Bayou Billy has been haunting me for decades now. It remains the one NES game I own that I have never beaten. Read on to find out what makes this game so absurd.
In my childhood, there were a few things that could disappoint me like no other. Chief among them was the dreaded NES game that I wanted to like, but I just couldn’t. There tended to be many reasons for this, but the worst reason of all was a game that was just too damned hard to play. Now, there are some games that are really hard, but still manage to be really fun (I’m looking at you, my beloved Megaman). Then, there is Bayou Billy…
Bayou Billy is a game that has stuck with me for years. From the very first day I saw the cover of the box, I wanted it – no, NEEDED it in my life. So I did what any 7 year old kid would do. I cried and begged and pleaded my parents to get it for me until they finally caved in and bought it.
As far as I was concerned, this was going to be Crocodile Dundee the videogame. I was going to grab some punk, and then all alone in my bedroom, I would say out loud “That’s not a knife…..THIS is a knife”. I mean, how could it not be just like Crocodile Dundee? Just look at the cover over there on the right. Honestly, it has to be one of the most badass covers to any game in the NES library. Billy has all the makings of an awesome character. He has a cool straw cowboy hat that says “I just don’t give a damn”. This is accented splendidly by his choice to wear a leather vest with nothing underneath. But the real sign to him being a tough guy? The bandanna tied around his leg. There is no reason for that. Let’s also not overlook the 3-foot long Bowie knife that Billy is brandishing haphazardly about. I vividly remember sitting in my dad’s car driving home from Toys ‘R Us and just staring at this image. I was about to play the best game ever.
Imagine my surprise when I inserted the game, fired up my NES and saw this.
Billy certainly looks different, doesn’t he? Where is that cool vest and his ripped jeans? And the BANDANNA! Noooooo. Whatever, though. The game looks good enough, it just was jarring seeing just how different everything looked from what I had imagined. I assumed I’d just play the game, and the fun factor would win me over. What follows is my recollection of how actually playing this game went down:
First thing is first. See that guy in the stylish blue outfit in the screenshot above? He is the very first foe that Billy faces in the game. Like, the very first thing you see other than Billy. You would think that a badass like Bayou Billy could handle a scumbag like him no problem. I mean, he is the very first enemy. Hmm…the blue suit guy just punched me 3 times and I died…..The first enemy of the game killed me in 3 hits. Let me try that again. Oh, he killed me agian. Game Over. What the holy hell?
It tooks me weeks, yes, weeks, to finally beat the first level of the game. I was determined to have fun with this game, no matter what the cost. So I plugged away, and finally figured out how to defeat the nameless blue-suited goons that attack Billy in the first level. Was it some grand strategy of timing my attacks and varrying my assault? Nope. Spamming kicks by pressing A and B. The only way to beat the first level was to basically exploit a limitation of the gameplay. Always the sign of a great game.
Regardless, I now felt confident that I could progress in the game. I beat up a few more thugs (well, I kicked them), and I was on my way. After a while, I finally came to an actual bayou level. Nice. The level even starts by giving Billy a whip to use. I’m not sure why a whip, but hey, whatever. So, you whip some guys in the face, and things are starting to look up. About half way through the bayou, you come across a body of water.
If you make it to this point in the game, I hope that you have had fun so far. Because as of right now, your time with Bayou Billy is over. The waters that Billy now wades through are filled with 8-bit alligators. You will not beat them. You will punch them in the head dozens of times, but it will be of no use. They will kill you. In 20 years, I have never beaten this stage. And it’s a real shame, because apparently, after this stage, Bayou Billy does some interesting things as a game. There is a driving stage and even a rail-shooting segment. At least, that’s what the internet tells me. I’ll never know because I’ll never beat those alligators.
And that’s that. I pined for the game for so long, and I played 2 levels. The thing that stings so badly is that I desperately wanted to love this game. The graphics were admittedly decent (even though I made fun of Billy’s look earlier), the soundtrack wasn’t bad (doot doo doo doo dooooooooooooooo dooot), and the gameplay was varied (so I have read). The only real problem with the game was the cheap difficulty level. As I said previously, I am a huge Megaman fan, so I have no problem playing difficult games. The difference here is that where megaman is challenging, Bayou Billy is just unfair. In Megaman, if I can’t beat an enemy, I take a step back, grab a new weapon, and try again. In Bayou Billy, once you meet an enemy you can’t beat, then you are screwed. No amount of practice or skill will allow you to continue. Those alligators are killing you no matter what. Maybe if you are lucky you can glitch through the game, but what’s the point of doing that?
So as it stands, I am confident that Bayou Billy will remain the one NES game in my collection that I will never complete. Try as I might, there is just no hope. If you are one of the brave few that have conquered this behemoth, I tip my hat to you. The only person I feel bad for is Annabelle, Billy’s girlfriend. Because even though she got kidnapped, I sure as hell won’t ever be saving her.