Iron Commando (SFC)

What could have been...
What could have been…

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?

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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 CITY

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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!

That's what I call a double play
That’s what I call a double play

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.

Don't text and drive, kids...
Don’t text and drive, kids…

This has to be a first in beat ‘em up history: the first boss being a truck.

THE ROAD

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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.

That'll teach them
That’ll teach them
Or maybe not
Or maybe not
I love the classic red flashing
I love the classic red flashing
Takes me back to my NES days
Takes me back to my NES days
It reminds me of Cadillacs and DInosaurs
It reminds me of Cadillacs and Dinosaurs

THE FOREST

Rejects from Sunset Riders
Rejects from SUNSET RIDERS
Love this game!
Love this game!

THE WAREHOUSE

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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.

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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.

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Didn’t Big Tom’s mom teach him not to play with knives in the dark? Tsk tsk.

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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… :P

THE TEMPLE

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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.

Snakes on a pl -- ground
Snakes on a pl — ground

Unmercifully cheap and annoying, you’ll hate snakes even more than the Medusa Heads in Castlevania. Yes, these slithering serpents are THAT bad.

Yes, those spikes are moving...
Yes, those spikes are moving…

Better kill him before the spiked wall impales you!

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If the spiked wall or the boss doesn’t kill you, the spikes on the far right might!

THE BEACH

Bring your sunscreen and knife
Bring your sandals and knife

A fun little DID YOU KNOW fact: these guys were all extras for Michael Jackson’s epic music video BEAT IT.

Beat it, beat it! No one wants to be defeated!
Beat it, beat it! No one wants to be defeated!

THE MINE

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Yet another auto scrolling section strikes. It’s definitely a “little” more violent than the minecart ride in Donkey Kong Country

THE CAMP

Animal lovers, look away
Animal lovers, look away
Kinda reminds me of Cadillacs and Dinosaurs
Kinda reminds me of Cadillacs and Dinosaurs

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.

His name is even Jack too!
His name is even Jack, too!
Some of the enemies even look alike
Some of the enemies even look alike…

THE JEEP

Like sitting, er, standing ducks
Like sitting, er, standing ducks

THE ROBOT

Quite a dramatic entrance
Quite a dramatic entrance
Eat your heart out, Konami
Eat your heart out, Konami

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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

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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.

It actually came packed with Legend
Piko also re-released Legend

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.

Pretty cool packaging to boot
Pretty cool packaging to boot

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.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"Man, meet ups getting shady..."
“Man, meet ups getting shady…”

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.

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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…”

Iron Commando no relation to Captain Commando
Iron Commando no relation to Captain Commando

Undercover Cops (SFC)

Such wasted potential...
Such wasted potential…

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

Arcade version
Arcade version
Super Famicom port
Super Famicom port

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!”

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Arcade version
Arcade version
Super Famicom port
Super Famicom port

Collectively, this fearsome unit is known as…

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Individually, they’re known as, well, let’s go down the line.

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Zan Takahara hails from Japan. He is the balanced fighter of the group.

Zan's special move
Zan’s special move
Zan's super special move
Zan’s super special move
I like how it goes all pixelated
I like how it goes all pixelated

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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.

Matt's special move
Matt’s special move
Sweet
Sweet
Matt's super special move
Matt’s super special move

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Rosa Felmonde hasn’t even been conceived yet! Hailing from England, Rosa is the token quick but weak female fighter of the group.

Rosa's special move
Rosa’s special move
Rosa's super special move
Rosa’s super special move

SOAP? WHO NEEDS SOAP?!

"MY BOX -- MINE!!"
“MY BOX — MINE!!”

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.

Keep your eyes on those crows
Keep your eyes on those crows

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.

Under the crows -- surprise!
Under the crows — surprise!

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?

Hey, it's high in protein y'know
Hey, it’s high in protein y’know

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

Whatever works, right?
Whatever works, right?

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.

The struggle is real
The struggle is real

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).

Love the R-Type cameo there!
Love the R-Type cameo there!

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

Dobkeratops from R-Type III
Dobkeratops from R-Type III

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.

Good rotation and form, Matt
Good rotation and form, Matt

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.

Metal beams are fun, too
Metal beams are fun, too

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.

Timed right...
Timed right…
... you can crush his ass!
… you can crush his ass!

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.

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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.

Don't let that snail get away!
Don’t let that snail get away!

Upon impact the barrel will liberate a flurry of burning torches. It’s time to burn some bad guys alive! WICKED fun.

Love the enemy taunts
Enemy taunts are on fire… ;)

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.

Whoa BABY!
Whoa BABY is right

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.

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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.

Arcade version gets a lot crazier!
Arcade version gets a lot crazier!
Mines pop up and explode
Mines pop up and explode

I dig the flashing tunnel. Reminds me of Elevator Action Returns

EARshot

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Finally coming toward the end, you must battle zombie versions of the team!

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Where’s Rick Grimes when you need him?

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Doctor, I think there’s something wrong with you…

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Crayborn is taken away
Crayborn is escorted to prison
Spend the rest of your life in the slammer
Where he’ll rot away the rest of his days
The End, right? Not quite...
The end, right? Not quite…
In a fabulous twist...
In a fabulous twist…
DUN DUN DUN!
DUN DUN DUN!

ASSESSMENT DAY

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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).

DEJA VU

Matt reminds me of...
Matt reminds me of…
Johnny Maximum!
Johnny Maximum!
Or I should say vice versa
Or I should say vice versa
J. Max appeared in World Heroes 2
World Heroes 2 was silly fun

ARCADE COMPARISON

SNES
SNES
Arcade
Arcade

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:

In The Hunt (April 1993)
In The Hunt (April 1993)
Gun Force II (1994)
Gun Force 2 (1994)

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…

Metal Slug (May 1996)
Metal Slug (May 1996)

PARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW

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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!

Not meant to be (1993 is a typo there, should say 1994)
Not meant to be (1993 is a typo; it should say 1994)
There was even an ad published for it!
There was even an ad published for it!

Maybe the ugly Americanized art sealed its own fate. By God is that fugly! Should have gone with the Japanese style box art…

Now that's what I'm talking about
Now that’s what I’m talking about

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.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

RaheemDTRT

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.

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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.

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Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling Trilogy (SFC)

BobHee2

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.

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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!

The best wrestling manager that ever lived
The best wrestling manager that ever lived
One of the best big men ever. R.I.P. Vader and Bobby
One of the best big men ever. R.I.P. Vader and Bobby

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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).

That's gonna hurt
That’s gonna hurt

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.

What goes up...
What goes up…
... must come down
… must come down

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.

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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.

Double the wrestlers!
Double the wrestlers!

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.

"OHHHH WHAT A RUSHHHH!"
“OHHHH WHAT A RUSHHHH!”

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.

Better but not quite there yet
Better but not quite there yet

Varie would give it one last try. Might the third time be the charm?

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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).

All time legends. Sadly, Vince is the only one still alive
All time legends. Vince is the only one still alive :(

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!

*Music plays*
*Music plays*

Introducing first… from PARTS UNKNOWN… he ISTHE MASKED MAULERTHE MONARCH OF THE MATTHE MINISTER OF MENACETHE GREAT SASUKE!!!

And introducing, from Michigan, Scott Steiner.

[The f*ck! -Scott Steiner]

Damn that was cold -Rick Steiner
Damn that was cold -Rick Steiner

And THEIR OPPONENTS… first he hails from THE COSMOS… he IS… the SUBMISSION SPECIALIST… the SADISTIC SAVAGE… the SANGUINARY SOLDIERJUSHIN “THUNDER” LIGER!!!

And finally, he resides from Bay City, Michigan… Rick Steiner.

[HEY! What gives? -Rick Steiner]

GorillHeenan

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!

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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!

*Bell rings*
*Bell rings*

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.

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Gorilla: The irresistible force meeting the immovable object.
Bobby: So much for that theory.

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Gorilla: Sasuke is really stretching out those lateral collateral ligaments in the knee.
Bobby: IN ENGLISH PLEASE!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

 CLOSING THOUGHTS

ShinNipEx2

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.

My Shin Nippon and Zen Nippon Wrestling collection
My Shin Nippon and Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling collection

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 (SFC)

Suddenly I want a jelly bean
Suddenly I want a jelly bean

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.

The box art for the rare PAL European version
The box art for the rare PAL European version
What a North American version might look like
What a North American version might look like
Nice poster!
Nice poster! Great job there, Greg Martin

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.

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Pitchfork in hand, no one’s eating this blob of jelly.

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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!

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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

Graphics: 84%
Sound: 89%
Gameplay: 82%
Gamelife: 91%

Overall: 88%

Xandra

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.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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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.

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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.

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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.

Super Mad Champ (SFC)

"Oops... MY BAD!" [Who are you, Draymond Green?! -Ed.]
“Oops, MY BAD!”  [Who are you, Draymond Green?! -Ed.]
Super Mad Champ is a motorcycle racing game with a dash of Road Rash, and then some. It’s a rather obscure game that I managed to acquire back in 2006 (the year I bought and originally wrote about many of these obscure Super Famicom imports). It’s not anything special but it does have a few features that are memorable and make it fun to dabble with here and there.

THE MAD CHAMPS

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You get to pick from one of five thrill seekers. They’re a typical bunch but sometimes I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • 1. Good looking hero
  • 2. Token female
  • 3. The “cool” rebel
  • 4. The “tough” guy
  • 5. The punk

You earn more money with each race won as well as the number of opponents you knock off their bikes. You can use the money to buy a new bike (of which there are 12). You can tune them up as well. But don’t be fooled that this is some sort of sim-heavy racer. It’s an arcade-like racer through and through.

GAME MODES

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Two modes exist.

  • 1. Grand Prix (3 cups with a password system)
  • 2. Time Attack

Total of 18 tracks. Unfortunately, it is one player only.

TRICKS AND TRAPS

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Press down to pop a wheelie. Try popping one right as you land after a big jump. If not, you’ll lose some momentum after landing. Every precious nanosecond counts!

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During take offs, the computer is smart to always pops a wheelie as to not lose momentum upon landing.

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Sometimes there’s a dip in the road. Other times a platform lays in the way. React accordingly to these obstacles and hazards.

DASH OF ROAD RASH

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Fend off the competition with a well placed kick. Press the left shoulder button to kick to the left side, and the right shoulder button to extend the right leg. Two hits will do the trick.

SCROLL PLAYING GAMES

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Scrolling is often what makes or breaks a game of this nature. In this case, I feared the worst coming from a smaller company, Givro (who developed the terrible Sega Genesis brawler Fighting Masters and most notably E.V.O.: The Search for Eden). I was therefore pleasantly surprised by how well Super Mad Champ scrolls. The lack of slowdown is a major plus as well. Not a bad job where many others have failed. The little details are pretty cool too, like the blades of grass that kick up when you powerslide on them.

TRACK VARIETY

No leg kick here, just a chain!
No leg kick here, just a chain!

Track variety is another important component of what makes a quality racing game, and Super Mad Champ has their bases fairly covered. There’s a decent amount of variety as you can see.

Lots of dips on this course
Lots of dips on this course
Things get slippery here
Things get slippery here
"Is this Iowa?"
“Is this Heaven?”
"No, it's Iowa."
“No, it’s Iowa.”
AIRSTRIKE!
AIRSTRIKE!

SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST

Up to this point you might be thinking “OK, it’s got some Road Rash I’ll grant you that. But I don’t see anything worth writing home about.” And my response… well, let me just show you some key pictures…

SuMaCh14

Yeah, so? Happens all the time
Yeah, so? Happens all the time
I thought that at first too...
I thought that at first too…
WAIT, WHAT THE HELL!?
WAIT, WHAT THE HELL!?

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Whenever you get off your bike, whether by choice or force, this guy appears ready to fight. Both players have an energy bar and can block. It’s no Street Fighter II of course but it’s a fun novelty. You can only punch and jump kick, but this basic style works for this sort of game. Wait, actually, there is one more move you can do…

"Quit running and fight, ya bum!"
“Get back and fight, ya bum!”
"Damn me and my big mouth"
“Damn my big mouth…”
Gotta love the absurdity
Gotta love the absurdity
"Nice ride. Think I'll take it!"
“Nice ride. Think I’ll take it!”
"Let's do lunch some time!"
“Let’s do lunch some time!”

Yup, you can even steal the opposition’s motorcycle. Brilliant.

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Few things are better than throwing bikes around. Just keep in mind that they too have an energy bar. The lower a motorcycle’s energy, the less velocity it can travel at. And should its health ever reach zero, well, KABOOM!

FIGHT CLUB

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Looking for an easy way to upgrade your ride? Here’s my simple hijacking guide. Step 1: Come to a full stop, get off and wait.

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Step 2: Give the next rider a good fist sandwich and then say hello to your new ride. Bada bing, bada boom.

ROAD KILL

Ran over while standing...
Ran over while standing…
... or laying OUCH!
… or laying. OUCH!
Talk about having a bad day
Talk about having a bad day
Ruin someone's day...
Ruin someone’s day…

Timed right, you can even knock off passing riders.

STREET FIGHTER II ROOTS

Hmmm
“HADOKEN!!”
Somewhere right now...
Somewhere right now…
... Guile's rolling in his grave!
… Guile’s rolling in his grave!

No fancy Hadoken motions here. Those moves above merely cap off punch combos (rapidly pressing Y). When you’re off your bike you have two options: fight or flight. You have to weigh your pros and cons. Fight too long and you’ll never get back in the race. If you don’t finish #1 or #2 (out of 5) you have to repeat the course. So it’s advisable to fight temptation. But should you engage in the occasional scuffle, make it quick and go. But if you just want to fool around? It’s fun to finish ‘em off.

KUNIO-KUN!

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The only other piece of info on the web I could find on this game (back in late 2006) states the following:

For those who are fans of the Kunio-kun series like I am, might be aware that at some point Technos planned on releasing Kunio Bike Racing game using the same engine from Kunio-tachi no Banka. What few people may know however, was that Kunio-tachi no Banka was actually developed by outside company called Almanic. Almanic was comprised of former Technos staff members, including Kunio-kun and Double Dragon director and producer, Yoshihisa Kishimoto. Almanic did a bunch of other stuff, but their best known work was Wonder Project J and its N64 sequel.

KunioBan4

Anyway, Almanic was contracted by Technos to do Kunio-tachi no Banka (the true sequel to the very first Kunio-kun game), in addition to the bike racing game. While Technos ditched the bike racing, Almanic decided to released it anyway through another company and thus, it became Super Mad Champ (without Kunio’s presence in the game).

KunioBan

Mad Champ, as mentioned earlier, was developed on the Kunio-tachi no Banka-engine, meaning that both games, share a similar look. As a matter of fact, you can even get off your bike and fight against a rival biker (and steal his bike while you’re at it). The rest of the game plays like a typical bike racing simulator, in which you race in three different types of grand prix and customize your bike (and buy a new one when you can). It’s quite a fun little game.

Super Mad Champ
Super Mad Champ
Kunio-tachi no Banka
Kunio-tachi no Banka

Credit “Johnny Undaunted” (3/26/04)

CLOSING THOUGHTS

SuMaChCT

Super Mad Champ (gotta love its campy title) was one of those obscure oddities I couldn’t wait to play back in 2006. I wondered if it was obscure because it was so bad or if maybe it was some sort of hidden gem. Turns out it’s neither but somewhere in the middle. The racing, being the meat of the game, is solid enough and the extracurricular activities make it that much more fun and memorable. It’s not going to light your world on fire but when you’re in the mood for an arcade-like racer on your SNES with a little silliness and black humor thrown in the mix, Super Mad Champ gets the job done. All in all, a fun little quirky racing game it is.

SuMaChCT2

Jungle no Ouja Tarzan (SFC)

There's weird and then there's Jungle no Ouja Tarzan
There’s weird and then there’s Jungle no Ouja Tarzan

I’ve played a lot of obscure Super Famicom games over the past 12 years. Some of them have been, shall we say, a tad queer. One of the weirdest games I’ve ever played is Jungle no Ouja Tarzan. Oh man. What can I say about this one. There are games we play and forget. And then there are games so bizarre that they stick in your crawl. They may not necessarily be great, but you remember them for their staunch peculiarity. While Jungle no Ouja Tarzan is a platformer (something the SNES has way too much of), it’s memorable if nothing else. Why? Let’s take a closer look…

Like so many Super Famicom games from the early-mid ’90s, Jungle no Ouja Tarzan is based off a Japanese anime. Watch that intro to set the mood. Things are about to go from weird to weirder…

Ah, it's a good day for a run
Ah, it’s a good day for a run
And some branch hopping
And some branch hopping
What else did you expect?
What else did you expect?
"EAT MY SMELLY JUNGLE FOOT!"
“EAT MY SMELLY JUNGLE FOOT!”

Peace and tranquility doesn’t last for long however; it wouldn’t be much of a game if it did, eh? Pretty soon you come across rifle-toting poachers, and it’s your job to save your animal friends.

Unleash your inner Simba
Channel your inner Simba

Angry that his jungle has been invaded, Tarzan unleashes all his might. This offensive technique is his most potent.

JunTar6

Catch some air with the aid of your primate pals.

JunTar7

Punch the rock and it’ll slide over, taking out Mr. Poacher Foot Soldier.

Amusing animations abound
Amusing animations abound
See? [Si -Ed.]
See?  [Si -Ed.]
"What, a 2 for 1 sale at Macys!"
“What, a 2 for 1 sale at Macys?!”

Tarzan is no rocket scientist but even he knows that a herd of animals running in the opposite direction is a bad sign. Whatever’s chasing them off has to be a serious threat. So what does he do? Why, strike a silly pose of course!

So that's why they ran off...
So that’s why they ran off…
It's completely bonkers
It’s completely bonkers
"99... 100!"
“99… 100!”

Next up Tarzan finds himself in China. Why? Because. He’s good at hanging on ledges, the chap.

JunTar14

Certain blocks are breakable but beware of the occasional spike pit lurking below. Press either shoulder button to scroll the screen up or down in order to spot potential hazards. It’s always nice when a platformer affords you such a luxury.

"HADOKEN!"
“HADOKEN!”

The trick is to stand still — the fireball goes past you harmlessly if you do. Why this is, who in the heck knows. So walk a little bit, pause and repeat until you get yourself in striking distance.

So much for homeland security
So much for homeland security

JunTar17

These cramped areas cause extra grief for Tarzan as it eliminates his jump kick but no matter. You just have to exercise a bit more caution.

Certain parts unbreakable...
Certain parts are unbreakable…
Unless you count your foot!
Unless you count your foot!
"TIGER UPPERCUT!"
“TIGER UPPERCUT!”

This attack can be aimed downward, straight ahead or vertically.

JunTar21

Brrrr! To keep warm, do the Running Man. Duh.

JunTar22

You gotta love how a rope is conveniently placed there. Don’t the bad guys check these levels first? Then again, it’s no worse than leaving meat in a barrel I suppose. Yup, you can take the boy out of the jungle but you can’t take the jungle out of the boy.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

JunTarCT

Jungle no Ouja Tarzan is just your standard semi-competent but not excellent platformer. Its main appeal is the protagonist and the strange lands he finds himself in. So while it may play like a glut of many other SNES platformers I could name, at least it’s one that leaves a lasting impression. Later in the game you’ll find yourself in places such as Las Vegas and even a haunted castle. While it’s enjoyable to some degree and has a bit of wacky charm to it, what hampers it is Tarzan’s mobility, or lack thereof. He’s not, shall we say, the fleetest of foot. Navigating him can be a little annoying at times thanks to the slight hitch in his get-along. His jumping ability is pretty lacking as well.

JunTarCT2

Other than that, it’s about a 5.5 to 6.5 out of 10 game, depending on your level of tolerance for these less-than-stellar me-too platformers. It’s decent and made more interesting thanks to Tarzan. It’s definitely a notch or two below Go Go Ackman and Ghost Sweeper Mikami. And those games, mind, are several notches below DoReMi Fantasy (which I view as Super Famicom’s best platformer).

JunTarCT3

Still, Jungle no Ouja Tarzan is worth a look especially for the diehard SNES fan who enjoys his or her platformers. It’s something of a guilty pleasure, for sure.

Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban Trilogy (SFC)

Culture Brain's at it again
Culture Brain’s at it again

You might recall a somewhat obscure company (especially when compared to bigger names like Capcom and Konami) by the name of Culture Brain back in the day. They had a knack for making “quirky” games with features that were a little outside the box (to say the very least). You might remember them for the little quirky SNES game Super Baseball Simulator 1.000. Its Japanese title is Super Ultra Baseball and it was released in Japan on July 12, 1991. It graced North American shores in time for Christmas 1991 and earned itself a semi-cult following with many SNES players harboring fond memories of those early days. Well, did you know that Culture Brain released ANOTHER Super Nintendo baseball franchise but exclusively in Japan? This trilogy was known as Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban. They share a lot in common with the Super Ultra Baseball series and I find it oddly fascinating that one little company had essentially two similar but different baseball franchises running simultaneously on the same system. It’s about as quirky as Culture Brain itself was!

SUPER BASEBALL SIMULATOR 1.000 2?

SBS4bUBJ

 

 

 

 

 

Released on August 28, 1992, Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban feels more like the true sequel to Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 than Super Ultra Baseball 2 does, on account of the gap being one year as opposed to three. One thing that caught my eye right away was the ability to play in the early evening time which the original game did not present. I’m a sucker for night time in my video games, and that definitely (if not especially) includes baseball.

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Sunny days are meant for baseball. But there’s also something beautiful about baseball in the early evening, and this game captures that.

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Similarities between the two are inherently apparent. I dig the improved visuals of Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban. There’s something real clean and classy about it especially when compared side by side to the original as seen here.

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Surely you can guess which game is which. What a difference one year makes.

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Cosmetics aside, Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban also improved on its fielding. Players control a hair smoother.

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Nothing compares to a close dramatic play at home plate!

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WHAT THE — ! Culture Brain trying to infiltrate my brain…

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Celebrate your big shot by shouting WAO! Who doesn’t?

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There’s something truly majestic about smashing the ball deep into the night. You can almost smell the fresh cut grass and hot dogs. If you look closely you can even see the ball heading for those fancy lights there.

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Admiring your handy work is all part of the fun.

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Worry not, the Ultra Plays are back.

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They’re what made the original game so popular and memorable. And just like the first game, when you activate an Ultra Play you and any base runners will flash as well. Good stuff.

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That’s definitely going to leave a mark.

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Missile Hit returns in all its glory.

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That’s not the Flash. But you sure feel like him!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

UBJ-CT

Jitsumeiban in case you were wondering means “Real Player Version.” Culture Brain acquired the rights to use professional Japanese ball players in this trilogy, and this accounts for the major difference between this series and the Super Ultra Baseball one. Obviously there’s some Japanese text to wade through but it’s very manageable and just a really well made baseball game overall. I probably prefer Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 on account of English and nostalgia, but it’s definitely not a bad pick up if you’re so inclined.

ULTRA BASEBALL JITSUMEIBAN 2

The hi-jinx continues
The hi-jinx continues in some very charming ways

Funny story right off the bat [HAR HAR -Ed.], I bought this game back in 2006 and for a number of years was convinced it was the direct sequel to Super Baseball Simulator 1.000. After all, it was a Culture Brain baseball game with the number 2 attached at the end of it. How many bloody different baseball franchises on the same system can one company make? Well, apparently two. It came to my attention in 2008 or so that the direct sequel was Super Ultra Baseball 2. And that this game here, in fact, was Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban 2. Yes, Culture Brain’s other baseball franchise on the Super Famicom. Confused yet? Don’t worry if you are, I sure as hell was nearly a decade ago. Who knew Culture Brain were such whores for baseball? :P They truly were the Capcom of this particular genre. So how does Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban 2 separate itself from the crowded pack?

… IN SMALL AND BIG WAYS APPARENTLY

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WHOA! Right away you notice there are two vastly different presentational styles. The default is a cute Chibi, almost Super Deformed style. But there’s also an option to switch to more traditional, typical 16-bit looking baseball sprites.

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Honey, I Think I Shrunk The Ball Players! Call me a sucker for the small stuff but I love this! I personally prefer the Chibi style as it gives the game an even quirkier atmosphere not to mention it plays better in this mode.

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Super Deformed mode allows you to see much of the field on defense. The other mode, however, doesn’t. It makes a huge difference when you lose that MUCH real estate! Playing defense takes a huge hit because you see less.

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While it’s cool that Culture Brain threw in this mode, it honestly feels more like a throwaway than a well thought out process. Look at the fielding. You can’t see much and it really hinders play. Shame they didn’t adjust the scope because then it would truly feel like two games in one. Still, being an option, it’s hard to complain much about this. Just stick to the Chibi mode and you’ll be fine.

SUB2-5bSUB2-11

 

 

 

 

 

These two shots above are from Super Ultra Baseball 2 (July 28, 1994). Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban 2 only came out less than five months later on December 22, 1994. It’s easy to see Culture Brain just slapped on the sprites from Super Ultra Baseball 2 as a bonus. But look at the much more reasonable fielding in that game. Why they didn’t convert that over as well is much to the detriment of this additional mode. So it’s a nice novelty but not one with any real staying power.

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Nevertheless, I still admire that it’s even there to begin with. It kind of feels like this game Culture Brain wanted to sort of melt their two franchises together: the Super Ultra Baseball series with Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban. While not a home run, I admire the swinging attempt, anyhow. Besides, the Ultra Plays will forever connect the two series and it’s always a welcomed sight.

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Charming, isn’t it? It’s a lot of fun to play, too.

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Baseball pitchers or Street Fighters? It’s hard to tell at times. But it’s absolutely brilliant all the same.

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There’s even sort of a quasi-EarthBound style to its visuals…

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Speaking of the Bomb special (as seen above next to EarthBound), it always cracks me up to see the ball exploding in the bleachers. Hope those fans are OK!

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ProTip: Avoid meteors whenever possible.

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Taking out multiple defenders with the Missile Hit? Priceless.

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Nervous, are we? Oh, I see why. Hey, this is baseball. Not ballet!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

UBJ2-CTP

There’s something about Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban 2 that I can’t help but love. I admire Culture Brain’s attempt to blend the two franchises together. Of the trilogy, this is the closest example to such a feat. While it isn’t perfect, you have to admire the attempt. If only they nailed it then this could have been Culture Brain’s definitive baseball game. Still, I love the default Chibi mode. It plays well and it’s the closest thing we’ll probably ever get to EarthBound Plays Baseball. If that sounds like a good thing to you then give Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban 2 a swing.

ULTRA BASEBALL JITSUMEIBAN 3

The last of the trilogy
Ends it with a bang or a whimper?

Arriving mere days before Halloween 1995 (October 27), Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban 3 is what you’d get if you took the previous two Jitsumeiban games and mixed them in a visual blender. It’s not quite Super Deformed as the second game but it’s not as serious looking as the first one. It’s almost as if Culture Brain settled on a balance of the two. I appreciate their efforts in making each game in this trilogy look different. At least you can’t say they just put out the same game every year like you can with some other companies, ahem…

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And look, they did it again! You get two different styles of play. The left is the default. Thankfully, the optional mode plays a little better than the previous game’s optional mode, but it’s still not the best and I recommend sticking to the default style for optimal gameplay. But more on that in a bit.

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Exclamation speech bubbles are a nice new touch. Other added details include batters taking practice swings and digging their cleats deep into the dirt. Unfortunately, while you would think added details are a good thing, perhaps not always. Extra animation leads to games taking a wee bit longer to complete. We’re not talking significantly longer, but long enough to be noticeable. It still plays extremely well but you’ll need a little more patience with this one.

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Whereas the alternative visual mode in the previous game was appealing, I have to say not so much on this one. It feels extremely generic in this visual style. Stick to the default.

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Besides, the default style plays a lot better since it gives you a better scope of real estate on defense. The alternative mode still suffers from being too closely zoomed in as it did in the previous game. It’s a little better but still not ideal.

PRO YAKYUU STAR

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Culture Brain’s true swan song on the SNES though came with 1997’s Pro Yakyuu Star. It was a standalone title that took a bulk of the graphics engine from Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban 3 but it improved vastly on gameplay. Fielding and catching the ball never felt so smooth. Unfortunately, the trade-off is there are no Ultra Plays anywhere to be found. Still, as far as straight-laced baseball games on the SNES go, Pro Yakyuu Star is easily one of the better ones.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban 3 is yet another solid addition to Culture Brain’s long running series of baseball games. Don’t worry, the Ultra Plays are in this game as well. However, Pro Yakyuu Star plays a lot better so my problem with this game is whenever I play it I often feel like I’m playing a lesser version of Pro Yakyuu Star, due to the similarities in graphics. As mentioned earlier, it also takes a little longer finishing one game here than it does in previous ones, due to the added animation. If I had to rank the three Jitsumeiban games I would go 2, 1, 3.

Ranking Culture Brain’s six SNES baseball games:

1. Super Baseball Simulator 1.000
2. Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban 2
3. Pro Yakyuu Star
4. Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban
5. Super Ultra Baseball 2
6. Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban 3

Because I’m a nut for baseball, I own all six of these games. They’re all very good but you probably don’t need to play all six (unless you’re crazy like me). If you can only play a few, I recommend checking out the top three in my list above. Pro Yakyuu Star, being the last one released, honestly probably plays the best of them all but because it lacks Ultra Plays I have a soft spot for the earlier games and tend to prefer playing them instead. Enough yapping — there’s only one thing left to do…

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Super Ultra Baseball 2 (SFC)

It's Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 2!
Culture Brain strikes again!

Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 has something of a semi-cult following. An early first generation SNES game, it thrilled players with its engrossing customization and ridiculously fun Ultra Plays. These plays, when activated, give you certain special powers. For example, baseballs turn into floating leaves or scorching meteors. Culture Brain wasn’t shy to think (way) outside the box and they brought a certain level of fun to the genre like no one had done before. It’s a shame, then, that the sequel never saw the light of day here in North America. Released on July 28, 1994, Super Ultra Baseball 2 takes everything you loved about Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 and ups the ante.

BIGGER AND BEEFIER

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Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 looks a bit crude in places. I mean, there’s still a certain level of charm to the rudimentary graphics but no one will ever say that it’s pleasing to the eye. Super Ultra Baseball 2, on the other hand, legitimately looks like a port of an arcade baseball title! Also, new little details like the sweat beads bouncing off a nervous batter’s forehead brings a whole new sense of life to the game. Of course graphics aren’t the be-all, end-all of a video game, but it’s nice when they’re nice! Keep in mind though — the first game was released in Japan on July 12, 1991, so the sequel that came out three years later is bound to look that much better.

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Lovely little intro opens us up. You still get 18 teams to pick from, just like in the first game. And just like the first one, there are six Ultra League teams capable of utilizing the Ultra Plays.

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Select from six stadiums and then if applicable, choose how many Ultra Play points you wish to have. You can go as low as 50 or as high as infinite.

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Presentation is on point. Love the way it looks, especially when you have runners at the corners. One of the best looking SNES baseball games around!

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Those wacky and nutty Ultra Plays are back and better looking than ever.

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Tinkering with all the Ultra Plays is half the fun!

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Brings new meaning to “He’s got ELECTRIC stuff.”

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Pitchers had their fun — now it’s time for the batters. The fan favorite Missile Hit is back and still functions the same. Get the hell outta its way!

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Another fan favorite, the Bomb returns to terrorize defenders.

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Fielding and running feels a bit smoother than the original.

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Baseball players often describe being “in the zone” as seeing the ball like it’s the size of a beach ball. This must be what they’re talking about…

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Seriously, does it get any cooler than this?

BUT IS IT BETTER?

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Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 or Super Ultra Baseball 2? It really is a tough call. To answer the question of is it better… my answer would have to be yes and no. Graphically, it’s not even close (no surprise there). The fielding is a bit smoother and I’d say SUB 2 plays a bit better than its predecessor.

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However, Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 has it beat in two categories: stadium “life” and music. SUB 2 isn’t bad sounding or anything but the renditions were better in the original. Listen to the two and there’s really no comparison. By stadium “life” I mean just look at the first picture here. The first game had some quirky ballparks that added to the charm of the game, such as the field with a tiny white fence that makes hitting home runs a lot easier. Although there are still six stadiums in SUB 2, they all sort of feel the same and there are no interesting quirks with any of them, really. It feels slightly “soulless” if you get my drift. I also even miss the way the first game would zoom in after a home run.

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Summary: the first game wins in music and stadium variety. The sequel wins in graphics and gameplay. If only Culture Brain could have combined the two games it would have been the perfect baseball game.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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You can’t go wrong with either game. If you love Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 then you’ll like this as well. It’s hard to pick but if I were forced to, as of right now I would give the slight edge to the first game. Regardless, Super Ultra Baseball 2 is a damn fine sequel that’s sure to make any fan of the first game proud. The wacky Ultra Plays make this an appealing title that even non-baseball fans can enjoy.

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Each game in this series brings different pros and cons to the table. Both complement each other well and it’s nice to own both with the choice to play whichever one you’re in the mood for. Super Ultra Baseball 2 has more of that modern flair with all the Ultra Plays you love from the original. But Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 has that classic nostalgic early first generation SNES charm to it. Both games are fun as hell and sure to entertain baseball gamers for many more summers to come. Not to mention those cold December nights where real life baseball is well into its offseason. So grab your mitt, er, SNES controller, and play ball!

"I'm too old for this SH*T!"
“I’m too old for this SHIT!”

PS- Can’t get enough of these wacky Culture Brain baseball titles? Then be sure to check out Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban Trilogy and Pro Yakyuu Star.

The Amazing Spider-Man: Lethal Foes (SFC)

A Spider-Man game exclusive to the Super Famicom
A Spider-Man game exclusive to the Super Famicom

Today marks the official release of the highly touted superhero film, Spider-Man: Homecoming. It’s only fitting to review one of his many SNES games. But which one? Well, I’m going to go with an obscure Super Famicom only title that not too many are aware of. Most of us retro gamers know that there were five Spider-Man games released on the Super Nintendo. Few know about the Japanese exclusive The Amazing Spider-Man: Lethal Foes. Before we take a closer look let’s quickly run down the five more well known Spider-Man games on the SNES.

Spider-Man/X-Men: Arcade's Revenge
Spider-Man and the X-Men
Spider-Man
Spider-Man
Maximum Carnage
Maximum Carnage
Separation Anxiety
Separation Anxiety
Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems
Marvel Super Heroes

ASMLF

Marvel Comics proudly presents…

ASMLF1

HE’S YOUR FAVORITE…
HE’S MY FAVORITE…

ASMLF2

[Wait, what?! -Ed.]

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Sorry, Spidey. Let’s try this again.

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[Do those even exist any more? -Ed.]

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Nope, you can’t.

Alright, on with the show. The Amazing Spider-Man: Lethal Foes features nine short stages.

Gee, can it be any smaller?
Gee, can it be any smaller?

[That’s what she said -Ed.]

Because he can cling to any wall he touches, Spider-Man feels a bit sticky. Each button is put to use. The web attack is very small and there seems to be an odd delay. This is especially discernible when shooting in mid-air.

Still, the web shooter has its moments. Just don’t ever use it during boss battles — it’s way too slow leaving you exposed. The bosses also have a sixth sense regarding the web shooter. Before you can barely raise his wrist, they’re on Spider-Man like white on rice. The web attack should have been better implemented but it does prove effective where speed is not a factor.

Useful here
Useful here
As well as here
As well as here
Unlike Mega Man...
Unlike Mega Man
... he can shoot up
… he can shoot up
Why hello there
Why hello there
Love to chat but gotta run
Love to chat but gotta run

OTHER MOVES IN THE PLAYBOOK

Eat your heart out, Tarzan
Eat your heart out, Tarzan

The shoulder buttons send Spider-Man to the air: L for left and R for right. It’s fun to toy with but honestly other than the first level you can get by fine without it.

Flying Shoulder Tackle
Flying Shoulder Tackle
Uppercut (Are You Conners!)
Uppercut (Are You Conners!)
Cling to surfaces
Cling to surfaces
Crawl under tight spots
Crawl under tight spots
"SHHHHHH!"
“SHHHHHH!”
The trusty ol' boot
The trusty ol’ boot
He's stickier than sticky rice
He’s stickier than sticky rice

His tendency to cling on to any surface makes him a bit sticky at times but I guess one could argue it’s more authentic this way. It certainly makes for a slightly cumbersome playing experience, though.

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Spider-Man stays trim by breaking into brisk jogs.

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Spider-Man’s pain threshold allows him to incur a lot of damage.

Lots of cameos throughout
Lots of cameos throughout
When did he learn Japanese?
When did he learn Japanese?

So it looks decent, eh? Unfortunately, some flaws hamper the experience.

  • As mentioned, Spider-Man is a bit sticky. At inopportune times he can cling to unwanted spots. This results in wrestling with the controller to get him back on track. Some cheap hits may occur during this process
  • The enemy roster is lacking in both quantity and quality
  • The timer forces the player to rush through the levels, giving one little time to enjoy the various sights and sounds. The levels are short to begin with, so the timer only makes the game that much shorter. The timer doesn’t reset when you meet up with the boss so you REALLY have to rush through the levels, or else pay the penalty of the timer expiring. It’s unnecessarily lame if you ask me
  • The boss battles are of the “mindless press attack rapidly” variety. I was quite disappointed with the lack of imaginative and stimulating boss fights. On the higher difficulty levels the AI is ridiculously cheap, too

Speaking of the bosses, here’s the first five:

Beetle
Beetle
Lizard
Lizard
Mysterio
Mysterio
Smythe
Smythe

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GREEN GOBLIN! One of my favorite Spider-Man foes.

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Shout-out to Lizard!

The levels contain your standard fare clichés seen in many other action titles. The portal set pieces in level 3-2, however, displayed the kind of absorbing creativity I was hoping the rest of the game would have.

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First, you must kick the switch to activate the door above. Move it — the door doesn’t stay open for long!

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Shortly thereafter, a second portal appears. Spider-Man is no dummy, however. His spider senses inform him this second portal is a bit shady. And he’s right. Touch the second portal and you’re whisked right back to the first one.

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Granted, this is nothing new but it’s these little moments that I enjoy in these sort of games to break up the cookie cutter tedium. I just wish there was more of this in Lethal Foes.

It had potential to be special
It had potential to be special

My favorite level is the second stage. You’re dumped into a sewer maze littered with multiple passages. Some are dead-ends with money or health bonuses. Others are dead-ends with enemies waiting to pounce on you. The rest will take you toward your goal of reaching the exit. Due to the open-ended chaotic nature of the sewer stage, Lethal Foes suddenly became a lot more thrilling and gratifying to play.

This was also the only stage where I didn’t mind the time limit. It made it that much more of a tense stage. For the other levels designs, however, the timer didn’t work for me and just ended up as a negative.

It’s a real shame, then, that the game’s level design fluctuates so wildly. A great game has an engaging and captivating design throughout, but especially moreso as the game progresses. Well, I’m not sure what happened here. Some levels make you cheer quietly in your seat while others sadly have you scratching your head wondering if the developers just wanted to call it quits.

For example, in one stage Spider-Man goes through a park. It’s all linear. All you do is walk right, beat up the odd villain here and there, and finally it’s the boss. And it’s yet another “punch him rapidly” affair. What gives? Why is one level so fun, like the Sewer, and the next so dull, like the Park? Due to such a dramatic swing, you wonder what could have been if the game had better level design consistently throughout.

Therefore, I think you all know where I’m going with this. Lethal Foes is a mixed bag. You take the good with the bad. If you’re a hardcore SNES and Spider-Man fan then you’ll certainly find some merit here. However, don’t explode it to rock your world. It had a lot of potential but ultimately falls way short. Still, not a bad game at all.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

So much for my homecoming
So much for my homecoming

Someone on the internet over a decade ago once called Lethal Foes “the best 2D Spider-Man game ever.” I’m not nearly as impressed. The developer, Agenda, could have fleshed out certain ideas better to keep players more enthralled. More frames of animation, more imaginative boss fights and smoother control would have gone a long way. Lethal Foes could easily have been a “hidden obscure gem” but it just doesn’t have the remarkable playability to back it up.

I think I am turning Japanese...
I think I am turning Japanese…

But for all the negative points I raised, I like Lethal Foes in a guilty pleasure sort of way. It doesn’t break any new ground but it plays just well enough to be enjoyable.

But really there are so many action titles out there that are better AND easier to obtain, so classify Lethal Foes under the “For diehard fans and collectors only” file.

Catch Spider-Man: Homecoming out in theatres NOW!

Super Family Tennis (SFC)

The best damn tennis title on the SNES. Yeah I said it
The best damn tennis title on the SNES. Yeah I said it

Tennis. A sport I rarely played as a youth, never watched and generally never had much of an interest in. Except, oddly, when it came to video games. I always enjoy a solid tennis game. Super Tennis on the SNES gets a lot of love as does Mario Tennis: Power Tour (GBA). One of my favorite Saturn titles is a little known obscure Japanese game by the name of Tennis Arena. So I’m always down for a fun little tennis game. After playing Super Family Tennis, I can honestly say it’s not only my favorite tennis title on the system but it’s actually one of my favorite SNES games, PERIOD. I’ll attempt to explain why with tons of pictures and hopefully not too much incoherent rambling below.

SMASH TENNIS

BTW this came out in Europe as Smash Tennis
BTW this came out in Europe as Smash Tennis
Too bad it never hit North America!
Too bad it never smashed its way into North America

SUPER TENNIS. FOR THE FAMILY. SO SUPER FAMILY TENNIS, THEN

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Super Family Tennis looks normal so far, but play on a bit (or read on in this case) and you’ll quickly see what a quirky and crazy title this is.

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Choose from 20 different players all with varying skills and abilities. There are a total of nine different game modes with all combinations possible for singles and doubles matches. I only wish the character selection would show a preview of your sprite and even a quick statistical rundown, but alas, it’s no dealbreaker by any stretch. Here’s where the game gets special, though: there are eight courts to select. You have your usual standard three but the other five are a bit outlandish (some more than others!)

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Sorry Super Tennis fans but no egregious usage of Mode 7 here. This is just your standard lawn tennis court. Nothing special, but I do enjoy the fans in attendance. Shame though that they’re a slightly more subdued crowd than the one found in Super Tennis. Their applause isn’t as loud. I do like the collective disappointing groan they make in Super Family Tennis though when you mess up.

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These are the other two standard courts. Like I said, nothing special. Typical arenas you would find in any tennis title. But now we come to the other five…

THE RESORT

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Right away the camera gives you a quick sweeping view of the venue and you’re immediately intrigued. From the snow capped mountains in the background to the group of friends hanging out on a balcony watching your match, it’s unlike any other court you’d find in a tennis video game back in June 1993. I appreciate Namco’s attention to detail — everything from the potted plants to the tables. The game gave off good vibes and once I got playing, I truly fell in love with it all.

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Nothing’s better than sending a shot over the head of your opponent and having the ball land just centimeters in front of the boundary. Great feeling that’s only boosted by the quick view you get of the people watching you from above. Good stuff!

"Get that $20 bill ready, Jo!"
“Get that $20 bill ready, Susie!”

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Actually, perhaps this is even sweeter. Hitting the ball and seeing it sail just past the reach of your diving opponent. Insult to injury! And even better, seeing the ball bounce all the way underneath the tables. It’s a great touch. Hey, I’ve always appreciated the little things in video games, and Super Family Tennis serves it on a silver platter! [I C WAT U DID DERE… -Ed.]

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Alright, maybe this is even better than the previous two. They’re all so satisfying it’s hard to pick a definitive winner. The European name for this game is Smash Tennis and this shows you why. Smashing the ball so hard that it literally leaves a shadow trail of sorts is quite gratifying. Its velocity is almost faster than the eye can see. Talk about a crushing blow…

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Diving hits to save your ass are also incredibly satisfying to use. It’s much easier and feels more natural to dive here than it did in Super Tennis, which is only one of several reasons why I prefer Super Family Tennis. When you get caught up in a diving contest with your opponent, it only adds to the drama and intensity of it all.

Send down the hammer!
Send down the hammer!

While diving saves are cute and all, sometimes you just need to put a little muscle behind it and send the ball screaming your opponent’s way. Check this out…

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Smash hits are cruel and quickly humble the player on the receiving end. As an added insult to injury, I love how the ball sometimes can roll underneath a table. It’s totally inconsequential but nevertheless oddly delightful to witness.

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Crushing spirits left and right, these super shots are the cat’s pajamas!

"Fine, here's your $20, Jimmy!"
“Alright, here’s your $20, Jimmy!”

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Shake their hands to honor the age-old tennis tradition, but secretly relish as you watch the opposition slumbering off with their heads drooped. Good stuff!

Nice rundown of the stats
Statistical breakdown postgame

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Namco truly delivers the goods. Not only are there five unique courts but in each of those arenas there’s a certain gimmick or “sight gag” to discover. For example, in the resort you’ll occasionally see a waitress walking around. She’s a bit of a klutz though. You can actually see her falling over! It’s super silly and tons of fun. It just adds to the quirky charm of the game, of which it has in spades.

THE LODGE

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Things start out foggy. A giant lodge can be seen in the background. But rather than sipping on some hot cocoa and having a read of the ol’ paper, you’ve opted instead to head out and brave the freezing cold for a little spot of tennis. You mad daredevil you! A flock of birds can be seen hanging around the premises.

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Visual deterrent? Not really but the fog does add a nice touch. Brrr. You can almost feel the stinging cold, can’t you? [No, not really -Ed.]

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Should the ball reach the fence it sends the birds packing. Pretty cool.

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Pretty soon the fog clears out and makes way for bright sunny rays. From there the shadows of the trees envelop the lower bottom of the screen. Nice!

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Depending on how the ball travels, you can even catch a glimpse of the shadow effect in full. It’s always a pleasant sight to behold, simple though it may be. It’s the small stuff, ne?

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Best of all though is hands down when the flock of birds decide to fly across the screen right as you’re about to serve. Hey, where did the 4th player go there?

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Clearly, she’s a tad bit concerned about what the birds might do to her new do! Talk about being distracted. Look at the poor thing struggling between hitting the ball back and dodging the birdies!

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Never seen a lass dive to get out of the way of potential poopage before, but I guess there’s a first time for everything! Hey, you do what ya gotta do. Oh and Namco, don’t think we don’t see that little monkey (!) in the window there. It’s bizarre as all hell. But at this point, being Super Family Tennis, you just go with it.

THE SHRINE

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Japanese people love tennis, obviously, and this is made abundantly clear with this tennis court situated right in the middle of a Japanese Shinto shrine! It even features a Torii gate for authenticity.

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Remember the feeling of agony as a kid having to chase down runaway balls? Super Family Tennis brings back those warm fuzzy childhood memories! Hey, at least it didn’t go underneath the Japanese Shinto shrine there. I hate when that happens.

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“Awww, do I really have to? But it’s SO far away! Alright, fiiiiiine!!”

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Remember how I said each of the five unique courts have a certain gimmick or sight gag to them? Well this one has two. Here’s the first. See if you can knock the ball into the lion statue there. Doing so prompts the crow to fly away. Neat stuff!

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Here’s the second gimmick/sight gag of the stage. It’s possible to hit the ball into one of the tranquil looking ponds!

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Never gets old seeing the ball bounce over the rocks and into the pond. It makes a nice little SPLASH sound and from there you can see the ball bouncing back up to the surface. Excellent detail, Namco. Two thumbs WAY up :)

THE BEACH

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Listen to the soothing sounds of the waves crashing against the shore. The game relies purely on its sound effects because there is no music whatsoever. It’s an interesting deviation from the norm and I kind of like it, personally. The crashing waves on this stage makes it feel like you’re really at the beach. I love the crowd of spectators as well as that random guy standing there underneath the coconut tree. Boy, it would be a shame if a coconut falls on his head…

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Ocean waves go in and out as you play. It’s a nice effect for sure.

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Check out what happens when you hit the ball at that coconut tree…

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Nearly fell out of my chair the first time I saw this! It just speaks to Namco’s zany brilliance of adding in little details like this. Best of all, it’s not like it’s easy to hit that tree. It doesn’t happen often so it keeps the effect fresh and enjoyable. You can’t help but eat up stuff like this. You know the developers had a blast making this game.

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Speaking of little details, look at that cute little crab dancing its way slowly across the screen. Just another odd random touch that makes me love this game even more.

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Almost got ya there, Mr. Crab! I like seeing the ball roll into the ocean. Part of me almost instinctively wants to shout out “BALL!” but then I remember I’m just playing a video game :P

THE MOUNTAIN

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What’s the best, safest place to play a spot of tennis? Why, on a mountain of course. I like how you can see the forest down below, and I like the detail of the jagged rocks on the mountain. Luckily, you can’t fall off the mountain. Whew…

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Although you can’t fall off the edge, the ball can. Always fun to see the ball go spiraling off the cliff. Next time you go hike a mountain and you find a bunch of tennis balls at the bottom, now you’ll know why. The more you know!

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Shortly after the match begins, you’ll discover a high adrenaline junkie making his way up the mountain cliff. And you thought you were crazy for playing tennis atop a mountain plateau! This maniac makes you look like a chicken…

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Setting up camp, he spends the rest of the match waving. OK, we get it, you rock and you’re awesome but chill out, son. Hmm, if that was a way to stop his antics…

THRILL OF A LAST SECOND SAVE

Can you get to it in time?
Can you get to the ball in time?

One of my favorite moments in the game is when the ball is hit almost half the court away, and it doesn’t seem like you can get to it in time. But you make the effort anyway. And at the very last second possible, you make a last gasp dive…

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Making a last second diving save is awesome. But even better? Doing it and just barely keeping it in play over the reach of your opponent. Nothing gets the blood pumping like this kind of exciting play. Really makes for some great trash talking!

UM… THAT WAS MY BAD, YO. THAT ONE’S ON ME. HEH…

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Unintentionally hilarious, the most “D’OH!” moment comes when you accidentally hit the ball into the back of your partner’s head. D’oh! I love the dirty look they give you as you just kind of stand there going “Heh, um, my bad, yo.”

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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Birds need to consider their path of flight. After all, we all saw what happened when a bird crossed paths with a Randy Johnson 98 MPH fastball…

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CLOSE! Bloody birds need to be careful…

ATTACK OF THE CLONES

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Mirror selections are possible, with no cheat code required. Now nobody can argue you took their favorite player ;)

SPEAKING OF CLONES

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Which is better, Super Tennis or Super Family Tennis? In my book it’s easily the latter. I appreciate Super Tennis for what it is, but I find Super Family Tennis to be superior, far more fun and far more accessible. Not to mention Super Family Tennis has a four player option while Super Tennis doesn’t. Plus, Super Tennis is pretty straight forward. It’s missing the charm and sense of wacky humor that Namco threw at us with their tennis rendition. Honestly, while I still like Super Tennis for what it is, a game like Super Family Tennis kind of makes it a bit obsolete in my book. It falls in that tragic “great games that I never play any more” category.

ACTUALLY, NOT REALLY A CLONE

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Super Family Tennis isn’t so much a clone to Super Tennis because Namco released Family Tennis on the Famicom (December 11, 1987). It just turned 29 years old! As you can see from the cosmos court, Family Tennis also featured a quirky sense of style that would later carry over to Namco’s Super Famicom sequel.

A SMASH HIT IN THE EYES OF SUPER PLAY MAGAZINE

Super Play loved it, ranking it #71 on their Top 100 list
Super Play liked it, ranking it #71 on their Top 100 list

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Brilliantly simple. Simply brilliant
Brilliantly simple. Simply brilliant

Super Family Tennis is my favorite tennis title on the Super Nintendo, and I’d argue it’s also the best. It’s super easy to pick up and play, with 20 different characters and eight different arenas to play in (five of which are bonkers). It’s full of diving saves, vicious smashes and a sneaky sense of humor you just don’t expect from a game of this nature. But Namco went ahead and did so anyway. And I’m glad they did. Details like the waitress falling over at the resort to the beach bum getting knocked out by coconut have left a lasting impression on my gaming heart. There’s no music but I love the ambient sounds. From the soothing crashing waves of the ocean to the echo chamber sounds of the mountain, it’s something different and refreshing. Control feels very fluid, not stiff at all. When you mess up you know it’s on you, not the controls. Well done, Namco.

Excuse me, coming through
Excuse me, coming through

This is easily one of the best four player games on the Super Nintendo. Thanks to its charming stages and details, there’s a lot of casual gamer appeal here, or even to the non-gamer. Anyone can pick it up and play. It’s simple and fun. It’s really a shame that this game doesn’t get talked about much. Even to this day I tend to see people recommending Super Tennis without giving this game a shout out. While Super Tennis deserves its props, I really think this is the superior game. If you haven’t tried it yet, and you love yourself a good vintage 16-bit sports game, then be sure to check out Super Family Tennis. I highly doubt you’ll regret it. In fact, the only thing you may regret is that you didn’t play it any sooner!

Full of frills, thrills and spills!
It’s full of frills, thrills and spills!