2017 was a hell of a first year for the Nintendo Switch. Launching in early March of 2017, it arrived alongside The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The Switch was off to a hot start as many were dazzled by the ingenuity and freedom of Breath of the Wild. Some 7 months later, Nintendo released Super Mario Odyssey. It was considered by many as yet another home run smash. And since today is March 10, or MAR10 Day, I can’t think of a better time to look back on what made Super Mario Odyssey such a terrific entry in the longstanding Mario series.
A GAMING GENERATION DEFINED
For many kids back in the 1980s, Super Mario Bros. left a lasting imprint on those lucky enough to have grown up with it. Super Mario Bros. 3 is considered one of the best NES video games of all time. When the Super Nintendo launched in North America in the late summer of 1991, Super Mario World carried on the tradition, living up to the lofty standards set by Shigeru Miyamoto and friends. Super Mario 64 brought Mario and company into the 3D realm. Mario 64 is a nostalgic and highly memorable adventure for many who played it back in the summer of 1996 when it first came out. There have been many more Mario entries since but none of them have captured our attention and gaming hearts quite like Super Mario Odyssey.
THE ODYSSEY BEGINS
Bowser has captured Princess Peach once again, and intends to marry her against her own will. Mario meets his newest ally, Cappy, and the two are off to all sorts of Kingdoms to procure enough moons to power their airship.
Whether you play it docked or in handheld mode, Super Mario Odyssey is a beautiful looking game. With plenty of diverse locales, each Kingdom is unique and a world of its own. Cascade Kingdom lives up to its name — you can almost feel the raw power of the water!
Who could forget seeing this for the first time? It was an incredible moment that blended the real world with Mario’s world. Even better? Taking temporary control of the T-Rex by firing Cappy at it, which is the brilliant gimmick of Super Mario Odyssey.
Speaking of blending, there are special old school 2D sections spread throughout the Kingdoms. They’re bite-sized but incredibly fun, evoking warm fuzzy nostalgic memories of yesteryear.
The Sand Kingdom is such a fun little place to explore. It has been said that the director of Super Mario Odyssey, Kenta Motokura, was inspired by his trip to Mexico and his fondness for that country. Traces of that culture can be seen throughout the Sand Kingdom.
The majority of the bosses in Super Mario Odyssey consist of the Broodals — vicious anthropomorphic rabbits who also serve as Bowser’s wedding planners. One of the nice things about the Sand Kingdom is that you get to battle bosses of both varieties: Broodal and non-Broodal.
It blew my mind the first time I saw New Donk City. That’s mainly thanks to the shocking appearance of real human beings. It was only further proof that Super Mario Odyssey wasn’t afraid to think outside the box.
New Donk City was so fun to explore, whether at night or in the daytime. It was unlike any other Mario level or world I had previously explored.
I gotta give props to Nintendo. I was so pleasantly shocked to see this T-Rex cameo. I thought Cascade Kingdom was it as far as T-Rex appearances go. Glad to have been proven wrong!
Seaside Kingdom might just be my favorite Kingdom of the bunch. I tend to not be the biggest fan of water-based levels, but this one totally and completely does it for me. Maybe it’s because a good half of it takes place on the beach, offering some variety and varied nuances in gameplay that make it much more interesting to play than if it were completely underwater. For example, being able to bounce off two walls in an effort to collect coins and reach new heights is remarkably satisfying.
Super Mario Odyssey is everything I wanted in a 3D Mario game and then some. The addition of Cappy added a ton of layers to the gameplay. Whether you were flinging Cappy and then jumping off it as a makeshift platform or using it to take control of the various enemies, this mechanic breathed much needed new life into the Mario formula. I’ll never forget the first time I spotted that T-Rex napping on the hill of Cascade Kingdom. Even more memorable was the first time I became Mario T-Rex, complete with a ridiculously oversized mustache to boot!
All the throwback 2D Mario sections were a blast to navigate. It took me right back to 1987, playing Super Mario Bros. with my uncle, brother and our friends late into the night. These bits always somehow felt organic rather than forced. It was just the right amount of nostalgia rush blended with the newfangled 3D Mario gameplay that is so smooth and easy to pick up, but hard to put down.
Along with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey helped to make Switch’s first year, 2017, a roaring and smashing success. I can’t wait for a sequel to both games. These two games alone are reason enough to invest in a Nintendo Switch, not to mention the dozens and dozens of great 3rd party titles and Indie hits. I had an absolute blast playing through Super Mario Odyssey, and I feel Nintendo was able to completely capture the magic of what made all those Mario games from so long ago so very damn special indeed. Not only that but they were able to add to the legacy, adding in enough new elements to make this entry stand on its own two feet. Bravo, Nintendo. Bravo! I eagerly await Mario’s next adventure on the Switch. Until then, I think I’ll head back to Mushroom Kingdom yet again for one more romp.
Today marks the 2 year anniversary of the Nintendo Switch. Of course, that also means it’s the 2 year anniversary for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Released on launch day alongside the brand new Nintendo Switch, players were thrust once more in the shoes of Link and embarked on an incredible and breathtaking journey. This also marks the first Switch game review on RVGFanatic, and I can’t think of a better time than the 2 year anniversary or a better game to kick things off with than Breath of the Wild. Stunning in sheer scope and majestic in motion, there’s a reason why this game has made such a lasting impression and is considered by many to be one of the finest Switch games made so far, if not THEbest.
SWITCHED: HOW NINTENDO WON ME BACK
The Switch marked my first system purchase in nearly 12 years. Prior to that, I’d been perfectly content rocking it out with the SNES. But the trailer for Breath of the Wild dropped in January 2017 and for the first time in eons I found myself drooling over a new video game. However, the Switch’s launch came and went in March 2017 and I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Maybe I don’t need it after all…
Fate stepped in when my brother bought a copy over Black Friday for just $29 on Walmart’s website due to a system error. Walmart quickly realized its mistake but had to honor the lucky folks who jumped over the deal before it could be fixed. My brother didn’t own a Switch but he figured it was too good a deal to pass up on and that he could always mail it to our cousin, who is a huge video gamer.
As luck would have it, my cousin — being a huge Zelda fan — already had it. With my brother willing to gift me Breath of the Wild as an early Christmas present, I rushed out to Target on Saturday, December 2, 2017. I walked out with the last Switch system, cradling it close to my chest as though it were the last piece of meat on earth. It was the first system purchase I made in nearly 12 years. Later that night I fired up Breath of the Wild and fell in love with the land of Hyrule all over again. The following is a visual documentation and stroll down memory lane of that epic adventure that ran me over 200 hours over the course of 6 blissful months.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
Link awakens after a long slumber in this weird chamber of sorts. Navigate your way around and then venture forth in the opening there to the great unknown. Much like previous Zelda classics, a palpable sense of ADVENTURE permeates throughout Breath of the Wild.
It’s hard to describe the first few hours of this game and do it justice. It’s a discovery of autonomy and endless options. You just know you’re embarking on this grand scale adventure and that you’re barely scraping the surface. Night falls and it feels like you’re right there with Link lurking in the wooded areas. Best of all, thanks to the Switch’s versatility, you can play this on your giant screen HD TV or play it in portable mode in the comfort of your own bed.
It’s fun just playing around with the camera and admiring the sights that surround you. This shot here reminds me of all the long summer evenings of my childhood sprawled out in my backyard looking up at the starry sky while listening to my uncle weave spooky stories of the macabre.
Up ahead looms a quaint cabin. You wonder if the owner is home… hell, is the owner even a friendly fella? It’s awfully cold out though, and a little shelter does sound nice right about now… maybe we’ll take our chances…
A seamless and free flowing sandbox world means you can easily get lost in a number of side tasks for as long (or little) as you wish. On my way to discover the next shrine, I often found myself distracted by random things such as unearthing Korok seeds, interacting with locals or destroying the latest nest of Bokoblins to unlock treasure chests. Spotting a new shrine in the not too far distance always made me cheer silently in my seat (or, as it was in most cases, laying down in bed).
Upgrading your inventory is not only rewarding, it’s necessary. Since weapons break with usage, you’re in a constant scramble to restock. Going from wooden shields and weak weapons to fancy metal ones and spears is a tangible surge in both ability and confidence. Also, reaching new areas of Hyrule never failed to satisfy as you survey the gorgeous sights that lay before you.
A crackling fire nearby keeps Link warm as he gazes at the volcano that looms ominously over the horizon. He knows deep down that at some point in his quest he must cross that waterfall and confront the vicious volcano head on.
Shrines were a point of contention among some players. Traditional Zelda games featured dungeons with plenty of monsters and a few puzzles thrown in for good measure. Breath of the Wild, however, has few dungeons. Instead we got shrines, designated areas consisting mainly of puzzles with scant enemies. Thanks to his Sheikah Slate, Link can call upon one of several Rune skills. For instance, Magnesis allows Link to lift and carry metallic objects using magnetic energy.
These are always nice. Some shrines are harder to find than others. For certain ones, just finding them is considered good enough for an automatic orb. No puzzles inside. Hey, I’ll take it!
Eerie and dramatic, the Blood Moon is an occasional event that occurs in the world of Hyrule. By the red glow of the Blood Moon, slain enemies respawn. I’ll never forget the first time I heard that creepy music as a crimson red consumed the screen and ashes rose into the blood soaked sky.
Like frying an egg on the sidewalk on a scorching hot day, in Breath of the Wild you can drop meat on a frosty surface and it will become “Icy Gourmet Meat.” The amount of possibilities this game offers the player is mind-blowing. Many times I thought to myself, “This might work” and sure enough, it did. Ingenuity is off the charts here, rewarding creativity and experimentation.
INTO THE WILD
I’ve been playing video games for over 30 years now. I can honestly say that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the longest single player campaign of my life. It provided me with over 210 hours of blissful entertainment. It was an insane 6 month experience… one I’ll never forget and forever cherish as one of the finest playthroughs of my gaming career.
What can I add that hasn’t already been said a thousand times over in the last 2 years since Breath of the Wild came out? It stands out as one of the most immersive and engaging single player adventures I’ve ever played. Part of me wishes I could wipe out my memories of this game so I can experience it for the first time again. The sheer scope and scale of Link’s open world quest empowers you to forge your own path. Multiple routes and multiple possibilities lay before you, truly giving the player full autonomy and power. There are so many memorable moments, such as the first time you run into the Hinox monster.
Or the first time you pierce one of the explosive barrels to blow up a nest of Bokoblins… running away and seeing the fiery explosion go off behind you in summer blockbuster fashion. Hyrule is a living and breathing world full of fascinating creatures, vicious monsters and helpful (as well as odd) locals to interact with. While not everyone appreciates this open world approach, I sure did. Of course I harbor fond memories of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past but I applaud Nintendo for taking Breath of the Wild in a radically different direction that reflects the ever growing evolution of video gaming as we know it today. Besides, if you don’t like it, you can always return to the classics. But for the most part, there’s a reason why so many have fallen in love with Breath of the Wild. It’s a Zelda game like never before.
2 years have passed since the Switch and Breath of the Wild came out and thrilled gaming audiences around the globe. While the game has a few areas I could nitpick, such as the lack of “proper” dungeons and the 4 Divine Beast bosses looking too similar and somewhat generic, Breath of the Wild is an incredible adventure worth taking on. It’s an instant classic that will go down in the annals of gaming lore as one of the best adventures of all time. Lovingly crafted and fine tuned, Breath of the Wild is Nintendo’s signature stamp on the Switch that has set the bar for all others to come. I look forward to seeing if any game can match or surpass it. What a time to be alive
I love beat ‘em ups. Always have, always will. From Double Dragon to Final Fight to Streets of Rage, I love me a good old fashioned side scrolling beat ‘em up. One of the most revered brawlers on the SNES is Ninja Warriors. I missed out on it back in the day and despite buying a copy 13 years ago in 2006, I finally got around to playing it earlier this month. There are simply too many good games and not enough time, so forgive me for waiting so long. My backlog is seriously insane, but I digress. Ninja Warriors on the SNES just turned 25 years old so it was the perfect time to see what the hype has been all about. Play as one of 3 robot ninjas and battle an army of villains and evildoers. Surely, it’s a formula for smashing success, no? Let’s take a look…
THE YEAR WAS 1987
Developed by Taito, Ninja Warriors began its life in the arcades in 1987. The cabinet was a massive monstrosity, one I never had the good fortune enough to witness in person. Back in the ’80s, ninjas and cyborgs were running wild. Taito had the brilliant idea of mashing the two together.
FAST FORWARD TO 1994
Some 7 years later, Taito revitalized Ninja Warriors when a remake was issued for the SNES and hit store shelves in February of 1994. It rapidly garnered positive reviews and is often considered as one of the best beat ‘em ups on the SNES.
MEET THE NINJA WARRIORS
MEET THE NINJA WARRIORS AGAIN [I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE -ED.]
NEW NINJAS ON THE BLOCK
One of the cool things about this game is the ability to block enemy attacks. It’s just too bad then that blocking is the same exact button as attacking. Not a dealbreaker by any means but with no option to adjust the buttons, it’s a bit of a bummer. Back on the right side of things, there are plenty of fun items to throw around. In fact, let’s check them out.
What could be more gratifying in a beat ‘em up than seeing that big health refill right as you’re on the verge of dying?
Plenty of fun stuff to fling at enemies. The containers are the best because they may house energy pods inside.
THE STORY GOES…
Banglar seeks to rule the world with an iron fist.
Reminiscent of Contra III: The Alien Wars! On a side note, Natsume developed the SNES remake of Ninja Warriors. That same year they also made Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The two games are eerily similar, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the same Natsume folks worked on both titles.
Somewhere, a darkened corridor lights up…
UNLEASH THE TERMINATORS!
Nothing like that classic giant scrolling title screen to get you all pumped up to kick ass.
Smashing out of a window that takes out the opposition, Ninja Warriors is off to a blazing hot start. Love seeing all those shards of glass flying every which way. The sprites are pretty big and the colors are bright and bold. So far, so good!
There’s a “Blaster” bar at the bottom that automatically charges as long as you’re not hit. Once full you can unleash a super attack that damages any enemy onscreen. I’m not a fan of the weird visual effect it produces, however. It looks like a glitch that managed to slip past the game testers.
Natsume, I like to think, learned from their mistakes and did it the right way in Power Rangers.
Unlike most beat ‘em ups, Ninja Warriors operates on a single plane. Due to this restriction, I had my concerns about crowd control. Thankfully, the protagonists can attack in such a flurry that it provides extensive coverage, taking out bad guys in front of you as well as behind.
Missiles rain down from the sky, damaging anyone caught in its wake (bad guys included). Be careful not to get stuck in the middle where enemies can gang up on you. Better yet, watch out for that missile rapidly approaching your face!
Shoulder tackles are good for clearing crowds. It’s not quite Contra III but seeing this set piece explosion on the first stage sets a good tone.
Explosions continue when you defeat this towering terminator.
Kunoichi is the fast but weak fighter of the group (to no one’s surprise).
Mindless enemies are easily lured to a grisly death (in theory, anyhow). I’m not a big blood guy, but if there was ever a time…
Leatherface would be proud! What an awesome entrance.
Chainsaw is as big as her! Son of a bitch blocks well, too.
What’s worse than dealing with a chainsaw wielding homicidal maniac? Contending with soldiers who have plenty of firepower!
Kamaitachi is my favorite of the ninjas. He’s agile enough while being able to withstand more damage than Kunoichi. Not only that but he has a cool spinning attack as well as a retractable scythe!
Beating up businessmen in suits is extra satisfying. That big fella there is the toughest of the regular enemies. He’s more or less the “Andore” of the game.
Banglar flashes intermittently on the multiple screens as the boss fades in and out. Beware of bombs!
Throwing a searchlight… points for creativity! Also love that atmospheric skyline. Later in this stage a tank comes smashing through the wall. Don’t get caught in the middle if you can help it.
Exercise crowd control by jumping to one side and kicking an enemy to take out their own. This is critical to keeping your head above water.
Insane flexibility on his part to kick that high without splitting his business slacks. A helicopter flies by launching an all-out assault. Stay out of harm’s way; the bullets will blast Banglar’s brigade!
Massive destructive energy beam aside, this boss is a joke.
Strolling through the city at night is always fun. That is, until you meet a pair of schmucks in slacks!
Remember the first boss? He’s back but now he’s a regular enemy. Avoid jumping at him or he’ll uppercut the holy hell outta ya.
Blocking and capitalizing is key to success. I love when levels transit from one scene to another, such as this seamless transition to a dojo. Any backdrop featuring Shoji screen panels is a big win in my book!
There’s something inherently beautiful about beating up thugs in a dojo. Especially when the buildings come into view at night time. Ninja Warriors has an ’80s action movie vibe to it.
Speaking of action movies from the ’80s, this boss looks like the big bad from a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie!
Obviously, he’s well versed in black magic…
Destroy Banglar’s exquisite statues by sending his army through it. The key to beating Bumblebee and friends is attacking them from behind; their front defense is very strong.
Banglar! But he doesn’t stick around long. He tramples off, the bald little bastard. In his place comes two towering titans. Good luck!
Snowy levels are always nostalgic for me, as they take me right back to the days of Contra and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game.
Unlike most other SNES beat ‘em ups that typically max out at 3 enemies onscreen, Ninja Warriors can have up to 4. Throw them into each other to exercise crowd control.
Heaving around gas tanks lead to huge explosions. The red variant is the strongest of the regular enemies. Luckily there should be a health refill in one of those containers…
Bumblebee and friends are tough when they surround you from both sides. Knock them into each other if you can.
Experiment gone wrong… or right?
Banglar is an interesting final boss fight. You face his cronies (and his deadly laser beams) rather than Banglar himself.
Damage is inflicted only by throwing his lackeys back at him. This takes a long time and the enemies get tougher and tougher. Damn you Banglar, you chicken shit coward!
THEY RETURN… ONCE AGAIN
In September of 2018 it was announced that Ninja Warriors would be the latest retro intellectual property to be revitalized. It is set to land on the Nintendo Switch at some point in 2019. I personally cannot wait.
A proper 2 player mode and gorgeous sprite work? Count me in!
Check out the teaser trailer!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Ninja Warriors was met with high praise. EGM gave it scores of 8, 8, 8, 8 and 9. GameFan gave it ratings of 86, 87, 92and 93%. Even Super Play, who were often critical of beat ‘em ups, rated it 84%. SNES fans often cite Ninja Warriors as one of the best beat ‘em ups on the Super Nintendo.
Ninja Warriors has a lot going for it. Straight forward arcade-like action, cool ninjas, killer robots and an atmosphere plucked right out of late 1980s action movie lore. Huge detailed sprites, menacing bosses and all the classic lackey tropes you could want to beat up. Yet, for some reason I’m not over the moon for this one. It plays well and the ability to block adds depth to the core gameplay. But I’m not a huge fan of the action taking place on a single plane. Enemies can quickly crowd you and sometimes cheap hits feel impossible to avoid. Thankfully you can block bullets but I would like this game much more if it were free roaming like most other traditional beat ‘em ups. There’s a flash of utter brilliance here and there, such as giant fans being able to kill enemies or the helicopter that flies by spraying bullets unmercifully. Sadly, that’s pretty much it as far as that goes. In addition, a 2 player mode is sorely lacking.
That said, it’s still pretty good. The colors scream “1994 SNES” as they are bright, bold and easy on the eyes. There are 3 distinctly different characters and I like how the bomb attacks uses a separate meter rather than subtracting from your precious life bar. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction that comes with pummeling the various enemies and exploiting their weaknesses. The music gets the job done for the most part although it doesn’t really stand out, either. Ninja Warriors is a very worthy addition to any SNES library.
One of my favorite things about this hobby is the ability to right childhood wrongs by going back to play games that I missed out on. Ardy Lightfoot turns 25 years old this month, and it was one of those games that intrigued me as a kid. It looked like a fun game and a hidden gem. When I got back into the SNES over 13 years ago in January of 2006, Ardy Lightfoot was one of the earliest games I sought out. At that time, I’d been curious about it for 12 years. Sometimes your gut feeling about a game is right and sometimes it’s wrong. Let’s see where Ardy Lightfoot stacks up.
THE YEAR WAS 1994
I was instantly intrigued the first time I laid eyes on Ardy Lightfoot via an EGM preview guide. Sadly, my brother made most of the renting choices back in the day and “ALF” never struck his fancy like it did mine. Thus, Ardy Lightfoot (along with over a hundred other SNES games) became doomed to remain a childhood curiosity… that is, until my SNES resurgence in early 2006.
WHO IS ARDY?
AND THAT BLUE BLOB?
AND WHO, PRAY TELL, IS LIGHTFINGER?
WHAT ABOUT ARTY?
Congrats to Konami for securing the rights to Monsters, which eventually became the cult hit Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Reading tidbits like that is always a blast when revisiting the gaming magazines of yesteryear.
AND THIS GUY?
THE STORY GOES…
That awesome mini-manga was featured in the instruction manual of the Super Famicom version. The English text was translated by Kate (AKA vgperson). Thanks Kate for your awesome contribution!
Coincidentally, Titus published Ardy Lightfoot and Titus’ logo bears more than a passing resemblance to the titular hero. I like how the title screen conveys a sense of wonder and adventure. Even the font and colors are on point and all indicators, thus far, seem to point in the right direction. What could go wrong?
Introductory stage takes us through a mysterious mine.
Indiana Jones and Metroid flashbacks…
Visconti, the big bad of the game, is informed of the latest. Meanwhile, Ardy maneuvers about the cute isometric map. It makes me think of games such as Super Mario RPG, Equinox, Shadowrun and even EarthBound.
Reading the slate aloud, the old man tells us that the rainbow has been divided into seven pieces. Scattered across the land, it’ll grant the owner a wish once all seven pieces have been reunited. But before they can enjoy some tea, the local town is suddenly set ablaze!
Isometric visuals will never get old for me.
SCENE 1: MINING TOWN ABLAZE
Visconti’s goons are bombing this poor little town. Save the denizens from certain doom! Throw Pec around to clear the bad guys.
Eventually, it crashes into a water tower and Ardy goes through the hole as the old man and Nina look on with grave concern.
SCENE 2: GROUNDER’S MINE
Regular jumps won’t suffice here. Call upon Ardy’s tail spring super jump. Jump and then press the jump button again before landing to activate his springy tail. Unfortunately, it’s a bit awkward to implement and never feels as smooth as you would like.
SCENE 3: TUNNEL CHASE
Reminiscent of Donkey Kong Country… but don’t forget that Ardy Lightfoot came out a year prior. The Super Famicom version was released on November 26, 1993 while Donkey Kong Country came out precisely one year later on November 26, 1994. What are the odds?
Donkey Kong Country has it beat though in terms of which mine cart level is more interesting and fun! Some of the stages in Ardy Lightfoot are laughably short and simple — this being one of them.
Beware of falling rocks and spring tail jump him to oblivion. Pec won’t damage him and neither will regular jumps. You secure the first of seven Rainbow shards after beating him.
Mysteriously swooping in is Don Jacoby. Is he friend or foe? Make your way to the forest next.
Flashback of how Catry stole one of the precious Rainbow shards.
SCENE 4: LUMBERJACK FOREST
There’s no shortage of stars to collect here. Pec gobbles up enemies like Yoshi.
Special icons transform Pec into an inflated makeshift ride. It doesn’t last long but you’ll be able to grab otherwise unreachable items.
Platformers typically have some kind of continue marker. Step on her head and she writes furiously to record your journey. I like it a lot; it’s quirky and has that “Nintendo touch” to it. On the flip side, the game’s first truly annoying bit presents itself when you have to jump off those enemy heads in succession to safely reach the other side. They’re a bit far apart and the control is not very precise, making it unnecessarily frustrating.
Paying homage to Sonic the Hedgehog, Ardy comes screaming down the hill with incredible speed. Clear the stage and head to the tree fortress.
SCENE 5: CATRY’S TREE FORTRESS
Platforming rule #72: one must have a vertically scrolling stage. This one is a bit annoying because certain jumps require the awkward spring tail jump and some of the platforms rotate, giving you very little time to react.
Wrestle your way to the top and it’s that blasted Don Jacoby again. You’ll find a 1-UP generously placed in the chest because the upcoming boss fight can be a bit tricky at first.
Jumping on the color buttons causes a boxing glove of the matching color to extend out. Be quick on your toes!
Securing the second Rainbow shard? Not so fast. That cowardly Catry flies off with it but she ends up getting eaten by a giant worm! Crap, you got no other choice but to follow…
SCENE 6: EATEN!!
Following in the tradition of the Bonk games, Congo’s Caper and The Magical Quest: Starring Mickey Mouse, Ardy finds himself navigating through the belly of a beast. I’m always a sucker for such levels.
Climbing and sliding down the slimy strands of this beast is as fun as it is disgusting. Watch out for the acid and sharp teeth!
Apprehend Catry’s Rainbow shard and we’re off to the pyramid.
SCENE 7: ANCIENT PYRAMID
Difficulty of this game fluctuates like crazy. This is a very annoying stage that requires pinpoint precision from a game lacking such.
Killing that enemy reduces the light.
Killing another one reduces it even further. The thing is, you pretty much have to which leaves you no choice but to brave the dark.
Thankfully, it doesn’t last too long.
Falling spikes impale Ardy easily. I like the lighting effect here but damn is it hard to avoid those deadly spikes.
Pushing gimmick is utilized a bit here but I wish the game used it a little more. That mouse is up to no good.
World’s Strongest Genie (eat your heart out Will Smith) flexes like a champ. Get up to the lamp and secure the key.
SCENE 8: MOUSE TRAP
Homewrecker mouse nabs the Rainbow shard before you can. Flag it down to end this ridiculously short level.
Quickly get the hell out before you’re crushed!
JACOBY?!? He appears out of nowhere to save Ardy. You book it and the wall collapses right after you’re out of harm’s way. Does that mean Don Jacoby is…
Beecroft reports Ardy’s adventures back to Visconti. Meanwhile, our furry hero sails out to the high seas.
SCENE 9: GILSON’S PIRATE SHIP
Somewhere Steven Spielberg is smiling (or not). Gilson is a vicious owl with some serious firepower.
However, beat Gilson and you’ll earn his respect and another Rainbow shard. Time to sail back.
Beecroft proves to be a real punk as he runs over an old man and kidnaps helpless Nina.
SCENE 10: ISLAND OF RUINS
Beware of cannonballs in this gorgeous early evening stage. Hold the block to block incoming arrows.
Catching a ride on an arrow is quite satisfying. Use the cannonballs to make your way across this spiky pit.
Always been a sucker for collectable items arranged in a recognizable fashion. A lone skeleton guards the exit. This game suffers a bit from short and sparse levels.
SCENE 11: BEECROFT’S STRONGHOLD
Nothing like a starry night to hit me in the feels. Watch out for the buzzsaw.
Mindless bots will carry that block. Time your spring tail jump perfectly. It can be a bit tricky. You meet up with Beecroft once again but this time, it’s on.
Visually, this is the game’s most impressive moment. It’s such a beautiful sight and makes me wish Ardy Lightfoot had more strong moments like such. Use the prism to deflect the boss’ energy beams. Suck it, Beecroft!
MechaGodzilla flashbacks. This boss has a ton of projectiles but it’s no match for Ardy and his trusty prism!
Earthquake!! Hey look, Don Jacoby lives! And, he offers a helping hand.
SCENE 12: UNDERGROUND PASSAGE
Miniature Ardy gives you an extra life. Ardy can hold his breath underwater. But beware of biting fish!
Yanking and creating a path for yourself is the order of the day here. It’s fun and this is easily the best stage of the game. I just wish the other stages were as well crafted as this.
Another reason I like this stage so much: Pec becomes Super Pec! Sadly, Super Pec exists only in this one level. Pull more switches to solve the puzzle.
Nothing stands in the way of Super Pec! Toss him through barriers and he’ll do the rest. Treasure chests abound but the “trapped” skeletal prisoners burst to life!
Awww… how cute. Ardy’s posing for his eHarmony profile. More skeletons spring to life but Super Pec sends them packing.
Finally, we come to the third and last switch. Yank it to make the water rise which opens up the exit for Ardy. It’s a shame the other levels aren’t as fun or interesting as this one.
Visconti’s castle looms ominously in the background as Ardy makes his way to the stronghold.
SCENE 13: VISCONTI’S CASTLE
Punishing BS here. The game’s uneven difficulty is jarring, to say the least. One level it’s easy and the next it’s murder (literally). Catch a lift on the arrows going up. This requires timing and precision. It wouldn’t be so bad if the control was more responsive and there wasn’t a lava pit below. Hey, at least there’s no timer right?
SCENE 14: THRONE ROOM
Speaking of brutally difficult, stage 14 isn’t any easier. Use Pec to navigate your way through. Unfortunately, Pec can stay inflated for only so long. Thankfully, there are treasure chests scattered throughout for you to return your friend to puffy status. But it’s still a bitch.
SCENE 15: THE TOWER
Springboard from one platform to the next and make your way all the way to the top. Thankfully, this one isn’t too bad.
Having collected all 7 pieces, Ardy is granted one wish. He uses it to revive Nina. What a good guy, that Ardy.
PSST, WHAT’S THE PASSWORD?
Although not a long game by any means, password systems are always a plus. I particularly like the style of this one a lot. Arrange the three blocks in the right spots. These spots include the house, table, stump, balloon and tree. It’s cute and memorable!
There’s a cheat code to play Ardy Lightfoot in either black and white or sepia. Kind of odd but hey, it’s there if you have that urge.
There’s even a code to play as miniature Ardy. It’s basically being able to control the 1-UP icon. At the end of the game, we get a TO BE CONTINUED message. Sadly, this would be Ardy’s one and only adventure to date. On a side note, I think this universe has a ton of potential and could find a great home on the Nintendo Switch…
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Ardy Lightfoot did well with the critics. EGM gave it scores of 6, 7, 7, 8 and 8. Super Play rated it 83%. However, opinions vary among SNES fans. Some praise Ardy Lightfoot to the moon, calling it a hidden gem and deeming it as one of the great forgotten SNES games of the ’90s. Other retro gamers don’t hold it in quite the same esteem. If you haven’t played it yet and you have a penchant for mascot platformers from the early-mid ’90s, definitely find a way to play it somehow and see for yourself which camp you belong to.
Sorry EGM but I have to call you out on one thing here. “Huge levels” — really? Really?? The levels are almost embarrassingly short, well, many of them at least.
Super Play got it right when they called the levels short. Not sure what EGM was smoking
When I first booted up Ardy Lightfoot back in early 2006, it had been a 12 year curiosity. I remember seeing the previews in EGM and wanting to play it so badly. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I thought to myself that surely it had to be a hidden gem. The visuals have that classic SNES look — they’re bright and bold and look a bit like a Saturday morning cartoon come to life. Ardy had the potential to be a great protagonist, and his trusty sidekick Pec adds to the overall appeal of the package. Heck, there’s even a cool isometric map that makes the game look like an RPG even though it’s strictly a platformer.
I think you know where this is going, though. So what went wrong? To be certain, Ardy Lightfoot is by no means a bad game. It’s quite playable and even enjoyable. But for my money, it comes nowhere close to fulfilling its potential. A platformer is only as good as its control. You look at a masterpiece like Super Mario World with its impeccable control and stunning level design and it’s easy to see why it stands the test of time. Ardy Lightfoot, unfortunately, is let down by less than stellar control. It isn’t ultra responsive, and the tail spring jump mechanism is a bit awkward to use. And you use it quite a bit. It’s also annoying how simply pressing either left or right sends Ardy sprinting not long after. In general, something about the control is slightlyoff. These factors are enough in my book to bump Ardy Lightfoot from hidden gem contention.
Some of the 17 levels are quite fun to navigate, with interesting gimmicks that reel you in. Unfortunately, the majority of the levels leave something to be desired in terms of both design and length. I never really felt like I was able to truly sink my teeth into this game. For every semi-brilliant level, there are 4 or 5 very plain ones that struggle to leave an imprint. Enemies are also very sparse, leaving the game to feel a little devoid of action. Speaking of missed opportunities, they could have done a lot more with Pec. Yeah you can toss him at enemies and he has two different forms he can turn into, but his different forms only occur in a paltry 3 of the 17 stages. This game would be so much better if only the developers incorporated Pec more to further differentiate it from the pack of “me too” platformers that proliferated the SNES throughout the ’90s.
These blemishes make playing Ardy Lightfoot a bit of an uneven experience. One level you’re cruising through and the next you’re utterly decimated. The difficulty fluctuates and the less than stellar control doesn’t help when the difficulty randomly spikes. But if you’re the persistent type and can overlook the game’s notable flaws, then there’s enough merit backing Ardy Lightfoot to make it worth seeking out.
It’s just a shame it doesn’t quite live up to its potential. Not all childhood curiosities have a happy ending. But at least it didn’t flop. There’s definitely a decent game here, but hidden gem? Not in my book. Ardy Lightfoot to me is a slight disappointment, bordering on moderate. I was hoping to love it and sing its praises. A little tweaking here and there and some polish could have made this one special. Instead, it is what it is. Ardy Lightfoot is merely a footnote in the annals of SNES lore.
25 years ago today, Zamuse released Tetsuwan Atom (AKA Astro Boy AKA Mighty Atom) on the Super Famicom. While the game itself is a mere footnote in the annals of SNES lore, there’s no denying the immense popularity and impact of the source material. Today we celebrate the titular science fiction superhero by looking at his one and only Super Famicom game.
A LONG AND STORIED HISTORY
Created by Osamu Tezuka, Astro Boy began as a manga series in 1952. Astro Boy is even older than another iconic Japanese legend: Godzilla. It is the 10th best selling manga series of all time, having sold over 100 million copies.
On a side note, Nicalis just announced the 20th and final character for their upcoming puzzle game, Crystal Crisis. It is none other than Kawase from the super quirky Super Famicom cult hit, Umihara Kawase.
I can’t wait to play both Crystal Crisis and Umihara Kawase Fresh on my Switch this spring. Funny that both releases will be just two days apart. So many good games and not nearly enough time!
BACK TO TETSUWAN ATOM…
*cue Movie Trailer Voice Guy*
In a time of hostility and turmoil, only one hero has the courage…
… and the will of a nation’s indomitable spirit…
Based off the classic manga and anime series by Osamu Tezuka, this is an action game featuring 8 levels. Some are straight platforming romps while others have you taking to the skies. Let’s check out the first 5 stages.
Typical easy introductory level. His movement is a bit stiff and his punch lacks range so there may be an adjustment period.
Beware of giant boulders! The first boss is a piece of cake. Use the Air Dash to quickly defeat it.
Unspeakable horrors lie inside this fright-filled haunted house. But judging by the terrible lightning outside, you just MIGHT be safer inside…
Perhaps I spoke too soon! Crawl in that little space there so that the chained ball will sail safely over your head.
Luckily, you’re armed with super strength. And staying true to form, your bright eye lamps are put to use whenever in the dark. This spirit boss requires several Air Dashes before submitting to the foul night.
Showing off his flight powers, this stage curves around. Kill everything on the first floor. Don’t bother punching here as the Air Dash proves to be most effective. Once you kill everything, repeat this process on the second floor. The third floor is where you’ll face the boss. His second form is a tough little cookie!
Despite being an android, Astro Boy can brave the waters with no electrical issues. The spike sections are tricky. Occasionally, the water current flows in the other direction and the force is incredibly strong. The school of fish zooming by is a lovely visual effect when these tides occur.
Relying on your Air Dashes much? Well this stage disables that ability so you must rely instead on your swimming and flying prowess to help see you through. The boss of this level is one bad mutha! Watch out for its long limb and electric bolts. Save that energy tank power-up at the bottom there until you’re down to your last heart.
LEVEL 5 (AND BEYOND)
Platforming rule #11 dictates that there must be some kind of auto-scrolling stage. Many hazards attempt to put you down for the count. Later levels incorporate the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 special effects.
You begin with 3 hearts. Along the way extra hearts can be gained. Each heart accounts for two enemy attacks. Health refills and 1-UP’s are also scattered throughout
The default controls are awkward (B = jump, A = punch, X = charges the flight meter). Thankfully, it’s adjustable
The flight meter must be charged before you can fly, and during flight slowly decreases. Pressing A during flight executes the powerful Air Dash. This attack grants you temporary invulnerability. Press A during an Air Dash to cease abruptly. Otherwise you’ll zip across until your meter is fully depleted
Astro Boy has been around for nearly 70 years now. He’s often considered as sort of the Mickey Mouse or Super Man of Japan — that’s how big and influential he has been in the anime and manga fandom. His place in pop culture history has been cemented with a long and storied legacy… one that continues even to this day. Tetsuwan Atom on the Super Famicom is a decent game, if not leaning toward average. It’s nothing special, nor anything you should actively seek out. But for huge fans of Mighty Atom, it might be worth a look if nothing else than morbid curiosity. It’s certainly playable, but it’s nowhere near essential. At any rate, happy 25 years to the Super Famicom game. You may be largely forgotten, but you’re honored on this milestone day nonetheless.
In my previous article, Fast Times At Bayside High, I looked back on one of the best college courses I ever took: Storytelling. I shared some of the great stories from that class, including a few of my own. It went so long though that I had to break it up. So now I’ll share my third and final story from that semester. Also, stay tuned to the very end — I conducted an interview with Cylk Cozart back in 2009 regarding his Saved By The Bell cameo and much more.
THE FINAL STORY
No rest for the wicked! Right after Zack’s War I started thinking about what my third and final story might be. It had to be better than my first two. One day I was perusing the children section of my library looking for inspiration. It hit me in the form of BASEBALL SAVED US. It’s an awe-inspiring story about a young spirited Japanese boy’s experience in camp in 1942 — the year when all people of Japanese descent living in America were put into camps due to the government’s increasing paranoia. Many decades later, 1988 to be precise, the US government admitted their wrongdoing. I love baseball and found much breadth in this tale of survival and hope. I decided to adapt BASEBALL SAVED US for my final story until fate stepped in. One day in December of 2003 I came across a hilarious story I read online. I loved it so much that it bumped Baseball Saved Us.
The story was a little short though, so I fleshed it out by incorporating a fun rapid fire scene from an old childhood favorite of mine, Happy Ghost III. For those unfamiliar to the Happy Ghost series, it was a comedy franchise consisting of five films from 1984-1991. It’s totally a product of its time and it’s super cheesy but I find a lot of charm in that.
So, adapting one scene from Happy Ghost III and jamming it with the online story I read, I had a full and proper story to end things with a bang. I called it AFTER FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH… BUT BEFORE AMERICAN PIE… THERE WAS A GUY… NAMED ALAN Y. The title was so long that it stretched all the way across the white board. I remember my classmates clamoring about it when they saw the ridiculously long title on the board. They knew they were in for quite a treat.
Do you believe in true love? Do you believe that there’s someone out there for everyone? Well, this is a story about me and my dear sweetheart, Katy. As you can probably infer from the title of this story however, this isn’t exactly your run of the mill sappy love story. But first, let me tell you how Katy and I met.
It was my first day of my senior year in high school… but for most others it was the 5th week of school. Yeah, I changed schools. But let’s not talk about why. So I’m cruising the parking lot for a spot and there’s one left. That’s when I saw this goofy looking teacher heading for it too. All’s fair in love and war… and parking spots I always say.
Guitar in one hand and comb in the other, I got out and waved to all the honeys drooling at me.
The goofy teacher made some lame remark but I paid it no mind.
Whatever! The chances I’ll get him are like 1 in 200 anyway.
My first class was music. It was 8:10 and as usual, I made a dramatic and fashionably late entrance. Sliding into the room on my knees, I cranked up my guitar and sang.
Still like that old time rock ‘n roll! That kind of music just soothes the soul! I reminisce about the DAYS OF OLD… With that old time ROCK ‘N ROLL!
“Hey hey hey! You?!?”
I’ll be damned! It was the goofy looking teacher from earlier in the parking lot.
“What are you doing here?” he bellowed.
“What is your name?” he demanded.
I turned to face my classmates and saw a handful of beautiful lasses. Suddenly I remembered why I never dropped out, despite being 19 and flunking a grade prior.
“My name is Alan… Alan Y. I’m a good guy. I only drink and smoke occasionally. I make lots of money betting on horse racing and I love taking cute young girls out to dinner, such as you, you AND YOU — on the house!”
“Stop right there! Sit down.”
I took the empty seat next to a precious little thing. Katy, as I’d come to know.
“Hey good looking. I’m here now, so what are your two other wishes?”
“Better do as he says, or the poor son of a bitch will have a heart attack.”
I went over to the corner as requested but the teacher kept coming at me.
“How old are you?”
“How old is that?”
“Makes me 19.”
“He’s a prime example of how you DON’T want to be in life… so take a good close look at him and consider yourselves WARNED!”
“You said my IQ is low but can you spend the shortest amount of time to answer me three simple questions?”
After class Katy came up to me. “That was awesome! A little mean, but I never laughed so hard in my life before!”
“Just another day at the office. He had it coming.”
“I suppose he did!”
“Hey, wanna grab a bite to eat?”
Katy and I hit it off. We became a couple later that week. We were madly in love and we were so happy. Katy and I had been dating for over a year. We decided the time was right to get married. My parents helped us in every way and my friends encouraged me. And Katy? She was a dream come true.
There was only one thing bothering me, very much indeed. That one thing was her older sister, Tammy. My prospective sister-in-law was 22 years old, wore tight mini skirts and low cut blouses. She would regularly bend over whenever I was around. It had to be deliberate. There are worse things in the world that could happen to a guy, of course, but I was never good at fighting temptation and I didn’t want to do Katy like that. Simply put, Tammy was like a box jellyfish. Absolutely mesmerizing, but equally and potentially fatal.
One day Tammy called and asked me to come over to check the wedding invitations. I thought nothing of it and drove over. When I arrived, it turned out that she was alone…
“Uh, where’s Katy?”
“Of course… when will she uh, um, be back?”
“A couple hours.”
“What about uh, your um… parents?”
“They won’t be back til dinner.”
I cracked a nervous smile. Tammy’s tone was too suggestive. Too seductive. The next thing I knew, she walked over to me and whispered in my ear that soon I was to be married, and she had feelings and desires for me that she couldn’t overcome. Didn’t want to overcome. She told me she wanted to make love to me just once before I commit the rest of my life to her sister.
I was absolutely stunned and at a loss for words. She continued lustfully, “I’m going upstairs to my bedroom now… feel free to join me…”
Frozen like a statue, I watched her go up the stairs. When she reached the top she pulled off her pink panties and threw them down at me.
“TAKE ME, TARZAN!”
I watched as Tammy disappeared into her room. I couldn’t help but imagine what she was doing in bed. I knew EXACTLY what I had to do. Without wasting another second, I turned around and headed straight for the front door. I made a beeline for my car, but I didn’t make it very far.
My future father-in-law was standing right outside. With tears in his eyes he hugged me and said, “We’re very happy that you’ve passed our little test. We couldn’t have asked for a better man for our Katy. Welcome to the family!”
The moral of this story is…
Always keep your condoms in the car.
A thunderous silence fell over the Storytelling class for about two seconds. Then came the “ohhhhs” and riotous laughter when people started registering what happened. Priceless! I sat down and they went on with their feedback. They loved the humor in the story, the rapid fire exchange between Alan and his teacher, and the “moral” of the story was a big winner as well. I aced the class. This third and last story was probably my strongest story of the three I told. I’m glad to have gone out with a bang.
Looking back on my college years, I had my fair share of fond memories. Inevitably, I always think back to the friends and unforgettable experiences. That includes the great Storytelling class I took during the fall of 2003. From the camaraderie and stories my classmates and I shared to the crazy professor we had, it was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken in my life. It was a makeshift campfire every Tuesday and Thursday where we celebrated the human spirit and shared moving stories… emotional ones and entertaining ones alike. We all have interesting stories waiting to be told. A great story lives on and is passed from generation to generation. It stands the test of time. Maybe the next great story the world will hear… will be your very own.
CYLK COZART INTERVIEW
I emailed Mr. Cozart June 2009 in hopes of scoring an interview with him. He reached back and the following Q&A was conducted on July 3, 2009. Enjoy.
1). Any stories or memories you can share about working on the episode Zack’s War? What was it like working with the cast and crew, specifically Mark-Paul Gosselaar (whom you shared the majority of your onscreen time with)?
Mark was one of the most gracious actors that I’ve worked with. Very kind and funny. Great guy. Everyone loved him.
2). How aware of the show Saved By The Bell were you prior to signing on for this one episode?
I had never seen the show until I got the offer. A lot of my friends had seen it and told me about every one of the characters. I knew all of them when I walked on the stage for the first time.
Any time that I have ran into any of the cast, we always hug and talk about that episode. And laugh for about 10 minutes. LOL!!!
3). When was the last time you saw Zack’s War and what are your thoughts on how that episode came out? Personally speaking, it’s one of my all time favorites for ANY sitcom.
I see that show all the time. So many people of all ages see that particular episode and I have gotten as much attention from Saved By The Bell as a lot of movies that I have made. I have several friends and family members who will never let me forget it. I loved every minute of it!
4). You have been in over 30 movies and 20 television shows, what is your proudest moment as an actor? (i.e. was there a specific film you’re most proud of?)
That would have to be WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP. Ron Shelton (Writer/Director) is and always will be in my life.
Wesley Snipes and I keep in touch on a regular basis. But one of my best friends in LIFE is Woody Harrelson. We have become very close friends since we met on the first day he came in to audition.
I was set to play Sidney Dean. Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves both came in to audition while I sat and read with them. At the end of all the auditions, Ron asked me who I felt the most comfortable with and I said hands down, Woody.
The next thing I know, 20th Century Fox called Ron and said to put Wesley in the lead because New Jack City, Wesley’s film that just came out at the time, was a hit movie and Wesley was hot! They loved me but gave me a co-starring role.
That was the “worst” day of my acting life I thought. But once Ron took me to dinner and explained how the studio system worked, I felt a little better. Still it hurt so bad.
Ron told me that he and I would make many many more films together. We have already made three: White Men Can’t Jump, Play it to the Bone and Blue Chips.
5). How old were you when you first got into acting and what originally intrigued you about acting?
I used to watch Andy of Mayberry and The Beverly Hillbillies everyday. That made me aware of HOLLYWOOD. But growing up in Tennessee, there was no way to even know how to get there. But I figured it out
6). Which do you prefer: acting in films or acting in plays? (I have done both and I myself much prefer theater; nothing beats that raw LIVE “one take, no net” element).
There is nothing like that direct response from a live audience. Like live theater. Playing basketball in front of thousands of people while in college, was just like doing a play to me… in a way. So I loved the stage from the start.
Film is the most rewarding as far as exposure to so many people is concerned.
7). You were about six years old when Martin Luther King Jr. made his infamous “I Have A Dream” speech. Where were you that day and what were your memories of that time frame in the ’60s when racial tension was running incredibly high?
I’m a product of the ‘Baby Boomers.’ I was right in the middle of the SOUTH, Tennessee. Where the KKK “originated.” It was Hell for my family and friends. I remember most of that time at that young age.
Check this out, within a 6-month time frame, King was killed. 2 months later, Kennedy. After that, students from Kent State had their heads bashed in race riots. Charles Manson Sharon Tate Murders, Vietnam. Most of our parents were either pot smoking hippies or trying to join the Black Panther party. Those were the times that we lived in.
Note: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, directed by Quentin Tarantino, is set to be released on July 26, 2019. Starring Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, critics predict it will be one of the most successful films of the year. In 1969 Los Angeles, a former Western star and his longtime stunt double struggle to find success in a Hollywood that they don’t recognize anymore. Sharon Tate is their next door neighbor, and the infamous Manson Tate murders will be featured in the film. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is sure to be the hit of the summer.
8). Ever look back and wonder what would have happened if you never suffered that foot injury in that one NBA Summer League game? Was that your greatest regret in life? Or do you believe everything happens for a reason?
Every day, I think about “What If”???? Then right after that thought leaves… I think that nothing ever stays the same in life. It can’t and expect to survive. So I don’t hold on or regret anything. I am living my dream. I played pro basketball AND I am working with the most wonderful people in the entertainment world!!!! I have so much to be thankful for when you break it down.
9). As someone who has seen and done a whole lot, what advice in general would you give young people as they march through the trials and tribulations of life?
I would say to them first… “How well do you take the word “NO”? I would tell them, not to worry about what other people think of their work or performance. But work on your craft so you can always be your best critic.
This is an ART. You have natural ability but you must train as a pro athlete trains before the season. They work out so hard before the games, that the actual game is FUN. Same as an actor. Train your mind, body and soul for whatever you want to make a living.
Thank you for the interview!
In late 2016, actress Nikki Estridge submitted a DNA test because she couldn’t shake the feeling that she didn’t look like her siblings. Sure enough, she discovered that she was 32% African American, and she also found out that her dad is Cylk Cozart.
Nikki called her dad on Father’s Day to break the news. The two quickly met up and began making up for lost father-daughter time. It’s a touching story that’s worth a read! Cylk didn’t know that he had a daughter, or that she was married with kids! So he also realized he was a grandfather. What a crazy story! Congratulations to the Cozarts for their incredible reunion and new life
I’ve loved storytelling ever since I was a little kid. I can pretty much trace it back to growing up with a vibrant and charismatic uncle who always had a story to tell. Many nights back in the glorious late ’80s to early ’90s were spent with my brother either curled up on the couch listening to Uncle Jimmy’s tales of wonder, or camping out in the backyard under the stars on a hot summer night listening to Uncle Jimmy regale us with ghastly tales of the macabre. As I grew older, I came to appreciate the ART of storytelling. In college I took one of the best classes ever: Storytelling. I still remember the course objective to this day: “To be DAMN GOOD at storytelling.” Even to this day, randomly I find myself fondly reminiscing about that class and all the crazy stories it produced. So gather around for a storytelling extravaganza!
Storytelling is one of the oldest and purest forms of entertainment, dating back to ancient times when drawings were etched on cave walls. I feel it’s sort of become a lost art in this day and age in an era proliferated by technology. Between checking emails, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, texting and so forth, our level of actual face to face communication has dwindled and thus, storytelling has taken a back seat over the past number of years. When done right, storytelling is perhaps the purest and greatest form of entertainment at its basic core. All you need is a talented speaker with a vision and an engaged audience looking for some message to click or resonate.
STORYTELLING CLASS: FALL 2003
In August of 2003, I had just turned 20 and was entering my junior year at University. One of the classes I took that semester was Storytelling as it fell under my Minor of Theatre Arts. The room itself was like none other. Not a single desk in sight. Instead, you had one big ass rectangular table. Right away I knew this was going to be one of those rare special classes that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Chairs rested on the sides for the ‘peanut gallery’ folks. You told your story standing front and center with the professor sitting at the back table jotting down notes and rating your performance. Each class began with a 15 minute vocalization and body warm-up. We had a new leader each day. The leader would drape this thick green curtain (long replaced in this photo which was taken in 2007) to cover the windows. The leader then lights a match. To this day I don’t know why we did our exercises in the dark, but it sure made it memorable.
We met Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 1:15. Our professor was an eccentric woman in her 60s. Her taste for fashion was rather remarkable. She never wore the same outfit twice and always had matching shoes to go with whatever handbag or purse she decided to bring with her that day. Outside of class I often saw her randomly smoking somewhere on campus in one of her loud outfits. It was the closest thing to playing Where’s Waldo in real life. She was certainly one of a kind. Like one of those old Hollywood stars that just stepped off the set of a movie filmed in the 1940s.
If you came to class tardy, you snuck into one of these side chairs. This was actually where you wanted to be back in the fall of 2003 as the class’ two hottest girls always sat there. For some odd reason, I often found myself a part of the infamous Peanut Gallery. Odd, that.
The class had so many classic characters. We had someone from every walk of life imaginable. From ripe 18 year old freshmen to 45 year old mothers looking to finish up their degrees. Hell, we even had a former NBA player! But more on him later.
I’ll never forget Sean. Sean was 25 years old, Caucasian, married and possessed a dry and dark sense of humor. He was also quite the artist. The big guy took a liking to me as we often chatted before class began. He was a hell of a character whose “unique” speeches always made everyone bust a rib laughing. Imagine Bill Murray’s sense of humor and Seth Rogen’s physical features, and that’s pretty much Sean. His speeches had the most awkward pauses; we could never figure out if that was by design or if it was just Sean being Sean. Whatever the reason behind the madness, I’ll never forget his crazy stories. He blurred lines and was a master storyteller. During the first couple weeks of Storytelling, we all had to share an icebreaker in front of the class. I still remember Sean’s icebreaker. Now listen to this and tell me if it ain’t messed up.
When I was 5 years old, I saw the Devil. I was at the local playground… sitting in the sandbox. The Devil… looked at me… and he said… “Son, you more messed up than me.” I said… “COOOOL.”
I loved the format of the class. Each of us told 4 stories that semester (a quick icebreaker and 3 full proper stories). Each day we had 3-5 storytellers. If it wasn’t your day, you just sat back and got to chill. But if it was your day to share, it was first come first serve. You would march up to the white board to write down the title of your story. Do warm-ups. Then showtime! It was the easiest and coolest format of any college course I ever took. Sean’s first story — I’ll just share a small bit of it — was insane. He was doing his spiel and suddenly, WITHOUT warning, he collapsed! SPLAT!Did I mention by the way that he was about 6’1″ and 230 pounds? And I remember most of us being like “WHAT THE HELL…” And most of us kinda got up, you know, in that sort of weird half position where you’re caught between sitting down and standing up… just so we could get a better view to see if he was OK or not on the floor. WITHOUT WARNING HE POPS UP LIKE A SPRING and yells “AND THEEEEEN!!!!” That made many flinch. We were like “DAMN DUDE DON’T DO THAT YA FREAK!!!” Good times. I’m getting ahead of myself though. Let’s go back quickly to DAY ONE…
THURSDAY AUGUST 28, 2003
Today we got in groups of 4 and had 5 minutes to come up with a fairy tale to reenact in front of the class. The catch? It had to be a silent presentation. So we were forced to rely on everything except our voices. The lesson here was learning how to communicate effectively through using hand gestures, facial expressions and body language. My group had a guy my age, a middle-aged father of two and a middle-aged mother of four (Marlene was one of my favorite storytellers… an absolute natural that Marlene). We decided on The 3 Little Pigs. The 3 guys would play the pigs and Marlene the wolf. I played the first pig, and had an idea on how to make the scene work.
I started out by building my lovely straw house. Marlene the wolf came. Blew down my poor house. I panicked and frantically pointed behind her. I made my getaway as she glanced back. I pretended to run smack dab into an imaginary door and flew back, holding my nose and acting it all out in a very slapstick fashion. Lots of laughter from the audience. It felt good to be the first one up and making people laugh. After the wolf blew down the second house we ran off to the brick house. Once safely in, we began taunting the wolf. She tried to blow us (as in the brick house!) down but she couldn’t. I flexed my muscles, every now and then showing my tentativeness by hiding behind my brothers while continually taunting. I had the entire class roaring and eating out of my hands!
The best part of all came at the end of class. I was walking out when one of the cute girls from the class looked back at me in the hallway. She flashed me an ear-to-ear grin. That was the precise moment where I thought to myself, “GOD I love Storytelling.” It was a great feeling. Being up there and controlling the audience’s emotions without even talking was downright EMPOWERING.
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 11, 2003
On the 2 year anniversary of 9/11, it was my day to share my icebreaker. I decided to share a story about believing in yourself, even against all critics and odds.
Hi. My name’s Steven, but most call me Steve. Like some of you, this is my junior year. Summer of 2002 I did a really dumb thing. I parked in our school’s parking lot without a valid parking permit. I just had to drop off my registration bill and thought I could sneak in, sneak out. I have no idea why I didn’t park elsewhere or in one of the 20 minute zones. I guess I just wasn’t thinking that morning.
Anyway, I came back to my car and surprise surprise, there was a ticket slapped to my windshield. 31 dollars. I went to get a petition form. My brother snapped at me when he found out. Then he saw the petition form I was holding and told me to not even bother. Said he tried it before and got rejected. And that all his friends suffered the same fate in years past as well. So I would be no different, according to him.
ACCORDING TO HIM. Me on the other hand… I knew I could buck the system if I could just come up with something creative, memorable and never-before-seen…
One night I was channel surfing and came upon Nick At Nite. And there I found my inspiration…
“Come on and knock on our doooor. We’ve been waiting for yoooou. … there’s a thing and a thing and the guy falls off his bike…
Three’s Company too!”
The wheels in my mind began turning. Hmmm. “Come on and knock on my door. I’ve been waiting for you… to lift the fee.” No that doesn’t flow. I need to express my story somehow… my STORY… hey! That’s it! My story…
“Here’s a story…”
Of course. The Brady Bunch! I went to work and the words began flowing out of my pen like it was meant to be. And this is how it went:
Here’s a story… about a man named Steven… that’s me (I quickly added, causing my classmates to chuckle).
Who was caught in the parking lot without a permit.
Now he’s pleading for some justice.
He was only there to pay his registration bill.
It cost him nine hundred and fifty-seven dollars, plus the line was long.
The line was long, the line was long.
And when he came back, he found out he was 5 minutes too late… well actually 12 but 5 sounded a whole lot better (I quickly added, much to the laughter of my peers once again).
He said to himself, “If there’s any good left in this world, they’ll lift the fee.”
And that’s how it came to be!
10 days passed. Finally it was mailed back home with a verdict. It would either be stamped REJECTED or FILE AS A WARNING.
I flipped the petition form over for all my classmates to see.
It was stamped “FILE AS A WARNING.”
They cheered and applauded while I stood there humbly motioning with my hands ALRIGHT ALRIGHT CALM DOWN Y’ALL… I ain’t quite done yet!
This here, in my hands, is proof positive that sometimes if you go with your gut feeling, really put in the work and believe with conviction, it just may pay off. More specifically, it just may pay off 31 dollars.
And so, my icebreaker was complete and I received a second ovation less than half a minute after the first one. It was humbling and empowering all at once. But the craziest thing was, later that same day when I got home from class, I read the terrible news that John Ritter passed away that very same day. What were the odds of that?! I loved him in Three’s Company and the Problem Child movies, plus he always reminded me of Uncle Jimmy. Uncle Jimmy was like an Asian version of John Ritter
Before I share the main stories I told that semester, I gotta share this one from my classmate. It was probably the best story I heard that entire semester, and I still remember it 15+ years later. The following story comes courtesy of the guy who, during his icebreaker, shared with us that he once played for the Toronto Raptors (!) during an NBA preseason before being cut.
I’m walking to class one day and I spot this hot chick. She had sunglasses on, a mini skirt, and a bomb pink top. She was the kind of girl guys dream about. So I’m like, I gotta get with her, right, but what do I see? A guy holding her hand. Damn! So I walked to class but all I could think about was her.
Next thing I knew, she walked through the door! I was like “HELL YEAH! This was a sign.” But once again, that guy was holding her hand. I looked at him and I was like, “What?! This hot girl is with some average Joe Shmoe like him?” She sat down with her boyfriend. Screw it, I still went up to her. I asked for her name and how’s she doing and all that stuff. Her boyfriend asked me rudely what I wanted.
“I just wanna talk with her. Is that illegal?”
Then he got up and hugged her right in my face. I’m feeling bad at this point, but then he said, “See you later, sis.”
And inside I’m going “OH YEEEEAHHH!”
Later that day I was at the cafeteria when I saw her sitting by herself. Yes, this was my chance. So I came over and we talked. I definitely could see us getting together. I was cracking jokes and she was laughing a lot. But soon I had to get to class. All day I was thinking about her. I mean, I think about girls a LOT, but this girl was driving me nuts!
Once I finished class I was walking to my car when I saw her standing around, and she was crying. I rushed over and asked her what’s going on. She told me her brother got in a fight with her and left her, so she had no ride home.
“What?! Your bro’s a real asshole. You don’t know how to use public transportation or something? Hey, don’t worry. I can give you a ride home.”
She didn’t hesitate at all and gave me a nod. Wow, I couldn’t believe how this situation was unfolding. She gave me her address and luckily I was familiar with the area. As we began walking, suddenly she grabbed my hand. I was like HELL YEAH! So we were walking down the street and I was nodding my head like “Yeah this my girl” to everyone walking by who was checking her out.
After driving her home, I asked if she’d like me to walk her to her door. She said yes. I opened the passenger door for her and again she held my hand in hers. We walked over to her front door and I could see she was still distraught over the fight with her brother. She fidgeted with the keys as she opened the front door. She got in, said bye quickly and closed the door in my face without giving me a chance to say anything.
I was like… WHAT THE FUCK?!?
So I pound on the door.
“Who is it?”
Who is it? What kind of messed up mind games is this chick playing?!?
“It’s me. Who else?”
She opened the door. “What do you want?”
“You’re welcome. Hey listen, if you want I can straighten out your brother for you. Well alright then, I’ll see you Thursday.”
“… I need to see you Thursday too,” she said quietly.
Then she closed the door and I stood there thinking, DAMN! Girls. Can’t live with ‘em… sure as hell can’t live without ‘em.
So Thursday came and after class we walked to the cafeteria. She asked me if she could hold my hand. At this point I was just so confused by her split personality, so I decided to let her know what was on my mind.
“What are we gonna do? Play patty cake? Why you acting all weird on me huh? I need to know right now. Why all the games? One minute you’re holding my hand, the next minute you’re slamming doors in my face! What is it, huh?! Is it because I’m black?”
“Is it because I’m 6’6″? You don’t like tall guys?”
“No, it’s not that.”
“I only see your personality.”
“Say what? My personality? You mean, you think I’m all jokes? You wanna see the deeper me or something? Wassup?”
“I don’t see you as a tall black guy. I only see your personality.”
At this point I was thinking this chick has me all mixed up! Then she held my hand, took off her sunglasses and told me, “I can’t see. I’m blind.”
The room fell in thunderous silence as he stood there, staring at us for a second letting everything sink in. Then he slowly sat down as the room erupted in applause and cheers. Maybe the NBA didn’t work out for him, but he’s definitely got a future in any field that requires dynamic public speaking!
THURSDAY OCTOBER 2, 2003
I remember standing right there, glancing at my 20+ classmates for a second before I began. I was a bit nervous, but once I got going I channeled that nervous energy into positive energy. Sharing about one of the greatest nights of my life in front of friends and colleagues turned out to be one of my greatest collegiate memories. And since the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake was only 2 weeks away, I used part of that title as a tribute.
I had a blast recounting my epic Halloween 1994 adventure in front of my peers. At that time it was only 9 years removed. Crazy to think this upcoming Halloween will be the 25th anniversary!
After finishing your story, you took a seat right there for feedback time. This is where the professor as well as your classmates chime in. They gave me a nice ovation as I sat down. One girl said she loved how I made sound effects and how I painted pictures for her with my word choice, such as “green and red lights flashing wildly into the night.” Another classmate said I had great projection and energy. Professor told me, “Steven you possess great stage presence; you’re a natural storyteller with an irresistible style.” Wow. Talk about pumping a guy up!
THURSDAY NOVEMBER 6, 2003
In the weeks leading up to my second story, I was watching Saved By The Bell episodes on the season one DVD set my brother bought when it first came out in September of 2003. We both watched the show religiously when we were kids in the late ’80s to mid ’90s. Hell, growing up I even looked up to Zack Morris. I thought he was just the coolest dude around. In the words of Mean Gene Okerlund, “I mean HE HAD IT ALL.” A hot girlfriend in Kelly Kapowski, great friends and Zack was the toast of Bayside High. While high school for me in real life never quite played out like how Bayside High was depicted, for one day at least I had a chance to be Zack Morris.
Before I officially start my story, I’d like you all to know in advance that you may be familiar with the characters to come. Also, I will be switching voices on the fly. Having said that, let us begin…
The year was 1990. I remember that year fondly. It was my senior year at Bayside High and the best year of my life. A lot of things happened in 1990 that I’ll never forget. Sure I got in trouble a lot, but I usually charmed my way out of it. Many called me a slacker as well as a class clown. Now truth be told, there’s a reason for those labels. However, one day… that all changed…
Note to reader: Remember that “Corps” is pronounced “core.”
“No. Bayside has been chosen to host the pilot program for the California Cadet Corps. Now I’d like to introduce you… Lieutenant Chet Adams.”
“In the Cadet Corps we initiate students into the Army way of life. Naturally, there’s discipline and hard work involved.”
“As I was saying… there’s also career training and a chance for college scholarships. I hope you sign up and see what you can be in today’s Army. Hope I’ll be seeing some of you soon.”
“I’m giving you a month’s worth of Saturday detention.”
“Nah uh. THIRTY Saturdays.”
“Thirty Saturdays?! Sir, can we negotiate? Hey I’ll wash your car!”
“The last time you washed my car you flooded the inside.”
“Hmmm, maybe there IS something you can do. I wanna see this Cadet Corps succeed here SO… you sign up, no detention.”
“You mean all I hafta do is join that Mickey Mouse Army?”
“That’s right. Oh, that and one other little request. We need a full class for the program so it’s your job to get ‘em.”
The next day Zack went to the Max, the local Bayside High hangout, to recruit and assemble a full class. Employing his natural charisma and used car salesman tactics, Zack recruited enough students save for one. He needed one last sucker… and that’s when his best friend entered the Max.
“Hey Screech! You wanna know how to get Molly? By being a REAL MAN.”
“That’s right. Wait til Molly sees you… in a uniform.”
“Count me in, Zack! I’ll be ALL that I can be!”
The next week Zack and his friends waited for the first official Cadet Corps class to begin. As they waited for Lieutenant Chet Adams to arrive, they began discussing among themselves what the experience might be like.
“I hope I can handle this and have a chance at that college scholarship.”
“Ah stop worrying, Kelly. Would I be in this class if it weren’t a snap?”
And that’s when the Lieutenant walked in…
“Weeeell, it’s nice to see such a good turn out. Now I want you guys to relax, enjoy yourselves, and I’m sure we’re going to have a good time.”
*Turns around, back facing audience*
*Turns to face audience*
“Oh it’s gonna be plenty of fun… FOR ME. MAKE THAT ONE HUNDRED.”
“But sir, I can’t do that many push ups.”
“Oh that’s OK. I have all day to watch you try.”
The next day Zack showed up to class but something was missing…
“Well, I’m afraid my ARMS can’t take any more of your BIG plans, sir.”
The Lieutenant made the big announcement later that day in class.
“The highlight of every Cadet Corps program is an athletic competition. It helps develop physical skills, teamwork, and it’s the Army’s way of separating the men from the boys.”
“I mean, the persons from the persons. Better now, Ms. Spano?”
“Now, there will be a red team and a blue team. I’ve already picked the leaders for the two teams: AC Slater and Zack Morris. I’ve given Cadet Morris the responsibility of choosing the teams.”
“Alright, we’ll start first with the red team. When I call your name, step forward. Alan, Screech, hmmm, Lisa, Louise. OK, you guys are with Slater.”
“Jessie, Kelly, Butch and Rocco, you guys are with me on the blue team… LET THE GAMES BEGIN!“
“Yeah for WHAT — THE NERD BOWL?!“
Later that day Zack and Slater began practicing with their own teams. Zack, the red team. Slater, the blue team. The blue team was a well-oiled machine. The red team on the other hand…
“Left… left, left, right, left… company HALT. Alan, I said halt!”
“I thought you said MALT! And I’m thirsty from all this moving about.”
“Alright team, get it together. Come on. About-FACE!”
Maybe Zack’s red team could salvage the obstacle course. Then again…
“OK guys, let’s do something right this time alright. Let’s go guys!”
“Red team ready, GO.”
Zack flew through the tires. His teammates however fell flat on their faces.
“Great, JUST great. I am NEVER gonna win with a bunch of losers like you. You guys are the worst clumsiest bunch of goofs I’ve ever seen! I QUIT!“
Zack tore off his red armband and stormed off. After school that day his best friend Screech dropped by.
“Oh but we’re getting better. Alan even got his uniform off without ripping it.”
“I don’t get it, Zack. You’re the one who talked us into joining the Corps. And now you’re quitting it all just because you’re not on the best team?”
“Yeah that’s about it. Because the Corps is stupid.”
“But you said the Corps would make me the kind of man Molly would want.”
“You know Zack… ever since we were little… I looked up to you. You had everything. And I always wanted to be like you. Now I’m glad I’m not.”
Screech left the room and left Zack to ruminate. The next day…
“I want another chance. Please let me back in, sir.”
“That’s not for me to decide. Maybe they don’t want you back.”
“Alright, I let all you guys down and I called you losers. You know what, I was wrong. The only real loser on this team… was me.”
“We’ll have to talk this over…”
“Look guys, I think we need him DESPERATELY.”
“Welcome back, buddy.”
Not only was Zack back, but so too the athletic competition. Tied two wins a piece, the big Tug-O-War finale would determine the winner. Alas…
“Since the rope broke, this is the tie breaking event… the super obstacle course. Each team will choose one man… I mean, ONE PERSON… to compete.”
“Very good, Lieutenant.”
“I’m trying, Ms. Spano.”
“NOPE. There’s someone else here who can beat him...”
“ARE YOU CRAZY?!?!? You saw what happened last time!”
“Yeah, I can’t beat Butch. We’ll lose!“
“Runners, take your position.”
“Alright Screech you can do it!”
Both Butch and Screech shot off like two cannons being fired into the dark cold night. In the end, it was Screech who crossed the finish line first. No one could believe it. No one except Zack Morris. Molly came over to greet Screech with a kiss in the winner’s circle, and everyone filed out of the hallway except for Zack and the Lieutenant.
As I stood there saluting the class as if I were looking into the eyes of the Lieutenant himself, the class gave me a roaring ovation that sent chilling goosebumps up and down my spine. I sat down and right away one girl said, “That was so unexpected and awesome. I loved that show when I was a kid and I felt like those characters were right in front of me!” I saw many of my classmates nodding and smiling in agreement, and I can’t tell you how great that felt. The professor had this to add. “Steven, that was an INCREDIBLE one man show you just put on for us. Thank you, I enjoyed it very much.”
Remember Sean? Bill Murray meets Seth Rogen? The next week he told me, “You know Steve, I’ve never cared to watch Saved By The Bell before. But the other day it came on TBS and I just had to watch it because of your story. I couldn’t believe how accurately you replicated the characters, especially Zack. It was your voice, facial expressions and mannerisms… I thought I was watching YOU on the show!”
So what was my third and last story of the semester? I’d love to share that here but this is already at 5,000+ words! I’ll save my third and final story for next time. See you soon at the Bayside High reunion!
In addition, check out the link above for an exclusive interview I conducted with Cylk Cozart back in the summer of 2009. He had some interesting stories to share… from what life in the ’60s was like to his one episode cameo in Saved By The Bell to White Men Can’t Jump and much more.
Many action games call the Super Nintendo home. But only one (that I can think of off the top of my head) contains no actual enemies. The Ignition Factor puts you into the shoes of a firefighter, fending off flames and rescuing helpless citizens. Your only enemy is fire (and breakaway pits). It’s also a bit of a thinking man’s game, with enough strategic elements to keep players constantly on their toes as they roam about the burning buildings, museums, mines and more.
SIMILAR BUT NOT THE SAME
The Firemen is considered to be something of a semi-cult hit in retro gaming circles. It used to be a lot more obscure but has since pick up a lot of steam in the past decade or so thanks to word of mouth. For the record, I consider Firemen to be the best fire fighting game on the SNES, but Ignition Factor is definitely the second best. Yes, I know there are really only two fire fighting games on the SNES but in all seriousness, Ignition Factor is definitely a decent little game.
13 YEARS AGO…
As readers of RVGFanatic may recall, I went through a Super Nintendo resurgence when I bought the system on January 17, 2006. On that same day I bought four games: Power Moves, Prehistorik Man, Ignition Factor and Fatal Fury Special. The Ignition Factor was my 3rd overall SNES game purchase, and earlier this month I finally got around to playing it. It only took me 13 years but it was nice to finally play it after all these years, especially on the 13 year anniversary itself.
THE STORY GOES…
WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE
Ignition Factor starts off hot with this blazing title screen. Sorry…
Bradshaw Steel Mill or Pygamalion Plaza — the choice is yours to make. It’s nice that Jaleco gave us some options, similar to the Mega Man games. After selecting your stage, place your firetruck at any one of four starting points. Naturally, this alters where you open up a given level. BTW, love that stylish 1994 computer
Examine items beforehand and pick the ones you want. You can only equip up to two active items at a time.
Barrels shoot upward and explode as you race across this platform. A sense of urgency is established right from the start.
Jumping in a top-down action game? Yes please! I’m always a sucker for that. Speaking of being a sucker, watch out for falling platforms over a scorching pit!
Remember, you can’t save the people if there’s no you. Don’t rush in or else…
Somebody wasn’t listening.
Similar to the barrels from DOOM, I wouldn’t do that if I were you.
Likewise, I would advise against bludgeoning your fellow comrades by way of axe. You’ll need them, especially for those all too important resupplies.
Certain items lay hidden on the floor. This was a bit annoying since there’s no indicator that an item is there ripe for the picking. A small visual marker, even if it was a flickering light, would have been appreciated.
ProTip: Blue flames can only be taken out with the electrical extinguisher. For your courageous efforts, the city immortalizes your bravery and tenacity.
Jaleco, I see you. Trying to be slick over there, aren’t cha?
Pygamalion Plaza is essentially Mannequins R Us…
Damn… now I know how Michael Myers must have felt at the end of Halloween (2018). Um, are you POSITIVE that’s a mannequin? Looks more like a man who needs saving to me.
BITCH you cray cray. Ann woulda left your ass ages ago!
Please, allow me to knock some sense into ya…
Locked doors can be opened via brute force using the axe. As for Nancy, weeeeell… *nervous chuckle*
Avatars add a nice little touch to the game. There are a few puzzles scattered throughout the game, such as seen here. Hmm, how to save Old Man Jenkins there…
McGlone Mine is next. That DANGER!! sign is rather… apropos.
There’s a really cool swirly visual effect in the mine that ups the sense of urgency and angst. Watch out for weak patches of ground that break.
Beware of poisonous gas clouds that randomly pop up. Lean up against the wall if that helps ya! Also keep an eye on your oxygen supply. Better find one of your fire fighting friends fast for a fill-up.
Jurassic Park probably inspired the Dino Park. Sure there may be some gnarly exhibits here, but time is of the utmost essence! No time to stop and meander around.
Random small details are the best. Take, f’rinstance, this guy here flapping his jacket away in hopes of subduing the fire. Gotta give him props for trying. After Dino Park it’s off to Whitney Appliances, where the only dancing you’ll be doing is not with your old flame but a whole lotta flames!
Natural selection on full display here, folks. Instead of waiting to be saved, that fool’s crazy ass decides to walk straight into the fire. But it’s weird shit like this that kind of makes the game oddly endearing.
Gemini Towers is home to the game’s weirdest WTFmoment. You’ll find a random dude near the telescope. Talk to him and he’ll urge you to look through it. No big deal, right? WRONG.
WHOA what the hell?! Out of nowhere the dude wallops you with a haymaker! It is so random and bizarre that I actually laughed out loud the first time I saw it. I love it when game developers include random weird stuff into their games.
Remorseful, he at least goes over to apologize after giving you a concussion. That’s nice of him. If you refuse to look through the telescope, he confesses that he started the fire. Hey Billy Joel, guess you were wrong after all. There’s our culprit!
We didn’t start the fire. It was always burning Since the world’s been turning. We didn’t start the fire. No we didn’t light it. But we tried to fight it.
Ignition Factor even breaks the 4th wall at one point! Video Games Magazine? Psh. That was an alright magazine, but gimme EGM or GameFan any day!
Gemini Towers has some cool bits where the screen becomes much smaller once you enter certain rooms. I’ve always enjoyed when games do this. EarthBound is a prime example of that technique.
COMING THROUGH! After saving the good folks trapped at Gemini Towers, it’s off to the Shylock Center.
Holding the shoulder button allows you to strafe. It also doubles as a lifesaving tactic where it allows you to see flames in other rooms even before entering.
Sometimes you just want to hide in your cubicle. But then you work up the courage to socialize a bit with your coworkers. And that’s when you find Frank and Ann getting it on down the hallway.
Appalled, you spray ‘em in a futile attempt to stop. When that doesn’t work, you decide to bust out the almighty axe. Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. HR is gonna have fun with this one!
UHHHH, me too. How the hell are you still alive?!
There’s a cool Mega Man 2-like effect to this game where you can jump from room to room and the screen switches like such. It’s oddly satisfying.
Another mine stage, we’ve come to the Paris Mine.
WATCH YO STEP!
Plastic explosives will break thin walls.
There’s a password system thankfully. Although the game isn’t long, the levels can be tough to beat so it’s nice not having to repeat them. However, similar to B.O.B., you don’t get a password for every cleared stage. Instead, you get one every few levels. Still better than nothing, though. But the really cool thing is the secret pass code that unlocks the DM Headquarters. You might remember this level from Jaleco’s Peace Keepers. What a nice nod!
Before you get TOO excited [we wouldn’t want you to soil your undies -Ed.], this is the hardest stage by far. This is due to there being no comrades hanging around to restock your inventory. Once you’re out, you’re out. And that means a long road ahead. It’s a neat bonus but I definitely wish they made it a little easier.
Awesome Easter eggs abound when you come to a skirmish between Flynn and Lago from Peace Keepers! Jaleco with the unexpected fan service. I love when games cross over from the same development firm.
“YEAH KICK HIS ASS, FLYNN!” Another cool bit comes when one of the mutant enemies from Peace Keepers shows up. You just knew those broken glass containers was a bad sign…
Thinking you were safe behind the locked door, the creature gives you something to remember it by!
Popping up magically out of the floor, no place is safe. They’ll electrocute your ass if you’re not careful.
Unfortunately, your water spray has zero effect on them.
Typically, an axe should suffice. But it doesn’t harm them in the least! Why, Jaleco, why? That makes no sense especially since you can easily beat them up with your bare hands in Peace Keepers. Although a neat bonus for sure, I can’t help but feel this was a bit of a wasted opportunity.
Ignition Factor can be a fun but frustrating experience. It’s definitely geared toward more “hardcore” players as the brutal time limit leaves little room for exploring and certainly less room for error. Sure you can run but once you start carrying a certain amount of items, you can’t. Even if you can run, it’s dangerous since flames are all over the place. It’s one of those games that require repeated play and precision. Not the kind of relaxing game you’ll throw in when you just want something quick and easy. I wish there was an option to increase the time limit. Different difficulty levels would have made this game far more accessible.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
The Ignition Factor won EGM’s Game of the Month award in issue #68 (March 1995). It garnered scores of 7, 8, 9 and 9. Despite that, it remains kind of obscure even in today’s retro gaming circles. When people talk about SNES fire fighting games, you usually hear about Firemen rather than Ignition Factor. It also came out during a bit of a funky time — the SNES began to lose some star power in early 1995 as the focus was shifting ever so slightly to the 32-bit war machines. The game was also never advertised to the moon so it’s no surprise it’s kind of been forgotten over the decades. When people do talk about it, it seems to elicit mixed reactions. Some consider it a hidden gem while others think of it as merely being decent. Others don’t like it at all and will tell you to stick to HUMAN’s Firemen. Personally, I think there’s definitely room for both titles in one’s collection.
13 years ago I got back into the SNES and on that same night, there was a seller on eBay auctioning off Ignition Factor. I had just bought Power Moves and Prehistorik Man from this seller, and I was ready to break the chain of “PM” games. I faintly remembered seeing Ignition Factor in rental stores back in the mid ’90s but it never quite resonated with me. I had less than a minute to decide as the auction was rapidly coming to a close so I quickly looked up pictures and it looked interesting enough, especially since the idea of fire fighting in video games has always intrigued me a bit. It arrived in the mail back in January 2006 and I remember thinking “I’ll get around to playing it soon enough.” Fast forward 13 years to January 2019 and well, it took me exactly that long to play it. But hey, mission accomplished
It’s got a unique concept and the visuals are different from most other SNES games. They have sort of a European feel to them. Unfortunately, some stages look a bit bland and uninspired. There isn’t much music here; Jaleco opted for a more ambient soundtrack where the focus is on the backdrafts. Occasionally, a quick frenetic jingle plays with a voiceover that makes for a pretty cool effect, but it’s nothing special overall. I enjoyed the more strategic approach to the gameplay as you would have to switch from certain extinguishers to eliminate different flames. There are also a slew of items you can toggle between to aid you in your quest. The problem is it could easily have been handled better. To toggle items, you have to go to the menu and then make the appropriate switches. Dedicating a button to switch items would have made for a more seamless and enjoyable experience. That one change would have made a world’s difference.
And as stated earlier, the timer is a bug up your ass. It would be fine if there were an option to adjust difficulty levels and thus time limits, but sadly there isn’t. Ignition Factor isn’t unbeatable, but it should have been made a little more accessible. There’s a bit to like here such as the strategic elements, the choice of levels and odd random quirky moments spread throughout, but there’s a noticeable lack of polish. Still, there’s a decent game lying underneath the rubble if you’re dedicated and patient enough to tackle it head on.
Another in a long line of Japanese anime/manga turned Super Famicom video game adaptation, GeGeGe no Kitarō is one of the strangest SNES games you could ever encounter. It’s a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up platformer. Originally known as Kitarō of the Graveyard, the manga series made its debut in 1960, with an anime series following in 1968. The focus is on the last survivor of the Ghost Tribe, Kitarō, as he faces off with various ghouls and goblins of Japanese mythology. Created by Shigeru Mizuki, GeGeGe no Kitarō has a long and storied history spanning five decades, over 400 anime episodes and even two live action movie adaptations.
Meet Medama-oyaji, translated literally as Eyeball Father. ‘Nuff said.
THE STORY GOES…
Kitarō has the ability to fire bullets from his hair. Of course, to make it even more bizarre, who does the firing but none other than his Eyeball Father! Unfortunately, bullets don’t travel the full length of the screen. Be prepared to meet many unusual abominations along your journey.
Kitarō has a shield to block projectiles with as well as three special weapons he can call upon. However, these special skills can only be used once you’ve killed a ghost creature and captured its soul. The more souls swiped, the more special moves you rack up.
One special move is a cane like whip that is short and rather useless. Another is a sandal-based attack that goes across the bottom of the screen and back. The third is the BFG of the game. Multiple electric blasts are emitted from Kitarō’s body. It’s best saved for the bosses thanks to the high damage it inflicts.
There are 19 levels, which may sound like a lot until you factor in just how insanely short each stage is. Deal with a few regular bad guys (some can be rather tough) and then it’s off to tackle the guardian boss. Some levels have as little as two (!) enemies before the boss fight. What the hell! I’ve never played a game as odd as this; the construction of the levels is a little baffling to say the least.
Some bosses include a witch with the power to change you into small random objects, a vampire in the form of a giant bat accompanied by a legion of bats and what’s a horror themed video game without Frankenstein represented in some form or fashion?
Also boss is a gigantic dragon who has 10 heads, but you face only one at a time. The dragon dwells in a dark cave set against a waterfall which makes for a lovely visual.
Don’t let the game’s Saturday morning cartoon look fool ya — even though there’s no blood anywhere to be found, GeGeGe no Kitarō has some unexpectedly vicious moments. One boss splits in half after being slain. Another one uses her razor-sharp claws to impale an innocent bystander through the heart! That definitely took me by surprise.
It’s a shame then how unfair the game can be at times. Certain levels have these tiny ass platforms… and if that weren’t annoying enough, spirits hound your ass like white on rice. As you can imagine, thanks to the ridiculously small ledges, you’ll likely fall to your death if touched. Also, you’ll make leaps of faith where you can’t even see the platform on the right until you jump. Only then does the screen scroll forward. In a game already as difficult as this one is, that’s just plain wrong.
On the upside, the monsters are gruesome and highly memorable. The boss from the first level for instance is something you might see in Hayao Miyazaki’s work (Spirited Away). The graphics are excellent and invoke the feeling of watching Saturday morning cartoons. And the music has a nice oriental flare and gets rather creepy from time to time.
Another positive aspect is that it has a pretty cool 2-player mode. The second player controls a character who has a fireball similar to Sagat’s that travels the full length of the screen. With Kitarō blocking and the second player spamming fireballs, the game takes on new life. There are pictures and some Japanese text to advance the story after each level is beaten.
“Chip? Monterey? Gadget? Zipper?!”
“Hey bud! Wrong tree house, wrong show!”
This very first villain requires several hits to kill and zips around like a mad flea.
Then this lady appears from behind the tree. Don’t get seduced…
Hey he looks pretty friendly. Let’s chat him up. What could go wrong?
“Hey buddy! Yeah, you over there. You want a breath mint? I got grape — “
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Not surprisingly, GameFan gave this game some high marks while Super Play wasn’t as generous. GameFan gave it scores of 78, 79, 88 and 93%. Super Play rated it 61%.
I lean more toward Super Play than GameFan when it comes to this game. I wanted to like GeGeGe no Kitarō a lot — it’s quirky, macabre and downright deliciously devilish. Perfect to play during the Halloween season. But the difficulty and the unnecessary cheapness of the game really hurts it. It’s much more tolerable and enjoyable, however, when playing with a buddy. You’re not missing much if you skip this one, but it’s a decent add to your horror gaming collection if you so desire.
Shōnen Ashibe is yet another Japanese comic turned TV series turned Super Famicom exclusive. Masterminded by Morishita Yumi, the comic was published in Weekly Young Jump from 1988 to 1994. It became a TV series in 1991 and the Super Famicom game was released just days before Christmas of 1992. The story centers around Ashibe, a 1st grade boy, and his wacky pet harbor seal, Goma-chan. Yup, that’s about as Japanese as Japanese gets. And only the Japanese, eh? Nonetheless, Shōnen Ashibe is unabashedly adorable and full of sunshine and rainbows.
Shōnen Ashibe is a cute platformer where you guide Goma-chan through many levels featuring classic themes such as forest, cave, haunted house, etc. In a manner befitting of the source material, Goma-chan can’t hurt enemies. Jumping over them is his only defense. Enemies range from humans (little brat boys and girls) to animals (bats, polar and teddy bears to name a few).
Your goal is to locate 8 items in each level. The item is connected to the level theme (i.e. stars for ice world, squids for water, etc.)
Once 8 are collected, head for the exit. If hit, one apple (or whatever it may be) squirts away, waiting to be reclaimed (not unlike Sonic the Hedgehog). The seal also whimpers “Eeeek!” The only way to lose is by being squeezed into submission by one of the bratty kids or if the timer reaches 0. The animals can’t kill you even if you have 0 items when they touch you. This was aimed at small children, obviously.
Some items are hidden while others are out in the wide open. You can smash walls with your head to potentially reveal hidden items. There are only two buttons: one makes Goma-chan jump and the other makes him perform a head butt. The gameplay is very basic — it was geared toward younger children — but it’s done in a respectable manner, all things considered.
There are some cool set pieces, like this giant hippopotamus machine. Releasing basketballs from its mouth, your task is to head butt them back into the hippo’s mouth. Doing this is much harder than it looks, especially as the timer runs down and the pressure mounts. Each good basket grants you an apple. The hippo machine holds 4 apples; the other 4 are scattered throughout the level.
Pick your level from this overhead map. Backtrack if you wish. Along the way some folks provide information, others will share a 16 character password and some even challenge you to mini games. The boy is an unplayable character, and that’s just as fine. Who wants to be a little 1st grader when you can be a cuddly seal?
Shōnen Ashibe has some nice details but nothing we haven’t seen before. Reappearing blocks, moving platforms and so forth. One really nice detail is the haunted house theme where you can see lightning flash outside the windows.
There’s definitely a me too feeling throughout the game but hey, if you can’t get enough of these games you’ll be right at home. Controlling a seal has its advantages, too. For example, Goma-chan can cling on edges which is quite cool.
My favorite theme is the ice world. The ice levels are extremely slippery, more so than most other platformers I can recall. The poor fella just slides around like a mofo as soon as you pick up any sort of momentum.
It sure did but DoReMi Fantasy also came out exactly 3 years and 3 months later (December 22, 1992 —> March 22, 1996). One has to account for such a huge technological gap
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Super Play, who erroneously referred to it as Syo the Seal, gave Shōnen Ashibe a very respectable 79% rating. It remains a fairly obscure game to this day, but those who have played it have shared similar sentiments. It’s certainly not bad and has its moments here and there.
Not shabby — surprisingly somewhat solid even — yet nothing worth writing home about. The graphics are nice; they’re simple yet colorful and charming in that Japanese sort of way. The music isn’t bad though it gets sugary sweet in spots to the point it can quickly become a bit annoying. All in all, Shōnen Ashibe is a great choice for kids. Older players probably won’t dig it as much, but you might find yourself a bit surprised at how well it plays if given the chance.