game to make it a proper action sidescroller.

The zombies don’t really belong, but the wilderness creatures totally make sense in the lakeside camp setting. Who doesn’t remember long summers at camp, throwing rocks at snakes?

Jason himself appears frequently, looking sharp as hell in his purple outfit. Like purple Batman, this dude gets serious flak for his fashion choices. But how else would he be able to stand out against the black background on the limited color pallett of ? Anyway, the purple looks cool if you ask me.

Sound

One of AVGN’s biggest gripes is the overworld music theme. The tune itself isn’t terrible, but the loop is like eight seconds long and it just repeats and repeats. ANd on top of that, you have to listen to the “Jason alarm” that beep-beeps in your ear every time a kid is in danger. It is quite annoying, so AVGN definitely isn’t wrong on that point.

However, once you enter a building, the super-creepy dungeon theme is a nice relief. And it is wicked eerie. The tune actually stuck in my mind from the time I first played it at like 4 years old (hated it, didn’t get it), until today.

Gameplay

Friday the 13th for the NES manual excerpt
“You must stay alive long enough to defeat Jason once and for all.”

Friday the 13th is, in essence, an open-world game. I don’t generally like open-world games for the same reason a lot of people don’t like Friday the 13th. Because: WTH am I supposed to do? The instruction manual lays it out in the first sentence: 

That’s it. To be more precise, you will have to beat Jason three times, once per day for three day/night cycles. You can use any weapon at all, with any items you find, but literally everything else in the game is optional.

Friday the 13th for the NES overworld gameplay
Jumpin and throwin rocks at zombies. Typical summer camp stuff.

Like any open world game, Friday the 13th for the NES is a matter of exploration and discovery. It probably won’t make sense on the first play. But as you visit the cabins, rescue counselors, explore the lake and read the notes that are left around, you will start to understand and form a strategy.

So yeah. You roam the overworld map fighting generic horror creatures and collecting weapons and items. Just do that for three days and, at the end of three days, you want to be strong enough and well-equipped enough to defeat Jason.

I’m going to link a video down here so you can see how truly simple it is.

The Verdict

I officially think Friday the 13th for the NES is not too bad.

Friday the 13th for the NES - Ending
None can deny that this ending is super lame.

I think a lot of people will feel the same if they give the game the proper attempt it deserves. The controls and graphics are just fine. The goal of the game is deceptively simple when you realize that survival is your only goal. Everythign else is optional. And yes, the overworld theme and Jason alarm are pretty annoying. But overall, I think this is one of LJN’s least-bad NES games and retrogamers need to give it another try.

Friday the 13th for the NES is Ghetto Approved.

Fight me.

–GG
This guy totally gets it.

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Written by Steven Long

Steven is a professional marketing writer and hopelessly ghetto gamer. He also owns this site, so you'd better just chill.

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