North American NES cover
|Developer(s)||Nintendo Research & Development 1|
|Arcade system||VS. UniSystem|
|Display||Horizontal raster, standard resolution, 256 x 240|
Ice Climber (アイスクライマー? Aisu Kuraimā) is a vertical platform video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Family Computer in Japan and the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America in 1985. In Ice Climber, the characters Popo (ポポ) and Nana (ナナ), collectively known as the Ice Climbers, venture up 32 ice-covered mountains to recover stolen vegetables from a giant condor. In some European countries, the NES console was sold bundled with the game, increasing Ice Climber's familiarity outside Japan.
An alternate version was released in the arcades as part of the Vs. series, known as Vs. Ice Climber (VSアイスクライマー? VS Aisu Kuraimā). It includes gameplay features not found in the home console release, such as an animated title screen, a stage select menu which appears at the start of the game and after completing each level, 16 additional mountains, occasional blizzard and wind effects, more enemy characters, and bonus multiplier items.
The inclusion of Nana and Popo as playable characters in the 2001 GameCube title Super Smash Bros. Melee brought the game renewed attention. Nintendo released a version of the game for the Nintendo e-Reader in 2002.
The first player controls Popo, a boy wearing a blue Eskimo parka, while the second player controls Nana, a girl wearing a pink one. The only tool they carry is a wooden mallet to carve openings in the ice above and to club enemies. Each mountain level consists of eight layers of colorful ice and a bonus stage. Standard, dull ice blocks pose no threat other than an easily disposed-of barrier and platform. Square ice blocks with higher detail are indestructible, forcing the player to take another path. Hatched ice acts as a conveyor belt sliding the Eskimo either left or right. Finally, many mountains include unbreakable moving platforms resembling clouds. The bonus stage takes place at the peak. Within a 40-second time limit and no enemies, the Ice Climbers often face trickier jumps and multiple moving platforms. The peak is also the only place to recover stolen vegetables, most notably eggplants. Collecting just one piece of corn from the fifth bonus stage is the only way to gain an extra life. At the top of the peak, the Condor (コンドル) flies overhead.
Enemies encountered on the way up the mountains include the Topi (トッピー), Nitpicker (ニットピッカー), and White Bear (ホワイトベア). Topis come in two varieties: the blue seal featured in the Japanese Famicom Ice Climber release, and the short yeti seen in Western versions and Vs. Ice Climber. Topis have the ability to fill in holes in the floor with ice. To do this, a Topi scouts out opening in the floor, runs back to its cave, and reemerges pushing an icicle to fill in two blocks. This process repeats until no more openings on their layer of ice exist. The Nitpicker is a small, mountain-dwelling bird that swoops down from icy caves on the levels' edges. Unlike the Topi, which is confined to one floor of the mountain, Nitpickers can cross over multiple ice layers. Taking them into account along with moving platforms and sliding ice, timing jumps can be more difficult. The final enemy is the bipedal White Bear. This enemy, wearing sunglasses and pink shorts, appears on screen only when Popo and Nana take too long to advance. Pounding the ice, the Polar Bear forces the screen to move up. If an Eskimo is forced off the screen, the player loses a life. Other obstacles include deadly falling icicles. These can form on the bottom of any type of platform. After a few successful mountains climbed, all enemies' speeds increase.
The arcade game Vs. Ice Climber has a few more gameplay differences. The player must pick from an initial set of 24 mountains to conquer. After eight are cleared, a Super Bonus stage occurs in which the player must reach a high platform. Afterwards, the player must choose from the second set of 24 mountains, in which the Condor is replaced by a giant butterfly. After the next eight stages are cleared and the Super Bonus is over, the player resumes the cycle from the original mountain set. The game keeps track of whether the mountain was claimed by an Ice Climber or if it remains Topi territory—once all the stages are completed, the counter resets. Approximately 30 of the 48 level designs are borrowed from the NES game. Stage setups are generally trickier in Vs. Ice Climber, with some new mechanics such as cloud platforms that move diagonal or strong gusts of wind. In addition, a purple bee with a spear flying in a horizontal pattern is included as a somewhat rare fourth enemy.
After the bonus stage, the players' scores are tallied. Points are rewarded for every brick of ice destroyed, every Topi-pushed icicle smashed, every Nitpicker killed and every vegetable collected. Finally, a bonus score is rewarded if a player manages to climb to the top of the bonus stage and jump up and grab the Condor. The game keeps track of the high score, although there is no way to save it on the NES version.
The game can be played in one or two-player mode. The latter places Popo and Nana against each other in a race to the summit. Players may prefer to play cooperatively on the way up, but during the bonus round, they must compete for the top.
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Ice Climber, along with NES Open Tournament Golf, is one of two games directed by longtime Nintendo producer Kenji Miki. It is also the first video game programmed by Kazuaki Morita. He considered his work on Ice Climber to be a "warm-up" before becoming a main programmer on Super Mario Bros. Morita was later credited with central programming roles in numerous titles within the Super Mario Bros. series, The Legend of Zelda series, and in Star Fox 64.
Ice Climber, a launch title for the NES in North America, has been re-released for a number of Nintendo's major gaming consoles. For the release on the PC-8801, the game changes to a different and more limited color palette along with a reworked HUD. Vs. Ice Climber has only been re-released for the Famicom Disk System, removing the difficulty settings and changing few graphics to be closer to Ice Climber (such as the bee and butterfly replaced by a Nitpicker and blue Condor, respectively). Including the releases listed below, the entire NES game is found within the 2002 GameCube release of Animal Crossing. It can only be officially unlocked via a North America-exclusive e-Reader card, or as a gift to players requesting their save data be transferred from the Japanese-exclusive Nintendo 64 version to the Doubutsu no Mori+ edition.
|Ice Climber||1985||NEC PC-8801||Published by Hudson Soft|
|Vs. Ice Climber||1985||Arcade||Nintendo Vs. Series|
|Ice Climber||1988||Famicom Disk System||Port of Vs. Ice Climber|
|Ice Climber-e||2002||e-Reader||Barcoded cards, readable with e-Reader and Game Boy Advance.|
|Ice Climber||2004||Game Boy Advance||Classic NES Series|
|Ice Climber||2007||Wii||Virtual Console|
|Ice Climber||2011||3DS||Virtual Console|
|Ice Climber||2013||Wii U||Virtual Console|
Super Smash Bros. series
The Ice Climbers, voiced by Sanae Kobayashi, appear as playable fighters in the Super Smash Bros. series. Their symbol is an eggplant, the first vegetable rescued from the original game. Although they are collectively the same fighter, players only control Popo while Nana mimics his every move, and vice versa if the player switches the costume and the character.
In Super Smash Bros. Melee, the Ice Climbers appear alongside Polar Bears and Topis in Adventure Mode. The seal and yeti Topi respectively appear in the Japanese and Western version of the game. Popo and Nana's stage is "Icicle Mountain," a level partially influenced by the mountains of Ice Climber. However, their target test stage is a direct, 2.5D representation of NES-style graphics. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the Ice Climbers return with a different stage. "The Summit" recreates the bonus level mountain peak right down to the original vegetables. Enemies from the NES title appearing in Brawl include the Polar Bear and Condor. Along with these new Ice Climber elements, a demo of the original 1985 game appears along with other Virtual Console titles as a part of the "Masterpieces" collection.
The Ice Climbers were initially planned to return as fighters in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U but were taken out during development because of technical issues encountered in the development of the 3DS version. Game director Masahiro Sakurai stated that there was not a high priority to include them since the Ice Climber series was "unlikely to have another installment" at the time. Despite this, they are still mentioned in-game via a collectable trophy. The Polar Bear from this series also appears as an enemy in the 3DS version's Smash Run mode.
Themes and imagery from Ice Climber regularly appear in the WarioWare series' classic Nintendo microgames. In Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land and Kirby Air Ride, when Kirby gets the Freeze ability, he dons Popo's parka in the same manner it is worn in the Super Smash Bros. series. In Tetris DS, an Ice Climber backdrop makes an appearance among other classic Nintendo games. Topi seals remain, even outside Japan. Daigasso! Band Brothers, a DJ music game for the Nintendo DS, includes the bonus stage music theme.
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