(Review archived from April 17, 2018)
When we talk about video game relics of the Cold War, it’s hard to miss the thinly veiled word play going on with the title of Rush’n Attack. Although it was released as ‘Green Beret’ in other countries, the name was changed for the U.S. release of the game, a ‘clever’ adjustment playing off the patriotic jingoism that was popular in the U.S. at the time with regards to the U.S.S.R. (see also: Top Gun, Rocky IV, etc.). It’s the sort of thing a major game publisher probably couldn’t get away with today. So in terms of title alone, what we have here is a somewhat laughable relic of days gone by.
But taken purely at face value I suppose the title is a fairly accurate description of the game play. Rush’n Attack is part of that venerable tradition in gaming in which a commando parachutes into enemy held territory, spends several levels accomplishing a rote objective to rush and … er … attack, then finishes the game running from an exploding structure of some sort. Hey, it ain’t Shakespeare folks, but Rush’n Attack is a decent game. It’s most notable in some circles for its pivotal play mechanic which perhaps carries much broader implications in terms of plot. Yes, you are dropped into enemy territory with nothing more than the clothes on your back and a Bowie knife. Your objective is literally to stab your way through an army of enemy soldiers and eventually to destroy their ‘secret weapon’. This is either a ‘Deep State’ sanctioned suicide mission (maybe this Green Beret knew too much!), or the dude is just legendary with a knife. We’ll never know for sure, because this isn’t the sort of game that provides much in the way of back story or character motivation. And to be fair most of the enemy soldiers you face aren’t armed with much more than the incessant blind rage to charge at you unarmed. So perhaps the decision to bring only a knife was tactically sound after all. And besides, the Contra dudes were otherwise occupied in their own affairs.
The gameplay itself is good enough. In the boots of Lt. SharpKnife McStabbyface your attacks feel quick, responsive, and effective. Movement to and fro feels equally crisp. The one aspect of the control scheme that sort of gums up the works is the jumping mechanic. This game utilizes the Up directional input for jumping and due to the fact that the controls are so responsive, jumps are initiated by the slightest of hair triggers. They’re touchy and easy to pull off, too easy in fact. This can lead to some cheap feeling deaths where perhaps you only meant to change direction but wound up jumping headlong into enemy forces instead. I would have much rather had the controls duplicate something like Castlevania in this respect (i.e. a dedicated face button for jumping, where special weapons require a simple button combo to execute).
The graphics are quite good for the time of release and have that classic Konami feel. Lines are crisp and colors are bold. Konami has always had a knack for visually interesting military installations in their games, and Rush’n Attack is no different in this regard. The music is well done although it doesn’t particularly stand out when compared to some of the other legendary music Konami was putting into their games during this timeframe (Castlevania, Contra, etc.).
So all that remains is to ask, is Rush’n Attack still worth it after all of these years, or is it better left a distant memory like the Cold War itself? Well if you’re a fan of other Konami output from this time period, I’d say that you don’t want to miss Rush’n Attack; it has that classic Konami feel. Difficult (but fair) gameplay, decent premise, solid graphics and sound, it’s all there. Konami could almost do no wrong on the NES, so despite being a bit of a ‘second-stringer’ Rush’n Attack is still pretty good. Recommended for 8-bit action junkies and knife enthusiasts of all stripes.