Publisher: Milton Bradley
Released: June 1990
US Cartridge ID: NES-C7-USA
Supported Peripherals: Controller
ROM Size: 1 megabit
Mapper: AMROM (128k PRG)
Based on TAD’s innovative and relatively popular 1988 arcade release, Cabal for the NES is an impressively accurate conversion. In response to growing concerns over the Dreaded Republic of Allied Terrorists’ (D.R.A.T.) plans for world domination, two anonymous commandos have been recruited by the International World Affairs Council. To foil the terrorist plot, the two commandos visit five key terrorist camp locations, eliminating radicals and destroying all enemy assets to prevent their efforts coming to fruition.
The commandos infiltrate air and naval bases, a village, the jungle, and a desert camp to complete their mission. Cabal‘sfive terrorist locations are split across twenty single-screen stages, with every fourth stage featuring a boss battle against heavy artillery from submarines, helicopters, mounted gun turrets, and an arms laden eighteen wheeler.The action is viewed from an over the shoulder pseudo-3D perspective, and this innovation bore obvious influence on several later shooters (notably SNK’s 1990 Neo Geo game NAM-1975, Natsume’s 1995 SNES game Wild Guns, amongst others), with the player controlled characters occupying the foreground at the bottom of the screen.
Each stage is littered with obstacles that both the players and the enemies can use for cover. Environments are fully destructible, however, and the commandos can destroy buildings, vehicles, trees, and other objects to force the insurgents into the open. Destroyed objects and downed foes will sometimes drop usable power-ups, including
grenades and upgraded assault rifles, both ideal for taking out particularly powerful single targets or large groups of gunmen. Progress is measured by a gauge at the bottom of the screen: each terrorist or vehicle destroyed fills the bar by a single notch, and when it is filled the stage ends (complete with a ridiculous dance and jingle as the heroes march off toward the next killing ground).
Because of the fundamentally different styles of control provided by the arcade machine’s trackball and the NES controller’s D-pad, Cabal‘s control scheme differs from most shooters. A quick tap of A launches a grenade into the field, holding down A shoots (locking the character in place), and holding down B will allow for running or a rolling dodge. The player controls both the commando’s movement and his aiming crosshairs
simultaneously with the D-pad, but they move at different speeds. As a direct result, moving while continuing to shoot at a specific target becomes impossible. Though one does get used to this and learns to compensate for it, the lack of maneuverability becomes a frustrating hindrance later in the game against the tougher bosses.
Though less colorful and detailed, the graphics on this port are shockingly faithful to the original arcade title, with virtually all environmental details and enemies being accurately reproduced. The sound is terrible, but this is a result of its adherence to its source material; though the music is obnoxious and annoying, it stays true to the original, lacking only the digitized shooting and (hilarious) screaming effects of the coin-op.
Cabal is a good, challenging single player game, but it really shines in its two-player cooperative mode. The allowance for coordinated strategy adds a great deal to the game, and even though it makes for an easier experience, a second player makes the game much more chaotic and fun. Though the issues with the control and its irritating soundtrack hobble the game somewhat, Cabal is an admirable, if not overambitious, 8-bit port of a worthwhile shooter.
Milton Bradley, 6/1990