Back in the early-mid ’90s fighting games ruled the scene. Street Fighter II launched a phenomenon that spawned clone after clone. Very few came close to the level of Street Fighter. Some were even downright ATROCIOUS. But once in a while, one came along that completely surprised you. One of those games was a Super Nintendo exclusive. It never came out in the arcades, but Konami could have fooled me. Its name… Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters.
Last night a friend and I caught the latest TMNT movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. It was far better than I expected, especially since I didn’t like the 2014 version at all. I mean, it wasn’t great or anything, but I can genuinely say I wouldn’t mind the inevitable 3rd film in this Michael Bay series. Seeing the movie made me nostalgic for the Turtles from my childhood, and so it’s a perfect time to talk about one of the best fighting games the SNES ever saw.
EXCUSE ME, SAY THAT ONE MORE TIME
Those were the haunting, earth-shattering words of my brother’s friend, Kerwin, back in December ’93. According to him, he had just played this new amazing fighting game — one that he claimed had“Fatality” like moves during combat and one that actually played better than Street Fighter II Turbo. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought Kerwin worked for Konami himself. At that time I had never conceived of anything like the idea of death moves. These were essentially SUPER special moves that dealt out a TREMENDOUS amount of damage and could only be done when your 2nd bar was full. Just the idea of two energy bars blew my 10 year old mind, let alone the idea of a screen-filling, flashy, super special attack. Maybe there was another game that had already done this at the time, but alI I knew was, Tournament Fighters was my first exposure to the wonderful wacky world of super specials. It’s one of those epic memories you always carry with you, in your gaming heart. TMNT:Tournament Fighters would have been terrific even without their Ultimate Attacks but WITH them it makes for one truly amazing fighting game.
Since late 1993, death moves have become a key staple in the genre. Everything from looks to command (i.e. how to pull off a super special move) has only gotten crazier and crazier. By comparison, these ones may seem tame today… but man, back in the day, they were something else to behold!
Tournament Fighters has two bars. One serves as your energy bar while the second fills up each time you land a blow, blocked or not. It’s a free flowing bar, meaning that if you are not on the offensive the bar swings back the other way slowly but surely. Thus, a great deal of emphasis is put on being aggressive, rather than defensive. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself compromised as your opponent unleashes his possibly two or even three times in a single round. When full, the bar ignites and you have three seconds to perform your super special. If you fail to execute your big move in that time frame, then the bar swings back the other way. Thankfully, it moves one smidgen at a time. Meaning if for whatever reason you couldn’t pull off your big move, just one or two more (blocked) attacks will see your bar refilled once more. It was a brilliant and innovative feature for its time. Back in December of 1993, none of my gaming crew nor I had ever seen anything like the Ultimate Attacks. And we loved them. It changed the dynamic of a typical fighting game match, and some of the screen-filling moves were truly awe-inspiring 20+ years ago.
However, there were some downsides to the Ultimate Attacks. Namely, since you only have about three seconds to unleash it… human opponents are very likely to block it. Though some can cause a good deal of damage even when blocked, it would be better if there was no time limit and the bar could remain full until you were ready to use it. It would have led to a bit more strategy. Instead, the game plays like a mad melee, which is not bad in its own right. Props for having these mega death moves at all.
CHRISTMAS MAGIC IN JANUARY
Having hounded both my parents about Clay Fighter and with them knowing how disappointed I was that I didn’t get it or even a video game that Christmas, my mom allowed me to buy one video game in January of ’94. I had just rented Clay Fighter and was thankful I did (boy, was it disappointing). They took me to Good Guys and I bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. I had never played it before but it was #2 on my want game list that Christmas season, trailing only Clay Fighter. I grew up on the Ninja Turtles, and it looked like a terrific Street Fighter II clone. I loved the cover and will never forget seeing it at Good Guys looking all pretty in its wrapping. It seemed to call out to me. Right away I knew it was the one. My mom and dad took the game to the counter to pay for it while I stood there nearly quaking in my shoes. What a wonderful belated Christmas gift! It was the second SNES game my mom ever bought for me, just about one year after she’d bought me my first, King of the Monsters. It was one of the longest car rides home that I can remember. It was time to see if Kerwin was right or not — was this truly Street Fighter II Turbo but with death moves??
THE STORY GOES…
Mike:Hey, who hacked our tube? This is SO NOT COOL, DUDES! Raph:SHADDUP MIKEY! I wanna hear this… Don: Amazing, I wonder what kind of device they used to hack our streaming service? Leo: Guys, there could only be one villain behind this…
I’ve always enjoyed the presentation / vibe of most Konami titles. They had a classic, basic yet sleek look to them. You could always count on Konami to deliver the goods
When I first saw this 20+ years ago, I instantly said to my brother, “It’s Martial Champion!” We liked it. It was different from most other fighting games which all seemed to have the same select screen. This one was different enough to be a bit of a stand out, however.
Martial Champion came out February 1993. It was one of a thousand Street Fighter II clones flooding the market at the time. I fell in love with it, but I was basically sleeping with every fighting game that came out during that golden age of 1992 to 1994 or so. It was colorful, outlandish and a bit different from your average SF II clone.
Titi (renamed Chaos in the US) was my favorite character. It looked like a cross between Freddy Krueger and a Chinese hopping vampire! Sold and sold! The game was unique thanks to its high jumps and how you could disarm your opponent and steal their weapon to use it against them. Looking back, it wasn’t a great fighting game or anything, but it was yet another fun entry in that epic era I fondly refer to as the ‘Fighting Game Golden Age.’
Take a look and see for yourself! Yeah, I know. I couldn’t draw for jack but man… the memories of those fun and simple times. Running in those arcade halls with my old gaming crew, going from fighting game to fighting game. It was akin to a buffet lineup. A grand time those days were, indeed.
SETTING THE STAGE
Of the many things I love about this game the one I adore the most might be the stages. Just look at this one f’rinstance. First off, the idea of a duel to the death on a rooftop is appealing, but then you add in massive billboards and a pretty backdrop of some hotels and business buildings, including a nifty flashing neon Konami sign all set to an atmospheric night time hue, and what you have is a winner. Most of the stages in this game are chock full with detail, color (admittedly at times almost TOO much color), and oh yeah, cameos. You’ll see tons of familiar faces from the TMNT universe scattered throughout, from foot soldiers to Neutrinos to Rocksteady and Bebop (though they should have been playable fighters but I digress). You’ll battle it out everywhere, from shady back alleys to ancient ruins, sunken ships, raucous rock concerts, roaring trains and cafés filled with jukeboxes, neon signs and bloodthirsty spectators. The stages captured my imagination 20+ years ago, and to this day, in my book, they’re still some of the best backgrounds I’ve ever seen in a 16-bit fighter.
What’s a fighting game without some sort of stage select screen? I’ve always liked the one here… with the Statue of Liberty front and center, and the little light that searches for the next stage. The sound effects here, as can be expected, are top-notch and firmly embedded in my mind more than 20 years later.
LEONARDO | 5’8″ | 170 lbs.
The leader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Leonardo is as straight-edge as they come. Focused and determined, his trusty katana blades often pushes him ahead of the competition. Not surprisingly, he plays like Ryu. Leo’s never been my favorite turtle, but he’s a solid all-around fighter, and an easy choice for beginning players. As expected, his swords provide him solid range. You can slice and dice to your heart’s content… something I always wanted to see in the old cartoon but never did for obvious reasons — but here you can fulfill those long forgotten childhood dreams.
Hustlers, hookers and hoodlums litter this shady looking back alley. In an attempt to shed his choir boy, straight edge image, Leo invites his opposing rivals to meet him way out in this dilapidated part of town in the middle of the day, breaking the age-old ninja code of hiding in the shadows. Leo is ready, at last, to step outta his shell.
RAPHAEL |5’8″ | 170 lbs.
Though Mike was my favorite growing up, Raph is a very close second. It’s hard not to like him. He was part of the team but it always felt like he was one small misstep from snapping [A snapping turtle? -Ed.]. Raph was easily the edgiest turtle of the lot, always exuding this aura of coolness. Maybe it’s because he’s a quasi-rebel and a hard-ass, which deep down there’s a little bit of that in all of us. He didn’t use his sai much in the old cartoon, but makes plenty good use of them here, including a M. Bison torpedo-esque move that can be a pain in the neck to deal with. Just a shame Casey Jones isn’t around as that’s one fight I’d love to see!
This was one of my most favorite fighting game backgrounds as a kid. It’s got the classic long counter you’d find at any diner worth half its salt, a jukebox, a colorful neon sign that lights up and what’s up with that strange looking cat in the middle there? He looks like an ape and for pete’s sake sir pull your shirt all the way down, son! Damn. Way to spoil one’s appetite, eh?
DONATELLO |5’8″ | 170 lbs.
Often referred to as the brains of the group, Donatello is usually busy working on his latest inventions. This time however, he’s taking a firm stand to show he can not only hold his own, but that he’s the most skilled fighter of his clan. His bo gives him good coverage and he’s just plain fun to use, especially with his Cranium Crusher that is exclusive only to him. Plus, his Ultimate Attack ranks as one of the most memorable — Donnie [Yen, apparently -Ed.] sends forth a ginormous dragon wave. It was jaw dropping back in ’93, and 20+ years later still puts a huge grin on my face whenever I see it. Donnie reminds us he’s more than just a brainiac.
In a corner tucked far away from town lies a rundown scrapyard where the dirtiest of deeds go down. Classic characters from the cartoon, like the vigilante Casey Jones and mad scientist Baxter Stockman, make cameos here in a definite tip of the cap. When Donnie isn’t busy scouring the scrapheap for random parts to tinker with, he’s busy kicking some ass.
MICHELANGELO |5’8″ | 170 lbs.
Easily my favorite Ninja Turtle growing up, every kid I knew identified themselves with Mikey at one point or another — the classic fun-loving, pizza-craving party animal of the troupe. Mikey never really used his nunchucks in the old ’80s cartoon, so it’s a fan’s dream come true to see him swinging them here like no tomorrow. He plays like a tantalizing mix of Ryu and Blanka, with a cool arcing rolling attack and a deadly rising uppercut. Mikey’s also got the best stage in the entire game. To cap it off, his Ultimate Attack is a swift and sick 10-hit barrage known as the Dance of Fury.
Hands down my favorite background of the game; hell, I’d put this up against any other fighting game stage on the SNES. The flashing Konami sign, the billboards on each side, the atmospheric city life with the bright lights — it’s a crime not to like this stage. I bet Mikey goes here after picking up a pizza and watches over the city as he munches away to his little heart’s content. Bless the lad, really.
ARMAGGON | 8’0″ | 400 lbs.
This guy had to be every kid’s dream come true back in the day. At least he was for me. Who didn’t drool at the thought of being a mutant shark? At the time I thought he was a brand new character constructed just for the game, but he actually comes from the comic book universe of Ninja Turtles fame, like quite a few of the other characters found in this game. While I was initially disappointed in the lack of familiar faces from the cartoon, I always liked Armaggon. Everything from his look to the giant octopus sitting in the middle of his stage… he’s JAWESOME[You’ve jumped the shark -Ed.].
This stage creeped me out when I was a kid. If I were really fighting, I’d find it impossible to focus on my opponent with that grotesque abomination stalking my every move. Its eyes literally track you wherever you go. Talk about unnerving. But it’s also frigging awesome.
ASKA | 5’2″ | 110 lbs.
Okay, so I have a small confession to make. When I was growing up, female fighters were never really my cup of tea. I always wanted to pick either the Ryu clone, the “cool” Guile rip-off, or the freaks (stretch fighters, monsters and other assorted weirdos). Female fighters, bless their hearts, simply never moved my meter. Back then the only one I used to any degree was Janne from the World Heroes series. Well, here’s another rare like. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but Aska’s always been cool in my book.
In 1993 there was a very popular SNK fighter by the name of Samurai Shodown. This backdrop always made me think of that game. Noh is a classic Japanese drama dance show that surged sometime in the 14th or 15th century. The mutant frog which resides in the middle of the stage always intrigued me. I remember rumors circulating within my own gaming crew that the giant frog was a secret character you could use. Of course, it was just a BS rumor my friends and I formed — it was a sign of the times. The good old days…
CHROME DOME | 5’10” | 200 lbs.
Considering how most of the roster consists of antagonists NOT from the cartoon universe, Chrome Dome was a very welcomed addition. I love how Konami gave the token “stretch fighter” the game’s biggest damage-inducing throw (outside of the bosses). It’s very cool as it’s just something you didn’t see in fighting games at all during that era. So in some ways, Chrome Dome felt like a slight mix of Dhalsim meets Zangief. He could stretch for defense and offense, and if you get too close to him, he could grab ya and take you on one SHOCKING ride.
Who knew tin head was so artsy fartsy? With a penchant for the fine arts, the culturally cognizant Chrome Dome gets his kicks off on piledrivering his competition at the local art museum. Familiar cartoon faces make a spot cameo in the form of Mousers and the Neutrinos. ‘GROOVY!’ indeed.
CYBER SHREDDER |6’6″ | 280 lbs.
This ain’t your regular Shredder you remember bumbling around in the ’80s cartoon. No, far from that. Indeed, this is THE SHREDDER ON STEROIDS. This is Cyber Shredder, a walking weapon of destruction. Part of me wishes we got the ’80s version instead, for nostalgic reasons. I was saddened to hear about the passing of one, James Avery, in December 2013. Better known as Uncle Phil, Avery was the voice of the late ’80s and early ’90s Shredder. When I found that fun little factoid in the late ’90s or so, I never looked at Shredder the same way ever again.
On the outskirts of town, there exists an iniquitous construction site that is rumored to have been taken over by the evil and nefarious Cyber Shredder and his Foot Clan. There are even whispers on the street, though apocryphal, that the police themselves dare not step foot onto the Cyber Shredder’s hot new territory. It’s considered a lost part of town and most have turned a blind eye in exchange for their own personal safety. All hail the mighty Foot!
WAR | 8’0″ | 350 lbs.
A savage bipedal triceratops? Sign me up! Those were my sentiments when I first laid eyes on him 20+ years ago. Originating from the comics, he was one of the Four Horsemen — along with Death, Famine and Pestilence. A real shame then, considering the superb look and cool name. He goes down in fighting game history as one of the most disappointing fighters ever. He’s limited to two special moves that aren’t too hot. Thankfully, his stage stands out and his Ultimate Attack is a rip-roaring attention grabber. War hurls himself around the screen like a pinball of destruction, but even that can’t save him from feeling like a largely wasted roster space.
It’s a beautiful sunny day, with only a couple clouds hanging overhead. Your breath is taken away as you look around at all the beautiful sights, until you catch sight of your old bumbling rivals, Bebop and Rocksteady. You chuckle to yourself as a savage roar erupts nearby. A giant 8 foot tall armored monster leaps within 10 feet of ya, the sunshine shimmering off his razor sharp talons. And just as quick, your smile fades.
WINGNUT | 6’0″ | 300 lbs.
I remember thinking to myself, “Why this bastard over a classic fan fave like Bebop or Rocksteady?” Wingnut appeared briefly in the ’80s cartoon series and had a much bigger role in the comics. He’s the very definition of an “unorthodox fighter.” It will take a highly skilled player to get the most out of his unusual offense. Possessing a somewhat awkward moveset, and considering how his Ultimate Attack can be a total flop, to his credit he’s got one of the cooleststages in fighting game history. What’s better than a rock concert while watching two combatants knock the stuffing out of each other?
Wingnut, the master of soundwaves, is hardly a stranger to loud noise. Whereas it distracts and even causes damage to the ear drums of most mere mortals, Wingnut relishes on such raucous and frenzied environments. From the HEAVY METALheadbanging to the strobe lights to the t-rex twins, the ringing Thunder Dome produces a mad rocking atmosphere like no other. The audience is more than happy to pay top dollar for this BARBARIC MASHUP.
In the comics, Rat King had a telepathic super power where he could communicate with rats. In the ’80s cartoon series he had to use a flute. He’s always been a cool cat [rat? -Ed.] in my book, and I wish we saw more familiar faces from the cartoon than the comics. Although I realize by late 1993 the cartoon series was not nearly as popular as it once was. Still, how lovely would it have been to see the likes of Krang, Rocksteady, Bebop and Casey Jones?
Studio 6 is where they film this game show format for Tournament Fighters. High school cheerleaders adorn the stage. A badly missed opportunity at a sewer-based stage. If you’re not going to give it to one of the turtles, then at least give it to the Rat King (AKA the King of the Sewers). This game has plenty of cool stages, but this one was rather dull. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.
A duel to the death atop a screaming metro train. Mr. Vernon Fenwick from Channel 6 News captures the chaos for all to see from the comfort of their home. Perhaps Konami knew all along just how bloodthirsty humanity is…
The endings are rather disappointing. Each character ending has only two shots with hit-or-miss artwork and a few text messages. For as difficult as the computer opponents are, this is a major letdown.
Like most fighting games of the early-mid ’90s, there lies breakable furniture in some of the stages. It’s a damn classic staple of the genre. The ones here are, admittedly, a bit ‘weak’ [I see what you did there -Ed.], but hey, they’re there.
Speaking of um, bonuses, check out probably my all-time most favorite fighting game bonus stage around. Destroying bank safes one after another? Sign me up!
I love the idea that someone was dropping these bad boys from the sky like a madman. They kept raining down, and you had to bust ‘em up until there were none left. It was extremely satisfying and I much rather play this bonus stage than any other.
Besides the concept and killer sound effects, I love this bonus round because unlike 90 to 95% of bonus rounds you come across in the genre, this one is actually quite challenging. You need a plan of attack rather than just mindlessly pound away. There were enough safes that ya barely had enough time, and it was SO cool how they can topple over (and knock you out, too).
ONLY IN JAPAN
There a few notable differences between the American and Japanese versions of the SNES game. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Warriors (to give it its Japanese namesake), among the differences include Rat King’s extra stage bit, where combatants can be knocked through the wall revealing the control room of Studio 6.
The other difference is the censorship of Aska. In the Japanese version you can see her buttocks a bit, but they covered it up in the North American version.
In what very well might be the first and ONLY time in gaming history, Konami released simultaneously three games of the same name on the NES, Genesis and SNES, but with very different game engines and rosters. While cool of them to diversify like that, it was clear SNES owners received the superior version. The Genesis version is broken and by comparison, crap. By late ’93, the Genesis was starting to look like the grandfather on the block while the SNES was just hitting its prime. With Tournament Fighters released across all three platforms, it was clear (at least in my mind) who the king of the jungle was. I was happy to own all three systems, but Super Nintendo was clearly KING in my household.
The 8-bit NES game is not even worth talking about from a gameplay standpoint; although, it does make for a fun water cooler topic as far as near final NES releases go. The NES was gasping its last breath by late ’93, so any title released was newsworthy, indeed. This was just a painful reminder though that my dear old friend couldn’t keep up with a changing of the guard. I love the 8-bit Nintendo and Sega Genesis, but I’m just calling it like I see it. When Tournament Fighters came out on all three systems, it was like a subtle declaration in my own heart which of those three systems reigned supreme.
CRACK THE CODE
I sat there completely dumbfounded, my jaw on the ground. I had to do a double take. Right there in my friend’s room, I could play as the Rat King or Karai. I ran downstairs to tell my friends about it. I still remember the skeptical looks on their faces, and how they kept saying, “Dude, this better not be a hoax. I’m about to eat some KFC!” They followed behind me as I took the stairs 2 steps at a time. I stood at the doorway and stretched my hand out as to welcome them in. One by one they filed in and I stood there still in the doorway smiling when I heard the collective HOLY SHIT! cries. I can’t tell you how red my hand got that night because of all the high fives. They asked what the code was, and sadly, I had no clue. We left the game on the entire night just so we could play as the bosses. When we finally turned it off at 12 something in the morning, we turned it right back on so I could try the code again. No such luck. Whatever I punched in randomly before was now gone.
The infamous boss code. Right there in all its glory. Looking back, it’s a fond memory for me. The thrill of cracking the code, the joys of sharing it with my friends, creating a lifetime memory. Back then, you couldn’t just log into damn GameFAQs for your hints and secrets, oh no. It was either through tip sections in gaming magazines like such, or plain discovering ‘em yourself through dumb luck. Discovering the boss code made me the man of my group for that one epic night, anyhow, and I recall with deep fondness just the sights, sounds and smells of that great night. The KFC aroma in the air, the thundering footsteps up the stairs, the tingling rush that I felt sweeping every fiber of my being when I saw Rat King and Karai on the select screen, the cries of sheer joy from my friends, as though we just collectively won the Mega Million Lottery, and the stinging high fives. Man, we must have played like 3 straight hours that night. Boss code, how I miss you and your simplicity. Boy, were things different back then. I’m very grateful I was lucky enough to have grown up when I did. When gaming with friends was all that mattered.
Look, she’s taunting me! GRR! So, I discovered the most wanted code and could have won a free game from EGM, but I couldn’t remember the code anyway, so Konami giving it to EGM first was a moot point as it would turn out. I suppose that softened the blow for not being able to remember the damn code!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Tournament Fighters was received well by the press. It garnered high scores across the board and I can’t recall anyone ever having a bad thing to say of it. From the critics to regular gamers like you and me, the game was beloved and extolled by many. It is also widely regarded as one of the better fighting games on the SNES. EGM gave it scores of 8, 9, 9 and 9. GameFan rated it 85, 92, 96 and 96%. Super Play Magazine scored it 90%. It was not only one of the BEST fighting games of 1993, but one of the best games, period, that year. One play and it’s easy to see why the game had so many diehard supporters. It succeeds where most clones fail miserably: it’s fun, fast, fluid and to boot it’s the TEENAGE MUTANT f*ckin’ NINJA TURTLES!
Tournament Fighters is a fantastic fighting game. In fact I think it’s the best SNES-exclusive fighter. In an age where crap clones were slapped together and shipped out the door like no tomorrow, Tournament Fighters was groomed for success. It’s packed full of quality from top to bottom. Those graphics are bright, bold and classic mid ’90s SNES magic. The sound and music both hit the mark, with tunes you can rock out to. The fighting game engine just feels right. Jumps aren’t floaty. Physics don’t feel off. It’s extremely well polished. What can I say, I loved it 20+ years ago, and even still to this day I’ll play it for a round or two, or 50. It’s not better than Street Fighter II Turbo but came DAMN closer than most.
But best of all, how about the wild Ultimate Attacks, eh? Whether you prefer to call them desperation moves, super specials or death moves, there’s no denying they are a game changer. They added an extra layer to the battles, encouraging the player to be offensive-minded. For balance, the weaker your health, the easier it is to fill up your extra bar. Likewise, the stronger you are, the harder it is to fill it up. Tournament Fighters did a lot of cool things, but for me the Ultimate Attacks come to mind first. Whether it was a giant ass mythical dragon or a deadly tidal wave screaming across the TV, it was jaw dropping and all part of the fun. Like fine wine, the game has aged tremendously well. Konami delivered again, crafting a finely tuned fighting game that exudes meticulous care and is bursting with quality from every seam. Sure, a bigger roster including the likes of Rocksteady, Bebop, Krang, and Casey Jones would have been perfect, but the list of negatives are short and brief.
Konami sure did hit a home run here, as they often did back in the ’90s. There aren’t many home-grown fighting games on the SNES, and the only ones giving Tournament Fighters any run for its money are: Ranma ½: Chōgi Rambu Hen and Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Duel. Some other SNES-grown fighters include Tuff Enuff, WeaponLord and Double Dragon V. Of all of them, I’d happily play this game the most. To me it’s a LEGIT Super Nintendo classic. It’s a quality fighting game with an engine that stands the test of time well. I still break it out on occasion to pass the odd evening or two. I will forever harbor fond memories of this game, from Kerwin’s unbelievable stamp of approval to my parents buying it after Christmas to the night I randomly unlocked Rat King and Karai… DAMN, the nostalgic goodness just goes on and on. Tournament Fighters, I salute thee!
One of the thrills of growing up during the mid ’90s were all the awesome arcade games just waiting for you to plop a quarter in. And the longing hopes and dreams that one day soon the spirit and essence of your favorite arcade title would receive a respectable enough translation on your 16-bit console of choice. They never captured the arcade original perfectly, but the best ports brought home a piece of the arcade. Sometimes you didn’t have to wait very long. Other times, it would be years later. Such was the case for NBA Give ‘N Go. Was it worth the wait? Strap on your squeaky sneakers and let’s take a look.
BEFORE THERE WAS NBA JAM…
… there was Run ‘N Gun. It was loud, in your face and full of that early-mid ’90s arcade wonder. Walk into any arcade hall more than 20 years ago and you would be bombarded by dazzling lights and ear-crunching sound effects all vying for your quarter’s attention. Right in the thick of the Golden Fighting Game era, Konami released a basketball game that emphasized action and fun over strategy and simulation (although it certainly had some of that too, especially when compared to NBA Jam). My brother, friends and I immediately fell in love with it. And we were counting down the days until it would be ported over for either the Sega Genesis or the Super Nintendo. Our wish came true but unfortunately, no sooner than two plus years later.
My brother was a huge basketball nut back in 1993. Me? The sport was OK. I liked it reasonably well enough, but I didn’t go out of my way to catch the games when it came across the ol’ telly. To be honest, at 10 years old I was far more interested in playing video games or watching WWF wrestling. But my perspective on the game of basketball all took a turn on one particularly fateful day…
MEMORIAL DAY MIRACLE
Monday, May 29, 1995 is a day I’ll never forget. Hard to believe the other day marked 21 years since that fateful day…
It was Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals which pitted the young uprising Orlando Magic vs. the Indiana Pacers. I was at the local mall walking past Radio Shack when I saw they had the game playing on 10 TV screens. There were 3 people standing there, watching in angst and talking in-between plays. I joined, making it a crowd of 4. The game was in the final 3 minutes, and as the drama unfolded, the crowd steadily grew from 4 to 8 to 12. Even the employees stopped what they were doing and joined our huddle.
These are the moments you live for as a sports fan (as I would come to find out), and to boot it was one of the greatest finishes EVER in NBA playoff history.
With under 15 seconds to go, this improbable sequence took place:
Brian Shaw’s 3 pointer gave the Magic the 1 point lead
Reggie Miller answered with one of his own, putting the Pacers back up by 2 causing the Indiana crowd to erupt in a frenzy
Mere seconds later the player many then believed would carry Jordan’s torch as well as the NBA into the new millennium, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, nailed a dramatic heart breaking 3, giving the Magic a 1 point lead with 1.3 seconds to go. It left the sold out capacity crowd in stunned silence
As the game went to its final commercial break there was a deafening buzz within Radio Shack’s small confines. I was right in the middle of it and the raw adrenaline was indescribable. I felt like I was at the game myself!
To this day I still can hear that classic NBA on NBC theme, being played on no less than TEN television monitors, in full blast stereo reverberating throughout the store and the entire mall itself. It’s one of those vivid childhood memories that haunts me to the core… even 21 years later.
Suddenly we were no longer just a bunch of strangers, no. This playoff basketball game magically banded us together. We were basketball fans, enjoying and living up the moment.
I saw basketball in a new light — the likes of which I hadn’t seen before. There was strategy, there were tactics. Beyond that, I started appreciating the concept of teamwork and five different people of varying size and skills working as one well oiled machine.
That day I developed a much deeper appreciation for basketball. It’s the moment I became a fan for life.
Down 1 with 1.3 seconds left, the ball made its way to the dunking Dutchman, Rik Smits. He faked, shot and the ball ripped nothing but net as the buzzer sounded off. The place became unglued and the roof blew off. Radio Shack’s walls were shaking as we all screamed, jumping up and down in pure disbelief at what we had just witnessed on the 10 TV monitors that stood before us.
I was only 11 years old while everyone else around me in the store was probably 20 or older. Those 15 minutes or so catching the 4th quarter and cheering and booing madly at the TV screen with a bunch of folks I never met before… PRICELESS. I remember on the car ride home in the backseat I kept replaying the events in my head… thinking to myself that that was the coolest thing that ever happened to me so far in my young life. Ha! But the moment was nothing short of magic.
I think back 21 years ago… part of me can’t believe it, you know. It was the best NBA Playoff game I ever saw, and to this day, I have not seen a game better or more dramatic than the one that occurred on May 29, 1995 — the Memorial Day Miracle.
Yesterday brought back some goosebumps and fond memories for me… as the Golden State Warriors battled the Oklahoma City Thunder in a decisive Game 7… also on Memorial Day. 21 years later ALMOST TO THE DAY… it was a miracle that the Warriors were able to storm back and push the series to a 7th and final game, as they were down 3-1 but not only down — they looked completely out of it. Somehow, they dug deep and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson knocked down some ridiculous 3 point shots. It was a nice dramatic game but the Warriors eventually won 96-88. It’s hard to compare it to the Pacers-Magic game 21 years ago, but it certainly was special in its own unique way.
I just wish they would bring back that classic NBA theme regardless of which station the games emanate from. There’s nothing comparable to John Tesh’s amazing Roundball Rock score!
HOOP IT UP
All NBA teams and players are here, including that year’s All-Star selections. The Shooting Stars and Supreme Team are five player teams that consist of the best five players from each conference. Think of it as a Dream Team. You can also edit it to form your own fantasy team. More on this later.
Give ‘N Go has an interesting quirk where players are rated per stars. Three max. This changes from game to game randomly. It basically indicates how the player is “feeling” that game. The more stars, the higher chance he’ll have at making baskets. It’s a unique feature that factors in the “human” element of players’ feelings on a game by game basis. You can still have a good game with a guy who has zero stars, but it’s tougher. Hey, maybe his wife cheated on him that day, who knows! Like a box of chocolate, ya never know what you might get.
I can’t think of any other 16-bit basketball game that gauges how a player is feeling on a game-to-game basis. It’s fun firing the game up and hoping to see many stars across the board. As it was randomly generated game by game, it added an extra element of spice.
Sometimes it would spur me to sit a starter for a bench player — say if the starter had zero stars and the capable bench player was feeling particularly spry with three stars. Good stuff.
You gotta love how big the players are. There’s a nice ‘thickness’ to them [That’s what she said -Ed.] and they really do look like the actual stars themselves. Can you tell that’s Reggie Miller there? Quite easily, I’d wager. Look at the defensive stance of that bloke over there — very realistic eh? One hand guards the ball, the other guards the passing lane. Hey, I aced Beginning and Intermediate Basketball in my day, ya know? Picked up a few tricks along the way
“JUMP, YA BUM!”
Miller soars up with the greatest of ease as Nick Anderson is caught with sand in his shoes. Great visuals, eh? Now this is basketball! Player mechanics are accurately mimicked.
“And after one it’s a real tight ball game we have here today, Bob.”
“Indeed. If this is a sign of things to come, fans I hope you’re all strapped in — it’s gonna be one heck of a ride!”
“What a great first quarter of action, Bob.”
“Can’t ask for much more on this beautiful Memorial Day, 1995!”
“It just may come down to a buzzer beating last second shot for one of these teams…”
Life is like a hurricane
HERE IN… Duckburg
Race cars, lasers, airplanes
It’s a… DUCK BLUR
Might solve a mystery…
Or rewrite history!
Ahem, sorry… [You’re fired -Ed.]
Nothing humbles the opposition quite like a big time block. I love how that one Magic player is running back up the other side of the court… thinking his teammate has got the basket. Uh, I’ve got something to say about that…
Thankfully, NBA Give ‘N Go gives players an option. When going for a slam dunk, you can press the shoot button to change the dunk animation into a layup midway through!
It keeps the opposition honest, and because the game is so block friendly, this scoring alternative is a God send, especially in two player games with a buddy.
As I said earlier, players look like the real players. Here you see Dennis Rodman in all his crazy madness. Unfortunately though, the game does not account for the size differences. John Stockton is just as tall as Patrick Ewing. Shame about that, but oh well, what can ya do? [Play NBA Jam -Ed.]
One of the really neat things about Give ‘N Go is seeing all the different NBA arenas. Though they’re not as unique as, say, baseball parks, some of them definitely have their own sense of history and atmosphere. It’s one thing this game definitely has over any other SNES basketball title, such as the NBA Live and NBA Jam series.
But my absolute favorite is easily the All-Star court. With its brightly colored court, it just makes it fun to shoot at all odd corners of the floor. I don’t know what it is about that, but on this court, I just love pulling up for 17, 18 foot jump shots. Something about shooting on that solid purple floor is mighty addicting…
SOME NOT SO NEAT STUFF
Don’t know why but the Japanese version of this game is battery-backed, while the US version received a super crappy password feature to save the regular season games. Talk about absurd — look how long the password is!
HUH! Yep, sometimes players will shrink for a very brief period of time. It doesn’t affect gameplay — at least so far that I’ve been able to witness — it’s more of a sight gag if anything. I guess it’s just the SNES straining from the odd time to time. Give ‘N Go is no Killer Instinct or DOOM in terms of pushing the system to the limits, but it also wasn’t Super Tennis.
It’s easy hitting 3 point shots in the 1st quarter. After that, oddly enough, it becomes hard even if you’re a 3 point specialist like Reggie Miller. Not saying it’s impossible to nail 3 point shots past the 1st quarter — it just becomes much harder. Why this is, I have no idea. But it does put a bit of a damper on the game. See, the Magic hit 1 out of 2, but I kept chucking threes into the 2nd half of the game, and I kept missing them (even with a dead-eye shooter such as Reggie). Not cool.
- Rim physics aren’t realistic (then again, it IS an arcade game)
- Whoever is running down court has a disadvantage. The rim on the bottom half of the court isn’t visible at all times
- Stat tracking leaves something to be desired. No assists — what?
- Guards are as tall as centers. Those who can’t dunk in real life can dunk in the game
- Alley oop system can be abused
- Gameplay is not as quick as NBA Jam or NBA Live. It may feel too slow for some folks. Personally, I think it still plays fine in spite of the less-than-stellar speed
+ I gotta give PROPS to the announcer. He’s pretty wacky. “REBOUND AND JAAAM!” (adds to the early-mid ’90s arcade feel of the game)
+ Speaking of the sound, unlike many basketball games, Give ‘N Go actually incorporates music during the game. I found the upbeat melodies to be pleasant
+ Visually, the game’s quite ace. Players are huge and easy to make out. Amazing little details like Dennis Rodman’s wild hair and Horace Grant’s goggles give the game a sense of “life” and personality. Plus the NBA courts are nicely detailed
+ Another praise for the 0 to 3 star rank system. On any given night, any player can be a capable threat. Some nights your star players will feel like superstars. But on other nights however, perhaps your 10th man on the bench is feeling particularly spry. It’s all randomly generated and you never know who’s feeling hot (or not) on any given night. Cool feature if you ask me! It’s nice too that 0 star players can STILL have a big game for you… 3 stars only mean he’s THAT much more capable
+ Rarely slows down. Impressive considering the size of ten big players running around
+ Can edit your own Dream Team of stars and scrubs however you like
+ Menus and game presentation is absolutely top-notch and crisp
+ It’s RUN ‘N GUN on your SNES! Or at least, halfway close enough. 4-player games rock
+ GameFan gave it scores of 84and 86%. Super Play rated it 85%
I still remember fondly the day I rented this game in late ’95 for me and my brother. Back in the day he always had me rent the games he wanted, but for a change, we both couldn’t wait to play this. We loved it. It was a long wait, but Give ‘N Go did not disappoint. It brought home the large colorful graphics, the squeaky sneakers, massive slam dunks, monster block shots and thrilling games that came right down to the final second. It’s not without flaws though: the game plays slower than other SNES basketball titles. It’s hard to make 3 point shots after the 1st quarter, the alley oop feature can be abused (though easily fixed by agreeing to have a “1 per quarter” limit or so), player sizes are all the same so Stockton can dunk (yeah right!) just as well as Shawn Kemp, and so on. But you know what, this was never the perfect basketball game to begin with. What it was — and as I found out recently — what it *IS*… is a damn fun basketball game with an impeccable arcade-like feel. In many ways I liken it to Super Baseball 2020. Taken for what it was intended to be, it does its job well. I have as much fun with NBA Give ‘N Go today as I did over 20 years ago. Anytime I can say that, that game’s all right by me. It’s not the first basketball title I pull off my shelf to play, but it’s a nice alternative to the NBA Lives and Jams of the world, for sure. Give ‘N Go does an admirable job of bringing the zany arcade experience home.
Hard for me to believe it’s been 21 years now since that epic Memorial Day playoff game between the Pacers and Magic. It was the game that cemented me as a basketball fan for life. What a mad finish! And what a shot by Rik Smits! From the classic NBA on NBC tune to the countless strangers huddled around that Radio Shack monitor cheering and booing, it was one hell of a way to kick off the final summer of my preadolescence. Some images, some sounds and some smells stay with you for a lifetime. May 29, 1995 was such a day for me
NBA Give ‘N Go is a fond reminder of the good old days. When times and things were a bit simpler. When you could walk into an arcade hall not five blocks from your house, smell the piping hot cheese and have your ears tickled by the innocent laughter of children. Not only is it a nostalgic blast, I find Give ‘N Go still holds up to this day. It plays on the slower side but it’s also presented in a light that makes it stand out compared to any other SNES basketball game. Better late than never? Yes. Or perhaps I should say, “YES SIR!” [Pack yer things -Ed.]
Yesterday saw the release of the latest X-Men movie: X-Men Apocalypse. As I sat in my seat waiting for the lights to dim and the first trailer to play, I couldn’t help but think back 20+ years to the time Capcom released X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse on the SNES. All in all, I enjoyed the movie but felt it was a bit disappointing. Is that foreshadowing for the game itself? But as always, I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. Let’s rewind the clock back some shall we…
THE MARVEL SUBCULTURE OF THE ’90S
If you were a child of the early ’90s, chances were you somehow got mixed up in the superhero subculture. It was simply a sign of the times. From trading cards to cartoons to toys to video games, superheroes and super villains dominated the scene. My brother, our friends and I used to hang out at this card shop, Triple Play. It was right next to the local library and a mom and pop rental shop. What a great time to be a kid! We spent hours of our childhood down at the card shop, buying the newest Marvel ’91 series and trading them. When we weren’t trading or buying them, we played the Street Fighter II arcade cab right in the store. It was just an amazing time to be a young kid.
My favorite thing about the Marvel ’91 cards? Hands down the enticing stats on the back of the cards. This is where my obsession with numbers and ratings probably first developed, and a large reason (EGM is another factor) as to why I personally like to rate video games. To me numbers have always been a fun snapshot at things. I remember Fin Fang Foom’s stats were off the charts. He had something nuts like three 7’s. Fun times.
As a kid I remember thinking to myself how badly I wanted to play a really good superhero game, particularly at home. Uncanny X-Men (NES) definitely failed to deliver on that front.
NES Wolverine? Better than Uncanny X-Men, but nope.
NES Silver Surfer? Heavens no.
NES Captain America and the Avengers? Try again.
My wish for a good superhero game came true in 1991 with the arcade quarter muncher, Captain America and the Avengers. I was counting down until the inevitable Super Nintendo port. Unfortunately…
When the port arrived, I nearly cried tears of sadness. It was such a watered down attempt and easily one of the most disappointing arcade ports to ever hit the SNES. My dreams were crushed. But a year later…
The X-Men arcade game is one of the most iconic multiplayer arcade games ever created. When it hit the scene in 1992, it took everyone by storm, pardon the pun. I was eagerly anticipating the SNES translation but alas, it was never meant to be.
Just look at that hulking beast. Six player cabinet. It was truly worthy of the superhero name. My friends and I loved dumping quarters into this machine and we pumped hours into this one like none other. I always used Colossus. That was my guy!
That same year, Halloween 1992 to be precise, the X-Men cartoon hit television screens the world over. And our Saturday mornings would never be the same again. There was only one thing missing: a proper Super Nintendo representation of the X-Men. Finally, two years later, X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse was announced for the SNES. Better yet, it was developed by ever reliable firm, Capcom. Surely the Big C wouldn’t let us superhero fanboys down, would they? Surely console owners would finally get a good superhero game? Well, for the most part anyway. Let us delve in, then…
MUTANTS ON A MISSION
Right off the bat you have the choice of using one of five different members from the X-Men force. Each mutant has his or her own unique mission to complete. Each level is designed with that mutant’s abilities well in mind. After you finish off the first five stages, the game allows you to select any mutant to use on the final handful of levels. I like that each mutant has his or her own unique mission to begin with, and I like how Capcom allows you to select them in whichever order you please. It’s very Mega Man-esque. Let’s begin with my favorite of the group…
Wolverine always knew how to make one hell of a dramatic entrance, didn’t he? Things start off hot as the savage mutant comes bursting out of a elevated window. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
Each character has a few special moves that are executed via Street Fighter II-esque motions. As expected from a firm such as Capcom, the controls are tight and responsive. Pulling off special moves left and right is as easy as 1-2-3. I particularly love Wolverine’s Dragon Punch. I always thought to myself as a kid that it blows the real Dragon Punch out of the water on account of the flesh-cutting adamantium claws. Sorry Ken, not even your Burning Dragon Punch stands a chance.
This is a recurring mid-boss that you’ll encounter throughout the game. I was intimidated as hell when I first saw it as a kid, but it’s more bark than bite.
Wolverine can interact with his environment in the way of scaling tall walls. It’s not implemented as much as I would have liked, but the few bits you get to do it it’s undoubtedly satisfying.
Not only does that enemy get the worst of Wolverine’s claws, but he also got knocked into the razor-sharp robotic fingers for extra damage. Small moments like this delight — it’s a shame then that they’re too few and far between.
A giant pissed off Sentinel guards the end of Wolverine’s stage. Goons and cronies will come at you from both sides, so dispatch them quickly. The laser beams create a somewhat spooky look for the Sentinel. A nice, creepy touch.
Cyclops, not surprisingly, is slower to control than Wolverine. He’s also a bigger target which makes avoiding hits a bit more difficult. But he has one thing on Wolverine: long distance attacks. His optic blast is basic, but effective.
Somehow, this never gets old
Gambit’s long legs allow him to take out the opposition within a very generous radius. The coolest part is seeing two bad guys approaching you, from both sides, and knocking them out in stereo with the Scissors Kick.
Even cooler is when you deliver death from below. You just can’t beat it.
What makes Beast unique from the others is his ability to hang from ledges. It sort of makes the game feel a bit like Metal Storm, at least, for a few minutes anyhow. An interesting gimmick that isn’t fully fleshed out due to the shortness of this level (in fact, all the levels are criminally short).
Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned screen-filling boss? We all have our own form of video game fetishes. For me it’s definitely towering end-level bosses and…
I know. I need to seek professional help [Please, take all the time off you need… -Ed.]
You also get to use whichever character you want for the game’s remaining stages. Of course, different characters are more effective in certain stages. It’s fun to explore but I just wish the levels were longer.
No seriously, it really is. Walk about 20 feet over and then it’s boss time. What the flipping heck, Capcom? Makes you wonder if development on this game was rushed for it to hit store shelves in time for the Christmas season push…
Some of the choices boggles the mind, but on the bright size, the Tusk sprite looks pretty damn awesome. Look at how he towers over Wolverine. Heck, you can even see his bulging muscles. Great attention to detail for an otherwise forgettable boss.
Speaking of bright sides, at least there are a few fun little gimmicks thrown in here. You can knock Tusk into the lava BUT do watch out for that falling lift!
Just for fun, I like scaling the wall and making the bastard try to reach me. It’s oddly entertaining but then, the little things tend to be that way, don’t they?
The next level forces you to move swiftly as a lava gives chase. This is where the game sure could have used a dash option. Thankfully each of the characters have some sort of dashing special move you can pull off as a substitute for a lack of a dash button, except for Cyclops (who I definitely don’t recommend you selecting here).
Get stuck in front of a pillar though and you’ll have to smash your way through. This can cause for some intense moments to say the least!
For a big bad boss whose name is featured in the game title itself, the encounter with Apocalypse is a bit underwhelming to say the least. His special moves all sort of look weird and as it turns out, he’s not even the final boss. After defeating him you’re transported back to the Danger Room for more training. It’s a bit jarring… almost like Capcom said, “Oh crap, we need to throw in a little more shit because this game is way too short!”
After this it’s off to face the final bad guy of the game: Magneto. Good luck.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
I have fond memories of EGM issue number 65. It came right in time for the holiday season of 1994 (what I consider to be an epic year both personally and in terms of gaming) and clocked in at over a massive 400 pages! I always said EGM sold their souls to the devil… for EGM in my humble estimation was never the same again after producing this tree-killing monster of an issue. I remember the joke that this issue was bigger than some small towns’ phone books! And I believe that. It had a badass cover featuring X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse. The critics were not too kind to this game. EGM gave it ratings of 8, 8, 8 and 7. But GameFan, who was notorious for handing out high scores like free condiments, gave it shockingly “low” scores of 78, 75and 70%. Super Play Magazine, who were much harder graders in general (not to mention they weren’t huge fans of the beat ‘em up genre) rated this game 52%. Public fan reception has been a little more positive though. Most gamers would agree that this is a pretty good game, especially by X-Men standards at that time.
I enjoyed playing this game back in 1994, and revisiting it again this past week leading up to the new X-Men movie has been, for the most part, an enjoyable experience. It’s definitely not Capcom’s best effort and certainly feels rushed at times, but it’s still quite fun to play through the game using the various characters and utilizing their unique special moves. The graphics are big, bright and bold — it has that classic SNES look to it where you just know at a glance that it was made in the year 1994 (if that makes sense). It has a pretty rockin’ soundtrack to boot. Not in the same league as say a Mega Man X or a Donkey Kong Country but I dare say it more than holds its own. Control is tight and crisp, but the levels are way too short. Just as you’re about to sink your teeth into a stage, it ends. It leaves you with sort of an empty feeling. It’s fun while it lasts, but it never lasts long enough to kick the game playing experience into that extra gear that very good or great games have. Had Capcom spent a little more time fine tuning this aspect, this game could truly have been one of their many SNES classics. Instead, it’s simultaneously disappointing yet fairly solid in spite of its flaws.
I don’t mind single-plane beat ‘em ups, although I prefer more traditional “free roaming” ones such as Final Fight or Streets of Rage, but it works here. The inclusion of special moves done via Street Fighter II motions is pretty neat, and there’s a little more platforming here than seen in most typical beat ‘em ups. Instead of each mutant having a “clear all” attack that takes a little health off their health, each one has special mutant powers that can be executed without penalty or limit. I thought that was a pretty cool twist on the whole beat ‘em up trope. X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse feels like a bit of an amalgam of three classic genres: beat ‘em up, action platformer and in some cases, hints of a 2D one on one fighter. There were certainly instances (like the fight with Juggernaut) where I started daydreaming about this game actually being a legit Street Fighter II clone. Man, too bad Capcom didn’t incorporate a bonus mode where you can pick any of the superheroes and villains to duke it out, Street Fighter II style. Sure, it wouldn’t be terribly polished, but we got such bonus modes in NES Double Dragon and SNES Combatribes. Mutant Apocalypse would have done it better. Anyway, it’s not fair to criticize a game for not including a mode that thinks outside the box, but it is an indication that the game could have been more (generally speaking) and that Capcom didn’t let this one “cook to perfection” for one reason or another. Still, it’s a rock solid title that’s worthy of a spot in any Super Nintendo collection. It’s just a shame it wasn’t even better but hey, it’s hard to complain much when you see all the gems Capcom gave us during the vaunted SNES era.
Super Play Magazine was a UK publication that ran 48 issues from 1992-1996. It’s been referred to by some Super Nintendo fans as the “SNES Bible.” About 10 years ago I was lucky enough to win an auction for 45 of the 48 issues. It’s a magazine worthy of the hype — it’s the perfect companion to any SNES library. I read through the issues in order cover to cover from Halloween to Christmas back in 2006. It was awesome. But nothing compared to the moment I reached issue #42. For right there on the front cover it boasted something that made my heart race just a bit faster. A Top 100 list. Now, I know everyone has varying opinions on “top” lists. But for me, as long as the list is done in good fun and the author doesn’t act like it’s the end-all, be-all, then it’s all good. I find top lists fun to browse through. Ever since I read EGM’s Top 100 Video Games list in their 100th issue (November 1997), I’ve loved the idea of lists. As a matter of fact, for the past 10+ years I’ve been actively working on compiling a list of my own personal SNES favorites. I hope to share that at some point before 2017 is out. But for now, I’m proud to convert over Super Play’s Top 100 list from April 1996.
As you read through this list, may you recall fondly why the SNES is one of the very best of all time. And hey… may you even find a game or two you never heard of, or overlooked, or disregarded in the past. It’s all part of the fun and joy that comes with reading a ‘Top’ list. So then, without further ado…
100. COOL SPOT (Virgin)82%
Before Dave Perry was selling the cartoon rights to garden-based invertebrates for millions of dollars, he was designing platformers like this for Virgin. It’s a twist — and there has to be a twist, or the game’s Just Another Platformer, right? — is Spot’s size: he’s a veritable Tom Thumb in the game world, making for a lengthy supply of size comparison japerings. The graphics are topper too, mind, and as a whole it stands as one of the few non-Mario platformers worth anything more than a passing glance.
99. SAMURAI SPIRITS (Takara) 84%
If any game company is synonymous with any one particular type of game, it is Takara and beat-‘em-ups. The two go together like Princess Di and divorce papers, and while the Japan-based coders have released many disappointing examples in their time — World Heroes and Art of Fighting, to name but two — Samurai Spirits (AKA Samurai Shodown) is one victory. This SNES version lacks the screen-scaling of the coin-op/Neo Geo original, and it’s not as polished as we would have liked, but it retains enough of the original’s flavor to make it worthwhile.
98. HEBEREKE’S POPOITTO(Sunsoft) 86%
Sunsoft’s second ‘tribute’ to Super Puyo Puyo (their first was Hebereke’s Popoon) sees them getting just that little bit closer to its greatness. Popoitto uses the same link-four-colors concept and peppers the gameplay area with a number of nasties which have to be removed before you can even think about moving on to the next stage. And before you ask, no, we’ve no idea what Popoitto means, either.
97. UNIRALLY (Nintendo) 85%
The only SNES-only game from Scottish coders (and Dream Team members) DMA Design, Unirally (or Uniracers)is a fine example of original gameplay and innovative graphics. Using a process not far removed from Rare’s ACM, the unicycles call upon countless frames of prerendered animation to give a splendidly vivid, if occasionally headache-inducing, look to the thing. Perhaps the fastest game around, the enjoyment of hammering around loops and twirls is heightened by the split-screen two-player mode, which makes all the difference.
96. SPIKE MCFANG (Bulletproof) 85%
Originally released in Japan as Dracula Kid, The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang is cuteness incarnate. It qualifies more as an arcade adventure rather than an ARPG, and its action-led style allows it to be a diverse little package, one moment seeing you white-water rafting, later seeing you walking rafters battling spiders. The magical attacks, based around a playing card theme, are novel, and it all adds up to a very original title.
95. DONKEY KONG COUNTRY (Nintendo) 90%
It’s interesting to note that when Nintendo gave Rare the license to produce a game on their behalf, they chose not to let them have Mario to play with, but Donkey Kong — a character with nowhere near the same amount of kudos nor following as the platform-pounding plumber. Did they not trust our Warwickshire-based chums to turn in an effort to do Mazza justice? We could pontificate all day. What’s important is that Rare did a decent job, especially when you consider at the same time they created a new era of SNES graphics to boot.
94. THE LOST VIKINGS (Interplay) 84%
Heaven knows where Interplay found the inspiration for this, a platformy puzzle-type thing starring three rough-hewn bearded geezers, but here the game is, and a compelling little thing it turns out to be too. You tackle each level in a sort of back-and-forth fashion, switching between the vikings in turn as you reach bits which require their individual skills to overcome. Yes, it probably sounds a bit cruddy, and admittedly the whole thing has something of a Commodore 64 game feel to it, but it’s original.
93. SUPER PARODIUS (Konami) 86%
Essentially Gradius on hallucinogens, with delightfully remixed versions of a number of well-known pieces of music and boss characters to make you weep with disbelief, this is an old shoot-‘em-up with lots going for it. If you’re not familiar with Gradius, well, what the heck have you been doing for the last ten years? Pressing flowers? We shall explain: It’s a forced horizontally scrolling shooter whose most novel contribution to the genre is the concept of ‘multiples’ — little pods which follow your ship and act as companions. Do you see?
92. DESERT STRIKE (Electronic Arts) 90%
Fact: the only people who claim that military hardware is fascinating are dull people. (Unless we’re talking fantastical military hardware, of course — give us a 50 foot tall assault suit and watch us smile). And so it comes as little surprise that Desert Strike, in which you fly a modern-day combat helicopter, is not as fast-moving or exciting as fantastical shooters. Dessy might fairly be termed a thinking man’s shoot-‘em-up, in fact, but its challenge and distinctly un-PC themes make it hugely appealing.
91. KIKIKAIKAI (Natsume) 88%
Capcom’s Gunsmoke and Commando coin-ops paved the way for countless games presented in the same vein, and Kikikaikai (AKA Pocky and Rocky)is one of the finest examples you’ll see on the SNES. More difficult than its slightly prettier sequel (which was published by Ocean in the UK under the name of Pocky and Rocky 2), it chronicles the exploits of a young, reifu-throwing sorceress and her cuddly raccoon companion. As you’d expect from a game with a name like this, it’s packed to the rafters with Japanese weirdness, and we love it dearly.
90. SIDE POCKET (Marubeni) 86%
The game popular with fat lager-fiends and sponging students alike proves almost as playable in its SNES form as it does after a few cherryades down at the local watering hole. It’s a great interpretation is Side Pocket, made all the more enjoyable by the fact that you don’t have to get 50 pees from the bar nor argue over who’s going to rack them up this frame. Oh, and it has one of our favorite speech samples ever (an ill-sounding woman who announces the title of the game as if she herself has had one too many cherryades).
89. SUPER STAR WARS (JVC/Virgin) 89%
When ex-editor Matt Bielby said that the music in Super Star Wars was “almost good enough to justify the price of the game on its own,” he wasn’t just being his typically over-enthusiastic self: this is a landmark in SNES music, capturing the mood and feel of the motion picture like no other film license game before or since. It’s easily the most fun game of the trilogy, too, with a fatter-than-Jabba wodge of levels, endearingly recognizable graphics and slick platform shoot-‘em-up gameplay.
88. BREATH OF FIRE (Capcom) 80%
It took a long time getting a Western release (18 months, to be precise), but the wait turned out to be just about worthwhile. Forget about it providing anything like the involvement of Square’s FF series because it comes across more as a clone than a fully-fledged attempt at taking them on equal terms. Instead look at it as an above average RPG with its own fair share of talking points, notably its clever day-to-night transitions and a healthy clan of likable, if rather underdeveloped, characters.
87. WORLD MASTERS GOLF (Virgin) 80%
There’re enough golf games on the SNES to fill a pair of Jimmy Tarbuck’s plus-fours, but this, the first effort by a UK development team (Arc Developments, if you’re interested), leaves them all choking on sand as it chips delightfully out of the bunker and straight into the ‘cup.’ With corky Mode 7 flybys, four courses (Aldan Forest, Cranfield Lakes, Marston Beach and Victoria Plains), a workable ‘three-press’ power bar system, and generally pleasant presentation all-round, it’s everything the ardent fan could ask for.
86. XANDRA’S BIG ADVENTURE (Namco) 85%
If you’ve ever opened a packet of Jelly Babies, picked out a green one, held it between thumb and forefinger and thought, ‘I wonder what it would be like to be this green jelly feller,’ then you should A) consider taking up some form of medical help, and B) buy Xandra’s Big Adventure. Xandra, see, is a little guy made of green jelly, and he takes up a pitchfork in an umpteen level platformer that’s filled with the kind of innovation you’ll only find in Japanese software. Keep an eye out for Whirlo, the European version which wasn’t released in the UK.
85. ULTIMATE PARODIUS (Konami) 85%
There’s little to say about Ultimate Parodius other than that it’s an improvement over the original (yes, even though it scored one percent more in our review) but not quite up there with the latest installment (yes, even though we gave that game two percent less) which you’ll find further up the list. It’s all a trifle confusing, we admit, but at the end of the day the review scores here are pretty irrelevant — some of the older games have aged better than others, and… oh, just trust us, okay?
84. JURASSIC PARK (Ocean) 89%
Licensemeisters Ocean inevitably snatched the rights to Spielberg’s T-Rex of a movie and surprised us all by delivering a game which is not only entertaining but fairly original, too (which is more than can be said for Sony Imagesoft’s Jurassic Park 2). Incorporating Gauntlet-esque outdoor bits with a selection of indoor sections rendered á la Wolfenstein, JP presents a series of tasks which add up to a well-rounded arcade adventurey challenge.
83. PUGSLEY’S SCAVENGER HUNT (Ocean) 90%
Ocean were one of the first UK-based outfits to really get behind the SNES, and it didn’t take them long to coax wonderful things out of it. Addams Family Values II: Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt, to give it its full name, was early evidence that Brit coders could do stuff to rival the best of what Japan had to offer, with its magnificent use of color and ingenious presentation (check out the level which takes place inside Granny’s crystal ball for proof). While not nearly as player-friendly as any Mario game, this hasn’t aged badly at all.
82. RAMPART (Electronic Arts) 79%
The best video games, some say, are those where more than two or more people can take part at once. While RPG fans would contest this claim with their biggest +1 Swords of Chaos, Rampart illustrates perfectly just how much can be gleaned from a concept once you throw another player into the mix. A two-player conversion of Atari’s three-player trackball coin-op, Rampart‘s a game which tests both fast-paced shooting accuracy and Tetris-like building skills. It is a unique game and has unjustly gone dismissed by most SNES owners.
81. SECRET OF EVERMORE (Square Soft) 81%
The long-awaited attempt of Square Soft’s American arm to produce something to rival Secret of Mana turned out, perhaps inevitably, to fall some way short of those magical standards. There’s still quite a bit here to get excited about, of course, notably the combat system (smooth and fast-paced), the atmospheric sound effects (Wil likes the noisy market scene) and the alchemy principle (whose mix-and-match spell-making replaces the more common simpler methods in just about every other RPG). And it’s out in the UK.
80. NFL QUARTERBACK ’96 (Acclaim) 89%
To quote Tony’s flatmate Will Groves, who guest reviewed this in issue 40, “As usual, non-gridiron fans will take a lot of convincing but anyone who knows the game and has enjoyed Madden in the past might want to consider sacrificing just a tiny bit of the Fat One’s on-field experience for the more managerial/coaching experience of NFL QBC ’96.” What the scruffy urchin’s trying to say is that this is the best American footy game on the SNES. He just gets a little bit mixed up sometimes, bless him.
79. WORLD LEAGUE BASKETBALL (HAL) 84%
Way before NBA Jam strode onto the court with its size-16 Nike Air Maxes, this was the best basketball sim on the SNES by a fair chalk. Making full use of Mode 7 to spin and scale the court — and induce vomiting in ex-editor James Leach’s case (yes, really) — it gets a trifle confusing following the action for the first hour or so of play, but give it time and it gels to form a mostly satisfying sports sim.
78. THE CHAOS ENGINE (Bitmap Bros) 89%
Most video game programmers are happy to remain anonymous apart from a credit at the end of their games. Not so the Bitmap Brothers, who insisted upon getting their mugs in anywhere and everywhere. Their desires to be famous aside, they make good games, and this is one of ‘em. It’s Gauntlet for the ’90s, except with only two players and, well, much fewer levels. What’s especially commendable is that if you don’t have a human companion kicking about you can opt for a CPU-controlled variety, whose behavior is remarkably convincing. This game is known as Soldiers of Fortune in North America.
77. OGRE BATTLE (Enix) 80%
It was hard to believe that sound as lush and graphics as sumptious as those in Ogre Battle could belong to a mere strategy game. Even a slight lack of involvement during the actual battles couldn’t deter a pointy-hatted Zy from extolling its virtues. Should you be fluent in Japanese, you could replace Ogre Battle’s entry with its oft delayed sequel — Tactics Ogre which surpasses it in every department. As there seems to be no sign of it appearing here though, Ogre Battle still wins out as the best-looking fantasy strategy game available.
76. JUNGLE STRIKE (Electronic Arts) 83%
The Strike games — Desert, Jungle and Urban — fall into that horribly cliched category of you’ll either love them or hate them. Some gamers — mostly hardcore arcade fans — simply can’t abide the way they limit your munitions and fuel, meaning that you’re always working against the clock and a finite amount of times you can pull on the trigger, while those of a more strategic bent find the approach invitingly taxing. Us? We’re quite partial to a spot of Strikeage, and feel this is the best of the trilogy on the SNES.
75. MORTAL KOMBAT II (Acclaim) 90%
Perhaps the biggest grumble ever — bigger even than “Waaagh! Why aren’t we getting such-and-such RPG in the UK?” and “Why can’t I ‘be’ the bosses in Street Fighter II?” — must be “Why isn’t there any blood in Mortal Kombat?” Such gripes were more forgivable then most, though — after all, the gore and violence was MK’s main selling point, despite whatever Williams would like to believe to the contrary. This MK2 conversion pulled over all of its coin-op counterpart’s juicy bits to become a worthy little fighting game.
74. STREET RACER (Ubi Soft) 91%
There have been many occasions when we’ve found our jaws collecting fluff off the carpet. And second only to Ollie’s ability to consume an entire packet of chocolate digestives in three seconds flat in the jaw/floor interfacing department is the four-player split screen mode of Street Racer. Four independent Mode 7 windows running at speeds in excess of Super Mario Kart, thanks to its “Look, ma! No Super FX chip!” coding, cement Racer‘s inclusion in the Top 100.
73. EARTHWORM JIM (Virgin) 91%
Created by Dave Perry’s hand-picked team of programmers and designers, Shiny Entertainment (of whom Nick Jones, who programmed SNES Alien 3 while still at Probe, is one, video game trivia fans), Earthworm Jim can justifyably claim to be the first ever game to come close to looking like a cartoon. It could also lay claim to being one of the most imaginative games to reach the SNES, and proves that it is possible to make video games genuinely humorous.
72. SUPER SMASH TV (Acclaim) 84%
Super Smash TV was the first game Ed ‘Mortal Kombat’ Boon produced when he joined Williams’ coin-op division, a fact which should give an insight into its nature. Yes, destruction, death and carnage are the objectives in this update of the classic early ’80s coin-op Robotron 2084. The coin-op used two joysticks, one for moving your blokey, one for aiming your shots, and the SNES joypad’s four-button arrangement made the conversion as playable as anyone could have hoped. The two-player facility is the icing on the cake.
71. SUPER FAMILY TENNIS (Namco) 83%
If Super Tennis had a multitap option, this game probably wouldn’t have made it into the Top 100, but it doesn’t, so it does, if you follow. With a more limited range of shots than ST, its graphics and presentation nevertheless surpass it with some ease. The animated backdrops are especially noteworthy and demonstrate the kind of attention to detail missing from the likes of Jimmy Connor’s Pro Tennis Tour, David Crane’s Amazing Tennis and Wil Overton’s Office Cardboard Racquets and Sellotape Ball Tennis.
70. LEMMINGS 2 (Psygnosis) 88%
Green hair, blue capes, big feet — yep, Ollie’s mates really are a weird bunch. Boom, boom. Anyway, what we have here is the sequel to the world’s most popular puzzle game after Tetris. This follow-up introduces the idea of breaking down Lemmings into tribes, each bearing characteristics unique to that breed, thus making each more suited to certain types of levels than others. What makes it all worthwhile is that an awful lot of thought has gone into putting the all-new levels together — an all too rare occurrence in a sequel.
69. MORTAL KOMBAT 3 (Acclaim) 85%
After hauling MK2‘s blood-soaked carcass back into the workshop, Williams returned with a game that’s bigger, juicier and more stuffed with secret bits than an MP’s private life. While the characters occasionally feel more lightweight than those of the former game, and the presentation lacks its punch, if you’re going to bother with any of the Mortal Kombat series you really should make it this one. As a conversion it’s sound, and you’ll not go far wrong with it if you bear in mind it’s not trying to be Street Fighter II.
68. DIDDY’S KONG QUEST (Nintendo) 82%
When we put Rare’s latest platformer head-to-head against Yoshi’s Island last issue it slowly became apparent that Brit designers still have a lot to learn from our chums across the oceans. Judged purely on its own merits, DKQ is nevertheless a perfectly serviceable example of one of gaming’s oldest themes, with especially gorgeous graphics — perhaps the best ever seen on the SNES, in fact — and a difficulty level that’ll keep you pumping away at the joypad for hours. Or at least until you break it through sheer frustration…
67. POP ‘N’ TWINBEE (Konami) 84%
No, we don’t know why it’s called what it is, either. What we are certain of, though, is that it’s the second best of the pitifully small amount of vertically-scrolling shooters on the SNES. The Konami trademarks are evident from the moment the first ground-based nasties — a group of living pineapples, no less — scroll into view, and it retains a cute, messed-up-in-the-head spirit all the way through. Its low point is the difficulty setting (which, is low), but with the three elements of gameplay, graphics and sound in such full effect, you hardly care.
66. SENSIBLE SOCCER (Sony Imagesoft) 91%
While neither as fast or comprehensive in scope as the Mega Drive or Amiga versions, SNES Sensi is still accomplished enough to deftly sidestep every single one of its competition… well, except for ISSD, of course, which stands in its path like an impassible brick wall. Simplicity and speed are the two factors which distinguish it, and although it will feel more like a game of pinball than football to the uninitiated, everything eventually becomes second nature after repeated play. Just like football in real life, really.
65. PARODIUS 3 (Konami) 83%
The third — and best — installment in the series offers an incredible 16 characters to choose from — eight male and eight female (er, we think, although it’s difficult to sex spacecraft) — and, unbelievably, the most outstandish elements ever to make it into a game. If you missed the review last ish, you won’t have seen the karaoke-singing panda in a dress or the lipstick-shooting, bra-wearing robot boss. Which, come to think of it, you’re probably better off not seeing.
64. FLASHBACK (Sony Imagesoft) 91%
We don’t welcome conversions from other formats, generally speaking (unless that format is a coin-op), but we’re willing to make an exception for this, Delphine’s follow-up to Out of This World, which comes to the SNES via the Amiga. An early exponent of the graphical technique of rotoscoping — where a real person’s movements are recorded to generate game animation — it’s a platformer with heavy adventurish overtones. The animated cut scenes work well, and it’s sad to contemplate never seeing its like on the SNES again.
63. R-TYPE III (Irem) 83%
Masters of the scrolling shooter Irem finally proved they had what it takes — they’d already given us the lackluster Super R-Type and GunForce — with this, a game that isn’t, surprisingly, a conversion of a coin-op but a totally original effort. Using Mode 7 in just about every way imaginable it provides one of the few examples of games of this type worth investing any time into. While most others are as predictable as Anthea Turner’s inane grin, R-Type III starts out originally and continues to try to improve on itself over and over.
62. UN SQUADRON (Capcom) 91%
A loose conversion of their coin-op of the same name, UN Squadron is one of Capcom’s finest SNES games. Based on the anime and manga strip Area 88 — which was used for the game’s name in Japan, incidentally — it’s a horizontally-scrolling shooter in the classic mold, with all the usual power-ups and attack wave/boss structure we’ve come to expect since the likes of Gradius set the agenda. Novelty bonus points come in the form of a shop where you buy new weapons and the opportunity to pick and choose your way through the levels.
61. CIVILIZATION (Koei) 88%
Civilization looks like a pile of nob. It also plays like a bit of a clinker when you start out. But give it a chance and it’ll grab hold of your attention like a pit bull terrier to the seat of a postie’s trousers. You start as a leader of a tribe whose purpose is to build it up over the years into a flourishing society. Along the way your scientists invent various items and concepts with the goal being to make it into space by the year 2001. To some this will prove as boring as Brian Walden, but Sim City fans will lose themselves in it for weekends at a time.
60. SUPER ALESTE (Toho) 87%
At a time when few thought the SNES could cut it in moving lots of details around the screen, Super Aleste came along and delivered non-believers a punch to the throat they wouldn’t be forgetting in a hurry. We are talking Sprite Central — so much so that it occasionally gets a mite tricky working out what’s going on — and this technical achievement coupled with the seven types of weaponry make for a most enjoyable brains-off, triggers-on blaster. The downside? Oh, you had to ask, didn’t you. It’s not massively difficult. Damn. This game is known as Space MegaForce in North America.
59. OUT TO LUNCH (Mindscape) 84%
Of all the ideas anyone could come up with to build a game around, cooking must rank as one of the least likely to turn out any fun. But Out To Lunch is fun with a capital ‘F.’ It’s jollier than Father Christmas, more compelling than an opened tube of Pringles, and as welcoming as an open-armed Claudia Schiffer. The secret of its success? It doesn’t try to blind you with over-the-top graphics or convoluted storylines — instead it delivers good traditional gameplay values polished up with dinky presentation and amusing graphics.
58. THEME PARK (Ocean) 91%
Trust Bullfrog — creators of such adrenaline-pumping titles as Populous, Populous 2 and soon, Sim Hospital — to come up with a game which asks you to manage a funfair. It’s not nearly as dull as it sounds, of course — funky presentation, groovesome graphics and super-addictive gameplay ensure that it’s rarely anything less than fascinating. Perhaps not destined for the classic status which Sim City has earned itself, Theme Park nevertheless shows what the cream of the UK’s development talent can offer the world.
57. NBA JAM: TOURNAMENT EDITION (Acclaim) 90%
A super conversion of the smash-hit coin-op which puts action ahead of strategy, resulting in a fast-moving game. While we’re here, have you ever wondered why Acclaim games such as this and the Mortal Kombat series have so many hidden options and cheats? Well… it’s because during the months that follow a game’s release, players seek them out and send them to mags like Super Play, which duly print them, giving the game bonus coverage, some times for up to three months. Free advertising, see?
56. SPARKSTER (Konami) 89%
Originally something of a celeb on the Mega Drive, the opossum hit the SNES in some style in 1994. Not as celebrated as it deserves to be, Sparkster is one of the funkiest platformers we’ve had the pleasure of playing, with bosses bonkers enough to make your hair fall out and Special Bits stacked up to the ceiling. Such as, you ask? A giant robot boxing match in space, rotating missiles almost a screen in height and beautiful watery reflections. You’d best play it on a difficulty setting trickier than Normal, though…
55. MICRO MACHINES (Sony Imagesoft) 83%
It was inevitable that, after producing countless budget-priced racing games on 8-bit computer formats (remember the likes of BMX Simulator?), Codemasters would get around to exploiting the theme on a console. The result, first seen on the NES, was a revelation, and this more-or-less straight conversion offers as many larfs as ever, with some parallax scrolling and an enhanced multi-player option being the only real enhancements. Micro Machines is simple, addictive racing fun the way your mother used to make it.
54. NHL ’96 (Electronic Arts) 90%
If you’ve ever visited the local ice rink only to be bundled over by a four-foot-tall 10-year-old as he zigzags around at around 60 MPH, you’ll appreciate this opportunity to zip around an expanse of frozen water without the risk of battered knees and a pride to match. More than that, though, it’s the latest and best of EA’s top-selling ice hockey series, with super-slick gameplay and as many options as you could wish for (although we wouldn’t have said no to being able to leave the ice, pick up some chips from the fast-food bar).
53. MICRO MACHINES 2 (Ocean) 88%
Like the original Micro Machines, except with more tracks, more vehicle types and more, well, fun. Some of the new course designs are a bit on the clumsy side, but it matters not. That’s all there is to say, really. Um… How about a joke? Okay, a man goes into a pub with his pet giraffe and buys a pint of beer. After drinking it, the poor animal collapses and dies, spurring the landlord to say,“Hey, you can’t leave that lyin’ there!”, whereupon the bloke replies, “It’s not a lion, it’s a giraffe.” No? Erm… it loses a lot when it’s written down.
52. PRINCE OF PERSIA (Konami) 89%
If turbans and voluminous ‘loons turns you on, you’ll be gagging for a bash on POP, whose lead character sports some of the most attractive Arabian duds going. This plaformy slasher is very much an acquired taste: its controls are notoriously fiddly to get to grips with and the hazard-packed levels don’t suffer fools gladly. But put in the effort and be prepared to indulge in no small amount of hair-tearing along the way and you’ll get a great deal out of it.
51. MICKEY’S MAGICAL QUEST (Capcom) 89%
Whether you’re swimming through the sap of a tree or fighting a boss character who rotates as he skates in a half-pipe made of ice, the graphics in MMQ never fail to raise at least one eyebrow. Its rock-solid platform gameplay is spruced up by Mickey’s ‘magical’ ability to change between outfits as the game progresses, allowing him to play with such diverse personas as a mountaineer (with grappling hook) and a firefighter (with working hose). Not overly taxing, but one of the prettiest and most charming games in this list.
50. TOURNAMENT FIGHTERS (Konami) 90%
At a time when every man and his dog was scrambling to clone Street Fighter II’s legendary gameplay, it was left to Konami to do the job right. Their blatant rip-off, featuring the pizza-crazed foursome and a selection of adversaries from the animated series, worked because, unlike the many clones which altered SFII’s core gameplay in order to differentiate themselves, it didn’t really try to be different — its only major gameplay change being a power-move bar. Stonky special moves places this among the best SFII rips going.
49. SUPER BOMBERMAN 2 (Hudson Soft) 91%
Every fan of Bomberman had their fair share of ideas about what they wanted to see in this sequel. Whether they were pleased with what they got — player-coded bombs, various new power-ups, and the biggy, playing areas in the main game option which scroll over large areas — remains another thing altogether. Whatever the case, SB2‘s battle mode is enough in itself to make this a worthwhile undertaking, especially when you consider that, like many of the games here, it’s kicking around now for less than 20 golden round ones.
48. BUST-A-MOVE (Taito) 84%
‘Do’ing a puzzle game is hard. It either goes very right (see Kirby’s Avalanche) or very wrong (see Zoop). Bust-A-Move (or Puzzle Bobble in Japan or in the arcades) belongs very much to the former category. Its one-player mode is fairly forgettable but its two-player option has been known to force an office to grind to a halt for an afternoon, such is the volume of competitive juices it’s able to squeeze from participants. It’s a simple link-the-colors affair, but its speed and accessibility make it essential to anyone who’s always got a pal handy.
47. SOLSTICE II: EQUINOX (Sony Imagesoft) 91%
There are few things worse than having to listen to a self-appointed video game expert bang on about how 8-bit games remain far superior to any others since. But 8-bit games have their uses, and the most obvious is in influencing games of today, which is why Equinox works — because it took an excellent 8-bit game theme (the isometric 3D ‘arcade adventure’) and made it better. Apart from its showstopping soundtrack (another Tim Follin masterpiece), other stand-out points are its unusual color scheme and high level of challenge.
46. SOUL BLAZER (Enix) 89%
As one of the few Zelda-alikes to come anywhere near touching Nintendo’s work of genius, Soul Blazer dates back to 1992. You play a fresh-faced young adventurer whose task is to return a withered kingdom to normality. The action may seem repetitious at first, but the enormous range of characters — with numerous animals including a dog named Turbo — and a consuming quest make this one of the most addictive and rewarding ARPGs to hit the SNES. You’ll have to dig hard and deep to find it these days, but it’s worth it.
45. KILLER INSTINCT (Nintendo) 85%
Although the formula ‘Street Fighter II + Mortal Kombat 2 + ACM graphics = top-selling game’ could be construed by skeptics as lazy design, Rare’s first attempt at a one-on-one beat-‘em-up is constructed with such professionalism that it’s difficult not to enjoy it. Yes, the concept of combos in excess of 40 hits borders on the ridiculous and the characters on show lack the charisma, and therefore appeal, of Kenneth and co., but KI is proof positive that Street Fighter II’s playing style — which it clones — cannot be beaten.
44. BREATH OF FIRE 2 (Capcom) 81%
When resident RPG-head Zy Nicholson says that a new example of the breed has “friendly menu-driven combat, superb real-time effects, isometric battle scenes and some likeable weirdness” you know it’s worth more than just a cursory examination. And this BOF2 most definitely is: still shorter on quality than Square’s best output but strong enough to placate his fellow pointy-hat wearers. Which is, dear readers, why it earns the right to ease it buttocks into one of the 100 comfy chairs at Super Play’s Table of Excellence.
43. FRONT MISSION (Square Soft) 88%
Foregoing their usual magic and monsters stronghold Square came up trumps with this future war strategy game based around the infamous ‘Mobile Suit.’ With a superbly polished menu system and wonderful isometric battle fields, Super Play soon warmed to what could have been a rather dry stats fest. For a game that’s yet to be released outside Japan, potential players should be comforted by the fact that Square have, in an effort to Westernize the story, written all the menus in English. All this and Tommy Chong too.
42. EARTHWORM JIM 2 (Virgin) 85%
It would have been easy for Shiny to fart out any old sequel, but at almost every turn this shows what happens when you spend good money on good programmers and designers: you get a good game. From avoiding stairlift-bound grannies to rescuing puppies by bouncing them onto marshmallows, EWJ2 goes out of its way to further push the platform game envelope. Luzz a top soundtrack and a decent level of challenge into the mix and you have something which bodes well for Shiny’s imminent efforts on the Nintendo 64.
41. ILLUSION OF GAIA (Enix) 88%
This charming pseudo sequel to Soul Blazer provides ample proof of Enix’s mastery of the action RPG niche. You don’t have to worry about a list of stats the length of your arm; just pick up your sword and go. As with Blazer, there’s a selection of NPCs who brighten up the proceedings considerably, and the lead character’s ability to change into a super-powered form at various points ensures that there’s always something new waiting just around the corner. It’s out in the UK as Illusion of Time — go and look for it right now.
40. EARTHBOUND (Nintendo) 88%
The fact that this is the only game on the SNES to feature a signpost advertising ‘DRUGS’ should be enough to convince you that it’s not just yer everyday RPG. If the word crude could have been invented to describe its graphics, the words quirky and ingenious might well have come into being to relate to its other parts. Its combat system is limited, but the storyline, tripped-out visuals and subtle soundtracks ensure it’s never anything less than totally entertaining.
39. SUPER BOMBERMAN 3 (Hudson Soft) 89%
What Hudson Soft seem to have failed to realize during their updating of Bomberman is that the game is at its most fun in multi-player mode, yet this third part contains less battle screens than the only-quarter-as-big original. What’s just as frustrating is that the enhancements on offer in this third part — kangeroos to ride and an ‘after-death’ play-on feature, to mention the most important ones — only hint at Hudson’s design talents, and you can’t help yearning for more. But it’s still Bomberman, and Bomberman is brill.
38. CANNON FODDER (Virgin) 89%
Cocky coders Sensible Software plucked the little chaps out of Sensible Soccer and plopped them into a military warzone to produce one of the most enjoyable and original games to reach the Amiga. The SNES version is as accurate a conversion as one could wish for, and the guide-the-soldiers gameplan remains as playable as ever. Best appreciated with a SNES mouse, the only flaw to be found in it rears its head in a later level where success seems to lie as much with luck as it does with out-and-out skill.
37. SUPER CASTLEVANIA IV (Konami) 91%
Simon Belmont may be the most unlikely name for a hero since Cecil (out of FFII), but this, his first 16-bit game, is a showcase title. It’s something of a slow starter, however, and you’d be forgiven for playing the first couple of levels and going away wondering what the fuss is about. Stick with it, though, and its true colors make themselves known in the form of a barrage of memorable pieces of music and some of the cleverest use of Mode 7 ever seen. It’s rock hard in places and you’ll feel a proper smug bugger when you finish it.
36. AXELAY (Konami) 85%
If technical achievement was the point of reference for this Top 100, Konami’s old but golden shooter would trample all in its path. From start to finish, Axelay is an extraordinary game. Alternating between vertical and horizontal-scrolling levels, each is as memorable as the next, whether it’s the lava-flooded wastes of level four or the subterranean caverns of level five (complete with stunning echo effects). A graphical and sonical tour de force, it’s hampered by a difficulty curve which will challenge only the most noviciate of gamers.
35. STARFOX (Nintendo) 93%
When Argonaut invented the Super FX chip it was the equivalent of Pamela Anderson discovering cosmetic surgery. The first fruit of the marriage between 16-bit SNES and 32-bit RISC chip is, like F-Zero, a piece of gaming history that no SNESite can afford to have missed. Inspired by Namco’s Starblade, it’s polygon shooting at its finest as you and three animal chums team up to take down the evil Andross and his cohorts through levels based both over land and in space. Miyamoto’s influence makes all the difference.
34. SHADOWRUN (Data East) 85%
Grim. Gritty. Grimy. Um… Greasy? [Just get on with it -Ed.] Okay, here is a game which should have kick-started an entire series of similar SNES games if there was any justice in the world, but instead remains just the high point on the C.V. of Australian coders Laser Beam. A ‘cyberpunk’ adventure, it’s an isometric 3D actioner where you wake up to find yourself with no memory and must proceed to unravel a tale by cybernetically enhancing your body, ‘jacking’ into ‘matrixes’ and whatnot. Oh, and there’s tons of killings.
33. ACTRAISER (Enix) 90%
When the great SNES versus Mega Drive debate was at its height, Actraiser was wielded in the SNES’s corner as an example of just how superior the Nintendo mchine’s sound capabilities are, thanks to Yuzo Koshiro’s masterful soundtrack. Audio thrills aside, there’s a corky game in here too, presented as a selection of platform slashing levels accessed via a main map section, itself an enjoyable God game-type thing where you must tend to the world’s populace. The long-awaited sequel was pump, incidentally.
32. F-ZERO (Nintendo) 86%
The Amiga had Marble Madness, the Mega Drive had Super Shinobi, and the SNES had this. What are we talking about? Killer apps, of course — games which sell their machines on their merits alone. Any hardened gamer witnessing F-Zero‘s stunning exploration of Mode 7 had to have a machine of their own. There’s no two-player option, the courses are bland when compared to those of Super Mario Kart and it’s only a paltry four mega bits big, but it’s lightning fast and gloriously playable.
31. CHRONO TRIGGER (Square Soft) 90%
We awaited this game’s arrival — the product of Akira ‘Dragon Ball’ Toriyama, Yuji ‘Dragon Quest’ Horii and Hironbu ‘Final Fantasy’ Sakaguchi — with such abatement of breath we nearly kneeled over our keyboards and expired. And when it arrived, it nearly lived up to those lofty expectations, with a roster of smashing-looking characters and a natty time-travelling storyline. The only criticism to be leveled at it is the lack of character depth and overall lightweight nature when compared to the Final Fantasy series.
30. TINY TOONS ADVENTURES (Konami) 89%
Years before Yoshi’s Island planted its innovated feet on the SNES, Konami’s Tiny Toons title — known as Buster Busts Loose in the UK — was doing fresh things with the stale-as-last-month’s-Holvis genre. As early as level two you come across a section where the game holds up while you’re required to take part in a bit of rope skipping before you can pass, while later levels include a game of American football and a space-based bit where you can totally invert gravity. It’s all over rather too quickly, though, but we still love it tons.
29. SIM CITY (Nintendo) 84%
Did you like Lego? Do you still play with it secretly now? Do you still play with it openly now? Whatever the case, if you have even an inkling of interest in building things you’ll love Sim City. It’s not a game for everyone, but those willing to put in the time will discover an addictive experience. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto had a hand in this version, incidentally, giving it benefits over other versions including the green-haired helper-outer Doctor Wright and a great preset game scenario featuring a mighty Bowser attack.
28. ROCK ‘N’ ROLL RACING (Interplay) 88%
If you’ve ever been stuck on a twisty country lane behind a flatcap-wearing octogenarian in an Austin Maxi, you’ll have no doubt fantasized about having a whacking great assault cannon mounted on your bonnet. This is the sort of game you need to play to relieve such frustration. It’s fast, slick and has about the most impressive guitar effects we’ve ever heard in a game, courtesy of real rock classics re-interpreted by game music genius Tim Follin. It has a fabbo simultaneous two-player too. Gaming rarely gets more fun than this.
27. SUPER PUNCH-OUT!! (Nintendo) 90%
We like boxing. Not for real, of course (our soft faces are too delicate for such behavior), but watching it on the telly and doing it in video games. Especially when the video game is Super Punch-Out!!, Nintendo’s long-in-the-making update of the NES title Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! Yep, simulated pugilism doesn’t come any more entertaining than this. Well, not unless you count Taito’s Real Puncher coin-op, which would prove as much fun, if only we could persuade Wil to be the one standing in front of its scanning camera [Oi! -Wil]
26. PLOK! (Tradewest) 90%
Apart from having the finest harmonica samples ever to grace the SNES (er, although we’re not aware of any other competition), Plok! manages to lift the trophy of Best UK-Produced Platformer, too. It achieves this accolade by being original. Plok, for example, is like no other game character, able to fire off all of his limbs until he’s reduced to just a helpless torso. His charm is joined by a selection of vehicles to bomb around in, collectible special-power outfits and the best black-and-white levels we’ve ever seen. And we’ve seen a few, by crikey.
25. GOEMON 2 (Konami) 90%
Although only available in Japanese form — sales of the Western version of Goemon 1, Legend of the Mystical Ninja, proved too low to warrant the ‘trouble’ of translating the sequel — if you only buy one import cart, make it this one. Although it looks similar to LOTMN, the platform-based sections are more detailed than before (and include a number of vehicles you can hi-jack and use to plough through the weirder-than-before nasties) while the all-new Mode 7 mecha Goemon sequences offer new gameplay. A Konami klassic.
‘Gaiden,’ as many Super Play readers will know, is a Japanese word meaning ‘side story.’ Tetris Battle ‘Side Story,’ then, includes two modes: a battle option, which allows you to collect pods with which to build a spell meter; and a ‘straight’ Tetris mode, which turns out to be the best version of Tetris available on any format anywhere, ever. Surprisingly, the battle mode is a fine and worthwhile twist, too. In all, classic stuff.
23. SUPER BOMBERMAN (Hudson Soft) 92%
To invent a new game style is one thing, but to create one which your competitors find near-impossible to rip off is another — which is what Hudson Soft did in creating the Bomberman concept. Diehard fans agree that the first in the series is the best, with a battle mode simple enough to ensure that all the family can join in, while allowing experienced players to get to grips with grass-roots Bomberman gameplay. You could lock four people in a room with this game for 24 hours and they’d still come out smiling. Probably.
22. STREET FIGHTER II (Capcom) 94%
When SFII arrived in arcades in 1991, many gamers took one look at its six-button controls and wrote it off as something of a novelty — this was, after all, a time when three fire buttons were just about the limit in coin-ops. It didn’t take long for the game’s potential to shine through, though, and it became one of the biggest earners in the history of arcade gaming while the accuracy of this conversion did a similar amount of earning for Nintendo, selling SNESes by the shelfload. The inability to ‘be’ the bosses removes some of the magic, though.
21. STUNT RACE FX (Nintendo) 93%
Only Nintendo’s second Super FX title, SRFX (AKA Wildtrax in Japan) is just as remarkable as their first. If you thought polygons came in only two varieties — dull and duller — you’ll change your mind once you see this. The four vehicles — coupé, 4×4, 2WD and truck — all have personality and individualistic levels of handling and engine performance and the skill required to drive them is something that only comes with practice. Characteristic tracks and fab Stunt and Radio Controlled modes make this a driving game like no other.
20. FINAL FANTASY II (Square Soft) 90%
There are many games that, without Super Play‘s championing of them, would go unnoticed by the general SNES-playing community. Final Fantasy II is one example, serving to introduce those lucky enough to track down an import copy to the delights of turn-based combat and Square’s deftness at weaving tales of magic, war and high drama in a fantastical setting where people with big eyes and even bigger hearts rule the day. The story, soundtrack and finely-tuned gameplay compensate to make it essential playing to all RPGers.
19. CYBERNATOR (Konami) 91%
Unique among shooters, Cybernator has a level of detail normally the sole presence of the most hardcore Airfix modeller — who could forget the little blokeys who run around at your feet peppering you with their peashooter-like weapons, just begging you to turn your giant machine guns onto them? Or the three-screens-high end-of-game boss? Sadly, a sequel never materialized, but we’re looking forward to Gun Hazard, by the same team.
18. SUPER STREET FIGHTER II (Capcom) 96%
We’ll never know why Capcom chose to produce ‘plain old’ SSFII on the SNES when arcade-goers at the time were enjoying the souped-up SSFII Turbo (or ‘X’ as it’s known in Japan), and it remains one of the most frustrating happenings in the machine’s history. With four new characters (Fei Long, Dee Jay, Cammy and T. Hawk), new backdrops and new moves for the old fighters, to name but a few improvements, SSFII is deserving of its place, but players coming to it after Turbo will expect speed, and its absence rather dulls the experience.
17. DOOM (Williams) 92%
If you work in the back room of a butcher shop, Doom may not be nearly as appealing as it is to the average Joe on the street. We’re talking major slaughterage, see, dealt out with a series of chuff-off weapons that make Arnie’s arsenal in Commando look like air pistols. Judged as a conversion, this is more complete than the 32X and Jaguar efforts, and although the lower screen resolution sometimes makes it look like an ugly bugger, the Doom playability remains intact, making it one of the most challenging and impressive games of ’95.
16. INTERNATIONAL SUPERSTAR SOCCER DELUXE (Konami) 94%
Football games aren’t difficult to write — chuck in a bit of grass, a few sticks at each end and get some players running about and you’re half-way there. What’s difficult is making them intuitive to play and deep enough to keep you coming back. ISSD shoots and scores in both of these departments, with playability that’s as silky as Silky the silkworm’s silk pajamas and so many options that you’ll probably never get around to all of them.
15. ZOMBIES ATE MY NEIGHBORS (Lucas Arts) 89%
We had little expectations for ZAMN when it turned up in 1993, a fact which made the discovery that it was utterly fantastic all the more pleasurable. Describing it as a maze game makes it sound dull, which it most definitely isn’t. The detail, soundtrack, weapons system, two-player simultaneous mode, showstopping bosses, atmosphere… sigh, we just can’t find anything wrong with it. Well, apart from the fact that they didn’t have the balls to give it its full title in the UK, preferring the less ‘offensive’ Zombies instead. Cuh.
14. SUPER TENNIS (Nintendo) 92%
Tennis. Tennis. TENNIS. TeNniS. Nope, no matter how it’s written, tennis just doesn’t sound exciting at all. But that’s just what Super Tennis proves to be: the most enjoyable sports sim going. Translating a fast-moving sport such as this is tricky, but the programmers have somehow done it so well that it feels beautifully intuitive. The graphics look a bit basic by today’s standards, but then, as they say, who looks at the mantelpiece when they’re stoking the fire?
13. KIRBY’S AVALANCHE (Nintendo) 91%
At a time when it looked like no-one would ever topple Tetris from its position as the greatest puzzle game in the history of all things, along came Compile with Super Puyo Puyo (later repackaged and renamed as a Kirby title for the US market). The idea is simple: groups of two colored blobs fall from the top of the screen which you can rotate and move left and right, just like you can with a Tetris piece. Match four like colors and they disappear, sending rogue blobs to your opponent’s side. So ace in two-player mode it’s unbelievable.
12. CONTRA III: THE ALIEN WARS (Konami) 90%
Truly a landmark in SNES gaming, Contra as good as turned Nintendo’s 16-bit machine into a coin-op. If it’s Memorable Gaming Moments you’re after you’ll be wanting to play through this and be stopped in your tracks by a flyby bombing raid which sets the whole level aflame. Or maybe it’ll be the giant Mode 7 crab boss which scales in and out of the screen as it attempts to jump on your head. Or… or… There are simply too many. Perhaps the most exciting game on the SNES — this is one classy, timeless blaster.
11. SUPER MARIO COLLECTION (Nintendo) 96%
Four of the finest platform games ever created come together to form a package which no gamer with any degree of self-respect should be without. In the order that they appear, then, Super Mario Bros. is the game that started it all, and is fabbage; Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels is a tough data disk-like extension to part one; Super Mario Bros. 2 is the odd one of the troupe, and pretty good; and Super Mario Bros. 3 is the daddy of them all and nearly as good as Mazza World. Not as slick as the NES originals, but one helluva package.
10. PILOTWINGS (Nintendo) 92%
9. SUPER METROID (Nintendo) 92%
8. SECRET OF MANA (Square Soft) 94%
7. LEGEND OF THE MYSTICAL NINJA (Konami) 90%
6. FINAL FANTASY III (Square Soft) 95%
5. YOSHI’S ISLAND (Nintendo) 94%
Unless you’ve had your head buried in the garden for the last ten months, you can’t have failed to know what this, the sequel to Super Mario World, is all about, and just how highly we regard it.
To call it merely a platform game is to call Super Play 41 sheets of printed material, of variable size and weight, glued together. At every turn the game seems to make an effort to be different, whether it’s in simply giving Yoshi the power to launch eggy projectiles or in presenting level layouts which take you all around the block and back again or in any one of countless set pieces that your average platform game would kill for just one of.
At 16 mega bits, Island isn’t the largest game to ever dock with the good ship SNES, but what you get for your meggage is nothing short of breathtaking. Play it and remember just why you got into video games in the first place.
4. SUPER MARIO WORLD (Nintendo) 94%
Launched alongside the machine in 1990, the portly plumber’s debut SNES outing still has a considerable edge over any similarly styled platformer on any other format since. A tap or two of Miyamoto’s magic wand is what made it so great, of course, and it is the ultimate illustration of the ‘great graphics do not a great game make’ adage.
3. SUPER MARIO KART (Nintendo) 93%
Unlike any other Mario game, SMK didn’t arrive on the SNES gaming scene in a hail of publicity. Rather it slipped in unnoticed through the back door. When gamers woke up to its utter brilliance, however, it remained firmly jammed into cartridge ports the world over for weeks at a time.
What makes it so good? Playability, pure and simple. There is no other driving game which comes close to it in delivering seat-of-the-pants, lean-into-the-corners action. Forget about driving a formula one race car around Silverstone: take Koopa for a spin around a Bowser’s Castle track, leaping lava pits, dodging enemies’ cunningly-aimed projectiles and searching out those elusive red shells, and the magic that only Nintendo seem able to provide becomes patently evident.
With eight characters of differing abilities to choose from, three engine classes, 20 varied tracks, an ingenious Balloon game and a time trial mode, this is the most complete driving game package we’ve ever seen. Can it ever be beaten? We’ll just have to wait for Super Mario Kart R on the Nintendo 64…
2. STREET FIGHTER II TURBO (Capcom) 96%
The sequel to the game which kicked a genre up the arse and dragged it into the ’90s, Turbo must surely be the most played game in just about every SNES owner’s collection. The first of the series to allow players to ‘be’ the bosses, it successfully transfers over every aspect that made the coin-op such a barnstormer. What makes it such an evergreen title is its depth of play: two players who’ve fought against each other on countless occasions can sit down and not be sure of the outcome of any particular match-up, such is its flexibility and scope for variety.
Unlike any other game, being able to play a Street Fighter II title competently is an essential skill in any gamer’s repertoire and, like riding a bike, once you’ve picked it up it never goes away. This version must be applauded for its accuracy as a conversion — for a 20 megabit cartridge game on a console to come this close to the umpteen-times-as-expensive coin-op is no mean feat, and the game will be fondly regarded when most of today’s ‘super console’ titles are but faded memories.
1. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK TO THE PAST (Nintendo) 93%
Okay, we’ve stuck our collective neck out and put Zelda III at the top of the tree, and now you want us to justify our decision. Fair enough. There is, quite simply, no other game which is as complete. And when we say complete, we mean playable, taxing, enthralling and rewarding — every factor which should be looked for in a video game. While many great games stumble on occasions throughout their duration, Zelda III remains constantly engaging throughout. Right from the start, when Princess Zelda’s telepathically-transmitted cries for help set you out on a quest to save her, everything falls into place like a good book. From then on, the scope of the thing unfolds at a fairly uniform pace, giving you extra abilities here and there which in turn allow you to uncover more and more secrets of the game world. And that’s probably its secret: you start out with a limited range of abilities but grow in experience and power as you progress, meaning that unlike, say, a platform game, where you’re asked to perform the same skills throughout, you have to learn and exploit new ones continually.
While its graphics rarely rise above the level of perfunctory and its soundtrack occasionally tires (especially when you’ve spent an hour or so in a particular area trying to fathom out the solution to a certain problem), Zelda III‘s gameplay remains wholly absorbing. It’s linear, sure, but then this is an action RPG. The proof of the pudding is that it could be released today, some five years since its original appearance, and still appear as fresh as the likes of new games like Yoshi’s Island. What’s perhaps most telling is that Zelda III transcends boundaries: a platform fiend or a driving game nut will find it as inviting as a hardcore RPG-head. If you haven’t played it yet… do you really own a SNES?
There you have it! 100 of the best SNES games according to Super Play Magazine. Lotta great games on there, no doubt, but also some glaring omissions (most notably, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time). I hope going through this list gave you some new titles to take note of… either ones that you perhaps have previously dismissed for one reason or another, or maybe even some titles you had never even heard of before. As stated earlier, I’ve been working on my own top list for over 10 years now, and am hoping to launch it at some point in late 2017 if all goes well. It’s always fun to compare your own opinion with that of others. Speaking of which, regardless of which titles you feel are missing from Super Play’s list, or which titles you think are ranked way too low/high, there’s no denying the boatload of amazing SNES games out there.
Glaring omissions? Games you think the Super Play boys (that came out wrong…) ranked (way) too high or low? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.
On this day I was considering getting back into the SNES scene after having been gone since the mid-late ’90s. I was making my daily gaming board rounds when I saw an intriguing topic over at the DigitPress forum.
“Super Play Magazine! Who read it? Who misses it?”
I love awesome retro gaming magazines. When I found out about SEGA SATURN MAGAZINE in 2001, I went on a long hunt before striking gold in late 2003. This Super Play topic, created by DP member theMot, couldn’t have been posted at a better time! I was still on the fence about buying a Super Nintendo, but the topic made me think “OK, if I DO come back, I’ll definitely look for that magazine.”
And of course, I did come back. January 17, 2006 is the official comeback date for yours truly. And so I began actively pursuing a complete Super Play set from that day forth.
The following is a chronicle of my nine month odyssey. It’s a journey that’s simply unbelievable. I always had confidence I would one day own Super Play, but I had no idea it’d be anything like what it turned out to be…
HAVE CONTACTS, WILL TRAVEL
In my history of online gaming-related activities I learned one very important thing as a collector/gamer, the more you network the better off you are. If people know what you’re looking for, you can find it easier. I’m not saying go post an ad so the whole world can see what you want, but you need to do some legwork if you want to attain something that is valuable and hard to come by. Having great contacts can help a lot.
And I had that in a guy located in the UK named James. He was always my go-to bloke. My brother from another mother. I could always count on King James.
James and I had traded several times over the years from 2001-2004, during my Saturn days. Back in the day he helped me get five Sega Saturn Magazines, after I had won a set of 29 off eBay. In addition to hooking me up with random PAL-only Saturn games over the years
He didn’t post often at this one Sega board, but I sent him a Private Message. It began an extremely LONG PM discussion between us…
DANGLING PSYCHIC ASSASSIN TAROMARU
-FEBRUARY 23, 2006-
I sent James the first PM on this day.
I told him if he knew any collectors who had a complete set of SUPER PLAY that I would be willing to trade that person my TAROMARU copy. Psychic Assassin Taromaru is one of the rarest and most expensive Sega Saturn imports. Enjoyed it as I did, I was willing to part with it for a (near) full set of Super Play Magazine. I also asked him if the magazine was like the Sega Saturn Magazine equivalent for the Super Nintendo.
You are correct – Super Play was indeed pretty much the equivalent of SSM but for SNES. Loads of good import coverage, lots of technical features, amazing artwork on every issue (provided by Wil Overton). Hard to find but a great mag. Will see what I can do on that front if you like. Would appreciate Issue 200 of EGM if you can get it for me.
So while James scoured the UK for Super Play, I scoured the States for EGM #200.
-MARCH 1, 2006-
Less than a week later, he had already found a potential match! I recall thinking to myself, “JAMES IS DA MAN!”
I may have a lead for you for the Super Play mags. I’ll need about a week but I know a guy that I think has a complete collection of Super Play mags and I know he is into his Saturn stuff so I may be able to work something out for you guys. I’m not entirely sure how many Super Play mags there were – I think it was around 37 or 38, maybe 40. I’m certain he has at least 1 to 35 and maybe some of the last issues too.
Once again, James had come through for me. Right?
WHEELS SET IN MOTION
-MARCH 18, 2006-
It had been close to 3 weeks since James and I last communicated. I was busy buying US SNES games left and right, continually looking for issue #200 and I knew I was in good hands because of our track record. There was nothing to worry about…
On this day James PM’ed me he’ll be meeting his collector friend over brunch to discuss Taromaru for the Super Play magazines, and find out exactly what condition and issue numbers they were.
His message made my day. The wheels were set in motion. Knowing James, I figured it was only a matter of time…
-APRIL 24, 2006-
More than a month passed since I last heard from him. Finally I received the following message.
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Been unbelievably busy and had some problems with my PC. I’ve met the collector guy. He has the following issues:
Let me know your thoughts. I will continue to ask around for the few missing issues. All issues are in good condition.
I didn’t mind the month-plus delay after reading the good news. YES! That’s exactly what I was hoping to hear — that the collector guy had a large majority of the issues, and not something like 1, 5-7, 11-14, 17, 19, 25-28, 31, 33-35. You know, large gaps. It’s always nice to get nearly all of a set in one fell swoop.
“Let me know your thoughts” ??? My thoughts were HELL YEAH!
NOT SO FAST…
-MAY 2, 2006-
About a week later, James emailed me pictures of the collector’s set as I had requested. I was more than satisfied with how everything looked. I replied to James, “LET’S DO THIS.” Note: if it were years later and say 2013 I would probably have said “TAKE MY MONEY” or rather, “TAKE MY TAROMARU” but you get the point.
I was good to go, right? Not so fast…
25 DAYS OF SILENCE
-MAY 27, 2006-
This was unlike James. In the past he was always so quick on replies. But hey, he had great news when he finally broke the silence on this day.
Sorry for the delay but I can also get Issues 39, 40, 41, 43 and 44 of Super Play for you in addition to the ones listed before.
Everything looks good to go. The trade was Taromaru+EGM #200 (which I found) in exchange for the massive Super Play lot.
The long ongoing PM discussion, which started over three months ago on February 23, was going to finally conclude.
But as with most things in life… things don’t always go as you plan…
-JULY 31, 2006-
For over two months, James mysteriously vanished. He didn’t answer my PMs or emails. I was worried. I DIDN’T SEND TAROMARU YET. Let me tell you the kind of guy James is. He always shipped first in the past with me and said he would ship first in this transaction as well. That’s the kind of guy he was — he always wanted me to get the item first to see if I was satisfied with it.
So when he disappeared without a trace for two months, I was worried not just for our trade, but for his well-being in general. I mean, it was completely unlike him to go off the radar like that for so long and without a heads up.
In late July, I made a topic at the Sega board asking if anyone there had talked to him since late May.
I didn’t want to “air the laundry” like that, but he left me no other choice.
48 to 72 hours after I made the topic, James PM’ed me for the first time in over two months.
I’m really sorry mate I’ve had some things going on over the last couple of months and the whole trade thing was sadly at the bottom of a huge pile of other things.
I have always had fantastic trades with you and am very happy to continue with this trade.
I was just glad to hear from him and know that he was OK. The fact that the trade was officially back on was only the cherry atop the cake! I PM’ed him back joking “WISE FROM YOUR GRAVE!”
24 hours later he replied.
Haha, nice reference! Have packaged up the mags and will get them posted asap. Will confirm when they are on the way to you and provide a Tracking Number etc if I get given one (depends on the postal method I guess).
Apologies once again for the ridiculous delay – will be good to see this trade through.
NOW I WAS OFFICIALLY IN, RIGHT?
… Keep reading…
ONLY A MATTER OF TIME…
-AUGUST 6, 2006-
Not one week later, I received an update.
Just to keep you updated. The magazines are all packed up (currently in two separate boxes) and ready for posting. However after going to the Post Office to send them via the usual method is going to be way expensive and also means they won’t be insured. So I’m going to look at Courier options which means they should be delivered in around 3-4 days after they are sent, and they will be insured and it should work out cheaper to send. The thing is that I am away with work until next weekend so it will likely be next weekend that I actually send them.
Just letting you know that I am working on this and you will get the mags (eventually).
Just got to work out the details with the Couriers.
I was disappointed, since I figured they were already on the way. No matter, I’ve been waiting over six months now… what’s one more gonna hurt??
I told myself I needed to keep my eyes peeled, keep my options open. So I started searching for Super Play on eBay… hoping I’d find a complete set on offer which I could snipe. JUUUUUUST in case James somehow doesn’t come through…
FIVE DAYS LATER — GOLD
-AUGUST 11, 2006-
In an amazing stroke of luck, I punched in SUPER PLAY MAGAZINE on eBay and expected yet another empty search.
However, on this day there it was!
Super Play Issues 1-45 (missing # 9) plus 3 official Super Play Binders. Also includes Super Play Gold 1993 SNES Guide. HOLY CRAP! What were the odds, and what is happening here?! It sounds corny but it really, truly did feel like fate.
It was ALMOST the entire set, only missing issues number 9, 46 and 47 — WOW.
I put it on my watch list. It would end in six days… August 17, 2006. Even back in 2006, I had developed a special eBay bidding tactic that I was using since 2002. Tired of multiple bids only to be sniped at the end, I knew what I was going to do. One bid, maximum bid, punched in with about 3 seconds to go. Only way to do it on eBay, playa!
Alas, there was one tiny problem…
The auction was ending at 9:57 AM.
What was the problem? At the time I had to resort to use the library for my online duties. You see, my brother temporarily took our computer to his work place to get it fixed. And smart phones didn’t exist back in August 2006. Nor did I have a laptop at that time.
The library doesn’t open until 10 AM. On the surface, a bad stroke of luck, for sure.
But… when all else fails, AuctionStealer prevails! Note: AuctionStealer is a free site that automatically inputs your max bid without you having to manually do it. The catch, however, is that it inputs that bid with about 11 seconds to go… giving the competition plenty of time to outdo your bid. Therefore, it’s a nice bonus but only a last resort kind of tool.
So I entered my max on AuctionStealer, and prayed for the best…
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH ARRIVES
-AUGUST 17, 2006-
I was in no rush to get to the library and see if I had won or not. Oddly, I kind of put the whole thing to the back of my mind. One part of me felt “My max was so high, there’s no doubt I won” while another part felt “Don’t get your hopes up, some crazier fanatic came by in the last four seconds…”
When I got to the library that day it was roughly 5 PM. I went to my email. Here we go…
GOD BLESS AUCTIONSTEALER –I won! No one placed a bid in the last minute. UNBELIEVABLE!
Best of all, I won it for real cheap too! My bid didn’t reach the seller’s reserve, but she decided to sell it to me for a bit more than my winning bid. The whole ordeal was nothing short of incredible. Something I can genuinely call “once in a lifetime.”
Thursday, August 17, 2006 — within seven months, I procured my HOLY GRAIL. Not bad, considering it took me over two YEARS to get my hands on Sega Saturn Magazine.
Here are some auction stats.
I was the 13th bid of the auction
The guy I beat out, his maximum was GBP 48.79
My winning bid did not meet her reserve, but she sold it to me for GBP 55
GBP 55 equated, at the time, to roughly US $104.32
My max was GBP 88.88 …. or US $168.11
The 3rd highest bidder had a ridiculously low GBP 24.50 max
Why is the last one important? Had the GBP 48.79 guy NOT come along, I would have won at around GBP 25.50. If that were the case, would the seller have agreed to sell it for GBP 30? Doubt it. Maybe when she saw I won at 50 GBP, instead of relisting it she said “What the hell”and gave it to me for55.
In other words, if it weren’t for the 2nd highest bidder, who knows what would have happen with the reserve thing and all? She might have relisted it and I’d have to play the whole game again! Then maybe the bidders I outbidded would re-adjust their bidding strategy, etc. Lots of crazy scenarios that I’m glad is a moot point!
MORE AUCTION TID-BITS
There were four different bidders in all, me included
13 total bids
Auction went into the last day with zero bids
The 3 guys bidded multiple times in the last 15 hours or so, each outbidding the other
Lucky for me, they didn’t understand the power of smart sniping
12 bids between 3 guys before AuctionStealer input my bid — the 13th bid of the auction
AuctionStealer helped me snipe it with 11 seconds to go, my 1st and only bid
It’s ruthless, but that’s eBay for ya.
I paid Rachel $183.19 the very next day. Shipping surprisingly didn’t come out to cost an arm and leg — she only charged me 40 GBP. 183 dollars for 45 issues, including the hard-to-find 1993 GOLD issue? Not bad at all! Considering I paid $225 for 29 Sega Saturn Magazine issues in late 2003, this was a real bargain. It came out to be only about four dollars an issue (!)
FINAL AUCTION CRAZINESS
Probably the most important thing why the auction ended so cheaply… her auction title was:
SUPER PLAY MAGAZINES ISSUE 1-45 (MISSING ISSUE 9)
I owe lots of thanks to issue 9. Had she own that issue, maybe her title would have been:
SUPER PLAY MAGAZINES ISSUE 1-45 SNES
The “SNES” part would definitely would have led to more auction views and “Hmmm, wow, I didn’t know such a thing existed! I’ll bid and try to win it!” type of mentality. Instead, it was left only to those who were actively typing in “Super Play Magazine” on eBay. Back in 2006, Super Play wasn’t nearly as popular as it would become years later within diehard SNES circles. So, thank you issue number nine
Last but not least… after I shared this story on a message board, one guy actually told me the following…
WOW! Believe it or not, I actually had that auction on my watch list, and I was going to bid an INSANE amount of money on it. It could have gotten UGLY. However, I simply forgot what time it was ending, and I missed out! Though, after reading your incredible tale, I must say I’m glad you won ‘em
Wow! I got so incredibly lucky with this whole shebang that I can’t believe it. It only drives the point home that there are certain “scores” in one’s collecting life that truly stand out, and stand the test of time. For me, the Super Play snag is definitely it.
48 HOURS AFTER THE AUCTION WIN
-AUGUST 19, 2006-
Ironically, James informed me some “bad news” on this day. Reading his message, I was smiling, knowing my willingness to think outside the box made his bad news a moot point.
I’ve got some bad news buddy. I’ve been talking to various couriers (4 different ones up until now) and it is just too expensive to ship these mags to you. The cheapest I can get quoted is £150 which is over $280 dollars and that doesn’t even include insurance!
Even shipping the slowest method (6 to 8 weeks without insurance) is $250.
I just don’t have that sort of money spare at the moment and it is just too much. I’ve tried every combination of normal shipping: by sea, air, specialist courier. I’ve even tried breaking it down to 5 magazine bundles but no joy.
I’m not sure what to do though as I feel bad about this (especially with your patience over this prolonged trade).
Let me know your thoughts. I’m really sorry about this.
Imagine had I lost the auction. Imagine if I was complacent and never bothered to look for them on eBay. Let this be a lesson to all: BE PROACTIVE! Take matters into your own hands rather than sitting idly by.
I excitedly replied to James telling him about my win. This also cancelled our trade… I now had Taromaru to auction! I made $147 off it (the manual was missing the cover thus why it went for so “cheap”). $90 of that went to fund the incredibly rare and expensive Super Famicom import, Rendering Render: R2.
Yet I still wanted to do a trade with James. After all, I had EGM #200 and he had Super Play #9 (the auction was 1-45, but #9 missing). How nicely did that work out! Super Play 9 arrived in late August. It was my first experience of the magazine, and it blew me away. Itwasthe Sega Saturn Magazine equivalent for the SNES. And I could hardly wait to read the rest.
MEANWHILE… TROUBLE BACK ON THE FARM
I hadn’t heard back from Rachel yet… eventually she emailed me, “Sorry I didn’t ship the mags til September 2nd.”
I was a bit peeved. I paid 8/18, she didn’t send til 9/2 and didn’t tell me earlier!? It’ll be here sooner or later, I thought. While her feedback was 100%… the number was only 19. Not exactly the most comforting number in the world. Gotta think positive, though, I kept telling myself.
ONE MONTH LATER — NOTHING TO SHOW FOR
-SEPTEMBER 19, 2006-
Sent her an email. Never got a reply. Another unanswered email, and another, and another. I was starting to fear the worst. Maybe this whole thing was simply too good to be true.
-SEPTEMBER 24, 2006-
I emailed telling her in advance I’d file a dispute with Paypal on 9/30… the last day for me to do so (45-day window from August 17). I told her it was nothing personal, but only wise for anyone in my shoes to do so.
-SEPTEMBER 26, 2006-
She emailed back and understood my position. Said she’ll check with her post office to confirm when the package was shipped. It had been only her 2nd email, and I felt better after this. All I ask for is keeping an open line of communication.
-SEPTEMBER 30, 2006-
No Super Play yet, so I filed the dispute. By October 20 if they do not arrive, I’d be forced to escalate the dispute to a claim, due to the 20 day window period. Silence on Rachel’s end.
ALMOST TWO MONTHS AND NOTHING
-OCTOBER 13, 2006-
I finally hear back from her on this day.
Hi, I have been to the post office and had them look at the records. They say because of an admin issue the mags did not leave there post office until the 19th of sept.
I have gone mad at them and have asked what can be done. They say that nothing can be done because I did not have it tracked.
I have asked them what sort of time are we looking at and they have said 4 to 5 weeks from the sent date which is now the 19th of sept.
So we are looking at the 16th/17th of October which I am very sorry about, as I said I did have a right go at them for this but all they could do was say sorry.
Once again I am so sorry about the delay.
Please let me know on the 16th/17th if you have had the mags.
Thanks in advance.
I was very upset. No tracking number, admin issue, etc. It all spelled doom to me.
Being proactive again I PM’ed James to update him, asking if he’d be willing to send me his friend’s issues, provided I pay the insane $300 something shipping. He said he’d look into it. At this point, I was so desperate to get my hands on a SUPER PLAY set that I didn’t care HOW!
DISPUTE ESCALATED TO A CLAIM
-OCTOBER 20, 2006-
Still no Super Play. On this day I was forced to escalate the dispute into a claim so PayPal could look into it and hopefully refund me $183.
At this point I wasn’t surprised, just frustrated. Though I wanted my money back if worst came to worst — I rammed the fact home with Rachel that I rather have the magazines. “Should they arrive in November or later this month I’d gladly refund you whatever PayPal decides to give me back” I’ve always told her.
KEEPING HOPE ALIVE — WINNING ISSUES 46 AND 47
Also on this day I won off eBay the final two issues of Super Play. Number 46 and 47 — keeping hope alive that Rachel would come through and that I would have a complete set numbers 1-47 including the spinoff Super Play Gold 1993 SNES Guide issue.
What took place four days later… was one for the ages…
-TUESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2006-
I was filling out an application to graduate studies when I heard the mail truck rumbling. I peered out the window. The mail lady got out and went to the back of the truck. I wasn’t expecting ANY OTHER PACKAGE, so I knew THIS HAD TO BE IT!
She rung the door bell. I opened the door faster than a 5-year-old ripping into a present on Christmas morning.
“Can you help me carry this big box? It’s too heavy and I have a bad back,” she said.
It was then and there I knew that the moment… which I waited about nine months for, with so many twists, turns and heartbreaks… had finally come.
Of course, there still had to be a little drama.
It’d only be fitting, you see.
“RECEIVED IN DAMAGED CONDITION”
… was stamped on the box. My heart stopped.
“Wait, it came in damaged condition?”
“I’m sorry, it did. The box was split open. They had to tape it back up, as you can see.”
“Everything is intact, though, right?”
“Oh sure. We can’t take anything…”Her voice trailed off.
And here I’m thinking, “Oh right, sure lady! I’ve heard the horror stories; you don’t gotta play me for a fool!”
But I kept my cool, signed the pink slip and brought the box inside for inspection. How bad was it? I was almost too scared to find out…
Amazingly, everything was intact and in better condition than I thought. The magazines were MINT! No missing pages, no cut-outs; that’s probably the hardest thing to find with old magazines since so many people take such bad care of them. I was lucky, much like with Sega Saturn Magazine, that the previous owner kept them in immaculate condition.
I went to Paypal and happily cancelled the claim. Rachel was honest after all. The box stated it was shipped September 19, as she stated earlier, and not the 2nd.
The nine-plus months of agony had a very happy ending.
Super Play is an awesome magazine. I love retro magazines — I dig the whole archive thing. It’s truly a diehard SNES fan’s companion. Not only is it well written but it focused a ton on the Japanese side of things. They highlighted plenty of Japanese-only games and reviewed even the obscure ones like Syonen Ashibe. At that time (October 2006) I recently started an “Obscure Super Famicom Impressions” thread that was quickly picking up steam and growing in popularity. I thought I was doing something not many before me did — shining the spotlight on all these lesser known Super Famicom imports. So it blew my mind to see Super Play had done it 13 years before (1993).
LIFE IS ALL ABOUT TIMING…
After sharing my story on a gaming forum, one guy posted he was watching the same auction. He was going to bid an astronomical amount but he simply forgot what time it ended! Had he remembered, this “Holy Grail” might not even be in my collection today, or at the very least, I would have paid a LOT more. It made me appreciate my Super Play win even more. So much of life is being in the right place at the right time!
ON THE HOUSE???
The funny thing is, people ask me when the box arrived what did the postage state. The reason they asked was they didn’t understand how Rachel charged 40 GBP when James claimed it would be far too expensive to ship, at around US $280… so a few folks mentioned, “It doesn’t quite add up.”
She charged me only 40 GBP for shipping, so 55 (winning bid) plus 40 (S&H on her terms) was 95 GBP total, or about $183.19 US at the time. Well… I checked the box after people asked me what the shipping really was… it was….
So I guess she only made 9 GBP profit? Wow. She never asked me to repay her or even brought it up. I guess after all the drama I went through, it was on the house.
I’m a proud owner of the complete SUPER PLAY legacy. I consider this a personal Holy Grail in many ways. I can’t believe what this blasted publication made me endure, but honestly, in the end it was all worth it. It’s an incredible magazine I’m lucky enough to have acquired for so cheap and in such mint condition. Being a diehard SNES fan, this is easily the crowned jewel of my collection. I love my game collection, sure, but man, there’s nothing quite like SUPER PLAY. One of my favorite things to do is to pick a game off my shelf, play it for the very first time, form my own impressions and THEN check out what the ole Super Play boys thought of said game. I love comparing my thoughts to that of theirs — it’s all part of the fun.
As for James, we haven’t spoke since late October 2006. In 2007, the Sega board we used to post at went under some changes and I don’t think he even re-registered. He was slipping away toward the end of the old board anyway. The last word he had with me, he congratulated me on finally receiving the magazines. Wherever he is out there, I hope he’s doing well.
As for Rachel, after I cancelled the claim I left her positive feedback. Likewise. She apologized and told me the magazines belonged to her husband of many years. He obviously took very excellent care of them which I greatly appreciate.
It blows my mind that I’m coming up on the 10 year anniversary since these issues arrived — October 24, 2016. I look back with a real deep fondness. I remember reading all 48 Super Play issues cover to cover from Halloween through Christmas that year of 2006. It was a truly glorious time and I’m very nostalgic looking back at that time. It also coincided with my ongoing Obscure Super Famicom Impressions topic that I posted at several gaming boards, which led to the birth or RVGFanatic.com in January of 2007. It’s nuts to think it’s almost been 10 bloody years. Super Play Magazine has obviously grown in popularity and stature since 2006. It’s no longer obscure like it once was, and as time goes on, it becomes harder and harder to find these vintage issues for a relatively good price and in solid condition. It makes me all the more grateful for such an epic eBay win nearly 10 years ago.
10 years later and I still occasionally read Super Play from time to time. I especially like to read them in the late Fall and early Winter seasons, as it takes me right back to late 2006 each and every single time. Shoot, all this talk of Super Play makes me want to delve right back in. Excuse me — I’ve got some reading to do now…
By September 1995, the SNES was quickly entering the final stages of its life. Although game quality was at an all-time high in terms of what companies could now do with the system, it’s a given that every 4-5 years the new wave of next gen gaming takes over, and the older models quietly fade out in the background. This however did not stop the unlikely conversion of PC smash hit, DOOM. And on the first of September 1995, SNES owners had their own version of Doomsday.
MY MEMORIES OF DOOM 1993-PRESENT
I consider the early-mid 1990s as a very special time. Not only was I in the thick of my childhood, but those years cranked out some of the most iconic and groundbreaking video games around. While the whole Street Fighter II craze was sweeping the nation, in December 1993 a little violent game by the name of DOOM came out and took the nation by storm. Playing as a marine battling a horde of zombie soldiers and demons, Doom was the most intense action game of its day. It made your heart beat a little faster. Palms perspired. Those growls you hear around the corner… that ammo count dipping dangerously low… Doom produced an adrenaline kick like no other. Who could ever forget the first time you experienced Doom? It’s one of those things that you carry with you for life. Kind of like the first time you came across a Playboy Magazine. Doom was a transcendent gaming experience that turned boys into men and soiled more than a few underwears over 20 years ago. It is revered fondly for a good reason.
December 1994. One year after the epic release of Doom, we were given the sequel, Doom II. It was only a matter of time. While the clones rushed in and out the door (and backdoor, for that matter), the original king stood mighty, proud and tall and victorious over all comers. But now it was time for round two. A game with more weapons, monsters and mayhem. It did not disappoint! Doom II was a worthy sequel indeed and although my brother and I didn’t own it, we definitely found ways to experience it. Because it was simply something you just had to. No ifs, ands or buts here. Doom II was the SHIT.
How badass was Doom II? So badass that I put it on my 7th grade “All About Me” poster. I somehow found this pic here on a computer store ad, mighta been Comp USA (damn there goes a name from the past) or Fry’s Electronic. Cut it out and pasted it on my poster to show the whole 7th grade world. At that time gaming wasn’t considered cool, much. But not Doom II. Doom II broke barriers. You were proud to declare to the entire universe of its greatness. Keep in mind gaming in 1995 was a lot less mainstream and “accepted” than it is in today’s society.
A few weeks before Doom II came out, my world changed forever. It was mid-November 1994. It was a cold and dreary, foggy Monday morning. I remember the fog being so thick I could barely see past my first neighbor’s house. I was walking to school with my good old best friend Nelson, and it was another week in the ol’ neighborhood. Little did I know, leaving my house that morning, that when I would return later that day, my innocence would be lost, ripped and shattered.
2:25 PM. The school bell rang and Nelson and I rushed out. We walked home laughing and talking up a storm, crunching the autumn leaves on the gavel beneath our shoes. We got to the fork where he went left and I went right. We bid farewell and I vividly remember to this very day how much I couldn’t wait to get home from school just so I could play Doom for the 1,000th time. Shoot, I was already daydreaming about firing the rocket launcher on the two Barons of Hell on the Phobos Anomaly map. Nothing was better than coming home from a long school day, tossing your backpack off, and wading over to the computer room where your most favorite video games resided. And I was deep in the middle of my daydreaming when I turned the corner and had the wind knocked out of me. There my house lied in the distance, with a police car parked in the driveway, and two policemen conversing with my mom. I ran over and my mom quickly embraced me, hugging me harder than she ever had in years, with tears streaming down her face. My eyes widened in terror when I looked straight ahead from the driveway, saw the front door wide open, and realized the mess that laid before us. We were robbed. They took nearly everything, including the computer and Doom. That day I didn’t just lose material things. That day I lost a large chunk of my innocence
September 1995. As some readers may recall from my Memories of Renting article, back in the day I did 90-95% of the game renting, and most of those times that I did, I was forced by my older brother to rent the titles HE liked. Well, in September of ’95 my bro surprised me one weekend when he left the house and came back with SNES Doom. He thought I would be happy but I was actually pissed. Seeing it, although it did have a cool red shell case, only reminded me of that fateful day where I lost my innocence. After playing it I was DISGUSTED with it. I couldn’t help but constantly compare it to its PC original. And under those given circumstances, I hated the SNES version with a burning passion. So much that I vehemently refused to play it for the rest of the weekend that we had the rental copy. My bro never mentioned it, but I think he was a little hurt by it. He made a nice gesture, but instead of gratitude I showed him contempt and annoyance. And that was the last game I can ever recall him renting for me…
December 14, 1996. Two full years after the initial release of Doom II, my dad took me to Staples one night. Yeah, some dads take their kids to Disneyland. Other parents take their kids to Universal Studios. Mine took me to friggin’ Staples. Hey, I’ll give the old man credit. Because on this night I saw a deal that blew my mind. There it was, Doom II, for only $4.97. I rubbed my eyes not once, not twice but trice. I thought maybe there was a 2 in front, or at least, surely a 1. But just $4.97?!?! I grabbed the box, flipped it over and read front and back 10 times over. Was this shareware? Was this April Fools? No, you fool, I thought to myself. It’s December 14, damnit. Holy shit. It was the real deal AND for a real deal. I snatched it up quicker than OJ Simpson driving away in his Bronco, and of course, at less than the cost of a #1 Big Mac combo meal, there was no way my pops could deny me this one. Maybe the old man knew. My brother and I always wanted Doom II two years ago, but we never got it. Now we were vindicated. When I got home and my bro saw the receipt, he just about fell over. I have kept the receipt all these years later. Thing of beauty when an awesome deal drops unexpectedly into your lap. Look at that up there. “YOU SAVED $25.02″ — damn sick! $5.36 for Doom II in 1996? Hey, it happened. Moral of the story… screw Disneyland. Next time I’m taking my kids to motherfukken STAPLES, bitch.
In 1999, after being out of the gaming scene for a year or two, I came back STRONG with the Sega Saturn (check out the previous blog post if you don’t believe me). But it wasn’t until 2001 that I became a diehard Saturn fanatic. I amassed a huge collection, and by 2005 was pretty much done with my collecting. Then I took a chance on the Japanese version of Saturn Doom, seeing as how it was released months AFTER the US reject. I was hoping that maybe, just maybe, the frame rate on the Japanese version would be improved. And it was! I recall fondly making usenet posts way back in the day (late ’90s to mid 2000s) on the old rec.video.sega newsgroup, spreading the news that the Japanese version was superior. Hell, I even created a YouTube account way back in December 2005 (yeah, when YouTube was just in its infancy) just to show off how improved the Japanese version’s frame rate was, compared to the lame version we received in the US. It was a discovery that no one had spoken of on the internet yet, and it felt like I was breaking some news there. I love the feeling of spreading obscure gaming knowledge. Man, those were the days… it’s amazing how different the internet has become in the last 10 years, but I digress.
On January 17, 2006, I returned to the SNES scene. I was a man on a mission. I was now a young adult longing for my childhood and to discover “new” gems I missed out on. I bought most of my wanted games in 2006; Doom was never on the original want list. I had some… ahem… sour memories of it you understand, and so never wanted to give it another shot. But finally, in 2010, I said what the hell. It’s time to face old demons [Well played for once -Ed.] and see what’s what. So I bought Doom, replayed it and did so this time with a clear open mind. And I was surprised to find out that I actually enjoyed it a good bit. I had a few four hour marathons with it where I tried my damndest to beat all of the 22 levels in one sitting (because they gave you no other choice). I’ll be damned. My opinion of SNES Doom did a complete 180. Taking it for what it is, I can’t help but marvel a bit at the fact that it’s even up and running on my Super Nintendo. It captures the essence and spirit of the original Doom pretty damn nicely, and that’s the bottom line. In many ways, I felt like I had come full circle with not only the SNES but with Doom as well.
Thankfully, by late 1995 the SNES’ kid friendly mantra of no blood had shifted. Games like Mortal Kombat II, released about one year prior, broke the mold. Doom without its grisly gore just wouldn’t be the same. The SNES port keeps the bloody mayhem intact at the very least. Because when you think of Doom, you instantly think of the carnage. Oh and…
FORMER SOLDIER: At one time you swapped war stories with this guy. Now he’s nothing more than a rotting, pistol-toting maggot. So waste this sucker without remorse. He stopped being your buddy a long time ago…
FORMER SERGEANT: Similar to above, but with more piss and vinegar. Packing a heavy duty shotgun, you best take these bald baddies out fast or they’ll do more than pelt you. Aim carefully, because if you miss that means you’re likely eating some damage. You need every last health point!
IMP: When you think of imps, you might think of a small hideously cute thing that is sneaky and mischievous. Think again! This bastard heaves fireballs down your throat and will claw the hell out of you up close. It’s time to find a shotgun.
DEMON: Yes, finally, an enemy with no long range weapon. That’s the good news. The bad news? It moves faster than you might think, and if it bites you, it’s gonna HURT. A LOT. The chainsaw works well on these bad boy, and saves the ammo.
CACODEMON: This big red bastard takes a lot of bullets to go down. It’s time to upgrade from the shotgun if you haven’t already. Cacodemons make a loud, nasty screech when they first see you or hear of your presence. They launch fireballs that pack a more potent punch than the imp’s. A chaingun works well since the rapid firing bullets prevent this vile creature from sprouting fireballs off at your head.
LOST SOUL: Maybe the Doom makers were fans of Ghost Rider? It flies around. It screams. It scorches. And it dies with a few well-placed shotgun shells.
BARON OF HELL: Ah, here’s the man. Er, demon, rather, I suppose. Deman? Sorry. I can write and reminisce about this goat-legged horned menace all day long. His debut at the end of Episode 1 has got to rank in the top 10 of all time as far as boss entrances go. It’s an image that has been burned into my retina for over 20 years now. There was nothing like staring at the two pods knowing hell is coming.
CYBERDEMON: Remember the first time you ever laid eyes on this bastard? You thought the Barons of Hell were bad news. This guy is basically death on two legs. From his heavy stomps to his lightning-quick rockets coming straight for your head, the Cyberdemon is the stuff nightmares are made of. Before Resident Evil had the Tyrant, Doom had the Cyberdemon. He was a hulking weapon of mass destruction. ProTip: Shoot ’til it dies.
THE SPIDER MASTERMIND: Ever since I was a kid, I hated spiders. Just hate the buggers. They make my skin crawl. So when I first came across the Spider Mastermind, I probably screamed like a little girl [I have no doubt you did -Ed.]. Thank goodness for small favors — at least ol’ Spidey wields a chaingun and not the plasma gun. That’s one big motherfukken spider, indeed.
With such deadly demons and maniacal monsters milling about the hellhole, you’re going to need more than quick feet and wit to survive this apocalypse. You’re gonna need top-of-the-line artillery to give you even a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning. Which brings us to…
You start the game out with your fist and a standard military-issue pistol. You better find some upgrades quickly or you’ll become dinner even quicker!
CHAINSAW: Anyone who has ever seen the Texas Chainsaw Massacre will smile at the inclusion of this death instrument. Perfect for confined areas, the chainsaw will bring out the Leatherface in you. The only bad thing is it doesn’t actually slice demons in two. Guess you can’t have it all.
SHOTGUN: One of the most iconic and memorable weapons in video gaming history. Blowing away zombie soldiers and imps with the shotgun was immensely satisfying. From the sound effect to the reloading animation, the shotgun delivers the good.
CHAINGUN: Take your pistol’s puny bullets, and pump them out rapid fire, and suddenly you’ve got a formidable weapon of choice. Pull the trigger and watch the monsters of Hell do one hell of a dance number.
ROCKET LAUNCHER: Pure destruction. A specialty weapon in every respect of the word, this can either make your day, or make your grave. Few things rival the sheer joy of watching demons explode into a quivering bloody mess. Just make sure you’re not standing nearby!
PLASMA GUN: The “perfect” weapon. The plasma gun has it all: speed, strength and style. As an added bonus, it’s just strong enough to potentially blow the weaker enemies into tiny bloody bits — making this the preferred weapon of Doom 90% of the time.
THE BFG 9000: Here is the mother of all shooting game guns.. the BIG FUCKIN’ GUN. Excuse my language, but with a weapon this destructive, it simply cannot be censored or contained. It eats up a lot of ammo, but fire this baby and admire how it can take out an entire room of demons. Besides, any gun that can kill a Baron of Hell in one shot is definitely badass.
KNEE-DEEP IN THE DEAD
THE SHORES OF HELL
“I THINK I’M TURNING JAPANESE, I REALLY THINK SO!”
Years ago I happened to wonder whether the Japanese version of SNES Doom was any different than its US counterpart. The reasons being twofold. Number one: I recall fondly discovering that the Japanese version of Sega Saturn Doom was released later than its US version and had an improved frame rate. What really hampers SNES Doom in my opinion is the complete lack of a password or save system. At least Wolfenstein 3D gave us passwords level to level. That increases the likelihood that I’ll tinker with a game long after I’ve finished it. It’s always fun to go back to a random level and muck around, after all. Well, SNES Doom afforded you no such luxury. You had to beat the game in one sitting. All 22 levels. That’s a 3-5 hour task for most. It’s just too much. So when I found out the Japanese version of SNES Doom was released in March 1996, a full six months after the US release, I became real curious. Scouring the net for information, I read that the Japanese version does indeed have some noteworthy differences compared to the American version — making the Japanese version superior. Unfortunately, the frame rate remains much the same, but there were still some pretty cool differences. Here, let’s take a closer look at the two versions.
In a nutshell, the main difference between the Japanese and North American version is that the NA port restricts which episode you can start off in. Sure, you can start off in The Shores of Hell or Inferno on the NA port, but the game punishes you by forcing you to select Ultra Violence or Nightmare. And since you start off an episode with only your bare hands and a pistol, it’s essentially a suicide mission. You might as well forget about even trying.
The Japanese version, on the other hand, allows you to start on the last episode even on the easiest difficulty level (I’m Too Young To Die). Although it’s still lacking a save or password system, at least it helps to SOMEWHAT mitigate this glaring flaw of having to beat all 22 levels in one sitting. For this fact alone, the Japanese version is the one to get for diehard SNES fans who simply must have Doom in their 16-bit game library.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
PC Doom needs no backing. Its place in gaming history has long been cemented, and it’ll be fondly remembered long after all of us are gone. But how did the Super Nintendo port fare? For the most part, people either backed it or they hated it. Gamers either cited the port as an incredible 16-bit effort and a small miracle, or bashed it, questioning the reasoning behind even bringing this over to the SNES as late in its lifespan as it did. EGM was in the latter camp, as they gave it mediocre scores of 5, 5, 5.5, and 6. GameFan was plenty more generous and impressed, rating it 89, 92 and 95%. Super Play Magazine scored it 92%and ranked it as the 17th best SNES game in their Top 100 Best SNES Games list. SNES Doom was one of those love or hate affairs. You either get it for what it is, or hate it for what it isn’t.
As I sit here thinking of the times I’ve had with DOOM over the years, both good and bad, I can’t help but just smile. Doomblazed an amazing trail. It was the first game that really made me feel like I was the character himself. It was an intense, gripping and unrivaled experience. Doom always had me on the edge of my seat. The SNES version is one that I have grown to appreciate and genuinely like as time has gone on. When I first played it in ’95 I thought it was a steaming pile of horse crap. But when I revisited it years later as a young adult, I realized it’s no small programming feat, and when viewed entirely on its own, it’s actually quite good. It captures the spirit and essence of Doom nicely, and that’s what ultimately matters. Graphics took a hit, naturally, but are still serviceable. On the bright side, the music is stellar! It really adds to the tense atmosphere of the game.
Other than the annoying few instances where you creep along a wall and get “stuck” to it, the game plays surprisingly well. It’s by no means the definitive version of Doom, but for the SNES it’s impressive. There seems to be two camps: those who enjoy SNES Doom, and those who hate it. It depends on whether you look at it for what it is, or if you look at it for what it isn’t. When I first played the SNES version in 1995, I was looking at everything it wasn’t, compared to the original PC king. But when I replayed it some 15 years later, I did so consciously from a posture of “Let’s see what it does do well rather than what it doesn’t.” And I found myself pleasantly surprised when approaching it from that angle. While I still prefer the SNES port of Wolfenstein 3D (it plays a bit more smoothly), I genuinely feel that this port of Doom doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Although I understand where the critics are coming from, I like to view it from this perspective: is Doom a quality Super Nintendo game or not? My answer to that is a resounding yes. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go blast some demon ass to Kingdom Come!
Today marks the 21st birthday of the Sega Saturn in North America. Insert obligatory “time flies” and “wow where does the time go?” comments here. I have a long and fond history with Sega’s 32-bit beast. It’s my second favorite system of all time (you can probably guess which system is #1 in my heart) and I credit the Sega Saturn as the first system that truly made me a diehard gamer-collector. Being that we toast to the Sega Saturn’s 21st today, I can’t think of a better time than now to share with you how I fell in love with the Saturn, and what it meant to me over the years. This is… my Sega Saturn saga.
A QUICK NOTE BEFORE WE PROCEED
If it weren’t for the Saturn, I probably wouldn’t be into video games today. Although I grew up loving the NES, Genesis and Super Nintendo, it wasn’t until my time with the Sega Saturn that I came to appreciate games on a ‘deeper’ level. Of course, age maturation factored in, too. Unknowingly, the Saturn turned out to be my first voyage into “diehard” gaming pastures. It all started innocently enough before morphing into a savage monster. Sit back a while, young lad, and listen to the tale of the elders.
FLASHBACK TO 1998
My brother and I had a PlayStation in the late ’90s. Sure, I played and liked it reasonably, but my passion for gaming was slowly and surely slipping away around 1998. By the tail end of that year I was barely playing video games at all. The PlayStation did not appeal to me in the way the NES, Genesis or SNES had. I was on the brink of losing interest in gaming altogether.
That’s when fate decided to step in.
At that time my bro was going through his e-fed fad. An e-fed is a group of folks who role play their own wrestling persona and the booker pits the wrestlers against one another, with the victor being decided by who wrote the better promo. The e-fed community was buzzing at that time about a wrestling game available only on the Japanese Saturn… FIRE PRO WRESTLING: SIX MEN SCRAMBLE.
Just like in the old days when my bro made me do all the dirty work renting his video games, he ordered me to find a Saturn for cheap. Of course, his motivation was Fire Pro. But I had my own: WORLD HEROES PERFECT. I remember seeing the little preview in an EGM issue a couple years back, thinking how cool it would be to own a copy but because it was a Saturn game, and an import no less, I thought I never would. But what was once seemingly a far-fetched fantasy was quickly morphing into reality!
Here’s the EGM issue I can thank, or blame, for that unconscious desire to one day, somehow, own a copy of World Heroes Perfect. My bro subscribed to EGM in ’96 and I remember seeing Perfect featured in a quick half-page preview in the back of the August ’96 issue. I was indifferent toward the Saturn at the time, and my bro, who made all the game system purchasing decisions, was totally anti-Saturn. So I knew I could pretty much kiss any realistic thought of owning Perfect goodbye. Still, when you’re 13, there’s a certain robust shimmer of hope that nobody can ever deny you, and that includes older brothers who are in charge of, well, everything.
For years the thought and hopes of owning this import title laid dormant in my mind. Until, that is, one frosty winter evening of 1998. My bro literally charged at me and commanded me to go find a Saturn on the cheap. At that precise moment of shock it hit me… I can finally soon play, and own, World Heroes Perfect! *maniacal laughter*
Really, were it not for Fire Pro and my brother’s burning desire to own a copy back in the winter of ’98, I probably wouldn’t be into games today. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, or a bad thing!
We each had our own reasons to get a Saturn. And thus, the search was on!
HOOK ME UP, BRO
On a cold December night of 1998, my dad drove me to a local import store that promised to find any game in Japan your heart desired for the low deposit price of $14.99. I fondly remember rushing in that tiny, long strip of a mom and pop store, shoving the EGM issue in the guy’s face and saying, almost out of breath, “Put me down for this game!” “World… Heroes… Perfect-uh,” the clerk said in a thick Japanese accent. “What’s that?”
My jaw dropped ten meters. This fool never heard of these games before?! “Very old Street Fighter II wannabe,” I told him, pointing to the half-page preview. “Can you find it for me?”
“Hmmm,” he pondered, scratching his chin. “I am sure so. Our search and locate skills are the best. I just need one thing from you.”
“Fourteen ninety-nine,” he said, a small grin crossing his face as he held out his hand.
I glanced over at my dad and just like the good old days, once again like he had done so many times before, he whipped out his wallet and made the magic happen.
I watched intensely as the clerk jotted down my information — name, number, title of wanted game, all that — before asking him excitedly and optimistically, “So, when can I expect to pick it up?” There was a momentary pause. “Oh, well, there’s a, uhhh, slight chance we might not be able to find it…” his voice trailed off.
So much for best search and locate skills eh?
“But don’t worry,” he assured. “We usually have success. If not, you get your full fifteen dollars back.”
While my dad paid, I stared at the Sonic Adventure demo running in the corner. It drew a hearty crowd, but I found myself only thinking of one game that fine evening. While everyone and their brother were eagerly huddled by the Japanese Dreamcast console, with its late ’90s newfangled technology, I was just barely getting started on the Saturn!
That night as my dad and I walked out of the small import shop sandwiched between a bakery and knick-knack store, I remember soaking in the energy of the night. In less than one month hopefully, I will finally be playing me some World Heroes Perfect! For the first time ever… BOO-YAH!
Only a month or two at the most, right? Right…
PUTTING THE FUN INTO FUNCOLAND
In January 1999, my dad and I entered a FUNCOLAND. Moments later, we walked out with a used Saturn for the low price of $39.99. Cradling the box against my chest as though it were Frankenstein’s heart, I walked out of the store feeling a jolt of adrenaline rushing through every fiber of my body. I just bought a Saturn. A whole new gaming world to explore… hell yeah!
THE HUNT CONTINUES
Meanwhile, no sign of either Perfect or Fire Pro. My bro sent our newly acquired Saturn off to NCSX for the modification job. Weeks later, my dad and I stopped by the import shop to inquire about the status of WHP. The clerk apologized, saying his men could not locate a copy over in Japan. Oh, the high walking in hoping for the best, and the low of having your bubble burst with a ten ton hammer of denial. Hey, at least my dad got back his $14.99, eh?
Then came the beautiful glow of that little thing known as… the internet. I posted on a SEGA newsgroup stating my desire to buy World Heroes Perfect. I received a response from a guy named “Azaziel” or something other. He was willing to sell his complete copy for $25. It was the very first video game internet transaction of my life (of what would end up totaling 1,000+…)
It all started with a newsgroup dealing… no feedback, no pics. I wasn’t so shrewd back then as I am now [HA! -Ed.], so I didn’t bother asking for those things you see. Really, I relied solely on my gut. Total blind faith. Something told me this would end well. Hell, I even sent cash through the mail. A crisp 20 and a fiver inside a VHS cover. Hey, I was 15 and dumb, OK?
A week later, World Heroes Perfect arrived in the mail. I’ll never forget that day. What a high seeing the package sitting pretty in my mailbox! Unfortunately, when NCSX sent our Saturn back there was an error that prevented us from playing World Heroes Perfect. Before my bro could ever send the Saturn back for repairs, there was a slight… snafu…
WHERE’S A HERO WHEN YA NEED ONE?
That same month we were robbed. It’s horrifying to come home only to find your back window smashed, muddy footprints all over the carpet and the house a former shell of its past glory. The computer, my mom’s jewelry, and all our game systems, including the Saturn — were gone. All the cabinets were left open… like the scene out of POLTERGEIST! I scrambled onto a chair to check if the thieves found World Heroes Perfect or not. It was the only game I kept in a special separate section. Remarkably, there the game sat, on the middle shelf, atop a small red dictionary. All our games were stolen. Except for one. The lone consolation prize in what was a horrific day. I realized then and there, it had to be fate. The tables turned, and now it was *me* who wanted the Saturn most of all, rather than my brother. If this terrible experience taught me anything, besides the fact that being robbed sucks the big one, it was that nothing could get in the way between me and my mission of at long last playing World Heroes Perfect. Damnit, by hook or crook, pardon the pun, I was going to play the bloody game.
FuncoLand didn’t get in another Saturn until May 1999. When they did, I jumped on it. My bro once again sent the system to NCSX for modification. OK… round 2, here we go!
Meanwhile, I browsed through the game’s color manual several (dozen) times in anticipation. Hey, I waited this long. A few more weeks won’t hurt…
A PERFECT DAY
On a calm May day in 1999, after the UPS man dropped off our modded Saturn on our porch, all systems were go. Damn I’ll never forget the excitement rushing through my body as the Saturn logo fired up for the very first time. Not to mention those cheesy but memorable ADK tunes blaring in my living room, like it was 1993 all over again! The long wait was at last over. Vindication was finally mine.
Later that summer I frantically searched online for a copy of Fighter’s History Dynamite. I loved Fighter’s History (arcade, SNES) back in the day, so when I discovered the ‘sequel’ had hit the Sega Saturn, I was all over that like a fat boy on cake. Like Perfect, it proved hard to find but I searched high and low, determined to track down a copy.
Note: The text in that picture was originally written in May of 2008. Today, May 11, 2016, it’s close to 17 (!) years now.
It took a while to finally arrive, but arrive in fashion it did. Tearing the envelope open, a card fell out… I made THEIR day? More like they had made mine!
GameWorld was a small chain of Texas-based game stores. I’m pretty sure they’re long defunct by now. I ran into a few gamers online over the years who worked for them and had some pretty interesting tales too…
I still remember the moment vividly when the game arrived. It was an early summer afternoon, 4th of July, 1999, ironically exactly two years on the dot since the Saturn port’s release (4th of July, 1997). At around 1 the UPS man knocked on my door. I popped the game in my Saturn and nearly cried tears of joy as adrenaline overtook my every being. I now owned two Saturn games and not just any two, but two dear childhood favorites whose sequels I had yet to play. Almost too good to be true, and for me, a slice of gaming heaven. Would you believe that for the next two years, I lived off just World Heroes Perfect and Fighter’s History Dynamite? True story. That either makes me nuts or just plain freakin’ sad. Probably both.
An appropriate release date in a pretty obvious way, but also a surprising one in another way. It’s fitting for a game with DYNAMITE to be released on the 4th of July. And how ironic that it arrived on the 4th of July — two years after its release. It’s scary how these unplanned things happen. [Tell me and the wifey about it! -Ed.]. The surprising thing about this release though is that the arcade came out in early-mid ’94, so why even bother porting over such an “old” game by 4th of July, 1997? And it’s not like this game lit up the arcade scene back in 1994! It remains something of a mystery. But hey, I surely wasn’t complaining! I was just happy to own both World Heroes Perfect and Fighter’s History Dynamite. Two games from two of my most beloved series growing up… all mine to play at any time I want… it was almost too good to be true!
WELCOME TO PLANET SEGA SATURN
My gaming life, so to speak, all changed in January 2001. For two years, I lived off Perfect and Dynamite. I probably played one or the other once a week or so. I never really thought of expanding my Saturn horizons, as odd as that may seem. I was, pardon the pun, perfectly content with World Heroes Perfect and Fighter’s History Dynamite. I’m set for life, right?
That all changed one night in January of 2001.
At my buddy’s house to study for a HUGE physics exam, I saw a Saturn lying on the ground. I nearly fell over. Remember, the PlayStation was all the rage back then, and by 2001 the Saturn was a long, LONG afterthought.
“Hey — you’re the first person I know who has one too,” I said, pointing to his Saturn. I tried to sound as casual as I could about it. After all, it wasn’t too cool to be pro-Saturn in the year 2001. Still, I probably didn’t do a very good job of that, as it WAS quite cool to see someone else owning a Saturn in the year 2001.
“Oh yeah? I haven’t touched the thing in years.”
What’s this? I noticed Street Fighter Alpha 2 and Bust-A-Move 2 beside the system, both games looking pretty in their big bulky cases… seeing them triggered something inside of me that I thought was long dead. Suddenly, I felt very excited about games again… beyond just the two fighting games I had at that point.
“I still play my Saturn,” I managed to bravely admit. “Though it’s been a while.” It was true. It had been months since I played Perfect or Dynamite. Love them as I did, two years is a long time to play JUST two games.
“If you want some of the games, go ahead. Take some. It’s cool.”
I nearly fell over. “I can’t do that, man.”
“No, go for it. Really. I don’t play them anymore. Plus I never even bought any of them to begin with.”
“I can’t, really, but thanks…”
“… I’ll just take these two,” I said quickly as the moment overtook me. I lured Street Fighter Alpha 2 and Bust-A-Move 2 out of the pile. I remember seeing BUG! but not giving a damn whatsoever about it. I just wanted some Street Fighter and BAM 2 action!
The rest of the study session I found it difficult to focus on atoms or Murphy’s Law, and who could blame me. The moment of truth arrived when I came home and fired the games up, one by one. I cheered for every successful Dragon Punch, and I cringed for every “NO! I AIMED THE FREAKIN’ BUBBLE THERE, NOT THERE!” moment.
Street Fighter Alpha 2 in particular blew me away. It played so smoothly and had just the right amount of style and substance. Playing Bust-A-Move 2 was like being back at an arcade hall, plopping a quarter into a simple but delightful puzzler to tide me over until the lines for the latest fighting game died down a bit… ahh, good times.
It was an unbelievable arcade-like experience I had that fine evening. It made me think about what other gems this system has to offer…
As they say, the rest is history.
FUNCOLAND STRIKES AGAIN, NOT BACK
Back in the mid ’90s there used to be a chain of stores across the land known as FuncoLand. It sold mostly used games. You could play games there, and many systems were featured. You could trade in games. Many gamers have varying opinions and memories of FuncoLand, but it’s mostly always been pretty good to me, so I can’t complain too much. My theory was simple: Bring $20, browse for 10 minutes to see if there’s anything worth grabbing, and then get the hell out.
The very next month, February 2001, I was driving to Uncle Jimmy’s house to visit him and my cousin David when I saw FuncoLand’s big bright, colorful, neon sign calling out to me in the dark of the night. I remember being awed by their large luminous sign and being ecstatic about what Sega Saturn gems I might find inside. There I saw World Series Baseball II for just $3.99 and Galactic Attack for $4.99, both disc only. I didn’t hesitate to pluck both of them.
There was also Quake and Fighters Megamix for $9.99 each but I passed (disc only). The clerk gave me a bewildered look when he saw me bringing World Series Baseball II and Galactic Attack to the counter.
“You still playing the Saturn?”
“No… kinda just starting in a way,” I said with a little grin.
He looked at me like I was crazy. And maybe I was… but damnit, if I was crazy, I was gonna have a good time.
Now I had six games in my collection. My library tripled in two short weeks prior to the two years I owned only Perfect and Dynamite! I couldn’t wait to try out Galactic Attack and World Series Baseball II. The sense of thrill of adding more quality titles to the ole collection became an addiction in every respect of the word.
Leaving my newly acquired Saturn games in my glove compartment, I made my way to my uncle’s house. They had to make a run at the grocery store. Told me I could join them or stay back and surf the net.
I stayed back. On that chilly February night of 2001, I searched for info (read: reviews) on my two new Saturn acquisitions. I’ll never forget the moment that evening when I stumbled upon . . .
My God — hundreds of user reviews! US and Japanese game reviews. The freakin’ works! I was absolutely floored by what they had on offer. I read through all the World Series Baseball II and Galactic Attack reviews until my cousins came back. It thrilled me to read all the good things the reviewers had to say about those two games. Over the years, I frequently referred back to the reviews found on sega-saturn dot com, either before purchasing a game, or just after playing it. Usually it was the latter; reading what others thought of certain games and then comparing that to how I felt was all part of the fun of buying and playing all the Saturn games that I did… and MAN was it a lot of fun.
I’ve definitely read one too many JM Vargas and Dark Falcon reviews! Those guys effin’ rock. Wherever you two are out there in the vastness of cyberspace, I salute y’all. Goes to show you how voice in reviews can go a long way to leaving lasting impressions. Some odd 15 years later, I still remember JM Vargas and Dark Falcon fondly, as well as their friendly ribbing and in-review in-jokes tossed at one another. Good times. You felt as if you knew them. Perhaps the best compliment a writer can ever hope to receive.
My 15 minutes of fame came when I wrote a review for Sega-Saturn.com myself on February 23, 2001. Can you guess which game?
I was so moved by seeing all the Saturn reviews on the site that I knew I wanted to contribute some of my own. Besides, there was one review of Perfect already up and I felt the guy (fastguy, to be precise) did it wrong. I had to get my viewpoint out there. Looking back, I’m proud to have been a small part of that awesome site. I keep waiting for a successor, but year after year I always find myself disappointed. There may never be another Saturn fansite quite like it.
I also submitted one for Fighter’s History Dynamite the very next day as well (February 24, 2001). Those two reviews that I wrote were actually among the final four or so that was ever published by the site. Seeing my two reviews go up live that Saturday evening, I felt so excited and proud. The reviewing craze was born! Yes, before the days of YouTube, people used to write gaming reviews. Nuts, I know!
SO, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO FIRE PRO?
Ah, I’m glad you asked. Funnily enough, I never did buy a copy for my brother. And the reason was he no longer wanted it. His same wrestling e-fed group was now raving about the PlayStation version, Fire Pro G. My bro focused on that instead since he was always a PlayStation guy at heart. Go figure!
We played the shit outta Fire Pro G. I loved it as much as he did. AWESOME game. But I owe a lot to Six Men Scramble. Were it not for this game, I probably never would have pursued a Saturn, and I probably would have lost touch with video gaming altogether. Seriously. Yet because of this one game, I went on to have six WONDERFUL years with the Saturn. In 2003 I went ahead and bought a copy for myself. It only felt right.
In late ’98 X-Men vs. Street Fighter was ALL the rage. I remember it being talked about in hushed tones. There were really two Saturn imports making a ton of noise online at that time. This and…
I have not played Saturn World Heroes Perfect or Fighter’s History Dynamite for a good number of years now. Not because I don’t want to, but because there’s still so much SNES goodness I want to experience. But, I know there will come a day where that itch will come calling. And I shall answer and scratch. From two Saturn games owned, to eventually, around 350, I have had quite the experience with the Sega Saturn. It’s my second favorite system of all time, and it’s the reason why I’m here now, probably.
A part of me still can’t believe this twist of fate: I started out loving World Heroes and Fighter’s History in the arcade and later the SNES, but never got to play the last game in each series until 1999 with the Saturn. That was around the same time my brother and I donated our SNES to our cousin, David. Many years later, 2006 to be precise, I got back into the SNES, bought copies of the originals, and to this day still love playing any one of them. It feels like I’ve come full circle with this hobby in a way.
With the Sega Saturn turning 21 here in the States today, as FOB once sang, thanks for the memories. While I’ll never view the Saturn with quite the same awe as I did those six years from 1999-2005, it’ll always have a special spot in my gaming heart. Long live the Sega Saturn!
There’s something special about the earliest SNES titles. That first wave of first generation games… games in which developers dipped their toes into 16-bit water for the very first time. Looking back at those early games is very nostalgic for me, as I remember the time well. The 8-bit NES was still alive and kicking in late 1991, and the SNES was just beginning its run here in the US. It was an interesting time of playing your dear old favorite NES while slowly exploring what the SNES could do. One of the earliest titles on the SNES was an action RPG by the name of Lagoon. Developed by Zoom and published by Kemco, Lagoon hit the 16-bit market in December of 1991. Now the last SNES game I reviewed was the epochal Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Gamers in America didn’t get that one until April 1992. So, we had to make do with Lagoon, which was the first ARPG on the SNES North American market. And it came with mostly negative reviews, although there is a small camp of Lagoon backers. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind to the beginning…
THE YEAR WAS 1991
At this point in time I wasn’t one for ARPGs or RPGs in general. Those genres were never my thing. My older brother enjoyed them, but I wanted more “immediate gratification.” I didn’t stray far from my platformers and beat ‘em ups. But upon seeing this ad in late 1991 in a GamePro Magazine, I actually wanted to play an action RPG for the first time in my life. I remember being drawn in by the various grotesque looking creatures and demons. The two in-game shots blew my eight-year-old mind. The green orbs seemed to bounce around in my mind and the ghoulish boss on the right was the stuff nightmares are made of. I was instantly intrigued. But of course, Lagoon became like about 300 other SNES games from my youth. As many titles as I played from 1991-1995 or so, there were so many more I always wanted to try out but never did.
One of the best things about this hobby is the ability to finally play all those games you were curious about from your youth. Even though Lagoon has a less than stellar reputation within the retro gaming community, I was still curious to check it out for myself. After all, you never know for sure how you feel about a game until you’ve played it yourself.
THE STORY GOES…
Players start out in Atland. Gather some clues from the locals to figure out what’s next on the agenda. It’s very simple stuff, and an ideal ARPG for novices.
An interesting aspect of Lagoon is how unlike many other games of the genre, when you enter a building here you don’t necessarily enter it. In most cases, there is no interior. You just get this type of scene. At first it was a little jarring, and I felt like I was getting robbed. This element gives off a vibe of low budget, but after a while I came to appreciate it. One could view this low budget move as a time saver and the game getting down to the nitty gritty. I came to actually not mind it, which isn’t a great compliment, but for this game and its world, it somehow works.
The shop system is very straight forward and things never get too cluttered.
Equipping weapons and armor is as easy as 1-2-3.
Eventually you find your way to the Mayor’s house where he sheds some light to you. Which is ironic considering you’re the Champion of LIGHT, but I digress. Hey, we all need help on the journey of life (and saving kingdoms, of course). After a bit of chit-chat you realize that Giles is in trouble. His parents named him Giles after having nine months to think about it.
I know, they had nine months to think of a name and…
What’s up with demons and caves, anyway? Well, it’s a good thing we’re armed with a sword that would make Link and the Master Sword proud…
Wait a second! Er, what the HELL is that? Yes, one of the biggest complaints about Lagoon is the incredibly pathetic butter knife you wield. Some sword, huh?
Expect to see this a lot early on. You’ll try to swipe at the enemy, but instead it’ll miss and you’ll end up eating damage. It’s easy to stop here and say, “Man this game blows!” But stick with it a while and realize the trick is not to go on the offensive but rather, wait back and let them come to you.
Once you do that, Lagoon becomes playable and actually somewhat enjoyable. Sure it’s a gameplay flaw, but nobody ever said this game was perfect. It’s just a different type of combat than what most folks are used to.
If you can put up with the short length of Nasir’s “sword,” then Lagoon isn’t a bad game. The dungeons never get too big and confusing, and the game is a pretty simple straight forward ARPG.
One of the best aspects about Lagoon is the ability to save the game anywhere. This makes it an ideal game to play for 15, 20 minutes right before bed. Before you know it, you will have beaten it. Not like it’s a long adventure to begin with, either.
It’s fun to keep an eye on your status. Leveling up increases all of your stats, and there’s a certain satisfaction in watching your character grow stronger by the step. In addition, if you’ve taken damage, simply stand still and Nasir will automatically recover. It’s a pretty cool feature that makes Lagoon that much easier to beat. His magic points will also recover in a resting state. Give it a chance and pretty soon you’ll be hitting a sweet little rhythm of waiting for enemies to run into your sword, resting if need be, checking your status on occasion and repeat. I found it oddly addicting.
Tougher enemies soon appear, giving you more experience points when killed. There’s a definite simplicity to Lagoon that I appreciate.
The best part of Lagoon is hands down the music. It’s the one aspect of this game that is almost always universally praised. It’s funny… in that sense it reminds me a lot of Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest. Both games have a poor reputation but it’s generally agreed upon that the soundtrack rocks. Although Mystic Quest has a slightly better reputation than Lagoon and is the better, more redeeming game.
While the game is far from great, there IS a certain sense of satisfaction roaming the dungeons, killing the monsters, and rocking out to the awesome soundtrack.
Ah, it’s nice to see the sky and smell the air again after being in that dank, decrepit dungeon. Go on to find Giles.
I hope you found the Healing Pot prior. Otherwise you’ll have to do some backtracking and that’s never too fun.
After rescuing Giles, you’re not done yet. You have to guide him back to Atland. This son of a bitch moves like a grandma. If you go too fast he might get confused and lost, so always keep him in the line of sight.
Ah! Move it, you bastard! Thankfully, Giles can’t be hurt even if the enemies touch him. Weird. You would think then that he wouldn’t need you to save him. Shoot, if I were invincible too, the things I could do! Freaking Giles. This must be a rib or something.
Yes, I’m interested in acquiring Little Samson for the NES. And yes, I know it’s a DEMON of a game on the ol’ wallet. Thanks for nothing, old lady!
Now you can open the gateway to access Samson, the game’s first boss.
Shoot, I’m not surprised. With all the crazy dollars that collectors are throwing at Samson these days, one would think he got a little too big-headed for his own good!
Oh shit. You mean, you’re notLittle Samson, as in the NES game? Heh, my bad. I’ll just head back out and close the door. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, big red scary guy…
Yeah, that’s just not a fair fight. God damn it… this is all messed up.
Samson sheds his helmet once he’s weakened up some. And it’s not a pretty sight, folks. In fact, I dare call it an eyesore…
Once conquered, Samson screams like an elephant, oddly enough. You get some fancy little explosion pixels going off all over him.
For your troubles you get your very first magic spell: the Fire Crystal.
This allows you to shoot fireballs, giving you a much welcomed long range attack. It eats up magic points but as I stated earlier, your MP recovers in a resting state. It definitely helps to flesh out the gameplay of Lagoon, making the pathetic short sword less annoying.
Hey wait a damn second here… where have I seen you before…
So you’re telling me there is a Princess, and she was kidnapped. Riiiight…
After Atland you head to the town of Voloh. Here you’ll meet a strange cat by the name of Thor. He’ll enlist your help to find the tablets.
As you progress in the game it’s fun to see the length of your energy bar increase as you continually level up.
There are your typical fire and ice dungeons to navigate and work through. The graphics aren’t anything to write home about, even back in late 1991 when it came out, but they’re alright and serviceable enough.
One thing I’ve always been a sucker for in video games are the mini-bosses, or the regular bad guys that are bigger and tougher than the rest of the regular bad guys. They look intimidating, but aren’t TOO hard to defeat. And yet they’re always satisfying to kill every single time. Lagoon does a decent job of throwing small, medium and even big monsters your way.
The bosses were intimidating due to a combination of their size, their menacing sprite work, your puny sword and their massively long health bar. They might be tough at first, but nothing you can’t work around with a little persistence. It’s just a matter of finding their sweet spots. Although it should be noted that during boss battles you can’t heal or use your magic. This could lead to some frustrating moments.
By the end of the game your health bar should be as long as theirs. Speaking of which, it took me 11 hours to beat Lagoon on my first attempt. It’s a game one could probably beat in under 10 hours (I like to grind here and there). So it’s definitely on the shorter side, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The game moves along at a brisk pace, much like Mystic Quest. In that way it never wears out its welcome. It’s an easy title to pick up and play. Saving anywhere is a big bonus, as you can always pace yourself rather than being at the mercy of having to go to an inn to save.
There are plenty of weird locales to hit up, and some entertaining NPC’s to interact with when you’re not bashing baddies and blowing through dungeons.
As an aside, I also remember Lagoon for being the first game I played following the Teacher’s Fair in March of 2012. At the time I was teaching part time and acting in a Broadway-esque play. My goal was to become a full time teacher. I gathered my portfolio earlier that morning, put on my best suit and shook hands all day long following a two hour morning rehearsal. It was a memorable time in my life as I was living out my passion (acting) while pursuing my real life goal of becoming a full time teacher. Later that night, with over 500 SNES games from which to choose, I picked Lagoon. The urge to finally quell this longstanding childhood curiosity overcame me at long last. So anytime I think of Lagoon, I’m instantly transported back to that exciting time in my life. And yes, I got a full time position thanks to attending that Teacher’s Fair. I’m still teaching at the same school, going on five years. Man, where does the time go?
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Lagoon was not well received by the public. Most panned it, calling it a frustrating and boring Zelda clone. Super Play Magazine gave Lagoon a score of 56%when it hit the UK mindbogglingly late in May of 1993. On Youtube there are two excellent video reviews of this game which I highly recommend viewing. One is from The CG Dudes and the other is from Stop Skeletons From Fighting (formerly known as The Happy Video Game Nerd). Both video reviews pretty much sum up my feelings toward this game.
Lagoon is far from a hidden gem, but far from a dud as well. A lot of people dislike it, and they’re well within their bounds to do so. However, I feel a lot of the hatred toward this game is due to a lack of understanding rather than anything else, as the game itself is fairly manageable once you get the nuances down and operate within that world. Such qualifiers are signs of a flawed game, sure, but not an entirely wasteful effort. I’ve played plenty worse on the Super Nintendo. Once I understood the mechanics of the game and employed the best strategies, I had a pretty good time making my way through this early first generation SNES title.
The magic spells really open the game up, and make killing the monsters much easier. I didn’t have to worry about the puny butter knife so much, and shooting various projectiles at enemies across the screen became rather addicting. If you’re looking for something new on your SNES and you’ve already beaten the rest, give Lagoon a chance. It’s a quick action RPG that can hold you over for a week or two. It’s rather flawed, but not without some “first generation charm.”
The flea market has given me some wonderful collecting memories. In the early to mid part of 2006, when I was just beginning my SNES resurrection, I acquired many SNES games thanks to the good ol’ flea market. Before I get into that though, here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite books, The Kite Runner. It romanticizes the flea market like none other.
Almost two years had passed since we had arrived in the U.S., and I was still marveling at the size of this country, its vastness. Beyond every freeway lay another freeway, beyond every city another city, hills beyond mountains and mountains beyond hills, and, beyond those, more cities and more people.
Long before the Roussi army marched into Afghanistan, long before villages were burned and schools destroyed, long before mines were planted like seeds of death and children buried in rock-piled graves, Kabul had become a city of ghosts for me. A city of harelipped ghosts.
America was different.America was a river, roaring along, unmindful of its past. I could wade into this river, let my sins drown to the bottom, let the waters carry me someplace far. Someplace with no ghosts, no memories, and no sins.
And for that, I embraced America.
I would get up early some Saturday mornings and drive south on Highway 17, push the Ford up the winding road through the mountains to Santa Cruz. I would park by the old lighthouse and wait for sunrise, sit in my car and watch the fog rolling in from the sea. Back in Afghanistan, I had only seen the ocean at the cinema. Sitting in the dark next to Hassan, I had always wondered if it was true what I’d read, that sea air smelled like salt. I used to tell Hassan that someday we’d walk on a strip of seaweed-strewn beach, sink our feet in the sand and watch the water recede from our toes. The first time I saw the Pacific, I almost cried. It was as vast and blue as the oceans on the movie screens of my childhood.
Sometimes in the early evening, I parked the car and walked up a freeway overpass. With my face pressed against the fence, I’d try to count the blinking red taillights inching along, stretching as far as my eyes could see. BMWs. Saabs. Porsches. Cars I’d never seen in Kabul, where most people drove Russian Volgas, Opels, or Iranian Paikans.
On Saturdays, Baba woke me up at dawn. As he dressed, I scanned the classifieds in the local papers and circled garage sale ads. We mapped our route — Fremont, Union City, Newark, and Hayward first, then San Jose, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, and Campbell if time permitted. Baba drove the bus, sipping hot tea from the blue thermos, and I navigated. We stopped at garage sales and bought knickknacks that people no longer wanted. We haggled over old sewing machines, one-eyed Barbie dolls, wooden tennis rackets, guitars with missing strings, and old Electrolux vacuum cleaners. By mid-afternoon, we’d fill the back of the VW bus with used goods. Then early Sunday mornings, we drove to the San Jose flea market off Berryessa, rented a spot, and sold the junk for a small profit.
By that summer of 1984, Afghan families were working an entire section of the San Jose flea market. Afghan music played in the aisles of the Used Goods section. There was an unspoken code of behavior among Afghans at the flea market: You greeted the guy across the aisle, you invited him for a bite of potato bolani or a little qabuli, and you chatted. You offered tassali, condolences, for the death of a parent, congratulated the birth of children, and shook your head mournfully when the conversation turned to Afghanistan and the Roussis — which it inevitably did. But you avoided the topic of Saturday. Because it might turn out that the fellow across the isle was the guy you’d nearly blindsided at the freeway exit yesterday in order to beat him to a promising garage sale.
One early Sunday morning in July 1984, while Baba set up, I bought two cups of coffee from the concession stand and returned to find Baba talking to an older, distinguished-looking man. I put the cups on the rear bumper of the bus, next to the REAGAN/BUSH FOR ’84 sticker.
“Amir,” Baba said, motioning me over. “This is General Sahib, Mr. Iqbal Taheri. He was a decorated general in Kabul. He worked for the Ministry of Defense.”
Taheri. Why did the name sound familiar?
The general laughed like a man used to attending formal parties where he’d laughed on cue at the minor jokes of important people.
“Amir is going to be a great writer,” Baba said. I did a double take at this. “He finished his first year of college and earned A’s in all of his courses.”
“Junior college,” I corrected him.
“Mashallah,” General Taheri said.
“I write fiction.”
“Ah, a storyteller,” the general said. “Well, people need stories to divert them at a difficult time like this.”
She was standing behind us, a slim-hipped beauty with velvety coal black hair, an open thermos and Styrofoam cup in her hand. I blinked, my heart quickening. She had thick black eyebrows like the arched wings of a flying bird, and the gracefully hooked nose of a princess from old Persia — maybe that of Tahmineh, Rostam’s wife and Sohrab’s mother from the Shahnamah. Her eyes, walnut brown and shaded by fanned lashes, met mine. Held for a moment. Flew away.
“You are so kind, my dear,” General Taheri said. He took the cup from her. Before she turned to go, I saw she had a brown, sickle-shaped birthmark on the smooth skin just above her left jawline. She walked to a dull gray van two aisles away and put the thermos inside.
“My daughter, Soraya jan,” General Taheri said. He took a deep breath like a man eager to change the subject. “Well, time to go and set up.”
Lying awake in bed that night, I thought of Soraya Taheri’s sickle-shaped birthmark, her gently hooked nose, and the way her luminous eyes had fleetingly held mine. My heart stuttered at the thought of her.
The Kite Runner is one of my favorite books and comes highly recommended. When I read the flea market scene in the book, in a way, it made me think of my own flea market adventures, and the crazy things one can see and do at a flea market. And so, I present to you, my flea market memoirs.
1. A ‘MEGA’ COMEBACK
-Saturday, February 4, 2006-
*BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!*
Staggering out of bed like Otis Campbell on a Saturday night, I shifted my way through the darkness to put an end to the madness. The thought of crawling back in bed was nearly as tempting as Jessica Alba herself. The idea, however, went quickly as it came.
After brushing my teeth and helping myself to a bowl of cereal, I found the dawn just breaking between two white buildings. The sky was mostly gray but a streak of white stretched itself from the end of a flagpole. By the time I finished breakfast, the sky was lighter than it had been when I woke up — the streak of gray broadening into a patch of brilliant day.
I was a man on a mission. Three weeks into my SNES rebirth (1.17.06), I was gearing to embark on my first flea market voyage since 2002. With a wish list the size of Rosie’s waistline and a wallet jammed full of dead presidents, I headed off into that cool early morning, the light February breeze brushing against my face. As I pulled into the parking lot something told me today was going to be a good day. Maybe even a great one. I gazed at the box office where I saw the growing crowd purchasing their tickets. Just think, I thought to myself… beyond that building there…lies a part of my childhood.
I remember the morning rather well; the smell of apricot in the air, the bustling crowds all jabbering for bargains, and at long last — the lady with the game stand parked over at the far end. I dove head first into the SNES bin like Rickey Henderson stealing third base. All her games were wrapped. I eagerly waded through each one, picking out Final Fight, Dino City, Battletoads in Battlemaniacs, Flashback and Tetris Attack.
Each of those games ran me $5 except for Tetris Attack. Some of these games I hadn’t played in 12, 15 years! There’s nothing quite like the rush of rediscovering games from your youth on a brisk, early Saturday morning. There’s just something awesome about it. It’s hard to look back on one’s early collecting days and not break out a nostalgic smile. It was the rush and the feeling of getting back into the fandom after so many years, acquiring games left and right… those are some sacred memories right there!
I could smell colors, I could feel sounds. I have NEVER had such a great experience in my life before. Trying to figure out where I was, LOOKING AROUND, enjoying the life that I was living. I mean it was UN-BOWL-LEE-ABLE! [/Bill Walton]
Ironically, on my way to the flea market that morning I was actually hoping to find the somewhat scarce Dino City, and then lo and behold! What can I say, it was just one of those mornings, ya know?
The vendor was a nice elderly lady in her 50’s. I showed her each game that I wanted as she sprouted off, “Five dollas, five dollas,” but she paused when Tetris Attack came up. Somehow, I knew she would.
There was no way in HELL I was getting Tetris Attack for a measly five bucks…
She grabbed the game from me and squinted long and hard at it. Oh boy, I thought to myself, here it comes. $20, maybe $25. Yup, Steve-O, you can kiss this bargain goodbye. She burned a hole through Tetris Attack before finally saying…
I wanted to jump in the air and pump my fist. But I kept my cool and told the lady in a calm voice, “Sounds good.” All in all, it was $27 well spent
Heading back to my car sensing that this was a lucky day, I decided to head on over to Game Crazy. Now, this was before their retro game selection went down the crapper. Imagine the sheer joy I felt when I spotted Mega Man X2 in mint condition for $9.99! I claimed it faster than John Madden could say “BOOM!”
I couldn’t believe such a “big time” title was sitting right there for all to see, and it happened to be lucky ole me who finally snatched it up for a measly ten bucks!
As Tony the cashier rung me up, he looked at the game semi-perplexed. “10 bucks for this? Hmm, it must be one of the more rare SNES games…” Not surprisingly, the next time I came back to visit, all the interesting SNES games they once had, were gone…
To cap off the successful, splendid early morning voyage, on the way home I purchased a birthday card for my college buddy, Shanice, which I later had all us theatre kids sign. I finally got home around 12:30. It was one of those idyllic, peaceful mornings you wish would never end. The kind that makes you feel as if the whole world is right at your fingertips. The kind of morning that makes you feel like writing that novel you had always wanted to, or starting that RPG you had long vowed to begin, or finally calling that old best friend you’d been meaning to catch up with, but never did. It was indeed one of those perfect Saturday mornings… the ones that stay with you for a lifetime.
Waking up that morning I didn’t know whether I’d find any games of worth that day at the flea market or not. In the end, was I ever glad I went. I also knew… I would return…
2. NICE GUYS, MEAN GUYS, AND EASTER ISLAND HEADS
-Saturday, February 25, 2006-
Today saw the venture into a new flea market, bigger and better than the one I hit 3 weeks ago. There were hundreds of SNES titles on hand! The first vendor had a small selection but I managed to pluck one game off my vast want list: Rocko’s Modern Life, bartered from $8 down to $5, due to the label being a bit dirty.
Speaking of which, yes, even though it’s been a little over 10 years since I bought most of my collection, I have easily over one hundred games that I still haven’t played. What can I say, the queue is long and some games are #125 on the to-play list. However, one day I hope to play each of them. That’s a large part of the fun, knowing that they’re there waiting for me. I no longer have to hunt them down, but they’re there whenever the urge strikes.
The second vendor saw a nice kid giving me a top deal. Boogerman and Lemmings 2 were listed at $8 each, but for no apparent reason he gave them to me both for $10. His father was busy tending to another customer. I suspect I wouldn’t have gotten the bargain from him that his son gave me. Funny thing is, I was going to pay $16 for the two games but before I could pull out my wallet, the kid said, “Ten dollars is fine.”
Shoot, I won’t argue with that! That kid made life easy. I had forgotten Lemmings 2 saw a Super Nintendo release, and Interplay’s Boogerman was a game I always wanted to play back in the mid ’90s, but never did. But now I had the means.
Third vendor… man. Let’s just say, he’s going to be a main character from here on out. Let us call him… “Mr. Mean.” He had hundreds of SNES games, BUT… and there’s always a but isn’t there… well, you’ll see.
So there I was, at Mr. Mean’s large stand happily sifting through his endless SNES cart bundles. I found a ton of games I wanted, but none had a price tag, y’see. Based off my two previous vendor experiences just a couple minutes ago, I thought, “Hey, five bucks a piece, sweet! What a killing I’m gonna make here!”
I called Mr. Mean over to the glass case. I had a dozen games lined out, one I recall being Arkanoid: Doh It Again! As he walked over, I kept thinking JACKPOT CITY, BABY!
He didn’t even greet me, the bastard. Like a robot he picked the first game up, shouted “Twelve dollars!” and proceeded to slam it hard on the glass case. He lifted the next game and slammed it hard on the glass once more. “Twenty dollars,” he said with an ugly tone. He went through the other ten titles in similar fashion. It left me thinking “What the f*ck?” (in more ways than one). What kind of shady operation was this guy trying to run? I told him “Nevermind” and walked away. Bastard.
The most dirt-common cheap games went for at least $12! Contra III cart only for $38?! Who the hell was this guy kidding?!
Still, I kept my head up and continued happily exploring the rest of the flea market. 4th vendor I spotted Pac-Attack and also… Arkanoid: Doh It Again. Funny how life can work in mysterious ways. I was denied of Arkanoid just five minutes ago by Mr. Mean, yet here I was with the next vendor who happened to have a copy of the game as well.
However, he was hesitant to sell Arkanoid off the bat.
“I don’t know… isn’t this game rare?” he asked, scratching his head. Keep in mind this was in early 2006 and iPhones weren’t a thing yet.
“Nope,” I answered him honestly.
“Yeah. I actually just saw it at the very last vendor. It’s not a rare game.”
He examined the glossy game label long and hard, squinting even. He studied the “Easter Island” statue with a burning intensity. Finally he looked back up.” Alright, I trust you… $5 it is then. With the Pac-Man game it comes to be $10.”
In yer face Mr. Mean! Ahhh, ARKANOID. I have some fond memories of playing the game on my computer in the late ’90s when my bro and I first discovered emulation. Kevin and I had already donated our SNES to our cousin David by the time my brother found out about roms and such. I remember it well; I was a sophomore in high school at the tail end of the ’90s, walking home from school one day talking with a buddy about my brother’s discovery the night before. Although I missed my SNES, hey, it was better than nothing. Arkanoid: DIA was one of the few games my brother got. He refused to teach me how to download games by myself as we shared the computer and he was ULTRA paranoid of me doing anything malignant to his precious PC. Anywho, I often fired up Arkanoid and was taken aback by its simple effectiveness. Some 7-8 years later, I finally got the real thing.
VINDICATION NEVER TASTED SO DAMN SWEET!
What an epic little trip this was turning out to be. What a RUSH. And I wasn’t just buying great Super NES games you see, oh no… it was more than that.I was reclaiming my childhood. Buying titles I could ONLY dream of buying back in the early-mid ’90s. I made my way to the next vendor full of hope and optimism. All the vendors so far were awesome sans one Mr. Mean.
This next guy was the final stop of the tour. Like Mr. Mean, he had hundreds of SNES games. But this guy was the complete opposite — Mr. Nice, if you will. He took a liking to me from the get-go, greeting me as though I were like his long lost nephew. Although every SNES game on display was priced at $10 or $12, he showed me a box of SNES games he kept in storage that he’d sell at $5 a piece. The funny thing is, some of those $5 games were in the $10 pile as well. Some in better shape too! What a goofy old coot
I walked away with Super Smash TV, King of the Monsters, The Addams Family and Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems. It was a sweet mix of childhood favorites and games I simply never got around to play but had always wanted to. In many ways it was very symbolic of my SNES resurrection.
Driving home on the freeway that day, windows rolled down, the radio blasting, y’kno, the good stuff, I glance at the nine new SNES games added to my rapidly growing collection. I found myself grinning like a Cheshire cat, knowing full well that, once again, I would be back for more…
3. PUTTING THE SWAP IN ‘SWAP MEET’
-Saturday, March 4, 2006-
A quiet day but I made my first trade (of many to come) with Mr. Nice. Spotted Prince of Persia 2 in the $10 bin, geez I totally forgot a part 2 ever came out, and traded Mr. Nice my extra copy of Hook plus $5 for PoP 2. Fair deal, for sure. Maybe even good. I don’t see Prince of Persia 2 for sale often, and I’d once read it saw a limited release as it came out toward the tail end of SNES’ lifespan.
To cap the day off I nabbed Kablooey in the $5 bin. Though, the cart was in less than stellar condition… but more on this in a bit… in fact, just TWO short days later…
3A. THE CRAZY GAME CRAZY ‘HEIST’
-Monday, March 6, 2006-
This wheeling and dealing business was getting madly addicting! Not since my Saturn hey day did I have this much fun with video games. After class I drove to Game Crazy and bought Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Eek! the Cat and Kablooey (clean and mint). I got Kablooey free as part of Game Crazy’s Buy 2 Get 1 Free deal. 3 games for $10.80. I was rather surprised walking in to find ZAMN, a game in which my old best friend Nelly and I used to play together up the wazoo. Great memories, great game. Zombies Ate My Neighbors is certainly one of a kind on the ole SNES. As for Eek! I always had a weird urge to play this one when I first saw it previewed in EGM back in ’94, but of course, I never got around to do so.
I went home and switched the Game Crazy sticker on the newly acquired mint Kablooey with the so-so Kablooey flea market copy I’d bought just two short days ago. I returned to the same Game Crazy store later that afternoon only to find that the cashier working was the same dude who sold me the mint Kablooey just two hours ago. And it wasn’t just “some dude” rather but it was the store manager! But since I didn’t want to go home empty-handed, I decided to take the risk… sometimes, ya gotta live life on the edge
Asking if I could exchange Kablooey, which I bought just two hours ago, for another SNES game, I handed him the receipt along with the so-so flea market copy of Kablooey. He held the cartridge and paused as he examined it.
Oh shit… I’m BUSTED, I thought to myself.
You know those twinges you get in those moments where you realize you shouldn’t have done what you just did? As I saw his beady eyes glaring at the cartridge casing, I knew I was having one of those moments.
After what seemed like three weeks, but in reality was a second or two at the most, he glanced back up at me and said:
I was eye-balling the Robocop vs. Terminator copy before I left Game Crazy earlier that morning. I looked it up briefly on the internet at home, and decided it was worth adding to the ole library. And just like that not only did I pick up a new game I wanted, but I also switched my so-so copy of Kablooey for a mint one. Only in America A bit underhanded, yes, but with Game Crazy being the corporate beast they were, I had no regrets.
The store manager took my receipt, wrote in Robocop and faintly made a check mark on Kablooey as to signify the exchange. That spring semester of 2006 was a sweet one. It was my last undergrad college semester and on Mondays and Wednesdays I got out at 10:15 in the morning. I miss those days.
Yup, I had a lot of fun hitting up local malls, stores, Game Crazies, etc. on Mondays and Wednesdays. 10:30 was way too early to head home, so I usually went game hunting or out to lunch with a buddy nearly every week on those days. Now that I’ve been working full time, a small part of me pines for those innocent, relatively still carefree days of being in my early 20’s. I look back on those early collecting days of 2006 with a real deep fondness.
4. SWAP ‘TIL YOU DROP!
-Saturday, March 18, 2006-
I had an extra copy of Street Fighter II that I offered to tradefor Mr. Mean’s copy of Peace Keepers. “OK… but gimme two dollars,” he urged. I obliged. Fair enough.
Seeing The Peace Keepers (what a cheesy but lovable name) in the wild made my day. Fond memories of playing it with my brother and our friends way back in the summer of 1994. God that makes me feel old.
Next, I went to see Mr. Nice. We exchanged pleasantries. By now we had developed a great rapport; he probably saw me as the SNES fanatic with large sums of cash from the city, and I saw him as my meal ticket. Beyond that we saw each other as weekend acquaintances; some company to help fill out the drudges of everyday life. He often asked me about college life, how the ladies were, and I would ask him about how business was going or even about his sons back home. Making connections with your fellow man is something eBay or online shopping will never be able to replicate. It’s part of the charm of going to the flea market!
I traded him Doom, Battle Blaze, Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (double) and Captain Americaand the Avengers for Cacoma Knight in Bizyland, Prince of Persia and Adventures of Yogi Bear. A good trade for me seeing as how Cacoma and Yogi were somewhat uncommon and on the want list for a couple months now, combined with the fact that I hated Battle Blaze and the Captain America port.
As I was about to walk away, Mr. Nice reminded me to check his $5 bin. Ah yes of course. There I found Young Merlin and pounced. Yet another game I have childhood connections with. Funny thing is, I saw three copies of Young Merlin in his $10 bin, and the one copy I found in the $5 bin was actually in the best condition of all! Classic. I’ll say it again, what a nutty old coot
Feeling good off another classic trade with Mr. Nice, I decided I couldn’t go home now. I drove to the other flea market (where I bought Tetris Attack and friends a month ago). I figured it was worth the drive.
Didn’t find much but I did walk away with BlaZeon ($5). The label was sun faded but I didn’t mind. The way I see it, if I could erase any SNES game off the want list in real life for $5, I would. Can’t get a much better deal online than $5 shipped after all. All in all, not a shabby day of game hunting. In fact, a pretty damn good one.
5. “WISE FROM YOUR GRAVE!”
-Saturday, April 8, 2006-
Sold an extra copy of Mega Man X to Mr. Mean for $8 cash. Then headed off to see Mr. Nice. By now it was common practice for me to bring any games I wanted to trade (usually doubles I landed in lots off eBay and such). Mr. Nice was a simple guy. He pretty much traded ANY game so long as he got the extra game in the trade (i.e. 2 for 1, 3 for 2 and so on). He understood quantity. Quality? Not so much
I bought a Super Game Boy 2 for $10 (later sold for $20+). Then I traded him my extra copies of F-Zero, Bubsy and Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow for Adventures of Kid Kleets and a MINT copy of Super Castlevania IV! Mr. Nice also asked me to throw in $2, which I happily handed over. At the time I couldn’t find a copy of Castlevania IV for under $12 shipped.
Sad but true: I never actually played this back in the day. Indeed. Shame. And so, later that night I spent the entire evening slaying hordes of the undead…
And it was freaking awesome.
6. MR. MEAN’S EPIC FAIL FTW
-Saturday, May 27, 2006-
For weeks now I’d been trying to sell off four fighting game VHSes online, but to no avail. Even at $12 shipped no one wanted Mortal Kombat, Samurai Shodown the Movie, Toshinden and Street Fighter the Animated Movie. So naturally, I decided to take them with me to the flea market. Hey, couldn’t hurt, right?
As usual, the first stop was Mr. Mean. I offered to sell him the four tapes I was carrying in my University book bag.
“Let me see what they are,” he demanded hastily, as if he suspected I had gold and didn’t have a clue that I did. I slipped the tapes out of my University book bag and placed them on the glass case. He made a nonchalant circular hand motion over the four tapes.
“Mmmm… five dollars”
“You mean five dollars for ALL of them?”
I put the videos back in the bag and started to walk away in disgust when I spotted it…
I already had a copy, but I wasn’t about to pass this opportunity up. I asked Mr. Mean how much for Aero Fighters. I expected to hear some absurd figure like $85 (note: at the time it was going for about $50-$60).
Surprisingly, I overestimated him…
“$7 plus the tapes,” he announced nonchalantly, as though he were trying to pull the wool over MY eyes.
!!!! I couldn’t believe it. But I played dumb as to not show my hand; a universal rule known by diehard flea market game shoppers the world over.
“What??” I asked, with a semi-perplexed look on my face, as if the offer were an insult.
“$5 and the tapes for the game,” he rephrased. Notice the price change!
“… OK, but I keep the bag.”
“Yes yes,” he grinned, as if he had pulled the wool over my eyes. When in reality it was the other way around
Note: I later auctioned off that Aero Fighters copy, a double, for $50. That was about the going rate for that game, cart only, at that time. Nowadays, it’s a triple figure heavy hitter.
7. HOTTEST DAY OF THE SUMMER, AND BEST TRIP EVER? -Saturday, July 1, 2006-
Met a new vendor today. Extra Innings was bartered from $5 to $3, my argument being it was a common “cheap” sports game. As I was getting ready to leave I spotted Super Alfred Chicken, another game I had always wanted to play back in the day but never did.
Oddly, it was priced at $6 but the dude said “Give me $3 for this one.” Shoot, I won’t argue with that! I handed him a $5 bill, and he handed me back two bills. I naturally assumed that they were two $1 bills, so I shoved ‘em in my pocket without checking. More on this in a bit…
Next, I made my way to Mr. Mean. I had another double of Street Fighter II and asked his nephew if I could exchange it straight up for Lemmings, which looked to be in mint condition (aside from the initials marking), all neatly wrapped and everything.
“Street Fighter II plus four dollars for Lemmings,” the 16-year-old countered.
Ah, hardball, a?
I stuck to my guns and reiterated my straight up offer. Take it or leave it, pal. The nephew examined the contacts and then he called Mr. Mean to come over, who had just finished wrapping up a transaction on the other side. Mr. Mean turned around, saw me, and his expression was absolutely priceless.
He sauntered on over to where his nephew and I were negotiating.
“What’s going on here?” he asked, in a gruff manner.
“I offered him Lemmings for his Street Fighter II plus four dollars.”
“And I offered your nephew a straight up trade. Take it or leave it.”
Mr. Mean took my SF II copy, turning the sumbitch sideways to study the contacts. Clean. He nodded reluctantly. “Very well. You got yourself a deal.”
By sticking to my guns I saved four bucks. Sometimes, it’s about more than just the money. This was one of those times.
Mr. Nice was next. It was the same old tradition as always. Stop by Mr. Mean’s stand first, just in case anything of intrigue pops up, then head on over to Mr. Nice’s stand where I knew, AT THE VERY LEAST, I could share a friendly and affable conversation. I also brought my spare SNES copies or games I couldn’t stand to serve as possible trade chips with Mr. Nice, who gave the greatest trades in the history of mankind. On this particular trip I traded him Fatal Fury (boo) and Ms. Pac-Man (double) plus, ironically, the $4 I saved by not caving in to Mr. Mean’s nephew not ten minutes ago, for Gemfire and wow, Metal Warriors! Told ya, he knows quantity. Quality? Not so much
I actually already had a copy of Metal Warriors, but it was going for about $30-$40 at the time, and so I couldn’t pass up on it. I don’t advocate hunting for games you already have, but when it’s right there in your face and you have a chance to get it for a bargain, it’s hard to pass up.
As I called it a day and walked back to my car, parked significantly far away, I arrived to find my Honda had been KO’ed by the branding iron of the scorching summer sun. It was way too hot inside so I opened all four doors and the 7-11 store, with its cold beverages, not fifty feet away suddenly seemed very inviting. I pulled out my wallet to see how much cash I had left. Inside I found a $10 bill. Wait-a-sec… I KNOW I didn’t bring no stinkin’ ten dollar bill, sowhat the hell? Then it hit me. The vendor who gave me $2 change when I paid a fiver for Super Alfred Chicken — his change was one bill as $1, and the other bill… yup, $10. I glanced at my car which was right in front of me in the parking lot a couple blocks away from the flea market, and then I glanced back, looking at that long stretch of road I would have to traverse in order to return the $10 bill. And on what had to be one of the hottest days of the summer, I decided I wasn’t about to walk all the way back. In essence, I ended up getting Super Alfred Chicken for free, and then some. A part of me felt bad about it, you bet your ass I did, but on the real, another part of me didn’t [… the dark side! -Ed.]
8. RUMBLE IN HYRULE
-Saturday, July 29, 2006-
Went to the first flea market from this list and met up with that woman in her 50’s again who sold me Tetris Attack and company some odd five months ago. Traded her my extra WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game (somehow I had three bloody copies at the time) plus $2 for WWF Royal Rumble. Bit ironic, eh? She actually asked for $3 but I bartered that down to $2. My convincing argument? I needed the dollar for Wendy’s super value menu — lunch. She gave me a good-natured chuckle and nodded her little old head. “OK OK I know, you’re a college student. I know.” Hey, whatever it takes
Then I drove to the other flea market and traded Mr. Nice my copies of Home Alone 2 (ugh) and Out To Lunch (extra) for Addams Family: Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt.
Each time I headed to his stand I couldn’t wait to chat with him and see what new SNES games he might have acquired since we last saw each other. He always greeted me with a warm smile and a hearty hello. It saddened me just a little bit knowing that my SNES want list was quickly drying up — I really didn’t have that many wants left. As it turns out, I kinda knew that day what was inevitable, this would be my final transaction ever with Mr. Nice. Hell, it would be the last time I see him…
Next stand I hit up was a new one. I bought just the Zelda: Link to the Pastmap for $3. The game was complete but I asked the vendor if I could buy just the map. He was nice enough to accommodate me. At that time I had yet to play Link to the Past and knew the map would come in handy when I eventually do. Plus I love the simple classic artwork of the Zelda SNES game.
And the last stand I visited today, another new one, proved to be an absolute gold mine. He had a crate of sealed games. I ended up trading Relief Pitcher, Alien 3, Michael Jordan: Chaos in Windy City, Super Tennis and Tecmo Super NBA Basketball (mostly doubles, others unwanted) plus $9 for SEALEDLegend ofZelda: Link to the Past (million seller edition). That’s like trading Michael Jordan in 1992 for David Wood! Who? Exactly! I saw two sealed copies of Donkey Kong Country 2, Super Mario Kart (all million sellers), Earthworm Jim, Super Godzilla and more. But I decided the sealed Zelda copy was enough. For now, anyhow…
9. FLEA MARKET MADNESS FINALE -Saturday, August 5, 2006-
A week later I returned to the same stand with the sealed games. Took the two sealed copies of Donkey Kong Country 2 to the vendor, as well as the sealed Super Mario Kart. He wanted $45 for all of them ($15 each). The funny thing is, before I could whip out my wallet, he tried to convince me that this was a fair price offer (!)
“You uh, would be getting a great deal, sir. Really.”
I faintly smiled. I couldn’t help it. A great deal? Was it ever. “OK, I’ll take them.”
All four sealed copies went to eBay. They cost me a total of $54, and they sold for roughly $215. That’s a $161 profit
Note: I rarely use games intentionally to turn a profit… never really been into that whole thing, but this was one of those rare exceptions. I happened to be at the right place at the right time. I would have been an absolute fool not to capitalize.
I went out with a bang. That’s how I like to end things. On a high note
FLEA MARKETING 101
Note: These tips were originally written back in June of 2008. Times have changed since then with smart phones and retro games being bigger than ever. A lot of deals like the ones I had are much harder these days, so these tips may vary in terms of effectiveness in the year 2016. Nonetheless, here they are anyway…
Carry lots of small denominations. Bring lots of 1’s and 5’s. Keep the 1’s in one pocket and the rest elsewhere, that way the vendors won’t spot you fishing through 5’s and 10’s and suddenly get greedy
You don’t necessarily have to play dumb so to speak, or be Daniel Day-Lewis, but some acting at the right moments can work to your favor. For example, when I repeated the vendor’s offer in an aloof manner, he immediately lowered his demand. Gee, that was easy! Merci beaucoup, Mr. Mean
Try to establish some kind of rapport with the vendors. Especially the ones that are nice. It never hurts to have a good relationship, they might give you deals or trades they might not give someone else. Although not mentioned here, I once bought a Genesis game off Mr. Nice that he let me have for $3. To quote him, “3 dollars just for you, nobody else”
Rather than diving right into what you want most, casually ease your way into it. Want that Super Metroid copy really bad? First casually thumb through some Genesis games, then work your way over. Also, call it “Nintendo game” rather than by the real name, in order to make it sound more generic and common
Don’t be afraid to barter. If a game has a cosmetic flaw for example, you can knock off a dollar or two in many cases (if it isn’t already going for, say, $2). Try not to be TOO cheap, however. Nobody likes a tightwad, but there certainly is a right time and place for bartering
Bring any gaming-related items you no longer wish to own, or any doubles, hey you never know when Vendor X is open to a trade. It doesn’t hurt to bring a bag of your unwanted gaming items, as you’ve seen here in my stories
You don’t have to give in to any vendor’s demands — if you feel a game is just too rich for your blood, just walk away. There will always be another copy to be had (if not in the wild then definitely online). And sometimes, when you walk away they’ll stop you and suddenly be in a more compromising mood [Yeah that’s what I thought, bitch! -Ed.]
Emotional objectivity. Kinda goes back to the acting bit. It’s worth repeating. Try not to show much emotion when asking a vendor how much for this Nintendo (or Sega) game
Get there early. Best deals then. Also, sometimes when they’re about to drive their stuff home, they might be desperate and let you in on a good deal to add some $ to their day count, but usually the good stuff is gone by the afternoon
Don’t be discouraged if your flea market has no good finds. It’s not the end of the world. Enjoy the sunny day. Walk around. Take in the atmosphere. Have fun!
Always think positive. Never hurts, plus it’s free
[There are no swap meet princesses -Ed.]
By August 2006, my SNES want list evaporated by and large for the most part. With no reason to return, August 5, 2006 saw the last time I ever raided a flea market. I’ll always remember those days quite fondly. For some strange reason it feels as though they were from another lifetime. Those wild scavenger hunts… sticking it to Mr. Mean… the goofy old coot Mr. Nice, who always treated me as though I were his long lost nephew and dealt me the best trades in the history of mankind. Those early Saturday morning flea market runs, rummaging through countless game bins. For every lame duck common game occasionally laid the diamond in the rough and the big payoff. It was a glorious time in many aspects, but I’m also glad in retrospect that it’s all over with — the hunt, that is.
Still have wants on your video game list? Then be sure to check out your local flea markets. In addition to Craigslist, it’s another avenue you may want to consider when searching for your next video game purchase. There’s something about the flea market, and there’s certainly something about buying or trading for games RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU in real life. You never know what great deals you too may unearth. Or bloody hell, you might find your very own… SWAP MEET PRINCESS! Well, let’s be honest here. Probably not, but you might find a good game deal or two, and that certainly makes paying a visit to your local flea market worth a shot.
Tomorrow is yet another gorgeous Saturday morning. Thousands of people will be trekking to their local flea market then, in hopes of finding the latest and greatest bargain. Myself, I’ve paid my dues, and am happily long retired. Back at the ol’ ranch, I’ll be sleeping in. Either that or maybe I’ll finally play one of these games I bought over 10 years ago. It would be about damn time, eh?
Today, April 13, 2016, marks 24 years since The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past graced the North American gaming world. Widely regarded as one of the best SNES titles around (if not THE best in many circles), it’s also considered one of the best video games of all time, period. When I got back into all things Super Nintendo over 10 years ago, I did so with two main goals in mind. The first was to relive my childhood. And the second? To right the wrongs from my past. In many ways it was the closest thing to having a time machine. There were so many SNES games I wanted to play back in the day but never did.Along with Super Metroid, A Link To The Past was atop my list of games to play and beat. I finally played through Super Metroid and finished it on February 10, 2007. It was ah-mazin’. Looking at my collection for the next game to play, I knew it had to be A Link To The Past. So it was. On February 20, 2007, I began my trek to Hyrule, and what a trek it was…
LEGEND HAS IT…
It’s a calm and cool night in Kakariko Village. Just like any other night. On the surface, at least. But dig a little deeper… put your head to the ground… stand entirely still and listen to the howling of the wind… the leaves dancing on the twisted tree branches… something is happening. Something is coming. Nightfall quickly approaches and the stars are out tonight in full force. Suddenly the wind whips the weathercock viciously, the elders cease work on their farms and quickly rush inside to take cover. A loud rumbling can be heard from the far distance, getting closer and closer with each passing second. An ominous banshee-like scream cuts through the night sky like piercing sirens.
Link arrives but oh woe is he, for the young lad is too late! The moon completes its destiny, shedding tears of pain all over Hyrule, transforming the landscape of the peaceful villages. People turn into monsters. Crops die. Dogs turn into ducks. And so forth.
And the prophecy is coming true…
WAIT A SECOND!
[You got it all wrong, ya git! -Ed.]
Right. Let’s start at the very beginning… the first Zelda on the NES, then…
[NO, NO, NO!Let’s try this one more time -Ed.]
Alright, I’m sober now. Let’s do this for real…
Although The Legend of Zelda appeared first in the series of Zelda adventures, it actually takes place many years after the third game. In this time, Hyrule had declined, becoming a rustic land with only a few remaining signs of its earlier glory. The land was overrun, and Ganon was to blame. At the heart of the conflict lay a missing piece of the Triforce and Princess Zelda.
When Princess Zelda discovered that Ganon had acquired a piece of the Triforce, she broke the Triforce of Wisdom into eight pieces and hid them. She knew a hero was needed to challenge Ganon, so she sent her nurse, Impa, to search the land, even as Zelda herself was captured. During her quest, Impa long evaded Ganon’s reach, but in a forest glade she too fell into his clutches and would have been killed if not for the heroic actions of a passing youth named Link. Once the villains had been driven away, Impa told the young man about Zelda’s secret. Then, unable to hold back her tears, she told him how the Princess had been taken captive.
Link’s heart burned with passion, and he pledged to defeat Ganon and rescue the Princess. He set off at once, knowing only that he had to collect the eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom. At every turn in the path he met waves of monsters from Ganon’s unholy army. They challenged him in battle.
Link’s first task was to find the hidden dungeons where Zelda had secretly hidden the divided Triforce. Many of the entrances were disguised, and only by using all of his wits and the scraps of hints that he picked up along the way was he able to succeed. Inside each dungeon he met countless enemies, for Ganon’s minions had taken hold of even the most remote chambers.
In the end Link was able to gather all eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom, then he scaled Death Mountain and gained entrance to Spectacle Rock. Ganon’s great maze dwarfed any that Link had previously encountered. In a hidden chamber, he discovered a magical Silver Arrow and, taking the prize, he came face-to-face with Ganon himself. The battle between youthful hero and villainous miscreant raged across the chamber, unaffected by the cuts of Link’s sword. As Link began to tire, he tried a last desperate strategy, putting the Silver Arrow to the test. The bowstring sang and the arrow flew straight. Ganon was destroyed!
With the defeat of Ganon, Link’s mind turned to the purpose that had driven him here — the rescue of Princess Zelda. One final chamber stood before him. Link pushed ahead. Here Zelda greeted him and the pieces of the Triforces of Power and Wisdom were reunited.
With the destruction of Ganon and the power of the Triforce restored, peace reigned once more in Hyrule. Princess Zelda now ruled the land, and the country prospered. It seemed as if the shadow of Ganon had been destroyed forever. But Link remained ever vigilant. Wherever Link roamed, he looked for signs of Ganon’s return, for he could not believe that he had truly banished evil from the land.
THE LEGEND CONTINUES
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link takes place several years after The Legend of Zelda. An older, taller and perhaps wiser Link has seen the country prosper. But peace is a fragile commodity in Hyrule and history has a way of repeating itself.
Marked by the sign on his hand, Link was destined to become a hero. But in the peaceful days following his first quest, he became restless. He combed through the forests, crossed the deserts and delved into the caverns of Hyrule, looking for clues to explain his feelings of unease. In time he became aware of a whisper that passed between the birds, beasts, and even the blades of grass: there was a new magic in the land… a new magic nameless and terrifying.
Lying as still as a marble, Princess Zelda slept the dreamless sleep of enchantment. When Link found her in the North Palace, he saw at once that she was spellbound. His greatest fear had come to pass. By refusing to reveal the secret power of the Triforce to a wizard, Zelda had brought on her own downfall. But not all was lost. If Link could somehow unlock the mystery of the Great Palace, then he could save Zelda and the Triforce of Courage to boot.
Again Link took to the fields and forests, but these places had become wild and dangerous, inhabited by enemies of old. Link found himself relying on his wits and swordplay at every step. Creatures he had never before seen also waylaid him: spiders called Deelers that dropped from the trees, tall Geldarms that rose from the sands of the Tantari Desert, and of course the Moblins, armed with spears and hatred.
Link’s mission? Enter each of the six palaces and restore a missing crystal to a statue. Together the statues created a magical lock on the Great Palace. Only by replacing the six crystals could Link open the final door. In each palace, however, he had to battle a Statue Guardian of great strength: Barba the Dragon, Ironknuckle the Knight, Carock the Wizard and many other nasty surprises awaited our youthful hero.
Link came across many strange looking statues and structures. Some had switches that only the brave, OR the foolish, would pull.
As he closed the palaces off one by one, Link crossed the whole of Hyrule, from Ruto in the northwest to Death Mountain in the south, from the Island Palace in the Stormy Straights to Maze Island in the Far Eastern Sea. He helped villagers whenever he could, but he never lost sight of his ultimate goal. Finally, after uncovering the secrets of Old Kasuto, Link pushed on to the Great Palace where he met the Thunderbird.
Once the Thunderbird was vanquished, Link thought that Zelda and Hyrule would be saved, but it was not to be… not yet. Exhausted from his journey, Link had one more enemy to defeat — an enemy so unexpected that he did not know what to do, for the enemy was his own shadow.
THE LEGEND GROWS
Back in the mists of time, before the era of The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link, Hyrule was a land of fabulous palaces and magic. It was also a troubled land, and the divisions of Light and Dark were tearing it apart. The origins of this conflict lay even deeper in the shadows of time, with the coming of the Triforce and the greed of Ganondorf, King of Thieves.
To comprehend Hyrule and Link’s desperate quest, one must first know the ancient legend of the Triforce. In the Golden Land, where it was placed by the creators of the world, the Triforce beckoned to people. Ganon and his band of thieves long searched for the secret entrance to the Golden Land, eventually stumbling upon it. Then Ganon defeated his fellows for possession of the Triforce.
In a period known as the Imprisoning War, the King of Hyrule brought seven wise men together to seal the door to the Golden Land, for Ganon’s evil power had been spilling forth, causing corruption and darkness. The once peaceful land became a place of dreadful rumors of the coming of a magical enemy. At this time the Master Sword was forged, but there was no hero valiant enough to wield it.
Before the wise men could seal off the Golden Land and the Triforce, Ganon’s army surged into Hyrule and besieged the castle. The knights of Hyrule fought heroically, but the power of the Triforce controlled their enemies, giving them inhuman strength. The battle raged back and forth. Many foes fell in the tide of battle, but too many knights perished as well. It seemed that they were beyond hope.
Then, at the end of the day, the wise men finally succeeded in blocking the door to Ganon’s Realm. With the power of their master removed, the enemies fled or threw themselves into the moat. Hyrule was saved and over the years the Golden Land, which then became known as the Dark World, faded from collective memory.
While the people of Hyrule forgot about the Dark World, the master of that evil land had not. Ganon brooded in his prison, surrounded by reminders of his fall. He grew ever more bitter as the dark years passed like the wailing of cold wind on a winter’s night. Ambition burned in his eyes. He vowed to one day return to power.
Many centuries passed with Ganon and the Triforce safely locked away. Then the disasters began: plague, drought, quakes and fire. The King sought sage advice and a wizard named Agahnim stepped forth, ending the strange disasters. He became a powerful advisor to the King, but he kept his true plans to himself…
It seemed like a Golden Age, but it wouldn’t last.
Once Agahnim had consolidated his power, he began to abuse it. First to fall victim were the ancestors of the seven wise men. The wizard imprisoned six maidens in crystal cocoons, never to be seen again. Then Princess Zelda herself was captured as she sent a telepathic plea into the night. The Hylian gift that enabled Zelda to send her message also allowed Link to hear her.
Having received Zelda’s message, Link felt compelled to save her, but his uncle forbade him to leave the house. Link’s uncle thought that the lad’s courage outweighed his common sense, yet he knew that something had to be done to save the princess. Turning away from Link, he gripped his sword. He knew a secret entrance into the castle, although he didn’t know the way out.
Link couldn’t tell how much time had passed since his Uncle had left — a minute? An hour? The only thing he knew was that Zelda had spoken to him. He could bear sitting around no longer. Taking a lamp to light his way, Link stepped out into the lashing rain and headed toward the castle.
As Link floundered about in the storm, he heard a second telepathic message from Zelda telling of a secret route into the castle. When he found the entrance, he also found his uncle inside, wounded and unable to carry on. Link took his Uncle’s sword and promised to return…
KEY ITEMS AND ABILITIES
Here are some of the cool things Link can do. You’ll be doing lots of this, and as you’d expect from Nintendo, the control is crisp and feels spot on. So far, so good!
And here are some of the items you must find in order to complete your quest. Some have multiple uses, some are one and done, while others act as teleporting devices! Nice.
The Magic Bottle is an awesome item. You can carry up to four and these babies can hold magic potions (recovering health, magic power or both), fairies (which if you have activated when you die, the fairy will escape the bottle and revive you there on the spot), etc. Can you find all four? Here’s my favorite of the four. A hobo trying to just see the light of tomorrow. I love how totally atmospheric this is and it gives Hyrule a real pulse.
Like I said earlier, many items serve multiple purposes, which speaks to Nintendo’s ability to make such playable games. The hookshot also acts as a potent offensive weapon!
Here, Link shows off the powers of the almighty Firerod.
The Goriya can be a tricky foe at first, but his pattern is actually simple, particularly in large open spaces. The green ones are a push over but the red ones are defiant with their scorching fireballs. Be sure you have a set of arrows on you and be prepare to move your feet.
Hmmm, I wonder what happens when you drop a bomb by damaged walls? Oh look this is just too hard. Back to my Rampage games, then.
Use your net to capture bees and store them in a bottle. They can be unleashed to help you battle Ganon’s minions. Did I mention how awesome the bottle is? And recall how items can serve multiple purposes. Did you know, in addition to the sword deflecting the magic of Agahnim, that the net ALSO works? Try it!
Hyrule is filled with cool legends and urban myths. Is the Tale of the Good Bee for real? Only weary travelers know for sure.
That little swirly spot is the mark of the Magic Mirror which allows you to go from the Light to Dark World. I love this shot. Just look at the billow of smoke blowing from the chimney, the little swords adorning the exterior, and hey, what would happen if you smash the stake down with the magic hammer?, Could you drop off the ledge into that opening down there… where would it lead? Hmmmm…
RAIN OVER ME
The opening scene, with the rain lashing down on Hyrule, is considered one of the most awe-inspiring gaming moments in 1992. It was simple, but it has stuck with many SNES players.
Your first goal is to head to Hyrule Castle, but you’ll need to find an alternative route…
One of the many great things about this game was that it wasn’t just a pure action game. You had to use your wits to progress throughout the game, making it all the more rewarding when you finally do conquer it.
Rescuing Princess Zelda is no easy job. First you must come to blows with the Ball and Chain Trooper. His demise comes with the prize of a big key. Congratulations, you’ve saved the damsel in distress and the game is over! Of course, wouldn’t be much of a game, so the silly lass gets kidnapped again. That wacky Miyamoto…
After you retrieve the three pendants (and solve a host of puzzles while killing tons of enemies), make your way to the Lost Woods and see if you can’t find the mythical Master Sword. Be careful, the Lost Woods is home to weird creatures, thieves hiding behind bushes, and to make matters worse it’s filled with fog and lots of false swords. Can you find the Real McCoy?
The mist clears and the surrounding thieves quickly scramble for cover. No normal being can so easily extract the Master Sword like that. Whoever this Link was, they knew better than to mess with him. And with that, the adventure is only beginning…
THINGS TO FIND AND DO
In each dungeon a Big Key must be collected in addition to a host of other keys. I love how the Big Keys are kept in these large treasure chests. Therefore, it’s rather satisfying whenever you locate these bad boys.
Other treasure chests hold not keys, but valuable goodies. Link like, oh yes, Link like a lot.
You gain an extra heart for each boss defeated, but 24 hearts are scattered throughout Hyrule in the Light and Dark World. Collecting four gives you one full heart. Some are hidden underground, others high above ground. Be creative! Push and pull any weird looking tombstones, trees, etc. Can you find all 24 hearts?
There’s one! Random games can be played, at the price of some Rupees, and you just might find a piece of a heart in the process.
This is one of my favorite mini-games. It took me like 100 tries before I found the piece of heart! Worth it? YOU DAMN RIGHT!
Along the Swamp Ruins, Hyrule historians surmised that the civilization must have cultivated crops and practiced an early form of irrigation.
[They what? -Ed.]
Oh look, in layman terms this is another underground dungeon, but rather than being just another level, they lavished some feeling of history behind it to create its own unique world; such is the love that Miyamoto devoted into the game.
Before you arrive here you must get by the intricate stonework and maze-like garden of the Dark Palace, which features a unique monkey motif. Due to the passage of time the garden has become unpredictable and thus can prove to be difficult to navigate…
The only way to enter this dark catacomb was to flip a switch up top. But how can Link get up there? Hmmm. Talk about monkey business…
The very ominous looking Eastern Palace, with twin gargoyle heads adorning the courtyard, is even more frightening inside. Link entered the stark domain where he soon encountered materializing skeletons and slumbering giants. Here lies the almighty Bow, but it’ll awaken the deadly Armos Knights…
Nowhere in Hyrule was it safe. Agahnim’s guards patrolled the castle walls and even on the Sanctuary grounds.
Many strange places call Hyrule home. Few adventurers dare make the trek in some of the more suspicious looking entrances. Thieves carved out this opening in a huge, old redwood stump, then tunneled into the earth to create a cave. Rumor has it, no one who has entered has come out alive. Children are advised to stay far away. It’s even said that a man-eating goblin lives deep underground…
Speaking of ghouls and goblins, the Hyrulian Cemetery was full of legends and rumors. One of which was that the tombstones didn’t always hide bodies, but treasures. Will you go tramping around and risk the chance of disrupting the slumber of the dead? Who knows what spirits you might unleash… or what treasures you might find!
The lightning laser guards Agahnim’s Tower. Man, if only I could find something to break that pesky magical seal…
Link can see all over the land of Hyrule atop the pyramid, but an odd sense of clot overcame the young warrior. So he did not linger around for very long. But he also sensed, somehow, that he’d return to the pyramid sooner rather than later…
A tricky section, this. Rather than floors you have intricate catwalks. Torches could be lit via the Lamp or Firerod, and then Link would have to make haste to the next position where he could relight the flame before it flickers out. You could also use the Magic of Ether to briefly light the way or push a block created by the Cane of Somaria. Or, you could just study this picture.
Across the land of Hyrule there are several fortune tellers. Villagers whisper that these mysterious cloaked figures are not human, and that to enter their shops is to take your own life by the throat. In a quaint cottage near one entrance to the Lost Woods you can find one of them. For a price, she would stare into a magical crystal ball and tell what fate lies in your future. Some people took the predictions seriously and visited often, while others felt it was a waste of money and claimed their crops never grew again after the visit. Link did not believe in such silly superstitions, and knew that with each fortune telling he also had his health fully restored. So, how bad could the fortune teller really be?
Many trees litter the landscape of Hyrule. In the Light World they don’t present any sort of threat. But in the Dark World some timbers are rumored to speak. Explorers claim they’ve heard weird chants and believe these trees to be Golden Land sentries who were petrified by Ganon’s magic. Link came across hostile trees and could feel the power of Ganon growing by the step.
This mischievous monkey, known as KiKi, has strange powers and is in love with rupees. In exchange for a set amount, he promises to do a huge favor that will right your quest. But can he be trusted? Will he steal your money and scamper off high in the trees? If you say no, will he summon his primate pals in a revolt? It’s your call…
Life in the Mire is a nasty place. The Swamolas, believed to be the cousins of the Lanmolas, hid below the muck and slime, surfacing only to snatch a meal [Sounds a lot like my ex-wife… -Ed.]
The chickens are innocent harmless creatures, that is, until you attack one repeatedly. Then, it calls upon its buddies to revolt against you. Useless? Perhaps. Fun to mess around with? You betcha!
In the Dark World the Ghostly Garden was filled with evil, from the bomb chucking Hinox to the squirming blobs.
Don’t be fooled by the Hinox’s grin, he is one of the tougher regular baddies in the game. Thank goodness then that they only patrol the Dark World!
The electro-blobs can cause havoc in packs, especially in close quarters.
Can you find the blacksmith’s partner? Without him your sword cannot be tempered.
Finding the partner will require some wit and cunning skill. Nicely done.
Sahasrahla the village elder proves to be very helpful throughout your journey.
Zelda can communicate telepathically with Link through various panels found on the walls of the various dungeons. She offers handy tips to further your progress.
Fairy Fountains are a Godsend, re-energizing weary travelers to full strength.
Can you rescue all six trapped maidens?
Steve, the handsome hero, once again [Yeah, ONLY in video games -Ed.]
YOU AIN’T THE BOSS OF ME
Many boss battles take place throughout the adventure and I won’t spoil all of them, but here are some to feast your eyes on.
The Armos Knights look intimidating, but they’re a cakewalk. Three well-placed arrows will dispatch of each one, but the last one is double tough. Defeating them earns you the Pendant of Courage.
Moldorm guards the Mountain Palace and can be very tricky. If you fall over you must start over. I suffered this such fate several times before I got the best of old Moldy. Once you upset him, he starts slithering really fast. It’s almost disturbing in a “It shouldn’t LOOK LIKE THAT!” sort of way.
Blind the Thief is very sneaky. Finding him is half the battle. Good luck with that, friend.
Agahnim guards Hyrule Castle and has captured Zelda, the swine.
[Zelda or Agahnim? -Ed.]
Hmmm, both, really, come to think of it.
Hint: He can only be hurt by deflecting his magic. Why not try out the bug-catching net?
Oh Lord… this doesn’t look too good…
Vitreousguards the Misery Mire. It sees all, har har har. Watch out for the lightning this vile creature emits, and once the giant eye comes after you like such, hack away. Like most of the boss battles, it’s easy but nonetheless very satisfying to kill.
The fall of Vitreous sees you rescuing the sixth and final maiden. Finally, the location of Princess Zelda will then be disclosed.
Ooooh, that’s one nasty looking bugger.
The Helmasaur King is a big bad boy all right, and guards the double tough Dark Palace. He starts the battle out wearing a gigantic mask. The first step is to remove it, somehow…
Can you destroy the evil Ganon and save all of Hyrule? The quest awaits.
MY FAVORITE LEGEND
Link to the Past has plenty of legends, rumors and urban myths. It gives Hyrule a real heart beat, a real pulse. It’s the magic that only Nintendo and Miyamoto seem able to craft. I love almost all of them, but I have to share this one… the good ole LEGEND OF THE FLUTE PLAYER.
Witnesses have seen animals gather around a fading flute player in a grove in central Hyrule. Others claim they can hear the faint playing of a flute hauntingly swirling from the grove north of the Swamp. They would run in the direction of the sound and then find absolutely nothing. Silence fell over as they approached the stump. Suddenly the music would play again and they ran for their lives, convinced that the grove was haunted by an evil, restless spirit. And ever since, everyone knows of the location simply as THE HAUNTED GROVE.
One day, Link ran into the Haunted Grove to escape some of Agahnim’s soldiers. There he found one of the strangest sights he had ever seen in all of Hyrule. A ghost-like boy sat on a stump playing a flute. Surrounding the boy was a host of animals. When Link approached, the animals ran away and the boy vanished. Try as he might, he could not catch the animals or the boy. Link later discovered they were ghosts…
Later in his journey Link came across villagers who indulged the youth on the legend of the Flute Boy.
In the Dark World, the mystery of the Flute Boy was slowly but surely unraveling…
The Flute Boy gave Link his shovel. Now if Link could only find the lost flute…
Link got to work, in hopes he would find the Flute and discover its magical powers…
I won’t say how the tale of the Flute Boy plays out exactly, but it’s pretty sad. I grew quite fond of the bloke. Blast it to all heck.
THE TRUE STORY OF ZELDA — FINALLY UNCENSORED!
Stop the presses! I’ve got the scoop to end all, er, scoops! Hidden in the vaults of Nintendo Headquarters I have managed, through my adventurous and plucky spirit, to secure the DIRECTOR’S CUT of how the story REALLY plays out!
Take a look below.
Yoinks! Looks like when the pressure was on, his Master Sword broke… [Oh dear -Ed.]
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
EGM: 8, 9, 9, 9
Super Play: 93%
In their 100th issue, November 1997, EGM listed Link to the Past as the 3rd best game of all time.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE SHIGSTER
[Don’t call me that ever again -Mr. Miyamoto]
Credit Super Play Magazine (a UK Super Nintendo publication that ran from 1992-1996) and Onn Lee of Electric Brain fanzine for their conversation below with Zelda mastermind Shigeru Miyamoto! Circa November ’92.
Shigeru Miyamoto has the golden touch. He’s directly responsible for both the Zelda and Mario series of games developed at Nintendo’s ‘Entertainment Analysis And Development’ department in Japan, making him perhaps the most important games creator at work in the world today. When a piece of software sells 10,000 copies in Japan it is considered a hit, but many Mr. Miyamoto has been involved with have shifted millions, as well as become household names worldwide. It all puts him rather in the super-league. Here’s a conversation recorded with Mr. Miyamoto earlier this year.
What exact role do you take in the games development process?
SM: I don’t actually do any of the programming, but I am involved in organizing the programming teams. Instead of imposing deadlines, I find that constant encouragement of your staff is the best way to keep them going. Perhaps it’s one of the reasons for our success.
Are the Super Famicom and SNES versions of Zelda III the same?
SM: Because the SFC version completely used up all 8 megabits of memory, we originally estimated that we’d need another megabit to cope with the text being translated into English for the American game. That being the case we’d need a 9 megabit cartridge for America, but wouldn’t be using up all the space on it, so we toyed with squeezing in a few of the spare ideas left out of Zelda 1 to fill up the space. In the event, though, we managed to fit the English version onto 8 megabits anyway, so any ideas like that went out the window. So yes, both versions should be exactly the same.
When was Zelda III originally meant to be released?
SM: We were hoping to release it at the time the Super Famicom itself first came out, back in November 1990 alongside Super Mario World. We couldn’t make that, so after that a March ’91 release was planned, but the project dragged on beyond that, too. Eventually it became a Super Famicom first anniversary release instead.
How many people actually worked on the game?
SM: We started with just a handful for about a year, but then added more as things progressed. Basically the small team works out a rough draft plan, and the large team refines this into a game.
What kinds of things did you have in mind when planning the new game?
SM: We wanted to improve on all the shortcomings of the 8-bit games that had been imposed on us by the technical limitations of the Famicom. In the 8-bit Zelda the player had to imagine a lot of effects that the graphics couldn’t simulate. Also, back in 1987 Zelda had introduced lots of new features to games, like the ability to save your game and buy items, but in the meantime these had become the bog-standard components of any RPG. We knew that to keep ahead of the pack, Zelda III needed more.
How difficult did you want to make Zelda III?
SM: On average it takes about 40 hours to complete, but the fastest recorded time at Nintendo is five hours! We’ve actually tried to make it as easy as possible. The way the game is structured you can’t take alternative routes to finish the game, so we’ve made it that, for example, if you come across a blocked passage you will be able to progress further, even if you have forgotten a certain item. If mainstream gamers could cope with less linear adventures, though, we might have made it a lot harder.
Is it true that loads of brilliant ideas had to be dropped because of a shortage of memory space?
SM: No, we dropped the average ideas and picked the best!
And finally, how about the future?
SM: I can’t discuss new games at the moment, but we’ve got lots of plans, at least one of which is along the same lines as Pilotwings[And that, as one might guess, became most likely….Star Fox -Ed.]
Thanks once again to Super Play Magazine and Onn Lee!
Interesting that Shigs [Oh forget it -Mr. Miyamoto] mentioned the average of 40 hours. Here’s how I fared on my first go ever…
As you can see, Turtle Rock and Dark Palace gave me the most fits. Most Zelda III players complain about Turtle Rock and Ice Palace. Ice Palace wasn’t too bad for me. I had a night class at 7 PM and had an hour to kill. I decided to tackle Ice Palace and ended up beating it just in time before class started. Nothing beats that I tells ya! Ah, good times.
On Sunday evening, March 11, 2007, 19 days after I started Link to the Past, I dethroned Ganon and finally liberated Hyrule.It was bittersweet in some respect. Sure it was nice seeing the land blossom again and what have you, but a part of me wanted just one more dungeon to work through, one more boss to decimate, one more item to procure, one more heart piece to discover, one more mini-game to play and one more urban legend to solve. It was 30 hours of bliss, and the more I progressed the more the game grew on me, until it nearly consumed me, making me even all the more shameful I waited 15 years to finally play through this. Ah, to live and learn eh?
Every little touch in this game is just great. The hobo taking cover under the bridge, the tale of the quarreling brothers, the bedridden boy, the legend of the Flute Player, the witch, all the dungeons and bosses… there is so much to do and take in. And take it in you will. Not nearly enough games reach the level that Link to the Past did. And what a shame that is. This is more than a game — it’s an EXPERIENCE. Corny and cliche, but true. Take it from a converted fan of this genre, I am just beginning to discover the joy this type of game can generate. It’s not immediately satisfying perhaps, but it doesn’t take long before the quest takes over your every waking moment. After I beat the Ice Palace I ran to my night class. As my professor lectured on and on about BICS and CALP, I could only find myself thinking about what horrors the Misery Mire would bring, and counting down the hours until class would end. Is this the sign of a truly captivating game, or a truly sick man? Probably both.
Further proof of the latter… something disturbed me deeply regarding the theme of the Dark World. Play through that again and TRY TO TELL ME that the theme doesn’t sound like the infamous Saturday Night Live music skit DICK IN A BOX!
[Uh yeah, reminder to self: edit that out…. -Ed.]
Any complaints? Well, there is a hint of slowdown here and there, like the boss fight with Mothula f’rinstance. And while it’s relatively clear what you need to do next, a few of the puzzles are slightly, in my opinion, obscure and can be tough to figure out if playing guide-free. The incessant beep that plays when you’re on your last heart is annoying. These are minor quips though, quite frankly. Other than that, it’s hard to find a real flaw in the armor.
Zelda III was released in Japan on November 21, 1991, exactly one year after the Super Famicom made its debut. The American release was held back for six months. When it finally did appear it sold 250,000 copies in the first six weeks — faster than any other Nintendo game in history! If by some crazy chance you’ve yet to play Link to the Past, then I hope you make it a priority to do so. I still have a lot of classics I need to go through, and I can only hope they’re half as good as this.
Yes, Link to the Past is worth all the hype. You cannot call yourself a Super Nintendo fan, hell, forget that, you can’t call yourself a VIDEO GAME fan until you’ve played through this fine masterpiece. One of the best games on the Super Nintendo, heck, on any system ever. Magic, mystery, action, loads of multi-purpose items, puzzles, giant guardians, huge sprawling mazes, it’s got the lot! An epic hall of fame adventure you simply must go through at least once, if not twice, before you die.