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The Little Mermaid (NES)

Come on, it's alright, you don't have to be ashamed. No one here will laugh at you for owning, or thinking about buying, The Little Mermaid. There's nothing to hide here. No one's going to tell your friends about it.

Seriously though, there really is nothing wrong with liking The Little Mermaid. Even if you've never seen the movie, that's fine. Really, the storyline in the game doesn't have much to do with the movie, other than the characters it involves. In this game, Ariel is happily frolicking around on land, with her love Eric, when she hears that Ursula is causing problems in the sea. Knowing it may mean that she can never return to land again, Ariel changes back into a mermaid, and goes off to save the ocean.

The game is presented in a series of short clips, followed by a level segment related to it. That is, for instance, you might be told "Ursula is turning the sea to ice." You'll then have to make your way through a level covered with slippery ice, and defeat the enemy at the end. You'll then be presented with another clip (which doesn't necessarily really have any connection to what you've finished doing), and go off to the next level. The game progresses like this until you arrive at Ursula's lair. In The Little Mermaid, you take control of Ariel, as she makes her way through the ocean, fending off various enemies, on her way to defeat Ursula. Most of the action takes place in the water, but, there are a few places where you need to jump up on land to do something. On land you can't move very well, not having feet anymore. Again though, most of the time you're in the water. Here, you swim along, past enemies, making your way to the end of the stage. In order to defeat your enemies, you have bubbles you can shoot out, which, when they hit an enemy, will trap them in a bubble, and you can swim past, or pick them up and throw them at another enemy. The bubbles have various "levels" to them in terms of strength and range. When you first start off, your bubble shots won't travel very far, and it will take two hits to trap an enemy. As you make your way along, you'll find powerups for your bubbles, which will allow them to travel further, and trap an enemy in one hit.

The bubble levels actually end up forming into one of the game's downsides, that is, balance. Near the beginning of the game, you'll run into a few powerups right away, and soon have your bubbles at full strength. Like this, the game becomes very easy, enemies hardly stand a chance, and, it's entirely possible to beat the entire game without dying. If you do die, however, your bubbles go back to the first stage. As you'll be further along by this point, there are also fewer powerups, so, it will be harder to get your bubbles back to full strength. Compared to the full-strength bubbles, the beginning ones seem ridiculously underpowered. However, that's more a matter of the full-power bubbles being rather over-powered. Really, the game would've had a much more even challenge if they didn't have the powerups at all and just left you with the first level bubbles. You would have to work harder to make it through the levels, but, also wouldn't experience the huge dropoff when you died. The other downside to the game, which kind of goes along with the balance issues is, unfortunately, the game is far too short. There are only a small handful of levels, and, especially if you can keep your full-strength bubbles, it's fairly easy to go through the entire game without ever dying. If you do lose your full-strength bubbles the game does take on more of a challenge (which, again, is why it might've been best to just leave the bubbles at the starting strength), but, it feels more of an annoyance, where you just want to get your full-strength bubbles back, than it does an actual challenge.

Complaints aside though, what there is of the game, is really rather enjoyable, much moreso than one might initially expect. One nice little twist to the game is, there are a number of small crevices scattered around which, if you take an enemy in a bubble and toss it into the crevice, you can get an item. Granted, all these items do is give you points, and it's not like the points are really used for anything. Still, it is a rather fun little personal challenge to take an enemy in a bubble back to the crevices to get items from them. As well, there are various obstacles which will block your way from extra lives or whatnot which you can only move with a certain strength of bubble. There are also treasure chests (which contain the powerups) which you need to find seashells to open. The levels, although there aren't many of them, do have a decent enough variety to them. You'll make your way past volcanoes, hopping out of the water and over ice, past a variety of obstacles. You'll encounter a number of different enemies, which will have an assortment of attack patterns, and which you'll have to defeat in different ways (not all enemies can be trapped inside of a bubble, or some require a certain strength of bubble to be trapped at all). As well, at the end of each level is a boss, which does provide a decent challenge, and might actually cause you to die a few times.

The graphics are certainly decent enough, with the levels all having different looks and styles to them. As well, there is a very good variety of enemies, which does make things fun. There's nothing that's going to overly jump out at you, but, everything does look fine, there are no complaints. The music, doesn't have too much of a variety to it, but, what there is of it is decent enough. There are some themes and whatnot from the movie as well, so, if you enjoyed the movie, that's good. Even though there isn't that great a variety, it does do a fine job of fitting in with the game, and the music during the scenes in between levels fits them good as well. If you're hoping for the game to have a similar story to the movie, you'll be out of luck there. Nonetheless, that's not necessarily a bad thing, since it means you don't have to have watched (or enjoyed) the movie to enjoy playing the game, and, if you've already seen the movie, you still can enjoy taking Ariel on a new journey. While the story isn't exactly gripping or epic or anything, the little scenes between levels are interesting enough. While the issues with the bubble levels can make the game overly easy at times, there still is a decent level of challenge to the game (especially if you die after the first level and have to deal with the lower-powered bubbles and finding more powerups in the later levels). The additional possibility of going through trying to find the items hidden in the crevices provides a fun little challenge.

While the game is rather on the short side (which is the main downfall), and can easily be beat in around half an hour or so, it is enjoyable while it lasts. Even if you've never watched the movie, and even if you think the game may be a bit silly, it still is a fun little game, one at least worth picking up if you ever have a chance. Not to mention, if you did like the movie (or know someone who did), that's always a plus. If it weren't for the short length, this really could have been a very good game. Even still though, what is there, is decent enough. Plus, the prince's name is Eric, and, for having the same name as me, that has to be worth something at least.

Gameplay: 7/10
Graphics/Sound: 6/10
Length/Replay: 4/10
Overall: 6/10