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Clash at Demonhead

Games during the 1980s can sometimes be unfairly lumped together as everything having been highly linear outings. This really wasn’t the case, though. The were some that gave players a lot of leeway as to what order they completed tasks in. One common way of going about this was by having an overhead map with numbered destinations for players to visit. It wasn’t strictly a matter of going from A to B to C, as one had at least exercise a little bit of discretion as to what they would prioritize. Clash at Demonhead went this route with its branching paths that gave players a bit of exploration to go along with all of the action platformer gameplay it had.

The game follows a man named Bang who is interrupted from his vacation to rescue a professor who has created a bomb capable of destroying the Earth. At face value, it sounds like it would make more sense to arrest someone who has invented such a thing, but as the game progresses and the story unfolds, things become clearer. As was common for the time, there isn’t a huge amount of narrative, but there’s enough to push things along in a logical manner. It’s largely comprised of an interesting mix of aliens and mysticism, blending two tropes that were quite popular in videogames of the 1980s.

While actually traversing the mountain that the game takes place on, players are greeted with some fairly standard action platforming as Bang jumps around shooting at enemies. He actually jumps quite high, so it can take some getting used to, but other than that things are pretty straightforward gameplay-wise. Just dodge enemy fire and baddies trying to charge at Bang while exploring each area. Then blast them with his gun. Many enemies drop money when they die which can be used to buy items in a shop and stored in Bang’s inventory. He also meets a hermit on the mountain that gradually grants him various special abilities. These will come in handy when trying to reach otherwise inaccessible regions. Of course, there are also boss fights peppered throughout the game adding a little bit extra excitement to the combat. While all of this is going on, it also becomes quite apparent that the areas in Clash at Demonhead are very big. It can take quite some time to traverse certain areas, which is fun on the first go through them, but a bit daunting if backtracking becomes a necessity.

As mentioned earlier, there are various abilities that are unlocked during the game, and there are also items that can be bought at a store. So, as players get further in the game, they’ll have quite a few tools at their disposal for navigating the areas. There’s even a convenient item that can be purchased that allows one to summon the shop from anywhere.

Visually, the game isn’t anything special. There isn’t a huge amount of detail to environments, or enemies. Bang looks alright, and it’s nice that the developers added a tiny animation that makes it look like his hair is flowing in the wind while running. Most of Demonhead’s graphical flair comes from character portraits, and a few primitive cut scenes. Other than that, everything is about on par with one would expect from an NES game released in the late 1980s.

By comparison, the music is decent. There are a number of memorable tracks throughout the game. However, they do show up fairly often, usually associated with forests, or subterranean caverns, or some such, and can get a bit repetitive as the game goes on.

Overall, though, Clash at Demonhead was a fun little hidden gem on the NES that didn’t get a huge amount of attention when it originally came out. Over time, it did amass a following as people gave it a shot and realized it was quite a lot of fun as an exploration-centric action platformer. Even today, it’s well worth trying out.

- IroIro
August 21, 2020

More Reviews of Action Platformers:

- Alisia Dragoon Review (Mega Drive)

- El Viento Review (Mega Drive)

- Keith Courage in Alpha Zones (PC Engine)

Platform: NES
Genre: Action Platformer
Developer: Vic Tokai
Publisher: Vic Tokai
Released: 1989

Clash at Demonhead Image 1
NES Box Art

Clash at Demonhead Image 2
Scaling the mountain

Clash at Demonhead Image 3
Entering a base

Clash at Demonhead Image 4
There are lots of items at the shop