In The Trenches (IV/IV)
It was Thanksgiving 1989. A full-house for the holiday, complete with requisite turkey, gathering, and a weekend rental. The almighty N.A.R.C. was that rental, and I was hoping with the gathering that I'd have a second player to join me because I imagined how awesome it'd be cooperatively. Everyone passed and left me to the drug hordes on my own. Except my uncle. He was the only one who had the guts to join me, and the cooperative slaying was as awesome as I had imagined (even though we got our asses kicked)! No wonder it was always rented out; the blood-soaked multi-player was seamless and chaotic fun.

"Nobody had the guts...until now." That was bolded on the cover of the game when I picked-up the box to rent it, and I never noticed its figurative meaning until recently. It wasn't just that these two red and blue were the only ones to stand-up until then, but that literally "nobody had the guts" until then. I looked at it and noticed it was true that nobody had literally put guts in a Nintendo game until then. N.A.R.C. is arguably the most visceral, gory 8-Bit Nintendo title ever. The game's logo was slightly altered for the home release (the red blood splatter was changed to yellow paint/semen/meth/crack/whatever you want to call it), but the violence was retained. It shows how Midway/Williams pushed the envelope with graphic videogame violence even before the dawn of Mortal Kombat, and it still amazes me today how N.A.R.C. received little (if any) parental uproar. The enemies in this game literally rest in pieces!

"Gomorrah's Season Ends"
It's already been established that Mr. Smith (Code Name: Viper) and the Black Manta (Wrath of the Black Manta) could take the cartels on; the former with fatal grace and finesse, the latter with brute strength and sheer build. Max Force and Hit Man, on the other hand, wage apocalyptic all-out war in a hail of bullets and rockets, leaving rivers of blood through mountains of body parts in their wake. These guys don't bring the pain; they bring rapture and send all (good) junkies to heaven. They have no finesse or grace, nor are they built like a tank, but they have the firepower to level a tank. They have use of no magic or arts, either (unless you count making meth labs disappear by painting the walls with the blood of heir inhabitants and pollutants). Sure, they're outfitted in Michael Jackson-pants, sleeveless tops with bulletproof vests, and motorcycle helmets, but these guys blow drug dealers into chunks and then feed them to their own pit-bulls.

"Names Carved Into Granite"
Classics like Guerilla War and Contra come close, and even then N.A.R.C. is still in a league of its own. The abysmal Raid 2020 was supposed-to have had a similar theme, but I hear you can get shot in some places for comparing the two. It's just hard to find a cooperative action game from the 8-Bit era that's as fast, chaotic, and bloody as N.A.R.C. The game's gritty theme owes itself not to enemies of cartel militias, but to enemies of the streets. It's not like other games where you're fighting heavily-armed soldiers (Code Name: Viper), street rats and bikers (Wrath of the Black Manta), or birds (Raid 2020). N.A.R.C. puts you on streets against the lowest of the low; druggies, junkies, baseheads, methheads, cokeheads, dickheads, tweekers, pushers, dopers, users, scumbags, sleazebags, name it. Non-human threats include dogs, insects, and clowns. They're all here, and in abundance for you to gun-down. Of course, you can arrest them, but then you can't collect the loot, evidence, or ammo they drop after death. They had it coming, anyway.

Like Renegade, there are hippies who look like my uncle in this game, too. He's a hippie himself and enjoyed the machinegun-toting hippie-blasting, so you know it's good when you got a hippie playing the game to blast hippies! Uncle wasn't the last person I played N.A.R.C. with, though. By chance, I found another kid in the neighborhood who liked the game just as much as me, and we put a lot into trying to beat the game. We played seriously by getting as much loot and busts as possible, but to no avail, the game was no easy win. We even had it down to a science, and still couldn't topple it! To this day, unpredictability stands as its only real flaw, simply because half the time you can't tell what your damage progress is on the endboss. Where other games put you in a consistent endboss fight where you win after a set amount of time and/or damage, N.A.R.C. throws you into a fight that randomly lasts five minutes to five hours (depending on whenever the game decides your shots will suddenly start working and doing damage). You'll have no hair like a methhead after this battle! Ironically, that last person I last played co-op with would become permanently damaged from drugs in the not-so-distant future. Drugs fail!

No Justice, Just Us
I consider N.A.R.C. to be one of the first videogames with a mature theme. Not just because of the violence, but because of the urban imagery it has. Look in the background and you'll see shop names arguably unrivaled at the time, and until now by nothing other than the HD side-scrolling fighter Dead Rising. They depicted that gritty, sleazy street imagery with adult stores and nightclubs with titles like, "Kinky Pinkys," and "Fanny & Co." Again, I can't think of another game of the time that had such vivid urban imagery. Shit, the first stage looks like LA, and the second stage looks so much like East Denver that I thought I was cleaning the streets in real life just by playing it! The moral of the story here is that the enemies in this game and their environments are cohesive; the game's theme would take a hit if either were compromised.

N.A.R.C. Is a must-have NES game for anyone who isn't a junkie. If it really is true that "all good junkies go to Heaven," then this game will be waiting for them upon arrival. Why? Because it's fun and it has a point. It was from a time when video games weren't just about convoluted, overcomplicated, "epic" storytelling. There's no expensive motion-capturing or musical scores, and not much R&D, either; the game didn't need it because it arrives at the same point through pure heart and intensity. A lot of modern titles have intensity, but do they have heart? Fighting terrorists is one thing, but what about the fading value of American justice?