P.O.W.: Prisoners of War
Cover image for Nintendo
Publisher(s)SNK, Electrocoin
Release dateArcade
JP June 30, 1989
NA September 1, 1989
GenreBeat 'em up
Game modesSingle-player, 2 player Co-op
Platform(s)Arcade, NES, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Network

P.O.W. -Prisoners of War- (脱獄, Dasugoku which means "Prison break") is a 1988 beat 'em up game by SNK. The arcade version of the game is for two players. However in the version ported to the NES, it is just a one-player game.


The main character in single player is a captured P.O.W. commando codenamed Snake (Bart in the NES version) who must bomb his way out of a P.O.W. prison cell and escape. They must escape through four levels of gameplay where the mission is not only to escape, but to infiltrate the enemy base and destroy their leaders. There are brass-knuckles, body armor, knives, grenades, and machine guns that the players can use in order to aid them in their mission.

There are four levels of gameplay:

  • First Mission: Escape from Prison Camp
  • Second Mission: Attacking the Industrial Area
  • Third Mission: Guerilla Attack in the Jungle
  • Fourth Mission(Final Mission): Destruction of Communications Headquarters


P.O.W. is a side-scrolling, beat 'em up game, which were typical during the time that it was created. 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. 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.

For the NES version of the game, the crosspad maneuvers the character in all directions. The 'A' button kicks and if equipped with a weapon it will utilize the weapon. The 'B' button is used for punching and if equipped with a rifle, the player can strike opponents. When both buttons are pressed simultaneously, the player unleashes a powerful flying kick. 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 attack strength, and an armor that makes the player invulnerable to gunshots and knife throws.


The arcade version has an unfortunate glitch in the fourth level (at the point at which the player is facing the boss of that level) in which an enemy soldier will roll indefinitely and cannot be killed, thus making it impossible to progress further. This only happens sometimes.

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