Cabal (NES) Review

By Athanasios 01.01.2020

Review for Cabal on NES

1988 was a time where the vast majority of shooters were pretty much the same; 2D side-scrolling run 'n' gunners the likes of Contra, with your reflexes being the most crucial skill to remain alive to keep on killing. Cabal sought to change all that. Although not exactly the first of its kind, TAD Corporation's arcade hit was quite the innovative piece of software, placing the camera behind the player-controlled soldier; a soldier who had to juggle aiming, shooting, dodging, and... building demolition at the same time, adding a nice tactical layer to it all. The following review checks the 1990, NES port, which was handled by none other than good 'ol buddy of the big N, Rare. Take a look, fellow trigger-happy maniacs.

Typical shooters have you gunning down just your enemies, whether those are human meatbags in combat uniform, blood-hungry monsters with a penchant for black magic, or slimy, scaly, or whatever-y alien scum. Cabal is not a typical shooter. You will shoot at walls; you will shoot at trees; and you will shoot at buildings made of concrete. Everything is your enemy in here, and it's as exciting as it is ridiculous. What's more ridiculous? Demolishing a whole military compound, only to watch your commando move on to the next area while dancing like a complete moron!

Sure, only soldiers and vehicles shoot at you, but there is a point to all that destruction... besides how cathartic and fun that is, of course, as that increases your score - this is an arcade game at its heart, after all. Better keep your eyes at the incoming bullets, however. Prepare to have your one-hit-and-he-is-dead trooper to run around like a squirrel on caffeine, as this can be a pretty tough, chaotic ordeal. Again, this is an arcade game, and one that doesn't hold any of its - many - punches.

Screenshot for Cabal on NES

Dodging is a crucial element of Cabal, but it's important to note that this plays a lot differently than the run of the mill, ordinary side-scrolling action title. This is one of those "shooting gallery" games, where the protagonist is viewed from behind, and the enemies are moving in the background, pretty much like in the pseudo-3D corridor levels of Konami's Contra, something that changes the dynamic of the whole running and gunning substantially.

Avoiding bullets turns out to be a bit trickier here, because the faux-3D perspective makes it a bit harder to "read" it all, and tell where those bullets are, not to mention that our hero can't make any three meter leaps over enemy fire. This unfortunate commando can do three things: either run away, jump left or right, or make a roll dodge. The fact that all this is done with the B button definitely takes a while to get used to, but it's easy to get the hang of things, and turn this rare control scheme into a second nature.

Screenshot for Cabal on NES

Yes, there's only one button left, which is used to shoot as well as throw grenades. You essentially press A to lock the soldier in position, being able to control the just crosshair while you hold the button, and if you want to lob a grenade, you aim and quickly hit A instead of holding it. Again, that initially feels kind of weird, especially for those with not any experience from any similar titles, but it's also something that won't give you much trouble getting used to.

What will surely give you plenty of trouble is how challenging it all is. You will constantly be on the move, trying to avoid getting hit, while also trying to find a temporary safe spot to shoot a couple of bullets, only to begin rolling like a Dark Souls III newbie after a second or two - and don't expect much help from the game. Apart from additional grenades, a power-up occasionally drops down, which increases your fire rate and power... but you'll still have to dodge enemy fire, right?

Screenshot for Cabal on NES

Sadly, and evident from the single power-up item available, this is a very barebones and monotonous experience. The repetitive music doesn't help alleviating the problem either, as there's only one, boring, 10-second loop that plays throughout your quest - you know the one: the typical 'military tension' theme. The visuals lack character as well, although, in all fairness, Rare has done wonders porting the original arcade version... which actually looked kind of boring to begin with.

Luckily, despite the lack of varied gameplay mechanics, this remains a fun game - even more so if you can find someone to tag along for the ride, for some nice, jolly co-op. Yes, there are still better shooters of this kind out there, with the best probably being the SNES classic, Wild Guns, which rises above it on all accounts... but it's hard to deny that the pure carnage that your hand(s) will create in Cabal isn't some quality time either.

…and don't forget that awesome victory dance.

Screenshot for Cabal on NES

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Cabal has been left behind by its - admittedly few - spiritual children, with Wild Guns in particular, taking the cake, frosting and all. With that said, this remains a fun, and very challenging ordeal, that's only slightly rough around the edges, and which can be somewhat repetitive, especially when playing on your own.


Milton Bradley







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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