Originally an arcade game, the 1986 Namco NES title Sky Kid draws hard battle lines from the start, though exactly who the warring parties are is unclear. This quirky game is iconic of Namco's early days and even earned a song and a cameo in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U. The action here is a combination of unforgiving and short, which results in an experience that's something of a mixed bag.

Every level has a straightforward objective: fly through the onslaught of enemy fire and bomb designated targets along the way. The A button is for firing, and the B button is for performing a loop. Depending on how many targets are in need of bombing, a number of bombs will be scattered throughout the level; you swoop down and pick these up, then press B when directly over a target to take it out (though this means you can't manoeuvre with loops while holding a bomb). The mechanics of Sky Kid, while relatively simple, work together to make each level different - scouring the landscapes for bombs while avoiding enemy fire and dog-fighting rival pilots manages to remain fun throughout the selection of levels here, largely thanks to the addictive level of challenge present. Small factors like bombing targets perfectly in the center to completely destroy them and numerous eggs found by looping in specific areas or shooting landmarks contribute to the charm, as does the catchy soundtrack.

There's a two-player mode present that allows a friend to join in on the fun, which is actually quite enjoyable despite the fact that friendly fire is possible. Though shots fired by a partner can't take a life away, they will cause a small stutter that leaves one open to enemy fire. The co-op mode adds a great degree of replayability to the game in addition to being a riot when the action picks up.

Unfortunately, one of Sky Kid's strengths can also manifest as a glaring weakness. At a certain point in the game the difficulty suddenly fails to strike a balance between fairly challenging and outright frustrating. Being unable to properly dodge attacks while carrying a bomb is an unfortunate concession, as the loop move is necessary for making it through some particularly treacherous bombardments and certain stretches of tricky terrain. Though we could choose to simply survive the level and forgo obtaining bombs to destroy enemy bases, this led us to feel that we were missing out on something. Perhaps players with sharper reflexes can navigate these sections, but they come across as too harsh toward the end.

Additionally, the pacing of levels, while helped by the strength of the core gameplay, is plagued with repetition. Again, complaints of difficulty and repetitiveness are not atypical of arcade shoot-em-ups such as Sky Kid, but they are detrimental to the experience for those unacquainted with the nature of the genre. The length of the game is nothing spectacular either (the only obstacle to completing all of the missions in an hour or so is the difficulty), which is particularly unsatisfactory given the Virtual Console asking price.

Conclusion

Sky Kid is a simple shoot-em-up with plenty of charm, strong core mechanics, and an amusing co-op mode. However, the game has a borderline unfair difficulty curve in addition to repetitive pacing, and is unfortunately short. The positives and negatives of this arcade classic are evenly matched, and this is an experience only for those who have the patience for shoot-em-up's that fall on the mechanical side. It should also be noted that this is an even more worthwhile experience for players with a partner with whom to take to the skies.