I chose to play this game on hard mode. With no cheating. It's been pretty fun. The vast majority of my 64 game overs are my fault. There really isn't much cheapness at all. Nearly everything is fair. I have level 2 Defense, and many enemies still do 24-36 points of damage, including those things that fly out of the water/lava. So a player always has to be on his toes.
It's really, really fun, though! This game has excelllent play control, and the physics and enemy AI are great as well. With this new twist that icepenguin has introduced, a player really gets intimately familiar with all of the nitty gritty details of the game. Suspense and tension are often built up, often to be dashed into pieces at the next thing that causes a game over. This makes any progress that the player makes in the game so incredibly sweet.
I would recommend this hack to someone who bravely played the "hard" NES games of the late eighties, and desperately wants to relive that kind of experience. You'll get it.