Raid 2020

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Raid 2020 NES game cover art

It is the year 2020 and cyberpunk ‘Murika is under the tyranny of drug kingpin Pitbull! Agent Shadow, you must conduct a Raid 2020!

Console Nintendo Entertainment System
Developer Color Dreams
Publisher Color Dreams, HES Interactive
Genre Run and gun
Release Year 1989 – 1990
Purchase (NES) Purchase from eBay.

Well, damn, it’s the year 2020 and there’s a cheap meme for people to exploit! Now that we’re up to this point up in history, let’s reevaluate things, shall we?

Hmm… no swamp sharks, no hovercrafts, no spaceships, no drug-dealing robots, no green men trying to murder you with tennis balls… Wait, so you’re telling me that Raid 2020 LIED!?

Certified Bruh Moment meme

This is like Street Fighter 2010 all over again! And Back to the Future. And 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Anyways, whenever you think about the NES library, Raid 2020 is probably not the type of game that comes into mind. That’s because it’s not an officially certified Nintendo game. Furthermore, it was developed by Color Dreams, a company previously known for creating unlicensed NES games. Wanna know what else they did? Changing their name to Wisdom Tree and developing unlicensed Christian games. Yeah.

Wow. The amount of smug gloating in this video. How very Christian of you, Color Dreams. I also love how they seemed to believe their games are the apex of quality at the time.

Like, really, everyone remembers such classics like The Adventures of Captain Comic and Master Chu & the Drunkard Hu. What, you don’t know what the hell those games are? Pft! You’re all a bunch of filthy casuals.

Anyways, the actual Raid 2020 cartridges are this ugly baby blue color, which is often how you can tell that your game isn’t a legitimate NES game. Also, this game was only released in North America and Australia. So I guess the rest of the world is worse off without the “pure genius” of Raid 2020!

So I have never played this game before and decided to go in completely blind. Why? Because we must suffer for great art sometimes. The great art of myself ready to strangle myself with a NES controller.


In the Year 2020!

So what is Raid 2020 even about? Well, judging from the box art, you’re a cyborg in a trench coat standing in a cyberpunk city. It looked like it was going to be one of those awesome, fast-paced run and gun sidescrollers. Sort of like this underrated NES gem I once covered called Journey to Silius. I was thinking that maybe we can have that kind of experience.


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Um, close enough?

So, get this. This is an anti-drug game, similar to an arcade game called NARC. While Raid 2020 may not be as well known, it’s still quite heavy-handed in making sure you handle drug dealers in the most reasonable way possible: by murdering them in public.

Drugs are bad, mm’kay? If someone gives you drugs, blow their fucking heads off, mm’kay? Just take an Uzi and enter open confrontations with all the drug dealers out in the streets, mm’kay? You’d be saving ‘Murika.

I mean, just look at this title screen. What else can you say about it?

Raid 2020 NES title screen

Oh, and the prologue. Fantastic writing there.

A. D. 2020. A plague of narcotics transcending the bounds of race, economy, and time have put a strangle hold on America. You must destroy Pitbull, the drug kingpin who has become the overlord of this sinister empire.

You, Shadow, are the last hope…

Shadow the Hedgehog and Doom's Eye
Yes, Shadow, you must exterminate every last one of those pitiful drug dealers! El Chapo was just a pawn compared to the likes of Pitbull. Destroy him with every fiber of your being!

Stupid jokes aside, I don’t think this game’s premise is going to win any awards anytime soon, so let’s dive into the gameplay.

Raid 2020 NES gameplay

Well, Raid 2020 is indeed a run and gun sidescroller. One where you must kill drug dealers, flies, seagulls, worms, bats, cyborgs and giant bugs. I don’t know what most of this shit has to do with taking down a drug kingpin. But if you have no other ideas for enemies in a NES game, just throw in some common animals you see in your backyard. I mean, those birds might kill you by shitting on you, man!

And let me tell you, these controls are ass. As you may know for most popular NES games, the A button is usually for jumping and the B button is for attacking. In Raid 2020, it’s the other way around. But that’s not the worst of it.

Whenever you shoot your gun, you can only use one shot at a time until it disappears. You can’t even enjoy one of the most fun parts of a run and gun platformer: being able to shoot an infinite barrage of bullets.

Similar to a beat ’em up game, there’s a whole plane you can walk across. But whenever you press the Up or Down directional buttons, you move diagonally as if you’re in an isometric view. This also applies when you’re driving vehicles. It’s so fucking awkward and it’s one of the main reasons why this game is not fun to play. It makes it easier for you to run into enemies and obstacles.

Raid 2020 NES gameplay

Also, see those red things on the ground? Those are mines. Your character actually has a lot of health, and can easily shrug off bird shit and bullet wounds. But if you step on a mine, it’s an instant kill. And to make things even worse, certain obstacles and enemies do the same thing when you touch them. And there’s no easy way to tell when something will kill you instantly, unless you accidentally experience it yourself. Oh yeah, some fantastic game design there. You can’t even see your impending deaths coming!

Raid 2020 NES gameplay

And here’s the most annoying part of Raid 2020. The main objective of most of the levels is to kill all of the drug dealers in the level, then go through the exit.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, guess what? Sometimes, the remaining drug dealers just don’t spawn on the level like they should. So if you try to exit, the game will kick you back to the beginning of the level. Now thankfully, all of the drug dealers you killed up to this point will not respawn (unless you’re forced to use a continue). Still, it’s really annoying when you had to backtrack through a level because the game itself didn’t bother spawning the enemies you needed to kill.

Raid 2020 NES gameplay

So after you clear the first level, you’re introduced to some new gameplay right off the bat. You’re on a jet ski trying to take out gators, helicopters, and swamp sharks.

Yeah, those black creatures are swamp sharks. Why swamp sharks? Cuz swamp sharks, man!

Oddly enough, the controls are normal here. Pressing up means moving up, pressing down means moving down, etc. I don’t understand why the rest of the game couldn’t be like this.

However, this level will make you realize just how fast your health can drain. For one thing, there is no Mercy Invincibility. So if an enemy gets stuck on your sprite, you’re pretty much good as dead. And those gun turrets are invincible and will constantly fire at you, so good luck with that.

Even though this level controls better, it’s strangely more unforgiving. If you enter the piece of isolated bridge, it will upgrade you to a strong (but slower) boat. But if you get stuck on the walls of the bridge, you die instantly. See what I mean that you couldn’t see these instant deaths coming? It’s some dumb bullshit like this that gives Raid 2020 its artificial difficulty.

Also, those slow-moving logs in this level? They kill you instantly if you touch them. But getting bombarded by bullets? Naw, you’re fine!

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Level three follows the same style of gameplay as level one. This is probably the highlight of Raid 2020, because it’s the closest to a cyberpunk setting it’s ever been.  It’s straight up a pain in the ass to go through because of the many opportunities of instant deaths. But once you recognize which enemies/obstacles do that, you won’t have much trouble dealing with them.

In this level, I realized you could stand on top of enemies and use them as platforms. However, you have no control over them and they just move however they like. There are also actual platforms in this stage, but they actually damage you.

Really? A normal platform, hurting you to use it? That’s some shit right there.

Raid 2020 NES gameplay

Level 4, you’re in a space battle in a similar style to level 2. All you have to do here is kill the boss, which is this satellite-looking thing moving at ridiculous speeds. Maybe whoever’s piloting it is on crack, which fits the game’s theme. A war on drugs… IN SPACE!

Raid 2020 NES gameplay

Level 5 is easily the most unforgiving level in Raid 2020, all for the wrong reasons. Other than the boss battle in the previous level, this is the only normal stage where you’re not required to kill all the drug dealers. Instead, you needed to find a key to the final boss’s room, which for some reason is hidden in a cavern labyrinth.

This part is pure trial and error, and you wouldn’t have any idea on where to go and what to do. Basically, you have to reach a specific area in the labyrinth and kill a giant insect, which holds the key you need to finish the level.

Why a giant insect? No idea.

Raid 2020 NES final boss Pitbull

After that, um… wow, that’s Pitbull? I was not at all expecting him to be some green man who throws tennis balls at you. At least, that’s what I think he’s throwing?

For me, this is strangely the easiest part of the game. Every time you destroy those green tennis ball things, it drops health. Pitbull spawns a whole bunch of these tennis balls, so you’ll never run out of health.

Raid 2020 NES ending

And well, that’s it. That’s all there is to it.

So after I finished Raid 2020, I wondered all this time what all those collectible items were for. Throughout the game, you can collect money, drug contraband and suitcases. I managed to find a scanned PDF manual from Digit Press. Apparently, the suitcases can give you extra lives And also, turning in money and narcotics to the FBI grant you some kind of reward, but… what even is the reward? Was that just a lie? Is there any point to having these items at all?

Whatever. I played and reviewed Raid 2020 as a joke to kick off the year 2020. So I think it goes without saying: this game is shit. Are there any redeeming qualities? Well, not really. I was slightly amused by the fact that this is supposed to be a video game with an anti-drug message, even though it doesn’t do anything to say why drugs are bad.

The graphics aren’t the worst I’ve seen. though I have no idea what some of the enemies were supposed to be. And the music is okay, though there are literally only two songs: the title screen and the level music that plays through 98% of the game.

Overall, Raid 2020 is a below average run and gun sidescroller. It looks like a game that came straight from the infamous Action 52 collection on NES, though not quite as bad. With that said, have a Happy New Year. If you see drug-dealing cyborgs out there, you know what to do.

Raid 2020

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  • Graphics are not awful, but could definitely use some work.
  • Music is okay, though there are only two tracks in the whole game.


  • Bad controls, specifically when Up and Down force you into isometric movement.
  • Too many unexpected instant kill obstacles.
  • The game forces you to backtrack to kill the rest of the drug dealers, because said drug dealers didn't spawn the first time.
  • No Mercy Invincibility.
  • Level 5 is a dull slog that relies on trial and error.
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