DoReMi Fantasy (SFC)

The best SNES platformer not named Mario? Just maybe...
Happy 20th! 3.22.96-3.22.16

Today marks 20 years since the release of one of the finest platformers you could play on your SNES: DoReMi Fantasy. I originally wrote about this game nearly 10 years ago when it wasn’t as well known as it is today. When I first got back into all things Super Nintendo (January 2006), I did so in large part because I wanted to get back to my platforming roots. I scoured the net and looked at the entire SNES library. I saw pictures of a Japanese game called “DoReMi Fantasy” and instantly fell in love. Ever see a picture of a game and knew right away that you had to play it? DoReMi Fantasy had me instantly charmed. The Super Famicom has some amazing games that we Westerners sadly never received. DoReMi Fantasy is one of the best. 10 years ago it was actually obscure. It’s a lot more well known these days due to positive word of mouth over the years. Plus, a Wii Virtual Console release in March 2008 certainly didn’t hurt. It isn’t uncommon to find this game on hidden gem and must have SNES lists. It couldn’t happen to a nicer game, as the old saying goes [I’m pretty sure it doesn’t go like that but ok… -Ed.]

Milon from Milon’s Secret Castle

DoReMi Fantasy is a highly polished side-scrolling platformer. There are 8 worlds each with their own theme. In each world there’s a minimum of 6 levels followed by a boss. An overhead map allows you to backtrack. The levels aren’t particularly long but they possess plenty of detail, quirky enemies, excellent backdrops, ace set pieces and ultra smooth gameplay. The game’s sound is also noteworthy — it occasionally foregoes music for ambient sound effects instead. It all helps to create a unique world well worth exploring and spending a weekend or two with.

Amazing set piece!

Milon is a great character, full of charm and animated brilliantly. Graphics are outstanding. The game has a real sense of life to it. You really have to see it in motion to fully appreciate it. Milon can take up to 3 hits. His suit starts out green, then turns blue when hit and finally red. Jumping on an enemy’s head will only stun them. To kill them, you have to first encase them in a bubble and then pop them. It’s a slight twist on the ole hop ‘n bop routine that works well. Although it’s nothing groundbreaking by any means, this slight deviation from the norm is welcomed.

Be the star, find the star

From world 2 on, each level contains a Musical Star you must find and grab (usually not that hard, but later on becomes trickier). Therefore, you’re forced to explore the beautiful layouts (if you finish a stage without getting the star, you can’t battle the boss). Speaking of worlds, let’s take a look at them.

1. THE WOODS

Pinpoint control

It’s the ole standard forest theme world. Although basic, it manages to pull you into its charming world. Something about SNES visuals that just does it for me. Sure, there might be better out there (i.e. Neo Geo) but visuals like this get me every single time. As with any platformer, the first world is simple and will get you acquainted to the game’s mechanics and control. You may feel a bit uninspired initially but it gets much better. Highlights of this world include a log ride, falling leaves over a pit where you must time your leap from one leaf to the next, and a neat little haunted cabin featuring Pinocchio-esque dolls.

Whoa, you’re happy to see me
Duck Hunt flashback!

2. FOOD CONSTELLATION TYPE WORLD?

So unique and bizarre…

If the first world seemed a bit ho-hum to you, then the second world is a lot more likely to catch your eye. It’s not often that you find a themed world consisting of food and drink items combined with a very atmosphere celestial backdrop. It’s almost like some weird acid trip. Lots of neat graphical touches, a surreal and ambient soundtrack and some bizarre-o enemies make these levels particularly memorable.

Reach for the stars, kid

Launching posts propel Milon high through the air and usually sends the little guy bursting through blocks in the process. And it feels as awesome as it looks.

Always wear protection…

Another impressive set piece, if you leave Milon idle for a while, he’ll pull his pointy wizard’s hat over his head as the wine comes pouring down over him. It’s a cute, charming moment that brought a smile to my face the very first time I saw it. Moments like this bring DoReMi Fantasy to life.

3. CHURCH

Hey, the sermon wasn’t that bad

Some creepy music here! It’s not what you expect, and caught me off guard when I first heard it. It gives this stage a rather eerie, empty feel. Highlights of this world include a bell hopping stage and a unique level where on/off switches litter the floor. Touch any off switch and darkness devours the scene, except for the color of the switches and Milon’s white pupils.

Lovely transparent curtains!

4. WATER

Ah, back to platforming tropes

Though much of this level is on land, there are plenty of underwater sequences. I quickly developed a burning hatred for those annoying spear throwing frogmen. And I suspect you will too.

5. ICE

Ooooh. Ahhhh

I love this world. It features some of the game’s best looking visuals and stages. It’s incredibly fun to play through. Stage 5-3 is a sled stage that particularly rocks.

Off the charts animation!
Shades of Sonic the Hedgehog
Love playing this at night!

Blow a bubble. It’ll freeze, forming a block for Milon to hop on. Brilliant. And yes, as you’d expect those icy blocks are more slippery than a used car salesman. Overall, a really fun world and easily my favorite in the game. So incredibly atmospheric. Those Northern Lights never fail to bring a smile to my heart. You can almost feel the chill. Be sure to play this one by the fireplace if you can :)

6. FIRE

Generic? Sure. Fun? You betcha

C’mon you knew this was coming! No 16-bit platformer is complete without the ole mandatory fiery-themed level. I don’t mind tropes so long as they’re done well. And Hudson doesn’t fail to deliver here.

MUDBLUPS!

Two fairly difficult force-scrolling levels are spread across this blazing world. OK, so DoReMi Fantasy fulfills all the platforming tropes. When it’s this well done though, who cares? Certainly not me.

7. TOYS R US

Insanely colorful visuals

The toy stages are stunning. The richness of colors immediately jumps out, radiating off your TV screen. It’s a reminder that 16-bit visuals, when done right, has an undeniable charm that hits all the right notes [I see what you did there… DoReMi Fantasy… notes… har har… -Ed.]. In addition to some gnarly visuals, there are plenty of dangerous little gadgets in this toy world from hell. Black Friday ain’t got nothing on this.

There’s also a haunted house-inspired world. But I’ll save some for you to imagine, or better yet, experience it yourself! If you haven’t played this yet and you consider yourself a fan of the 16-bit era platformer, this is a must play. It’s one of the best Super Famicom-only games ever released, and I wouldn’t hesitate to say it could be the best non-Mario platformer on the entire system. Yes, I believe it’s that damn good.

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES

  • Slowdown does occur but it’s not often nor does it affect gameplay really
  • When you lose (whether to a boss or anywhere on a level), you start with 1 hit (red suit). So you’ll find yourself backtracking often to restore your health to 3 hits (green suit) before re-facing the boss. Hard love it is, indeed. Yes, you can backtrack because this game incorporates a map
  • Infinite continues
  • 4 character password system (too bad it wasn’t battery-backed). Passwords put you on the 1st stage of that world, so you have to do all the work again if, say, you quit at a boss battle
  • Hold attack until Milon flashes to unleash his super attack. Some situations require his super attack to advance, so be sure to make a mental note of this
  • Different power-ups are available and hidden inside breakable items. Power-ups include floating shoes, double bubble, bubble gum (very handy should you fall in a bottomless pit), and so forth.
  • The storyline unfolds in pictures and text. While the text is in Japanese, there isn’t a whole lot. The pictures are self-explanatory when it comes to these cutscenes introducing new gameplay elements in each world
  • Milon is a selectable character in Hudson’s Saturn Bomberman (1997)
Bomberman cameo!
Bomberman cameo!

A fan translation (as seen above) was released in August of 2007. Like I said earlier, you can enjoy the game without the translation as there isn’t much text, but it’s sure nice to get the whole package.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

What a blockhead…

DoReMi Fantasy is an excellent platformer every serious SNES fan should own. It’s a shame it didn’t receive a domestic release. But seeing as how it came out March 1996 (the SNES was practically dead in the US by then), it’s hard to harp on that much. Personally, I think DoReMi Fantasy ranks right up there as one of Super Nintendo’s finest platformers. It’s terrific from top to bottom, and as a friend of mine once put it perfectly: “It’s about as charming as a video game can be.” I couldn’t agree more. Happy 20th anniversary, DoReMi Fantasy!

Graphics: 9
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Longevity: 7

Overall: 9.0

Gold Award
Gold Award

Godzilla: Kaijuu Daikessen (SFC)

The game to blame for my obscure Super Famicom fetish
Of Monsters and Mothra

It’s been nearly 10 years since my “Obscure Super Famicom Impressions” thread hit the internet (September 2006). Every two to three days I posted new mini reviews on lesser known Super Famicom exclusive games. The topic became a bigger hit than I ever dreamed it would, and sparked much retro gaming discourse on the forums. While I wasn’t the first guy to ever cover these import titles, my topic did open the door for a lot of people who had never seen or heard of them before. Many suggested I start a fansite to preserve my reviews. Message board posts tend to get buried over time and thus fade into obscurity. The overwhelming compliments and encouragement I received to start my own fansite became a driving force. That’s how my original site, RVGFanatic.com, came to be. To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of my obscure SFC mini reviews, I’m going to begin converting them over here one by one. And I can’t think of a better game to kick it off with than the first game that started it all for me.

Ever been curious about a game for 12 years? This was mine...
Ever been curious about a game for 12 years? This was mine…

I’ll never forget that sunny day back in June 1994 when EGM #60 arrived. During their prime, few things could rival the sheer joy generated from finding a brand new issue sitting in your mailbox. Oh yeah, once upon a time EGM was THAT good.

Imagine this scene: school was out. Summer was in full bloom. You had your trusty best friend and a full two months ahead of you for nothing but long, lazy days of horror movie and video gaming marathons. Super Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat II were all the rage. Both were coming out soon and you just knew you were experiencing the very peak of 16-bit gaming. It was a hell of a time to be a ten year old kid!

January 2006. It was the Winter Break before my final college semester. I suddenly longed for some Super Nintendo action. The next several months saw me buying old favorites and gems left and right. Then at some point I remembered that day back in June ’94…

Flipping excitedly through the magazine, there it was on page 76.

The game that eluded me for 12 years! The EGM preview had me drooling like a fool

I love Godzilla. I love fighting games. It was a match made in Heaven.

Only one problem, of course.

Raking in a grand total of a whoppin’ two dollars a week, the game, being an enchanted import, seemed simply unattainable. Nowadays import is just another version of a game, but back then the word import actually held a certain mystique. You drooled at the cool previews and knew if anyone owned those games, in those times, that they were unequivocably HARDCORE.

So how does GODZILLA: KAIJUU DAIKESSEN stack up?

Pretty damn well.

You’re not going to find many combos or a whole lot of finesse, but considering the material it’s only fitting. The game relies on special moves a lot.

X = Weak Attack
Y = Strong Attack
B = Hold (grapple then press varying D-Pad combinations i.e. D, F to toss or bite)
A = Dash

WRATH OF THE GODZ(ILLA)

There are two bars to keep an eye on. The Stun Meter and the WRATH spirit.

When hit, your stun and WRATH meter increases. When your stun meter’s full, you’ll be knocked out temporarily. When your WRATH is full, your monster will flash red and remain so until you either get stunned, or apply your Wrath attack.

Wrath attacks are basically “Desperation Moves.” Desperation moves became very common place in fighting games post-1993. Wrath attacks can inflict INCREDIBLE damage, instantly changing the tide of a match.

Some have two Wrath moves

When you’re in Wrath mode, attack damage (regular or special moves) nearly double. This creates a bit of strategy: do you go for your big move right away, or do you hold off and take advantage of the extra power? If you do the latter, you risk the possibility of being stunned and thus losing your Wrath move altogether. It’s prudent, then, to always keep an eye on your stun meter. The worst insult is when the opponent stops you in mid-animation of a Wrath move. Or if they jump away or over it. Management of one’s Wrath usually decides the outcome of a battle.

“Look ma! No strings!”

There are eight selectable monsters in the 1 player mode, and nine in the 2 player versus mode (with two being unlockable). Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

GODZILLA

The KING of the monsters
The KING of the monsters

The big guy is a solid all-around choice. His ray works in mid-air as a bonus. Ideal for beginners.
WRATH: Hyper Atomic Ray
Damage: 46% (55% if up close stuns the opponent)
Godzilla’s body surges in a orange rage before unleashing his devastating death blow. Simple, but nevertheless satisfying.

ANGILAS

Godzilla's very first rival who later turned into a lovable and loyal ally
Godzilla’s very first rival (1955)

Staying true to source material, the spiked wonder has no projectiles. Beloved by G-Fans for his fighting spirit, it’ll take an experienced player to use him effectively.
WRATH: Thunder Ball
Damage: 45%
Not very strong (by comparison) and to boot it’s easy to see coming. Poor guy.

GIGAN

As a kid Gigan scared the crap out of me
As a kid he scared the crap out of me

His laser eye beam exists! (Inside joke for the G-Fans out there). He’s the most combo-friendly fighter on the roster and the only one with a Dragon Punch (actually a Flash Kick). Gigan possesses a tremendous offensive repertoire.
WRATH: Buzzsaw Blitz
Damage: 53%
Gigan charges up to ½ the screen and unloads a blitzkrieg. Unblockable.

MEGALON

His movie gets hated on a lot but I enjoyed its tag team finale
Suck it, Beetlemania

Like Gigan and Godzilla, Megalon is very user-friendly. His torpedo-like attack can also be done in the air. When you hold down Strong Attack, Megalon’s driller-like hand spins and can score four solid hits.
WRATH: Armageddon
Damage: 64% (88% recorded on Biollante!!!)
Potentially the strongest move in the game, it’s a blessing it’s also real easy to avoid. I was speechless when it caused 88% damage to Biollante. Damn near ripped off her vines on that one!

(O.G.) MECHAGODZILLA

Ah, the good old original beer belly MechaG
Beer belly MechaG!

Force field, missiles, laser-eye beams, chest beam, flight — all the powers you saw in the 1974 and ’75 movies are here. Many G-Fans to this day prefer this original pot belly version over its ’93 contemporary. Myself included.
WRATH: Violent Party
Damage: 55% + stuns opponent if everything hits.
MechaG unloads his entire arsenal! As seen in the movie :)

KING GHIDORAH

Godzilla's "Joker" if you will
Godzilla’s “Joker”

This huge 3-headed menace is a strong choice for beginners thanks to his overpowering brutality. For example, his laser beam can go LOW (right head), MIDDLE (middle head) or HIGH (left head). Input D, DF, F, attack. As he revs up, hold down for low, nothing for middle, and up for high. He’s as tough here as he was in the movies!
WRATH: Gravity Storm
Damage: 60% (68% if full-on)
One of the game’s most damaging Wrath attacks, Ghidorah unleashes Death From Above.

BIOLLANTE

She's a beaut, well, in a monstrous sort of way
What a sprite!

What a hulking mass! She’s the game’s best sprite by a mile, which is saying a lot seeing as how the others are damn good in their own right. Bio cannot jump, just like in the 1989 movie. She’s also not the most agile sucker around. Therefore I find her somewhat difficult to control. Definitely one for the intermediate to advanced player.
WRATH: Acidic Shower
Damage: 55%
Very cool looking, does considerable damage and the two vines travel around ¾ the screen. After the vines spew acid on the victim, Bio unleashes a volley of acidic fireballs. OUCH!

MOTHRA

Definitely 100x more fun to control here than she was in the NES game!
Better than she was in the NES game!

I was never a huge Mothra fan. But she’s fun to use. The only monster to constantly fly, she’s also unique due to the fact that she cannot block. [I’d sure hate to see her Twitter account -Ed.]. She is also one of two monsters (the other being Super MechaGodzilla) to have two Wrath moves.
WRATH #1: Cosmic Seal
Damage: 44%
Weak but really easy to implement. It’s a trade-off.
WRATH #2: Dark Echo
Damage: 69%
Mothra traps her victim in a magic powder cloud and from out of nowhere comes BATTRA for the assist!

There are three bosses but the last two you can only fight in EXPERT mode. The first boss is immediately selectable in the 2 Player mode. The other two are unlockable via code. The three bosses are MechaGodzilla II, Super MechaGodzilla and Guoten (seriously, a giant battleship? Give me a monster at least!)

IN HONOR OF GODZILLA: STOCK FOOTAGE

Angilas is red with envy he doesn’t have one

I’m glad the developers didn’t force the issue and created one for Angilas for the hell of it. The game for the most part stays amazingly close to the source material. Just look at those stages. Most of them are yanked right out of the various Godzilla flicks. The few creative liberties taken (i.e. Gigan’s Flash Kick) are well implemented and still make sense within the Godzilla universe. If anything, these liberties breathe new life into these old monsters while their traditional powers keep the fanbase satisfied, like a warm cup of cocoa on a cold winter evening.

You one baaaad Mothra [… -Ed.]
While it doesn’t damage them any more than normal, I always love zapping them in the crotch whenever using Mothra. Yeah, I know. The little joys in gaming, eh?

Just kickin' it
Just kickin’ it

All of the monsters, sans Biollante and Mothra, can attack downward while jumping. Just hold down+attack in mid-air. For example, Megalon drills the air as his default jumping strike, but with down+attack his feet does the talking. Quite useful.

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES

  • Zero slowdown. Kind of amazing when you consider the size of some of these monsters
  • Destroyable scenery abounds and magically regenerates for each round
  • Godzilla, Megalon, Mech, King Ghidorah and Gigan can all do their projectiles in mid-air
  • Godzilla doesn’t have a stage. You fight him on your own home turf, and your regular music is replaced by the ace Godzilla theme, replicated to a tee. Mothra’s remix is likewise excellent!
  • 2 player mode has options of 1-5 handicap, time limit on/off and a stage select
  • In 1 player mode, you select the enemy order (similar to the Fatal Fury series). Unfortunately though, there’s no character switching, so if you pick Mothra you’re stuck using her until you quit the 1 player game. Not a huge flaw, but a head scratcher as being able to pick a new character off a continue is common practice within the genre
  • Japanese language is very little. Game menus are all in English. And there are no victory quotes because, er, these monsters can’t talk. Ahem. *Blocks out the infamous dub scene from GODZILLA VS. GIGAN*
  • The Duo version suffered from having a limited moveset and only two buttons, one of which was used to jump. Thankfully, in the Super Famicom version jumping is done by simply pressing up. The moveset is also much greater and the visuals blow the Duo game out of the water. Just too bad the Duo version got Hedorah and the Super Famicom version didn’t. Love me some Smog Monster!
  • This game, as seen previewed in EGM earlier, was slated for a North American release under the name of Godzilla Monster Super Battle. Sadly, it was canned. It even got as far as Nintendo Power Magazine reviewing the NA port. But look on the bright side, at least SNES players were graced by the likes of Super Godzilla! *whomp whomp whomp* Man, did we get fleeced or what

EYE SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE

Gigan’s laser beam does exist!
The controversy continues...
The controversy continues…

I remember renting Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972) some odd 20 years later, circa 1992. It was at the local mom and pop rental shop, Video Mart. I loved that little store. It had some Godzilla tapes which I rented quite a bit. I remember seeing this box one day and was immediately captivated. Who is this new Gigan creature? He was such a unique looking monster and I fell in love with the design instantly. The box art showed him firing a laser beam from his forehead, but it never actually appeared in the movie. Nor did it appear in the movie Godzilla vs. Megalon, which came out the year after and featured Gigan’s second and final appearance. That was, at least, until Toho resurrected him 30+ years later to be the main villain for Godzilla’s final Japanese film, Godzilla: Final Wars. That is, at least, until Godzilla Resurgence hits Japanese theatres July 29, 2016. Whew, anyone confused yet? You just can’t keep a good monster down.

Anyway, for a long time before Gigan finally used his laser beam in Godzilla: Final Wars, G-Fans had plenty of discussion regarding whether he had said weapon or not in his bag of tricks. There’s actually a scene in the 1972 film where it looks like Gigan is about to MAYBE use it, but it flashed and sort of fizzled out. Hmmm, maybe monsters suffer from performance anxiety issues too. Uh, not that I’d know anything about that. Ahem. At any rate, some fans like to believe he had the power all along but it broke. Ah, fandom. Gotta love it. It was nice to see Gigan firing off his laser beam in Godzilla: Kaijuu Daikessen. The game beat the Final Wars movie by a good 10 years. Fans in 2004 rejoiced that Gigan finally got to use his laser eye beam, but Super Famicom players know better ;-)

Now see, where else could you learn such useless information as this but on RVGFanatic? In fact, why even go to college. I got you covered! [Don’t listen to this crazy man. Kids, for the love of Godzilla, stay in school -Ed.]

 CLOSING THOUGHTS

So many crap Godzilla games over the years. This is a fresh breath of radioactive destruction!
Godzilla: Kaijuu Daikessen is a fresh breath of radioactive destruction!

We’ve received so many crap Godzilla games over the years. Especially if you consider anything pre-1994. Godzilla: Kaijuu Daikessen is a more than a serviceable effort. It’s more than a mere wink and nostalgic nod. If you consider yourself a diehard G-Fan, and you enjoy fighting games, then you’ll probably love this. Playing it 12 years later in 2006 was a bit of a bittersweet experience for me. Sweet in the sense that the game lived up to the hype my 11-year-old imagination forged 12 years prior on that scorching summer day of 1994. But bitter because I didn’t get to play this as an 11-year-old kid. I know my old best friend Nelson and I would have loved this, and we probably would never have left our living rooms.

The 12 year wait was worth it :)

That’s not to say the game is perfect. If you like fighting games but don’t particularly care for the Big Guy, I wouldn’t go out of my way to play this. This game won’t convert any non-fan. On its own, it sports a decent if somewhat unimpressive fighting engine. It’s super basic and lacks combos (which makes sense when you think about it since these are behemoths and not karate masters of the universe). BUT with the characters, their trademark moves and roars, suddenly it all falls into place. The graphics are great and the sound is awesome. The replicated themes would send a shiver down the spine of any G-Fan. The kaiju sprites are simply amazing. This is truly the Godzilla game G-Fans deserve on the Super Nintendo (yeah, we won’t talk about Super Godzilla). The sights and sounds will take you back to the good old days when the Big Guy stomped all over your TV screen. I know for me playing this game brought back a ton of memories from all the various old Godzilla films I’d seen over the years. Let us also not forget how easy it’d be to half-ass a game like this, so major kudos to Alfa System for not doing so. They could have easily coasted on the coattails of a strong licensing brand, but you can tell Alfa did their homework (AND extra credit assignment) right as soon as you pop the game in. The visuals, sounds and the representation of the monsters are sure to give G-Fans a major nostalgic rush. Taking us right back to the dusty sci-fi section of our local mom and pop shop on Saturday mornings and way back to the Godzilla Power Hour. For that, I salute thee, Alfa System. A job well done!

Look at those sprites!

My only wish? More monsters joining the fray! Particularly Baragon, Jet Jaguar, Titanosaurus, King Seesar, Hedorah the Smog Monster, oh heck, even Minya! A speed setting would have been nice, too. But nonetheless, I am more than satisfied. It’s a tremendous fan service and really captures the essence of the Godzilla universe. Best of all, it gives us one Godzilla game worth playing on the Super Nintendo. It’s only fitting that the “King of Monsters” would have at least one quality game representing him on the “King of Systems.”

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

Overall: 9.0

Gold Award
Gold Award

Blackthorne (SNES)

Kids fear the boogeyman. Little goblins fear Kyle F'N Blackthorne
Kids fear the boogeyman. Little goblins fear Kyle F’N Blackthorne

It’s no secret that the SNES lacks in the abundance of “mature games.” The Genesis is more well known for its darker, grittier games while the SNES is often seen as the system with super colorful, bright, “cutesy” type games. With furry critters, mascot platformers galore and cute mannerisms when said mascot is idle. However, that doesn’t mean the system was completely devoid of mature games. One of the very finest in that department is BLACKTHORNE. Players assume control of Kyle Blackthorne, an elite badass mercenary who is easily one of the coolest protagonists in 16-bit history. As a kid playing this you couldn’t help but feel so BADASS carrying a sawed-off shotgun and blasting goblins to Kingdom Come. Only you can deliver swift justice in a war-swept nation of chaos!

“I HAVE COME HERE TO KICK ASS AND CHEW BUBBLE GUM. AND I’M ALL OUT OF BUBBLE GUM”

Kyle Blackthorne reminds me of Roddy Piper's character from the cult classic, THEY LIVE. R.I.P Hot Rod
Kyle Blackthorne reminds me of Nada from the cult classic, THEY LIVE. R.I.P Hot Rod

I first played Blackthorne back in ’94 when I rented it for my brother for the weekend. We fell out of our chairs when my brother “accidentally” shot a good guy and actually killed him. The game has been firmly embedded in my gaming heart ever since. There’s just something really cool about Blackthorne. It feels different from your typical SNES game, and there’s something to be said about that. Hell, I still have the poster EGM handed out to subscribers back in the day. I love its comic book-like art style. It proudly hangs in my game room to this day. Each time I walk in I take a moment to not only admire my collection, but the artwork of the poster as well.

Badass poster for a badass game!

Blackthorne may not be a Super Nintendo classic per se, but damn if it doesn’t come rather close. It captured my imagination more than 20 years ago. It’s a game I enjoy coming back to again and again still to this day. Part of what captivated me so much was the game’s story and opening cinematic. I always felt this would make such a cool sci-fi movie. The intro absolutely resonated with my 11-year-old being at the time. It set the scene perfectly, creating a moody, morbid world of good versus evil. The whole prodigal son angle adds even more intrigue. I mean, who doesn’t love a good redemption story?

Bee tee dubs [TELL ME … YOU DIDN’T JUST… SAY DAT -Booker T], here’s a fun little fact. This is a “lost” review from my original site, RVGFanatic.com. I worked on it all October long, and was set to launch it right on the eve of Halloween 2015. That’s when I first discovered I couldn’t. Never fret, this “lost” review is now being restored and revealed for the first time in the history of cyberspace. Can’t you just feel the excitement bubbling over? [It’s practically up to my neck… -Ed.]

RAMPAGE, RUIN AND REDEMPTION…

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No, not the Sarlaac Pit Monster
Not to be confused with the Sarlacc Pit Monster [You had to, huh? -Ed.]
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These nightmarish visions haunt Kyle day and night
These nightmarish visions haunt Kyle day and night

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By the way, imagine if that were Large Marge rolling down the highway...
Imagine if that were LARGE MARGE rolling down the highway…

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RVGBlizz

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SIMBA BLACKTHORNE?

Both Blackthorne and the Lion King are redemption stories of a son returning home to dethrone a false king
Both Blackthorne and the Lion King are redemption stories of a son returning home to dethrone a false king

On a related note, I find it fascinating that the plot of Blackthorne nearly mirrors that of the Lion King. Both feature a fair and just king only to be murdered by an evil adversary who then takes over the throne. Meanwhile, the rightful heir to the throne and the son of the former king is living his own life somewhere far away. Until that is, one day he’s finally summoned back home to take care of unfinished business. Back to where it all began to avenge the death of his father. There’s a lot of striking similarities between the two but it’s all probably just random coincidence as the Lion King came out June 1994 and Blackthorne was released only three short months later. The Lion King‘s plot isn’t exactly original or one-of-a-kind, either. Nevertheless, I find the whole connection between the two (even if it’s completely happenstance) to be of note. I love the father-son and prodigal son redemption theme that both of them possess. And yes I’m still holding out for the Blackthorne motion picture and Broadway musical.

Furthermore, both good kings had a wise elder in some sort of advisory role. Mufasa had that creepy little monkey Rafiki while Vlaros had Galadril by his side. And both Rafiki and Galadril were responsible for beckoning Simba and Kyle Blackthorne back to their homeland in order to reclaim it as their own. It’s just another wild similarity. Now you know if you ever become king, make sure you have a wise advisor at your side. That way should you die, your advisor will at least be able to lure your wayward son back home to save it!

Rafiki was a creepy little monkey, wasn’t he?

FLASHBACK TO A TIME WHEN GAMES WERE OUT OF THIS WORLD

Gotta love the gritty bleak visuals. They really set the game's mood and tone
The gritty bleak visuals really set the game’s mood and tone

Blackthorne employs a rotoscoping animation technique. Some other SNES games incorporating this technology were Out of This World, Flashback, Prince of Persia and the long delayed Nosferatu. Kyle comes with highly detailed animations but at the cost of Mario-esque fluid platforming. You have to be very precise with your movements and it can feel a bit mechanical at times. It takes a bit of time to get used to, but for this sort of game I feel it works. Just don’t expect to zip through the levels because Mario you ain’t! But then again, I guess you could say Kyle Blackthorne Mario ain’t!

TAKE NO PRISONERS, NoA

My brother and I fell out of our chais when we first saw this 20+ years ago
My brother and I fell out of our chairs when we first saw this 20+ years ago

I’ll never forget the time I sat there in my old living room, watching my brother play this game. He fired off a shot at an innocent good guy and as he crumbled to the ground, so too did we! It was a moment in history for us. With the uncensored Mortal Kombat II also released at roughly the same time, this was a major change of heart for Nintendo of America. No longer was this strictly a “kiddie” system as NoA battled head to head with the Sega Genesis for 16-bit brand supremacy in the mid-’90s. OK sure the blood is green but STILL, killing chained innocents! It was simply unheard of at the time, and in my 11-year-old mind it instantly elevated Blackthorne into a special category all its own.

Shooting them behind the back without looking? It blew my 11-year-old mind
Shooting them behind the back without looking? It blew my 11-year-old mind

There are no ramifications one way or the other for killing or saving them, though. I kind of wish the game rewarded you for keeping them alive (especially when enemies come into play and you save the prisoners from getting killed in the line of fire). This would have added in an extra layer to the game. An extra layer of skill and morals. With there being no punishment though, I freely admit that still to this day I rarely hesitate to put a slug in their heads each and every single time. I know, I’m terrible. But damn is it still a blast more than 20 years later. Well, maybe not for the Androthi, but definitely for moi ;-)

Some of them help you, so you should spare them. SHOULD...
Some of them help you, so you should spare them. SHOULD…

Be sure to talk to them first at least before putting them out of their misery. Some will have helpful items or the odd hint here and there. If you kill them before conversing, then you risk losing out on whatever advice or item they had for you. After a bit of chit chat though, they are indeed fair game…

YOU GO HIDE, AND LET ME SHOOT. LET ME BE THE ONE TO MAKE YOU HOOT

A very early take on Gears of War!
A very early take on Gears of War!

The bulk of the gameplay consists of you battling these goblin henchmen known as Graggs. The first wave of Graggs early on in the game start out simple enough. A couple shots and they die. Later they get much tougher and fire off more bullets so the difficulty jumps by quite a bit. Get ready for plenty of “hide and shoot” battles. Duck into the shadows to avoid the bullets being pumped your way. Once the Gragg takes time to reload, you bound out of the darkness to fire back. Blizzard obviously took creative liberty since I don’t think in real life you can dodge a bullet by merely ducking into the shadows [Try it out sometime Steve, and let me know how that works out for ya -Ed.]. I like to think of this system as a very early, primitive model of what would eventually morph into games such as Gears of War. Blackthorne‘s early take on hide and shoot isn’t exactly the most thrilling gameplay experience, especially today in 2016, but it’s the atmosphere that makes this game through and through. There’s simply not much else like it on the SNES.

Expect plenty of "hanging on the ledge by the pinky figner" action as well
Expect plenty of “hanging on the ledge by a pinky” action as well

Blackthorne is a very methodical game. Kyle can only walk when holding his shotgun. To run or jump you have to first put your gun away. It puts sort of a “speed bump” in the action. On the bright side, Kyle can kneel, roll and even hang onto ledges by the tip of his fingers. This style of slower paced gameplay isn’t for everyone, especially those who enjoy more seat-of-the-pants action. It can grow a bit repetitive as the game progresses since there are only a small handful of level themes, but it’s got such an engrossing atmosphere that I don’t mind traversing the many similar looking levels.

TOOLS OF DESTRUCTION

Hover bombs blow up doors and enemies
Hover bombs blow up doors and enemies

Along the way you’ll find some helpful items for Kyle’s cause. These items can be found either by talking to the Androthi prisoners or in some cases can only be found by killing a certain bad guy. Don’t mind if I do! I love all of the items but my favorites have to be the bridge key (for how damn cool it looks and how neat it sounds inserting the key) and the levitator.

It looks and sounds so damn cool
These laser proof combat boots sure come in handy
This item can be recycled but sometimes must be sacrificed, like here
This item can be recycled but at times must be sacrificed, like here
Guide and detonate the Wasp Bomb at your heart's choosing!
Guide and detonate the Wasp Bomb at your heart’s choosing!
Love those skeletal corpses in the background
The skeletons add such a morbidness to the mine

THE KARNELLIAN SWAMPS

These traitors are known as Andromedogs. They're human but somehow much tougher than the Graggs
Andromedogs are human but somehow much tougher than Graggs. Go figure

It’s refreshing to see the Androthi unchained on these levels. However, you can still “accidentally” fire at them. But this time, if you do that…

... they'll fire right back! And they're DAMN tough
… they’ll fire right back! And they’re DAMN tough

PASSWORD FRIENDLY

Short and clear passwords FTW
Short and clear passwords FTW

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

Nintendo Power named it their 86th best Nintendo game of all time (September 1997)
Nintendo Power named it their 86th best game of all time (issue #100, September 1997)

Blackthorne fared well with the critics. It earned Game of the Month honors with EGM, who scored it with marks of 8, 8, 8 and 8. I remember thinking back in ’94 how cool it was that the Game of the Month didn’t receive any 9s. If I’m not mistaken, that was a first in EGM history. GameFan gave it ratings of 90, 88 and 85%. Super Play wasn’t quite as impressed (what else is new). They rated the game 76%. Nintendo Power was a big fan. In their 100th issue (Sept. ’97) they ranked Blackthorne as the 86th best Nintendo-related video game of all time. That’s some mighty praise there. Overall, it’s been well received.

Super Play were tough graders...
Super Play were tough graders…

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Blackthorne's world consists of grims and grays. The bleak, desolate feel of the game is deliciously palpable
Blackthorne‘s world is grim and gray. The bleak, desolate feel of the game is deliciously palpable

When it comes to darker mature games, the SNES is certainly a bit lacking in that department. However, Blackthorne is a shining example of an atmospheric game that went against the grain of your typical SNES offering. Combine that with some excellent animation and solid (albeit basic) action puzzle platforming and what you have here is a very strong effort. Unfortunately, it’s weighed down by a few too many flaws to be considered a bonafide classic. The incredible animation came at the expense of ultra fluid gameplay. Blackthorne is not the smoothest playing game in the world. There are moments where you may want to scream and shout at your TV. Mario fluid this is not. You must be very precise and deliberate in your choices. It’s a rewarding experience although perhaps one that isn’t always instantly gratifying.

Blackthorne definitely stands out in the vast SNES library
Blackthorne definitely stands out in the vast SNES library

Another flaw is that while the game starts out with a bang, it can quickly grow a bit tedious and tiresome. Duck in the shadows. Run and jump. Hang on ledges. Solve simple puzzles. There isn’t a great deal of locales either. There are 17 levels containing one of four themes: mine, swamp, sand and Sarlac’s castle. After a while they all seem to somehow blend together a bit. But for all the flaws listed, this game knocks it out of the park in terms of attitude and atmosphere. Every detailed pore of its world bleeds with desolation, despair and dread. There’s an overwhelming sense of bleak futility that permeates the game’s 17 levels. Yet in spite of the foreboding thickness, there’s always a glimmer of shining hope in the form of one, Kyle Blackthorne. With his trusty sawed-off shotgun and a never-say-die attitude, players are flung into a grim world of grays and darkness. It’s one of the more immersive games I’ve ever played on the Super Nintendo, and one I enjoy breaking out every late fall or winter season. There’s just something cool about it. While it’s far from perfect, it’s damn good and one of the better “mature” games on the entire system. As such, it will always hold a noteworthy place in the annals of SNES history.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 8
Longevity: 7

Overall: 8.5

Double Silver Award

 

BlThPlot

BlTh25

Prehistorik Man (SNES)

Clubs, chicks and cheeseburgers... it's everything a caveman could ever want
Clubs, chicks and cheeseburgers… it’s everything a caveman could ever want

Ever play an obscure-ish game for a little bit and walk away feeling like you had just unearthed a hidden gem? Then for whatever reason that game gets lost in the shuffle. You always mean to come back to it, but somehow you never do. Until you do. And you stick with it a little longer the second time around. Then it suddenly dawns on you that the game isn’t a hidden gem at all but rather, it’s a disappointing effort that could have been (really) good with a little more polish. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s rewind a bit and start from the beginning.

THE YEAR IS 1996, AND 16-BIT FINDS ITSELF BATTLING EXTINCTION

I remember seeing this tantalizing SNES ad in an EGM issue of 1996. A part of me pined for that era of gaming again
Seeing this sexy ad in a ’96 EGM issue made me pine for that era of gaming again

The first game I bought to ignite my SNES resurgence (January 17, 2006) was Power Moves. And fittingly so, it was the first game I reviewed on RVGFanatic.com exactly one year later (January 17, 2007). With this WordPress being sort of RVG’s second coming, it’d only be appropriate to kick off the SNES reviews here with the second SNES game I purchased just seconds right after winning Power Moves. The same seller was selling an obscure little platformer called Prehistorik Man. It was one of those games I remember seeing in EGM, being oddly curious about, but never played. By the time it came out (early ’96, although some reports cite mid ’95), gaming took a bit of a backseat in my life as middle school loomed front and center. So faced with the opportunity at gaming redemption, there was only one thing left to do. I began counting down the days until I could quell this childhood curiosity.

Power Moves first game. Prehistorik Man second game. Both initials PM. Oh, how I love random, useless coincidences
I got a kick out of the fact my first two SNES games had PM as their initials. Just a random, useless coincidence

One of my primary reasons for getting back into the SNES was my burning desire to play platformers. When I think SNES, “platformers galore” is one of  the first things that, er, jumps [Oh dear -Ed.] to mind. And if Power Moves represented another main factor for why I got back into all things Super Nintendo (i.e. nostalgia), then Prehistorik Man was a shining example of the other factor: a desire to play the games I missed out on back in the day. So it was fitting that these were the first two game purchases of my SNES resurrection. A game I have fond childhood memories of, and a game that more or less “got away” from me. It was the perfect blend of revisiting my past while rectifying the errors of my youth.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

Firing up Prehistorik Man, the game opens up well enough. It blasted me with that unmistakably bright and bold mid-’90s SNES look. Like a Saturday morning cartoon bursting at the seams, I was instantly impressed and won over. I couldn’t wait to maneuver Sam around this colorful world of hop and bop bliss.

I felt instantly at home with these bright and beautiful visuals
Vintage mid-’90s SNES era visuals!

Sam’s club [I see what you did there -Ed.] strikes hard and fast. Bonus points for the swing radius as you can take out enemies coming from  even behind you. Barry Bonds has nothing on this caveman critter. Speak softly and carry a big stick Sam does. Except, he doesn’t… speak softly, that is.

In a pinch you can scream and kill all enemies!
Sam’s quite the screamer [I don’t judge. It is 2016 -Ed.]
It’s quite the useful tactic, you see. Especially when the enemies grow in strength and quantity. They come at you pretty fast and soon the club becomes less and less effective. Luckily, Sam’s super scream doesn’t take precious health points away, like it would in a beat ‘em up. Good thing this is a platformer then! Here you have a scream bar that gradually builds up each time you’ve used your super shout. It’s nice that Titus gave this to us as sort of a “free” special move if you will. You just got to be careful when and where you use it, though. There are times where spiders swing back and forth. And the only way to advance is to hop on them to catch a ride. Use the Starscream and you’ve killed your only ticket. But thankfully, Prehistorik Man does the whole Mega Man “move off screen and enemies will respawn” trick. Super useful. But, also, super annoying in any other area but. A classic tale of the ol’ double edged sword, no?

Shall we go clubbing tonight? Nah, I rather go bar HOPPING
Shall we go clubbing tonight? Nah, I rather go bar HOPPING

Titus had some neat tricks up their sleeves. In addition to clubbing enemies into oblivion, they also gave you the choice of the good ole hop and bop. Now, one hop can send Sam soaring into the air. This allows you, the cunning and skilled player, the opportunity to collect otherwise unreachable goodies for extra bonus points. Or, hop on an enemy a few times consecutively and you’ll kill them but ALSO earn bones. The bones collected will allow you to enter the shop scattered throughout the levels to buy clues, continues and more. So you can go for the straight clubbing kill, which requires little skill, or you can go for the more tricky multiple hop kill which rewards you with bones for the shop system they’ve set up (pardon the pun). This allows sort of a differentiated level of play for novices and experts, and is a pretty cool little system.

TITUS’ DINO SIZED SINS

Buy a clue, Sam. No seriously, I mean it
Buy a clue, Titus. No seriously

Do you see that “save game” option above? You might have to squint and lean in real close, or simply zoom in if you’re browsing on your smart phone or tablet. For all the neat little things this game does, it botches it with some truly idiotic blunders. Take for example this whole “save game” BS. You pay your hard earned bones to save the game but guess what, as soon as you turn the system off, the save game is null and void. So what’s the whole point of this option at all? It makes no sense, and really puts a damper on the whole game. Worst of all, there is no password system. It sure could have used one being that it’s 23 levels long. Granted, the levels aren’t long, and some are incredibly short, but 23 is still a lot.

TITUS REDEEMS ITSELF

Thankfully, along comes one of my favorite cheat codes ever…

... the level select in long non-save/password platformers!
… the level select cheat!

So, in a weird way, that whole null and void thing on the save system is now null and void (again) thanks to this handy cheat. Damnit Titus, what the hell were you doing?! [That’s what Vince McMahon said… -Ed.]. At any rate, at least Titus made up for it with this cheat.

Kranky Kong would be proud
Cranky Kong would be proud

Sam isn’t alone in his quest. Along the way you’ll meet various NPCs that engage you in entertaining ways. I like the game’s sense of humor and the elder in particular is vintage “GIT OFF MAH LAWN!” material. Er, if cavemen had lawns. Ah you know what the hell I meant!

… AND TITUS SCREWS UP YET AGAIN

The hang glider is tricky to get, er, a hang of. Sorry...
The hang glider is tricky to get, er, a hang of. Sorry…

In addition to NPCs, Prehistorik Man attemtps to break up the mundane by incorporating various transportational devices. Quite frankly, they’re tough to master and have a somewhat steep learning curve. I consider myself to be a pretty decent platforming player, but these rides took me some time to figure out, and even then I felt like I was dying more than I should have. In other words, the control on these sections feel a bit finicky and feel like they could (and will) betray you at the drop of a hat. It’s too bad because I do like the idea of them, but they lack the polish of a primo platformer. Hence why I think for all the good this game does, it still ends up in the middle of the pack.

[I once brought a pogo to a togo party in the '90s. God has texting saved my life... -Ed.]
I wish I could forego the pogo
Titus didn't exactly reinvent the wheel here folks [Har har! -Ed.]
Titus didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel here folks [Har har! -Ed.]
In addition to the various rides, Sam can pick up assorted weapons. Some of them even serve multiple purposes, which is something I always love and appreciate. Well, ALMOST always.

It looks simple enough here but don't be fooled...
It looks simple but don’t be fooled…

There’s one infuriatingly maddening level in this game (actually, there’s more than a few) that I have not been able to bypass sans cheat code. The spear seems like a cool weapon at first. Unfortunately, the execution is terrible. It cuts through multiple enemies in a single fling. COOL. It can also pierce itself into surfaces which allows you to jump to higher ground. Again, COOL. But at the end of this blasted level, you come to a humongous tree that requires you to throw a spear and jump on, rinse and repeat. I can do it about 4-5 times consecutively but I can never reach the top. Either the spear gives way or my button push to jump doesn’t register in time. It’s way harder than it needs to be. It was symbolic. I kept falling and each time it felt like Titus was laughing in my face. Just like how they added that stupid save system but when you turn the game off it no longer saves! Seriously, screw you, Titus. Bunch of gawd damn assholes!

BUT EVEN AN ASSHOLE CAN HAVE SOME REDEEMING QUALITIES

Ah but then there are nice moments like this that scream mid '90s SNES and all those long, lazy weekends you played it with your bro and best bud!
Ah but then there are moments like this that scream mid ’90s SNES and all those long, lazy weekends of childhood bliss
Then there are breath takingly gorgeous levels like this that suck you right back in
Gorgeous levels like this suck you in
Whew, Sam just avoided becoming a SAMMICH [You're fired -Ed.]
Sam just avoided becoming a SAMMICH [You’re fired -Ed.]
Anytime a game gives me a Contra III first level flashback, it can't be ALL bad, right?!
Contra III flashback, anyone?
Or Gradius III for that matter
And Gradius III for that matter
OH.MAH.GAWD
OH.MAH.GAWD
More Contra III first level flashbacks! Damn I think I love you again, Prehistorik Man...
Nothing like a screen-filling boss!

ONCE AN ASSHOLE, ALWAYS AN ASSHOLE

WTF is this. What happened to the gorgeous visuals and atmosphere the game established early on?!
And then we get this lame level

Prehistorik Man is one of those games that wows you early on, but regresses as you progress. After the impressive multi-jointed dino boss, you enter “Slime World” (Todd’s rolling in his grave somewhere in 16-bit purgatory). These slime themed stages (whose only correlation to slime has to do with the few blobs that exist in these lame levels) are horribly designed and unappealing, both to look at and to play. There’s way too many blind jumps and too many instant death pits. Sure, you can move the camera around a bit like in Super Mario World, but SMW didn’t have the weird herky-jerky scrolling and slippery controls that plague Prehistorik Man. These aspects adversely affect the game.

Some of  the levels involve various fetch quests, rather than simply reaching the exit
Unfortunately the game breaks the 5th Commandment of platformers: Thou shall not possess herky-jerky scrolling

I do like the fact that some of the levels involve certain goals other than survive and advance to the exit at the far right. But when these goals include narrow ledges in far off places and sometimes require blind leaps of faith to find them… it becomes very annoying very fast. But just when you think the game becomes a bit too unbearable, we thankfully see a return of better stage design.

Use the drafts to propel you upwards. Windy Well from Donkey Kong Country 2, anyone?
Use the draft to propel you upwards. Windy Well from Donkey Kong Country 2, anyone?
Use the firefly and adjust the camera system to light your path
Use the firefly and adjust the camera system to light your path
An over abundance of fast food and death spikes. I see what you did there, Titus...
An over abundance of fast food and a death bed. I see what you did there, Titus…
Another nifty looking gigantic boss!
Love the boss designs. Hate the fights. Cheap hits galore and the health discrepancy is ridiculous!

It should be noted that the bosses in this game will give you nightmares. They are way too hard. Especially when you only have 3-5 hearts to work with while their energy bars stretch from California to New York. Add in the slightly too slippery control and you have a bad combo.

The bosses in this game are as deadly as they are cool. They're way overpowered....
Ever heard of a Tic Tac before?
I love the sense of black humor here
Some nice black humor here
Whoa mama, SNES transparencies!
16-bit transparencies, baby!
Love the look and design of these underground caverns
Love the look and design of these underground caverns
Another cool feature is the ability to collect hearts from slain enemies. Collect four mini hearts and you get one heart refill
Another cool feature is the ability to collect mini hearts from slain enemies who have damaged you. Collect four and you get back one big heart refill
Me HATE water
Now we know why cavemen stunk
Me REALLY hate water
Shades of Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts
Some of the levels are really a sight to behold. Shame the playability isn't quite up to par
Some levels really are a sight to behold. Shame the playability isn’t quite up to par
The last stage is crazy difficult, with ghosts that you seemingly can't avoid taking cheap damage from...
The last stage is crazy difficult, with ghosts that you seemingly can’t avoid

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

GameFan adored and applauded it, giving it high marks of 87, 90 and 94
GameFan adored and applauded it, giving it high marks of 87, 90 and 94
Super Play as usual was a little more reserved in singing a game's praises unless it truly deserved it
Super Play as usual was a little more reserved in singing a game’s praises unless it truly deserved it

EGM rated it 9.0, 9.0, 9.0 and 8.5. It did well with the critics in North America, anyhow. Good old Super Play though, like the tough loving father that they were, didn’t quite agree with our friends at EGM and GameFan. They gave the game a 76%. Initially, when I first played Prehistorik Man in early 2006, I fell in love with it after 15 minutes and thought of it as an “8.5” game. I recently sat down with it 10 years later to finally THOROUGHLY play it. The more I played it, the more disappointed I became. It’s certainly not a BAD game by any stretch. But it’s a prime example of a game that sort of wows you early on, but can’t maintain or build on the early momentum of the game. Few things are more disappointing in a video game than that. Still, there’s some value to be had here. On a side note, as of this writing it doesn’t seem to go for very much. It’s not very common as it came out later in the system’s lifespan. If you consider yourself a fan of the genre then I recommend picking up a copy now while you still can for $20. It wouldn’t shock me one iota if this commands $50+ one day soon.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Not quite the smashin' hit I had hoped it would be, but you can't win 'em all I guess...
Not quite the smashin’ hit I had hoped it would be, but you can’t win ‘em all I guess…

With a little more polish, Prehistorik Man could have very well been a hidden gem. I used to think it was until I sat down to play it longer than 15 minutes. For the past decade I kept wondering why no one ever mentions it in “SNES hidden gem” threads. Now I know why. It’s one of those games that upon initial play tricks you into believing it’s better than it is, but press on and the flaws soon become readily apparent. The game has amazing visuals. Well, for the most part at least. I’m not crazy about those bland looking “slime” stages. But the other stages are vintage SNES era stuff. The sound effects can be annoying, particularly the grunts. And the music is very forgettable. So much so that the GameFan review (see above) went out of its way to mention it. And as you may know, GameFan rarely complained about music as they tended to overhype EVERYTHING. So it just goes to show you how forgettable the music in this game is. The gameplay is hit and miss which leads to a very uneven playing experience. Sometimes it will delight while more times it’s likely to infuriate. There’s enough good to make it worth your while but it’s also plagued by enough bad that only fans of the genre should seek it out.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 6
Longevity: 5

Overall: 6.0

Wait, 27 levels?! More like 23
Wait, 27 levels?! Try 23. So unprofessional [Now you know why Vince suspended Titus -Ed.]

10 Year Anniversaries!

RVGFEx13

10 years ago today I got back into all things Super Nintendo. It blows my mind that 10 years has flown by so fast. 10 years later I still love the SNES as much as I did the day I got back into it. I became an instant SNES fan the moment I first played it on a cold, dreary December morning of 1991. I stuck with it through 1996 before I fell out of gaming leading up to the millennium. I became a diehard Saturn fanatic in the early to mid 2000s. So, what jumpstarted my SNES resurgence? An old friend called “the platformer.”

DPSteveSNES

December 2005. I was a senior in college. My University winter break ran for 6 glorious weeks. We were off from mid December to late January. I tell ya, there’s something about those cold 6 weeks that does things to a man. The year prior I spotted a Super Nintendo at a Game Crazy and a wave of nostalgic 16-bit gaming memories washed over me like crazy. I ended up not buying it but that proverbial seed was planted. That nugget of a “what if” moment would go on to linger inside of me for the next 365 days.

SatBomb-10

Fast forward back to December 2005. My cousins came over and we played some Saturn Bomberman. It was a blast, pardon the pun. But when they left I found myself craving to play a platformer. I pulled out my drawer of Saturn games to scan over, looking for just the perfect platformer to quench my thirst. What I found that fateful day shocked me, and saddened me to my very gaming core.

Where did all the platformers go?
Where did all the platformers go?

It hit me then and there that the Saturn, for such the 2D powerhouse that it was, lacked tremendously in this timeless genre of hop and bop. Sure, you had a few. Sonic Jam, Pandemonium, Clockwork Knight 2, Keio Yugekitai. But there wasn’t a whole lot beyond that. My heart sank. For the first time in over five years my flame for all things Sega Saturn began to fan out. Like when you find out your girlfriend cheats on you, there’s just no going back.

HateWhen

And that’s when I remembered my childhood crush. The one that got away. All those blissful, innocent and lazy Saturday afternoons going out to the local rental store with your old man, renting games and playing them with your brother and best friend. All those idyllic summers spent battling gigantic bosses in your best friend’s living room. All those epic sleepovers where you and your friends would game the night away. Fond memories and thoughts of the SNES consumed me. I suddenly remembered all the plethora of great platformers I had played for it more than a decade ago. I also remembered all the decent ones, which I wanted to revisit. Then there were many others that I never got around to rent, but was always curious about in some form or fashion. How great would it be to go back and right these childhood wrongs? I was 22 (cue the Taylor Swift “22” song, or not) and on the cusp of graduating but that day I found myself in a very reflective and nostalgic mood. It was a very unique period in my life. A time of looking forward while also looking back.

SuperMetroid-Crateria2

It started out as a regular Tuesday night in the old neighborhood. It was January 17, 2006. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary but this date would go down in gaming history for me. After dinner I had an overwhelming urge to type “SNES” into eBay. The very first item that came up was POWER MOVES, ending in 38 seconds. Power Moves is one of those games that hold a ton of nostalgic childhood value to me, despite being not a very good game (OK, it was pretty dang bad). It was the first IMPORT video game I ever rented (under the label of POWER ATHLETE) way back in late 1992. My friends and I enjoyed it for what it was for the weekend that we had it.

You never forget your first time. Especially the first time you rented your very first import. Thanks, GAME HUNTER.
Ya never ever forget your first time!

So yeah, it was a crazy moment of nostalgia overload. Before I knew it I inserted my maximum bid and the page refreshed.

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU WON POWER MOVES (SUPER NINTENDO).

I sat there for a second, admiring the moment and soaking it all in. For the first time in nearly 10 years, I had bought a Super Nintendo game. And that’s the story of how I got back into all things SNES.

The rest is history.

NOTE: The following was written on January 30, 2016.

Speaking of 10 year anniversaries, today marks another big moment. It was the day my SNES arrived. I remember this day with a real deep fondness. The SNES was on its way and already I had 51 games waiting to be played. The night before, January 29, 2006, I ordered the Royal Rumble pay-per-view and watched that with my cousin, David. I’ve always been a huge wrestling fan since I was a kid, and the Royal Rumble is one of my favorite events of the year.

30 wrestlers. Every man for himself. A chance to main event Wrestlemania. Awesome.
30 wrestlers. Every man for himself. Sounds like my classroom!

I recall starting a gaming journal on that Sunday. I had always wanted to do one with the Sega Saturn, but by the time I thought of starting one, it was far too late. It was nice that the SNES gave me a second chance to chronicle things properly.

RVGJour

The next day was one for the record books. It was a cold, rainy Monday afternoon. It was the first day of my Spring 2006 semester, the last one before I graduated. I heard a loud rumbling outside my window. Excitedly, I ran over to peer outside. With the heavy raindrops shattering against my window, looking not unlike melting silverware, I wiped the freezing glass pane to reveal a parked UPS truck. I watched intently as a man walked around back to haul out a gigantic box. I knew it had to be it. My baby was finally here!

Crazy reading this 10 years later! Time machine effect :)
Crazy reading this 10 years later! Time machine effect :)

I ran to open the door before he was even halfway there. I grabbed the box in haste; I couldn’t have rescued it from the downpour any sooner. I ripped the packaging open and sat there in sheer awe of what I saw. The SNES and a whole bunch of games rested inside in all its glory. I wanted nothing more than to play them then and there, but alas, I had an “advanced acting” class to attend at 1:30. But hey, I waited a decade for this moment. Or at least, a few weeks. Surely a few more hours wouldn’t hurt.

That night I had 51 SNES games from which to pick. Which one would I play first? I figured it was a no brainer. First import rental ever. And now it was the first SNES game I bought that kickstarted my SNES resurrection. It was only fitting. Sure, Power Moves was no masterpiece, but man, the nostalgia rush I had that night was incredible. And I knew the games and memories from that point on would only get better.

It took me right back to my living room circa late 1992!
It transported me back to 1992!

Welcome back home, indeed. And ever since then, even 10 years later, the SNES is still where I’m at. Here’s to 10 more glorious 16-bit years.

All About RVGFanatic

Bonjour! Welcome to my humble and awesome little site. *wink* Yes indeed, you’ve hit up RVGFANATIC. I started this site as a means to share my gaming reviews, remembrances and random mad ramblings. The primary focus is on the SNES, my favorite system of all time. I also write about non-SNES retro games when the mood strikes. In addition, you’ll find SNES articles, my ever popular “obscure” Super Famicom reviews, and miscellaneous non-gaming articles. This includes episode recaps of such classic shows as Full House, Home Improvement, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, The Wonder Years and so on. Expect tons of pictures, reminiscing and passion from a recollective retro renegade. I’m very proud of the content I’ve produced over the past 10+ years, and I thank you for joining me on this nostalgic trip down memory lane.

The current banner from 2014-present
RVG’s current banner (2014-present)

Now then, a quick bit about me…

Born in the summer of 1983, I grew up loving games. Weaned on the 8-bit Nintendo, as I grew up, so too did video games. My brother and our friends moved on to the Genesis in ’89, and later the Super Nintendo when it came out in late ’91. I bought a Sega Saturn in 1999 and by 2001 became a huge fan. The honeymoon ran into late 2005. In January 2006 I rediscovered the Super Nintendo and have been rocking with the SNES ever since.

I’ve been posting on various gaming boards since early 2001. I love sharing my impressions of obscure games as well as miscellaneous life stories. Whether I’m rambling on about the Super Nintendo, the Sega Saturn or something else, three words best sum up RVGFanatic:

RELIVE | REMEMBER | REPLAY

Enjoy the site!
-Steve

PS- If you would like to email me or send a PayPal donation:

RetroGamer7 at yahoo dot com

MY REVIEW SYSTEM AND PHILOSOPHY

You're too kind, Yoshi [Yeah, WAY too kind -Ed.]
You’re too kind, Yoshi! [Yeah, WAY too kind… -Ed.]
I absolutely love EGM’s old format: if a game averaged a score of 8 then it received the Silver Award. 9 average earned the Gold and straight 10s would earn the rare Platinum Award.

I’m using the same format, except this is a one man operation rather than four (or five in some cases). Also, I’m adding the bronze award for any game that scores a 7.5 rating.

I rate games 1-10, with .5 increments.

Like EGM, a 6/10 score is NOT a 60% grade, or a D. 6/10 isn’t a bad score, per se. It’s just a slightly above average game — one that only big fans of the genre are likely to somewhat enjoy.

  • 1 - DAFUQ
  • 2 – Horrible
  • 3 – Really bad
  • 4 – Below average
  • 5 – Ho-hum, average, mediocre
  • 6 – Somewhat decent, fair to middling
  • 7 – Certainly flawed but solid and worthy

faqaward

7.5 Bronze Award — This game is flawed but does enough good things to be recognized with a single trophy. Not everyone is going to like it, but there’s something about this game that made me sit up and go, “Hey, this is pretty good.” The difference between a 7.0 and a 7.5 game? 7.5 games are titles you may have overlooked that I feel are worth a shot and thus, they receive the Bronze Award for that little bit of added recognition.

faqaward18.0 Silver Award — This game is not an exceptional example of its genre, but it’s fairly darn good in its own right. There is a fine line between a 7.5 and an 8.0 game. The 8.0 game is still flawed, but I consider these games to be “good” rather than “pretty good.” They may not be the cornerstones of the SNES library, but any collection would be lucky to have these titles to round things out.

faqaward28.5 Double Silver Award — This game isn’t just “pretty good.” It isn’t simply just “good.” It’s “very good.” However, there are enough blemishes to keep it from that magical 9+ territory. 8.5 games can be seen as unsung titles that fall just short of being a bonafide classic. Nonetheless, they’re highly respectable and if you like the genre, odds are you will like these games.

faqaward39.0 Gold Award — Now we’re talking! Any game that earns a 9.0 can be considered great and an exceptional example of its genre. They have a few small flaws that prevent them from entering that 9.5+ upper echelon of SNES landmark titles, but for the most part, these are legit classics more that deserve to be part of any SNES library.

faqaward49.5 Double Gold Award —  These epic games are near perfect examples of their genre. While not quite perfect — they have a flaw here and there — 9.5 games are bonafide SNES classics. These are some of the best games in the pantheon of SNES greats, and many if not all of these titles would make any top 20 list.

faqaward510 Platinum Award — Only awarded to a scant few, any game that earns a 10 is virtually flawless. These games are in a special class of their own and can be considered Mount Rushmore worthy material. These are the very best games available on the SNES and should be in any Super Nintendo collection. In my opinion there are only a select handful of titles worthy of this ultimate stamp of approval. As time goes on you’ll see which SNES games I deem to be the very best among their peers. If there was a Super Nintendo Hall of Fame, these games would not only be first ballot Hall of Famers, but they would deserve their own damn wing.

I ALSO GRADE THESE CATEGORIES:

  • Graphics – How good the game looks, in relation to the time period the game was released and the genre of the game.
  • Sound - Quality of the game’s sound effects and music.
  • Gameplay – How well the game plays, in relation to the time it was released and its genre.
  • Longevity - Since RPGs generally lack in “replay value” I’m doing “longevity” instead — how long the game lasts me the first time, how often will I replay it, and is it a game I can see myself playing a year or 2, 5, even 10 years from now? It’s a combination of all those. To get a 10 in this category, all three points must be met.

Please take note of the I’s in the longevity category. I can’t speak on anyone’s behalf but my own. These scores (longevity and everything else) are my personal opinion — nothing more nothing less. Also note, longevity is the only rating which I base upon my feelings today. Graphics, sound and gameplay relate strictly to the time of the game’s release.

CRITERIA FOR THE FINAL SCORE

The overall score is NOT an average of the four scoring areas, but of course they factor in, with gameplay being the most vital. Simply put, the overall score is how much I like (or dislike) the game. Three other keys:

  • Year in which game was released

I’ll be more lenient if the game came out early. After all, it’s unfair to say Power Moves (January 1993) is not up to par with Killer Instinct (August 1995). I rate each game based on its peers upon release.

  • The genre itself

I have different expectations for each genre based on what I think is the best example of that genre on the Super Nintendo.

  • My own personal bias

I try to be as objective as I can, but my own bias comes into play when deciding the overall score. Gameplay is still the ruling factor, but I may bump a game up by .5 for various reasons.

In general, I’m a pretty easy grader. As long as the game is competent, enjoyable, and made me say, “Hey, that was pretty dope” – I’ll probably give it the Bronze Award at the very least. I don’t want to be GameFan-easy, though! However, I’m not Super Play-hard, either.

Finally, it should be noted, however obvious this may be, but all these ratings are strictly my opinion and I don’t expect everyone to agree with a game’s score all the time. Unlike a professional magazine that acts as though its score is the so-called definite score of a game, these ratings I have are merely that of my opinion and for, as the kids may say… kicks.

 

Now to the Q&A:

  • How did this site come about?

I’ve always had a deep passion for sharing my thoughts on (obscure) games and life with people. I knew very little about websites so the thought of having one simply never crossed my mind. From early 2001 to late 2006, I was content making topics on various gaming boards.

Back in my Saturn heyday I had plans for a gigantic Saturn topic, a place where I’d post all my reviews and memories. I even had the title: “MEGA SEGA Saturn Thread.” But by 2005 I burned out and the topic never happened.

In early 2006 I rediscovered the Super Nintendo and on that very first day I had plans to eventually create a huge thread consisting of my reviews, thoughts and experiences. What I intended to do with Saturn, but never did.

Around August 2006 I realized the SNES topic was way too ambitious for me at the present time, but I felt a strong itch to write about SNES games in some capacity. This gave birth to my Obscure Super Famicom Reviews thread (September 8, 2006). I figured it wouldn’t run past Halloween, but I kept buying Super Famicom games and the topic ran into December. I began to ponder tackling a site, thanks to the overwhelmingly positive feedback I received from readers of my obscure Super Famicom thread.

  • “It would be a real shame if all this great information disappears into cyberspace obscurity, as well as all the cool pictures… you need your own site!”

And that’s when the light bulb went on, really.

December 2006. The obscure Super Famicom topic was still going, and there were so many more games to review. The topic getting way too big and I knew my peers were right. How great would it be to have the content I’ve worked so hard on be featured on a more compact basis? How cool (and convenient) to have individual links taking the user wherever they wanted, without waiting for hundreds of other game pictures to load?

PeteWhitley’s inspirational reply at DigitPress on December 16, 2006, was the breaking point:

  • “Steven, this is soooo the best thread going on DP right now. In addition to continuing it, you should really compile everything you’ve got into a web page and concurrently add to this thread and that web page. You would have a pretty sweet document of some rarely played games right there, and it would be more permanent than just a thread on the DP boards. Just a thought, but in my opinion you have something way better than a thread going here.”

At that point I went from so-so to determined. In late December I was hard at it. And on Sunday, January 7, 2007 — the site launched. Better late than never!

 

  • Why the move from RVGFanatic.com to RVGFanatic.com/WordPress?

The old Website Builder I used for nearly a decade became obsolete in October 2015. I was crushed because I had built up my original site for nearly a decade and now I could no longer update it. The company I work with then set me up with this WordPress, which launched January 2016. Change was difficult at first but I’ve come to prefer this over the old Website Builder. It’s simply more efficient and admittedly, the old site was a bit archaic. For example, it takes one second to publish an update on WordPress. The Website Builder took a frigging hour! And sometimes it would crash during the publishing process but that’s a whole ‘notha story that never needs to be told :P

Sometimes change is inevitable and for the best. Definitely the case here!

 

  • RVG stands for?

Retro Video Game.

 

  • Where did the name RVGFANATIC stem from?

My buddy JVGFanatic might have suggested it a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I loved it almost instantaneously.

 

  • Did you own a Super Nintendo back in the day?

Yes. My brother bought it in late ’91 or early ’92. It was my favorite system back then and is currently my favorite system today.

 

  • Do you own the games you review?

Yes, I do, including the “obscure” Super Famicom games. I believe in the purity of owning the real physical thing. Having said that, I got no problem with those who simply emulate.

 

  • Is it cool if I copy and paste your content? Your pictures?

Just credit me and provide a link to my site for common courtesy.

 

  • What inspired you to do the text embedded pictures?
Text embedded shots was a staple of the old site
Text embedded shots were a staple of the old site

I have to credit Super Play Magazine. A lot of their pictures had text embedded and I guess on a subconscious level I fell in love with that style of presentation. The first review on my old site that I started this with was Spider-Man: Lethal Foes. Then I did the same gimmick for my second SNES review, An American Tale: Fievel Goes West. Then it just became something I enjoyed doing. However, now that we’re on this new more modern site, I’m retiring from the text embedding business. It just takes too much time and the cool thing about this WordPress is that it allows me to display PNG images. The old site only allowed JPG images, which are lower in quality.

 

  • Do you really write everything yourself?

YES! It’s a one man operation, a one man demolition derby, a one man wrecking crew [Are you quite done yet? -Ed.]

 

  • Wait a second! Who’s this Ed guy then??

[Eh? -Ed.]

 

  • C’MON! Seriously now.

[What? -Ed.]

OK seriously, it’s just a little thing I’ve picked up from reading Super Play. Ed. is short for Editor. It’s actually all me. It’s sad I know but I love the old gaming magazines so much that I try to replicate some of their feel in my work, and from the feedback I’ve received, many enjoy this throwback magazine style.

 

  • You’re really into the obscure stuff — how did that come about?

It really started from my early days of gaming. Back in ’92, when Street Fighter II was scorching the arcade scene, I was more than happy playing World Heroes with my friend. Even back then, I always had an odd fascination and admiration for the little guys. I’ve always enjoyed the oddball games, discovering hidden gems and shining the spotlight on these games with the community.

 

  • How many games do you own?

Way too many. I peaked at 350 or so with Saturn. Today I’m in the 180’s. As for the SNES… 600+ counting the Super Famicom imports.

 

  • No way! Dude! Post pictures!

Check out My SNES Collection for more.

 

  • Sick collection! How much do you think you spent?

Timing is everything in life. I got back into the Super Nintendo on January 17, 2006. That was a different time. A lot of the collectors you see today were not buying SNES games by the truckload back in early 2006. The nostalgia bug bit me earlier than it did many others, so I was able to score some great deals. Most of these games cost me only $5-$10, with even the heavier hitters not going for more than $40. Today? Not so much. Also, I managed to score a lot of the boxes and manuals for dirt cheap because back in 2006, they weren’t in demand much. I really lucked out — timing is everything!

 

  • Some Super Famicom reviews have ratings, others don’t. Why?

I don’t have a set method for the obscure Super Famicom stuff. However, with the SNES reviews I attach numerical values at the end in traditional magazine style.

 

  • Any plans for a top list?

A reader by the name of Pat Chu asked me this back in April 2007. Pat, you read my mind. Yes, I plan to make a top list at some point. I want to play as many games as I can first before releasing such a list, though. Only then could I properly craft one. In the meantime, I released a top 50 obscure Super Famicom list as sort of an appetizer :)

 

  • Do you play anything else other than SNES and Saturn?

Sure but I don’t play much these days other than the SNES. I know I’m missing out on a lot of great games on other platforms, but you can’t play them all. I find focusing on one system and squeezing as much as you can out of it to be very satisfying. It’s what works for me. I always say, do what works best for you.

 

  • What other systems do you own beside SNES and Saturn?

NES, GBA, Dreamcast and Switch. I keep it super simple.

 

  • Where can I email you or send a PayPal donation for your hard work?

RetroGamer7 at yahoo dot com

Hey, I had to try one last time ;)
Enjoy the site! :)
-Steve