Retro Review: “Jaws” (1987, LJN, NES)
By Michael Mygind
Next to Super Mario Bros and Blaster Master, Jaws was probably the game that I remember most from my childhood. It was simplistic and felt like an arcade port. But, it gets a bad rap for what I feel are its strengths. It was loosely based off “Jaws: The Revenge” and was unfortunately was made by LJN. But don’t write it off just yet, it is not a terrible game.
The music and visuals are adequate, but the overall gameplay is where I feel it shines. The player controls a boat that must go from port to port with random RPG style attack alerts that interrupt its course. Upon this alert, you will then be taken into stages where you dive to shoot jellyfish and sting rays. Bonus points are found in the form of crabs and shells that will drop from the enemies you’ve defeated, which are also required for entry into each port. Each time you get to a new port, you will be given upgrades such as stronger attacks, a submarine to help when fighting Jaws and a homing tracker for when Jaws is getting close. Obscure bonus levels are included where you must drop bombs on jellyfish from an airplane in what seems like a rip-off of Galaga’s challenge stages.
Frequent attacks by a smaller shark are common as well as the occasional battle with Jaws himself which begins with you shooting cannonballs from your boat to fighting underwater after the boat is destroyed. Starting out, it seems impossible to take him down because of your level of strength, but this goes up and becomes easier as you enter more ports.
Once you’ve leveled up completely and defeat him underwater, you take on Jaws one last time in what I feel is a low-point for the game. Jaws comes at you in what seems like the baseball equivalent of shark hunting. He’ll rush your boat three different times, giving you three chances to ram your boat into just the right spot of his underbelly. What gets me is the lack of explanation on this. Unless you read the manual like no kid ever did, you’ll be a little disoriented on what to do and how to do it. But if you master this and get from port to port/level up quickly, you are likely to beat the game in less than 10 minutes (Or 4 minutes as shown below).
And this essentially was Jaws in a nutshell. It’s not the best game, but it’s a fun pick up and play game that I feel gets a bad rap because of its simplicity and unfortunate branding. It’s one of the cheaper and most common games for the NES with an average market price of about $5 or less.