P.O.W.: Prisoners of War

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P.O.W.: Prisoners of War
U.S. arcade flyer of P.O.W.: Prisoners of War.
U.S. arcade flyer of P.O.W.: Prisoners of War.
Platform(s)Arcade, NES
Genre(s)Beat 'em up
Mode(s)Single player, 2 player Co-op
DisplayRaster, 256 x 224 pixels (Horizontal), 2048 colors

P.O.W.: Prisoners of War, released in Japan as Datsugoku -Prisoners of War- (脱獄 -Prisoners of War-, Prison Break: Prisoners of War), is a side-scrolling beat 'em up produced by SNK originally released as an arcade game in 1988.[1]

A home version was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System on June 30, 1989, in Japan and on September 1989 in North America. The player controls a military prisoner who breaks free from his cell and must fight his way into the enemy's main base in order to eliminate their leader and escape.


The game can be played by up to two players simultaneously. Player 1 controls a prisoner dressed in blue, while Player 2 controls a palette swap of the same character dressed in red.[2] The objective is to escape from the enemy's base by fighting one's way through four stages filled with numerous types of enemy soldiers trying to impede the player's escape. The stages consist of a POW camp, a warehouse, a jungle, and the enemy's base. Occasionally the enemy will attack the player with vehicles such as an assault chopper, an armored truck or motorcycles. At the end of the final stage, the player confronts an enemy general before contacting the extraction chopper to pick him up and proceeding his way to the final escape sequence.

The controls consists of an eight-way joystick for moving the character and three action buttons for punching, kicking, and jumping. There are also three special attacks performed by pressing two buttons simultaneously: a jump kick (jump, and then kick), a back punch (jump and punch simultaneously), and a headbutt (punch and kick simultaneously). The player can also pick up one of two weapons dropped by defeated enemies: a throwing knife and a machine gun. The controls changes while wielding a weapon. The knife is thrown by pressing the punch button, but can preserved by the player until needed by using kicks. When wielding the machine gun, the player can fire it by pressing the kick button or conserve its ammo by pressing the punch button to gun whip enemies.[3]

NES version[edit]

Unlike the arcade version, the NES version is single-player only. The premise of the game remains the same, but the controls are changed a bit due to the lack of a third action button. The jump kick is now performed by pressing punch and kick simultaneously (B and A), while the back-punch is performed by holding the d-pad on the player's opposite direction and pressing B at the same time (the headbutt is the only combination attack removed in the NES version). However, the player now has the ability to pick up and use hand grenades (which were only used by enemy characters in the arcade version) during the boss encounters against the helicopter in Stage 1 and the tank in Stage 4. There are also new enemy characters (such as frogmen, shotgun wielders, and a fat strongman), as well as a new final boss.

There are also huts and rooms where the player can obtain power-ups by defeating the enemies inside. The power-ups consists of a full life recovery, a brass knuckle that increases the player's punch strength, and an armor that makes the player invulnerable to gunshots and knife throws.


Commodore User's Nick Kelly wrote that the arcade game was faithful to Double Dragon and Renegade before it and called it a "good solid beat 'em up", rating it a 6 out of 10.[4]


  1. ^ "P.O.W.: Prisoners of War". The International Arcade Museum. Retrieved 4 Oct 2013.
  2. ^ The player's character always identifies himself as Snake when contacting headquarters prior to the final escape sequence, regardless of which of the two characters are being controlled.
  3. ^ "P.O.W. instruction manual" (PDF).
  4. ^ Kelly, Nick (November 1988). "P.O.W.". Commodore User. p. 122.

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