Lone Ranger, The

Developer: KonamiLone Ranger The USA1 Lone Ranger, The NES Nintendo Review Screenshot

Released: August 1991
US Cartridge ID: NES-6L-USA

Players:  1
Genre: Action-Adventure
Supported Peripherals: Controller, Zapper

ROM Size: 3 megabit
Mapper: MMC3 (256k PRG, 128k CHR)

Requires Flash10

The Lone Ranger follows Konami’s penchant for quality licensed action titles, joining ranks with other notable Konami titles like  Mission: Impossible, Monster in My Pocket, and Tiny Toon Adventures.  The Lone Ranger  founds its premise on the 1981 western film, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, which was in turn based Lone Ranger The USA 003 256x224 Lone Ranger, The NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotonThe Lone Ranger, a radio serial (running 1933-54) and television series (1949-57).

Set in the wild west, the plot follows John Reid, a Texas Ranger from Abilene. The Rangers, led by John’s father Dan,  engage Butch Cavendish’s gang during a bank robbery. Butch’s father is mortally wounded in the shootout, and Butch swears to find those responsible. He ambushes the Rangers, killing all but John, who he believes to be dead. The badly injured officer is found by an Indian, Tonto, who nurses him back to health and teaches him the native ways of combat and survival. Promising vengeance for his father and the murdered Rangers, John assumes the identity of The Lone Ranger, a masked agent of justice. When John hears news of Butch’s abduction of the president, he knows that the time has come for him to act.

Accompanied by his loyal friend and mentor, Tonto, The Lone Ranger sets out on a huge adventure against the backdrop of the American southwest. Similar to The Lone Ranger The USA 270 256x224 Lone Ranger, The NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotAdventures of Bayou Billy, The Lone Ranger melds several different gameplay genres and perspectives into one cohesive experience. In combining polished RPG, first-person shooter, and side-scrolling platform segments, Konami provides a diverse, if not derivative, experience.

Much like Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, town areas and action stages are linked by an overworld map,  where enemy encounters and notable locations are marked with representative icons. The game’s eight lengthy stages are episodic in nature,  each beginning with some brief exposition introducing the immediate problem, and concluding with the resolution of the conflict through a boss showdown and flashy cinematic scene. These scenes begin on the overworld map, where The Lone Ranger must explore a town, purchasing necessary supplies and finding out what he can do to help the locals (a treasure has gone missing, an impostor Ranger tarnishes the hero’s good name, a woman is kidnapped, etc) while pursuing the president and his abductors.

In each area, John will encounter several situations that serve to shift the focus of gameplay: in towns and some action stages, the action will be presented in a manner similar to the 3/4 overhead perspective typical of many action based adventures and RPGs  (Crystalis, Cowboy Kid,  Willow), while in others it is presented as a classic side-scrolling platformer with controls that are identical to Lone Ranger The USA 008 256x224 Lone Ranger, The NES Nintendo Review Screenshotthe Castlevania games, both in stiffness and accuracy. In both modes, the Ranger has full eight-way directional control of his shots, and both his gun and ammo are upgradable. There are first-person shooter stages that can be played with the Zapper or Konami’s LaserScope (without the gun peripheral, on-screen crosshairs are aimed with the D-Pad),  where the objective is to fend off enemies that shoot or throw things toward the screen. When in some caves and buildings, the view shifts to the first person maze point of view (à la Wizardry, Golgo 13),  featuring combat scenes identical to those of the first-person shooter stages.

The Lone Ranger‘s graphics are an achievement for the NES hardware, with careful attention provided to the subtlest of details. Though the sprites are small, the amount of detailing in the pixel art  makes it easy to distinguish characters from one another, and many stages and cinematics feature an impressive amount of parallax scrolling in the backgrounds, serving to provide a convincing illusion of depth to the screen. The music is heavy with the drum and bass use that Konami’s sound teams were renowned for. TheWilliam Tell Overture,” the theme of the original show, is used on several occasions during cut scenes, complete with a (heavily distorted) digital sample of the infamous utterance, “Hiyo, Silver!” The original music in the game is all appropriate and memorable, with each theme ably creating the appropriate atmosphere while still being very hummable.

Lone Ranger The USA 400 256x224 Lone Ranger, The NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotConsidering the number of incorporated game types, The Lone Ranger manages to consistently keep its controls both intuitive and responsive. Unlike some games with an excessive number of complex control schemes to accommodate the game modes (California GamesTrack and Field II), The Lone Ranger follows  the traditional NES control schemes for each game type, removing the single largest
barrier to the majority of games of its ilk. The only potential problem with The Lone Ranger lies in its difficulty level. Each of the eight areas must be completed in a single-life, as you get a Game Over when the life bar runs out; this can be frustrating, mostly due to the fact that several of the stages can take nearly an hour to complete, and continuing places the Ranger back at the very beginning of the current area. There are very few life power-ups, and most ammo must be bought, meaning time must be spent mindlessly killing enemies to raise enough cash just for basic supplies. Despite these issues, a password system is included, allowing the player to begin play anew at the beginning of any of the eight areas.The difficulty level is nowhere near as stiff as that in Bayou Billy though, and as a result, they game is much more enjoyable.

Unfortunately, because the NES adaptation was released 34 years after the Lone Ranger The USA 231 256x224 Lone Ranger, The NES Nintendo Review Screenshottelevision show ended, the license was unrecognizable to the great majority of the NES players at the time, and The Lone Ranger‘s release went virtually unnoticed  in the shadow of the impending release of the Super NES. Despite the cold commercial reception that it received, The Lone Ranger  is an NES showpiece, thanks to both its technical  achievements and sheer fun.

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Konami, 8/1991