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Video Game / Nightshade

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Nightshade's our man!
"Crime feeds upon itself like rats fighting over cheese."

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. It was developed by Beam Software and published by Konami under their Ultra Games label. 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, including being released on Steam in 2019 courtesy of Piko Interactive, with another rerelease on Nintendo Switch the following year.

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 mastermind who's controlling the gangs, Sutekh.


Very tongue in cheek and only taking itself seriously when necessary, Nightshade combines two very different kinds of game-play: Point-and-click adventure with a (rather unpolished) fighting system. Don't be fooled though, Nightshade is hard. You'll lose, 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; the traps get tricker each time you fail, and after the fourth trap, you'll be placed in an inescapable one if you're defeated once more.

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: Beam Software's 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:

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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Averted with Nightshade bungling his entry into the penthouse.
    "I bet I could quietly remove this grate and sneak in undetected." *CRASH! BANG! Tinkle...*
  • Always Night: Metro City exists under the oppression of permanent darkness.
  • Animesque: The portraits of most female characters in this game appear to have a lot of anime influence.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Lord Muck.
  • Auto-Doc: Vortex left one behind in his Home Base. (Watch out, it only works a few times.)
  • Badass Armfold: Sutekh's default pose.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Goliath, as well as the blue-clad English gang.
  • Badass Normal: Nightshade himself has no superpowers and not even any gadgets to speak of.
  • Bald of Evil: The thugs.
  • Beard of Evil: Suthekh unmasked.
  • 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 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.
  • Bookcase Passage: The library stacks conceal two of these. Happy Pixel Hunting.
  • Bouncer: Thugs guard the entrances to the club, so you'll need to find another way in.
    "Durr, no entry, sir. Or madam."
  • Brain Uploading: Vortex seemingly anticipated his death, so he uploaded his brain into the computer at his base. He won't allow you inside until you've got sufficient popularity.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "Typical Oriental waitress, with note-books, aprons, and shuriken pouches."
  • Brits Love Tea: Confronting Lord Muck in the Pyramid Club. "Oh dear, this always happens at tea time."
  • Brown Note: Nightshade doesn't grasp how awful his whistling sounds, but it gets the bats off your back.
  • Bullfight Boss: Goliath sees stars when he crashes into the walls. The mummies might also count, since their only weak point is their backside.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Sutekh. "Now I shall leave you to your doom while I go and brew more evil!'
  • Cane Fu: The fight with Lord Muck. He's the only English gangster who carries a staff.
  • Cat Up a Tree: A quick way to net some popularity. You need catnip to coax down Tibbles; otherwise it'll shred you.
  • Checkpoint Starvation: There is no way to save your game. Unless you're playing on an emulator, you're expected to play the entire game from start to finish in one sitting.
  • 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. Doesn't help that he was preceded by Vortex, an actually well-equipped and formidable superhero who lost to the same villains.
  • City Noir: Metro City is an undeniably gloomy and forbidding place, despite the light-heartedness of the story.
  • Coat, Hat, Mask: Nightshade's superhero "costume", albeit with shades instead of a mask.
  • 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.
  • Controllable Helplessness: Even ropes can't hold the mighty Nightshade!
    • He can't move at all in the conveyor belt sequence, but you can manipulate his feet to reach the controls.
    • Played straight with the freeze ray.
  • 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.
  • Creepy Changing Painting: A portrait of some random guy whose expression changes each time you see it. It's actually a time-lapse of his face going from a heavy-lidded smirk to a big-eyed scream. The second of such portraits is actually a Concealing Canvas.
  • 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.
  • Defeat by Modesty: A weird kind. Mummies can't actually be beaten in fights. You have to hit them with a combo that makes them spin around so their bandages fall off. This leaves them so embarrassed they run away.
  • 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. Also to his credit, given the kind of logic these games run on, a player who hasn't read a walkthrough still stands a good chance of dying in these:
    • Incredibly Obvious Bomb: Complete with cartoon fuse. Hiding behind a wall protects Nightshade from the blast, as the bomb is of shoddy quality.
    • 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.
    • The Walls Are Closing In: A hydraulic press lined with Spikes of Doom. Again, Sutekh's odd affinity for candles gets the better of him here.
    • Fed to the Beast: Nightshade, bound and gagged again, must get free before Sutekh's Right-Hand Attack Dog eats him. The gap in the floor widens until his chair topples into the dog kennel.
    • Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts: A pulley system threatens to drop a 700 lb. weight onto Nightshade.
    • Freeze Ray: You're boned. There's no escaping this one.
    • Gas Chamber: We eventually learn this was Vortex's cause of death. Nightshade will succumb to it, too, if you forget to turn off the valve.
  • Dialog During Gameplay
  • Dramatic Unmask: The headline announcing Sutekh's arrest. (Though he's still in full costume during his trial, and even in jail.)
  • Drinking on Duty: Upstanding Nightshade refuses to even enter the tavern.
  • Dual Wielding: Sutekh wields a pair of Khopesh swords, and is pretty handy with them.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: In Nightshade, the titular superhero starts off in a sewer, which is about as low as his popularity. There are several citizens with which to talk, like an old man who snubs you condescendingly or a librarian who always gets your name wrong, until you clobber a crime boss.
    Jontron: Well, I may have gotten blown up by a bomb, but apparently that's what happens when you're unpopular. Like Nightshade.
  • Dumb Muscle: Thugs have a feeble grasp on the English language.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Sutekh's faux-Egyptian temple is hidden beneath the cemetery. Also, a Batcave-like lair belonging to Vortex.
  • Evil Overlooker: Sutekh on the box art, as well as the prologue and game over screen.
  • Exposition Fairy: An elderly fan of Vortex (he's wearing a button which says "Vortex is my chum") hangs around the first screen and dispenses hints.
  • Expy: The Vortex character is an odd mishmash of Superman (hideout disguised as a phone booth, red cape) and Batman (underground base, black roadster).
    • Nightshade riffs on campy fedora-wearing vigilantes from the 60s and 70s, such as The Green Hornet.
  • The Faceless: Nightshade's true face is never seen. He is essentially a player surrogate.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama:
    Sutekh: Farewell, Lampshade!
    Nightshade: NIGHTSHADE!!
    Sutekh: Oh, sorry.
  • 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.
  • Faux Horrific: Sutekh reveals his Evil Plan: To make wooden nickels legal tender! Oh, the humanity!
    Nightshade: Not so fast, you twisted fiend!
  • Fight Woosh: When encountering an enemy, we see the spinning Nightshade insignia.
  • Final Boss Preview: "So, pathetic meddler! Your career is over before it has begun! Now there is no one to stop me in my reign of evil!"
  • First-Person Smartass: Nightshade loses his patience when "examining" commonplace things.
    "Oh, so you need it in writing? Well, it's a D-O-G."
  • Four Is Death: The city is held by a tetralogy of crime lords who report directly to Sutekh: King Rat, Goliath, Lord Muck, and the Ninja Mistress.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Scattering food for animals is key to winning, and will save your bacon in one instance.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Sutekh's real identity is Waldo Schmeer, a lowly museum assistant.
  • Game-Over Man: Sutekh. "Metro City is mine!"
  • Gang of Hats: British gents in bowler hats, mutant rats, bald thugs, and all-female ninjas. Sutekh, naturally, is flanked by a small army of mummies and robotic jackals.
  • Gigantic Moon: The pale moon looms large in a few areas, particularly the park and graveyard.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Nightshade doesn't have any gadgets, or powers — just his fists. The English gents insist on fighting by "Queensberry Rules."
  • Gothic Punk: As mentioned earlier, the city's aesthetic borrows a great deal from Batman and Raymond Chandler works. The stone skull adorning one of Sutekh's hideaways is quite foreboding.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All: Your goal is to enter Sutekh's hideout by collecting five scarabs. An optional quest is to find and secure four Egyptian artifacts before Sutekh loots them for his own purposes. In game terms, not securing the artifacts before you go around beating the minibosses to collect the scarabs means you have to re-fight each miniboss during the final fight with Sutekh.
  • Grimy Water: The sewer has rivers of toxic waste for you to avoid.
  • Guide Dang It! & The Many Deaths of You: Nightshade is a very unforgiving game with no shortage of sudden deaths.

  • 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.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: The least effective method of healing, but at least it's there.
  • It's All Upstairs From Here: A modest example would be Goliath's penthouse. There's no way in, so Nightshade must leap onto the elevator and climb the sides of the building to the roof.
  • Joe Sent Me: Make friends with the nut vendor and he'll refer you to his identical brother, who guards the back door to a club.
    "Goodness gracious! You look like the sort of person who's recently spoken to my brother! Why don't you go through this back door?"
  • Joke Item: The curio shop sells a fake Staff of Ra.
  • Just You and Me and My GUARDS!: Sutekh sics mummies and statues on you during the final boss battle. This is if you made sure to protect the four treasures before you went around defeating the minibosses. If not, you fight them again instead.
  • Karma Meter: Nightshade's "Popularity" meter which goes up from defeating villains and helping those in need. Among other things, you need to increase it to convince Vortex's computer you're enough of a hero to hand his operation over to.
  • 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.
  • Kryptonite Factor: There are secret sidequests you can go on to find an item that makes certain enemy types weaker note .
  • Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: Each of the crime bosses (exempting King Rat) hides out in a restaurant or club. The ninjas also run a clothing boutique.
  • 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.
  • Living Statue: The statues of Sutekh come to life when you pass by.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Nightshade is frequently referred to as "Lampshade" with some derision.
  • Medium Awareness: After relating his story, Professor Sandleford rudely throws you out. "—And take those darn subtitles with you!"
  • Mob War: With Vortex gone, the gangs were descending into all-out warfare until Sutekh united them.
  • More Criminals Than Targets: The game can veer into this trope at times, especially given how desolate most of the screens are.
  • Mr. Exposition: Professor Sandleford, the museum curator, knows the true identity and intentions of your adversary.
  • Mummy: The museum's mummy attacks Nightshade if you try to touch his diamond.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Sutekh dresses up like the jackal-headed God of Chaos (alternatively spelled "Set").
  • 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.
  • Noodle Incident: Nightshade's conversation with a bird. It has some kind of eye-opening revelation about frozen squid, but that's all we'll ever know.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Inverted. Sutekh is revealed near the end to be a weirdo with patently ridiculous plans for taking over the city, well after he was established as a very credible threat who murdered Vortex and repeatedly tried to do likewise to Nightshade.
  • Obligatory Joke: Nightshade exclaims, "Knick nack paddywhack!" when you distract the dog with a bone.
  • Oh, My Gods!: "Great quivering enigmas with a side salad and a light tartare sauce!"
  • 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.
  • Primary-Color Champion: Vortex dresses in crimson, and bears some resemblance to Daredevil.
  • Private Eye Monologue: Nightshade has a lot of enthusiasm for superhero lingo, though he can never get it quite right.
  • The Professor: Professor Sandleford.
  • Pun:
    • "Curio's Killed the Cat".
    • Nightshade examining the grate in his cell.
  • A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: Sutekh used to work for Professor Sandleford — that is, until he was caught pilfering a number of artifacts.
  • Schmuck Bait: "You've discovered the secret lair of Sutekh. For a free sample of what's waiting in the next room, just press the eye!"
    "I hate it when that happens."
  • Sentry Gun: Goliath has sentry guns mounted on the sides of his highrise.
  • Shout-Out: If you look at one of the giant rat enemies, the game says "Abnormal Irradiated Samurai Rats!"
  • Shown Their Work: A statue of Nepotakh, lord of the Nile and guardian of the stomach. ("No kidding, look it up!")note 
  • Sigil Spam: Since Sutekh took over, the whole town is wallpapered with hieroglyphics and Egyptian decor. There is also an overabundance of cats, though a couple of them are on Nightshade's side.
    • You can spot Vortex's presents via the scrawled "V"s on certain bricks and signposts. (Sound familiar?)
  • Smoke Out: Ninjas use this trick to teleport around.
  • Spandex, Latex, or Leather: Nightshade constantly catches flak for his outfit. ("And get yourself some proper tights!") Vortex wears red spandex, and the ninjas are clad in steel-gray catsuits.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Nightshade can talk to cats after you read certain graffiti. Inexplicably, he can speak to squirrels, rats, and seagulls inherently.
    "Nightshade had a long and meaningful conversation with the rat. Both feel they have been enriched by the experience."
  • Stock Femur Bone: Justified for being an actual human femur. A Dinosaur Doggie Bone can be taken from the mounted dinosaur at the museum.
  • Surprise Creepy: Vortex's corpse is still chained up in the sewers. It's amazing that Nintendo didn't catch this one.
  • Take Over the City: Well... Sutekh has pretty much already done this.
  • Taking Up the Mantle: Nightshade pledges to carry on where Vortex failed. Luckily, Vortex foresaw this and left behind numerous hints and power-ups.
  • 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 who 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."
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: "It's just a horribly beweaponed girl in a skin-tight martial arts costume. Nothing unusual."
  • Valley Girl: In a clever reversal, all of the dimwitted blondes in this game are actually ninjas.
    "Oh wow! It's like, so totally awesome to be, like, relating with you at this moment."
  • Video-Game Lives: A very unique take on the concept of lives: when you run out of health, Sutekh will put you into a Death Trap. The first four times this happens, the trap will have some kind of puzzle that, if solved, will allow you to escape and continue, although the traps become complex and the solutions become trickier each time. If you run out of health the fifth time, however, Sutekh will dispense with the Villain Ball and toss you into a freezing chamber from which there is no escape.
  • Weaponized Headgear: The Brits use bowler hats as shurikens.
  • We Will Meet Again: In the ending, your adversary vows that "the claws of Sutekh will rise again!"
  • Wheel o' Feet: Goliath, when he charges.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer…: It's easy to forget you have a crowbar and screwdriver, but they're useful for prying open grates and switch boxes.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever:
  • You ALL Look Familiar: Most of the NPC characters share the same portraits. The only unique ones belong to Vortex and his associate, Nightshade, and Sutekh.

"Go forth, young Nightcart!"