Everyone has a favorite genre of video game. Some people love driving games. Some love beat 'em ups. Others just love to shoot things. And while the NES provided players with loads of titles that offered these experiences, I can only think of one that was ambitious enough to try and fit them all into a single game: The Adventures of Bayou Billy!
A Game With Something for Everyone!
Bayou Billy attempted to create a fusion of Double Dragon, Rad Racer, and Duck Hunt that fit all the best aspects of those games into one massive adventure. It was supposed to be an experience that offered something for everyone. This was no small task, but the wizards at Konami managed to pull it off with style.
Every action game needs a set-up, right? Well, Bayou Billy's is classic Nintendo! Apparently, the Biggest Bad on the Big Easy has decided he wants to take out Bayou Billy once and for all. So like any self-respecting NES bad guy, he's kidnapped Billy's girl and launched an entire army to dispatch of our hero. Naturally this will not be enough to protect him, as Billy sets out to dispense with some cajun-style justice. The first level introduces you to Bayou Billy's fighting mechanics, as you pummel your way across the swamp lands. Billy has the usual assortment of punches, jump-kicks, and ability to use weapons with which any beat 'em up aficionado should be familiar.
The second level introduces the first shooting stage. In it, Billy suddenly remembers he has a gun, and unloads countless rounds of ammo at special forces agents that keep lunging out of an Assault Chopper, which Billy must also take down. Although this stage was clearly designed with the light gun in mind, the game is actually kind enough to offer a mode that let players control their cross-hairs using the NES' standard D-Pad instead. It's a nice touch that allows the game to be played even on modern Televisions which no longer support the light gun.
After another beat 'em up level, Bayou Billy hops into his Jeep and peels off towards his arch-rival's lair located on Bourbon Street. It's a perilous journey down twisting backwater roads, and to make matters worse an entire fleet of ATVs and biplanes has been sent to stop your progress. Fortunately, Billy stocked his ride full of rifles, and grenades to prepare for exactly this sort of thing. It's one of the most harrowing races in gaming history, but if you can survive it you'll enter the final gauntlet.
An Epic Finale!
After dealing with a few hundred more mooks on Bourbon Street in a series of beat 'em up and shooting stages, our Swamp-Rat protagonist finally meets up with his arch-enemy. Naturally, you've got to fight him to the death. But, that's not what makes Bayou Billy's final level so memorable. (SPOILERS!) No, The Adventures of Bayou Billy was one of the first games to feature a fake-out boss. Mr Big is not your final battle. You'd think it would be him, since he's the one who kidnapped your girl and who's been taunting you for the entire game, but no! That honor goes to his two body guards who double-team you after you take out their boss. (Not sure why they didn't prevent this death...you'd think that'd be their one job, but whatever. Maybe he wanted to take you on mano y mano.) It's a little random, but thematically it works. You just crushed an enormous criminal empire. It makes sense that some of the flunkies you just put out of work are going to want a piece of you. (END OF SPOILERS!) Win the final battle, and you'll finally be treated to a satisfying cutscene of Bayou Billy being reunited with his lady love.
Still Worth Playing Today!
The end result was a game that had all the makings of a classic. In an era where multi-genre gameplay is everywhere, you'd think that Bayou Billy would be remembered as the great grandaddy of action-adventure games. But no, aside from a short lived comic book series and an appearance on Captain N, Konami's Ragin' Cajun has not been seen since his video game debut.
I think this is a shame. Bayou Billy is still impressive, and a milestone in the evolution of Nintendo games. Few titles could fit as much onto an NES cartridge as it did. It may have been rough around the edges, but no more so than a host of other Nintendo games that we now consider classics. So if you're looking for some action and a serious challenge, I heartily recommend Bayou Billy.
Buy The Adventures of Bayou Billy - For the NES
What are your memories of this cult Konami classic? Did you find Bayou Billy's multi-faceted gameplay endearing or just infuriating? As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.