Also available on Epoch Super Cassette Vision
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 07/14/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
I’m a huge fan of scrolling shooters. I typically prefer vertically scrolling shooters, but I’m not one to turn my nose up at a horizontally scrolling shooter. Sky Kid is a home console port of a Namco horizontally scrolling arcade game, and while it’s nowhere near the level of shooters like Gradius in terms of speed or fun (in my opinion, anyway), it’s still a solid shooter.
Sky Kid feels a bit like Chopper Command on Atari 2600. You scroll from right to left shooting down enemy planes and strafing ground targets like tanks and trucks all while avoiding enemy fire and physical obstacles. What sets Sky Kid apart from most shooters is the pace. It’s a much slower game than Gradius or, at times, even Chopper Command. The screen scrolls at a steady pace, and while you can move to the left and the right on the screen, you can’t do anything to make the screen itself scroll faster or slower. This can make it tough to avoid some obstacles, but it also means that you won’t have to worry about rushing headlong into a massive group of enemies unless you’re constantly hugging one side of the screen.
While all you have to do in order to clear the level is reach the end and land on the landing strip, your objective is to bomb the target, usually either a large military building or a fortress. You’re not equipped with bombs, though. As you’re avoiding enemies and shooting them down, you also need to keep your eyes peeled for bombs on the ground and give yourself time and room to swoop down, grab the bomb, and regain your altitude. Normally you can use one of the buttons to do a roll in the air to avoid enemy attacks and give yourself a moment of invulnerability, but you lose that when you’re holding a bomb; when you have a bomb, that button drops the bomb. If you waste your bomb, too bad. It’s gone. You don’t have to bomb the target in order to complete the level (with the exception of the last level), but you do get a massive point bonus if you do destroy it.
The sprites in the game are fairly small and definitely have the look of an early NES game, but that doesn’t mean they look bad. Simple, definitely, but not bad. While there’s some slowdown towards the end, the game runs pretty smoothly for the most part, and the serious sprite flicker doesn’t start to really show up until the latter half of the game. It may not be my ideal style of shooter, but it’s undeniably a very competent arcade conversion for 1986, and it’s definitely fun to play. There are better shooters on the NES, but this is still a great piece to add to any collection.