Adventures in Book Shopping

Adventures in Babysitting Book Shopping! AKA How I Finally Got Back Into Reading
Adventures in Babysitting Book Shopping!
AKA… How I FINALLY Got Back Into Reading

For the past handful of years, my New Years resolutions have always been to lose 10-20 pounds and read more again. The weight goal sees varying degrees of success, but the reading one for some reason has always managed to elude me. Until recently. For the first time in over 20 years, I’ve read 20 books already this year. It was hard to stop once I got the ball rolling. It explains the lack of updates on RVGFanatic this past summer. Usually the summer season is when I crank out material like crazy. Not so this summer. Because this was the summer I got back into books and more importantly, back into reading. How’s how it all came to be, for the morbidly curious…

It's also a book! How fitting, eh? :P
Was also made into a movie novelization. Fitting :P

BACK TO THE BEGINNING

LibraryNight

One of the many highlights of my youth was all the library trips I took with my mom, dad and my childhood best friend, Nelson. We visited the library it felt every Friday afternoon after school. Although I loved playing video games on the weekend, I loved reading as well. I always looked forward to the end of the school week so I could raid the local library and pick up a new stack of books to devour. It was a memorable and innocent time.

Gooseb4

Nelly and I ate up the Goosebumps series. We were absolutely in love with R.L. Stine’s monthly tomes of terror. Actually, they weren’t that big in size or scary, but as kids we couldn’t get enough.

To this day the covers remains embedded in my soul
To this day the covers remain embedded in my soul

We read some of R.L. Stine’s more grown up work as we entered junior high in the fall of 1995. Maybe some of his work hasn’t held up too well over the years but they were definitely a sign of the times. Damn good times they were.

Seeing them on a shelf always made me grin
Seeing them on a shelf always made me grin

But along the way, at some point in high school probably, I stopped reading for pleasure. Any reading I did was because I had to. Whether it was because I had to write a book report in an English Lit. class or a college professor assigned some reading for homework, suddenly reading became something of a chore more than a reward. It was a means to an end. And it would remain that way for many years… until this past year…

GOODWILL HUNTING

And no, I don't mean the movie :P
And no, I don’t mean the movie :P

The seed was planted on January 13, 2019. My girlfriend and I went out to order some Chinese food for lunch. After being told there would be a 10-15 minute wait, I suggested that we hit up the Goodwill just next door to pass the time. As we walked over I shared with her that the last time I went to a Goodwill was way back in 2012. And how I found some rare Sega Saturn games for cheap which I couldn’t resist but flip on eBay for a nice little profit. I rarely did that during my game buying career, but an extra $150 or however much I was bound to rake in was difficult to resist on that cold December evening of 2012. So it was with that little trip down memory lane that I entered Goodwill with a glimmer of hope that maybe lightning would strike twice. Little did I know, it was that innocent little visit that would spur my book fervor into motion.

Got the book for $2 and the Ernest DVD for $1.49
Ernest Scared Stupid is perfect for Halloween :D

As we were flipping through the DVD and book section (there were no video games on hand that day), I caught glimpse of What To Expect The First Year. It was in very good condition and at only $2 I felt it would make for a tremendous resource one day. Then I spotted an Ernest Triple Feature boasting the critically acclaimed (or not) Ernest Goes To Camp, Ernest Scared Stupid and Ernest Goes To Jail. At 50 cents a movie, I couldn’t pass up on that. The clerk at the counter grinned when he rung me up, saying, “You can read up on babies while watching Ernest do his thing.” My girlfriend and I both laughed and that was that. If only I had known what a snowball effect this would have…

Bunnicula

About a month later we found ourselves back at Goodwill browsing the book shelves. On that fateful day found a copy of Bunnicula. Suddenly mauled by a tidal wave of memories, I felt like I was 8 years old again. I remember seeing Bunnicula a lot as a kid, but I can’t recall any story details. Nostalgia bit me and the $1 price tag made it an easy slam dunk. Pandora’s Box was unleashed, and there was no stopping it. I suddenly began to long for all the books I read during my childhood that I wanted to read again, or to read those I had missed out on. In many ways, it was eerily similar to my SNES resurgence from early 2006. I swooped up SNES games left and right 13 years ago in 2006, and now 13 years later I was buying books by the boatload…

My girlfriend checking out the goods. Major props to her for putting up with my book fever
My girlfriend checking out the goods at a Goodwill.
Much <3 to her for putting up with my book fervor!

As I quickly discovered, Goodwill can be a gold mine for book hunting. Quality and quantity vary of course from location to location, but man have I been lucky. The Goodwill stores that I hit up always knock it out of the park. The books are usually in great condition and go for $1.99 a pop. I’ll never forget the first time my girlfriend and I ran across an unbelievable selection of books at a Goodwill. It’s rare for me to not walk away with at least an arm full of books!

I sensed magic in the air that cloudy afternoon...
I sensed magic in the air that cloudy afternoon…

Saturday, April 13, 2019. Stepping out of my car, I could feel something funny. No, not that Taco Bell burrito I had moments earlier. It was something else. I felt it in my bones. Something big was inside that Goodwill. I double checked to make sure my car was locked. Satisfied that it indeed was, I marched to the entrance like a man possessed.

Books. LOTS of books
Books. LOTS of books

As I stood there in awe and reverence, my mind did cartwheels and fist pumps as my eyes caught sight of something very near and dear to my heart… I could see them from the corner of my eyes… this was going to be a haul for the ages…

Fuck yeah
Fuck yeah

I felt like the lucky millionth customer who just won a shopping spree. The shelves boasted a bunch of R.L. Stine’s teen thrillers. I hadn’t seen those books stacked up like that in 25 years, not since I last saw them in 1994 at B. Dalton and Walden Books*. I couldn’t believe my eyes. They were all in very good to great condition, $1.99 a pop and ripe for the taking. I was in book Heaven! It was like righting a childhood wrong; I always wanted to read more of Stine’s teen thrillers but I only read a small handful. This was a second chance!

*My favorite bookstore as a kid back in the early-mid '90s
*My favorite bookstore as a kid back in the ’90s
Even more!
Even more!

Freaking out on the inside, for a moment it felt as if time had stood still. I could see sounds, smell colors. A swirling sensation wrapped around me as I found myself instantly transported back to B. Dalton or Walden Books some 25+ years ago. Today’s find was one for the ages. I stole a glance around the store to see if time did in fact freeze. A few ladies down the aisle were shopping for clothes while a boy and girl ran down another aisle laughing and joking. Snapping out of my trance, I calmly began to place the books into the shopping cart by the handful.

Still more...
Still more…

I could tell the books were donated by the same person. And that he or she kept them in great condition. The only R.L. Stine teen thrillers already in my library were The Babysitter I-III, Silent Night 1 and 2, and I Saw You That Night! So most of Stine’s offerings sitting before me were taken off the shelf and judiciously plopped into the shopping cart.

Love the feeling of finding a book you really want
Love the feeling of finding a book you really want

Back in 1995 my dad took me to the library on a Friday night and I borrowed a book called Hit and Run. I got home that night and started reading the book. I stayed up late to finish it in one sitting. I remember being absolutely hooked and enthralled by it. There’s nothing like being wrapped up in a good book. Nearly 25 years later and here it was, live in the flesh. The thrill of book hunting!

Just a "few" books....
Just a “few” books…

I bought 52 teen thrillers that day, 51 of which penned by R.L. Stine. At $1.99 a pop, it ran me a total of $103.48. An insane amount to spend on books, I know, but to get most of Stine’s older work in one fell swoop felt like a chance encounter. One not to squander or pass on. Especially in the condition they were in. I could make 1,000 more Goodwill trips and probably would never run into something this good ever again.

GoodwillHunting11

Back at my girlfriend’s place, I sprawled the books out to take a photo. I have no idea how long it’ll take me to read them all. Honestly, I’ll probably end up reading only the ones I really want, and not get around to the others. So why still buy them all? Part of it is to set up one hell of a library for any future children I may have one day. If I ever have kids, one thing’s for sure, they’re going to develop a love for literature.

GoodwillHunting18

On Saturday, May 4, 2019, my girlfriend was working but had a chance to swing by a Goodwill for a minute. She snapped this photo and texted it to me. I zoomed in and gasped. I found a childhood book, The Time of the Witch by Mary Downing Hahn, that I always wanted to read but never ever ran across. I remember reading a preview of it once in a book when I was young and being intrigued ever since. You know, those blurbs you would find on the back pages of a book. A fan of Hahn’s writing, she wrote many scary books for kids over the years. So to see it at last blew my mind.

By zooming in I was somehow able to make it out
By zooming in I was somehow able to make it out

I frantically texted my girlfriend back, telling her to please pick up The Time of the Witch (and The Jellyfish Season also by Mary Downing Hahn). I showed her where on the picture and she was left stunned. “How in the HELL were you able to make that out?! Alright baby, you got it.” What a saint :D

Jellyfish Season not horror but I like Hahn's writing. Plus I'm a sucker for a good book set in the summer time
Jellyfish Season not horror but I like Hahn’s writing.
Plus I’m a sucker for a good book set in the summer

We met up at a pizza parlor on her lunch break and she handed me the books. It was the first time I ever saw The Time of the Witch. I was ecstatic. When you’re building a library, any wanted book found is worthy of a (mental) fist pump.

GoodwillHunting20

I always get a kick out of reading the back of books, much like I do the back of video game boxes. There’s something cool about it that takes you back to the days of reading the back of VHS boxes at your local rental store!

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSHOPS

I love going to local book shops to find new gems
I love going to local book shops to find new gems

Beyond Goodwill, I’ve found plenty of nice finds at local bookshops. Support them! They’re good for the community and you might run into some really good stuff.

Found a bunch of the classic Wizard of Oz books!
Found a bunch of the classic Wizard of Oz books!
Off the shelf and into my bag :D
Off the shelf and into my bag :D

I read the first Wizard of Oz book as a kid, and absolutely adored it, but I never read the other 13 books in the series. That’s something I’m very much looking forward to doing.

This could easily occupy me for an hour
This could easily occupy me for an hour
Love finding a book that's been on my want list
Love finding a book that’s been on my want list

SCORE! At last I found a copy of Curtains by R.L. Stine. This was one of those books that haunted me during my childhood due to the intensity and creepiness of the art cover.

Would be so cool to have this as a blown up poster :P
Unnerving…
Field of Dreams!
Field of Dreams! Er, I mean Shoeless Joe!

My favorite film of all time is Field of Dreams. It’s just a fun, uplifting and magical movie. The soundtrack is absolutely spine-tingling. Years later I discovered it was adapted from a novel called Shoeless Joe. I remember borrowing a copy from the library in 1999 and reading it. I enjoyed it and have always wanted to reread it. 20 years later, I finally have that chance :)

DUN DUN... DUN DUN... DUN DUN DUN DUN!
DUN DUN… DUN DUN… DUN DUN DUN DUN!

Speaking of novels made into movies, Jaws by Peter Benchley was on my want list from the beginning of 2019. 7 months later I finally ran across a mint copy at a local bookstore. I loved how the white spine and crazy shark art on the spine made it stand out in the crowd. For this one I might have actually done a legit fist pump… no shame! It’s an interesting read for sure, but the movie is definitely better. Still, it’s nice to see where the movie was inspired from.

GoodwillHunting27

I’m such a sucker for the old Point Horror teen books with their cool art covers. It just takes you back to an innocent time where all the rage were thrillers and horror stories. Diane Hoh and Eve Bunting had some good ones.

I've spent hours and hundreds of dollars here...
I’ve spent hours and hundreds of dollars here…

On the hunt for more childhood books and ones I never got around to reading, I found one of my absolute favorites on this trip. Remember the author Robert Kimmel Smith? He penned such books as The War With Grandpa, Jelly Belly and Chocolate Fever.

GoodwillHunting22

But it was Mostly Michael that stuck with me over the years. I had to get the original edition I read from my childhood, and there it was in very good condition. It was my first time seeing it since my youth years, and it gave me a jolt of nostalgia that tickled my toes. It’s about a boy who receives a diary journal for his birthday. At first he thinks it’s a crock, but he writes in it and through his entries you get to experience what he goes through. I remember being captivated by it as a kid and the ending was very touching I recall. Can’t wait to read it again.

I love how one cover is darker than the other
I love how one cover is darker than the other

For the most part, I’m not a fan of today’s kids books in terms of art covers and such. There was something magical about a classic Dell Yearling book cover that I absolutely can’t get enough of. Apple Paperbacks are also good as well as Avon Camelot, but Dell Yearling takes the cake for me. And no author in my opinion represented Dell Yearling better than Zilpha Keatley Snyder.

They dont make em like how they used to
They don’t make ‘em like how they used to

Zilpha Keatley Snyder penned some really interesting books. Her style is unique and charming. I never read her books as a kid but boy do I wish I had.

Give me this, a lazy summer afternoon and Im good
Give me this, a lazy summer evening and I’m good
Youre never too old to enjoy a good kids book
You’re never too old to enjoy a good kids book
Talk about a haunting cover full of intrigue and mystery
Talk about a haunting cover full of intrigue and mystery
Dat vintage Doritos bag tho!
DAT VINTAGE DORITOS BAG THO
Zilpha Keatley Snyder was one of the best in the game
Zilpha Keatley Snyder was one of the best in the game
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor was also a great author
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor was also a great author

Naylor’s Witch series was one I missed out on as a kid. I wish I didn’t. I mean, just look at that cover! It’s creepy and unsettling. This is the stuff you don’t see anymore. Nothing beats a classic Dell Yearling novel. The Witch Herself is the 3rd book in a 6 part series.

The artwork made it even more special
The artwork made it even more special
That feeling when you find a long lost classic
That feeling when you find a long lost classic

The first in the Witch series, Witch’s Sister, eluded me for months. Sure I could have bought a more recent edition, but those lack soul and character. I waited it out, and when I spotted the original edition of Witch’s Sister sitting on the shelf, I did cartwheels internally.

You dont see shit like this today!
You just don’t see shit like this today!
My reaction spotting Witchs Sister on the shelf
My reaction spotting Witch’s Sister on the shelf
Reaching out to secure it immediately
Reaching out to secure it immediately
EVERYTHINGS AWESOME!!
EVERYTHING’S AWESOME!!
Speaking of witches, this was a spooky boxset
Speaking of witches, this was a spooky box set

I missed out on these books as a kid, but they look great for some Halloween reading :)

Gorgeous art
Gorgeous art
The stuff nightmares are made of
The stuff nightmares are made of
What a cover! Love that vintage COKE bottle
What a cover! Love that vintage COLA bottle
Is it October yet? :)
Is it October yet? :)
Speaking of boxsets...
Speaking of box sets…

The Henry Reed series by Keith Robertson is another great one I was able to hunt down and highly recommend.

Classic books featuring that classic Dell Yearling design
Classic books featuring that classic Dell Yearling design
Fun wholesome reads
Fun wholesome reads
Remember Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series?
Remember Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series?
Or how about John Bellairs' books?
Or how about John Bellairs’ crazy imaginative books?
This is the book the Jack Black movie was based on
This is the book the Jack Black movie was based on
Perfect for some October reading :)
Perfect for some October reading :)
Irresistibly atmospheric!
Irresistibly atmospheric!
So many good books and not enough time
So many good books and not enough time
Coming across my favorite book of all time :D
Ran across one of my favorite books of all time :D
So much sentimental value on top of a great story
So much sentimental value on top of a great story

Before moving towns in the 7th grade, my best friend Nelson gave me a book called The Bullies and Me by Harriet Savitz. It was about a boy who moved towns, got bullied and had to figure out a way of making sense in his own world. It felt like art imitating life, although I didn’t get bullied in my new town thank goodness. Still, the message of the story resonated deeply with me. I even wrote a review for it on Amazon way back in the year 2000.

Damn right
Damn right

GOING TO READING THE MOVIES

I'm a sucker for movie novelizations...
I’m a sucker for movie novelizations…

The best part of a book hunting trip is going into the store with a mental list of some books you want but knowing the odds aren’t great that you’ll find it since they’re of the older variety… and then finding it! On this particular jaunt, I walked in thinking how nice it would be if I could find the movie novelization for Gremlins 2: The New Batch by David Bischoff. I remember seeing it on the shelf all the time as a kid in the early ’90s, but never getting a chance to read it as I was too young at the time. After making my rounds in the young adult section, I almost went to pay for the books when a funny feeling said to check the Sci-Fi section. Imagine my surprise when I unearthed a mint copy of Gremlins 2! What can I say, there’s nothing like the thrill of finding a book you’ve long wanted in the wild.

One of my favorite art covers of all time
Yet another cool art cover. Green title really pops!
Can't wait to read the Back to the Future trilogy
Can’t wait to read the Back to the Future trilogy
Alan Dean Foster you madman you
Alan Dean Foster you madman you

Fun story: the night my girlfriend came home following my purchase of Clash of the Titans (the original 1981 version not the 2010 remake), we watched the movie. It turned out that her grandfather used to love watching it and she would watch it along with him. I hadn’t seen the movie in over 25 years and I thought it held up surprisingly well. Now I gotta read the book :P

Some say it's even better than the movie...
Some say it’s even better than the movie…

Alan Dean Foster has been a busy man. He’s penned many books and many movie novelizations. His finest work, according to many, is the original Alien. Some go as far as to claim it’s the best movie novelization ever crafted. Read it for yourself and decide!

The feeling when your mailbox is stuffed with books
That feel when your mailbox is stuffed with books

This was the big one. There are only 6 books in the history of mankind I can think of that are bursting with enough machismo to be able to fill my mailbox like that. Let’s rip ‘er open to see which 6 they are…

That's a whole lot of testosterone
That’s a whole lot of testosterone
A thing of beauty if I ever did see one. My oh my
Arnold and Sly… does it get any better?!?
Badass
Badass to the nth degree
The coolest back cover in the history, period
The coolest back cover to a book ever created
A missed opportunity to show the T-1000 :(
A missed opportunity to show the T-1000 :(
RoboCop Returns is currently in the making
RoboCop Returns is currently in the making
Can't wait for Rambo Last Blood in theaters soon!
Can’t wait for Rambo: Last Blood in theaters 9.20.19
September 20, 2019 to be precise. Should be good
Before John Wick we had John Rambo

Check out the trailer here if you've missed it
[Damn right we did -Ed.]
I truly am a sucker for movie novelizations. Some are bad but the good ones add details in a way a movie can never quite hit. Similar to video game adaptations of blockbuster movies, it’s fun to suss out the diamonds in the rough.

FUN NOTES AND MORE

Stories can entertain, or enlighten, or both. Powerful!
Stories can entertain, or enlighten, or both!

BooksEx18

One fun perk of buying old used books is you never know what you might find inside. Sometimes you might find the author’s signature, other times a friendly letter left tucked inside or even alternative endings. It’s all part of the fun!

BooksEx17

An alternative ending to Judy Blume's Forever...
An alternative ending to Judy Blume’s Forever…
The most wholesome cutest note you'll ever read
Insanely wholesome and adorable

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I almost lost it when I saw this in Stranger Things 3!
I almost lost it when I saw this in Stranger Things 3

This past summer has seen a resurrection for my love of books and reading. For years my goal would always be to read more but inevitably I would never carve out the time.  This year alone I’ve already read 20 books. Admittedly, I’ve gone a little book crazy. My girlfriend will surely attest to that. My book resurgence is very similar to how I got back into the SNES in 2006. There are many parallels. I remember getting back into the fandom and the feeling of excitement that would course through my veins knowing that any swap meet (or book store) would assuredly mean coming home with several goods. Part of me is honoring the past by rereading old childhood favorites, but another part of me is honoring the future and what might come. I’m building a massive library for my future kids. They’ll never run out of literature to read and if public libraries do ever go the way of the dinosaur, at least my kids will have a safe haven. And certainly, libraries these days don’t carry the old classics. There will be plenty of Apple Paperbacks, Avon Camelot and Dell Yearling books for my kids to enjoy! I know it’s impossible to read every single book in my library but that’s just it. A library is meant to present one with many different choices at any given time depending on your current mood.

Preserving a library for future generations
Preserving a library for future generations

As much as I love the hunt and thrill of finding books to add to my library, nothing beats getting wrapped up in a really good novel. The words start to jump off the pages, worlds and characters form almost tangible images in your mind and it’s imagination intertwining with literacy and art at its finest. Not every book is worthwhile or memorable, but it’s awesome when you read one that sweeps you away. It’s a great feeling. You find it hard to put the book down and you hate when it ends. Some stories definitely stay with us for the long haul. I hope this article inspires you, if you haven’t read much lately, to look for a book that strikes your fancy. Who knows, maybe you’ll start reading regularly again just as I have. And on a final note… look for a certain series of book reviews coming in October right here on RVGFanatic!

The boogeyman's coming to get cha... [Yeah, get cha wallet! The prices, my goodness... -Ed.]
The boogeyman’s coming to get cha…
[Yeah, get cha wallet! The prices, oh my goodness… -Ed.]

Buon Compleanno

Today is June 15, 2019. To me that means two things. 1. It’s about summer time (kiss my ass, school!) and 2. It’s my little cousin’s birthday. Well, he’s not so little anymore — he stands 6 feet tall and just turned 31. David, in a nutshell, has always sort of been the little brother I never had. Thus, this article is a tribute to my cousin, the little bro I never had. Cheers to you, David. And happy birthday, bro.

IN THE BEGINNING…

David and I grew up together. In the late ’80s, my uncle lived with me and the family. He married, his wife moved in and they had a baby in ’88. I remember June 15, 1988 pretty well, considering I was only four (and three quarters) at the time. It was a damp and blustery morning as I stood outside the garage door, watching my mom sweep the dry brown leaves off the driveway. And then my uncle’s car gently roared into the just swept driveway. My aunt clambered out and it was then that David and I first met. We bonded immediately, as though we were best friends in a past lifetime.

ADVENTURES IN TEETH BRUSHING

DavidTeeth

I’m so glad my uncle loved recording us as we grew up together in the late ’80s to early ’90s. It was thanks to my uncle’s penchant for documenting everything that I fondly recall all the wacky adventures David and I shared. One of my favorite memories was David’s love for sneaking out of his crib (with my aid of course) to brush his teeth for the hundredth time that same night. At two years old, he would reach out of the crib and beg for me to transport him to his very own version of Disney World. And with that patented jovial grin of his, how could I resist? He was such a delightful and cute little rascal.

DavidTeeth2

No one loved brushing teeth more than David, and I loved to watch him do it. Never before had I seen such showmanship! After he brushed, 5 minutes later in his crib he’d tug on my shirt to take him back. So under the cover of darkness, I’d smuggle him off to the bathroom for another show. There’s a home video floating out there somewhere where you can see me shoving David — with all of my seven-year-old strength — up on to the sink. He bumped his head against the mirror really hard as he fought to stand up on his wobbly legs. Instead of crying, he amusingly stared back at his two-year-old reflection and, with a gleeful laughter, jubilantly pounded the mirror with his palm. He was a bundle of joy.

FEARLESS

FoDBaseballEx

One of my favorite pastimes was playing backyard baseball against my brother. This moment was not captured on film by my uncle but damn do I remember it as though it happened yesterday. It was the summer of 1991. I was about 8, my brother was 10 and David was 3. Kevin was on the mound and he stared me down as I stood firmly in the batter’s box (AKA a patch of grass at one end of my backyard). Kevin went into his windup, lifted his leg and flung the tennis ball down broadway as hard as he could. I took a mighty cut and fouled the ball off into the thorn bushes. David was in the background fiddling around on his brand new Power Wheels. Like most brothers growing up, Kevin and I fought a shit ton as youngsters, physically and verbally. Instead of grabbing a stick and poking the tennis ball out of the thorn bush he screamed at me for hitting it there. Of course, as little brothers often do, I had to respond in kind. And my response was not kind! We were busy shoving and jostling. And in the middle of this commotion I felt a tap. Kevin and I turned around. We could not believe our eyes.

DavidTeeth4

David, with a grin oddly plastered across his angelic little face, held out the tennis ball to us. As if it were an offering. We gasped in horror when we saw the sickening multitude of thorns that had pricked his tiny arm. But judging by his ear-to-ear grin, you’d never think the pain that had to be surging through his little arm bugged him at all. I remember kissing him on the forehead and patting him on the back. What a great kid. My brother and I immediately dropped our quarrel and we spent the rest of that afternoon playing with David in complete and blissful harmony. David does it again!

I'll never forget the sight of his pricked arm. Insanity!
I’ll never forget the sight of his pricked arm. Insanity!

Then in the spring of ’92 my aunt became pregnant, and my uncle decided the time was perfect to move out and buy a place of their own. My childhood dream of growing up in a big household — blame it on Full House I suppose — was suddenly dashed. And life, well, life would never be the same.

ROLLER COASTER OF EMOTIONS

DavidTribute1

My cousin Vince, about 10 years my senior, was one of my idols growing up. I always looked up to Vince, and in many ways felt I should pass that down to David. I hoped to provide him with wonderful memories and experiences as he grew up — just like how Vince did for me all those years ago. So when David was around 10 in 1998, I suddenly had this knack for taking him on his first roller coaster ride. He told me he had never been on one due to his fear of heights and whatnot. But I assured him it was worth it… that it was sort of a childhood rite of passage. In the summer of ’98 it became my obsession to have him ride one. And finally, one scorching hot summer day, he finally said YES.

DavidTribute

I couldn’t believe my ears, as though David was speaking to me in tongues. David was confronting his fear! He was about to embark on his first ever roller coaster adventure. Looking back on it, it may sound kind of silly but at the time it truly felt like a landmark moment in his life. I had this weird fantasy where riding a roller coaster would expand David’s world and help him to fully realize his potential. For as exuberant and daring a toddler he was, as a child he grew to be rather reserved. Deep down I always believed he still had that expressive and jubilant side in him, and I was determined to bring it out at any cost.

Finally, the moment of reckoning descended upon us. Proudly marching up to that towering steel structure that loomed before us, David was rearing to shock the system and give the man the proverbial old middle finger. But just as quickly, from out of nowhere, his grandmother (God rest her soul) swooped in, grabbed him by the wrist and yelled “ARE YOU CRAZY?! NO YOU’RE NOT GETTING ON THAT!”

Although it happened only a foot away from me, I remember feeling like it took place a chasm apart. I was completely helpless to stop it, and I saw the gleam of courage in David’s eyes instantly give way to fear. Physically, he seemed to shrink before me. And despite my urging him to still carry on, he sadly shook his head at me and could only say, “Sorry Steve, I can’t do it…”

I was crushed. So close, yet so far. It’s one of those memories and vivid scenes that stay with you for a lifetime. But as terrible as I felt, I could only imagine how defeated David must have felt. And for that, my heart absolutely sank.

DAVID’S HALLOWEEN ADVENTURE

DavidTribute2

Relinquishing the dream of the cold steel wonder that is the roller coaster, I looked to another form of cheap American thrill… the haunted house. Yet another childhood rite of passage, one of my fondest childhood memories was Halloween night of 1995. That was the night my cousins took me to my first real haunted house and I never looked back. The sights, the sounds, the smells, ahhh. I wanted David to have that experience for himself.

Michael Myers almost attacked me that night!
Michael Myers almost got me that night!

Similar to the roller coaster, David rejected my various invites. 1998 was a no go. But in 1999 he accepted. But first he wanted to trick or treat around the block. Fair enough, I thought to myself. So I took him and his sister trick or treating. David and his sister ran from house to house like thieves in the night. In a way they were! Free candy! Wearing masks! Why, in my day they didn’t hand out candy; oh heck no, rather, it was rationed paper clips! [Oh stop it -Ed.]

If only David saw those steps in the darkness...
If only David saw those steps in the darkness…

Near the end of that fateful evening, on one of the final houses on our tour, David didn’t make out the steps in the darkness and fell. I heard the sickening sound of bare knees scraping concrete. And that is a match concrete will always win. I took David and his sister home, and sadly he never left the house again that night. I was so disappointed. It was just like the roller coaster from the year prior. So close, yet so far. But there’s always next year, right?

But time was quickly running out. I was 12 when I went to the haunted house in ’95. There’s something to be said about going to a haunted house when you’re THAT young. When you’re easily impressed by halfway decent setups that replicated the horrors of a house. When you think about it, 12 is really the last year of childhood, is it not? Well, in 2000, David was 12. This was the year. The last year. It was now or never. Do or die.

DavidTribute6b

October 31, 2000. David and I finally went to that haunted house. I was glad David was able to experience it just in the nick of time before hitting his teenage years. And I know it’s über dorky but for many years following Halloween 2000 I proudly carried the ticket around in my wallet wherever I went. It was a symbol, to me, for breaking through.

Oh snap, remember Gyro's?
Oh snap, remember Gyro’s?
Good times
Good times

A SHOCKING BOMBSHELL

Say whaaaaa...
Say whaaaaa…

Summer 2004. My cousins on Vince’s side from time to time held family get togethers on Saturdays, and this was one of those jam-packed occasions. Their huge two story house was the perfect place for family reunions and gatherings. As previously stated, I admired Vince growing up. And I’ve always strove to be a great cousin and example for David, like how Vince was to me. So I guess you could say it was pretty fitting anytime that Vince, David and I found ourselves under the same roof. It actually didn’t happen as often as one might think since David’s family wasn’t super close with Vince’s family, and David was a homebody who deeply valued his peace and privacy. But in a stroke of luck, David decided to come out to the party on this fateful day, and that was where he dropped a bombshell on little ol’ me.

DavidTribute8b

Everyone was hanging out downstairs or playing pool in the backyard. David and I were chilling upstairs in the den. We were playing foosball and just kind of hanging out when he looked at me and said something I would never forget.

“… I got a D in math this past semester.”

All my life I’ve looked at David as the little brother I never had. And his bold gesture, despite the negative context, made me feel SO proud. He rarely opened up like that to anybody. At that moment I knew, without a shadow of a doubt and for the first time ever, that he saw me as the older brother HE never had. My family has never been the strongest in terms of keeping an open line of communication as I think many of us don’t feel comfortable sharing details. So for David to share that with me on that day… it blew me away. I, of course, reassured him that it was OK and that life is about learning from our mistakes. We had a really good and deep conversation before joining the rest of the fam downstairs. It was one of those bonding conversations you never forget.

A SLICE OF COLLEGE LIFE

NightHouse

It was the spring of 2005. There was a big event going on at my University one night. Everyone was welcomed to join the fray in the Student Union. It was a rally night to discuss various topics in the Asian community such as issues related to drugs, sex, sexual identity, you know, that kind of gig. I asked David to join me. Surprisingly, he was game. So 30 minutes before the event began at 7 PM, I drove to his place to pick him up.

DavidTribute9

The event was packed with roughly 60 to 75 college students from every imaginable walk of life. I glanced over at David as we found our seats. I was ecstatic that he decided to come along and step out of his comfort zone. I wanted to expose him to a slice of college life. He was probably the only high school kid there that night.

Following a brief introduction by the MC and a speech by the presenter, the floor was opened up to the people for thoughts and questions. The MC asked if anyone would like to respond to the speech. Glancing around the room, and then looking over at David who sat there with an odd grin on his face, I decided to stand up. As I stood up from my seat I could see David looking up at me in a state of semi shock. I’d never really told him about my public speaking background before. No doubt the #1 reason I decided to speak that evening was to show David you can do anything when you believe in yourself.

Staring out at a sea of humanity...
Staring out at a sea of humanity…

The walk from my seat to the front of the lecture hall felt long as hell. I think a few students coughed as I made my way up there. I shook the MC’s hand and then turned to face the audience. Man was it packed. Tugging on my blue Michael Jordan skullcap, I began my spiel.

“You know, in our Asian culture it’s not easy being homosexual. *pause* Not that I am… and not that there’s anything wrong with being homosexual.”

The room filled with laughter. I saw David cracking up. I think in some way he understood I was doing this for him. His expression was one that read, “That’s my cousin up there.” [Or maybe “I don’t know him, I swear, I don’t!” -Ed.]

On a side note, I had a point to my speech. The usage of comic relief in the intro was to lighten up the mood for a second. I certainly wouldn’t do it in a room full of college professors. It’s all about reading your audience!

However, the thrill of the night came later on. We broke into small groups to talk about our experiences and thoughts on these various issues in the Asian community. We sat in a circle and went around. When it got to be David’s turn, he shared his two cents. This high school kid was talking with a group of college students like he belonged. I was so proud of the guy. I remember just beaming at him like a proud older brother.

When the meeting concluded, David and I talked and joked all the way back to the parking garage. It was a cold and starry night. Just absolutely serene. I was thrilled that I was able to provide David with a small taste of what was to come in his future, being that he was now almost 17. Any sort of preparation, no matter how small, is big. Plus he got to see his crazy ol’ cousin in action as a bonus :D

Driving David home on the freeway that night, music blaring, I think I did Vince proud.

It was a great night for all
It was a great night for all

AMERICA’S NATIONAL PASTIME

FoDBaseball

Later that summer in July of 2005 I took David to his first baseball game. It went to extra innings and ended with a walk-off hit in the bottom of the 10th. We had a blast at the park rooting on the home team. It was another item checked off David’s list. It was simple, it was fun and he couldn’t have watched a better more exciting game. We went home on a high :)

CELEBRATING AMERICA

DavidTribute11

4th of July, 2006. I took David to one of my favorite spots to watch fireworks. It’s on a hill in the eastern side of town. At sunset the view is pretty damn gorgeous. We had a blast just talking, catching up, admiring the fireworks and celebrating America’s 230th birthday.

Check out these crazy weird photos I took that night:

O_o
O_o
:P
:P

THE RISE OF DAVID

Rise of the Silver Surfer. Hey, it's a guilty pleasure OK?
Rise of the Silver Surfer is a guilty pleasure

June 15, 2007 (the date this article was originally written) marked David’s 19th birthday. It was also the opening day for Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer. We caught the first film on opening weekend back in 2005. It was me, David and our cousin Mike out to celebrate David’s last year before hitting his 20’s.

Remember Marvel '91 trading card series? Classic!
Remember Marvel ’91 trading card series? Classic!
What a bad ass time to be a kid!
What a bad ass time to be a kid!

When we arrived at the theater it was completely jam packed! I couldn’t help but notice cute girls around David’s age were all over the place. Given the film, no shocker there. David was sitting on the edge of a row, Mike in the mid — oh look, here’s a pic to make your life (and mine!) easier.

But imagine the seats looking MUCH nicer
But imagine the seats looking MUCH nicer

The girl sitting in the row in front of us, about 5 minutes before the trailers, turned around to look back at me.

“Hey, are you saving that seat there for a friend?” she pointed to the empty seat that separated me and the cute girl.

“Nope.”

“Is it cool if you move over? My two friends are coming soon and we’re out of seats in this row here.”

No problem, I told her. OH NO PROBLEM AT ALL! David, Mike and I moved over one seat. So now the cute girl and I were sitting next to each other. I can’t say that it hurt my feelings.

And then… as I sunk into my chair and chatted with Mike and David, the two friends the girl had mentioned walked into the theater and made their way to our row.

These two ladies, as fate would have it, were the type to turn heads. I looked over at David as one of them sat down beside him and I could sense him doing mental cartwheels. Ah indeed, what a stroke of luck for my fine feathered friend.

I felt so happy for David. Dude was GOOD!
Good times

Right before the house lights dimmed for the trailers, I caught a glimpse of a sly little grin crossing David’s face. As the first preview roared over the screen and speakers, I laughed to myself, poking Mike. I gave him the look. He, too, knew what was going on with David. He discreetly glanced over at David in the darkness and then back to me, returning the “I gotcha” gesture.

What David probably dreamed of doing :P
What David probably dreamed of doing :P
dd
:D

After the movie I took David and Mike to a nearby Italian restaurant. David insisted on going to Taco Bell or Wendy’s. I told David that I love those places as much as anyone but those are no places to eat on a birthday. This Italian restaurant was far from hoity-toity upper class, but at least it had some class.

Once seated, I noticed a waitress who looked vaguely familiar. She was serving an old couple the table over. Hmmm, where have I seen her before?

This restaurant, being family oriented, had each table adorned by white drawing paper you could write and color on. A set of crayons were sprawled between the salt ‘n pepper. I took a green crayon and wrote on the sheet “Happy 30th Birthday David!”

Zoom in on mobile and you can see my messy scribble
Zoom in on mobile and you can see my messy scribble

It was an in-joke between the three of us. We often joked that David, although turning 19 at the time, always acted like someone much older than his age. David and Mike laughed when they saw my message on the dining table paper.

When our waitress came over to field our orders, she pointed to the crayon scribbling and asked “Whose birthday is it?” I pointed to David, who made meek eye contact with this attractive Filipino lass probably in her mid 20’s.

“Well, happy birthday, David,” she said warmly. He said a quick thank you. “I’ll be back with your drinks in a minute. If you need anything else, let me know.”

And then the waitress from the other table walked by. I saw her face and it hit me. She looked at me funny, too.

“Tiff?!”

“Oh my God, Steve??”

Tiffany was an old family friend I’d spent more than a few Saturday nights with, back in ’99 and 2000 along with another family friend, Tim. Back then, our parents met at Tim’s house once or twice a month for dancing and drinking. The parents partied downstairs while we did our thing upstairs. Tim and I both openly shared a crush on Tiff. Some nights she was closer to him, other nights closer to me (not physically close but emotionally). It was a friendly rivalry between he and I (we were really good friends). All in all it was good harmless 16 year old fun.

In fact, that hill I took David to on 4th of July, 2006, was the same hill in which Tim, Tiff and I spent our 4th of July back in 2000, just months before I took David to his first ever haunted house. Crazy how things connect…

Anyhow, Mike and David looked on in a mixture of confusion and wonder as Tiff and I quickly played catch-up. What a freaking small world! We hadn’t seen each other since the summer of 2000 when the parents quietly disbanded their Saturday night dance and drink-athons. Our impromptu reunion ended when she had to go back to waiting tables. We hugged and wished each other well. And that was that.

So now Mike, David and I were eating and talking. Just enjoying life. And then our waitress came over, along with another attractive female co-worker, holding a surprise small fudge cake. David’s expression said it all.

“We’re going to sing you happy birthday but in… Italian!” they ceremoniously declared.

  • Buon compleanno a te
    Buon compleanno a te
    Buon compleanno a David
    Buon compleanno a teeeeeeeeeeee

As they sang, I noted the way they starred merrily into David’s eyes as though he were the most handsome young man they had ever laid eyes on. I NEVER saw David look any prouder in the 19 years that I had known him than at that very moment in time. He sat up, chin held up high and he was beaming from ear to ear. I sat there and admired the moment. It’s an image that’s been embedded in my soul.

The rest of the day David was like a new man. I ribbed him about his two new girlfriends. He laughed and had this spark in his eyes as he went along with the joke — it made me so happy seeing him be so happy :)

And, to this day, it’s a joke we still occasionally joke about.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

MemoirsCave

In early 2015 I gave David a copy of Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman, written by my buddy, Rob Strangman. I contributed 5 guest stories to Rob’s epic book of video game memories from yesteryear, and I felt the time was right to finally share with David about the existence of RVGFanatic, and the article I had written about him way back in 2007. He was touched.

DavidNote

To my cousin, David, AKA the little bro I never had, thanks for being my cousin brother. May you always reach for the stars and be who you’re meant to be. Love ya, bro.

PS- Your ass still owes me a roller coaster ride ;)

Aladdin (SNES)

Pub & Dev: Capcom | November 1993 | 10 MEGS
Pub & Dev: Capcom | November 1993 | 10 MEGS

Last week my girlfriend and I caught the live movie adaptation of Aladdin in theaters. We enjoyed it, although both of us prefer the animated film. Seeing Aladdin on the big screen instantly brought to mind the time when Capcom, over 25 years ago, released Aladdin on the Super Nintendo. “Oh no, not another licensed video game!” Some might think from the outset. And really, history would have your back as many licensed games were seemingly more miss than hit more than a quarter of a century ago. Thankfully, Capcom incubated Aladdin with nearly as much maternal care as Disney bestowed upon their animated film. That means top notch animation, plenty of humor to keep things lighthearted and entertaining, and backed it all up with an incredibly authentic Middle Eastern atmosphere. Thus, what you have here is a strong example of the platforming genre based off 1992’s most successful film.

Will Smith as the Genie... it worked!
Will Smith as the Genie… it worked!

NEVER HAD A FRIEND LIKE ME

AladPoster

Aladdin roared into theaters the day before Thanksgiving ’92 (November 25, 1992 for those keeping score at home) and grossed over 500 million worldwide! It was met with undying fanfare. The song “A Whole New World” won an Oscar at the 1993 Academy Awards. The end credits boast a whopping 513 people! It was the first Disney film to show a belly button. Aladdin was based, believe it or not, on a cross between Michael J. Fox and Tom Cruise. Also, did you know that Aladdin once killed 40 thieves? [That was Ali Baba, you fool -Ed.]

[Hmmm, those facts sound oddly familiar... -Ed.]
[Hmmm, those facts sound oddly familiar… -Ed.]
Hey now, I *like* that song
Hey now, I *like* that song

AladTV

Aladdin was such a smash hit that he had his own animated series as part of the classic Disney Afternoon lineup back during the early mid ’90s. I was a pretty big fan of the TV series. If you don’t remember the Disney Afternoon, it was essentially the cartoon version of TGIF. The Disney Afternoon aired Mondays through Fridays from 3 to 5 PM. Perfect for veggin’ out right after school for a couple blissful hours. Oh they don’t make them like how they used to, that’s fer damn sure! Needless to say, Capcom had a lot to live up to when they set their sights on adapting Aladdin to the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. But if anyone could pull it off back in those days, it was the Big C.

Racist? Never...
Racist? Never…

THE ADVENTURES OF ABU

Abu is wonderfully represented here
Abu is wonderfully represented here

THE STORY GOES…

Follows the movie to a tee
Follows the movie to a tee
Creepy looking hands!
Creepy looking hands!
It's the Cave of Wonders!
It’s the Cave of Wonders!
One whose worth lies deep within ... THE DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH!
One whose worth lies deep within
… THE DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH!
... this diamond in the rough...
… this diamond in the rough…

mmx6

Not all movie games suck ;)
Not all movie games suck ;)

THE BASICS

Aladdin has got the moves
Aladdin has got the moves

AladdinEx1

THE MARKETPLACE

The game begins In the dusty streets of Agrabah
The game begins in the dusty streets of Agrabah
Fun bouncing on the guy's head
Fun bouncing on the guy’s head
Where you at, Shaggy?
Where you at, Shaggy?

Aladdin3

Sprinting across the tops — high above the heads of enemies — looks great, but Aladdin’s movement has a certain herky jerkiness. It’s not a big issue but it does take a second to adjust to.

Aladdin4

Aimed properly, you can bounce off a bad guy’s head and in one seamless motion stick the landing on a nearby platform. Pretty satisfying it is.

Aladdin5

Press down to fall on the villain’s head and vanquish him. There is a sort of Prince of Persia feel to this game.

Snakes be damned!
Snakes be damned!

More fun than a barrel  [snip -Ed.]
And these fools, too
[I always knew the monkey was smarter -Ed.]
[I always knew the monkey was smarter -Ed.]
[Truly, the brains of the operation -Ed.]
[Truly, the brains of the operation -Ed.]

You best better
You best better
Animations are amazing
Animations are amazing
Apparently not
Apparently not
I love how they mock you
I love how they mock you :P
He's pissed off now!
He’s pissed off now!
When all else fails, feign defeat
When all else fails, feign defeat
That would be a long fall down
That would be a long fall down…
Never skip arm day
Why you never skip arm day
Gotta love the little bugger
Gotta love the little bugger
A satisfying means of dispatching the opposition
A satisfying means of dispatching the opposition
Meet the first boss of the game
Meet the first boss of the game
Apples don't hurt him, not even down there
Apples don’t hurt him, not even down there
When did Abu become so cynical? :P
When did Abu become so cynical? :P
Whoa that escalated quickly
Whoa that escalated quickly
Sorry old pal
Sorry about that, old pal

[You and me both, Abu. You and me both -Ed.]
[You and me both, Abu. You and me both -Ed.]
[Us too! -Super Play staff]
[Us too! -Super Play staff]

But peace doesn't last long
Of course, peace is short lived…

THE CAVE OF WONDERS

Aladdin26

I rather like this stage quite a bit. Use your athletic acrobatics to maneuver your way across spiky pits and such. Good stuff.

Aladdin27

Use apples to send pesky bats away. And what the hell is a delectable piece of meat such as that doing out in the wide open? It’ll spoil! Guess you better gobble it up then before it does!

Aladdin28

Leaping off enemies and platforms doesn’t always go as you intend it to. Thankfully, it’s mostly a case of something you did that went awry, as opposed to flat out poor controls.

I swear Abu, this had better be good...
I swear Abu, this had better be good…
Of course Abu would
Of course Abu would
But I swear, if this hits the fan...
Man, if this hits the fan…
Moral: Never trust a monkey, ever
Moral: Never trust a monkey, ever
That sounds about right
That sounds about right
Feet fail me not!
Feet fail me not!

Aladdin34

If you manage to survive this, you’ll run into a rather magical friend.

Abu's expression says it all
Abu’s expression says it all
Obviously not
Obviously not
Yo Carpet, it's like that huh
Yo Carpet, it’s like that huh

Carpet, in theory, could whisk you to safety, but where’s the fun in that? Nope, you must brave through this auto scrolling stage on your own.

Damn you, Carpet!
Damn you, Carpet!
Don't hang on too long or else
Don’t hang on too long or else
Pull it to rise the barrier
Pull the rope to raise the barrier
Whew, just missed!
Whew, just missed!
Yeah, sure, whatever ya say...
Yeah, sure, whatever ya say…
O_O
o_O
Good shit from Capcom
That’s me at 5 stealing my mom’s cookies from the jar
DON'T TOUCH THAT, ABU!
DON’T TOUCH THAT, ABU!
Carpet tries its damndest
Carpet tries its damnedest
That can't be good
That can’t be good
ALVIN!!! ABU!!!
ALVIN!!! ABU!!!
Whew, too close for comfort
Whew, too close for comfort
Yet another force scrolling stage
Yet another auto scrolling stage
Word!
Word!
Should have worn sandals
Should have worn sandals
The biggest pull up of your life
The biggest pull up of your life
ANOTHER auto scroller
ANOTHER auto scrolling stage
But at least Carpet's with you
But at least Carpet’s with you this time!

After a couple head scratching stages where you’re forced to travel over murky waters and skin scorching lava without the aid of Magic Carpet, it finally decides to lend a hand, er, corner? Hey, better late than never!

AladdinEx8

Arguably the game’s most adrenaline-fueled level, nothing quickens the pulse quite like riding on Magic Carpet with your girl while doing your best to evade the sizzling molten lava that’s right on your tail!

INSIDE THE GENIE’S LAMP

"Little ol' me?" Yes, little ol' you!
“Little ol’ me?”  Yes, little ol’ you!

Aladdin55

Genie’s stage takes you to a cloud-filled universe that’s well out of this world. How befitting of a genie! You suddenly find yourself doing pull ups on cloudy wisps in a strange land that’s NOT AT ALL egotistical…

Aladdin56

In classic Capcom fashion, landing on those Genie platforms will make the Big G frown for as long as you’re on it. Otherwise, the blue bastard’s full of cheesy grins.

I've never had a friend like you...
Patience and precision is key here
Things get more and more bizarre
Things get more and more bizarre
Man, I sure as hell ain't never had a friend like you
Man, I sure as hell ain’t never had a friend like you
Use his makeshift parachute to glide to safety
Use his makeshift parachute to glide to safety

THE PYRAMID

I like how they disintegrate when you jump on them
I like how they disintegrate when you jump on them
The shifting sands makes it difficult to navigate safely
The shifting sand makes it difficult to navigate safely
Er, yeeeeah. You're on your own on this one, Al...
Err, yeeeeah. You’re on your own on this one, Al…

BONUS LEVEL: MAGIC CARPET RIDE

Aladdin62

For my money, this is by far and away the greatest moment in the entire game. The sights and sounds — perfection personified. Based on the classic scene from the movie, it even replicates the “A Whole New World” song! Sans lyrics of course, but it’s a near perfect rendition otherwise. The whole damn thing is almost enough to make even the most hardened warrior feel all warm and tingly inside. Don’t take my word for it, watch it and listen to it here!

A WHOLE NEW WORLD! [Don't you dare... -Ed.]
A WHOLE NEW WORLD!  [Don’t you dare… -Ed.]

JAFAR’S PALACE

Saving the best for last, eh?
Saving the best for last, eh?
Wouldn't be Aladdin without a street rat reference
Wouldn’t be Aladdin without a street rat reference
Repeat this pattern for good health and prosperity
Repeat this pattern for good health and prosperity
Uh oh, Jafar is pissed now...
Uh oh, Jafar is pissed now…
HOLY MOLY!
HOLY MOLY!!

Aladdin68

Use the parachute or else you'll get singed!
Use the parachute or else you’ll get fried
Shout out to those who get this reference!
Shout out to those who get this reference!
Early-mid '90s was such a great time for games
Early-mid ’90s was such a great time to be a gamer :)
It's got a simple pattern. Do yer thang, Big Al!
It’s got a simple pattern. Do yer thang, Big Al!
YEAH, TELL 'IM, AL!
YEAH YOU TELL ‘IM, AL!
*collective gasp*
*collective gasp*
Man fuck this shit :P
Man fuck this shit :P
Who're you... SHREDDER?!
Who’re you… SHREDDER?!
R.I.P. James Avery AKA Uncle Phil, voice of Shredder
One of my favorite lines of all time
Is it? Find out for yourself...
Is it? Find out for yourself…

GENIE!

AladdinEasy2

AladdinEasy

On the whole, Aladdin is a pretty easy game. It’s got a few tough spots, but with a password system in place and plenty of extra lives to be had, it’s something that the average gamer should be able to polish off without too much hardship.

AladdinGO

Capcom’s classic continue screens, er, continue with Aladdin. Pull the yes one and Genie will flash you a satisfied grin.

AladdinGO2

But yank on the no one and watch the poor sap sulk and frown.

Not as crazy as the one in Final Fight though :P
Not as crazy as the one in Final Fight though :P

GENNY!

Aladdin79

For ages now, even to this day more than 25 years later, there has been a debate amongst gamers on which version is superior: the Genesis or Super Nintendo rendition of Aladdin. Both games are significantly different from one another, as Capcom developed the SNES one while Virgin Interactive did the Genesis one. The Genesis version emphasizes more action than platforming. Both games were highly praised in their own right, but consensus seems to favor the Genesis game slightly. Regardless of which version you think is better, you can’t go wrong with either one.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

AladdinCT

Aladdin was well received by the critics. EGM gave it scores of 9, 8, 8 and 8. EGM’s sister publication, Super NES Buyer’s Guide, scored it 89, 86 and 85%. GameFan gave it ratings of 90, 90, 89 and 87%. Super Play rated it 81%. Most agreed on it being a fun and colorful platforming game by the ever trustworthy Capcom, who infused Aladdin with an admirable amount of care and respect to the source material. It’s not the most outstanding example of the genre on the SNES, but it’s certainly one of the better ones in the catalog.

AladdinEx15

AladdinEx14

AladdinEx12

AladdinEx13

AladdinEx10

AladdinEx11

AladdinEx16

CLOSING THOUGHTS

AladdinCT2

Aladdin is a quality platformer, but its two biggest flaws are that it’s too short and it teeters a bit too much on the easy side. Similar to Skyblazer, the levels are over right as I’m ready to sink my teeth into ‘em. The lack of enemies, not to mention the lack of enemy diversity, was also something of a disappointment. You can easily finish this game before you finish watching the animated movie! However, with a busy schedule that may include juggling relationships, kids and work, those two “flaws” aren’t the biggest indictments in the gaming world. I suppose that’s one way to look at it.

Aladdin80

The graphics are splendid; they’re filled to the brim with detail, colors and parallax scrolling that seems to stretch on forever. The sound is pretty good, especially the renditions of the movie’s various themes. The SNES version of A Whole New World is my personal favorite and hits me in the feels every single time I hear its lovely jingle. Gameplay consists of your classic basics, sprinkled with a little Prince of Persia feel to it, complete with hanging from ledges with your pinkie fingers.

AladdinCT3

The control is generally solid but I do have a few gripes. Whenever you press left or right Aladdin will take a step (or two) in that direction. On small platforms this could cause him to slip every now and then, so be thankful for that hanging-on-the-ledge-with-your-pinkie business! Some handspring bounces off obstacles and enemies are also a bit tough to implement properly, particularly when it comes to needing several bounces in succession. Thankfully, such parts are few and far between. Mostly you’re just bouncing off one enemy or object at a time so it doesn’t adversely impact gameplay as much as one might fear. The control is definitely far from perfect but nothing you won’t quickly adjust to and manage. Those few niggles, however, are worth noting.

AladdinCT4

All in all, Aladdin is a fine platformer that deserves a spot in any SNES library. It does its source material a great deal of respect and is plain fun to play. It won’t last you long, or challenge you terribly much, but depending on one’s schedule and tolerance level, those things may be blessings or curses. Capcom could almost do no wrong back in the early-mid ’90s, and Aladdin is another solid example of such. Definitely and easily one of the better license games from the vaunted 16-bit era!

Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8
Longevity: 5.5

AwardsOverall: 8.0
Silver Award

 

Aladdin81

Final Fantasy II (SNES)

Pub & Dev: Square | November 1991 | 8 MEGS
Pub & Dev: Square | November 1991 | 8 MEGS

As a kid I had almost zero interest in RPGs. My brother loved them but I had the ignorant opinion that they were slow and boring. Now opinions are opinions and I would never call someone who dislikes the genre “ignorant.” However, I say ignorant for myself only because I judged an entire genre without giving it a chance. Ironically, I now love RPGs as much as any other gaming genre. My first foray into the RPG realm came courtesy of Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (December 2007). Although certainly a flawed game, I had one hell of a good time. Naturally, it made too much sense to have my second RPG experience be Final Fantasy II. In some ways you could say that Final Fantasy II marked my first “real” RPG (if you don’t count Mystic Quest as a legit RPG which some folks do not). Final Fantasy II was a sweeping and grand adventure; what follows below will be some thoughts and memories. Fair warning: some spoilers lie ahead so play it first before you continue on! Besides, if you haven’t already played it, you probably should.

THE STORY GOES…

FinFan2

Crew: Captain Cecil! We’re about to land.

Cecil: At long last!

Crew Guy 1: Pray tell, Cap, why are we stealing the crystals from innocent folk?

Crew Guy 2: That’s what we’ve been summoned to do. And that’s that.

Crew Guy 1: Do we really have to keep doing this? Captain?

Cecil:

Crew Guy 3: Prepare for landing!

FinFan2-1

Elder: Take the crystal if you must.

Cecil: Could have saved yourself the trouble by saying that earlier.

Elder: But consider this. Why would the King of Baron do this? Why do you pursue the crystals so eagerly?

Cecil:

Crew Guy 2: SHUT UP old man, or I’ll shut you up myself!

The heist has been completed
The heist has been completed

FinFan2-3

Crew Guy 1: Captain, I don’t know if we can keep doing this.

Cecil: Possessing the crystal is essential to our prosperity. More importantly, His Majesty has deemed that the Mysidians know too much about the crystal’s secrets. We are the Red Wings, the air force of the Kingdom Baron! The Royal Command is absolute.

Crew Guy 3: You sure?

Cecil:

FinFan2-4

Baigan: About time, Cecil! I see you have the Crystal of Water. Well done.

Cecil: Indeed. But… the Mysidians were so helpless.

Baigan: What are you trying to say?

Cecil: Well… it’s just…

Baigan: Don’t get soft on me now. You did what you had to do. Don’t overthink it, for your own sake.

Cecil:

Baigan: Follow me…

FinFan2-5

Baigan: Your Majesty, I’m afraid Cecil has developed a conscience and a rebellious air. I don’t think we can trust him going forward.

King: I have no room for backstabbers. I’ll take care of him swiftly.

*MOMENTS LATER*

Cecil: You called, Sir?

King: Yes! Good job, Cecil. Hand me the crystal.

Cecil: Sir, are we doing the right thing?

King: You dare question me, YOUR KING?!?

FinFan2-6

Cecil: I just want to know what’s going on.

King: Let’s cut the bullshit. I know of your discontent, Cecil. Since you no longer trust me, you cannot be commander of the Red Wings. You are dismissed from your post!

Cecil: What?!

King: Take this package, and venture to Village Mist. Just remember this one thing. A man digs his own grave. Guards, get this maggot outta my sight!

LATER THAT NIGHT...
LATER THAT NIGHT…

FinFan2-8

Rosa: Cecil! What’s wrong? You haven’t been yourself lately.

Cecil: We had to rob the innocent folks in Mysidia.

Rosa: Oh dear…

Cecil: I’m just a Dark Knight with no courage to disobey His Majesty.

Rosa: Hmph! The real Cecil I know would never whimper like this!

Cecil: Rosa, about tomorrow…

Rosa: I know. I know. Get some rest, for tomorrow is a big day… for all of us…

No genre does atmospheric late night musings like RPGs
No genre does atmospheric late night chats like RPGs :)
Really part IV in Japan but part II in North America
Really part IV in Japan but part II in North America

FinFan2-11

In typical RPG fashion, you trek through the land in an overhead view. It’s simplistic but therein lies the beauty.

FinFan2-12

Enemies randomly crop up, taking you to this battle screen. Growing up I thought RPGs were lame and boring, but now I can’t get enough of it. Go figure!

Use magic to light up the screen
Use magic to light up the screen
Gotta love magic attacks that strike all of the enemies
Gotta love magic attacks that strikes all enemies
Quoth the Raven: Nevermore
Quoth the Raven: Nevermore
And so, the bartering begins
And so, the bartering begins
Maybe Namingway should change his own name...
Maybe Namingway should change his own name…

Early on in the game, Cecil fulfills a life long dream when he legally changes his name to Steve. Hey, can you blame him? [Shush you -Ed.]

Chatting up the locals is all part of the storytelling fun
Chattin’ up the locals is all part of the storytelling fun
Oooh, the plot thickens. Who is this strange old man?
Ooh, the plot thickens. Who is this strange old man?
Hmm. I reckon this can't be too good...
Hmm. I reckon this can’t be too good…
What a guy, that Steve [It should be Cecil... -Ed.]
What a guy, that Steve [It should be Cecil… -Ed.]
Antlion doesn't sound like the name of sumthin' tame...
Antlion doesn’t sound like the name of sumthin’ tame...
Old Guy: Let's see what kind of game Steve has...
Old Guy: Let’s see what kind of game Steve has…
Rosa: Thank you for being here with me... Steve: Alright... well... yeah, get some sleep. Old Guy: Ugh... no game at all!
Rosa: Thank you for being here with me…
Steve: Alright… well… yeah, get some sleep.
Old Guy: Ugh… NO game at all!
Steve: Say whaaaa?! Um, no she doesn't... Old Guy: YOU FOOL. I'm blind and EVEN I can see!
Steve: Say whaaaa?! Um, no she doesn’t…
Old Guy: YOU FOOL. I’m blind and EVEN I can see!
Rydia: You always get me, Steve...
Rydia: You always get me, Steve…
Everyone plays a vital role in the journey
Everyone plays a vital role in the journey
Edward: DO IT FOR ANNA! Rydia: Playing the dead girlfriend card?! Oh my...
Edward: DO IT FOR ANNA!
Rydia: Playing the dead girlfriend card?! Oh my…
Steve: Hey, no! Wait, no it isn't what it looks like... Yang: Suuuuure... mmm hmm.
Steve: Hey, no! Wait, no it isn’t what it looks like…
Yang: Suuuuure… mmm hmm. Riiight…
Love Yang. Such a badass
Love Yang. Such a badass
Here comes the calvary at last!
Here comes the calvary at last!
Steve: Um... hi there... PS- no thanks on PPS
Steve: Um… hi there… PS- no thanks on PPS

The twins, Palom and Porom, are comic relief characters to the nth degree.

Old Guy: What, was there no decaf this morning?
Old Guy: What, was there no decaf this morning?

[Lord knows ONE Steve is more than enough! -Ed.]
[Lord knows ONE Steve is more than enough! -Ed.]
[Keep heading toward that light, Steve... -Ed.]
[Keep heading toward that light, Steve… -Ed.]

Envy is the ruin of us all
Envy is the ruin of us all
Plenty of story twists abound in FINAL FANTASY II
Plenty of story twists abound in FINAL FANTASY II
Here, take a look for yourself
Here, take a look for yourself
"Ooooooooh... ahhhhhh..."
“Ooooooooh… ahhhhhh…”
Old Guy: Hey I'm old and blind, cut me some slack. Listen again!
Old Guy: Hey I’m old and blind, cut me some slack!

This part cracks me up because we all know a nostalgic person like this in our lives who can’t shut up about their old war stories or the “good old days” [Pot, kettle, black -Ed.]

Such a sad scene this was... *SNIFF*
Such a sad scene *SNIFF*

Final Fantasy II featured an intricate plot full of twists and turns that will tug at your heartstrings. You latched onto the characters; you connected with them and believed in them. There’s a certain synergy about this game that makes playing it akin to reading a really good book.

Never know what goodies you might find
Never know what goodies you might find

JACKPOT! Finding a bevy of treasure chests just lying around is always exciting. Your eyes just light up as you make your way around each box. Classic RPG gaming at its best.

The story moves along at a brisk pace
The story moves along at a brisk pace

An epic battle wages between Golbez and Tellah. Tellah has a devastating magic spell up his sleeve known simply as Meteo. It inflicts a shit ton of damage — 9,999 HP reduction to be precise. But at what cost?

Forgiving someone can do wonders for ones own spirit
Forgiving someone can do wonders for your spirit…

In life sometimes we have to learn how to forgive those who have harmed us. We’re only hurting ourselves if we don’t. It’s more about what it does for you than it does to the person you’re forgiving. A good lesson I’ve learned over the years!

What's an RPG without an innocent perverse moment?
What’s an RPG without an innocent pervy moment?
It's prudent to heed the wisdom of your elders...
It’s prudent to heed the wisdom of your elders…
But not this one. D'oh! Love Square's sense of humor
But not this one, d’oh! Love Square’s sense of humor
Ominous...
Ominous…
Edge the ninja is a pretty bad-ass dude
Edge the ninja is a pretty badass dude

FinFan2-51

One of the many things I love about RPGs is the relationship dynamic between the group members. I particularly like it when there’s some degree of inner turmoil among the party members. It just makes things more interesting when there’s little moments of in-house bickering. They add charm to the game and are always a hoot to read. Nothing like a little good old fashioned tension among the ranks to break up the monotony of the trip.

Edge is 1337! How appropriate...
Edge is 1337! How appropriate…
Door #1, #2, or #3? Which door shall it be? Hmmm
Door #1, #2, or #3? Which door shall it be? Hmmm
Of course, Nintendo of America didn't allow "PRAY"
Of course, Nintendo of America didn’t allow “PRAY”
"For me WHAT?! What 'cha say? Damn, maybe I should have been listening"
“For me WHAT?! What ‘cha say?
Damn, maybe I should have been listening!”
Plenty of intense drag-'em-out boss fights await
Plenty of intense drag ‘em out boss fights await
Can you survive the challenges ahead?
Can you survive the challenges ahead?
[Oh so you mean like basically the rest of eternity -Ed.]
[Oh so you mean like basically the rest of eternity -Ed.]
Will he finally say it at last...
Will he finally say it at last…
[I freaking knew it -Ed.]
[I freaking knew it -Ed.]
Who needs fancy 3D graphics when you have THIS?
Who needs fancy 3D graphics when you have THIS?
Final Fantasy II proves gameplay trumps graphics
Final Fantasy II proves gameplay trumps graphics
But the visuals certainly aren't half bad for their time
But the visuals certainly aren’t half bad for their time
Steve: "But naw, it was just my stomach growling"
“But naw, it was just my stomach growling”
Ah, how good to see everyone again!
Ah, how good to see everyone again!

In the end, a grand celebration is held and many old faces rejoin the fray for one big reunion bash.

To the right, to the right, to the right, to the right To the left, to the left, to the left, to the left Now kick, now kick, now kick, now kick Now walk it by yourself, now walk it by yourself
To the right, to the right, to the right, to the right
To the left, to the left, to the left, to the left
Now kick, now kick, now kick, now kick
Now walk it by yourself, now walk it by yourself
From the previous owner's save slot. He went nuts...
From the previous owner’s save slot. He went nuts…

I love how stupid high the numbers get in this game. HP of 5611? Why not! My final stats:

Steve L55 3699 HP 222 MP
Rydia L51 1704 HP 449 MP
Edge L52 2614 HP 168 MP
Rosa L53 2654 HP 440 MP
Kain L54 3373 HP

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

FinFan2-68

Final Fantasy II was very well received by the critics. EGM gave it the Game of the Month honors, earning scores of 7, 8, 8 and 9. Super Play Magazine rated it 90%. You can’t go wrong with this game, and there’s even a small spattering of fans who prefer it to the almighty Final Fantasy III. Final Fantasy II is a well paced, story driven RPG no SNES fan can afford to miss. If you’ve somehow missed it all these years, be sure to bump it up to the top of your queue.

FinFanIIEx4

FinFanIIEx5

FinFan2SP

FinFanIIEx

CLOSING THOUGHTS

FinFan2-69

Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest eased me into the genre, which I blindly disliked as a kid, but it was Final Fantasy II that cemented me as an RPG fan for life. I discovered, in my mid 20s, just how satisfying RPGs can be. The action may not come at you fast and furious, but the great storytelling and character dynamics make for a hell of a ride no other genre can provide. From romantic subplots to betrayal to even death, Final Fantasy II is a breathing and organic piece of art that sucks you in and doesn’t let go until the very last magic spell. You can’t ask for much more from a video game than that.

FinFan2-70

The effectiveness of its characters can often times either make or break an RPG. Thankfully, Final Fantasy II is graced from top to bottom with plenty of memorable characters. Yang, the wacky twins, Cid and Edge — just to name some — are the sort you’ll grow attached to as you go about the journey. Although Cecil is the main star here, it’s more akin to an assemble cast. Sure, the formula’s a bit simple and basic, but that’s also part of its charm. You traverse from town to town, talking with the locals, picking up clues, buying supplies, leveling up in the nearby forests and caves, and then battle a boss before moving onto the next region. It’s the storytelling aspect of these games that I admire so much. When an RPG is done right, like this one is, it sweeps you away to a far away land full of wonder and danger. It’s video game escapism at its best. Long day at work? Long holiday weekend? Nothing like popping in a quality RPG to get away from it all for a few moments. Although Final Fantasy II may be linear, doesn’t have many side quests and may even seem rather basic to more seasoned veterans of the genre, there’s an undeniable charm to the game. The story moves along at a brisk pace, the characters are endearing and it’s backed by a stellar soundtrack. If you haven’t played this game yet, you’re missing out on one of the best SNES RPGs.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 9.5
Gameplay: 9
Longevity: 8

Award4Overall: 9.0
Gold Award

Sure. As we know, nothing is final with Final Fantasy :P
Sure. As we know, nothing’s final with Final Fantasy :P

Fatal Fury 2 (SNES)

Pub: Takara | Dev: SNK | April 1994 | 20 MEGS
Pub: Takara | Dev: SNK | April 1994 | 20 MEGS

In April of 1994 — 25 years ago in fact — Takara released the SNES port of Fatal Fury 2. Being one of the Neo Geo’s most popular fighting games, the original version made its debut in the arcade in 1992 and weighed in at a hefty 106 megs. The Super Nintendo conversion clocked in at 20 robust megs, arriving (arguably) right around the peak of the golden age of both fighting games and 16-bit gaming. Fatal Fury 2 proved to be a prime example of how to nail down a sequel properly, featuring more playable fighters, more special moves and enhancing virtually everything that the first Fatal Fury had to offer.

FATAL FURY ORIGINS

The Neo Geo MVS was a gorgeous sight in those days
The Neo Geo MVS was a gorgeous sight in those days

March 1991. A one on one fighting game revolutionized the gaming world. STREET FIGHTER II became nothing short of a phenomenon and a household name. At the time I was only 7 years old, but I can still remember it so vividly. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing the Street Fighter II arcade cab. Whether it was 7-11, video rental stores, Pizza Huts or trading card shops, people lined up in droves to play it. Fatal Fury came out roughly 8 months later in November of 1991. I remember encountering Fatal Fury for the first time on a Neo Geo MVS cab. These powerhouse machines could hold up to four games, giving players the ultimate choice. The cab stood out in a crowd with its bright red exterior and four mini game posters up top. It immediately caught your eye and it was always fun to look up and see which four games were featured. Occasionally, old games got filtered out and were replaced by newer ones. There was always an element of Russian Roulette with Neo Geo MVS cabs that I loved. If you were in the arcade scene back in the early ’90s, then I know you know damn full well what I mean.

Magical memories
Damn near mythical

In retrospect, that time period was truly special. There was a certain magic to it. Just standing in front of an MVS cab gazing up at the four titles and watching the game demos switch on the screen before you, each game making a convincing bid for your precious quarter, was epic beyond words. Maybe part of it had to do with being young… but I really believe in my heart of hearts that that was simply a magical time in gaming that will never be duplicated ever again, period.

FatFur2RVG

Fatal Fury was often wrongly accused of being a Street Fighter II clone as it came out 8 months later. Back in the day it was easy to claim that. But years later I discovered a shocking fact. The sort that debunks the gaming theories of one’s youth. The creator of Fatal Fury, Takashi Nishiyama, also created the very first Street Fighter (1987). After gaining recognition for his talents following Street Fighter, he was sought out by SNK. Nishiyama, along with many members of the development crew for the first Street Fighter, made the jump to SNK. Fatal Fury was the follow-up title in November 1991. In an interview conducted by 1UP, Nishiyama was quoted, “Fatal Fury was my Street Fighter II.” Wow. As it turns out, Fatal Fury was never a Street Fighter II wannabe. In Nishiyama’s mind, Fatal Fury WAS Street Fighter II. My bad, Mr. Nishiyama. Forgive me for the sins of my youth.

FatFur2RVG2

So much for Fatal Fury being a Street Fighter II clone, eh? Fatal Fury was actually in development at the same time as Street Fighter II. Fatal Fury has a special place in my gaming heart. I fondly remember it best for its 2 player co-op mode, where you and a friend can team up to fight the thugs at the same time. This gave it a unique atmosphere, almost as if it were an old kung fu flick. I have so many memories of my brother and me battling South Town’s most corrupt and dangerous villains. From the ageless Tung Fu Rue, who could morph into a muscular monster, to the enigmatic dancing Duck King. With incredibly lush and vibrant visuals, it made for a damn fine alternative whenever the Street Fighter II line went past the entrance. In some ways I even liked Fatal Fury more than Street Fighter II as a kid.

This was mind blowing back in 1991!
This was mind blowing back in 1991!

It was so cool how the levels you fought on would change from round to round. At first it’s sunny but then evening would befall the battle tested warriors. Tung Fu Rue’s stage haunts me to this day, even nearly 30 years later. The second my brother and I saw those heavy raindrops falling from the sky, complete with ominous thunder and lightning, we didn’t know whether to wind our watches or crap our pants. I remember standing there at Safeway completely frozen in awe. To this day it remains one of my fondest gaming memories. Another night I recall fondly occurred either in late ’91 or early ’92. Fatal Fury just came out and my uncle took us to a mom and pop rental shop. We rented WWF Survivor Series 1991. My brother and I were so hyped to see the championship match pitting the Immortal Hulk Hogan against the impervious Undertaker. But instead of rushing home as we normally would following a WWF tape rental, we found ourselves fixated on tag teaming against Tung Fu Rue as the arcade screen rained cats and dogs.

fatalfuryarcade

Our uncle, being the awesome uncle that he was, stood by the arcade cab cheering us on. Not many games could put Hulkamania on hold, but there was something special about Fatal Fury that resonated with me. Those colorful backgrounds and their wondrous transitions haunt me to this very day!

FatFur2RVG4

While flawed, Fatal Fury was a fun game in its own right. While Street Fighter II featured smoother gameplay and placed an emphasis on combos, Fatal Fury (from Nishiyama’s own words) “focused more on storytelling and special moves.” Although Fatal Fury lacked a combo system, it did feature some amazing special moves. Since there were no combos, you had to rely on pulling off your special moves at just the right time in order to gain the upper hand. Special moves are the lifeblood of Fatal Fury. Fatal Fury also had a pretty good story. You play as one of the Bogard brothers (Terry and Andy) or Joe Higashi. Your goal: avenge your father’s death. The man responsible: South Town’s crime lord, Geese Howard! Sure it sounds simple, but there is much beauty in simplicity.

I was so hyped seeing this in EGM circa January 1993
I was so hyped seeing this in EGM circa January 1993

As was the case back in those days, one could only dream of owning the mega expensive Neo Geo system. Therefore, most of us mere mortals had to rely on sized down 16-bit conversions that were either hit or miss (often times seemingly more miss than hit). Sadly, Fatal Fury was a massive miss. My brother and I were ecstatic seeing it previewed in the vaunted pages of EGM in early 1993, but a small part of our childhood died when we finally played it months later. I won’t even bother to review it. It’s a super disappointing conversion, eliminating the 2-on-1 game mode that made the original so damn fun and appealing.

Sure it looks nice but...
Sure it looks nice but…

At first glance, it looks promising. Although obviously scaled down visually, it looks pretty damn good for a 1993 Super Nintendo game. It captures the lush and vibrant colors of the arcade. F’rinstance, Andy’s massive energy wave looks fairly on point. But beyond excluding the 2-on-1 mode, the gameplay suffered due to its terrible control. The sound quality was poor as well. It was a far cry from the arcade original and that made me very sad as a kid.

What a missed opportunity...
What a missed opportunity :(

ROUND 2… FIGHT!!

One of the best quotes in fighting game history
One of the best quotes in fighting game history

Following the “death” of Geese Howard at the end of the first tournament, a new leader stepped in. And not just any Average Joe [Higashi -Ed.], it was actually Geese’s half-brother, the vile Wolfgang Krauser! Talk about keeping it in the family…

FatFur2RVG7

MORE FIGHTERS! MORE MOVES! 20 MEGS! YEEEAH!!
MORE FIGHTERS! MORE MOVES! 20 MEGS! YEEEAH!!
Damn right
Damn right

HIDING IN PLANE SIGHT

Two planes let you escape the action for a strategic bit
2 planes let you escape the action for a strategic bit

FatFur2RVG10

The first Fatal Fury didn’t allow you to manually switch planes. But here you can, and it’s much better this way. It added in a wrinkle and made battles more strategic.

Just another reason why I love the SNES controller :)
Just another reason why I love the SNES controller :)

The six buttons on the SNES controller was fully utilized. Instead of pressing two buttons to switch planes like in the arcade, all you had to do here was push R. Nice! So while the arcade original is obviously superior, little tweaks like this made the SNES port easier to play in some ways.

FatFur2Ex4

Projectiles are much easier to avoid, and thus a bit devalued as a result.

You can even smack them into the next plane!
You can even smack them into the next plane!
You can also attack from one plane over. Sweet
You can also attack from one plane over. Sweet
Jubei's stage is the best for plane jumping ;)
Jubei’s stage is the best for plane jumping ;)
Jump kicking through paper screens is rather satisfying
Jump kicking through paper screens is quite satisfying

A few stages have their own unique gimmick. On one stage you can shatter paper screens or “hide” behind them, making you feel like you’re in a Bruce Lee film. There are other stages where you can even send your rival into various hazards in the background, causing extra harm. More on that later…

Good shit
Good shit
It never gets old :D
It never gets old :D

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

FatFur2RVG14

Everyone can jump back to avoid attacks. Also, anyone can crouch while moving forward at the same time. Not just for the more agile fighters but everyone, including Big Bear. There are also counterattacks. All of this made Fatal Fury 2 a much deeper game than its predecessor.

You can also taunt... if you're the scoundrel type
You can also taunt… if you’re the scoundrel type
They always come crawling back... or forward
They always come crawling back… or forward

FatFur2Ex11

Although home ports could never match the faithfulness of its arcade original, home bonuses such as the Elimination Mode was always a welcome sight.

LET THE TOURNAMENT BEGIN

If you're gonna steal some ideas then take from the best
If you’re gonna steal some ideas then take the best
Andy was my guy. Terry for my brother. Art imitates life
Andy was MY GUY. Terry for my bro. Art imitates life

THE KING OF FIGHTERS

FatFury2Ex

FatFur2RVG17

It’s nowhere near as iconic as Ryu’s dojo rooftop but it’s memorable in its own right. Battling on a roaring railroad train, the passing scenery is majestic but the action is brutal and barbaric. Few landmarks scream AMERICANA more than Mount Rushmore, which you can catch a glimpse of in all its sweet glory.

FatFur2Bio2

FatFury2Ex2

FatFur2RVG18

Overlooking the exquisite sights of Italy, combatants wage war on a boat that’s anything but the Love Boat. As stated earlier, Andy’s always been my guy [Who are you, Woody? -Ed.] when it comes to the Fatal Fury franchise. He’s got the coolest special moves in (South) town…

FatFur2Bio3b

FatFury2Ex3

FatFur2RVG19

Set in a quaint Thailand village, the hardworking women look on as they cheer their local champ who is anything but an ordinary Joe [You just had to, didn’t you? -Ed.]

FatFur2Bio4b

FatFury2Ex4

FatFur2RVG21

Japan is well known for its bustling night life but Mai prefers to whup your ass on this private wooden raft. Gorgeous waterfalls and exotic statues grace the background.

FatFur2Bio5b

FatFury2Ex5

FatFur2RVG20

Proud of his Korean roots, Kim shows off his skills in a busy part of town that showcases Korea’s rich sense of culture and tradition while also embracing modern sensibilities. Best of all, this stage is home to a hilarious sight gag. Timed precisely, you can knock the elderly off their bikes! Talk about some dark humor…

FatFur2Bio6b

FatFury2Ex7

FatFur2RVG23

I love how Jubei kicks off his wooden clogs right before each fight, and how big they appear as they fly into the screen. Speaking of screen, his stage is one of my favorites because of all the paper screens. They’re irresistibly fun to mess around with, whether you’re “hiding” behind one or busting through one!

FatFur2Bio8b

FatFury2Ex6

FatFur2RVG24

Hong Kong makes for a gorgeous backdrop. The skyline is absolutely breathtaking, and it’s awesome to see it transition from early evening to late evening between rounds.

FatFur2Bio7b

FatFury2Ex8

FatFur2RVG22

The big Aussie, proud of his digs, wrestles all foolish challengers in the Australian outback. Having earned a large following, a small legion of his most fervent fans cheer on the big man as he attempts to rip apart his latest victim. All about branding, Big Bear even has his own personal big rig on full display. Raiden who?

FatFur2Bio9b

DESPERATION SUPER SPECIAL MOVES

C'mon Nintendo Power. Seriously?!
C’mon Nintendo Power. Seriously?!

Fatal Fury 2 introduced desperation moves. These super moves, often featuring a complicated command, can only be performed once your energy bar is low and flashing. They are powerful and hard to pull off.

FatFur2RVG25

FatFury2Ex13

FatFur2RVG26

FatFury2Ex14

FatFur2RVG27

FatFury2Ex15

FatFur2RVG28

FatFury2Ex16

Damn, Kim. Have some mercy!
Damn, Kim. Have some mercy!

FatFury2Ex17

Jubei with all that old man strength
Jubei with all that old man strength

FatFury2Ex20

FatFur2RVG30

FatFury2Ex19

FatFur2RVG29

FatFury2Ex22

“YOU AIN’T THE BOSS OF ME!”
[OH YES I AM, ACTUALLY -ED.]

FatFur2RVG31

For fighting games back in the early to mid ’90s, the inherent thrill of a home port was undoubtedly the strong possibility of a boss code. The very idea of playing as the boss characters at home — you know, the same ones that kicked your ass in the arcade — was titillating. Sure, home ports back then could never dream to approach the lofty standards set by their arcade original, but the really good ports were able to capture the spirit of the arcade while providing you with some awesome home bonuses. Look no further than Fatal Fury 2 which has a handy code allowing players to use any of the 4 bosses, expanding the roster from 8 to 12. Talk about a fantastic Easter egg!

Lets check out those bosses shall we!
Let’s check out those bosses shall we!

FatFury2Ex9

FatFur2RVG33

An ominous fog permeates in the background. Watch out for those massive cogwheels — Billy Kane can smack you into them causing extra damage. Of course, this means you can do the same to him… ;)

FatFur2Bio10

FatFury2Ex10

FatFur2RVG34

Balrog, you say? Never! :P At any rate, Axel Hawk (what a name) is a mean sucker who uses his environment to his advantage. He can pound you into the electric ropes, zapping you of whatever will remains in your bruised and battered body. But similar to Billy Kane, you can do the same…

FatFur2Bio11

FatFury2Ex11

FatFur2RVG35

Those stampeding bulls don’t discriminate. In the words of Richard Vernon (played by Paul Gleason), “Don’t mess with the bull — you’ll get the horns.”

FatFur2Bio12

FatFury2Ex12

FatFur2RVG36

Wolfgang’s elegance and refined taste is on full display here. This is the only boss stage without a background hazard. It’s actually quite fitting and symbolic. Just like Heisenberg, Wolfgang Krauser is the danger and the one who knocks.

FatFur2Bio13

FatFury2Ex27

When you finally dethrone the bastard, he goes out in dramatic fashion á la The Nature Boy, Ric Flair!

ADDING INSULT TO INJURY

Knocking em into the giant gears is so damn gratifying
So damn gratifying knocking ‘em into the giant gears
Exhibit A: Well-timed duck, bravo! Exhibit B: Someones been skipping Squat Day
Exhibit A: Well-timed duck, bravo!
Exhibit B: Someone’s been skipping Squat Day
Axel Hawk reminds me of King Hippo from Punch-Out
Axel Hawk reminds me of King Hippo from Punch-Out
Ah, such sweet sadistic memories :P
Ah, such sweet sadistic memories :P
Looks like he messed with the bull
Looks like he messed with the bull
Make that 25 YEARS now! And counting
Make that 25 YEARS now! And counting
I like how it borrowed inspiration from World Heroes
I like how it borrowed inspiration from World Heroes
Talk about a hilarious sight gag
Tung Fu Rue: “I’M TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT!”

FatFur2RVG43

FatFur2RVG44

BONUS QUESTION

FatFur2RVG45

Besides the boss code, what was a guaranteed staple of fighting games from the early ’90s? If you said the obligatory bonus stage, bingo! Fatal Fury 2 has two. The first appears after Round 4 and the second after Round 8.

Would have been ho-hum without the plane system
Would have been meh without the two planes
Love making it just in the nick of time
Love making it just in the nick of time
Second one is similar, just swapped out with bricks
Second one is similar, just swapped out with bricks
Its not Capcoms car, but its not too shabby
It’s not Capcom’s car, but it’s not too shabby

GHOST STORIES, DEBAUCHERY AND MORE

In the wrestling biz that's known as great selling
In the wrestling biz that’s known as great selling
Ouch, I guess no Little Bears will be running around
Ouch, I guess no Little Bears will be running around

gooseb26

I love a good ghost story. When I was a kid my uncle would regale us with his tales of terror and all things that go bump in the night. He spoke in a way that evoked haunting images in my soul, sending a wave of shivers up and down my spine. You’ve probably heard various stories about the Boogeyman or the Wendigo, but have you ever heard the story of The Lady With No Feet?

Beware of The Woman With No Feet...
Beware of The Lady With No Feet…

In Korea there is an infamous legend of a ghost woman and her two young ghost children wandering the streets in desperate search of the woman’s husband. Thousands of eye witnesses over the years have claimed to see them passing by on dark cold nights. The legend goes, the mom has walked so much that her feet fell off!

slitmouth3

One anonymous man had this to say, “One night I was walking home per usual. Suddenly I felt a blast of cold air devouring me. I gazed up and there she was. I asked if she needed help but then I looked down and saw she had no feet. Frozen in terror, I watched in horror as she proceeded to float right through me. As she passed by I heard the awful wailing of “WHERE ARE YOU, MY LOVE?” Her two children skipped around me singing a lullaby, emotionless. By the time I turned around they were all gone. Vanished. Without a trace. And ever since that night I have never walked that path again… the Lady With No Feet is still out there… somewhere in the darkness. She’s watching… waiting… right behind you…”

WHOA... maybe Kim is the missing father!?
WHOA… maybe Kim is the missing father!?
Missing his foot, too! Is this how the missing dad died?!
Missing his foot too! Is this how the missing dad died?
Paper screens in Jubei's stage offers plenty of hi-jinx
Paper screens in Jubei’s stage offers plenty of hi-jinx
Hard to believe that film was almost 20 years ago!
Hard to believe that film was almost 20 years ago!
WHAT?! I would *never* do anything juvenile
WHAT?! I would *never* do anything juvenile
[Of course. Jubei... more like Pee-wee M I RITE -Ed.]
[Of course. Jubei… more like Pee-wee M I RITE -Ed.]
Press X, A, R -- oops... Ryo was in Fatal Fury Special
Hmm, where have I seen and heard this before?
Ah, right
Ah, right

ACTION FIGURE-O-RAMA!

AdFaF2

Instead of your standard gaming advertisement to promote Fatal Fury 2, Takara ran a rather clever promo. They offered free miniature one inch Fatal Fury 2 action figures. It was a brilliant piece of business. Or maybe it was just Takara’s little way of saying sorry for the first Fatal Fury port. At any rate, I absolutely ate this up as a 10 year old kid at the time. I waited 2-4 weeks for my random action figure to arrive. In the meantime I was even more hyped for the pending arrival of Fatal Fury 2. So it worked like gangbusters. Genius marketing by Takara!

Those 2-4 weeks were also spent wondering who Id get
Those 2-4 weeks were also spent wondering who I’d get

You didn’t know which of the 12 fighters you were going to get so that added to the excitement. To this day I wonder how many of these little bastards were made and how many are in homes today — relics kept from one’s childhood. I’m curious to see what the rest of the figures look like. From the four I’ve seen, the detail on these small figures were actually quite phenomenal especially considering they were free (more or less, not counting the two 29 cent stamps required).

Stamps in 2019: 55 cents. Stamps in 1994: 29 cents
Stamps in 2019: 55 cents. Stamps in 1994: 29 cents

I wanted Andy Bogard of course. My brother said if I got Terry that it would be his to keep. What a punk. It turned out to be a moot point in the end as a blue Wolfgang Krauser greeted me in my mailbox roughly a month later. I had the little guy for the next 7 years until I traded him away in a package deal along with Golden Axe: The Duel for the rights to Street Fighter Collection (Sega Saturn) via GameTZ on December 31, 2001. Damn, that was eons ago. I kind of wish now that I had kept the little blue guy. Oh well.

One day before 2002. Damn, feels like a lifetime ago
One day before 2002. Damn, feels like a lifetime ago
Good times we shared. Bubble baths, long walks, ah [Im not one to judge but er... -Ed.]
Good times we shared. Bubble baths, long walks, ah
[I’m not one to judge but errr… -Ed.]
Great stuff, TAKARA!
Great stuff, TAKARA!

GREAT JOB WIL OVERTON!

Wil Overton designed the amazing Super Play covers
Wil Overton designed the amazing Super Play covers
Wil's attention to detail was IMPECCABLE
Wil’s attention to detail was IMPECCABLE

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

FatFur2EGM

Fatal Fury 2 did well with the critics. It earned EGM’s Game of the Month honor in issue #58 (May 1994). EGM gave it scores of 9, 8, 8 and 8. Super Play rated it a respectable 79%. It was arguably the first Neo Geo port on the SNES that garnered praise and recognition for being a faithful and solid translation.

FatFur2SP2

FatFur2SP3

CLOSING THOUGHTS

JoeKick4

After seeing Fatal Fury 2 earn EGM Game of the Month honors, my brother gave me the go ahead to rent it as soon as possible. As my brother and I booted it up, I could feel a certain unspoken level of trepidation between the both of us. I think part of us, despite the rave review from EGM, still expected the worst. That’s how bad the first Fatal Fury port was — we were scarred. But I’m very happy to say the sequel passed with flying colors. SNES owners finally had a Fatal Fury worth playing on their Super Nintendo.

CTFaFu2

25 years ago I viewed Fatal Fury 2 highly. 25 years later I still think it holds its own quite well. Graphically it captured the essence of its arcade brethren. Visuals are lush, vibrant and colorful. Some desperation moves, such as Joe Higashi’s towering tornado which goes from top to bottom, are a sight to behold. Control wise, while it doesn’t have the perfect control of Street Fighter II, it’s fairly precise. Sure, the music and sound could be a bit better but it plays well, thus making combat easy and fun to play. The boss code is the icing on an already well made cake. Adding 4 new fighters to the fray made Fatal Fury 2 a serious contender and one that fighting game fans could truly sink their teeth into.

CT2FaF2

With 12 fighters to pick from, a unique two plane battle system, memorable backgrounds, and plenty of cool special moves and devastating super specials, Fatal Fury 2 is quite the package. I liked it a lot back then and I still like it now. Although long gone are the days where one had to rely on the Super Nintendo for their Neo Geo fix, it doesn’t change the fact that this was a very competent port for its time. Fatal Fury 2 proved that not all hope was lost when these arcade monsters were ported over to the SNES, and that the possibility of capturing the essence and spirit of the arcade original was feasible.

BigBearDSS

I still throw Fatal Fury 2 in my SNES for a few rounds every now and again. The SNES controller’s six button layout allows me to experience the game in a way different from the arcade, which earns the SNES port major cookie points with me. You also had some awesome home bonuses like the Elimination Mode, handicap levels and of course the boss code, which made it feel more like Fatal Fury 2½. It’s just a great effort all around, and one that made me forgive TAKARA for the atrocity that was the first Fatal Fury port. And that’s saying a lot!

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 8.5
Longevity: 8.5

Overall: 8.5

Double Silver Award
Double Silver Award

 

 

 

106 MEGS OF POWER
106 MEGS OF POWER!

Over the years you might have noticed that I always list the meg count of every SNES game I review. There’s a good reason for that. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated by MEG count. The Neo Geo had some ridiculous 100+ meg games, and as a kid it was always fun to see how big a certain SNES game was. The meg count varied on the Super Nintendo from 2, 4, 8, 10, 12, 16, 20, 24, 32 and 48. For sure, the size of a game does NOT indicate how good it is. Some of the best SNES games are only 4 megs. Some still look great for their lack of megs while others boast a much higher meg count but look far worse. It was just part of the fun back in those days.

FatFur2RVG65

20 megs was my favorite of the lot. 20 is a nice round number, and there weren’t many SNES games that were 20 megs. Less than 10. Speaking of 10, 10 MEG games are a close second favorite. There were only a small handful of them. I remember when Final Fight 2 first came out, my friends and I wondered to ourselves, “How many megs? 8 or 16?” Then you read in EGM or GameFan only to find out it was neither. Instead it was 10 MEGS. You couldn’t help but chuckle as 10 was a very uncommon meg count. In homage of those good old days, I make it a point to cite the meg count of each game off the bat! It’s just something I love to do, and I feel it’s all part of preserving the history of the Super Nintendo.

Fatal Fury franchise belongs on Neo Geos Mt. Rushmore
Fatal Fury series belongs on Neo Geo’s Mt. Rushmore
Until we meet again, Bogard brothers!
Until we meet again, Bogard brothers!

Claymates (SNES)

Pub: Interplay | Dev: Visual Concepts | March 1994 | 8 MEGS
Pub: Interplay | Dev: Visual Concepts | March 1994 | 8 MEGS

This month Claymates celebrates 25 years. Sadly, it never turned into the big hit that the people behind it a quarter of a century ago were hoping for. And even to this day, for the most part, it flies under the SNES radar. But the question is, does it deserve to? In this gamer’s humble estimation, the answer is a resounding NO. Claymates is quite a fun and unique game that rises above the average SNES platformer. Right off the bat you can’t help but notice its claymation look. But most notable of all is the ability to morph into one of five different animals — all with varying abilities — and levels brilliantly crafted with those creatures in mind. By the way, I interviewed the programmer of Claymates, Brian Greenstone, and that Q&A can be found toward the end of this review. Many thanks, Brian! Happy 25th anniversary :)

CLAY… HERE TO STAY?

Love it or hate it, Clay Fighter was a big deal in '93
Love it or hate it, Clay Fighter was a big deal in ’93
Could Claymates carry that momentum over into 1994?
Can Claymates carry that momentum over into 1994?

ExClayMa4

Pretty sizable stages indeed
Pretty sizable stages indeed
You begin as Clayton but can morph into 5 animals
You begin as Clayton but can morph into 5 animals
Oozy actually may be faster than Sonic the Hedgehog...
Oozy actually may be faster than Sonic the Hedgehog
All 5 animals have their own special charm to them
All 5 animals have their own special charm
There's not a single one I found useless or annoying
There’s not a single one I found useless or annoying
Some helpful items
Some helpful items
More on the weird robots later...
More on the weird robots later…
I like when a game features different bonus levels
I like when a game features different bonus stages
Simple good fun that puts your reflexes to work
Simple good fun that puts your reflexes to work

ExClayMa13

ExClayMa14

THE STORY GOES…

ClayMa2ClayMa2b

 

 

 

 

 

ClayMa3ClayMa3b

 

 

 

 

 

ClayMa4ClayMa4b

 

 

 

 

 

Mudville, USA. Clayton is zapped into a blue clay ball by the vicious Jobo. The witch doctor then kidnaps Clayton’s father Professor Putty. Clayton’s day just went from bad to worse, and it’s up to him to save his dad, himself and Mudville by gaining back possession of the magical serum.

ClayMaClayMa1

 

 

 

 

 

Citizen Kane this ain’t, but this is a 25 year old Super Nintendo video game we’re talking about here :P

PLAYING WITH CLAY

ClayMa5ClayMa5b

 

 

 

 

 

Finding yourself in Clayton’s yard, the game thankfully doesn’t look like that for long. It’s more or less an overhead map screen with some puzzles thrown in, but more on that in a bit. By the way, does Clayton live by an amusement park or something? O_o

ClayMa6ClayMa6b

 

 

 

 

 

Starting out as Clayton, your life is brittle and bleak. Your only form of offense is a giant fist. Luckily, there’s a gray ball nearby that turns you into Oozy the frenetic mouse. Leap through random tree holes collecting red gems, complete with a lovely mini explosion of sparks once procured, and jump on bouncers to send our plucky field mouse sky high.

ClayMa7ClayMa7b

 

 

 

 

 

Sandwiched between two bouncers, the poor rodent’s fragile body is deflected back and forth like a scorching pinball. You can almost feel his bones rattling, his tiny teeth chattering as he is flung from one bouncer to the next. When you come across a new animal form, it’s a hint that you should probably take the bait as the next section is sure to have terrain most suitable to your latest transformation.

ClayMa8ClayMa8b

 

 

 

 

 

Muckster climbs trees to reach otherwise unreachable goodies. Later on, you can switch back to the mouse if you wish. His bark is actually stronger than his bite.

ClayMa9ClayMa9b

 

 

 

 

 

Successfully bounce off all the squares one at a time to win. Sounds easy, right? Until you factor in that with each bounce it gets faster and faster.

ClayMa10ClayMa10b

 

 

 

 

 

Following the conclusion of each stage, there’s a brief puzzle that must be solved before you can enter the next level. A pair of mindless robots wander around aimlessly. You’re tasked with manipulating the environment in order to steer them toward the weapons required to clear the path. I have mixed feelings about this gimmick. I liked it initially, but it grew a bit old after a while and I just wanted to jump into the action. Still, I give them credit for trying something slightly different.

ClayMa11ClayMa11b

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday morning strolls are the best… that is until two weasels crash the party.

ClayMa12ClayMa12b

 

 

 

 

 

Smiling clouds abound as though it were a Nintendo game. Throughout the history of civilization, cats and dogs have struggled to get along. Claymates doesn’t attempt to change that.

ClayMa13ClayMa13b

 

 

 

 

 

Continue markers and collapsing bridges… hey, you can’t always be original.

ClayMa14ClayMa14b

 

 

 

 

 

Overhead power lines are a dangerous place for an itty bitty mouse to be. Unless of course, that mouse happens to be Oozy and his powerful bark.

ClayMa15ClayMa15b

 

 

 

 

 

Electrical charges zipping along the exposed wires will keep Muckster on his toes, er, paws. After traveling high above ground, make your way underground.

ClayMa16ClayMa16b

 

 

 

 

 

Muckster’s casual stroll, complete with his head held high, captures your typical feline attitude to a tee. You revert back to Clayton (the blue bouncing ball) if damaged in animal form, where you’re then just one hit away from death. I love the pinball effect that those bouncers induce. So damn satisfying.

ClayMa17ClayMa17b

 

 

 

 

 

Enemies ramp up, so be sure to grab that second Muckster power-up. Since you’re already Muckster, you don’t transform. Instead, you can now throw a clay ball a short distance that boomerangs back. It also gives you an extra hit to play with. Good stuff.

ClayMa18ClayMa18b

 

 

 

 

 

Linger around these shady underground tunnels long enough and you just might run into doppelgängers decked out in red carrying scissors. Shout out to Jordan Peele! Multiple passageways await as you ricochet off the bouncers to make your way back up to the surface.

ClayMa19ClayMa19b

 

 

 

 

 

*shakes fist* “These here tunnels be big enough for only one of US! A waterspout sends you to your first boss encounter…

ClayMa20ClayMa20b

 

 

 

 

 

Thankfully you can morph into Globmeister before the battle with Big Ben, a floppy-eared clay hound of hulking proportions! The chipmunk hurls acorns aplenty, making short work of the colossal canine.

ClayMa21ClayMa21b

 

 

 

 

 

ClayMa21cClayMa21d

 

 

 

 

 

Following the victory over Big Ben, Clayton clambers into a cannon and is shot across the globe where he lands in the great Pacific. Hmm, I smell salty water…

ClayMa22ClayMa22b

 

 

 

 

 

Although it looks like you can, Muckster sadly took ducking lessons from Mega Man…

ClayMa23ClayMa23b

 

 

 

 

 

Ricocheting off bouncers like a pinball never gets old. The Pacific introduces us to a new animal friend, Goopy. He spits air bubbles and can stay on dry land for only 10 seconds.

ClayMa24ClayMa24b

 

 

 

 

 

Surrounded by deadly piranhas and razor sharp spikes, you best better catch that ride and catch it fast!

ClayMa25ClayMa25b

 

 

 

 

 

Whew… just made it! Piranhas aren’t shy to jump so keep an eye out. Later on, you find yourself swinging precariously over a bed of spikes.

ClayMa26ClayMa26b

 

 

 

 

 

Clayton is slow moving and offers very little defense in his clay ball form. Find the next animal morph ASAP. Good news: you’ve found Goopy. Bad news: just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water…

ClayMa27ClayMa27b

 

 

 

 

 

Claymates has two different bonus stages. This is the second type. Is it just me or does the first shot there remind anyone else of Uniracers? (Although Uniracers came out about six months later). I much prefer the first bonus stage shown earlier. This one can go on for too long, wearing out its welcome, and the physics feel slightly off.

ClayMa28ClayMa28b

 

 

 

 

 

Mallards are cranky and testy. Punch them out of their misery.

ClayMa29ClayMa29b

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s Martin Brody when you need him, eh? Enter those small wooden doors for a nice little surprise.

ClayMa30ClayMa30b

 

 

 

 

 

Leader of the Pacific, Corky the Clam is a tough customer to crack. Keep your distance and shoot from afar whenever possible.

ClayMa31ClayMa31b

 

 

 

 

 

Corky’s giant eyes are taken out one at a time. I’m a huge sucker for video games that feature deterioration damage on its bosses, which not nearly enough games do.

ClayMa32ClayMa32b

 

 

 

 

 

Clayton never once imagined in his wildest dreams that he would ever end up in the Land of the Rising Sun, yet here he is. Adventure beckons!

ClayMa33ClayMa33b

 

 

 

 

 

Samurais litter the Ooze Garden. [I wonder if one of them is Oroku Saki -Ed.]. They’re fast suckers and the katana’s long reach makes them a lethal foe. You can morph into Doh-Doh, a bird that can fly for a brief bit provided you get a running start.

ClayMa34ClayMa34b

 

 

 

 

 

Mighty winds give life to paper lanterns, allowing you just enough time to use them to reach the top. Morph into Mucky and get ready for a ride so wet and wild that even Schlitterbahn would envy.

ClayMa35ClayMa35b

 

 

 

 

 

Muckster shows off his great leaping ability, but haste makes waste. Having the clay ball power-up is huge, especially in areas of play where there’s very little room for error.

ClayMa36ClayMa36b

 

 

 

 

 

Temporary invincibility is always appreciated. A bevy of irascible samurais guard the stage exit. If your clay ball doesn’t get the job done, just keep swiping. It’s a numbers game and sooner or later you’ll get a hit [Are we still talking about Claymates, or online dating here? -Ed.]

ClayMa37ClayMa37b

 

 

 

 

 

Globmeister is the only one who can dig, which allows you to explore new playing areas below the surface.

ClayMa38ClayMa38b

 

 

 

 

 

Platformer Rule #72: The collectibles in your game MUST, at some point, be placed in the form of an arrow. Rule #89: Falling objects must be present. In this case, lanterns filled with explosives apparently, since they explode upon impact.

ClayMa39ClayMa39b

 

 

 

 

 

WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE!
We’ve got fun and games.
We got everything you want honey.
We know the names!
We are the people that can find whatever you may need.
If you got the money, honey we got your disease!

ClayMa40ClayMa40b

 

 

 

 

 

Clayton finds himself in Africa. That giant rotating coin there evokes memories of Sonic the Hedgehog.

ClayMa41ClayMa41b

 

 

 

 

 

Things get a lot tougher in Africa. Obstacles and projectiles come flying at you from every which direction.

ClayMa42ClayMa42b

 

 

 

 

 

Globmeister’s life must be flashing before his very eyes. Muckster too, for that matter. Jobo is the boss of Africa, but the game isn’t over after defeating him. There’s one more place you must traverse…

ClayMEndClayMa43b

 

 

 

 

 

Claymates turns into a horizontal space shooter!

INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN GREENSTONE

ExClayMa1

The programmer of Claymates, Brian Greenstone, was nice enough to participate in an extensive Q&A. The following interview was conducted on August 4, 2015. Enjoy.

IntCM2

Me: How did Claymates come to be?

BG: This was my very first Super Nintendo game that I was hired to do straight out of college. I had already made a lot of games for the Apple II and Apple IIGS, but this was a whole different ball game for me, so I had a lot to learn from day one. The idea was originally my boss’, and he wanted to do a claymation game. I forget how he got hooked up with this claymation firm, but the people we hired were really good, and they helped a lot in the design.

IntCM3

Me: How long was development?

BG: I believe this was a 9 or 10 month project. That was fairly typical of SNES games at the time.

IntCM5

Me: What were some pros and cons working on a game that relied purely on claymation?

BG: The main issue was memory space and color palettes. Both were very limited on the SNES. The company that did the actual claymation for us supplied us with each frame of animation, and then it was up to our artists to reduce those frames to something usable with the 256 color palette that we had available. One other issue was that if anything went wrong it was very hard to fix, and adding new animations required going back to the claymation company and waiting for them to do it. In a normal game the artist would simply sit down and draw a few new frames of animation by lunchtime, but not so for claymation.

Interplay gave Claymates the shaft in lieu of this...
Interplay gave Claymates the shaft in lieu of this…

Me: There’s some confusion online about the North American release date. Wikipedia has it listed as April 1993 and some folks swear by that. [Note: As of March 2019, it’s since been changed to April 26, 1994]. Others claim first quarter of 1994. GameFAQs has it as March 1994. Please clear the air: when exactly did Claymates first hit store shelves in the US?

This ad cites March '94...
This ad cites March ’94…

BG: My memory is a little foggy on the exact date, but what happened was that the game was shown at CES and was a big hit. The game was supposed to be released shortly thereafter, but around the same time Visual Concepts began work on Clay Fighter, another claymation game. At the time fighting games were huge, so Interplay, the publisher, wanted to hold off releasing Claymates and wait for Clay Fighter to be completed instead. This took a very long time — in the meantime Claymates sat on the shelf. Additionally, the original name of the game was “Animal Exchange” — at least that was the working title. Interplay wanted to call it Claymates, and we objected strongly. That name was absolutely horrible, so when it finally did get released (probably in 1993) it didn’t do well. Interplay gave all the attention to Clay Fighter even though Animal Exchange had won awards at various trade shows, and the name change to Claymates scared off any self-respecting kid over 8 years old.

Claymates sadly was forced to sit on the shelf...
Sadly, Claymates was forced to sit on the shelf…

Me: How many copies were sold?

BG: I’m not sure. I know the game was a bit of a disappointment due to Interplay’s mismanaging of the marketing.

When Brian originally stated EA, he meant Interplay
Brian meant Interplay when he originally stated EA

Me: You mentioned in our Harley’s Humongous Adventure interview that you wanted Claymates to have a different name. What was that name, and was there a reason given about why EA changed it to Claymates? And, how did EA (Electronic Arts) get involved? There is no mention of EA being attached to Claymates anywhere that I know of. Did you mean to say Interplay instead?

BG: For some reason I thought it was EA, but actually the publisher was Interplay. As mentioned above, the game’s working title was Animal Exchange, and we never really thought that would be the shipping title. But then we never thought Claymates would be either. We had a whole bunch of other titles that we suggested to Interplay and they were all better than Claymates, but for some unknown reason Interplay insisted on that name, and it destroyed the game’s chances of success.

ClaymatesBox

Me: The box was incredibly unique. As a kid back in the ’90s it totally stood out in a crowd! How did you feel about the box?

BG: Yeah, the box was really cool! We thought that was going to make up for the horrible title, but it didn’t. It definitely got people’s attention but it was also a very expensive thing to do for the manufacturing. The lenticular lens — the original faux 3D technology — made the box look very neat.

ClaymatesBox2

Me: Speaking of the box, it proudly touted BLAZE PROCESSING (obviously inspired by Sega’s Blast Processing campaign years prior). Is there a story behind this?

BG: I vaguely remember that. If I remember correctly it was all marketing BS. It didn’t actually mean anything, and I’m sure it was another Interplay marketing idea since it made no sense [Ouch -Ed.].

Blaze Processing!
BLAZE PROCESSING!!!

Me: Claymates is pretty long by genre standards. Why wasn’t there a password (or save) option? Thankfully, the three warps included throughout the game do help somewhat to mitigate that.

Warps make life a bit easier
Warps make life a bit easier

BG: Could you save games on SNES? Wow, it’s been so long I can’t even remember. I guess there were passwords, right? Seems we should have had that.

ClaymatesAd

Me: Do you recall the ads and if so, what’s your opinion of how the game was advertised? I remember they had the fish Goopy doing a Playboy-esque spread! Clever with the “Claymate of the Month” tagline too!

ExClayMa21

BG: Despite the horrible title, the ads looked pretty good. Very colorful, and well designed. Probably the only bit of marketing that Interplay did correctly with this game.

Indeed, the ads were creative and colorfuk
Indeed, the ads were creative and colorful

Me: There are five animals that Clayton can morph into. Which one is your favorite and was there a rhyme or reason for the five that were chosen?

BG: The fish was my favorite simply because the actual clay model for him looked so cool! I don’t remember if there was really much rhyme or reason to the different animals other than we needed variety. The claymation guys did a bunch for us and we picked the ones we liked the most.

As a kid it hyped me up to play each of the animals
As a kid these individual ads got me super hyped
Hook, line and sinker...
Hook, line and sinker…

Me: After each stage there’s a puzzle to solve before advancing to the next stage. You had to move carts and other objects in order to manipulate the mindless robots to reach the exit. I didn’t really like it personally just because I feel it disrupts the flow of the game. What’s your opinion of those gimmick puzzles?

Like a bad good acid trip...
Like a bad good acid trip…

BG: Yeah, I don’t think I was a fan of those either. They were probably put in there to try and differentiate the game and give it some sort of bonus round type feel. From what I remember we struggled a bit with them because they used up valuable memory space that we needed for the main game.

IntCM15

Me: The Milky Way, the last level of the game, transforms Claymates (I suppose that is rather ironic / poetic if you think about it…) from a platformer to a space shooter. Talk about that.

BG: I think that’s the level that used the infamous “Mode 7″ on the SNES. That was the primitive pseudo-3D mode, and there wasn’t much you could do with it. Making it a space shooter was probably the only thing we could come up with that worked with the very limited resources we had. Plus, we thought it looked cool.

IntCM10

Me: Do you have a favorite stage or world?

BG: I’m sure I did, but after 22 years I couldn’t remember it enough to say. I just know that I enjoyed making that game, and since it was my first “professional” game out of college I was proud of every bit of it.

IntCM4

Me: Was a sequel ever planned?

BG: Oh, yes. We thought the game was going to be a big hit since it played so well at CES, but when Interplay destroyed it with poor marketing decisions, it ruined any chance of that sequel ever happening. They just wanted to do Clay Fighter sequels instead.

Gotta love those interpromotional crossovers!
Gotta love inter-promotional crossovers!

Me: It seemed like Visual Concepts and Interplay enjoyed a successful relationship with titles such as Claymates, Clay Fighter and Clay Fighter 2 AKA C2: Judgment Clay. What was working with Interplay like?

BG: It was actually very good other than the fact they ruined the game by holding off on its release, giving it a horrible title, and then completely ignoring it over Clay Fighter. They gave us everything we needed to develop the game, and they were a good company. I later worked with their Mac subsidiary MacPlay on Power Pete.

PowerPeteBG

Me: Looking back on Claymates, what are you most proud of? What disappointed you? If you could magically go back to tweak some aspect of it, what might that be?

BG: Hehe, well, I’d change the horrible title. Other than that, I think for my first console game it was really good, and considering we had 128K of memory to work with we got a lot in there.

IntCM18

Me: In closing, any funny or memorable stories you’d like to share?

BG: I wish I could remember the name of the claymation company that did all that work [instruction manual states A-OK Animation, Angie Glocka and Owen Klatte -Ed.]. They were really great guys to work with, and it sure would be fun to do a claymation game like that nowadays. It would be such a nice break from the CG world we live in now.

IntCM13

Thank you Brian Greenstone for answering my questions and thanks for programming this underrated SNES platformer :)

Here's to a sequel yet!
Here’s to a sequel yet!

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

ClayMaCT

Claymates received solid reviews from the gaming magazines of its day. EGM gave it scores of 6, 7, 7, 7 and 8. EGM’s sister publication, Super NES Buyer’s Guide, rated it 80, 81 and 84%. Super Play, typically more difficult to impress, gave Claymates a very respectable 79%.

EGM
Don’t show that first sentence to Brian Greenstone…
Oh c'mon Super Play. Fun gameplay > lack of longevity
C’mon Super Play. Fun gameplay > lack of longevity
Red: Graphics and Animation. Green: Music Yellow: Gameplay. Blue: Level of Difficulty
Red: Graphics and Animation. Green: Music
Yellow: Gameplay. Blue: Level of Difficulty

Sadly, despite pretty good reviews and a robust advertising campaign full of ’90s charm and cheese, Claymates more or less got lost in the SNES shuffle. Even to this day it doesn’t get as much recognition as it probably deserves. It has way more substance than Clay Fighter, that’s for damn sure!

ExClayMa17

CLOSING THOUGHTS

ExClayMa2

Claymates, though far from perfect, has quite a bit going for it. The levels are long enough to sink your teeth into and the level design is fairly well crafted. The gimmick of morphing into five different animals all with varying abilities makes it a blast to play, even if the control isn’t super crisp. The claymation look definitely sets it apart from the rest of the pack. Although it may lack intricate details, there is a certain charm to the visuals that can’t be understated. Each animal, including Clayton himself in blue putty ball form, has its own unique attack. It’s just more satisfying to peck critters to death — or viciously hurl acorns at them until they’re vanquished — than the standard hop ‘n bop formula that so many of these games employ. So any slight deviation earns extra points in my book, especially when you essentially have six different playable characters. Variety is the spice of life!

IntCM9

The music in the first world sounds a bit annoying but it gets better as the game progresses. Some of the later melodies are rather catchy; there were times where I found myself humming! There is a lively and whimsical beat to the soundtrack that makes playing Claymates even more enjoyable (once you get past that first world at least). I really dig how the levels are designed around the different animals. When a new color clay ball appears, you can bet that the next stretch of that level will be based around the abilities of the new animal. This helps tremendously to keep the long levels feeling fresh and your gameplay style switches on a dime depending on the animal you are using.

IntCM12

Above all else, Claymates has heart. You can tell that the people involved had a lot of fun making it and weren’t afraid to take risks. Look no further than the last level which all of a sudden boldly morphs into a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up! There’s something charming about Clayton’s adventure — he goes from his small hometown of Mudville, USA, to the Pacific, Africa and even the Land of the Rising Sun. Along with his animal friends, you’ll have to guide him even to the far reaches of outer space to save the world from certain doom. It’s not the best platformer ever made but it’s fun and delightfully eccentric. I recommend Claymates if you’re looking for something quirky and under the radar!

Graphics: 8
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 7.5
Longevity: 6

AwardOverall: 7.5
Bronze Award

D'OH!
D’OH!

SAD BUT TRUE: July 11, 2015. Saturday night. At 6:40 PM I fired up Claymates. When I finally beat the game straight through (due to a sad lack of a password or save option), I looked at the clock and it was 1:40 AM. I sat and played through Claymates for 7 long hours. Wow. That goes down in history as my single longest game playing session, beating my previous high by probably a good 3 hours or so. Insane. Of all games, Claymates! For some wacky reason, on that particular night, I was locked in. I managed to beat it although the last level took me several dozen tries it felt. I’ll probably never do that again but man was it a crazy fun night :P

Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

Publisher and Developer: Nintendo | October 27, 2017
Publisher & Developer: Nintendo | October 27, 2017

2017 was a hell of a first year for the Nintendo Switch. Launching in early March of 2017, it arrived alongside The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The Switch was off to a hot start as many were dazzled by the ingenuity and freedom of Breath of the Wild. Some 7 months later, Nintendo released Super Mario Odyssey. It was considered by many as yet another home run smash. And since today is March 10, or MAR10 Day, I can’t think of a better time to look back on what made Super Mario Odyssey such a terrific entry in the longstanding Mario series.

A GAMING GENERATION DEFINED

PlayMario

For many kids back in the 1980s, Super Mario Bros. left a lasting imprint on those lucky enough to have grown up with it. Super Mario Bros. 3 is considered one of the best NES video games of all time. When the Super Nintendo launched in North America in the late summer of 1991, Super Mario World carried on the tradition, living up to the lofty standards set by Shigeru Miyamoto and friends. Super Mario 64 brought Mario and company into the 3D realm. Mario 64 is a nostalgic and highly memorable adventure for many who played it back in the summer of 1996 when it first came out. There have been many more Mario entries since but none of them have captured our attention and gaming hearts quite like Super Mario Odyssey.

Poor Mario
Poor Mario

THE ODYSSEY BEGINS

I'm a sucker for an atmospheric moon shot
I’m a sucker for an atmospheric moon shot
And boy are there a lot of moons in this game...
And boy are there a lot of moons in this game…

SupMarO3

Bowser has captured Princess Peach once again, and intends to marry her against her own will. Mario meets his newest ally, Cappy, and the two are off to all sorts of Kingdoms to procure enough moons to power their airship.

I love gawking at the luscious waterfalls
I love gawking at the luscious waterfalls

Whether you play it docked or in handheld mode, Super Mario Odyssey is a beautiful looking game. With plenty of diverse locales, each Kingdom is unique and a world of its own. Cascade Kingdom lives up to its name — you can almost feel the raw power of the water!

Yay, my first Power Moon (of many to come). 6/19/18
My first Power Moon of many to come. 6/19/18
A holy shit worthy moment indeed
Holy shit O_O

Who could forget seeing this for the first time? It was an incredible moment that blended the real world with Mario’s world. Even better? Taking temporary control of the T-Rex by firing Cappy at it, which is the brilliant gimmick of Super Mario Odyssey.

SupMarO8

Speaking of blending, there are special old school 2D sections spread throughout the Kingdoms. They’re bite-sized but incredibly fun, evoking warm fuzzy nostalgic memories of yesteryear.

Cappy gives you his 2 cents now and again
Cappy gives you his 2 cents now and again
Takes me back to the '80s :)
Takes me back to the ’80s :)
1985 meets 2017... and it's a marriage made in Heaven
1985 meets 2017… and it’s a marriage made in Heaven
Such a nice nod to the first game
Such a nice nod to the first game
More warp pipe 2D fun
More warp pipe 2D fun
Where your prize is yet another Power Moon
Where your prize is yet another Power Moon

SupMarO15

The Sand Kingdom is such a fun little place to explore. It has been said that the director of Super Mario Odyssey, Kenta Motokura, was inspired by his trip to Mexico and his fondness for that country. Traces of that culture can be seen throughout the Sand Kingdom.

Mini games like this can be surprisingly fun
Mini games like this can be surprisingly fun
Never gets old when Mario goes OLD SCHOOL!
Never gets old when Mario goes OLD SCHOOL!
So much nostalgic fun mixed in with the new
So much nostalgic fun mixed in with the new
Metal Mario Storm?!
Metal Mario Storm?!
Behold... the Inverted Pyramid!
Behold… the mysterious Inverted Pyramid!

SupMarO21

The majority of the bosses in Super Mario Odyssey consist of the Broodals — vicious anthropomorphic rabbits who also serve as Bowser’s wedding planners. One of the nice things about the Sand Kingdom is that you get to battle bosses of both varieties: Broodal and non-Broodal.

Mario runs into the screen Crash Bandicoot style
Mario runs into the screen Crash Bandicoot style :D
Somewhere Uncle Scrooge is green with envy
Love the sound effect it makes when you collect ‘em!
Cloud Kingdom sees our first tangle with Bowser
Cloud Kingdom sees our first tangle with Bowser
Metro Kingdom and New Donk City are mind-blowing
Metro Kingdom and New Donk City are mind-blowing
Mixing in real people was as bold as it was brilliant
Mixing in real people was as bold as it was brilliant

It blew my mind the first time I saw New Donk City. That’s mainly thanks to the shocking appearance of real human beings. It was only further proof that Super Mario Odyssey wasn’t afraid to think outside the box.

100 Power Moons in the book!
100 Power Moons in the book!
Love the Bowser emoji
Love the Bowser emoji
The city has been littered with Bowser's propaganda
The city has been littered with Bowser’s propaganda

New Donk City was so fun to explore, whether at night or in the daytime. It was unlike any other Mario level or world I had previously explored.

Only that one time back in 1996...
Well, there was that one time back in 1996…
Batman would be proud
Batman would be proud
Holy moly
Holy moly
Try using Cappy on the tanks there...
You can use Cappy to become Tank Mario!
You're going down, Scourge of the Skyscraper!
You’re going down, Scourge of the Skyscraper!
Eradicate the Scourge and the city is liberated
Eradicate the Scourge and the city is liberated
There's a definite Princess Peach vibe to Mayor Pauline
There’s a definite Princess Peach vibe to Pauline
The city views are gorgeous
The city views are gorgeous
One of the most memorable moments :)
One of the most memorable moments :)

SupMarO39

I gotta give props to Nintendo. I was so pleasantly shocked to see this T-Rex cameo. I thought Cascade Kingdom was it as far as T-Rex appearances go. Glad to have been proven wrong!

Moons are available at the oddest places...
Moons are available at the oddest places…
This was such a fun space to navigate Mario through
This was such a fun space to navigate Mario through
Busting a move!
Busting a move!
I never knew Mario was like only 4 feet tall
I never knew Mario was like only 4 feet tall
"Man, screw this Black Friday bull shit!"
“Man, screw this Black Friday bullshit!”
GTA vibes... nice!
GTA vibes… nice!
This is so damn satisfying
This is so damn satisfying
Oh God I hope not! I gotta play Super Mario Odyssey
Oh God I hope not! I gotta play Super Mario Odyssey
You mean, 4th of July? :P
You mean, 4th of July? :P
Fun Fact: Dixie Theater is a nod to Dixie Kong
Fun Fact: Dixie Theater is a nod to Dixie Kong
Mario is known to be quite the party animal
Mario is known to be quite the party animal
Aw, Mario is all alone. Gotta save Princess Peach pronto!
Aw, he’s all alone. Gotta save Princess Peach pronto!
Whoa, a nod to 1981 Donkey Kong!
Whoa, a nod to 1981 Donkey Kong!
It's the best of old and new school
It is New DONK City after all
It is New DONK City after all
How incredibly nostalgic in the best of ways
Some things never change :P
Some things never change :)
We're gonna have a good time tonight. Let's celebrate, it's all right! Celebration time come on!
Mario’s getting wasted tonight :P
Brrr! Snow Kingdom will freeze your balls off
Brrr! Snow Kingdom will freeze your balls off
Take a brief swim to collect the rings. Fun stuff!
Take a brief swim to collect the rings. Fun stuff!
Always a high when you just meet the bare minimum
Always a high when you barely meet the minimum
Mario and the Beanstalk!
Mario and the Beanstalk!
Seaside Kingdom offers some wacky views!
Seaside Kingdom offers some wacky views!
Love the shiny watery effect
Love the shiny watery effect
Even the coins have that distorted water look to 'em!
Even the coins have that distorted watery look!
These throwback sections are simply the best
These throwback sections are simply the best

SupMarO65

Seaside Kingdom might just be my favorite Kingdom of the bunch. I tend to not be the biggest fan of water-based levels, but this one totally and completely does it for me. Maybe it’s because a good half of it takes place on the beach, offering some variety and varied nuances in gameplay that make it much more interesting to play than if it were completely underwater. For example, being able to bounce off two walls in an effort to collect coins and reach new heights is remarkably satisfying.

Not a very subtle clue...
Not a very subtle clue…
Too close for cigar
Too close for cigar
Hmm, Mario or Master Higgins?
Hmm, Mario or Master Higgins?
Yer going down, Squidward!
Yer going down, Squidward!
Earn 3 Moon Shards for your troubles
Earn 3 for your troubles
Luncheon Kingdom earns points for creativity
Luncheon Kingdom earns points for creativity
Not exactly the best place for a dieting plumber
It’s so hot that poor Mario can hardly stand it
Ruined Kingdom features a menacing dragon boss
Ruined Kingdom features a menacing dragon boss
Shades of King Ghidorah
Damn
You got him!
You got him!
Scratch that...
Spoke too soon…
Love it when the screen moves over like that
Love it when the screen moves over like that
Good stuff
Good stuff
Bowser's Kingdom is a beautiful but deadly fortress
Bowser’s Kingdom is a beautiful but deadly fortress
Old school 2D Mario on a Shoji panel screen? Brilliant!
Old school Mario on a Shoji panel screen? Brilliant!
That Bowser is such a tease
That Bowser is such a tease
Broodal fireworks is a nice touch
Broodal fireworks is a nice touch
At last we arrive at the Moon Kingdom
At last we arrive at the Moon Kingdom
After beating him, use Cappy to take control of Bowser
After beating him, use Cappy to control Bowser!
Nintendo was too smart to pass on this opportunity
It’s a dream come true
Breathe fire at those bricks!
Destroy bricks by blowing fire
WHOAAAAAA!!
WHOAAAAAA!!…
What a freaking game
What a freaking game
But wait, it's not over yet...
But wait, it’s not over yet…
It's the Mushroom Kingdom!
It’s the Mushroom Kingdom!
What a lovely nod to Super Mario 64!
What a lovely nod to Super Mario 64 :)

CLOSING THOUGHTS

SupMarO6

Super Mario Odyssey is everything I wanted in a 3D Mario game and then some. The addition of Cappy added a ton of layers to the gameplay. Whether you were flinging Cappy and then jumping off it as a makeshift platform or using it to take control of the various enemies, this mechanic breathed much needed new life into the Mario formula. I’ll never forget the first time I spotted that T-Rex napping on the hill of Cascade Kingdom. Even more memorable was the first time I became Mario T-Rex, complete with a ridiculously oversized mustache to boot!

SupMarO92

All the throwback 2D Mario sections were a blast to navigate. It took me right back to 1987, playing Super Mario Bros. with my uncle, brother and our friends late into the night. These bits always somehow felt organic rather than forced. It was just the right amount of nostalgia rush blended with the newfangled 3D Mario gameplay that is so smooth and easy to pick up, but hard to put down.

SupMarO91

Along with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey helped to make Switch’s first year, 2017, a roaring and smashing success. I can’t wait for a sequel to both games. These two games alone are reason enough to invest in a Nintendo Switch, not to mention the dozens and dozens of great 3rd party titles and Indie hits. I had an absolute blast playing through Super Mario Odyssey, and I feel Nintendo was able to completely capture the magic of what made all those Mario games from so long ago so very damn special indeed. Not only that but they were able to add to the legacy, adding in enough new elements to make this entry stand on its own two feet. Bravo, Nintendo. Bravo! I eagerly await Mario’s next adventure on the Switch. Until then, I think I’ll head back to Mushroom Kingdom yet again for one more romp.

OVERALL: 10

Goombas!
Goombas! Truly, the package is now complete

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

Pub & Dev: Nintendo | March 3, 2017
Publisher & Developer: Nintendo | March 3, 2017

Today marks the 2 year anniversary of the Nintendo Switch. Of course, that also means it’s the 2 year anniversary for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Released on launch day alongside the brand new Nintendo Switch, players were thrust once more in the shoes of Link and embarked on an incredible and breathtaking journey. This also marks the first Switch game review on RVGFanatic, and I can’t think of a better time than the 2 year anniversary or a better game to kick things off with than Breath of the Wild. Stunning in sheer scope and majestic in motion, there’s a reason why this game has made such a lasting impression and is considered by many to be one of the finest Switch games made so far, if not THE best.

SWITCHED: HOW NINTENDO WON ME BACK

SwitStor14

The Switch marked my first system purchase in nearly 12 years. Prior to that, I’d been perfectly content rocking it out with the SNES. But the trailer for Breath of the Wild dropped in January 2017 and for the first time in eons I found myself drooling over a new video game. However, the Switch’s launch came and went in March 2017 and I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Maybe I don’t need it after all…

Fate stepped in when my brother bought a copy over Black Friday for just $29 on Walmart’s website due to a system error. Walmart quickly realized its mistake but had to honor the lucky folks who jumped over the deal before it could be fixed. My brother didn’t own a Switch but he figured it was too good a deal to pass up on and that he could always mail it to our cousin, who is a huge video gamer.

Oops. Thanks Walmart!
Oops. Thanks Walmart!

As luck would have it, my cousin — being a huge Zelda fan — already had it. With my brother willing to gift me Breath of the Wild as an early Christmas present, I rushed out to Target on Saturday, December 2, 2017. I walked out with the last Switch system, cradling it close to my chest as though it were the last piece of meat on earth. It was the first system purchase I made in nearly 12 years. Later that night I fired up Breath of the Wild and fell in love with the land of Hyrule all over again. The following is a visual documentation and stroll down memory lane of that epic adventure that ran me over 200 hours over the course of 6 blissful months.

Hyrule is the kind of place that just sticks with you
Hyrule is the kind of place that just sticks with you

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

LoZBotW

Link awakens after a long slumber in this weird chamber of sorts. Navigate your way around and then venture forth in the opening there to the great unknown. Much like previous Zelda classics, a palpable sense of ADVENTURE permeates throughout Breath of the Wild.

So freaking majestic
So freaking majestic
Nintendo magic at its best
Nintendo magic at its best
I love how it shifts from day to night
I love how it shifts from day to night
Shooting stars and all!
Shooting stars and all!

LoZBotW3

It’s hard to describe the first few hours of this game and do it justice. It’s a discovery of autonomy and endless options. You just know you’re embarking on this grand scale adventure and that you’re barely scraping the surface. Night falls and it feels like you’re right there with Link lurking in the wooded areas. Best of all, thanks to the Switch’s versatility, you can play this on your giant screen HD TV or play it in portable mode in the comfort of your own bed.

LoZBotW4

It’s fun just playing around with the camera and admiring the sights that surround you. This shot here reminds me of all the long summer evenings of my childhood sprawled out in my backyard looking up at the starry sky while listening to my uncle weave spooky stories of the macabre.

Watch the shadows...
One second Link is out of the shadows…
Its the small stuff that makes me smile
And the next he’s engulfed by them

LoZBotW7

Up ahead looms a quaint cabin. You wonder if the owner is home… hell, is the owner even a friendly fella? It’s awfully cold out though, and a little shelter does sound nice right about now… maybe we’ll take our chances…

To cross the chasm you must chop away
To cross the chasm you must chop away
Nice!
Those Bokoblins are gonna pay now!
Breath of Fire flashbacks in Breath of the Wild :)
Breath of Fire flashbacks in Breath of the Wild :)
Hmm, who is that old man...
Hmm, who is that old man…
Gather the items you wish to cook
Gather the items you wish to cook
Heat it up and ta-da!
Heat it up and ta-da! Try experimenting…

LoZBotW13

A seamless and free flowing sandbox world means you can easily get lost in a number of side tasks for as long (or little) as you wish. On my way to discover the next shrine, I often found myself distracted by random things such as unearthing Korok seeds, interacting with locals or destroying the latest nest of Bokoblins to unlock treasure chests. Spotting a new shrine in the not too far distance always made me cheer silently in my seat (or, as it was in most cases, laying down in bed).

LoZBotW14

Upgrading your inventory is not only rewarding, it’s necessary. Since weapons break with usage, you’re in a constant scramble to restock. Going from wooden shields and weak weapons to fancy metal ones and spears is a tangible surge in both ability and confidence. Also, reaching new areas of Hyrule never failed to satisfy as you survey the gorgeous sights that lay before you.

Under siege is Hyrule...
Under siege is Hyrule…
Kakariko Village never looked better
Kakariko Village never looked better
It's a reunion with Impa!
It’s a reunion with Impa!
This becomes the crux of the game
This becomes the crux of the game
The Hinox is a hideous monstrosity
The Hinox is a hideous hulking menace
And a battle that could take all night long!
And a battle that could take all night long!
Some locals are less inviting than others
Some of the locals are less inviting than others
Humor abounds here and there. Love the breath effect
Humor abounds here and there. Love the breath effect

LoZBotW23

A crackling fire nearby keeps Link warm as he gazes at the volcano that looms ominously over the horizon. He knows deep down that at some point in his quest he must cross that waterfall and confront the vicious volcano head on.

Even the kids have a little bite to them!
SHADDAP, ASS-TER!  [Real mature -Ed.]
Sketchy AF
Sketchy AF
O_o
O_o

LoZBotW27

LoZBotW28

LoZBotW29

Impa with the save
Impa with the save
What an amusing exchange :)
What an amusing exchange that all was :)
BEEDLEMANIA! This guy needs a prequel spin-off
BEEDLEMANIA!  This guy needs a prequel spin-off
Well said, Sags
Well said, Sags
Finding this bevy of swords early on was a godsend
Finding this bevy of swords early on was a godsend
Collect and tame horses for faster travel
Collect and tame horses for faster travel
Some travelers aren't always as they seem...
Some travelers aren’t always as they seem…
Nothing like hang gliding while it's raining :D
Nothing like paragliding while it’s raining :D
Collect 4 orbs to add a heart or stamina upgrade
Collect 4 orbs to add a heart or stamina upgrade
Some wild sights indeed!
Some wild sights indeed!
What a downpour
What a downpour
Oh shit! Watch it, Link
Oh shit! Watch it, Link. Put away the metal…
Roscoe > Wilson
Roscoe > Wilson
Can you unearth all 900 (!) Korok seeds?
Can you unearth all 900 (!) Korok seeds?
Awe-inspiring
Awe-inspiring
Great Fairy Fountains can upgrade your goods
Visit Great Fairy Fountains to upgrade your goods
Gaining access to remote bombs is a game changer
Gaining access to remote bombs is a game changer
Sometimes it's not fair :P
Sometimes it’s just not fair :P
Have fun with your new toy
Have fun with your new toy
Link the Peeping Tom creeper
Link the Peeping Tom creeper
Speaking of creepers... I kid, I kid [Sure you are -Ed.]
Speaking of creepers… I kid, I kid [Sure you are -Ed.]
Solving the puzzle to unlock the exit is a great feeling
Solving the puzzle to unlock the exit is a great feeling

Shrines were a point of contention among some players. Traditional Zelda games featured dungeons with plenty of monsters and a few puzzles thrown in for good measure. Breath of the Wild, however, has few dungeons. Instead we got shrines, designated areas consisting mainly of puzzles with scant enemies. Thanks to his Sheikah Slate, Link can call upon one of several Rune skills. For instance, Magnesis allows Link to lift and carry metallic objects using magnetic energy.

Simply gorgeous
Nothing like a moonlit night on a sandy beach
Better not land on him and disrupt his slumber!
Better not land on him and disrupt his slumber!
Arrow play felt so satisfying. Check the rainbow
Arrow play felt so satisfying. Check the rainbow!
Some poignant messages abound
Some poignant messages abound
Profound. I like adjusting the camera for fun angles
Profound. I like adjusting the camera for fun angles
You damn right
You damn right
Element based enemies can prove to be tricky
Element based enemies can prove to be tricky
Such a badass Link is. Looks like a summer blockbuster
Link doesn’t even bother looking back. Badass
Experiment with the Runes to see which one you need
Experiment with the Runes to see which one you need
In the distance you spot a Tower that needs unlocking
In the distance you spot a Tower that needs unlocking
Done!
Done! Now you can fast teleport to this new location
Arrows come in 5 forms: these, bomb, fire, ice, shock
Arrows come in 5 forms: these, bomb, fire, ice, shock
WATCH YO MOUTH!
WATCH YO MOUTH!
Oh Beedle...
Oh Beedle…
Stamina > Heart
Stamina > Heart
Adding to your Stamina Wheel is key in exploring
Adding to your Stamina Wheel is key in exploring
Crystallized rocks contain goodies
Crystallized rocks contain goodies. Ooh, shrine!
Magnesis rocks
Eat your heart out, Magneto
Some dungeons automatically give you an Orb
Some shrines automatically bless you with an orb

These are always nice. Some shrines are harder to find than others. For certain ones, just finding them is considered good enough for an automatic orb. No puzzles inside. Hey, I’ll take it!

Unlock Link's memories...
Unlock Link’s memories by visiting certain sites
I hesitate to look at what he's looking at...
I hesitate to look at what he’s looking at…

LoZBotW74

Eerie and dramatic, the Blood Moon is an occasional event that occurs in the world of Hyrule. By the red glow of the Blood Moon, slain enemies respawn. I’ll never forget the first time I heard that creepy music as a crimson red consumed the screen and ashes rose into the blood soaked sky.

Some shrines are hidden below the surface
Some shrines are hidden below the surface
It's just too bad they didn't have more enemies inside
It’s just too bad they didn’t have more enemies inside
Increase your Stamina Wheel to reach new heights
Increase your Stamina Wheel to reach new heights
Your Sheikah Slate beeps louder the closer you get
Your Sheikah Slate beeps louder the closer you get
Nothing like finally coming face to face with a shrine
Nothing like finally coming face to face with a shrine
Whoa!
Whoa!
My bad, yo. Been so busy that I forgot to feed him
My bad, yo. Been so busy that I forgot to feed him
Where's Godzilla when you need him eh?
Where’s Godzilla when you need him eh?
Blowing up a nest of enemies is simply the best
Blowing up a nest of enemies is simply the best
Link's no stranger to that!
Link’s no stranger to that!
Nor is he a stranger to this [Wait what?! -Link]
Nor is he a stranger to this [Wait what?! -Link]
Dress up like a lady to sneak past the guards
Dress up like a lady to sneak past the guards
This was... a very memorable main quest
This was… a very memorable main quest
I see they haven't upgraded to a white board yet, tsk tsk
I see they haven’t upgraded to a white board yet, tsk tsk
Eavesdrop on the locals and don't blow your cover
Eavesdrop on the locals and don’t blow your cover
Enough BS. Time to pull out the Master Sword
Need at least 13 hearts to yank out the Master Sword
As always, what a grand moment
OH SHIT
YOU GOT THE TOUCH -- YOU GOT THE POWER -- YEAH!
YOU GOT THE TOUCH — YOU GOT THE POWER — YEAH!
So majestic
Good to see you again, dear old friend
Good to see you again, dear old friend
Just the weapon needed to end the Calamity
These creepy eyes can be taken out with arrow shots
These creepy eyes can be taken out with arrow shots
Always a welcomed sight
Always a welcomed sight
Blood Moon strikes again
Blood Moon strikes again
Hey pal...
Hey pal…
WAKEY WAKEY!
WAKEY WAKEY!
Such a gorgeous sunrise
Such a gorgeous sunrise
Lens flare effect and all
Lens flare effect and all
Yeah, I wouldn't pet that...
Yeah, I wouldn’t pet that…
Looks like Robbie wants to go to WrestleMania!
Looks like Robbie wants to go to WrestleMania!
Just like "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey
Just like “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey
Even Link is dressed like a wrestler
Even Link is dressed like a wrestler
*Pointing intensifies*
*Pointing intensifies*
Sure am glad he's a friend and not a foe!
Sure am glad he’s a friend and not a foe!
Cool headgear, but what's in that huge weird building?
Cool headgear, but what’s in that huge weird building?
Yes, you can ride bears. Nuff said
Yes, you can ride bears. Nuff said
When you realize you forgot to close your garage door
When you realize you forgot to close your garage door
Take drastic measures to reach certain shrines
Some shrines require some thinking to reach
No trolls here but you might find some treasure
No trolls here but you might find some treasure
On your last heart -- yikes!
On your last heart — yikes!
Love gaining new goodies at the end of a shrine
Love gaining new goodies at the end of a shrine
Follow that fallen shooting star before it fades out
Follow that fallen shooting star before it fades out
Spooky
Spooky
Gotta play this one in the dark
Gotta play this one in the dark
Seth Rollins would be proud: BURN IT DOWN!
Seth Rollins would be proud: BURN IT DOWN!
How philosophical
How philosophical
I know the feeling...
I know the feeling…
What a babe
What a babe
When you realize your GF's pill didn't do its job
When you realize your girlfriend’s pill didn’t work
The bosses, admittedly, left something to be desired
The bosses, admittedly, left something to be desired
They felt a bit generic to me unlike past Zelda games
They felt a bit generic to me unlike past Zelda games
It's a small gripe though. Lovely explosions
But it’s a small gripe. Lovely death scenes though
"For he's a jolly good fellow..."
“FOR HE’S A JOLLY GOOD FELLOW…”
The white ones are the toughest and a bitch to kill
The white ones are the toughest and a bitch to kill
Another shady traveler...
Another shady traveler…
Time to put the focus on Link's heart containers
Time to put the focus on Link’s heart containers
Sweet 16
Sweet 16
Where's Kevin Bacon ah screw it, we got Link!
Where’s Kevin Bacon ah screw it, we got Link!
Taming bears never got old for me
Taming bears never got old for me
Most hated enemy. Line that sucker up!
Most hated enemy. Line that sucker up!
No lie, I actually trembled a bit when I first saw this
No lie, I actually trembled a bit when I first saw this
A sight for sore eyes
A sight for sore eyes
Don't get fried!
Don’t get fried!
It maxes out at 30 hearts
Link maxes out at 30 hearts

LoZBotW135

Like frying an egg on the sidewalk on a scorching hot day, in Breath of the Wild you can drop meat on a frosty surface and it will become “Icy Gourmet Meat.” The amount of possibilities this game offers the player is mind-blowing. Many times I thought to myself, “This might work” and sure enough, it did. Ingenuity is off the charts here, rewarding creativity and experimentation.

Like a scene out of an epic summer blockbuster
Like a scene out of an epic summer blockbuster
Shit got real
Shit got real
I like how they call all the Divine bosses the Scourge
I like how they call all the Divine bosses the Scourge
I just wish their base designs offered more variety
I just wish their base designs offered more variety
Free the final Divine Beast and it's game on!
Free the final Divine Beast and it’s game on!
Special gear is required to traverse the hotter sections
Special gear is required to traverse the hotter sections
Epic!
Blowing up a nest in mid-flight is badass!
Just big enough of a crack ;)
Just big enough of a crack ;)
The primal evil who has endured over the ages
The primal evil who has endured over the ages
You can feel the weight of Hyrule on your shoulders
You can feel the weight of Hyrule on your shoulders
You'll need everyone's help to win
You’ll need everyone’s help to win
Now we'll see what you're made of, Ganon!
Now we’ll see what you’re made of, Ganon!
Time to kick the bucket, bitch
Time to say night night
Oh fuck!
Oh fuck!
The Bow of Light will combat the Darkness
The Bow of Light will combat the Darkness
Almost there!
Almost there!
BOO-YAH!!!!
BOO-YAH!!!!

LoZBotW153

LoZBotW154

The Evil is gone... for now
The Evil is gone… for now
Link and Zelda reside over a peaceful Hyrule... for now
Link and Zelda reside over a peaceful Hyrule… for now

INTO THE WILD

LoZBotW157

I’ve been playing video games for over 30 years now. I can honestly say that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the longest single player campaign of my life. It provided me with over 210 hours of blissful entertainment. It was an insane 6 month experience… one I’ll never forget and forever cherish as one of the finest playthroughs of my gaming career.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

ZelBotW4

What can I add that hasn’t already been said a thousand times over in the last 2 years since Breath of the Wild came out? It stands out as one of the most immersive and engaging single player adventures I’ve ever played. Part of me wishes I could wipe out my memories of this game so I can experience it for the first time again. The sheer scope and scale of Link’s open world quest empowers you to forge your own path. Multiple routes and multiple possibilities lay before you, truly giving the player full autonomy and power. There are so many memorable moments, such as the first time you run into the Hinox monster.

ZelBotW3

Or the first time you pierce one of the explosive barrels to blow up a nest of Bokoblins… running away and seeing the fiery explosion go off behind you in summer blockbuster fashion. Hyrule is a living and breathing world full of fascinating creatures, vicious monsters and helpful (as well as odd) locals to interact with. While not everyone appreciates this open world approach, I sure did. Of course I harbor fond memories of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past but I applaud Nintendo for taking Breath of the Wild in a radically different direction that reflects the ever growing evolution of video gaming as we know it today. Besides, if you don’t like it, you can always return to the classics. But for the most part, there’s a reason why so many have fallen in love with Breath of the Wild. It’s a Zelda game like never before.

ZelBotW2

2 years have passed since the Switch and Breath of the Wild came out and thrilled gaming audiences around the globe. While the game has a few areas I could nitpick, such as the lack of “proper” dungeons and the 4 Divine Beast bosses looking too similar and somewhat generic, Breath of the Wild is an incredible adventure worth taking on. It’s an instant classic that will go down in the annals of gaming lore as one of the best adventures of all time. Lovingly crafted and fine tuned, Breath of the Wild is Nintendo’s signature stamp on the Switch that has set the bar for all others to come. I look forward to seeing if any game can match or surpass it. What a time to be alive :)

OVERALL: 10

Tina Turner sang it best:  You're simply the best! Better than ALLLLL the rest. Better than anyone I've ever met
Tina Turner sang it best: YOU’RE SIMPLY THE BEST!
Even better than Super Mario Odyssey? Well...
Even better than Super Mario Odyssey? Well…

Ninja Warriors (SNES)

Pub: Taito | Dev: Natsume | February 1994 | 12 MEGS
Pub: Taito | Dev: Natsume | February 1994 | 12 MEGS

I love beat ‘em ups. Always have, always will. From Double Dragon to Final Fight to Streets of Rage, I love me a good old fashioned side scrolling beat ‘em up. One of the most revered brawlers on the SNES is Ninja Warriors. I missed out on it back in the day and despite buying a copy 13 years ago in 2006, I finally got around to playing it earlier this month. There are simply too many good games and not enough time, so forgive me for waiting so long. My backlog is seriously insane, but I digress. Ninja Warriors on the SNES just turned 25 years old so it was the perfect time to see what the hype has been all about. Play as one of 3 robot ninjas and battle an army of villains and evildoers. Surely, it’s a formula for smashing success, no? Let’s take a look…

THE YEAR WAS 1987

NWArca3

Developed by Taito, Ninja Warriors began its life in the arcades in 1987. The cabinet was a massive monstrosity, one I never had the good fortune enough to witness in person. Back in the ’80s, ninjas and cyborgs were running wild. Taito had the brilliant idea of mashing the two together.

Old school goodness
Old school goodness

FAST FORWARD TO 1994

Always been a huge fan of this slick looking logo
Love the slick logo

Some 7 years later, Taito revitalized Ninja Warriors when a remake was issued for the SNES and hit store shelves in February of 1994. It rapidly garnered positive reviews and is often considered as one of the best beat ‘em ups on the SNES.

MEET THE NINJA WARRIORS

NWEx

NWEx2

NWEx3

MEET THE NINJA WARRIORS AGAIN
[I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE -ED.]

NWEx8

NWEx9

NWEx10

NWEx11

NWEx12

NWEx13

NEW NINJAS ON THE BLOCK

NWEx16

One of the cool things about this game is the ability to block enemy attacks. It’s just too bad then that blocking is the same exact button as attacking. Not a dealbreaker by any means but with no option to adjust the buttons, it’s a bit of a bummer. Back on the right side of things, there are plenty of fun items to throw around. In fact, let’s check them out.

NWEx14

Too close!
Just in the nick of time!

What could be more gratifying in a beat ‘em up than seeing that big health refill right as you’re on the verge of dying?

NWEx15

Plenty of fun stuff to fling at enemies. The containers are the best because they may house energy pods inside.

THE STORY GOES…

Three warriors shall rise...
Three warriors shall rise…

NinWarNinWar1

Banglar seeks to rule the world with an iron fist.

MMPR1bCapComm2b

 

 

 

 

 

Reminiscent of Contra III: The Alien Wars! On a side note, Natsume developed the SNES remake of Ninja Warriors. That same year they also made Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The two games are eerily similar, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the same Natsume folks worked on both titles.

NinWar2NinWar2b

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere, a darkened corridor lights up…

NinWar3NinWar3b

 

 

 

 

 

Something awakens!

NinWar4NinWar4b

 

 

 

 

 

UNLEASH THE TERMINATORS!

NinWar5NinWar5b

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing like that classic giant scrolling title screen to get you all pumped up to kick ass.

MISSION ONE

NinWar6NinWar6b

 

 

 

 

 

Smashing out of a window that takes out the opposition, Ninja Warriors is off to a blazing hot start. Love seeing all those shards of glass flying every which way. The sprites are pretty big and the colors are bright and bold. So far, so good!

NWSpecNWSpec2

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a “Blaster” bar at the bottom that automatically charges as long as you’re not hit. Once full you can unleash a super attack that damages any enemy onscreen. I’m not a fan of the weird visual effect it produces, however. It looks like a glitch that managed to slip past the game testers.

MMPR23bMMPR44b

 

 

 

 

 

Natsume, I like to think, learned from their mistakes and did it the right way in Power Rangers.

NinWar7NinWar7b

 

 

 

 

 

Unlike most beat ‘em ups, Ninja Warriors operates on a single plane. Due to this restriction, I had my concerns about crowd control. Thankfully, the protagonists can attack in such a flurry that it provides extensive coverage, taking out bad guys in front of you as well as behind.

NinWar8NinWar8b

 

 

 

 

 

Missiles rain down from the sky, damaging anyone caught in its wake (bad guys included). Be careful not to get stuck in the middle where enemies can gang up on you. Better yet, watch out for that missile rapidly approaching your face!

NinWar9NinWar9b

 

 

 

 

 

Shoulder tackles are good for clearing crowds. It’s not quite Contra III but seeing this set piece explosion on the first stage sets a good tone.

NinWar10NinWar10b

 

 

 

 

 

Explosions continue when you defeat this towering terminator.

MISSION TWO

NinWar11NinWar11b

 

 

 

 

 

Kunoichi is the fast but weak fighter of the group (to no one’s surprise).

NinWar12NinWar12b

 

 

 

 

 

Mindless enemies are easily lured to a grisly death (in theory, anyhow). I’m not a big blood guy, but if there was ever a time…

NinWar13NinWar13b

 

 

 

 

 

Leatherface would be proud! What an awesome entrance.

NinWar14NinWar14b

 

 

 

 

 

Chainsaw is as big as her! Son of a bitch blocks well, too.

NinWar15NinWar15b

 

 

 

 

 

What’s worse than dealing with a chainsaw wielding homicidal maniac? Contending with soldiers who have plenty of firepower!

MISSION THREE

NinWar16NinWar16b

 

 

 

 

 

Kamaitachi is my favorite of the ninjas. He’s agile enough while being able to withstand more damage than Kunoichi. Not only that but he has a cool spinning attack as well as a retractable scythe!

NinWar17NinWar17b

 

 

 

 

 

Beating up businessmen in suits is extra satisfying. That big fella there is the toughest of the regular enemies. He’s more or less the “Andore” of the game.

NinWar18NinWar18b

 

 

 

 

 

Banglar flashes intermittently on the multiple screens as the boss fades in and out. Beware of bombs!

MISSION FOUR

NinWar19NinWar19b

 

 

 

 

 

Throwing a searchlight… points for creativity! Also love that atmospheric skyline. Later in this stage a tank comes smashing through the wall. Don’t get caught in the middle if you can help it.

NinWar20NinWar20b

 

 

 

 

 

Exercise crowd control by jumping to one side and kicking an enemy to take out their own. This is critical to keeping your head above water.

NinWar21NinWar21b

 

 

 

 

 

Insane flexibility on his part to kick that high without splitting his business slacks. A helicopter flies by launching an all-out assault. Stay out of harm’s way; the bullets will blast Banglar’s brigade!

NinWar22NinWar22b

 

 

 

 

 

Massive destructive energy beam aside, this boss is a joke.

MISSION FIVE

NinWar23NinWar23b

 

 

 

 

 

Strolling through the city at night is always fun. That is, until you meet a pair of schmucks in slacks!

NinWar24NinWar24b

 

 

 

 

 

Remember the first boss? He’s back but now he’s a regular enemy. Avoid jumping at him or he’ll uppercut the holy hell outta ya.

NinWar25NinWar25b

 

 

 

 

 

Blocking and capitalizing is key to success. I love when levels transit from one scene to another, such as this seamless transition to a dojo. Any backdrop featuring Shoji screen panels is a big win in my book!

NinWar26NinWar26b

 

 

 

 

 

There’s something inherently beautiful about beating up thugs in a dojo. Especially when the buildings come into view at night time. Ninja Warriors has an ’80s action movie vibe to it.

NinWar27NinWar27b

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of action movies from the ’80s, this boss looks like the big bad from a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie!

NinWar28NinWar28b

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously, he’s well versed in black magic…

MISSION SIX

NinWar29NinWar29b

 

 

 

 

 

Destroy Banglar’s exquisite statues by sending his army through it. The key to beating Bumblebee and friends is attacking them from behind; their front defense is very strong.

NinWar30NinWar30b

 

 

 

 

 

Banglar! But he doesn’t stick around long. He tramples off, the bald little bastard. In his place comes two towering titans. Good luck!

MISSION SEVEN

NinWar31NinWar31b

 

 

 

 

 

Snowy levels are always nostalgic for me, as they take me right back to the days of Contra and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game.

NinWar32NinWar32b

 

 

 

 

 

Unlike most other SNES beat ‘em ups that typically max out at 3 enemies onscreen, Ninja Warriors can have up to 4. Throw them into each other to exercise crowd control.

NinWar33NinWar33b

 

 

 

 

 

Heaving around gas tanks lead to huge explosions. The red variant is the strongest of the regular enemies. Luckily there should be a health refill in one of those containers…

NinWar35NinWar35b

 

 

 

 

 

Bumblebee and friends are tough when they surround you from both sides. Knock them into each other if you can.

NinWar36bNinWar36

 

 

 

 

 

Experiment gone wrong… or right?

MISSION EIGHT

NinWar38NinWar38b

 

 

 

 

 

Banglar is an interesting final boss fight. You face his cronies (and his deadly laser beams) rather than Banglar himself.

NinWar39NinWar39b

 

 

 

 

 

Damage is inflicted only by throwing his lackeys back at him. This takes a long time and the enemies get tougher and tougher. Damn you Banglar, you chicken shit coward! :P

THEY RETURN… ONCE AGAIN

NWOA

In September of 2018 it was announced that Ninja Warriors would be the latest retro intellectual property to be revitalized. It is set to land on the Nintendo Switch at some point in 2019. I personally cannot wait.

NWOA2

A proper 2 player mode and gorgeous sprite work? Count me in!

Check out the teaser trailer!

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

NinWarCT

Ninja Warriors was met with high praise. EGM gave it scores of 8, 8, 8, 8 and 9. GameFan gave it ratings of 86, 87, 92 and 93%. Even Super Play, who were often critical of beat ‘em ups, rated it 84%. SNES fans often cite Ninja Warriors as one of the best beat ‘em ups on the Super Nintendo.

NWEx20

NWEx21

NWEx22

It managed to even impress Super Play -- no small feat!
It managed to impress even Super Play — no small feat!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

NinWarCT2

Ninja Warriors has a lot going for it. Straight forward arcade-like action, cool ninjas, killer robots and an atmosphere plucked right out of late 1980s action movie lore. Huge detailed sprites, menacing bosses and all the classic lackey tropes you could want to beat up. Yet, for some reason I’m not over the moon for this one. It plays well and the ability to block adds depth to the core gameplay. But I’m not a huge fan of the action taking place on a single plane. Enemies can quickly crowd you and sometimes cheap hits feel impossible to avoid. Thankfully you can block bullets but I would like this game much more if it were free roaming like most other traditional beat ‘em ups. There’s a flash of utter brilliance here and there, such as giant fans being able to kill enemies or the helicopter that flies by spraying bullets unmercifully. Sadly, that’s pretty much it as far as that goes. In addition, a 2 player mode is sorely lacking.

NinWarCrit

That said, it’s still pretty good. The colors scream “1994 SNES” as they are bright, bold and easy on the eyes. There are 3 distinctly different characters and I like how the bomb attacks uses a separate meter rather than subtracting from your precious life bar. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction that comes with pummeling the various enemies and exploiting their weaknesses. The music gets the job done for the most part although it doesn’t really stand out, either. Ninja Warriors is a very worthy addition to any SNES library.

NinWarCT4

But I’d be lying if I said I completely loved it. After all the hype I’ve heard over the past 25 years, I find it to be slightly disappointing. I would much rather play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time or Return of Double Dragon. Ditto Final Fight 3 and King of Dragons. In my book, Ninja Warriors is an odd case of a game that is somehow both pretty good and disappointing all at once.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 7.5
Longevity: 6

AwardOverall: 7.5
Bronze Award

Props for inspiring REC...
Props for inspiring REC
One of the truly scary moments in horror cinema
One of the truly scary moments in horror cinema
OH HELL NO
OH HELL NO

Ardy Lightfoot (SNES)

Pub: Titus | Dev: ASCII | February 1994 | 8 MEGS
Pub: Titus | Dev: ASCII | February 1994 | 8 MEGS

One of my favorite things about this hobby is the ability to right childhood wrongs by going back to play games that I missed out on. Ardy Lightfoot turns 25 years old this month, and it was one of those games that intrigued me as a kid. It looked like a fun game and a hidden gem. When I got back into the SNES over 13 years ago in January of 2006, Ardy Lightfoot was one of the earliest games I sought out. At that time, I’d been curious about it for 12 years. Sometimes your gut feeling about a game is right and sometimes it’s wrong. Let’s see where Ardy Lightfoot stacks up.

THE YEAR WAS 1994

ArdyEx9

I was instantly intrigued the first time I laid eyes on Ardy Lightfoot via an EGM preview guide. Sadly, my brother made most of the renting choices back in the day and “ALF” never struck his fancy like it did mine. Thus, Ardy Lightfoot (along with over a hundred other SNES games) became doomed to remain a childhood curiosity… that is, until my SNES resurgence in early 2006.

WHO IS ARDY?

ArdyEx6

AND THAT BLUE BLOB?

ArdyEx7

ArdyEx

AND WHO, PRAY TELL, IS LIGHTFINGER?

No one, really. Pay Super Play no mind...
No one, really. Pay Super Play no mind…
Bunch of wisecracks over there
Bunch of wisecracks over there

WHAT ABOUT ARTY?

Arty Lightfoot... nice one, guys
Arty Lightfoot… nice one, Super NES Buyer’s Guide
Mascot platformers were all the rage in the early '90s
Mascot platformers were all the rage in the ’90s

Congrats to Konami for securing the rights to Monsters, which eventually became the cult hit Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Reading tidbits like that is always a blast when revisiting the gaming magazines of yesteryear.

AND THIS GUY?

ArdyEx8

THE STORY GOES…

ArdyComic

ArdyComic2

ArdyComic3

That awesome mini-manga was featured in the instruction manual of the Super Famicom version. The English text was translated by Kate (AKA vgperson). Thanks Kate for your awesome contribution!

ALFALF1

 

 

 

 

 

Coincidentally, Titus published Ardy Lightfoot and Titus’ logo bears more than a passing resemblance to the titular hero. I like how the title screen conveys a sense of wonder and adventure. Even the font and colors are on point and all indicators, thus far, seem to point in the right direction. What could go wrong?

PROLOGUE

ALF2ALF2b

 

 

 

 

 

Introductory stage takes us through a mysterious mine.

ALF3ALF3b

 

 

 

 

 

Indiana Jones and Metroid flashbacks…

ALF4ALF4b

 

 

 

 

 

Visconti, the big bad of the game, is informed of the latest. Meanwhile, Ardy maneuvers about the cute isometric map. It makes me think of games such as Super Mario RPG, Equinox, Shadowrun and even EarthBound.

ALF5ALF5b

 

 

 

 

 

Reading the slate aloud, the old man tells us that the rainbow has been divided into seven pieces. Scattered across the land, it’ll grant the owner a wish once all seven pieces have been reunited. But before they can enjoy some tea, the local town is suddenly set ablaze!

ALF6ALF6b

 

 

 

 

 

Isometric visuals will never get old for me.

SCENE 1: MINING TOWN ABLAZE

ALF7ALF7b

 

 

 

 

 

Visconti’s goons are bombing this poor little town. Save the denizens from certain doom! Throw Pec around to clear the bad guys.

ALF8ALF8b

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually, it crashes into a water tower and Ardy goes through the hole as the old man and Nina look on with grave concern.

SCENE 2: GROUNDER’S MINE

ALF9ALF9b

 

 

 

 

 

Regular jumps won’t suffice here. Call upon Ardy’s tail spring super jump. Jump and then press the jump button again before landing to activate his springy tail. Unfortunately, it’s a bit awkward to implement and never feels as smooth as you would like.

SCENE 3: TUNNEL CHASE

ALF10ALF10b

 

 

 

 

 

Reminiscent of Donkey Kong Country… but don’t forget that Ardy Lightfoot came out a year prior. The Super Famicom version was released on November 26, 1993 while Donkey Kong Country came out precisely one year later on November 26, 1994. What are the odds?

ALF11ALF11b

 

 

 

 

 

Donkey Kong Country has it beat though in terms of which mine cart level is more interesting and fun! Some of the stages in Ardy Lightfoot are laughably short and simple — this being one of them.

ALF12ALF12b

 

 

 

 

 

Beware of falling rocks and spring tail jump him to oblivion. Pec won’t damage him and neither will regular jumps. You secure the first of seven Rainbow shards after beating him.

ALF13ALF13b

 

 

 

 

 

Mysteriously swooping in is Don Jacoby. Is he friend or foe? Make your way to the forest next.

ALF14ALF14b

 

 

 

 

 

Flashback of how Catry stole one of the precious Rainbow shards.

SCENE 4: LUMBERJACK FOREST

ALF15ALF15b

 

 

 

 

 

There’s no shortage of stars to collect here. Pec gobbles up enemies like Yoshi.

ALF16ALF16b

 

 

 

 

 

Special icons transform Pec into an inflated makeshift ride. It doesn’t last long but you’ll be able to grab otherwise unreachable items.

ALF17ALF17b

 

 

 

 

 

Platformers typically have some kind of continue marker. Step on her head and she writes furiously to record your journey. I like it a lot; it’s quirky and has that “Nintendo touch” to it. On the flip side, the game’s first truly annoying bit presents itself when you have to jump off those enemy heads in succession to safely reach the other side. They’re a bit far apart and the control is not very precise, making it unnecessarily frustrating.

ALF18ALF18b

 

 

 

 

 

Paying homage to Sonic the Hedgehog, Ardy comes screaming down the hill with incredible speed. Clear the stage and head to the tree fortress.

SCENE 5: CATRY’S TREE FORTRESS

ALF19ALF19b

 

 

 

 

 

Platforming rule #72: one must have a vertically scrolling stage. This one is a bit annoying because certain jumps require the awkward spring tail jump and some of the platforms rotate, giving you very little time to react.

ALF20ALF20b

 

 

 

 

 

Wrestle your way to the top and it’s that blasted Don Jacoby again. You’ll find a 1-UP generously placed in the chest because the upcoming boss fight can be a bit tricky at first.

ALF21ALF21b

 

 

 

 

 

Jumping on the color buttons causes a boxing glove of the matching color to extend out. Be quick on your toes!

ALF22ALF22b

 

 

 

 

 

Securing the second Rainbow shard? Not so fast. That cowardly Catry flies off with it but she ends up getting eaten by a giant worm! Crap, you got no other choice but to follow…

SCENE 6: EATEN!!

ALF23ALF23b

 

 

 

 

 

Following in the tradition of the Bonk games, Congo’s Caper and The Magical Quest: Starring Mickey Mouse, Ardy finds himself navigating through the belly of a beast. I’m always a sucker for such levels.

ALF24ALF24b

 

 

 

 

 

Climbing and sliding down the slimy strands of this beast is as fun as it is disgusting. Watch out for the acid and sharp teeth!

ALF25ALF25b

 

 

 

 

 

Apprehend Catry’s Rainbow shard and we’re off to the pyramid.

SCENE 7: ANCIENT PYRAMID

ALF26ALF26b

 

 

 

 

 

Difficulty of this game fluctuates like crazy. This is a very annoying stage that requires pinpoint precision from a game lacking such.

ALF27ALF27b

 

 

 

 

 

Killing that enemy reduces the light.

ALF28ALF28b

 

 

 

 

 

Killing another one reduces it even further. The thing is, you pretty much have to which leaves you no choice but to brave the dark.

ALF29ALF29b

 

 

 

 

 

Thankfully, it doesn’t last too long.

ALF30ALF30b

 

 

 

 

 

Falling spikes impale Ardy easily. I like the lighting effect here but damn is it hard to avoid those deadly spikes.

ALF31ALF31b

 

 

 

 

 

Pushing gimmick is utilized a bit here but I wish the game used it a little more. That mouse is up to no good.

ALF32ALF32b

 

 

 

 

 

World’s Strongest Genie (eat your heart out Will Smith) flexes like a champ. Get up to the lamp and secure the key.

SCENE 8: MOUSE TRAP

ALF33ALF33b

 

 

 

 

 

Homewrecker mouse nabs the Rainbow shard before you can. Flag it down to end this ridiculously short level.

ALF34ALF34b

 

 

 

 

 

Quickly get the hell out before you’re crushed!

ALF35ALF35b

 

 

 

 

 

JACOBY?!? He appears out of nowhere to save Ardy. You book it and the wall collapses right after you’re out of harm’s way. Does that mean Don Jacoby is…

ALF36ALF36b

 

 

 

 

 

Beecroft reports Ardy’s adventures back to Visconti. Meanwhile, our furry hero sails out to the high seas.

SCENE 9: GILSON’S PIRATE SHIP

ALF37ALF37b

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere Steven Spielberg is smiling (or not). Gilson is a vicious owl with some serious firepower.

ALF38ALF38b

 

 

 

 

 

However, beat Gilson and you’ll earn his respect and another Rainbow shard. Time to sail back.

ALF39ALF39b

 

 

 

 

 

Beecroft proves to be a real punk as he runs over an old man and kidnaps helpless Nina.

SCENE 10: ISLAND OF RUINS

ALF40ALF40b

 

 

 

 

 

Beware of cannonballs in this gorgeous early evening stage. Hold the block to block incoming arrows.

ALF41ALF41b

 

 

 

 

 

Catching a ride on an arrow is quite satisfying. Use the cannonballs to make your way across this spiky pit.

ALF42ALF42b

 

 

 

 

 

Always been a sucker for collectable items arranged in a recognizable fashion. A lone skeleton guards the exit. This game suffers a bit from short and sparse levels.

SCENE 11: BEECROFT’S STRONGHOLD

ALF43ALF43b

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing like a starry night to hit me in the feels. Watch out for the buzzsaw.

ALF44ALF44b

 

 

 

 

 

Mindless bots will carry that block. Time your spring tail jump perfectly. It can be a bit tricky. You meet up with Beecroft once again but this time, it’s on.

ALF45ALF45b

 

 

 

 

 

Visually, this is the game’s most impressive moment. It’s such a beautiful sight and makes me wish Ardy Lightfoot had more strong moments like such. Use the prism to deflect the boss’ energy beams. Suck it, Beecroft!

ALF46ALF46b

 

 

 

 

 

MechaGodzilla flashbacks. This boss has a ton of projectiles but it’s no match for Ardy and his trusty prism!

ALF47ALF47b

 

 

 

 

 

Earthquake!! Hey look, Don Jacoby lives! And, he offers a helping hand.

SCENE 12: UNDERGROUND PASSAGE

ALF48ALF48b

 

 

 

 

 

Miniature Ardy gives you an extra life. Ardy can hold his breath underwater. But beware of biting fish!

ALF49ALF49b

 

 

 

 

 

Yanking and creating a path for yourself is the order of the day here. It’s fun and this is easily the best stage of the game. I just wish the other stages were as well crafted as this.

ALF50ALF50b

 

 

 

 

 

Another reason I like this stage so much: Pec becomes Super Pec! Sadly, Super Pec exists only in this one level. Pull more switches to solve the puzzle.

ALF51ALF51b

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing stands in the way of Super Pec! Toss him through barriers and he’ll do the rest. Treasure chests abound but the “trapped” skeletal prisoners burst to life!

ALF52ALF52b

 

 

 

 

 

Awww… how cute. Ardy’s posing for his eHarmony profile. More skeletons spring to life but Super Pec sends them packing.

ALF53ALF53b

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, we come to the third and last switch. Yank it to make the water rise which opens up the exit for Ardy. It’s a shame the other levels aren’t as fun or interesting as this one.

ALF54ALF54b

 

 

 

 

 

Visconti’s castle looms ominously in the background as Ardy makes his way to the stronghold.

SCENE 13: VISCONTI’S CASTLE

ALF55ALF55b

 

 

 

 

 

Punishing BS here. The game’s uneven difficulty is jarring, to say the least. One level it’s easy and the next it’s murder (literally). Catch a lift on the arrows going up. This requires timing and precision. It wouldn’t be so bad if the control was more responsive and there wasn’t a lava pit below. Hey, at least there’s no timer right?

SCENE 14: THRONE ROOM

ALF56ALF56b

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of brutally difficult, stage 14 isn’t any easier. Use Pec to navigate your way through. Unfortunately, Pec can stay inflated for only so long. Thankfully, there are treasure chests scattered throughout for you to return your friend to puffy status. But it’s still a bitch.

SCENE 15: THE TOWER

ALF57ALF57b

 

 

 

 

 

Springboard from one platform to the next and make your way all the way to the top. Thankfully, this one isn’t too bad.

SCENE 16: HALL OF MIRRORS

ALF58ALF58b

 

 

 

 

 

Visually, the Hall of Mirrors is a standout. The effect is very reminiscent of that one stage from Battletoads in Battlemaniacs.

ALF59ALF59b

 

 

 

 

 

Aquaman would be proud of Ardy here. Things get a bit trickier when a wall obscures part of your view and you must rely on your reflection on the bottom of the screen. Neat stuff!

SCENE 17: ROYAL THRONE ROOM

ALF60ALF60b

 

 

 

 

 

ALF60cALF60d

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect form on Nina’s part! So dramatic and theatrical. Even the tiny sound effect of her arms hitting the floor on that last shot there is flawless.

ALF61ALF61b

 

 

 

 

 

Lightning bolts stop Ardy dead in his tracks. Visconti is a nasty final boss. Good luck!

ALF62ALF62b

 

 

 

 

 

Destroy Visconti and reunite the Infinity Gems Rainbow shards. Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems would be proud.

ALF63ALF63b

 

 

 

 

 

Having collected all 7 pieces, Ardy is granted one wish. He uses it to revive Nina. What a good guy, that Ardy.

PSST, WHAT’S THE PASSWORD?

ALF66ALF66b

 

 

 

 

 

Although not a long game by any means, password systems are always a plus. I particularly like the style of this one a lot. Arrange the three blocks in the right spots. These spots include the house, table, stump, balloon and tree. It’s cute and memorable!

CHEAT CODES

ALF64ALF64b

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a cheat code to play Ardy Lightfoot in either black and white or sepia. Kind of odd but hey, it’s there if you have that urge.

ALF65ALF65b

 

 

 

 

 

There’s even a code to play as miniature Ardy. It’s basically being able to control the 1-UP icon. At the end of the game, we get a TO BE CONTINUED message. Sadly, this would be Ardy’s one and only adventure to date. On a side note, I think this universe has a ton of potential and could find a great home on the Nintendo Switch…

ArdyEx13

Now you can play all the levels to your hearts content
Now you can play all the levels to your heart’s content

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

Thumbs up or nay? [I C WAT U DID DERE -Ed.]
Thumbs up or nay?
[I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE -Ed.]
Ardy Lightfoot did well with the critics. EGM gave it scores of 6, 7, 7, 8 and 8. Super Play rated it 83%. However, opinions vary among SNES fans. Some praise Ardy Lightfoot to the moon, calling it a hidden gem and deeming it as one of the great forgotten SNES games of the ’90s. Other retro gamers don’t hold it in quite the same esteem. If you haven’t played it yet and you have a penchant for mascot platformers from the early-mid ’90s, definitely find a way to play it somehow and see for yourself which camp you belong to.

ArdyEx10

Sorry EGM but I have to call you out on one thing here. “Huge levels” — really? Really?? The levels are almost embarrassingly short, well, many of them at least.

ArdyEx11

Super Play got it right when they called the levels short. Not sure what EGM was smoking :P

Super respectable score from Super Play
Super respectable score from Super Play

CLOSING THOUGHTS

ALFCT7

When I first booted up Ardy Lightfoot back in early 2006, it had been a 12 year curiosity. I remember seeing the previews in EGM and wanting to play it so badly. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I thought to myself that surely it had to be a hidden gem. The visuals have that classic SNES look — they’re bright and bold and look a bit like a Saturday morning cartoon come to life. Ardy had the potential to be a great protagonist, and his trusty sidekick Pec adds to the overall appeal of the package. Heck, there’s even a cool isometric map that makes the game look like an RPG even though it’s strictly a platformer.

ArdyEx2

I think you know where this is going, though. So what went wrong? To be certain, Ardy Lightfoot is by no means a bad game. It’s quite playable and even enjoyable. But for my money, it comes nowhere close to fulfilling its potential. A platformer is only as good as its control. You look at a masterpiece like Super Mario World with its impeccable control and stunning level design and it’s easy to see why it stands the test of time. Ardy Lightfoot, unfortunately, is let down by less than stellar control. It isn’t ultra responsive, and the tail spring jump mechanism is a bit awkward to use. And you use it quite a bit. It’s also annoying how simply pressing either left or right sends Ardy sprinting not long after. In general, something about the control is slightly off. These factors are enough in my book to bump Ardy Lightfoot from hidden gem contention.

ALFCT

Some of the 17 levels are quite fun to navigate, with interesting gimmicks that reel you in. Unfortunately, the majority of the levels leave something to be desired in terms of both design and length. I never really felt like I was able to truly sink my teeth into this game. For every semi-brilliant level, there are 4 or 5 very plain ones that struggle to leave an imprint. Enemies are also very sparse, leaving the game to feel a little devoid of action. Speaking of missed opportunities, they could have done a lot more with Pec. Yeah you can toss him at enemies and he has two different forms he can turn into, but his different forms only occur in a paltry 3 of the 17 stages. This game would be so much better if only the developers incorporated Pec more to further differentiate it from the pack of “me too” platformers that proliferated the SNES throughout the ’90s.

ALFCT2

These blemishes make playing Ardy Lightfoot a bit of an uneven experience. One level you’re cruising through and the next you’re utterly decimated. The difficulty fluctuates and the less than stellar control doesn’t help when the difficulty randomly spikes. But if you’re the persistent type and can overlook the game’s notable flaws, then there’s enough merit backing Ardy Lightfoot to make it worth seeking out.

ALFCT8

It’s just a shame it doesn’t quite live up to its potential. Not all childhood curiosities have a happy ending. But at least it didn’t flop. There’s definitely a decent game here, but hidden gem? Not in my book. Ardy Lightfoot to me is a slight disappointment, bordering on moderate. I was hoping to love it and sing its praises. A little tweaking here and there and some polish could have made this one special. Instead, it is what it is. Ardy Lightfoot is merely a footnote in the annals of SNES lore.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 6.5
Gameplay: 6.5
Longevity: 5

Overall: 6.5

Happy 25th anniversary, Ardy! May there be an Ardy Lightfoot 2 one day to get it right
Happy 25th anniversary, Ardy!
May there be an Ardy Lightfoot 2 one day to get it right