Ah LJN, how you love to sneakily crop up in people’s’ childhood. You are officially the Cannon Films of video games. And to those of you who don’t know about Cannon Films, it’s the LJN of the film world. I’ve already covered a few LJN games, and some of them weren’t as bad as you’d expect from the label, but when they’re bad, they’re BAAAAAAAAD. I put eight As in there because LJN is as bad as an alcoholic cubed.
So there I was, scrolling through the two month dumpster fire that is the movie release schedule for January and February when I’m reminded via an add for SyFy that ‘Sharknado’ is up to number five in a series that seems to have no end. As a writer who works on nothing but hopes, dreams, and anger, this felt like another kick in the balls in a long line of ball kicking. During the first two months of the year, I have to face a series of movies that someone bought, made, then though “Eh, you know what? This movie actually sucks.” Then after that, I’m goaded with an ad for a movie that says “You think these suck? Hold my beer.”
So what does this have to do with video games? It’s as simple as this: saw a line up of shitty movies which made me sad → saw an ad for the shittiest of shark movies → made me want to watch a good shark movie like ‘Jaws’ → remembered that ‘Jaws’ was made into a video game → remembered that the video game was made by LJN → was sad again, thus came back full circle. Essentially, that’s all. There was no grand realization or event that made me select this game, it was just a random series of events that triggered a memory, which in turn reminded me that I needed to write a new article. Sometimes that’s all that happens. A bunch of random bullshit leads to other random bullshit.
Such is life.
HERE’S WHAT I REMEMBER:
The first thing I feel I should address is whether or not I thought ‘Jaws’ was a bad game. The answer is: eehhhhhhhhhhhhhh kinda. ‘Jaws’ was frustrating and at times repetitive, but unlike other games of the time I actually beat it. I may have played critically acclaimed games like ‘Battletoads’ and ‘The Legend of Zelda’ back in the day, but I never got very far in them. To my young mind, games that I could beat were better games that were hard, yet finely crafted and stand the test of time. In the days of ‘Dark Souls’ and ‘Cuphead’ I now know this to not be the case, but as I’ve said multiple times up to this point, young me was stupid.
I remember the controls being decent though. My little diver was a little floaty, but how else would you expect movement in water to work? Zipping around the screen was never an issue, which allowed me to avoid the random enemy spawns with a touch more ease than you’d expect. I still died due to bullshit, but it was different bullshit.
While I played this game a lot when I was younger, and it was one of the few NES games that I could beat, that doesn’t mean that I always had fun with it. For every time I stabbed the shark with my boat (because LJN was clearly inspired by the Jaws film that cut the most corners), there was a time where I shut the game off because I saw the same three screens over and over again, doing the same thing over and over again, and I had enough. How many times would you be willing to go back and forth to two different points on the same map before you decided that what you’re doing was no longer fun? If you want a definitive answer to that question, just look up the ‘Pokemon Go’ stats since its release.
HOW DOES IT HOLD UP?
Welp, I beat it. I don’t normally beat the games I write about, mostly because I can only play games for so long on the shitter at work, but I beat this one. Can’t say I enjoyed it, but I think this is the first game where I can confidently say I saw EVERYTHING it had to offer.
Out of all the problems this game has, the worst culprit is the one my brain downplayed the most. This game if fucking tedious. ‘Jaws’ is played out over a few screens where the goal is often “don’t die until time runs out”. In the overworld, you get to sail a little boat back and forth between two ports. Something that should take a few seconds, but this game wants you to think it’s complete so it gives you something to do: collect seashells to gain power. You see, like a run down meth addicted seaside town, seashells are currency. Your puny level one diver can’t take out Jaws so you have to grind random encounters until you have enough seashells to go port to port multiple time, the progress of which is slowed down by said random encounters.
The biggest bitch of the game isn’t necessarily the game loop. It’s simplistic, but I’ve played enough JRPGs to understand the grind. The problem is that you have everything you need to beat the game within the first five minutes, then you’re forced into the grind. I gathered fifty of those bastards in the first few opening screens, which was enough to get me the Jaws Tracker and a few levels, but then lost most of them when I died. This makes sense as a game mechanic, but not when you’re stopped every second by another two to three minute fish shooting segment that you don’t need.
And then there’s the bonus levels. Dear sweet, blood dripping Christ, the bonus levels. Let me ask you this, can it be considered a bonus level when it’s half the fucking game? The first couple of times you’re in your little plane dropping bombs on jellyfish, it’s kind of fun. I followed their patterns, slowed down or sped up to get a target, then finished the level with a little sigh since it broke up the monotony of the game. But then it happened again, And Again, AND AGAIN. Every few encounters, there I was in that goddamned plane wasting time when all I wanted was for the game to finally be over. I found out that the levels that end with the little sharks were a trigger (though not always), so I tried to avoid them. The game returned the favor by making some encounters ALL LITTLE SHARKS, which yes, PUT ME RIGHT BACK UP IN THAT COCKSUCKING PLANE!
I started to get a little mad.
Then I beat the game. After a recreation of the boat impaling the shark scene from ‘Jaws 4’ for some reason, the game mercifully came to an end. What are you greeted with after all that time collecting shells and going back and forth between two points for about an hour? A plane quickly flies by a screen of a beach at sunset that says ‘End’. That’s it. If you wait for the song to end, you can go back to the title screen and play again (no pressing Start to skip the ending here my friend!), or you can press the Off button and toss the game into the trash.
Guess what I did.