When I asked a friend what game I should play, he told me Shatterhand, and I thought he was just making shit up. As it turns out, Shatterhand actually exists, and it's a neat little NES action game from Harvest Moon creators Natsume. In Japan it was turned into a licensed game for on of their many Power Rangers-like shows, Super Rescue Solbrain, but it was an original IP with some hilarious box art. It's a typical looking guy with a plain white t-shirt, but he's got these goofy sunglasses you'd only see in the 90's and his hand is tearing away to reveal he's a robot or something.
At first glance Shatterhand is something like a robot-themed Ninja Gaiden, with typical platforming and melee attacking, but the items that are picked up are make it quite different. You can get gold from killing enemies, and this is used to purchase powerups spread throughout the level. These powerups include health refills, strength increases, and extra lives. This introduces an element of strategy because it is a bad idea to pick up a health pack when it is not needed. In addition to that, you can sacrifice the other types of powerups to get more gold.
The other items are alpha and beta boxes, which do nothing on their own, but after three are picked up you get a robot companion that floats above you and attacks when you do. Unlike most NES era games, this powerup isn't available for a limited amount of time, but only goes away after having taken an unspecified amount of damage. The combination of alphas and betas determines what type of robot you get, and apparently if you get the same combination twice in a row with the robot still alive, you combine with it for a limited amount of time.
Graphically the game is solid, like you might expect from a game made so late in the system's lifespan. There are a lot explosions as you might imagine, but they are made cooler than usual because things are exploding as the result of punching. Another thing that adds to the cool factor is the main character's similarity to Spencer from Bionic Commando. The music is okay but forgettable.
The structure of Shatterhand is something like an NES Mega Man game, except with an introductory stage like later games. Instead of numbered levels, they are lettered and can be played through in any order, with the exception of the first and last levels. The controls are good, and I didn't come across any points when the physics of jumping or attacking felt wrong. The only thing that through me off was when I first found out you could grab onto cages in the background to suspend your jump, but after you realize how it works it is simple enough and it doesn't come up very often anyway. I'm glad I randomly asked my friend to give me a game to play, because otherwise I'd never have known about this game at all.