In honor of Memorial Day here in the United States, I felt it was appropriate to review a game that gives the veterans of this nation the most respect out of any game I’ve ever played. That game being SNK’s 1988 arcade title, P.O.W.: Prisoners of War. Memorial Day is the way where all American set aside eight to ten hours normally spent working and reflect upon the ultimate sacrifice many of the men and woman of the American war machine have made. P.O.W. specifically deals with American soldiers who have been captured by the Communist enemies and held against their will. While P.O.W. is a game that allows simultaneous two-player action, like Double Dragon or Final Fight, I played the game by myself so this review reflects a single player experience.
P.O.W. pits the player, code-named Snake, against the entire armed forces of some unnamed foreign, Communist nation. P.O.W. starts with Snake busting his way out of the detention cell he has been held in. Snake does this using only his fists and feet to deal damage to his Godless foreign captors. The game really goes for the realistic angle here, instead of starting the player out with a bunch of ammo and grenades. P.O.W. does allow for limited weapons play, most commonly in the form of a single-use knife that can be knocked out of the enemy’s hands. P.O.W. also offers up a machine gun that can also be taken from enemy combatants. Just like in a real life P.O.W. prison break, the ammo is severely limited, but Snake can also use the automatic rifle to deal out some blunt force trauma. The Communists that Snake mercy kills are no slouches. I was surprised at how difficult the common foot soldiers were to knock out. These misguided humans have strong faith in their Godless leader and are determined to not let their American bargaining chip get away. If they weren’t so disgusting because of their belief system, I’d almost admire them. Almost.
After decimating the camp where he had been held, Snake decides instead of just escaping, he is going to liberate the nation and take out the Communist leader before heading home to America. I was specifically impressed with the way that the SNK development team decided to have Snake exit the camp; by commandeering a tank and blowing a hole through a wall. Impressive. After going through dozens and dozens of knife wielding enemy soldiers, Snake encounters another soldier driving a tank. Snake then takes out five knife carrying soldiers, causing the tank soldier to surrender. P.O.W. then progresses through a jungle scene and finally Snake infiltrates the main Communist stronghold. Predictably, the Communist leader tries to kill Snake with a handgun and fails. Snake then finally calls in for an evac and crawls out of the base.
While P.O.W. has shades of Double Dragon, the game I could most closely compare it to, SNK did do a good job in differentiating it from that title. By raising the stakes of the plot by featuring an American soldier trying to end Communism and escape from tyranny, it really felt like a bigger, more important game. The sound effects were really great; when you finish off an enemy a really satisfying impact sound plays. The graphics also seemed to be on par with what was standard in the 1988 arcade scene. After playing this, I’m beginning to think Athena was an anomaly and SNK really does know what they’re doing.
All in all, P.O.W. is a really impressive side-scrolling beat ’em up style game. I’d much rather have my child beating up Communists while portraying an escaping American prisoner of war, than having them be some random guy doing a vigilante mission on the streets of Detroit, Michigan. I’d highly recommend playing some P.O.W.: Prisoners of War after spending your Memorial Day praying to Jesus that He will protect this great nation from the terrorists.