Ahh, Ultraman. One of the earliest SNES games to be released in the good ol' US of A, Ultraman owns the distinction of being the first brawler type game on the Super Nintendo. If you were around any game rental shop back in late '91, you probably oooh'ed and ahh'ed at the sweet looking box art. You flipped to the back where you saw screenshots of a game that resembled the mighty Street Fighter II, but with monsters. Hey, what could go wrong, right? "SO sexy they put me on the cover TWICE!"
You happily took the box to the counter, handing it to the clerk as you watched your dad plunk down the dollar ninety nine. You felt like the luckiest kid in the universe... Street Fighter II with monsters! A two player mode! (There is none, but the box mentions nothing of it and from the screen shots you just assumed there would be...)
OK, maybe you had an entirely different experience. But that's how it went for me...
Some kids grew up with greats like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Michael Jordan or John Elway as their idol. I, on the other hand, grew up on "eat your vitamins, say your prayers" Hulk Hogan and the fire spewing, train chomping big guy himself, Godzilla. It probably explains why I'm so messed up [Mmmm hm -Ed.] but damnit if it wasn't a blast. Thanks to my dad, my Uncle Jimmy and the infamous Godzilla POWER HOUR, I never missed any of the big guy's movies. Wherever there was a film featuring a guy stompin' around miniature cities decked out in a cheesy rubber suit, chances were, I was probably there, and with a grin on my kisser as cheesy as the movie itself. I simply loved monsters
I remember discovering Gamera not too long after first falling in love with Godzilla. To me the overgrown turtle was always a second fiddle Godzilla knock-off, but like I said, I loved those corny Japanese monster movies to death. One Saturday night my mom and dad took me to this real fancy schmancy mall -- this was way back in the late '80s -- out of town. Because it was so far away we did not frequent this grand mall often, so anytime we did, it truly felt like Christmas! I can recall to this day the excitement welling up in the pit of my stomach as my dad wrestled to find a parking spot on this most mad of Saturday nights. I still remember running up to the second story wing, the red glow of the SAM GOODY sign calling out to me in a sea of heavenly goodness. And like a moth to flame, I ran
I wasted no time, making a beeline for the favorite section of mine in the video tape corner: SCI-FI. I glanced over to the G titles, scouring to see if I had missed any Godzilla movies. Due to this mall having a certain mystique to it unlike those in town, though one was almost as damn good but I digress, I believed this mall might have carried "exclusive" Godzilla movies. Ahh, the innocence of being six or so!
After my disappointment, I was ready to leave when I saw it: Gamera VS Gaos. My heart skipped when I saw the distinctive VS on the side of the box. I knew it had to mean only one thing: MONSTER MOVIE MADNESS! Plucking the VHS out to examine its glorious front and back cover, I came pretty close to having a "mark out" moment. Hell, I did. My dad came over and I shoved the tape in his face. One look at the cover and my dad knew this would be ten dollars well spent; I watched these giant monster movies til the cows came home. My mom was very strict on what I could buy and what have you (as readers of King of the Monsters know), but she knew how happy this tape would make me. She had the power to veto my dad, but much to my delight, she gave him the green light. The rest of the evening I walked around the mall with my mom, dad and brother happily clutching onto the SAM GOODY bag, occasionally glancing back in the bag to admire my gem find. Hmmm, in retrospect it well could have been my first foray of having an interest in the "obscure"... but alas, once again I digress. We came home that night around 9 and my mom let me watch Gamera vs. Gaos, even though it would take me past my bedtime. It was no Godzilla, but to be honest I really didn't care. It was a night to remember, and to this day, I still have that same Gamera vs. Gaos VHS my parents bought me nearly 20 years ago...
ULTRAMAN: TOWARDS THE US
In January 1992, I was 8 years old and woke up every Saturday morning around 7 to catch all the latest cartoons. On this particular Saturday, the first episode of Ultraman Towards The Future aired. I don't think I knew who this Ultraman bloke was at the time. All I knew was, it had giant monsters and that was enough to get me to watch. Ultraman was fighting this nasty alien creature with Dhalsim like limbs and best of all, his brains were on TOP of his head!
Later in the US series that creature came back meaner and nastier than ever. I followed the series and loved its camp value, as was the charm I saw in all these cheesy rubber suit monster flicks. Ultraman, like Gamera, was no Godzilla, but I happily watched and cheered Ultraman on nonetheless. There were 13 episodes, I did not miss one, the last airing on March 28, 1992
Oh man, the memories (of what wasn't). Dreamworks Toys released an Ultraman lineup in the Spring of '92 to go along with the US TV series. The figures were around 10 inches tall. Kerwin, my brother's best friend at the time, asked me what I wanted for my 9th Birthday that year. Kerwin was a cool guy and he was always at our house, as was my own best friend, Nelson. Good times. At any rate, I specifically requested Majaba, who was my favorite Ultraman villain (and the coolest looking toy of the lot!). The fact that Majaba reminded me of Kamacuras (AKA Gimantis, a Godzilla nemesis), one of my faves, didn't hurt my feelings. Kerwin assuredly told me, "No prob. Considered it done. You got it, Steve-O. If it's Majaba you want, it's Majaba you'll get..."
Along came the summer of '92 as well as the day of reckoning. Right off the bat I knew something was wrong when the wrapped present with Kerwin's name on the tag was 'bout yay high *gestures roughly 5 inches*
When I opened Kerwin's gift, out came this doofus. Launchpad McQuack, from the Darkwing Duck lineup. Now don't get me wrong, I loved me some DWD and Launchpad was a cool cat [Duck? -Ed.] but this was no Majaba! Kerwin took the cheap route, that bastard. Way to get up a guy's hopes eh? Nonetheless, in the end I was grateful for his generosity. After all, he wasn't my best friend, he was my bro's. He wasn't obligated to get me jack squat, and he was the only friend of my brother who did go out of his way to get me a Birthday present, so I was ultimately grateful indeed. At least he was no Scrooge *rimshot*
Speaking of Kerwin, after my family moved in '96 my brother lost touch with him. He managed to track him down about five years ago. Apparently, Kerwin was in Vegas trying to earn his DJ stripes. Big guy, wherever you are out there, I hope you are in good health and peace of mind. I hope the highly competitive Vegas scene has not crushed but rather lifted your spirits. Thanks for letting me intentionally win all our wrestling matches in the backyard, thanks for buying all those WWF Pay-Per-View shows and hosting your infamous pizza/wrestling parties for the ole neighborhood. Last but not least, thanks for Mr. McQuack, even though you knew I wanted Majaba all along and you promised, you big fat bastard
In the late '80s and early '90s my bro Kevin and I frequented this little mom 'n pop shop, Evergreen Video. Man, I loved that place. I can still hear that little bell that rung each time you opened the door. The smell of the oak wood shelves permeates to this day. As documented in Memories of Renting, Tom was the source that corrupted us. One day in early '92 we made our traditional Saturday afternoon trek. Tom not too long ago bought in some SNES games to keep up with the changing of the guard. At that time there was no internet (not like how there is today, anyhow) and I didn't yet really follow game magazines. Imagine my shock and excitement when I saw Ultraman! I'll never forget how it came with a HUGE B&W manual, not the original booklet but an oversized 8x11 photocopied manual
My bro and I went home and excitedly flipped the game on. I don't know about him, but I was expecting a sick-ass two player Street Fighter II-esque game. To say "we didn't quite get that" would be an understatement, but we called our friends over and together tried our damndest to save the universe. It was a fun experience despite the game being less than halfway good, and we all knew it, but for the day we had it, we made the most out of it
**FLASH FORWARD TO FRIDAY, MAY 16, 2008**
On this night my cousin Vivian (from The Wonder Years) treated me out to dinner with her family. We ate at this restaurant that ironically, was just a couple stores down from where Evergreen Video once stood proudly. I hadn't been to that area in eons. As I drove there, I couldn't help but think of all the fond memories I had of my dad taking us there every Saturday to rent the latest 8-bit NES game. Before I headed to the restaurant, I peeked inside the empty store. It looked almost just like how I saw it back in 1992, when it first closed. There was still no other business in place. The only diff between then and now? Debris no longer littered the floor, like it had the first time I peered in only to see the store in shambles. It was sad to see the place devoid of any sort of life. Tom's friendly smile behind the register counter was long gone. As I stared through the glass door like a frozen statue I couldn't help but wonder where he and his family were... were they OK? Were they continuing to live the so-called American Dream? My conscious stream of thoughts were shattered when my phone went off
"Steve! Where are you? Only you would be late to your own party!" Vivian joked
"I'm right outside the restaurant. Be there in less than half a minute"
After a hearty dinner and talks of the future (my bro showed up a quarter of the way in), we called it a night. Good to see all of them again. Billy was still enthusiastically sharing his latest cash cow schemes with Kevin and me as we made our way to the parking lot. What a character. They took off, but I stayed back. I wanted to get one last glimpse at my dear old friend. There was now but a glimmer of sunlight hitting all the windows of the stores in this strip, giving a surreal Hollywood movie-esque look to it all. I snuck one last peek in the empty store where Evergreen once stood. Oh, what once was. Turning my back on the store, I stood there for a minute to take in the cool night air, reflecting all the while thinking about today as well as down the road. Yes, things have changed, I thought to myself standing there, but that is life. That has always been life. Some things and some times you need to change with the changes in order to survive. Then there are those times where things actually STAY the same, and it's up to you to make the changes yourself. Alas, as the final shards of sunlight pierced the storefront, I decided that was enough reflection for one night. I placed my childhood memories back in the box, dialed up a friend and made my way to my car
The night was still young.... and so was I
Evergreen Video for life is right, pal!
THE STORY GOES...
Check out the similarities with this shot and the one directly beneath it. Bandai got it pretty close, no?
[I'll say! Pretty close indeed. You're also pretty close to dying here too! -Ed.]
See, you see the glass half empty. I see this as almost winning
[Your next paycheck will be half empty if you keep it up! -Ed.]
GRATUITOUS MODE 7
Barry Bonds before and Barry Bonds after. Sorry, couldn't resist...
Time to take off to the skies and battle evil-doers... ULTRAMAN GOOOOOO!!
Indeed. Their energy bar must show FINISH and you'll need to zap 'em off with a Level 4 power shot. In this game both you and the monsters can recover health, so make sure they're really finish before firing the L4 at them. Nothing is worse than seeing them recuperate a small portion of their health right as you fire your L4 beam... ugh!
THE FANTASTIC FOUR
L1 is the simple KNUCKLE SHOOTER. If you're at L4 you may fire off four consecutive L1's if you so desire
L2 is the ARROW BEAM. You can fire two of these at L4 if you wish, or one at L3 and then fire L1. Choices, choices
L3's MAGNUM SHOOTER does quite a number, but you're so close to L4... why waste that in one single shot? I tend to use L3 the least
L4's BURNING PLASMA is Ultraman's ticket home... literally. "HADOKEN!"
MEET THE MONSTERS
Ugh! What an ugly lot! And you thought Uncle Fred looked bad after Thanksgiving...
Gudis is the evil space virus that is determined to destroy and consume every other life form in the Universe. Gudis has now come to Earth. Once infected with the Gudis Virus, the victim is unable to control itself and becomes part of Gudis' plan. The power of Gudis continues to grow and develop as it assimilates other creatures into itself. You must stop the vile monster before it reaches the city!
Careful -- get too close and he'll slice you open with his deadly projectile
Hit him in the head 30 times and his brain will explode, ooze dripping and flying everywhere! Or not, but that'd be cool, eh?
Ultraman shows off his agility, "HI-YAH!"
KA-BOOM! SEE YA LATER, PUNK! [Sooner than you think, ULTRAMAN... -Gudis]
Bogun is an unspeakable genetic mutation. With a horrific head at each end of its sluglike body, Bogun defends itself and attacks enemies using its strong antenna. Unfortunately the monster has already infiltrated the city. Hurry up and cut your losses short, Ultraman!
Two Heads Are Better Than One
THABTO, bitch! Ghost Writer FTMFW!
When threatened, Bogun has the ability to emit this deadly toxic gas from its own corrupted miserable flesh
Somewhere, folks, Ken's rolling over in his grave
This lovely throw eats up a whole HEAP of their energy! The key, however, is getting close enough safely in order to pull it off... risk over reward! And vice versa
"WILL GLADLY DO!"
Hmmm, on second thought, maybe two heads AREN'T better than one! [Unless, of course, you're talking about.... oh nevermind -Ed.]
Degola is originally a God of the Australian Aborigines. In full force, Degola appears as a whirlwind, destroying everything in its path. This whirlwind, however, is merely to disguise the Gudis infected creature within. Whatever it is, one thing's for sure: it's a force to be reckon with
Degola can send forth a piercing ray as long as good ol US Route 6 itself
WHO'S FINISHING WHOM FIRST? Talk about cutting it close!
Ultraman JUST gets Degola in the nick of time!
"BACK TO WHERE YA CAME FROM, BEAST!" All in a day's work
Barrangas is aptly named; this menace can discharge a toxic gas from its body. Even the smallest breath of this lethal gas strikes down every living thing it confronts. Duke it out in this quiet seemingly peaceful city backdrop
Speak of the devil and he shall arrive. This cloud of gas will bring more than a tear to your eye so watch it!
Aww damn, that just ain't right...
Give ole Barrangas the ole trusty ULTRA SPIN KICK! "TAKE THAT, SUCKA!"
God damn SHINDO and his broken English!
This, on the other hand, is universal
Look who's back on the block and uglier, stronger and meaner than before! Gudis II is sort of a worm creature that can slither very quickly. He whips his tail, thrusts his fist, rams his head, and shoots a bubble weapon to boot. Make sure you leave his bloody carcass on this miserable war torn land!
You see? I don't just make this stuff up!
Show off your handy Ultra Back Flip to evade certain projectiles. Too bad it's slow to respond and feels not as natural as one would hope
Damn right. Whew, another nail-biting affair!
Zebokon is usually a lethargic lumbering monster who lives in the depths of the forest. After being infected with the Gudis Virus, Zebokon attacks anyone around. He has one hell of a battering ram! Dark thunder clouds decorate this atmospheric backdrop
Someone needs to take an Anger Management course...
He'll use any part of his body to inflict pain on ya
Look all around, there's nothin but blue skies. I can see clearly now...
My old favorite, Majaba has become an insect mutant of gigantic proportions as a result of the transfiguring effects of pesticides, toxins and degenerate forces of Gudis. It is very quick and can jump really high. It uses its razor-sharp claws well in addition to its laser beams. What kind of abomination has Mankind created here?
Godzilla's foe Kamacuras (AKA Gimantis) was one of my faves growing up. Who could ever forget the classic atmospheric scene in SON OF GODZILLA (1967) where the humans are eating dinner outside when a pair of glowing lights appear from the darkness? It was, of course, Kamacuras' eyes in its smaller stage. I can never tire of that scene, especially on a warm summer night. Good stuff. Kerwin, I'm still waiting for my MAJABA toy!
He even finds time to work out in the heat of battle. Top bloke, that guy
Kodalar scared me as a kid. He seemed so damn strong, if memory serves me right, he "finished" Ultraman in the TV series. It appears in the game just as it did in the TV show. Kodalar has risen from the dark depths of the ocean, where the foul fury of Gudis has penetrated. It fires a laser out of its mouth that slides across the ground, knocking down anything in its path
Terry Bogard, hell, GEESE HOWARD, has nothing on Kodalar!
That's right, his Ultra High Jump sends him up and away
It's not going down like it did in the TV show, pal! YER OUTTA HERE!
Kilazee comes from the darkest corner of an evil galaxy. A nuclear bomb intended to stop this heinous monster has only served to increase the power of its laser weapons and fire-spitting breath. Defeat the beast, and you save the Universe. You don't want to know the alternative...
Kilazee is filled with tricks up his sleeves, like this one...
... and this one! BBQ, anyone?
Kilazee is very susceptible to the Ultra High Jump Kick, hint hint, nudge nudge *wink*
In Ultraman We Believe
"Damn right I did"
Ultraman flowers the land below him with the fruits of his labor
... Where he returns to his human form -- JACK SHINDO. Hip hip hooray, and so forth
Ahhh, God Bless the late '80s
"How dare you piss over the contract!" *rimshot*
"Try not to slobber all over it like you did last time either, will ya?"
You need someone to hold you tight. But I'm sorry I don't pray that way!
TAAAAINTED LOVE OHHH![*glare* -Ed.]
Ahem *adjusts tie*
The running in Ultraman is a quirky little bit. As you run you can recuperate some lost health. However, the enemy does, too. Don't forget you're up against the clock! Just like in the show, every time Shindo transforms into Ultraman you have but THREE minutes to get the job done
Ultraman is the first fighter ever on the SNES, and unfortunately, also one of the worst. You're relegated to controlling just Ultraman, there's no two player mode, limited move set, stiff control, Ultraman moves like he's got a load in his pants. Where's the agile karate kicking warrior as seen on the cover, eh? Sure, some monsters require small strategic changes in your fighting and defense style but due to the limited amount of moves at your disposal that strategy is extremely marginal. Visually, the game fares a bit better. Though the graphics didn't wow anyone, even back in '91, it's got a certain rubber monster charm to it. The sprites could be bigger though, and the lack of animation on the characters are quite a disappointment. On the plus side, the sound isn't too shabby -- filled with cheesy monster roars and sound effects that fit right in with the nature of this game. Some of the tunes are actually catchy. But... it's really not a good thing when a game's best quality is the art on the front cover
There are very little redeeming values to this game, and it's really quite insignificant in the grand pantheon of high quality Super Nintendo games. Yet, even with all its flaws and warts, which my gaming group even saw way back when, I can see why the lot of us halfway enjoyed it. Of course, things were a little, or a lot, different back then. My dad rented the game for $1.99, my bro invited the block over, including Kerwin of course, as well as my best friend Nelson, and we tried our damndest to see the game to its end. We got close, but we never got over the hump. In a weird way, it was so bad, it was almost good. Only it wasn't, nope, it wasn't good at all! And today, faced with the luxury of being older, having more money, more resources and a library the size of Gudis himself, Ultraman is more insignificant than ever. But you know, a funny thing happened when I played this game last year for the first time in over 15 years... yeah, it was still bad, that part never changed, but there's a funky "charm" to this 1st-generation SNES game that still to this day cannot leave me. I guess it's the memories of being young and innocent, mostly, but the game took me back to those early SNES days, where the sky for video gaming seemed like it had no boundaries, no limits. Ultraman was a victim of lazy programming and was merely one of the casualties along the way, but even bad games can have their day in the sun. I might not play Ultraman for another 15 years, but I'm sure when I do, I'll still feel the same way about it:
Bad game... but great memories of a simpler time
Graphics: 4 Sound: 5 Gameplay: 3 Longevity: 3
Congrats, Ultraman! As of this writing you're the lowest rated game on RVG! Your thoughts?
Sweet Ultraman Towards The Future (TV show) music video (1:29)