Deja Vu

   Ever have a bad day? I mean, a really bad day? One where when you wake up your right hand is covered in blood, someone injected you with some sort of drug, you can't remember who the heck you are, and all of your memories have been stripped away? That's how Kemco's Deja Vu: A Nightmare Comes True begins.
I hate it when this happens

   This game was the second in a series of three games Kemco released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The first game was the medieval Shadowgate, while the third was the horror-themed Uninvited. Despite the varying settings, each uses the same game system: the player collects items, moves through an area, and solves puzzles to accomplish goals. The game unfolds via a combination of first-person graphics and copious text. Read carefully, or you could miss something vital! Also, you don't control your character directly, but rather send him in various directions by selecting locations from a map. There's also a menu of preset commands such as use, hit, examine, and leave. Players move a hand cursor around the screen, clicking on commands, choosing items from your inventory, or clicking on areas of the screen.

   Deja Vu's takes place in early 1940s America. Hit men run wild with their tommy guns, private eyes investigate in large tan trench coats, cab fare is only seventy-five cents and a pistol costs only twenty dollars. Crime has run amok in the small, nameless town, and it's up to a single independent detective to stop it - as soon as he can pull himself together. The game begins in a bathroom stall. There's a coat and gun hanging on the stall door. Stumbling out of the stall and into the bar, the door to the street is locked. Your first task is to find your way out of the bar and onto the street. There's no limit to your inventory, so pick up everything and anything. It's bound to come in handy sooner or later - and if it doesn't, no harm done. As the game progresses, more of the story is revealed. Eventually, your character remembers that he is Ace Harding, Private Eye. Ace seems to have been part of a twisted kidnapping and murder plot, but he has no recollection of kidnapping or murdering anybody. A fugitive on the run, Ace has to find the real killers and clear his own name.

Ace calls a cab

   In Shadowgate, your character learned a variety of magic spells to aid his quest. Magic doesn't exist in the world of Deja Vu, so Ace learns addresses instead. Ace can take a cab to each address, opening up a web of environments and situations to explore. Either of the two cabs costs Ace seventy-five cents, so make sure Ace always has at least three coins with him. Short on coins? Visit the underground casino in the bar and try the slots. Just be wary of the ever-present muggers, bums, and the police.

   Deja Vu is an adventure game rife with puzzles, so you'll need to keep your wits about you to survive and succeed. Examining everything is a must. It can help to put yourself in Ace's place and say. "What would I do if I were in this scenario?", but unconventional thinking can often be advantageous. Don't be afraid to use items together or hit objects, as it could lead to the missing clue.

   The graphics are quite good for an 8-bit system. While they don't measure up to modern standards, the drunken bum looks like a real drunken bum, detailed and believable. The music isn't that impressive, but you may find yourself involuntarily whistling to the tunes. All in all, Deja Vu is an oldie-but-goodie, an old-time adventure/puzzle game worth a look - or worth looking at again.

Retrospective by K. O'Donnell, freelance.
Deja Vu
Developer Kemco
Publisher Kemco-Seika
Genre Adventure
Medium Cartridge
Platform NES
Release Date
21 screenshots
Box art