Today (January 1, 2019) marks 20 years since Nintendo published a Super Famicom game by the name of Power Lode Runner. It was released only in Japan as a “Nintendo Power” cartridge, where players could download various games on said accessory. Thus, you won’t find an official cartridge of Power Lode Runner on the internet. Power Lode Runner is an update on the classic Lode Runner formula.
Developed in 1983 by Douglas E. Smith, Lode Runner went on to become a smash success. Released in countless versions and on way too many platforms to name, Lode Runner is a classic action puzzle game with a simple premise that grows increasingly complex. Therein lies its brilliance!
*CUE MOVIE TRAILER VOICE GUY*
[Here we go again… *whips out big check* -Ed.]
IT IS AN ISLAND SATE WITH DANGER AND TRAPS…
ER… THAT’S PRETTY MUCH ALL I GOT THIS WEEK.
*loud rumbling in the background, couple F-bombs and gunshots later*
Ahem, well I guess we won’t be hearing from Movie Trailer Voice Guy again. At any rate, Power Lode Runner is a curiosity and an oddity indeed. Released on New Year’s Day 1999 (happy 20th anniversary), this version of Lode Runner is a bit more modernized though it plays much the same as ones before it. “B” digs a hole in the ground to your left while “A” digs a hole to your right. Trap a bad guy and safely walk over their head. Collect the items necessary to unlock the next level. Control a blue rabbit-like animal, named Muguru-kun, and go through all manner of themes. There are 3 different worlds you can select from the very beginning, with themes changing every 5 levels. Let’s take a look at some of the worlds.
I love the art style here. Muguru-kun is adorable and has a unique look that screams “leading mascot potential.” Kinda makes me long for a platformer starring him!
To your bottom left is the map (which can be switched off) and to your bottom right is the item count (in yellow) required before being able to leave that stage. Touch the logs encased in the bubble there, leaving you with 3 left to collect.
I appreciate games with sensible mechanics which allow the player to be efficient. There’s no need to climb down a tree, not when you can slide off at a moment’s notice. Grab your second item. 2 down, 2 to go!
Those are the BAD guys?! Why yes. In this theme, those rather innocent looking monkeys are the source of danger. Each theme, which alters every 5 levels, is home to its own unique enemies.
Applying some good ol’ Lode Runner know how will make quick work of them.
You’ll spot a giant teddy bear head throughout each level. That marks the stage’s exit point. After collecting all the items needed, stand by the giant teddy bear face and it’ll swallow you whole, taking you to the next stage. Cute, yet slightly disturbing. Let’s look at some other levels from this first world.
Spotting Teddy does squat if you haven’t collected all of the items necessary. In such cases, it’s time to backtrack to find those missing pieces.
Bad guys can throw various objects at you. You’re momentarily stunned if hit, but thankfully it doesn’t mean automatic death.
Evading enemies left and right, weaving through them and going from point A to point B is quite satisfying. You can really get in the zone and develop a great rhythm that makes Power Lode Runner a really fun game to play.
It does, doesn’t it? Makes one yearn for an actual platformer game starring the ever lovable Muguru-kun. There’s a sense of adventure and stealth that gets the ol’ heart pumping.
Power Lode Runner is just a simple and enjoyable action puzzle affair. It celebrates 20 years today, and although you can’t get it officially on cartridge, there are of course various ways to still play it. And that I recommend you do, especially if these old school action puzzle games appeal to you. And if you like this game, I also suggest checking out another 1999 Super Famicom hit in the form of Power Soukoban (another modern spin on a classic formula). I slightly prefer Power Lode Runner over Lode Runner Twin. Power Lode Runner has Lode Runner Twin beat on visuals, sound and gameplay. The level design and enemy roster is also better as it oozes with more creativity and charm. Of course, you can’t go wrong with either.
PS- Happy 2019 to everyone out there! Speaking of anniversaries, can you believe RVGFanatic will turn 12 years old in less than a week from now? Insanity. Here’s to more SNES goodness in 2019
Lode Runner was first developed in 1983 by Douglas E. Smith. It was released on many platforms, such as the Apple II and Commodore 64. More than a decade later, the Super Famicom received its own variation in the form of Lode Runner Twin.
*CUE MOVIE TRAILER VOICE GUY*
WHERE LIVES WILL CHANGE AND A NATION WILL CRY… or something.
*End Movie Trailer Voice Guy*
[Wait a second, how much does he cost us anyway? -Ed.]
Lode Runner, to some of us retro gamers, is like an old trusty friend. You may not call this friend every week or even every month. But whenever you do, you pick up right where you left off. Thanks to T&E Soft, Super Nintendo players have a version to call their own. And while the mechanics are similar to classic formula, the look and atmosphere is distinctly different.
HEY THAT’S NOT JACK PERIL!
Indeed it’s not. Say bye to Jack Peril (from Lode Runner Returns) and hello to Justy and Liberty, two chaps that look like they stepped right out of an anime. Lode Runner Twin has a story mode (complete with password), free play and a couple 2 player split screen modes.
Collect all the candy wrappers. Only then will a ladder magically appear to whisk you to the next level.
Bad guys quickly attempt to gang up on you, but you can cave in floors where applicable and walk safely over their head(s).
Gone are the cannibalistic monks from previous Lode Runner games. In their place are trident wielding little imps. The game has a very cute look.
Our hero gracefully glides his way to safety, leaving the devilish lackeys in the dust.
There’s something very satisfying about gliding through the ropes.
You might have gotten rid of that one, but notice his buddies quickly gaining ground. A magic sound effect rings out after you’ve collected the last piece of candy. A ladder appears, which will take you to the next level. Of course, the bad guys will give chase to the very bitter end.
As soon as you land, make your way toward the ladder and slide across the rope. You’re home free! It’s easy but moments like this make the game fun to play and satisfying.
I love retro games. It’s the spirit of the age you know, the zeitgeist — looking forwards by looking back. Or something like that. Heck, maybe I’m just an old codger. I remember when games were rationed, you know. But in all seriousness, I enjoyed Lode Runner Twin for what it was. If you can overlook the annoying music, what you have here is a nice variation of a classic game. If you like this, be sure to check out Power Lode Runner too. And as a final fun aside, Super Play ran a review for Lode Runner Twin back in the ’90s. They rated it 55%, which I feel is a pretty harsh rating. It’s not the best game ever, but it’s certainly fun and has its moments.
Premiering on April 3, 1971, Kamen Rider (translated as Masked Rider) was a smash hit TV show in Japan. An insect-like superhero who rides on a motorcycle and beats up bad guys was a winning recipe. Over 20 years later, Kamen Rider was released only on the Super Famicom where you clean up the streets of early ’70s Japan in this fun and cheesy beat ‘em up.
As you make your way through the levels, the boss’ health meter at the bottom slowly increases. So don’t mess around and beat up the lackeys as fast as you can.
The garish blokes are tougher than their less colorful brethren.
Enter the abandoned warehouse. Hmmm, it’s awfully quiet in here. TOO QUIET…
PEARL HARBOR! But even their nefarious schemes are no match for your fleet-footed prowess. Use the pit to send their sorry asses to an early grave.
In classic beat ‘em up fashion, the boss is joined by a legion of low tier lackeys.
The bosses even resemble their real life cheesy rubber suits! Nice. When things get hot and heavy, press “X” to become the mighty Kamen Rider.
Kamen Rider is a superior fighter and he has a separate health bar as well.
Of course, being the Super Nintendo/Famicom, Mode 7 madness ensues.
A cutscene depicting the demise of the assailant is shown to reward your successful effort.
This stage is home to waste dumps and the like, lending the game a gloomy rundown atmosphere. It really places you in early ’70s Japan. In fact, it somehow reminds me a lot of Godzilla vs. Hedorah (AKA The Smog Monster), which coincidentally enough also came out in 1971. There is a very bleak feel to that film and to this particular level. Battle your way through the outskirts of town before culminating in a rooftop tangle.
Bad guys come out of the woodwork from the staircase. Somewhere in the background a part of me can feel Godzilla and Hedorah battling it out
Similar to the legendary GOLDEN AXE series, gaping holes can be used to your advantage.
This amusement park is anything but! At least it provides plenty of cool set pieces though, like this roller coaster track.
More levels await beyond this. Play the game to discover the rest on your own.
Temptations to modernize this old franchise wouldn’t have been shocking, but Sun L. (makers of Mega Man Soccer) wisely and respectfully opted for an authentic early 70’s Japan setting. It’s nice to see a game remain so faithful to its source material. The setting really grew on me as I played the game. It’s depressing, gloomy and there’s just something so desolated about the whole thing that beckons for a superhero to save the day…
What began as lukewarm impressions quickly developed into something of an affection, even if said affection veers toward the guilty pleasure plane. The levels are divided into segments and a solid pace is maintained throughout. Best of all, a friend can join you to help sweep up the streets. Kamen Rider won’t challenge for a top 10 slot on any SNES beat ‘em up list, but it is a good old fashioned example of the genre akin to those from the halcyon days. And one you’re likely to enjoy if you dig old Japanese rubber suited monster madness.
Sengoku was released in arcades on February 12, 1991. A Super Nintendo home port was scheduled to come out in early 1994, but it was canned and never saw the light of day in North America. It did, however, grace the Super Famicom. Although watered down, it’s still fairly fun (especially with a buddy by your side). After all, any game that allows you to briefly assume the form and spirit of a ninja, samurai or even a lethal canine can’t be too bad.
The North American version must have been completed or at the very least very close to being finished, as a review turned up in the pages of EGM (issue #56, March 1994).
As a kid I recall anticipating any arcade port that came out to the SNES. It was naturally understood and accepted back then — gosh, a quarter of a century ago now — that such home ports on the SNES were never going to fully match the arcade original. But that the really good ones would capture the essence of such games. It was a fun time to be a kid growing up on arcade games and the SNES. The luxury of playing a lesser version at home was a really big deal back in those days, and it was still fun to play the arcade originals whenever you were at the arcade. I was sad when Sengoku was scraped. Then, years later (2006 to be precise), I came back into the SNES scene and discovered that a Super Famicom version had made its way to Japan. I quickly tracked down a copy and ended up enjoying it, even if it was a watered down version. Like I said, it was standard operating procedure. I didn’t personally care that it wasn’t arcade-perfect. I knew I liked it and that was all that mattered to me.
Select between Bill or Dan. I prefer Dan because I find him to be a more effective fighter. Here he is, decked out in glorious early ’90s fashion from head to toe, kicking a bunch of Foot Soldier ass.
You know what I particularly love about beat ‘em ups? Those Andore-like enemies. You know, those towering titans that are several tiers below that of a boss, but they’re also several tiers above the cannon fodder. Sengoku has a good Andore representation. I love how big and bizarre these lumbering ogre-like creatures are. These hulking menaces are tougher than the rest, but by nabbing various orbs you can take the shape of a samurai to help even up the odds!
Sengoku shifts from regular looking stages that you would find in any beat ‘em up to strange astral stages, where it feels like you’re in some unworldly dimension. It helps to break up the monotony a bit and gives the game a rather unique feel.
The SNES version tried hard but obviously does not hold a candle, graphically, to the original.
The ninja form is swift and super efficient when upgraded to the ultimate form, where he can fling 3 Shurikens at once.
Not to be completely outdone, the dog form can toss out smaller versions of himself. Nice.
Your journey will take you through a decent amount of various locales, including this deadly sewer. Where are the gawd damn Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when you need ‘em, eh?!
[Oh Jared proved that years ago -Ed.]. Wow. OUCH.
As mentioned earlier, you’ll also travel to very strange otherworldly realms. It feels like a hazy dream or nightmare…
Sengoku excels in setting an uneasy tone. You always get this sense in the air that something isn’t quite right. Take this bridge scene for instance. The wolf-like creature it turns into looks like something out of a twisted children’s fairy tale you read at the library when you were 7.
Some bosses are demonic and ghastly.
While others are the traditional big and beefy kind.
The graphics are below average and the sound is weak to boot, but the saving grace is Sengoku is fairly fun (despite being a watered down port) to play if you throw expectations out the window. It’s just a mindless beat ‘em up with some neat power ups, bizarre bad guys and a moody atmosphere that combines both oriental and the occult. If that sounds like a good time to you, then be sure to give Sengoku a shot.
There were three Ranma ½ fighting games on the SNES. The first one was embarrassingly repackaged as Street Combat. The second one, Ranma ½ Hard Battle, was released in North America 25 years ago and received mixed reviews. The last of the trilogy, Ranma ½: Chougi Ranbu Hen, was scheduled to come out stateside but was canned due to poor sales of its predecessor. It’s a shame since Chougi Ranbu Hen is easily the best of the trilogy. It plays a bit like an old SNK fighting game. The lack of speed takes some getting used to but unlike Hard Battle which features an awkward control scheme, Chougi Ranbu Hen is much more traditional with special moves performed in Street Fighter II fashion. Not only does that make for a more enjoyable experience but Chougi Ranbu Hen also features a rare tag team mode. Very few SNES fighting games can claim that!
MEET THE FIGHTERS
By pressing the “L” button at any point during the battle, your character will perform a rather long taunting animation. If you can successfully pull this off without getting hit, you will activate your super power. Your moves will inflict more damage and you can even perform a super desperation move.
CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Ranma ½: Chougi Ranbu Hen received mostly positive reviews from those who have played it. Consensus has it that it’s easily the best of the SNES trilogy. Super Play rated it 79%. It’s often considered as one of the best fighting games found exclusively on the Super Famicom, ranking right up there with the likes of Godzilla: Kaijuu Daikessen, Gundam Wing: Endless Duel and SD Hiryu no Ken. Personally, I like those three brawlers a lot more than Chougi Ranbu Hen. Nevertheless, it definitely belongs in the conversation.
If you like old school fighters, don’t mind a slower paced fighting game and you’re a Ranma ½ fan, then I recommend this game. If those parameters aren’t suited for you, however, then this game won’t sway you the other way. It’s a perfectly decent fighting game that represents the brand well. Control is smooth and combos are easy to execute (something the previous two Ranma games lacked). The tag team mode adds some extra novelty and there are other cool little options. Examples include four color choices for each fighter, the ability to select stages and play the computer even in the VS. mode (and not just the story mode). However, it is disappointingly slow with no speed option available. If only it played a little faster, I would have enjoyed this game far more. But all in all, Ranma ½: Chougi Ranbu Hen is solid fighting fare, and is easily the best of the Ranma ½ trilogy.
Godzilla: Kaijuu Daikessen wasn’t the only SNES fighting game I was curious about for over 12 years. EGM ran a tantalizing preview for a cool looking fighting game in early 1994 that immediately caught my eye. First appearing in EGM issue #55 (February 1994), SD Golden Fighter was slated for a North American release and I could not wait to rent and play it. Several months later (September 1994), EGM would preview it once more (issue #62). Rebranded as Galactic Defenders, I figured we would get it well in time for the holidays and that it was only a matter of a few short weeks before Galactic Defenders would hit the shelves of KB Toys and Software Etc. Sadly, the North American release was cancelled for whatever reason. Probably because Culture Brain figured it wouldn’t sell too well in the end. But thankfully the game did come out in Japan under the name of SD Hiryu no Ken.
A 12 YEAR ODYSSEY
As a 10 year old boy who ate up any and every fighting game that came out back then, I could not wait to get my hands on SD Golden Fighter. I remember thinking that it looked like an arcade game! And feeling that it was probably going to be a lot better than most other SNES fighting games.
But as I said, sadly, the North American release wasn’t meant to be. There was even supposedly a box already designed for it, too.
The game of many names. It seemed like Culture Brain couldn’t make up its mind. Hell, it even changed from 10 MEGS to 12. In the end, it only came out in Japan as SD Hiryu no Ken.
LABOR DAY WEEKEND 2006
It was an innocent early Saturday morning just like any other. I remember going to GameFAQs (Classic Gaming forum) to see if anyone had responded to my question in a topic called “Saturn Collection 7″ regarding what everyone’s plans were for Labor Day weekend. It was there that I found someone raving about JapanGameStock.com. They were saying how JGS was having a special on Super Famicom games (Buy 3 Get 1 Free). I immediately visited JGS and what I discovered that night was a gold mine. A lot of the obscure Super Famicom exclusive titles I wanted were on there, including SD Hiryu no Ken! Once I saw the cartridge label, I had a hunch it was SD Golden Fighter AKA SD Dragon’s Fist AKA Galactic Defender(s). After checking AllGame.com (R.I.P.), it was confirmed! At last my 12+ year childhood curiosity was going to be quelled.
I ended up adding a few more games to the order on September 9, pushing my grand total to $362.16. Because JGS didn’t take PayPal back in 2006, I had to buy one of those pink international money orders. God, I think it’s been 12 years since I last purchased a money order. I bought so many of the green US money orders back in the early-mid 2000s for my Saturn game buying.
Fun fact: Once I bought these games during that fateful Labor Day weekend, I felt the timing was right to start my “Obscure Super Famicom Impressions” topic which I posted at several gaming forums. Prior to buying the games, I didn’t want to write about games I didn’t yet own out of fear of driving up prices. So once I knew I had secured a massive lot of them, I felt at ease to begin my topic having peace of mind knowing that I already own the games. My topic went on to become a cult hit within the retro gaming community. Keep in mind that late 2006 was before highlighting “hidden gems” and obscure Japanese games on YouTube, blogs and the like became all the rage. I’m not claiming to be the first one to ever do it, but I did become known as the guy who champions lesser known video games. My topic ran from September to December 2006 and eventually gave way to the birth of RVGFanatic in January of 2007. Without JapanGameStock’s help, there’s a chance RVGFanatic might never have existed. Nearly 12 years later and here we are. Crazy eh?
I ended up buying so many games from them in late 2006 and early 2007 that when they discovered I started my own site to highlight obscure Super Famicom imports among other things, JapanGameStock linked RVGFanatic. It is still linked to this day. What an honor. Thanks JGS!
DOES SD HIRYU NO KEN DELIVER?
Choose from four different playing modes: Story, VS., Tournament and Practice. An options screen allows you to reconfigure the buttons, select your computer difficulty level and as was typical of that era, there’s a speed option with a cheat code that allows you to crank it up to a level 3.
Boasting an impressive roster of 15 warriors, SD Hiryu no Ken held the distinct honor of having the most selectable fighters in a Super Nintendo fighting game. All for a week anyhow. SD Hiryu no Ken was released in Japan on July 17, 1994, while Super Street Fighter II came out on July 25, 1994, and featured 16 fighters. Still, SD Hiryu no Ken certainly gives you a lot of options, especially at a time when 10 or 12 fighters was the norm. It’s got a good mix too of karate masters, badass rebels, muscle-bound maniacs and mutant monsters.
Ryuhi’s stage takes place on a beautiful cliff overlooking a rock formation that resembles a howling wolf. Ryuhi is a balanced fighter and the main character of SD Hiryu no Ken.
Suzaku is the main villain of the game. His background is the same as the character you are using.
Believe it or not, Hayato has better star ratings than the main character. In addition to having a sweet rising uppercut (more of a palm strike really), his stage reminds me a lot of the grassy and stormy background in Australia from Street Fighter Alpha 2, sans the impressive lightning of course.
Roseman is lacking in power, toughness and throwing ability but he makes up for it with really good speed. Plus, he just flat out looks super cool. Not to mention his background features the famous Big Ben tower. Win!
Jenifer has Daddy issues you say? I say you’re the one with Daddy issues! After all, you’ll have to contend with Daddy, Jenifer’s big bad pet manticore. Things start to get a little bizarre with this character here, but that only adds to the game’s appeal.
Mainohonda, I mean, Mainohana, is a grand sumo champion who is surprisingly well balanced and has more stars to his name than the main fighter. He likes to conduct his battles out in a wooded area where he meditates before and after each match. After all, you can accomplish amazing feats when you train your mind, body and soul to be one with nature.
Looking and fighting like your typical Yakuza, Tetsuo has “badass” written all over him. It’s a shame, then, that he only has a star rating of 9, the lowest total in the entire game. Oh well, at least he looks the part. That and his background is awesome. I love how you can see the sun just peeking out over the land, which most assuredly is somewhere on the wrong side of town.
Fighting games are notorious for featuring at least one fighter who is the residential “freak.” E. Quaker fits that job description to a tee. A serpentine mummy of sorts, Quaker looks to claim the crown as his very own.
Wiler’s mighty fist has secured him many wins in the past, and he hopes to continue that tradition in this tournament. A military warrior, Wiler prefers duking it out under the harsh elements of the Amazon. The rain makes for a cool atmospheric effect.
Shrouded in mystery, RAIMA is a fighting robot and one of the fastest combatants in the tourney. The lab where his fights are held is rumored to be the same place in which he was constructed.
What’s a fighting game without a lovely backdrop overlooking a pretty city at night? Min Min, a Chinese female fighter with kick-based attacks, likes to pummel overly cocky punks when she’s not busy sampling the latest trendy restaurant or taking in the night life.
Looking more like he belongs in the Primal Rage universe, Uruka is a hulking and feral freak. I’m a sucker for a quirky fighting game roster and SD Hiryu no Ken definitely has exactly just that. His background is admittedly a bit dull, but I dig the flamingos.
Syoryu is faster than a bullet and combines traditional martial arts with Lucha Libre. Rey Mysterio would be proud!
Reserved outside of battle, Yuuka turns into a savage once the bell rings. A master of Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu, Yuuka likes to create whirlwinds to toss her foes.
Powers, surprisingly, owns the highest total star rating. Clocking in at an impressive 17 total stars, he is the strongest, toughest and best thrower in the game. Talk about a Hulk Hogan-esque push! The Ultimate Warrior, anyone?
Rather than always blocking, pressing R allows you to briefly side step and avoid potential attacks. Good stuff.
Pressing forward and R when close to an opponent allows you to go around them and strike them from behind. Both of these features add extra depth to the game and definitely puts a new twist on an old formula. Really keeps you on your toes!
OUCH… that’s gonna leave a mark.
Dashing backwards can help you avoid getting punctured by Quaker’s vicious scythe. Tetsuo, on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky.
Dashing forward is also possible. See the different costume colors for Wiler there? You can actually select from 8 (!) different colors for each fighter. I always loved it when fighting games from that era had that as an option.
Monsters and muscle-bound maniacs battling feisty females? Sounds like another taping of Lucha Undergound!
Endless barrage of fireballs await.
Alongside belly flops both big and small!
There’s something classic and pure about seeing that Fight label flash across the screen right before two combatants duel to the death.
Special moves definitely look cool, but the control isn’t the best.
Seriously, marvel at how badass they are! Such a shame about the unresponsive control, then…
Roseman thinks he’s so cool, but he’s about to get lit up right under Big Ben!
SAY WHAT NOW?!
Sega AM3 most likely wasn’t inspired by Tetsuo, but the similarities are fun to note nonetheless. Speaking of fun, Tetsuo has the greatest death cry in fighting game history. Whenever he loses a round, he actually yells “FUCK FUCK fuck!” Don’t believe me? Watch the clip below and tell me you don’t hear him dropping the F-Bomb three consecutive times
Or maybe that’s just his reaction to never receiving any royalty checks from Last Bronx.
12 years is a long time to be curious about a video game you saw in passing as a kid. I couldn’t wait to finally play this game after a dozen long years wondering if it was as good as my 10 year old self imagined. Sadly, SD Hiryu no Ken goes down for me as a massive disappointment. It looks great, sure, but not as much when you see it in motion. The frames of animation are a bit lacking and choppy. This is a big no no for a fighting game. Worse yet, the control is leaning toward the unresponsive side, with simple commands such as D, DF, F being way harder than it ought to be. This really spoils the experience.
Sure, the game has got a ton of cool looking special moves, but what good are they if you can’t accurately rely on producing them on a whim? The jumping also feels clunky and the sound effects are lacking in oomph and impact. On paper, it looks like an excellent quirky fighting game. But somewhere in the developmental process, something went awry. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly not unplayable. And there are some fans who stand by this game adamantly. The 15 characters are varied and unique. The art style is also very appealing. But it just doesn’t play very well and that’s something I can’t overlook. It does play better on the higher speeds but even then, I can’t help but feel this was a major disappointment. I wanted so badly to put it on my top 50 favorite Super Famicom games list but truth be told, it just isn’t that good. If I had to rate it, I would probably give it a 6.0 or a 6.5. Maybe a 7.0 if I’m feeling super generous. By my account, this game should have been an easy 8.5 at the very least. Very disappointing, indeed.
Still, something keeps me crawling back to it every once in a blue moon. A disappointment, sure, but also something of a guilty pleasure. With some tweaking and polish, SD Hiryu no Ken could have been one of the best fighting games on the SNES, especially when talking specifically about home grown fighters exclusive to the Super Nintendo. Alas, much like the canned North American release, it just wasn’t meant to be.
I acquired Iron Commando (cartridge only) on October 11, 2006 for just $19.50. Today is lucky Friday the 13th, July 2018. And there’s a copy of this game complete in box going for $1,000 on eBay. Good God almighty. Holy crap am I glad I got back into the Super Nintendo when I did. I remember seeing screenshots of Iron Commando back in 2006 and thinking to myself, “This looks like it could be one of the real unheralded hidden gems of the SNES library.” Back in 2006, very few people were talking about Iron Commando. It was truly obscure then, whereas now it’s much more well known in the SNES community. I wrote a quick review of this game back in late 2006 and did my part to help spread the word. Unfortunately, I wasn’t too impressed with it. 12 years later and I still feel the same way. It’s a great looking game that had tons of potential but the end product just doesn’t execute like I had hoped. Hey, you win some, you lose some. I’m just glad my curiosity was cured in 2006 and for less than $20 too.
WHERE’S MY TOKEN FEMALE?
There are only two characters to pick from: Jack or Chang Li (no relation to Chun-Li). Most beat ‘em ups from the era had at least three choices. Sure, the token female is overly done but there’s a reason for it: to offer variety and more options. So right away we’re off to a less than ideal start but I disregarded my initial disappointment about the lack of a third hero. I just had a good feeling the gameplay was going to make up for it. Boy, was I off. On the bright side, two players can play simultaneously.
The first level opens up with a gnarly quote. It’s cheesy as hell but I loved it. Quotes occasionally appear at the bottom throughout this first level. It lends a B-Movie feel to the game but only appears in this stage, for better or worse. Iron Commando offers a myriad of weapons: 9mm pistols, rifles, machine guns, knives, baseball bats — I’m shocked there wasn’t a chainsaw as well!
Game looks badass, no? It looks like a lost treasure — how did this NOT make North America? But then you sadly realize that even the lowliest enemies take forever to kill, and weapons BARELY do any damage at all! It’s as if the game is unfinished or still in its testing phase. It shouldn’t take me an endless barrage of hits to beat a common thug with a baseball bat. That just renders the baseball bat useless. If the damage ratio was fixed, Iron Commando would be infinitely better.
This has to be a first in beat ‘em up history: the first boss being a truck.
Welcome to the first of several auto scrolling stages. Two things are required for this stage to properly enjoy it…
1. Blasting Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf
2. Constant maniacal laughter
Trust me on this one, especially #2.
Yeah, killing dogs (even if they’re rabid ones) with a baseball bat would never have cleared Nintendo of America. They would probably turn those canines into mutant rats. Wolfenstein 3D knows.
From the dingy dock to the interior of a creepy flickering warehouse you go. It’s a well done effect that you really didn’t see many SNES games utilizing. Notice the SLIVER of daylight in the bottom left hand corner there. Nice.
Didn’t Big Tom’s mom teach him not to play with knives in the dark? Tsk tsk.
This is a cool boss fight thanks to the light that flickers in and out. It takes me back to all those haunted house attractions I went to as a kid… and ahem, as an adult…
Enemies often crowd you; Iron Commando suffers from cheap mandatory damage syndrome. It’s quite annoying and drags down the experience. It’s pretty cool that sometimes there are four enemies on screen (most SNES beat ‘em ups keep it to three max at a time) but this actually works against Iron Commando since the enemies are really tough and hit you way too much. You almost have to play this game with a friend if you want to enjoy it.
Unmercifully cheap and annoying, you’ll hate snakes even more than the Medusa Heads in Castlevania. Yes, these slithering serpents are THAT bad.
Better kill him before the spiked wall impales you!
If the spiked wall or the boss doesn’t kill you, the spikes on the far right might!
A fun little DID YOU KNOW fact: these guys were all extras for Michael Jackson’s epic music video BEAT IT.
Yet another auto scrolling section strikes. It’s definitely a “little” more violent than the minecart ride in Donkey Kong Country…
Between the variety of violent weapons you can use and the cheesy quotes that pop up, Iron Commando might be the closest thing on the SNES to Capcom’s 1993 brawler, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs. It’s a shame though that Iron Commando is nowhere as good and that Capcom never gave us a home port of that title.
You’ll not only have to worry about Mr. Roboto but regular enemies as well. Killing them will allow you to gain access to their weapons. But beware of the robot’s laser beams and giant frisky hands. This fight lasts forever on account of poor damage ratio. That’s a shame because it ruins the whole moment, which starts out really cool but whittles down your excitement as the fight drags on and on and on…
A SECOND LEASE ON LIFE
Iron Commando was released on February 10, 1995, in Japan in limited quantities. It is one of the harder to find Super Famicom games. Apparently, it was also leaked out in the European market. But in mid 2017, a company by the name of Piko Interactive re-released Arcade Zone’s brawler so that it might find a bigger audience.
Legend was Arcade Zone’s other SNES beat ‘em up, but that game saw an actual SNES release back in April of 1994. So why did Piko re-release a game that actually had an official North American release? Because of the Iron Commando tie-in, the re-release is also (naturally) much cheaper than what original copies of Legend run for today and why the hell not. I’m thankful I already own both games, though. If I didn’t, I might have gone the Piko route. Original copies fetch way too much these days.
It’s always nice to see anything SNES-related getting relaunched in some aspect. Even though I already own all the games I’ve ever wanted, it’s always nice to see my dear old friend in the headlines once again, even if it isn’t front page news.
On the surface, Iron Commando looks the part. If you see it in still shots you can’t help but think to yourself, “Man this game looks good!” It also makes one hopeful that it will play just like the glorious beat ‘em ups of yore. Unfortunately, Iron Commando only looks the part. It fails to play the part as well, which is infinitely more important than looking the part. The pros are obvious. The sprites are huge and look great. The overall look and aesthetic of the game pulls you in — it looks just like an arcade brawler from 1993 that you would play with your pals right after scarfing down some piping hot pepperoni pizza. It’s visually very distinctive and the weapon choice is undeniably badass. No other beat ‘em up on the SNES has as many tools of destruction. From Louisville Sluggers to sawed off shotguns, Iron Commando is drowning in an ocean of violent solutions.
But here comes the ever so dreaded BUT part. Even on Easy, the game is insanely (and unnecessarily) difficult. You suffer countless unavoidable hits as enemies surround and flank you. It makes it really difficult to get into any sort of enjoyable flow when bad guys are bouncing you around like a pinball. The damage distribution is another glaring issue. Doing a 3-hit combo barely ticks their health. What gives? This dragged the whole experience down for me as punches and throws seem to have minimal impact. Initially, I thought to myself, “Ah don’t worry. The weapons will surely even up the odds.”Wrong. Weapon damage ratio isn’t much better. This is both ludicrous and inexcusable. If, however, you can look past these warts, Iron Commando can be a decent good time in brief bursts. With unique graphics and a B-Movie feel, the 2 player mode at least offers some thrills and spills. Still, one can’t help but feel this game massively misses the mark. What should have been an awesome beat ‘em up for the ages and a brawler lionized by a legion of fans is instead reduced to being, at best, an infamous case of “it’s not too bad, BUT…”
Beat ‘em ups ruled the arcade scene in the early ’90s. Irem released Undercover Cops in 1992. They then went to work on a Super Nintendo version but that was sadly canned. However, Varie (you might remember that name from my previous review of the Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling trilogy) picked it up and released a Super Famicom only version in March of 1995. I was beyond thrilled to discover this fact upon my SNES resurrection in early 2006. I always wanted to play Undercover Cops on my SNES. Thanks to Varie, I now could. Unfortunately, the port falls a little flat with me. I couldn’t help but feel it was a little lacking. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind a bit by jumping 25 years into the future…
THE YEAR IS 2043
Council: “Everyone, the peace of our town is at its worst condition ever.”
Mayor: “I have a suggestion. Let the City Sweepers clean up the villains!”
Council: “Of course, Mayor. Violence begets violence! Let’s do it!”
Collectively, this fearsome unit is known as…
Individually, they’re known as, well, let’s go down the line.
Zan Takahara hails from Japan. He is the balanced fighter of the group.
Matt Gables is your good old American football player turned City Sweeper slash Undercover Cop. Notice his birthday — July 4, 2018 — as of this writing he’s almost about to be born. Surprise surprise, he’s the slowest but also the strongest of the trio.
Rosa Felmonde hasn’t even been conceived yet! Hailing from England, Rosa is the token quick but weak female fighter of the group.
SOAP? WHO NEEDS SOAP?!
The first thing I noticed about Undercover Cops is how dirty the game looks. I don’t mean that in a bad way; I actually like that it’s so gritty and grimy. It gives the game a rather grim and bleak atmosphere. So many SNES games are full of bright and bold colors. Not here and that’s a welcome change. I almost feel like I have to take a shower after playing this game.
Battle your way through rundown abandoned buildings, grimy festering docks and inauspicious underground tunnels to name but a few. Everything is in a deep state of decay. The enemies mostly consist of subhuman creatures. A wretched decrepit flock of sideshow freaks. You can bet they haven’t bathed in months (if not years). Even the good guys appear unpleasant and a bit dour.
Little details, as seen above, add to the fun of the game (it’s a shame then that the best stuff occurs early on). Crows fly off revealing in its wake two filthy bastards who soon rise like zombies. Send ‘em back to the hell hole they came from!
WANT FRIES WITH THAT?
To replenish your health, most beat ‘em ups have you consuming burgers, drinks and assorted meat. But not in Undercover Cops. So what does one eat? Mice, chicken, even snails! Gobble them up before they can scamper (or crawl) away. To make matters even more unsettling, the cops voice their pleasure whenever eating such delicacies. Zan gruffly shouts “GOOD!” and Matt screams “DELICIOUS!”Yum.
EVERYTHING BUT THE KITCHEN SINK
While other beat ‘em ups give you knives to fling or bats to swing, Undercover Cops on the other hand walks to its own beat. For example, nothing says PAIN quite like tossing flopping fish at the opposition.
But my favorite instrument of destruction is the random concrete pillar. You can either knock it over or unearth it with your bare hands (it’s quite amusing to watch the ongoing struggle that ensues).
Naturally, Matt is able to pluck it out faster than Zan or Rosa. Matt and Zan can use the pillar the same amount of times while it breaks fastest for Rosa. Poor Rosa. She’s got a serious case of Breath of the Wild…
It’s always lovely to see companies throwing in clever little easter eggs that show off past franchises. I always enjoy seeing stuff like that.
The concrete pillar just might be my favorite non-projectile based weapon to use in beat ‘em up history. It’s so satisfying to knock over the deformed cretins with it.
Here we come to the first boss, Parcs. He’s hiding a nasty secret beneath that weird looking exterior. Weaken him and soon he reveals his true form.
Bonus points for a highly creative first boss encounter. I love it when beat ‘em ups let you interact with the environment so seeing this for the first time had me jumping out of my chair. It’s too bad though that the rest of the boss fights are nowhere near as creative or fiendishly fun.
The beginning of Mission 2 is my favorite part in the whole game. Kick the barrel of flames or better yet, heave it at the enemies.
Upon impact the barrel will liberate a flurry of burning torches. It’s time to burn some bad guys alive! WICKED fun.
The scoundrels can toss the torches as well, and if you’re knocked down, one rapscallion in particular enjoys a hearty laugh at your expense.
The second boss, Fransowors, is where I personally believe the game began to lose me. It’s such an awkward character design and hell, even the name itself is weird. I didn’t like the aesthetics of this boss encounter at all. The background is dull and drab and Fransowors is one big annoying crybaby. It’s a major disappointment coming off the brilliance of the first boss fight with Parcs.
These underground diggers are deadly when traveling in packs. They like to do the spin cycle which automatically knocks you down. Unfortunately, because you aren’t granted temporary invulnerability after being knocked down, they can and will spam attack you until your life is gone. Only then can you beat them when you’re revived and then granted that precious second or two of invincibility. I hate when games make you lose a life and there’s nothing you can do about it. To me that’s plain lazy and poor game design and programming. My experience with Undercover Cops began to really sour at this point.
I dig the flashing tunnel. Reminds me of Elevator Action Returns…
These suckers greet you with a nasty little love tap if you’re caught in their path. They can’t be killed so just steer clear as they mindlessly march on by. Sometimes it gets really crowded and it feels impossible to come out unscathed. Luckily, any damage they inflict isn’t too much. Still rather annoying, however.
The end level guardian is a monster born from malpractice. And it wants you for dinner… not as a guest but the main course attraction! Sadly, this is where the game ends if you play it on Easy. Only on Normal or Hard can you go through all 5 missions. Below are some quick shots of missions 4 and 5 (note: these screenshots will depict the original arcade version).
Mission 4 = Motorcycle Madness. The SNES port allows you to assign a button to the run command. Turn this option on to make your life a lot easier.
Mission 5 is the longest and most tedious level in the game. You fight across a seemingly endless skyship where you battle a never-ending supply of cronies and a handful of Parcs (the boss from Mission 1).
Better stop Dr. Crayborn from launching the nuke before it’s too late. You’ll get a bad ending if you fail to do so.
Finally coming toward the end, you must battle zombie versions of the team!
Where’s Rick Grimes when you need him?
Doctor, I think there’s something wrong with you…
Your performance is tallied up at the end of each Mission. Depending on how much money you’ve earned, you’ll regain a certain amount of health (if applicable).
Obviously, there’s going to be a certain amount of sacrifices made when a company converts an arcade game into a much smaller SNES cartridge. Undercover Cops is no different. It was something you just accepted as a kid and in most cases, you were just happy to have a home port to mess around with.
LIFE AFTER CITY SWEEPING
Irem went on to make other similar post-apocalyptic arcade action games. These include:
A lot of the team who helped made Undercover Cops later formed the Nazca Corporation. They were responsible for a very famous Neo Geo game…
PARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW
Undercover Cops was actually set for a March 1994 release. Hell, it was even reviewed in the March 1994 issue of Nintendo Power Magazine (issue #58). Sadly, it was canned and never saw the light of day in North America. Varie picked up the publishing rights exactly one year later and released it in Japan only on March 3, 1995. The actual Super Famicom cartridge currently commands a minimum of $200 — yowzers!
Maybe the ugly Americanized art sealed its own fate. By God is that fugly! Should have gone with the Japanese style box art…
Looks like the US version was fully finished and ready to go, especially if you’re going off the fact that Nintendo Power reviewed it. Not sure why it was canned except maybe Irem didn’t have faith in it moving the needle as it was a port of an arcade game two years long in the tooth and one that wasn’t a household name in North America. Whatever the case may be, it’s always sad to see promising games cancelled. I’m glad Varie picked up its publishing rights in 1995 even if the port job is a bit disappointing on Irem’s part.
Remember Spike Lee’s movie Do The Right Thing from 1989? The character Radio Raheem sported a four-fingered ring on each hand, with LOVE on the right hand and HATE on the left, to symbolize the struggle between the two emotions. That perfectly describes how I feel about Undercover Cops. I have a love-hate relationship with this game. I love that it was released at all following the US cancellation. I dig how twisted it can be at times, from eating snails to even knocking the skull off of Mission 4’s boss post fight and scarfing it down like how Joey Chestnut eats his hot dogs! I love the post-apocalyptic atmosphere. However, some of the aesthetics could use a little more work. Not having a 2 player option in 1995 is inexcusable. It reeks of laziness. I can see why it’s 1 player only, though. Even in the 1 player mode there’s a bit of occasional slowdown. I can only imagine how much worse it would be in a 2 player mode. But other companies managed to make it work, relatively speaking, so Irem should have found a way as well. I also hate that the game loses a lot of its appeal and luster by around Mission 3. I find it more repetitive than other beat ‘em ups from that era.
Not having a 2 player mode is not a deal breaker though especially if the game itself is good enough on its own. Sadly, there’s something missing. It’s definitely not a bad beat ‘em up but I can easily think of 10 more competent SNES beat ‘em ups I would much rather play. Undercover Cops is one of those games that start out real promising but quickly lose steam less than halfway through. Others have raved about this SNES version but try as I might over the 12 years I’ve owned it, I just can’t give it a ringing endorsement.
On September 17, 2017, we lost one of the truly great ones. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. THE heel manager of the late 1980s and early 1990s, if you were a pro wrestling fan you loved to boo Bobby Heenan. He was a once in a lifetime performer. Always entertaining, Bobby knew how to make you laugh and hate him all at the same time. When he passed last September, I wanted to convert over my old review of the Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling games. That’s because in that review, I used Bobby Heenan to call the action. But life got busy and it never happened.
Earlier today it was announced that Big Van Vader passed away on June 18, 2018. Vader was featured in the first Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling game so it’s time. It’s Vader Time!
Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling is something of a sentimental purchase for me. The reason being it was the first Super Famicom game that I bought, and what started the “obscure” Super Famicom march for me. I remember it fondly. It was an early Monday morning, March 27, 2006. 4:22 AM. Yep, I was a vampire. I sniped Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling on eBay with 3 seconds to go. Crazy times. Anyway, this is the first of Varie’s Super Famicom wrestling trilogy. It features impressive big sprites of famous wrestlers like LIGER and VADER (10 in all).
The grapple system relies on timing similar to the Fire Pro series. I was hoping it would be as good as Fire Pro. Unfortunately I think Varie spent too much time on the graphics because while they look great, the frame rate is choppy to the point where it’s just not very fun to play. This game was a huge letdown for me. The graphics are awesome, sure, but it doesn’t play very well. It’s too bad because it had a lot of potential. In terms of visuals, it actually reminds me a bit of WWF WrestleFest. Just a shame it didn’t play better.
A bittersweet experience, then. My first Super Famicom purchase so I’ll always remember it. But as a game itself? Not all that great. Varie followed this up with a sequel. Let’s see if it’s any better.
The first game, Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling: Chou Senshi in Tokyo Dome, was released on September 14, 1993. The sequel, Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling ’94: Battlefield in Tokyo Dome, came out less than a year later (August 12, 1994). The sprites have been downsized and as a result the frame rate has been improved, making this sequel much more playable than its predecessor.
The roster doubled, going from 10 to a whopping 20 (including the Legion of Doom and yes, a very young pre-homicide Chris Benoit). Unfortunately, it still doesn’t quite come together.
Similar to the first game, it looks pretty good but something about the gameplay is a bit off, despite the improved frame rate. It’s a much better effort than the first one though, but it still doesn’t match the quality of a Fire Pro.
Varie would give it one last try. Might the third time be the charm?
Released on June 30, 1995, Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling ’95: Tokyo Dome Battle 7 is the third and final game in the Shin Nippon trilogy (not counting the female version Stardust Suplex). Did Varie finally get it right? Well, somewhat. It’s easily the best of the trilogy but it still pales in comparison to Fire Pro. Some roster changes were made, though 20 remains the count. Say goodbye to the Great Muta and hello to the Great Sasuke. The frame rate is the best of the trilogy and the graphics were not sacrificed either. Weapons are introduced. But what really makes this game is the new FATAL FOUR WAY BATTLE ROYAL mode. It’s good fun and slightly reminiscent of Capcom’s Saturday Night Slam Masters (although that one was a Texas Tornado Bedlam rather than a true Fatal Four Way Match).
At this time, I’ll hand the mic over to my two all-time favorite commentators: the late great Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. They’ll call the action that follows. Tonight we have a special treat for you. A blistering Fatal Four Way Battle Royal!
Introducing first… from PARTS UNKNOWN… he IS… THE MASKED MAULER… THE MONARCH OF THE MAT… THE MINISTER OF MENACE… THE GREAT SASUKE!!!
And introducing, from Michigan, Scott Steiner.
[The f*ck! -Scott Steiner]
And THEIR OPPONENTS… first he hails from THE COSMOS… he IS… the SUBMISSION SPECIALIST… the SADISTIC SAVAGE… the SANGUINARY SOLDIER… JUSHIN “THUNDER” LIGER!!!
And finally, he resides from Bay City, Michigan… Rick Steiner.
[HEY! What gives? -Rick Steiner]
Bobby: You know Monsoon, the Steiners are brothers. Gorilla: Give me a break! Bobby: I hate all four of these guys. I hope they all cripple each other. Gorilla: Will you stop! How do you sleep at night? Bobby: Oh, on my side, usually… Gorilla: You need professional help. Bobby: What?! Just answering your question! Sometimes I sleep on my stomach though… Gorilla: WHAT A PIECE OF WORK YOU ARE!
Gorilla: [ignoring the Brain] Ladies and gentlemen, history will be made here tonight. Capacity crowd, jam packed to the rafters, the electricity is so thick you can cut it with a knife.
Bobby: I have to give the edge here to Liger, much as I can’t stand his guts, Monsoon. He’s the quickest.
Gorilla: Rick Steiner might be at a distinct disadvantage here because he’s the most lethargic of the four.
Bobby: And he’s slow too!
Gorilla: WHAT A PEARL HARBOR JOB! Bobby: I told you Monsoon! Sasuke was my guy all along! Gorilla: Will you be serious? The guys with the white coat and the net are going to be looking for you. Bobby: I rather not see your family again.
Gorilla: The irresistible force meeting the immovable object. Bobby: So much for that theory.
Gorilla: Sasuke is really stretching out those lateral collateral ligaments in the knee. Bobby: IN ENGLISH PLEASE!
Gorilla: Ouch! That’s excedrin headache number 2,182. Makes me glad I retired. Bobby: [Mocking Gorilla] There’s one to the cervial dervial part of the neck! Gorilla: Oh will you stop!
Gorilla: Sasuke just pinned and eliminated Rick Steiner! We now have a triple threat match! It’s pandemonium! Bobby: I told you Monsoon, he was just too slow for this type of match. Gorilla: [Mockingly] And lethargic too, right? Bobby: Yeah, that too.
Gorilla: Good night nurse! Bobby: Not if she spent it with you! Gorilla: Grow up, Brain. Bobby: Hey Monsoon, you know why the Great Sasuke wears a mask? Gorilla: No, why? Bobby: Have you looked in the mirror lately? Gorilla: Will you please!
Gorilla: Sasuke has taken over the match! The arena is deafening! Bobby: Get that Benjamin ready for me, Monsoon! Gorilla: Will you stop! What kind of broadcast journalist are you? Bobby: The kind that takes cash only!
Tokyo Dome Battle 7 isn’t a shabby wrestling game, but it’s not as good as the Fire Pro or Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling titles. But to Varie’s credit, Tokyo Dome Battle 7 is the most refined of the trilogy. The added Battle Royal mode is chaotic and a good amount of fun. If you’re a diehard wrestling fan and you have to have one from this Varie trilogy, make it Tokyo Dome Battle 7. It pretty much renders the two previous entries useless unless you’re a collector or the type who enjoys seeing the ‘evolution’ of a series.
It’s pretty obvious why all these games stayed in Japan, although Natsume Championship Wrestling (a variation of the Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling games) did make its way to North America in the summer of 1994.
Pouring one out for all these guys and gals plus all the others we’ve lost in the past couple years since this great music video was released. Thanks for the memories, y’all.
Sandra no Daibouken, or Xandra no Daibōken: Valkyrie to no Deai to give it its more proper Japanese title, or Whirlo in Europe, goes by many names. Whatever you call it, it’s one tough son of a gun. Translated as Xandra’s Great Adventure: Encounter with the Valkyrie, this is a rock hard action platformer that will test the mettle of even the most skilled gamer. As such, it’s not for everyone. Patience and persistence is the order of the day here. Although it never came to North America, it was released also in Europe as Whirlo in 1992. Super Play Magazine was very high on it, ranking it #86 on their Top 100 SNES Games list. They rated it 85%. I’m a huge fan of Super Play as readers may remember, and I’ll let them take the reigns on this one. The following review comes courtesy of Super Play.
SUPER PLAY’S WHIRLO REVIEW
What initially looks like a rather poor Wonder Boy clone actually turns out to be a top-notch arcade adventure, enlivened by some very versatile controls. These take getting used to, but once learnt prove to be extremely rewarding — if a bit frustrating at times.
Pitchfork in hand, no one’s eating this blob of jelly.
Graphically, Sandra is a mixed affair, with both lovely and rather drab bits. The main sprite has consistent appeal though, and the way he can jump and land on top of baddies with his pitchfork is a joy — and a lot less disturbing than it sounds!
The gameplay is as patchy as the background graphics, however — at some points it’s simply great fun, while other bits are a real pain.
Throughout it all the generally melancholy tunes add tons to the game, even if they do get slightly repetitive. Indeed, the whole feel of the game is tear jerkingly sad — not just the music but also the general atmosphere and the plot (our hero has to collect various special herbs to help cure his dying son).
Passwords are given at regular points but it’ll still take you a fair while to find the herbs, due to the fiendishly designed levels. A real discovery, then, and a game that offers the player a lot more than it first appears. Things get better and more complicated as you progress (indeed, it’s fiendishly difficult in certain sections). You can almost feel the boy’s life draining away as you struggle with a particularly tricky section.
Occasionally, a bit of Japanese text crops up but don’t let that turn you off — understanding it all is not crucial to gameplay. This is likely to remain an obscure game in the UK, though we expect something of a cult following around it — great fun! -Jason Brookes
Verdict: A wonderfully versatile and highly unusual game that, as a slightly bizarre trip into Japanese eccentricity and mysticism, is hard to beat. Despite some infuriating sections, this is highly recommended, especially to hardcore gamers. One thing is for certain — no one will finish this in a hurry.
Usually I am in concurrence with Super Play when it comes to their game opinions (minus most beat ‘em ups as they were simply too harsh on that particular genre), but this is the rare case where I disagree a bit. Admittedly, Sandra no Daibouken is one of those games I still need to further explore but quite frankly, in the time I spent with it I found it simply not all that fun. My main issue is that the control could use some work, which I feel accounts partially for why it is so difficult. I don’t mind a tough fair challenge so long as the control is tight and fluid. I didn’t feel it was for Sandra no Daibouken.
On the bright side, there is a simplicity to the game that can be rather appealing. There are zero power-ups — everything you need to succeed you start the game off with. There’s also a wide variety of jumps you can perform. The game plot is intriguing as well; most SNES games didn’t have such a dark plot. I liked the idea of having to cure my dying son rather than the typical damsel in distress or save the world plot that has been beaten to death. Of course, storyline isn’t why I play platformers but in this case, it paints a somber mood for Sandra no Daibouken (in addition to the music and somewhat bleak visuals) that lend to a dreary atmosphere ideal to play on a late darkening afternoon.
There is a solid game here for sure, but I’m not sure I’d give it an 88% like Super Play did. That said, it’s definitely one of those games I’d like to replay more in-depth at some point. But for now I can’t personally vouch for this game in the way that Super Play did. As always, your mileage may vary so try it out for yourself (and leave a comment below if you’re so inclined). Tough old school 16-bit platformers your thing? Then Sandra no Daibouken might be right up your alley.