Man, these old video games are tough. I mean, certainly some are harder than others. The Castlevania series, Mega Man, Contra, Zelda II, all known for being particularly tough. By most accounts, Bayou Billy is every bit as difficult. It is truly a slog.
But is there more to Bayou Billy than the insane difficulty? Is it worth picking up at all? I had never played it until this week, and it’s time to give this swamp-crawl a try, and an honest review. So let’s check it out!
I popped in Bayou Billy expecting a relatively high-quality game. It was really popular back in its time, and I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say it was a flat-out bad game. Just really hard. It’s from Konami, after all. When Bayou Billy booted up, I was indeed impressed by the title animation and graphics. And when you start a new game, a digitized voice says, “The Adventures of Bayou Billy!” which was also pretty impressive for its time.
So yeah! Seems like a pretty good start.
Three games in one!
It’s always a dubious proposition when a game tries to employ multiple genres. And Bayou Billy takes that concept to a new level, with players switching between the NES controller for brawler levels, to the Zapper for shooting-gallery levels, and back to the controller for the jeep-driving levels. There are nine levels in all: five brawlers, two shooters, and two driving levels.
It seems that if a developer tries to make a multi-genre game, they will do each segment less effectively than if they just focused on one genre. Konami did a pretty good job with Bayou Billy. Sure, there could be more enemy types and a bit more depth, but overall I think it’s fine. Of course, each of the levels in Bayou Billy are unnecessarily difficult and poorly balanced.
Each of the genre segments in Bayou Billy play pretty typically for the NES. However, I thought the brawler segments were missing some familiar features that left the gameplay feeling shallow.
For example, it is nearly universal in NES brawlers that a jump-kick will knock your enemy down and buy you a few seconds to reposition. Same deal if you hit them with a weapon. In Bayou Billy, it doesn’t seem you can knock enemies down at all unless they’re dead. Otherwise they just keep coming for you.
The shooting levels are what you’d expect. You can use the NES Zapper, or you can use D-pad controls. Gameplay here is quite straightforward, just with waaaay too many enemies popping onto the screen.
The driving levels, now…
The driving levels are pretty bad. Again, the gameplay is straightforward. You drive down a winding road, avoiding poles and rocks and other cars and bombs being dropped by helicopters (don’t worry, you can shoot back) while at the same time beating the insanely short clock. I have no idea how one is supposed to beat the driving levels. The controls are so slow to respond that there is no way you can avoid hitting the poles that mark the sides of the road. Unless you take it slow, but then there’s no way you’re going to beat the clock.
The first driving level was as far as I could get. I couldn’t even finish it with a cheat code.
…and that’s the problem with Bayou Billy
So yeah. Everyone I asked has agreed that the game is really, really, really unfairly and unfunly difficult. Truly.
Oddly, the Famicom version of this game, Mad City, is considerably easier.
Which is strange, right? Did Konami think Americans were that much more skilled at this game? Compared to Mad City, Bayou Billy has tougher, more aggressive enemies including alligators and less ammo on the shooter portions. And on the driving portions in Mad City, Billy’s jeep has a life bar, rather than the one-hit kills in Bayou Billy. And the controls are better! What the hell!?
There was a Bayou Billy comic book.
Yep. Archie Comics put out a very short run of Bayou Billy comics, based on the NES game. Judging by their current prices, it probably wasn’t a great series.
You may also remember Bayou Billy from his appearance in Captain N. It was pretty cringey.
Time to deliver a verdict. An honest one. Which is easy enough for me, since I have no nostalgia for this game. I have never played it before this week. Yet at the same time, I may be biased because The Adventures of Bayou Billy combine my three least-favorite NES genres.
However, taking everything into account, I have to say that, even given its current price tag of five or six bucks on eBay, I can’t recommend this game.
This verdict is based almost entirely on Bayou Billy’s difficulty. It’s a frustrating slog. Partly though, the verdict is based on the dumbed-down gameplay I outlined earlier. Basically, this is a brawler with shooting and driving to add flavor. But the shooting is unfair and the driving is just impossible. And the brawling portions of the game are simply not on par with other brawlers of the time like Double Dragon or P.O.W. and in fact, the whole game is simply not on par with what Konami was capable of at the time.
Sorry Konami. The Adventures of Bayou Billy is NOT ghetto approved.