Virtually Overlooked: Friday the 13th

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JC Fletcher
November 1st, 2007
In this article: friday-the-13th, halloween, ljn, nes
Virtually Overlooked: Friday the 13th
Welcome to our weekly feature, Virtually Overlooked, wherein we talk about games that aren't on the Virtual Console yet, but should be. Call it a retro-speculative.

Even though Halloween is over, we didn't want to miss the opportunity to devote a Virtually Overlooked column to a thematically appropriate game. LJN's Friday the 13th is scary for many of the same reasons that the movies are -- sudden noises and scares from masked Jason Voorhees -- but it's also scary in a deeper way. Playing Friday the 13th is an exercise in hopelessness.

Every outward indication would suggest that Friday the 13th is an exceptionally terrible game. First off, it's a licensed game. That is usually the only tip one needs. And as if that weren't conclusive evidence, the box bears the LJN label. LJN, Acclaim's secondary label, was an abbreviation for "If you accidentally play one of our games, induce vomiting." LJN may well have been the worst publisher of NES games-- worse than Tengen, Panesian or the publisher of Street Fighter V Turbo 20 People. And it adapts a movie series in which the bad guy is invincible and the protagonists are generally helpless. Awesome!

And guess what? It is exceptionally terrible. As one of six identical camp counselors, you wander around Camp Crystal Lake performing the morning zombie removal, until one of the cabins containing another counselor or some kids sends out a distress call. Then you have 60 seconds to get there or Jason will kill the occupant. If you make it on time, Jason kills you instead. Should you manage to pick up a weapon stronger than a rock on your way to the cabin, you'll remove a slightly larger amount of Jason's health before dying. You repeat this process for all six counselors, and then the game ends in failure.

It is theoretically possible to defeat Jason (in the same way it's possible to leave the Earth's orbit if you can just get a good enough running start), but he just comes back, stronger and faster. It takes many different rounds of running into him and wheedling his health away, while pretty much getting slaughtered in the process.

To be fair, the game does have some neat ideas. The camp is fully explorable from the beginning (even if no area has any distinguishing features) and the game is fairly nonlinear in that Jason appears randomly in different cabins. But the sidescrolling parts are awkward, the first-person cabin segments useless (and, of course, that's where the majority of the boss encounters occur) and any gameplay segment is likely to make you feel like any effort to stop Jason or find weapons or do anything is completely futile. It's just generally a bad idea to make a game out of a movie in which the heroes are inert and the villain invincible. And, of course, it was a bad idea for LJN to make a game. We've actually heard of people tolerating this mess before, which is why we'd be curious enough to give it another shot.
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