UPDATE: This game can now be found on the Rare Replay compilation disc for Xbox One. It’s no longer lost in time!
RC Pro-Am for NES was a revelation. Simple, addicting, and insanely fun, this isometric racing game was a staple for most NES owners in its day, and while it received its own sequel very late into the console’s life, the geniuses at Rare had another brilliant idea: What if, instead of RC cars, you controlled a boat with a helicopter propeller that could shoot missiles, jump over waterfalls, and slay dragons? Thus, Cobra Triangle was born.
Rare got a lot of use out of its RC Pro-Am engine, but Cobra Triangle is arguably the most inventive. Straight off the bat, you know you’re in for something cool. The moment you boot the game up, you’re greeted with an even more bad ass version of the game’s box art right on your screen, accompanied by some classic David Wise music. You press the start button, and your boat literally flies onto the screen with its retractible helicopter propeller, and lands at the starting line of a high speed boat race. Yes, it is that awesome. Along the bottom of the screen, there are several words listed. As you collect pods, those different words will flash in sequential order. If you press select on the word “turbo” your boat goes faster. If you do the same to the word “Fire” your gun levels up. (Did I mention your boat has a gun?) The more pods you collect, the more powerful your boat becomes, and you want that power quickly, because this game is as tough as they come.
Stages come in all sorts of flavors, ranging from “Race to the Finish”, or “Destroy the Mines”, to “Save the People” or “Fry the Monster”. There are enemy boats, air strikes, icebergs, logs, gun turrets, and more out to sink you at a moment’s notice, so you have to be quick, or you’ll find yourself looking at the continue screen very quickly. However, like most great games from this era, once you get the hang of things, you feel like a master. With a little practice, your motorboat can prove to be one of the most capable vehicles in the NES’s library.
Your boat’s maneuverability is extra important, because as mentioned earlier, this game is filled with diversity. Where many games are satisfied to pin themselves down to one genre, Cobra Triangle is equal parts racer/obstacle course/shooter/action game, and every aspect is polished to a spectacular shine. No two stage types feel alike, and even though they do repeat a few times, they never really get old. Plus, this game features branching paths, so there are many ways to get to the final boss.
This wonderfully unique game is a shining example of the type of creativity that made Rare the legendary developer they were. Unfortunately, due Rare’s status as a Microsoft second party developer, it’s extremely unlikely that their early works like this will ever be ported. Which is a shame, really, because games this good deserve to be readily available for new generations to play. If you have the chance, track this one down. It may be a challenge, but it’s a rewarding one. Also, make sure you hold right on the D-pad when you cross the finish line. Not only does it get you some bonus points, but it makes you look really cool.