Nightshade Part 1: The Claws of Sutekh, more commonly known simply as Nightshade, is a game for the NES released in 1991 — the very end of that system's life. For plenty of reasons, the game was not successful and faded into obscurity. Yet, in recent years — thanks to internet and particularly The Happy Video Game Nerd and JonTron — it has undergone something of a revival.The game chronicles the rise of wannabe vigilante "Nightshade". Armed only with a Trilby, his fists, and some shades (at night), he's out to clean up his hometown of Metro City, now a crime-ridden cesspool since the death of its former superhero. Nightshade's top priority is tracking down the diabolical mastermind who's controlling the gangs, Sutekh.Very tongue in cheek and only taking itself seriously when necessary, Nightshade combines two very different kind of game-play: Point-and-click adventure with a (rather unpolished) fighting system. Don't be fooled though, Nightshade is hard. You'll die, many times, which leads to something original in game design: Your continues play out in the form of comic book-style Death Traps. If you manage to escape, you live to fight another day. This doesn't mean you have infinite continues though; after a few traps, you'll be placed in an inescapable one.Seeing how obscure this game is, it's no surprise that the franchise never got to Nightshade part 2. Fortunately, it spawned a Spiritual Successor: Shadowrun for the SNES.There is a very interesting article in the Might Have Been column on GameSetWatch trying to explain why this game flopped. Give it a look if you can.Not to be confused with PS2 game called Nightshade (Kunoichi).
This game provides examples of:
555: The glyphs in Sutekh's hideout actually say, "Are you reading this? Then so are your customers! Contact Sutekh at 555-EVIL"
Absurdly Spacious Sewer: King Rat's vast, labyrinthine lair. In screenshot terms, the sewer is roughly half the size of the city itself, which actually makes sense.
Always Night: Metro City exists under the oppression of permanent darkness.
Affably Evil: Metro City's resident ninja clan is comprised entirely of bubblegum blondes, many of whom won't attack until they've unmasked you as a crimefighter. They seem like pleasant enough girls, regardless.
Better Than a Bare Bulb: Nightshade has a Monty Python sense of humor toward the superhero genre. This is established on the very first screen. ("For no readily explainable reason, there is a candle burning here.")
Big Red Button: The first lever in the game is labeled "Self-Destruct Mechanism! Do not touch!" It actually turns off water to reveal the exit. If this is Sutekh's idea of security, you can guess the extent of his idiocy his later on.
Boss Rush: Unless you had the foresight to cover the four artifacts with domes, the game throws all four crime bosses at you in the final hallway before Sutekh.
Chekhov's Exhibit: The museum and art gallery hold two of the treasures Sutekh seeks.
The Chosen Zero: Nightshade's real identity is Mark Gray, an encyclopedia researcher. No parents dying or lab accident or being made a champion. Nightshade is just some guy who gets bored and decided to fight crime.
City Noir: Metro City is an undeniably gloomy and forbidding place, despite the light-heartedness of the story.
Collapsing Ceiling Boss: Lord Muck shaking the room with his cane. However, this is when he's most vulnerable, as he's forced to stand still.
Continuing Is Painful: Continuing the game is a puzzle in itself. If Nightshade gets knocked out, the villain ties him up in a trap, and you have to figure out how to escape before Nightshade gets killed. This is virtually a guaranteed Game Over the first few times.
He can't move at all in the conveyor belt sequence, but you can manipulate his feet to reach the controls.
Conveniently-Placed Sharp Thing: A variant in the start of the game, as you use a Conveniently Placed Candle to burn ropes holding you to a chair. Played totally straight in one of the death traps, where you use a piece of frayed metal to free yourself.
The Cowl: Watch out, crime. (Vortex can also be considered this.)
Creepy Cemetery: Suekh's hideout on the north side of town. Interestingly, this is the polar opposite to Vortex's base, located at the south side.
Crucified Hero Shot: Vortex is shown hanging from manacles in the opening cinematic. His corpse is still stuck in this pose, with his cape draped over him to boot.
Death Trap: Each time you lose, Sutekh tosses you into another slow-moving and overly-elaborate trap. To his credit, he becomes progressively more clever each time you break loose:
Conveyor Belt-O-Doom: If you get caught by Sutekh early on in the game (by running out of life), you get strapped to one of these. It's possible to free yourself, but if you make a mistake, the belt speeds up, leading you to a rather messy death.
Failure Hero: The instant Nightshade finishes his hard-boiled monologue, he is tied to a chair in a dingy sewer. This is the first screen of the game. Sutekh has a nice chuckle over your aborted career in crimefighting.
He Knows Too Much: Sandleford is evidently in deep trouble, as he's holed up on the edge of town with a ninja practicing punches outside his door. He still refuses to leave his home even after you've defeated her.
Heal Thyself: There is only one first-aid kit in the entire game, so be careful with it. Fortunately, the pizza has the same effect, and has multiple uses.
Heroes Love Dogs: Nightshade positively melts whenever you examine dogs (even if they're trying to kill him). He does not get along with cats.
Hero with Bad Publicity: Everyone is pretty rude to Nightshade, at least in the beginning. You need to earn "Popularity" by performing heroic deeds.
King Mook: The crime bosses are essentially these. The only difference is an additional special move or two.
Kleptomaniac Hero: Averted with the four items Sutekh draws his power from. You can't run away with them (that would be stealing). Instead, you need to cover them with four domes you find in Vortex's base. That prevents Sutekh from drawing upon their power.
Lift of Doom: The glass elevator adorning the entrance to Goliath's tower. Nightshade can leap onto the roof, but if you wait too long, he'll get crushed by the ceiling, resulting in instant death.
Nintendo Hard: Not the least because it's an "all the way in one long play" game, highly unusual in a point-and-click adventure. There were attempts made at implementing a password feature, but it was canned due to deadlines.
Not So Different: Suthekh is eventually revealed to be just some geek in a costume, like Nightshade.
Older Sidekick: In another nod to Batman, Vortex has an old man working for him.
Power Copying: Assembling the Staff of Ra will give Nightshade a projectile weapon like Sutekh's. It's not integral to gameplay and expires after a few shots, but it does inflict more damage than your regular punch.
Taking Up The Mantle: Nightshade pledges to carry on where Vortex failed. Luckily, Vortex foresaw this and left behind numerous hints and power-ups.
Technology Marches On: In a meta-example, one could argue that this game was developed for the wrong platform; the NES just wasn't equipped to handle it. Between its Telltale Games-esque combination of adventuring and point-and-clicking and its utterly bizarre sense of humor, it would undoubtedly find its audience on a personal computer or even a modern console like the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.
Thememobile: Vortex's car. (Sadly, you can't drive it.)
Tin Tyrant: Sutekh is clad in armor and a billowing cape, not unlike a supervillain on Doctor Who which shares his name.
Trade Snark: Protecting the streets from The Cloying Grasp of Evil™.
"Sutekh: Beware the Staff of Ra. (Ominous Warnings Ltd.)"
Trouble Entendre: The clothing store girl offers to read Nightshade's horoscope: "You will assaulted by a ninja with, like, incredible dress sense."
Likewise, the waitresses warn against going into the restaurant's back room, or else "breakages may occur."