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.


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 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.







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!)







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.







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…








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.







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!”







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.]













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…







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…













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.



















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!”













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







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.








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.







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.]







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







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!







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?













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?













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!













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.








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.







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.







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













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!













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













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 :)








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…







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













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













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.







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.













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








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…













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!







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…







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…


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…













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!














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.”














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…






CLOSE! Bloody birds need to be careful…








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








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.








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.


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


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!

Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop (SFC)

Yes, that's Michael Jordan of the Bulls, er, Vikings...
Yes, that’s Michael Jordan of the Bu, er, Vikings

In October of 1994 EGM ran a preview on a Super Famicom basketball game by the name of Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop. Being a huge fan of NBA Jam, this preview intrigued me highly. Man, I miss those pre-internet days when gaming magazines were not only a thing but they were magical.

This preview piqued my interest

Not only was I a huge fan of NBA Jam but I loved Konami’s Run ‘N Gun arcade game. It came out in 1993 and I figured it was only a matter of time before a home translation would come out for the SNES. We finally got it in November 1995 under the name NBA Give ‘N Go. But back in ’94 there was no sign of this, so Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop gave me great hope that I could play a Run ‘N Gun-esque game in the comforts of my home.

THE arcade game for basketball junkies
THE arcade game for basketball junkies
The rich bold colors captivated me
The rich bold colors captivated me
Nothing like throwing down a monster jam
Nothing like throwing down a monster jam

After I got back into the SNES in early 2006, I thought back to all the SNES/SFC games I wanted to play and own. Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop came to mind. I remembered the preview in EGM 12 years earlier. Found a copy online and was excited to quell a 12 year long curiosity. But before we get to that, I’d like to share a personal basketball memory that made me a fan of the sport for life.


One of the best NBA playoff games ever

Monday, May 29, 1995 is a day I’ll never forget.

It was Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, pitting the young uprising Orlando Magic vs. the Indiana Pacers. I was at the local mall walking past Radio Shack when I saw the game playing on ten TV screens. There were three people standing there, watching in angst and talking in-between plays. I joined to make it a crowd of four. The game was in the final three minutes and as the drama unfolded the crowd steadily grew with each passing dramatic play. Even the employees stopped to observe the madness.

With under 15 seconds to go, this improbable sequence took place:

  • Brian Shaw’s 3 pointer gave the Magic the 1 point lead
  • Reggie Miller answered with one of his own, putting the Pacers back up by 2 causing the Indiana crowd to erupt in a frenzy
  • Mere seconds later, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, nailed a dramatic 3, giving the Magic a 1 point lead with 1.3 seconds to go. It left the sold out capacity crowd in stunned silence
Penny in his prime was something special
Prime Penny was something special

As the game went to its final commercial break there was a deafening buzz within Radio Shack’s small confines. To this day I can still hear that classic NBA on NBC theme, blaring on no less than ten television monitors. The incomparable John Tesh theme reverberated throughout the store and the entire mall itself. It’s one of those vivid childhood memories that haunts me to the core even more than 20 years later.

Suddenly we were no longer just a bunch of strangers. This playoff basketball game magically banded us together. I saw basketball in a new light. There was strategy, tactics. Beyond that, I started appreciating the concept of teamwork and five different people of varying size and skills working as one well oiled machine.

That day I developed a much deeper appreciation for basketball. It’s the moment I became a fan for life.

Fakes... shoots... HE HITS HE HITS HE HITS!!!
“Fakes, shoots and — HE HITS HE HITS!!!”

Down by one point with 1.3 seconds left, the ball made its way to the dunking Dutchman, Rik Smits. He faked, shot and the ball ripped nothing but net as the buzzer sounded off. The place became unglued and the roof blew off. Radio Shack became a mad house.

I was only 11 years old while everyone else around me was 20 or older. Those 15 minutes cheering and booing madly at the TV screen with a bunch of folks I never met before… PRICELESS. Basketball brings people together.


3 on 3 mode is the best
Ah, a Slender Man sponsorship

There’s always a moment of slight hesitation when popping in a game you have been wondering about for many years.

Fake teams, or are they?
Fake teams, or are they?

There are 16 non-official teams plus one Japan team. Though oddly, if you look at the EGM preview you’ll see Spurs and Bulls. So I looked at the teams closer. The subtle not-so-hidden parallels are definitely there. For example check out the Wizards (keep in mind back in ’94 the Wizards were known as the Washington Bullets). Their court is the same color as the Orlando Magic and they have a starting center with incredible stats who wears # 32 (Shaquille O’Neal). Besides, Magic… Wizards… hmmm…


Shaq’s 1993 stats in bold. Cooper’s stats in italics:

23.4 points per game
23.5 ppg

13.9 rebounds per game
14.0 rpg

56% field goal
57% FG

59% free throw
60% FT

So there are real players in this game. Just like the classic Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball, the jersey numbers are the same as well as their stats (or very close anyhow). They just have different names. Sneaky!








Fancy a game of one on one? You can with Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop. First to 10 points win. It’s pretty fun for a quick little fix. When you make shots the game gives you some encouraging messages, such as GREAT! and NICE DUNK!







Regular field goals count as one point in this mode, and three point shots are worth two. Just like on the playground. You know what this mode reminds me of?

Jordan vs. Bird! (Sega Genesis)
Jordan vs. Bird (Sega Genesis)
No shame at all...
No shame at all…







Perhaps you fancy practicing your free throws? HUMAN gives you that option! Of course, the Fire Pro creators are big on timing. It’s kind of their thing. You have to release the ball at just the precise moment to swish the shot. A little off and it will rim in. But anymore off target and you’ll brick the shot. It takes some practice but once you get it down it’s extremely satisfying. And of course you get the lovely Engrish of “NICE SHOOT!” when you make a basket.

Oh man, 9/9. No pressure...
Oh man, 9/9. No pressure…









Things look promising...
Orlando Magic in the house

It looks just like a poor man’s Run ‘N Gun. So far, so good! Unfortunately, it doesn’t play as well. On the bright side, there is no slowdown or lag whatsoever. On the downside, it’s way too easy to steal and block shots. The team that is going down the court also has a disadvantage as the view is more obscured. There’s still some decent fun to be had but it’s passable. Between this mode and NBA Give ‘N Go, I’d rather play Give ‘N Go.

Madison Square Garden! Sorta
Madison Square Garden! Sorta…
Vintage Seattle SuperSonics!
Vintage Seattle SuperSonics!
Nice black jerseys though
Ah, FILA. Totally ’90s huh?
Gotta love how they swing too!
Gotta love how they swing too!







Definitely not unplayable and there’s zero trace of slowdown, but it’s nothing special.


Now this is where it shines
Now this is where it shines

The last mode, 3 on 3, takes me back to my blacktop days. Pick any of the 17 teams and then pick any three players on that team. Then duke it out in a 3 on 3 half court battle. Adjust the time from 3, 6, 9 or 12 minutes. It’s one quarter to the finish. Best of all, since you’re playing half court, everyone gets the top end of the court which has no obstruction of view. The passing is less clunky on account of there being less players to pass to. It works like a charm.

Hoop Dreams, baby!
Slam it home with authority

This mode somehow never gets old.







Select from two different courts in the 3 on 3 mode. It’s all cosmetic but these little touches go a long way in my book. I love both courts. The beach one has that exotic fun casual feel to it, like you and your buddies are hooping it up after a summer BBQ. The other court has an impeccable street ball gritty feel to it. In addition, you can pick from four different color balls. I like the funky blue ball. [You would, wouldn’t you… -Ed.]

Love the look of it!
Love the look of it!








Punch in any of these secret codes at the password screen and it’ll give you the option of playing either at dusk or dawn. It only works on the beach court though. Check out how atmospheric these new backdrops are:







Oooooh, ahhhhh. I love it when a company puts in these extra details. It goes a long way to make the game even more endearing. I love the feeling of balling in the early morning or late at evening. It’s the small things!







Night or morning, morning or night — raining threes with the greatest of ease!








Press any direction on the D-pad at the versus screen and you can change the floor design of your selected court. Try up, down, left or right. Hell, you can even try up-left or up-right for even more choices. Or down-right and down-left. Here you can see I swapped the floors for the two courts.













Reminds me ever so slightly of the Mortal Kombat games and how you could tinker with the icons at the versus screen to unlock secrets…







Favorite combos for me: the green court matches the coconut trees nicely. Dig that green overload. Speaking of overload, how about the combination seen in the second pic there? Talk about splendid color coordination! It’s so inviting and hits all the sweet spots.








Before the start of a game you can view stats as well as change the lineup. I love how they list their stats both by numbers, percentages and then in Marvel 1991 style they have the pink bars. Japan is the best shooting team in the game and if you’re looking to be Stephen Curry then Japan is your go to team.







Things start off well as I nail a simple mid-range jump shot that hits nothing but net.

Rings tie it with a strong jam
Rings tie it with a strong jam













Another sick dunk — 360 in your face! 7-Up.







Definitely way too easy to block shots but that only lends an arcade style to the otherwise simulation feel. It’s a fine balance that works well.













Trailing 9-12, Hara makes a beeline for that 3 point line and swishes a 2 pointer right through the net. 11-12 with under two minutes to go.













AGAIN from way downtown! Hara ties the game at 13 points a piece.

They pull ahead 16-13
They pull ahead 16-13













ARGH!! Hara barely misses a clutch 3 point shot. Thus sending the ball back to the Rings up 16-13 with only 41 seconds to go. It ain’t looking good for Team Japan…







Mutsuki with the save! 15-16 with 30 seconds left!













Right on cue, Hara hits yet another clutch shot, bringing the score to 17 all with just 18 seconds remaining.






Stealing and blocking the ball happen a little too frequently as mentioned earlier, but it sure makes for some dramatic defensive stands! The Rings try to break the 17-17 tie, but that’s not happening tonight — no siree!



















Every kid grows up dreaming about hitting the game winning shot. Here’s Hara’s chance. Running to his sweet spot, Hara drills a picture perfect jumpshot, giving me the lead 18-17 with only two seconds remaining. Clutch! But I can’t get too cocky now. The Rings still have two seconds left…













Baumann rises for the game winning shot. He barely gets the ball out of his hands as the shot clock expires. This is either going to be the greatest victory ever or the worst defeat of all time…













WHEW! In and out! Talk about cutting it as close. Look at that Baumann punk turning around after shooting the ball. You ain’t Steph Curry, son!

What a game!
What a game! What a win!







Japan is such a good shooting team. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson would be proud.







Defeat everyone in the Round Robin mode and you’ll get this snazzy congratulations shot.








Speaking of endings, if you enter this password you can view all of the game’s multiple endings. Human did it with Clock Tower as well. It was kind of their thing to have multiple endings, no?







Goddess of Victory, eh? Who is that, Lady Luck’s mother?


  • In either 3 on 3 or 5 on 5, you can play an exhibition or compete in a Round Robin. In Round Robin you’re given a password after each victory. At the end you’ll face your clones and then the USA Dream Team
Can you handle the Dream Team?
1992 Dream Team was the best
  • Street Hoop (Neo Geo) came out in December 1994, a month after this game. There’s something about a basketball court right in the middle of a beach that does it for me…
Everybody's gone jamming. Jamming USA!
Everybody’s gon’ hoopin’. Hoopin’ USA!
  • I’m a sucker for the players’ ratings. Reminds me of the old ’91 Marvel trading card series. Ah, those were the days…







My friends and I collected the hell out of the 1991 Marvel cards. My favorite thing about them were the pink energy bars on the back that let you know at a quick glance what you wanted to know. Playing Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop and seeing the Marvel ’91-esque pink energy bars brought back a lot of fond memories!

  • The 3 on 3 mode is good for quick arcade thrills but the full-court 5 on 5 mode has more strategy thanks to the bench and stamina factor. Players are rated fresh, OK or tired. You’ll have to do some managing throughout the four quarters to keep your players fresh
  • My favorite team are the Photons. In the 3 on 3 mode I use Rogers, Davidson and Feguso


All you need is a ball, a hoop and a dream
All you needed was a ball, a hoop and a dream

From playing hoops in my backyard as a youth to balling on the blacktops as a teenager, I have fond memories of the game. At the heart of the game lies a bigger message. Case in point: 1997, 8th grade. One day at lunch I was playing one-on-one with my friend, Simon. Then we noticed these three 7th graders bullying a hapless runt. Seeing them push the defenseless kid around pissed me off. I looked at Simon and without saying a word I knew he knew what we both knew. And thus, we made our way over to the kerfuffle…


I challenged the three 7th graders to a game of 21 — 3-on-3 style. The kid getting bullied wasn’t much of a baller, but I had an overwhelming confidence in Simon and myself that we could beat these cocky bastards. Simon was the Dennis Rodman of the team. Man, nobody could hit the glass like Simon. Dude was a beast on the boards. As for me, I was the three point specialist. The Reggie Miller of the team. And on that cloudy afternoon, I drained three pointer after three pointer. Hand in my face — it didn’t matter. I was a man on a mission. Not only did I want to beat those losers but I had to defend the honor of that kid.











Basketball pundits like to call it being in the proverbial zone. And that I was on that idyllic, cloudy afternoon — swishing three point shot after three point shot!

It was one of those afternoons I wished would last forever. The sky was blue with puffy clouds standing still overhead. Amid the usual lunch playground chatter of 7th and 8th graders jockeying for social position and status on the hierarchy that is junior high, I was in my own world. Bombing three after three, the opposition had no answer.

My team won going away. The three bullies bitched at each other in disbelief before slagging off, disappearing around the corner moments later. Simon and I smiled at each other. The little 7th grade kid said four words I still remember to this day with great fondness.

“Thanks for the help.”

Simon and I watched in silence as he walked away, his head held high. Through basketball, in a way, we saved him. It was just one more reason for me to love the game as much as I did. You can be big, small, black, purple, it don’t matter. It’s a game that brings people together. It can even heal some wounds, as it did that serene cloudy afternoon of 1997 :)


My favorite SNES bball game
This game is my spirit animal ^_^

On a technical level, the NBA Jam and the NBA Live games are far superior. But on a fun level, I actually prefer Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop. If a basketball game could be my spirit animal, this game would be it. It just resonates with me in a deep and personal way that no other basketball game does. I always have a blast playing it. The 3 on 3 mode takes me back to the days of my youth balling without a single care in the world. From making friends to even saving a kid from being bullied, basketball has always been a part of my life. Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop captures the feeling of street ball to a tee. I also love the little touches like the secret courts and being able to play at dawn, mid-day or dusk. This is such a criminally obscure hidden gem for basketball junkies.

Nothing like playing hoops under the stars
Nothing like hooping it up under the stars

It’s been over 10 years now since I bought this game and still to this day I find myself busting it out frequently. I can’t guarantee you’ll like this game — hell I bet you probably won’t like it as much as I do, but if you enjoy vintage 16-bit basketball games then it’s certainly worth a look. Call me crazy but Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop is one of my all-time favorite Super Nintendo games, period. I know that may sound a bit absurd but there are certain games you just click with that’s hard to explain. There are many better SNES games than this but few I enjoy playing more than Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop!

R.I.P. Craig Sager. 6.29.51-12.15.16
R.I.P. Craig Sager. 6.29.51-12.15.16. You were the man!

Tetris Battle Gaiden (SFC)

It’s Tetris like you’ve never seen it before

Arriving just in the nick of time for Christmas of 1993 (December 24), Tetris Battle Gaiden is the best Super Famicom puzzle game to never hit North American shores. It’s truly a shame they never ported this over for a US audience. If they had, this game would be more universally recognized and lionized to this very day. Thankfully, anyone with a Super Nintendo (or a computer) can experience it all the same nevertheless. Well, there is a bit of Japanese to wade through, but being a puzzle game and not an RPG, a fan translation is not absolutely needed to enjoy this as is.

The box is inundated with the game’s various characters

Released on December 24, 1993, one wonders why this didn’t see a US release in mid to late 1994. There wasn’t much to translate and the Tetris name alone would have sold a ton of copies. Not to mention the gameplay is very expansive with several different game modes and new tricks that freshen up a classic, proven formula. Sure the characters were on the anime side, and back in the mid ’90s that wasn’t really a thing in US culture. But they could have easily modified the characters, no? Alas, it just wasn’t meant to be. On second thought, look at those zany lovable Japanese-y characters. Maybe it’s a good thing these guys weren’t turned into generic boring barbarians and the typical “radical” mid ’90s look in American video gaming. Speaking of characters, let’s take a look at them now!








Pumpkinhead here adorns the cover and has a classic colorful Halloween backdrop. Yup, I can definitely get behind this guy.








Awwww, isn’t it adorable? Because bunny things just are! By the way, I love the bright visuals of this game. The art style is also on point.








Witch doctor at your service! Look at all those exotic animals.








Disney’s version this ain’t. Still got his Magic Carpet and Genie though. Beautiful backdrop.








Majestic background if I ever saw one. Good job, Bullet Proof Software.








#SMALLLIVESMATTER. At least a little bit, right? [I see what you did there -Ed.]








Ninjas were cool back then in the ’90s, and gosh darnit, they’re still cool today.








Wolfman’s stage is simply gorgeous. Perfect to play on a late fall afternoon!








Always been a sucker for a good page turner, and this game most definitely is.








Select from any of the eight characters, then select your desired first opponent. The game’s presentation is on point. Puzzle games aren’t usually noted for their visuals but there’s no denying this game has a very pleasing look to the eye. Everything is bright, bold and colorful. Graphics don’t make a game, but they certainly don’t hurt.

Wait, is that a single well?
Wait, is that a single well?

Your eyes deceive you not. One of the most unique things about this game that you’ll noticed right away is that the pieces are communal. Rather than both players getting the same pieces, here you share one queue.







Tetris purists may scoff at this, but I personally find it refreshing. It lends a whole new strategy to the game. Sometimes you find yourself stalling in order to get the desired piece. Other times you purposely rush in order to secure the next block. Which is exactly what I did here. Notice I dropped the “z” block in a bad space just to ensure that I can get the square piece which has a crystal. The crystal brings a whole new dimension to the classic formula. Observe!







Every time you clear a crystal you earn one point. Each character has four different special battle skills. Some are offensive while others are defensive. You can use your skills right away, or save them. The number of points required to use a skill is respective to its level. For example, a level one skill requires one point while a level four skill requires four points. Do you use a certain power now, or do you save for a stronger power later on? It’s all part of the strategy.

Yes, gonna beat him to the Tetris!
Yes, gonna beat ‘im to the tetris!

The battle can quickly grow intense as players joust for the right block at the right time. Sometimes, you simply want to play defense by, er, blockblocking the opposition. Yeah I just made that word up. Who knows, maybe it’ll catch on? [Oh sure… -Ed.]







What’s sweeter than earning a crystal point? Clearing two crystals in a line and earning two points! Now I have three points. Do I unleash my level 3 skill, or save it to use a level 4 skill down the road? Decisions, decisions!







Meanwhile, Mirurun ain’t waiting around. He uses his level 1 skill to blow up a few rows from his well. Like I said, this ain’t your typical Tetris game.







Every Tetris player knows the feeling of anguish and self-loathing when you accidentally misplace a block. But in this case, it’s your opponent who does. Well, in a manner of speaking. You see, one of Miru’s skills is the power to distort the way you control your blocks. Naturally this is temporary, but it’s long enough to throw you off your game leading to some unfortunate block positioning. But never fear, I see a tetris piece coming soon! Commence the “rush or stall” game within a game! Again, some purists may scoff at this, but I say it brings an added rush to the table!













Nothing beats clearing four lines at once! I love the way the pieces rotate and disappear from the field. There’s something satisfying about it, for sure.







Miru’s distortion of control skill is super annoying. Don’t get me wrong, with Christmas season here and everything I truly appreciate what the cross stands for, but I didn’t want to make a cross up there! Bloody stinkin’ bunny thing!













Alright Mr. Bunny, time to unleash hell. Pumpkin blows up Miru’s well, leaving only bits and pieces standing (many awkwardly in mid-air). This power wreaks havoc and can really mess up the opposition.







Another point added *and* I scored the tetris block. Win! Moments like these can really demoralize the competition, and provides plenty of trash talking opportunity.







Scored four points (again) and about to  murder Mirurun. Take a look.













With his well nearly filled up, all it takes is one final shove to send the whole thing crashing. I love how your character appears on screen for a brief moment before unleashing their special attack. It makes it feel a little more important (not to mention a lot more fun, too). Oh man, look at that well. He’s so screwed.







Nothing compares to the sweet thrill of victory. Sure in other puzzle games you tend to send debris over after landing chain reactions, but I like how battle-oriented Tetris Battle Gaiden is. Hence the “Battle” middle name. It’s more than just sending debris over to your opponent’s field. It’s an all out war where you get to literally sabotage your rival. It’s a fight to the very bitter end.







Battle all seven of your rivals. After successfully conquering each of them, this big bad dragon baddie is your reward prize. Lucky you.














Clearly what’s happening here is that those blocks have displayed exemplary behavior, and are being beckoned to block heaven. I mean, duh!







Those bats swoop to your opponent’s side to steal any crystal points they may have earned. ProTip: make sure first though that your opponent has something to steal. D’oh! But yeah, play your cards right and you’re well on your way to victory. No more L’s… well, except when you get the L blocks [… -Ed.]







Searchlight skill is downright evil. It blackens the field and only gives you a small flashlight with which to contend. Talk about devious.







Speaking of blackening, and seeing the light, here comes the Reaper!







Sometimes it just ain’t fair. My blocks, my beautiful blocks!







Wolfman’s level 2 skill is rather strange but endearing. A peculiar old man appears at the bottom of the screen and prevents your opponent from sending blocks down at the fastest speed possible. Whenever the opponent tries to press down, the man will strain to resist to the point that you can see small sweat beads flying off his forehead. Good stuff. This power lasts for 28 seconds (yes, I actually timed it…)







Wolfman can also summon a miniature samurai to slice off the first few rows.



















Wolfman’s level 4 skill inserts gravity into the picture, which allows for suspended blocks to fall until they land on something. This leads to some deadly combos. The only blocks that don’t fall are the ones that contain the crystal. This skill, however, is useless in the “Rensa” mode, but more on that in a little bit.








Know how some folks claim to see Jesus in the oddest places? They saw him in the clouds, or their morning toast. Whatever the case may be, Tetris Battle Gaiden reminds me of such stories. Because the way the pieces can form causes some interesting sights for sure from time to time. Check out the red monster in the second pic there, as well as the two middle fingers [Oh, I thought that was just a really long raccoon face. Or hell, since this is the Japanese we’re talking about here, a Tanuki -Ed.]

Ha, a skull on Halloween night
Ha, a skull on Halloween night


Default and featured mode
Default and featured mode

Battlis is Tetris Battle Gaiden. The pieces operate as they do in normal Tetris, but certain blocks now contain crystals. Cleared crystals build up your point stock, and these can be redeemed to launch various powers.

The classic
The classic

Not a fan of the crystals and unique character abilities? Then select this mode for old school Tetris fun. It’s definitely nice that Bullet Proof Software included this option as it almost feels like two games in one. I personally prefer Battlis but it’s nice to know you always have the original mode to fall back on.

Say hello to gravity
Say hello to gravity

Rensa is an interesting mode. It includes the crystals and powers of Battlis, but now the pieces operate with gravity in mind. Remember Wolfman’s level 4 skill highlighted a bit earlier? That’s basically Rensa. Here, take a look.













Notice that the pieces fall until they reach the top of another block or the floor itself. Crystals, however, do not fall. Rensa allows for chain reactions, making it feel more like a “modern” puzzler.













Check out this 3 line chain reaction. Personally, I prefer classic Tetris over Rensa, but it’s nice to have this mode if you’re in the mood for something a it different.


Super Play loved it, ranking it #24 on their Top 100 list

Tetris Battle Gaiden has quite the positive reputation. Although a few purists dislike it, it’s generally well received. Super Play Magazine, a UK publication dedicated to the SNES back in the early to mid ’90s, were huge fans of the game. They loved it so much that they ranked it an impressive #24 on their Top 100 SNES Games list in issue #42 (April 1996). They did fail to mention above though that the game actually features three modes, not two. Poor Rensa. Always the forgotten red headed step child.


Takes you on a magic (carpet) ride
Takes ya on a magic (carpet) ride

Tetris Battle Gaiden has been recommended to me over the years. Picked up a copy in 2006 and fell in love with it. It’s the best Super Famicom exclusive puzzle game in my book, and one of the best puzzlers on the SNES, period. Some purists aren’t crazy about the Battlis mode, but you can always switch to classic Tetris mode (or Rensa mode). I love that there are three different playing options and eight different characters with a total of 32 unique skills and abilities. The replay value on this sucker is insane! Some purists also scoff at the fact that the blocks are shared between two players. I actually don’t mind this. It brings a certain sense of urgency (and strategy) to the fold. Do you drop that piece as fast as you can in a race to grab the next much needed block, or do you stall a few blocks ahead as to time it just right? It’s the ultimate hand-eye coordination test as you have to continually eye the queue more than your average puzzle game. You have to constantly be thinking 3-4 pieces ahead all while taking care of your own field and contend with your opponent sending over debris or sabotaging you in various ways. I also love how sometimes you play offense, other times you play defense. And nothing’s better than “blockblocking” your opponent — to snatch that much needed tetris block piece right before they can — and rubbing it in their faces. Good stuff.

I usually don’t commend graphics in most puzzle games as they’re usually serviceable at best, but Tetris Battle Gaiden is full of amazing art and endearing animations. The backgrounds are all incredibly detailed and bursting with rich colors. It’s almost a shame that you really can’t see them due to the blocks. The music is extremely catchy and there are several tunes that I’m particularly fond of. The gameplay strikes a sweet spot with three different modes that expand the game’s longevity tenfold. What can I say, Tetris Battle Gaiden is a winner through and through. I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who enjoys a good puzzle game now and again.

Tsuyoshi Shikkari Shinasai Taisen Puzzle-dama (SFC)

Konami delivers a high quality puzzle game
Konami delivers a high quality puzzle game

Tsuyoshi Shikkari Shinasai Taisen Puzzle-dama is an incredibly long name, and difficult to pronounce (for me anyhow), which makes me grateful that this is a fansite rather than a YouTube channel. That way I don’t have to butcher saying the name! But whatever (or however) you want to call it, call it damn good. It’s one of my favorite puzzle games on the entire Super Nintendo. Why? Let’s take a look.


Loved this game in the early 2000s
Loved this one back in the early 2000s

As previously documented, before I got back into the SNES scene in early 2006, I was living on planet Sega Saturn from 1999-2005. In the early 2000s I bought a rare import by the name of Chibi Maruko Chan No Taisen Pazurudama. I saw a screenshot of it on the internet and knew I had to own it. When it arrived it did not disappoint. Colorful graphics, cute chibi characters and a classic puzzle piece system made this an instant favorite.

The very definition of kawaii
The very definition of “kawaii”

Imagine my joy when I discovered in 2006 that Konami had developed a very similar game on the Super Famicom, Tsuyoshi Shikkari Shinasai Taisen Puzzle-dama. It was released on November 18, 1994 — one year before Maruko came out in the Japanese Saturn market (December 15, 1995). It features the same classic gameplay but obviously with lesser visuals. What I really like about it is that you have 10 characters to pick from, each with their own block patterns. Think of it as a beta version of Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. It makes for some competitive battles and high replay value.































See? It comes off as an early beta version of Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo which came out nearly a full two years later (June 1996).







I love the versus screen, too. It’s simple yet super vibrant and catches your eye. Gets you amped up for war!



Pieces drop from the top in two. They vary from red, yellow, blue and green. You can rotate them to be horizontal (or keep them vertical).


Pieces disappear when three or more like colors are matched. They just have to be touching (except diagonally) so it’s possible to form a match with two blues on one row and just a single blue right above.



Debris come in the form of clear blocks with a certain color encased. These blocks fall on your screen when your rival performs a nice combo. Or they can come from the well itself, which you don’t see a lot of in puzzle games from that era. The great thing about these debris blocks is that they have the potential for some lethal chain reactions. Anytime you clear faces touching a clear block, that block explodes freeing the color inside for proper usage.






Check out the lower bottom left. Those three yellow faces form a match and as they disappear from the field they free the three boxes right below.







The three then dissipate which clears the box right next to it. That box contains a yellow face, which is now liberated. That yellow face connects with the two yellow faces up top. Those three disappear which frees the three yellow boxes right next to it…







Just your typical 7-hit chain reaction! I love how crazy the combos can get in this game. It’s not uncommon to get 10+ hit chain reactions. I love how each match sends this projectile upward. It makes a sweet sound effect and is a nice visual to boot. Seeing fireballs shoot from your screen like 7-10 times in a row is a rush! It makes for some ideal trash talking and some serious sweating on your opponent’s part. It can be absolutely demoralizing to be on the other end and seeing and hearing the constant swoosh-swoosh. You know you’re in for one major pounding.







It’s so satisfying to see your opponent’s well rise and rise until their well is completely filled. Good stuff.








Connect the yellow to make a match and start this nice little chain reaction.







It drops the green piece on the other two green pieces. The green pieces connect and frees the red block there.







The three yellow pieces connect as the red connect. Just a simple little three hit combo to let your opponent know you’re here. Now, for a more damaging combo…







The green and yellow pieces connect for a nice six piece match. I love how the faces explode — their eyes and mouths pop before bursting. It’s the small details :)







The yellow piece drops on the bottom two while the four red pieces connect. Meanwhile, major liberation is taking place (which is the key to creating monster chain reactions).







The blue pieces connect, freeing that yellow imprisoned block there.







The yellow faces match, freeing two blue blocks and the yellow block up top.







Now the blue faces dissipate, releasing the two yellow blocks for the 6th hit of this massive combo.







As your combo meter increases, so too do the debris on your opponent’s screen. The characters’ reactions are priceless and add to the anxiety (and thrill) of a competitive contest. Seeing the characters wince in pain before crying uncle is all part of the fun of watching your opponent’s well fill up completely.


Konami's most unknown SNES gem
Konami’s best kept SNES secret!

Tsuyoshi Shikkari Shinasai Taisen Puzzle-dama is a blast. It’s a ton of fun to see 10+ hit combos filling up the screen. It’s competitive, charming and cutthroat. And seeing the characters react in the background, whether they’re celebrating or biting their fingernails, never gets old.







“No, no, no! YES, YES, YES!” Ah, the back and forth of a thrilling match.

On the down side, the visuals aren’t the best. I wish the backgrounds were a little more colorful than the semi-drab green that they used. Not a deal breaker for me by any means but I’m sure Konami could have added a little more color. Another negative is that the pieces aren’t as operational as some other games in this genre. For example, take moving a vertical two piece set down a narrow column. In most puzzle games you can switch these pieces despite having no room. You can’t do that here. Therefore, you have to make certain adjustments. Again, not a deal breaker for me but it’s something to be noted.

A must-have for puzzle fanatics
Puzzle fans can’t go wrong here

Puzzle fanatic? Got a girlfriend or wife who isn’t much of a gamer, but enjoys these cutesy puzzle games on a casual level? Still rocking out with the SNES? If so then do yourself a favor and check out Tsuyoshi Shikkari Shinasai Taisen Puzzle-dama. Konami smashes yet another Super Nintendo gem. Unlike their other SNES hits though, this one never got the recognition it so richly deserved. Hands down Konami’s best kept SNES secret!

Otoboke Ninja Colosseum (SFC)

Oh look, it's Super Bomberwoman!
Oh look, it’s Super Bomberwoman!

It is true that “chain” can be hard. Developer “Mint” knew this because they didn’t stray far from a much tried-and-true formula for their very first video game effort. In fact, they only made a total of three games. If you’ve never heard of the company Mint before, you’re not alone. Otoboke Ninja Colosseum can best be described as Bomberman with female ninjas. Sounds pretty good. But is it? Let’s take a closer look.


Love the Super Famicoms!
Love the Super Famicoms!

Rather than dropping bombs, you drop spiked capsules. But there’s an interesting twist here…

Death by shuriken! Not so fast...
Death by shuriken! Not so fast…

Two seconds later the capsule shatters, releasing four shurikens north, south, west and east (if not blocked by an obstacle).

OK, so it’s pretty much like Bomberman‘s bombs right? Hold on a second, playa…

Like a sitting duck...
Like a sitting duck, the poor gal

If a shuriken connects, it stuns the player for two seconds, but they’re not yet eliminated. You’re only halfway home.

Pick her off around the corner!
Pick her off around the corner!

Only during a stunned state can the chain attack finish ‘em off. This is a cool twist because the stun doesn’t automatically guarantee defeat. The other player still has to connect with their chain ball. Battles get intense when you escape the grip of death by mere nanoseconds. It’s also incredibly satisfying to manually twist your chain around from far away. Some of the chain twists can get pretty nuts!

It’s this little quirk and change in gameplay that makes this Bomberman clone stand out from the crowd. In four player battles you can hide in the shadows and wait for the other players to stun each other, and then you can unleash your chain. You can technically win a match by only using the chain attack and never having to lay down a spiked capsule. This adds a natural built-in devious and vulture-like atmosphere that works really well with three friends in tow. Being able to wait in the weeds and eliminate someone seemingly out of nowhere is damn good stuff.

So gone is the “Damnit! I accidentally killed myself in the first three seconds” syndrome. Plus the chain attack is ace. It can be manipulated to curve around corners and, when prolonged, is quite an amazing sight. Not to mention really fun to control. More on this later…



It’s decent enough, but definitely not the meat and potatoes of the game. It does sport kind of an anime look, though, which is pretty interesting, although the visuals are a little on the bland side. It doesn’t come off as a 1995 SNES game. In fact it looks more like a Genesis title from 1993 (no offense to the Sega Genesis). It just has that Mega Drive look to it, know what I mean?


I forged ahead, hoping things would pick up a bit. And it did at the first boss.

Shurikens hitting this boss does no damage. You have to first connect with the shuriken(s) and then send the chain ball at it. For regular enemies, the shuriken is enough to get the job done. For the tougher regular enemies, however, it’s the ol’ shuriken-chain combo.

The second world was a lot more interesting with more puzzles to solve instead of just laying spiked capsules and high-tailing it. They’re not yet mind-bending but it’s still early. Here is the first “puzzle” you’ll encounter:


To beat a stage you must first clear every bad guy. Three unbreakable blocks halt your progress here.


Use your chain to pull those three blocks out one by one.

Keep going
Keep going


Now with one block remaining, you’re able to push through it and unleash hell on all them fools.

Like I said, not taxing but a lot more satisfying than the wide open. Later on, teleports come into play and the puzzles get rather perplexing.







The next snow stage is very nice. I love little details like that creepy, possessed-looking volcano face launching fireballs without mercy — awesome. Watch the shadows of these on-coming fireballs and skidaddle!


By the way, the volcano baddie reminds me of GAROKK from X-Men fame… in his rocky prison form.













The haunted theme is the best. Contend with bats, vampires, ghoulish skeletons and super quick werewolves. Check out this sick 2×2 screen level!


Feeling quite satisfied with the one player mode now, which went from meh to hey that’s not so bad, the four player battle mode is the meat of any Bomberman type game. The one player mode was never anything more than a bonus, a frill, a silk handkerchief in the breast pocket of the game’s velvet regalia.


Power-ups are always important to these games. Otoboke has some of the coolest you’ll find anywhere. A list of some:

  • Drop more spiked capsules at a time
  • Spiked capsules are made invisible when dropped
  • Spiked capsules exploding after one second rather than two
  • Chain can PUSH spiked capsules around (very evil power-up!)
  • Chain can break blocks, not just your shurikens
  • Speed down
  • Speed up

Etc. Everyone starts with a full screen chain and shurikens which also travel the full length of the screen, not to mention the ability to drop two spiked capsules right off the bat. This makes it a bit more chaotic than Bomberman from the get-go at least. There’s an emphasis on being offensive-minded. You have to watch your back from jump street as everyone starts out pretty strong even in their default state.



Your standard first stage. The snowmen are unbreakable and can be used defensively as shurikens can’t cut through them. The snowmen are pushable and your chain can pull them toward you as well. All but two battle zones have these movable barriers in some shape or form.



Each player has their own island waiting to be invaded. The cool thing here is, unless you use the bridge points, chains cannot stretch across islands, thus eliminating “cheap kills.” This stage effectively forces you to man up, er, woman up. This Colosseum separates the boys from the men. Er, the girls from the women. Ah you know what I mean! The Super Famicom barriers add a nice touch as well.



What would a game of this nature be without a roof / tunnel stage? Can you locate the green player? Not here you can, since she is taking shelter under one of the roof tops. This stage is full of Japanese culture — from the roofing style to the Tanuki statues. I always enjoy these tunnel type levels, where parts of the playing field is obscured by some kind of structure. It lends a fun hide and seek aspect to the game.



What else could make a game of this nature more complete? Of course, the stage with multiple exit points. The green player enjoys a blend-in advantage (see far right). Hey, sometimes it pays to be controller number four, eh?



The green bars restrict certain movement. Sorry, not much else to say here. It’s not one of my favorite stages as it’s a bit dull both in concept and in terms of looks. One of the more forgettable battle zones. Not worthless, but not exactly as enticing as some of the others on tap.








This one is unique because all spiked capsules dropped are invisible! Note the return of the Tanuki. The green pool in the middle there is aesthetically pleasing in a mystical, mythical fashion. See, this is what the previous Colosseum lacked. Just the smallest detail or graphical touch can really go a long way! It makes me wonder if the combatants took a sip of the water before the match and thus were granted the super power of having invisible spiked capsules. All thanks to one small graphical detail ^_^



It’s the super power war zone. Each player begins with the ability to drop five spiked capsules and there are no obstacles! Only the strongest will survive here.

You can’t fall through those holes by the way. Whew!








At a cursory glance you wouldn’t know the gimmick here. However, play for a bit and arrows are soon revealed. Determines where shurikens travel? Nope. The arrows directs where your CHAIN can go. A nice variation on top of a nice variation. The Super Famicom barriers make a return because they’re awesome.



When the clock runs down to 30 seconds, spikes crop up. If you come into contact with the spikes then you’re stunned a la the shurikens. Also, you lose if you fall through the holes. An interesting variation on Bomberman‘s falling blocks.


Check out some of the cool things you can do with that ole chain ball:

The S-chain
The S-chain
The rectangle chain
The rectangle chain
The Mario Kart race track chain
The Mario Kart race track chain :)


Nothing’s quite as sweet as lurking in the shadows waiting for others to do the dirty work. As soon as you find a stunned opponent, send the chain ball twisting and curving some twenty feet away — it makes for great enemies and Ooooh-I’ll-get-you-next-round!” battles.

The feeling of surviving by the skin of your teeth as the chain comes your way JUST as you recover from your slumber is equally a great high, and on the flip side, morally deflating.


Otoboke lacks the finishing touches and isn’t nearly as customizable as the Bomberman games. There’s no option for CPU AI — the default AI is laughably horrible. There’s no tag team option. Thankfully the rest is status quo: pick between 2-4 players (from a character choice of four females), 1-5 wins and any one of the eight Colosseums.

Graphically, it’s a bit weaker than the SNES Bomberman games (which were no visual tour-de-forces themselves). The music can get annoying at times. Control is a bit “stickier” than the Bomberman games.

What I mean by that is you can’t readjust your position when “waiting.” You know how you drop a bomb in Bomberman, go hide in a safe corner and can face north, south, west or east to ready yourself for your next movement? In Otoboke if you go in facing east, you can’t turn west without moving out of your safe position. Maybe hard to understand in text, but you’ll see what I mean if you play it. This forces you to have greater wherewithal to compensate for a flaw that shouldn’t be there in the first place. It’s not a deal breaker in my opinion, but diehard Bomberman fans will take notice of this change and be quickly forced to adjust their playing style.


Best Bomberman clone on SNES
Best Bomberman clone on SNES

Despite the flaws listed above, I love Otoboke Ninja Colosseum. It plays enough like Bomberman to provide you with that sense of comforting familiarity, yet it throws some curveballs at you to keep you on your toes and makes this a game worth playing rather than that lingering thought creeping into your head: “I would much rather play Bomberman.” Otoboke does just enough to separate itself from Bomberman that it makes owning both games more than worth it. One of the better Super Famicom imports and one of the best four player games on the SNES, Otoboke Ninja Colosseum is a quirky little gem.

Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling Trilogy (SFC)

Natsume launches their underrated wrestling series
Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling (7.16.93)

With the popularity of Human’s Fire Pro Wrestling series in the early-mid ’90s, Natsume counteracted with their (underrated) Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling trilogy. They even Americanized a version of this, calling it Natsume Championship Wrestling, which came out on the Super Nintendo market in June 1994. I have fond memories of NCW, so it was a great deal of fun to play the original Japanese version.

Growing up in the late ’80s a kid only needed two things really: Nintendo and Hulk Hogan. I still remember how my uncle would watch Saturday Night’s Main Event with me and my brother. As well as that time he took us to the mall to get an autograph from visiting WWF superstar Virgil. It was a great time.

Virgil signed my card, and he didn't charge me $50!
Still got my signed Virgil card to this day! ^_^

ZEN NIPPON PRO WRESTLING is an excellent wrestling game featuring solid graphics, good sound and terrific gameplay. The grapple system relies on timing rather than speed. You have weak, medium and power attacks during grapple. The energy bar is perhaps my favorite thing about these games. The “whiplash rope” trick is pretty damn cool too… more on this later on.

EGM introduced me to this series when they ran a cool little preview back in 1994.

NCW was based off the Zen Nippon games
NCW was based off the Zen Nippon games

Your energy bar starts out BLUE.

The bar decreases as damage is taken, revealing these colors in sequence:


Like Capcom’s Vampire Savior, health can be recuperated. For example, you recover health when you’re on the apron resting during a tag match. When you eat a move, like a power bomb or dropkick, you lose the proper amount of health but your energy will recover at a decent pace. However, the more damage you sustain, the slower your energy will recuperate. Brilliant.







Japanese wrestling legend Giant BABA is no match for the younger and quicker Patriot. I dig the simple, colorful visuals. That health bar system was innovative for its time!







There was a subtle sense of black humor, too. You can knock the opposition silly right before they can make the tag. Or even knock out their partner off the apron right as they’re going for the hot tag!

As good of a first entry as this was, the follow-up made some vast improvements.

Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling Dash: Sekai Saikyou Tag
Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling Dash: Sekai Saikyou Tag (12.28.93)

ZEN NIPPON PRO WRESTLING DASH was released only five months after the first one. It’s more of an upgrade than a sequel. Like the original, 16 wrestlers are available. So what’s new? Besides minor roster changes, the focus is now on tag team play, though the first game had tag team modes as well. The difference here? Tag team moves.

That'll rearrange his furniture
That’ll rearrange his furniture
C.O.D. = Concussion On Delivery
C.O.D. = Concussion On Delivery

OK, I know what you’re thinking

“Tag team combo moves. BIG DEAL!”

That’s why, to save Dash from being simply a hack cash-in, they included…


This mode is a wild free-for-all providing great multiplayer action. There are no energy bars cluttering the screen. The only way to win is via pin fall or submission. Over-the-top-rope doesn’t matter here — hell, you can take the battle outside if you wish.

Just don't get counted out
Just don’t get counted out

The mat on the outside even has a different (more brutal sounding) sound effect as compared to the ring mat. Great attention to detail and made slamming fools on the outside all the more satisfying.

The third and final game of the trilogy, however, is by far the best of the bunch.

Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling 2:3-4 Budokan (April 7, 1995)
Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling 2:3-4 Budokan (4.7.95)

Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling 2:3-4 Budokan (yes, I know it’s an incredibly weird and awkward title) is my favorite SNES wrestling game. I even prefer it over Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium, which I just reviewed earlier today. While I don’t think it’s technically better than Premium, I do find it to be slightly more fun. There’s a difference between what one considers to be their favorite versus what one considers to be the best. Let’s see what makes this final game in the Zen Nippon trilogy so good.


Based on skill, not speed
Based on skill, not speed

Similar to the Fire Pro games, Natsume chose wisely when they decided to make the Zen Nippon games based on timing rather than button mashing. When two wrestlers go to lock up, the first to press an attack button right as the two combatants touch hands will win that grapple. However, if you use a medium or power based attack early on, it may be countered as the opposition might still be too strong. Therefore, you must weaken them bit by bit until you can pull out the heavy hitters (power bombs, pile drivers and so forth). It made for progressive matches that flowed nicely, like real life wrestling matches on TV. You don’t see wrestlers hitting their big power moves right after the opening bell (well at least you don’t in most cases). It’s a classic formula that works and has stood the test of time.
























































They’re all actual real wrestlers that competed in Japan back in the ’80s or ’90s. My favorite is this guy…


zennipbudo4Asteroid was my favorite wrestler from Natsume Championship Wrestling which was a 1994 Super Nintendo release based off Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling. Man, did my brother and I have some good times with NCW. From buying the last copy at Toys R Us in ’95 for its clearance price of $19.99 to all the late evenings we spent glued to the TV screen waging war in tag team battle. Even my mom, who never cared for video games, would occasionally stop whatever chore she was doing to glance at the game. My bro and I played NCW to death for a good number of years until we finally laid it to rest in 1997 when one day my bro simply refused to play it. It was a sad day, but such is the life of video games, I suppose. Thanks for all the good times and fond memories, NCW! You and all your cheesy charm will never be forgotten.



Poor Doug Furnas probably lost a tooth there
Poor Doug Furnas probably lost a tooth there


Like I said, more moves than ever before
Like I said, more moves than ever before
[OK, please do not use the word KINKY ever again -Ed.]
[OK, please do not use the word KINKY ever again -Ed.]
Not really THAT big a deal, but cool stuff nonetheless
Not really that big a deal, but cool stuff nonetheless


Press ‘A’ to hold. If you catch your opponent, you can hit Y for a weak move, B for a medium move, A for a power move or X to sling them into the ropes. It allows you to skip the grappling process but be warned, your opponent can still counter if they’re too strong.

The new entrances are very cool, as well, with their own theme
New entrances with personal theme music? Sick
It's like one of those lavish GODZILLA VS. titles
It’s like one of those lavish GODZILLA VS. titles







Just like in the previous games, the 2.5 and 2.9 dramatic counts return. These close counts result in the audience stomping in unison causing the screen to shake. Adds nicely to the drama and intensity of a match.














Countering creates a dramatic ebb and flow
Countering creates a dramatic ebb and flow













No blood, but Budokan is satisfyingly BRUTAL
No blood, but Budokan is satisfyingly BRUTAL







OUCH, nothing says pain like taking a missile dropkick straight to the mush!







Akira’s face slam is devastating enough on its own. But when combined with the top cable rope? It’s downright dirty.













Jackhammer?! Close enough. In real life Akira used this move which he called Chichubu Cement. Odd name, sick looking move. The crash of the mat sounds extra loud on this move in particular, and never fails to make me wince a little on the inside.







Chichubu Cement against the ropes! Now that definitely makes me wince.













Undertaker would be proud. Love those flashing cameras. Totally captures the spirit of pro wrestling in the mid ’90s!













Akira also delivers one mean power bomb. But wait, there’s a twist here…







There are actually two versions of it! To execute Akira’s power bomb, press A to catch them in a hold first. Then press up or down + A. Tap A once for a regular release power bomb. But tap A multiple times and Akira will turn it into a pinning power bomb! The first time I discovered this by pure accident of button mashing for the hell of it, I almost fell out of my chair. It’s such a deep game, only second to Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium.













Akira just heaves them like they were yesterday’s garbage. I love the ability to do moves from behind — the previous two games didn’t allow this.













Samoan drop and a beauty! Budokan added in quite a few new moves the previous two games didn’t have.













Beautiful frog splash — Eddie Guerrero would be proud.








First, check out the cool entrances. Most wrestlers wear some sort of special t-shirt or robe that they only wear during their ring entrances. Good stuff. Baba is PIMPING!

Better fill those seats or else... YOU'RE FIRED
Better fill those seats or else… YOU’RE FIRED

Budokan is a unique mode where you book the wrestling matches. The arena starts out looking rather sorry and sparse, but depending on the quality of your booked matches, more fans fill in as the evening progresses. It’s a cool little niche mode but it’s not my favorite.

Don't hit start, hit option first
Don’t hit start, hit option first

This is a bit tricky. If you hit start you’ll begin the tournament which is meh. But if you press start on OPTION you actually open up the game’s various modes. Kind of weird, huh?

I may be a bit overly enthusiastic here...
I may be a bit overly enthusiastic here…
I love beating up on the masked wrestlers...
I love beating up on the masked wrestlers…
Fire Pro ain't got nothing on this!
Fire Pro ain’t got nothing on this

The Fatal Four Way leads to some good old fashion arcade-esque fun and chaos. Bum rushing folks from behind is oddly one of the greatest pleasures in multi-player history. There’s just something about attacking your friends from behind that will cause you to grin like a Cheshire cat. Trust me when I say… it’s priceless.

OK maybe this takes the cake
OK maybe this takes the cake

Like in Natsume Championship Wrestling, the ropes can be your friend if used wisely. You can actually ram them into the ropes, bouncing them off! This makes a neat sound effect as you watch in pure joy at the clever brutality and sheer violence of it all. It’s viciously, deviously violent.

It's why I prefer it slightly over Fire Pro
It’s why I prefer it slightly over Fire Pro
There's a devious aspect to the Fatal Four Way
There’s a devious aspect to the Fatal Four Way

Part of the fun is waiting in the wings, then rush attacking the opponent in the middle of his wrestling move. Here we see a well-timed dropkick in the middle of a suplex. All three bodies crash loudly to the mat, but of course only you get up immediately. The others? Licking their sore wounds on the canvas! Sweet.

That's what I call a hit and run
That’s what I call a hit and run

Indeed, taking out two wrestlers at the same time, particularly nailing one in front and the other from behind, is too damn fun. You can imagine the chaos and temporary allegiances this may create when playing against friends.







If anyone is foolish enough to taunt during a Fatal Four Way match, it’s your civic and rightful duty to remind them why doing so is not a good idea. Hey, someone’s gotta do the dirty work… don’t mind if I do! ;)


My longest match ever, this was simply epic
My longest match ever, this was simply epic

On average, my Fatal Four Way matches roughly go anywhere from about eight to 12 minutes. The real fun lies in trying to see how long you can prolong the torture of the three other wrestlers. You can break up pin falls by pressing ‘B’ to stomp, but it doesn’t always work, oddly enough. My longest time was 24 minutes and 38 seconds. However, on my last play-through, it went a record long 51 minutes and 28 seconds! After Patriot and Eagle were eliminated, this damn fool refused to lose. He kicked out at 2.5 and 2.9 at least 30 times. He was a man possessed. I hit him with about 15 missile dropkicks yet, like Freddy or Jason, dude kept coming back for more. I never saw anything like it before. After a back breaking power bomb, he finally submitted to my foul desires. It’s just fun to see how long you can keep a match going with all three guys, then two, then finally one. It’s like some sick game within a game type thing. I know, I’m weird. But damn if this isn’t fun.

Gotta watch that ref's count, though
Gotta watch that ref’s count, though

Whenever the fight spills outside the ring, there’s a decent chance one of the computer wrestlers will be counted out. They stay out there no matter what until the count of six. Also, when they’ve been beaten to a pulp, the first submission animation leads to a submission victory. It’s trickier than you think to keep all three computer opponents alive, and it’s fun to see how long you can take them to the limit. Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling Budokan is largely a dream come true for this ol’ wrestling fan. I see something new almost every time I play it. The other night Patriot and Eagle actually did a tag team move in the Fatal Four Way match to take out Kobashi. It was a suplex-top rope splash combination. That same match I discovered that Akira Taue can counter a rope reversal by hitting UP + Y or B, which produces a DDT! Speaking of Akira, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out he had two different power bombs (based on whether you press A once or tap it a few times). The depth of this wrestling game is second only to Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium.



Budokan took everything that worked in the first two games and cranked it up even further. Budokan offers more wrestlers, more moves, a superb Fatal Four Way match, better gameplay, better graphics and so on. This is one of those games I can pop in after a long day, play for even just 10 minutes and be satisfied with each and every time. It’s just a bloody brilliant fun time — especially for wrestling fanatics like myself.

The game's bread and butter
The game’s bread and butter

Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling Budokan is my favorite wrestling game on the SNES. If only the game featured WCW and WWF guys, it would be flawless. Imagine using guys like Sting, Undertaker, Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage and Shawn Michaels with this graphic style and gameplay system. Alas, we get 19 All Japan Pro Wrestling stars. They’re not bad but I don’t connect with them as I do with the more well known American wrestlers of mid ’90s fame. But I digress. Combining the arcade-like fun and chaos of Saturday Night Slam Masters with Fire Pro’s purity, Budokan is a gem that deserves more props. Bravo, Natsume!







Gotta love those lovely entrances, complete with the wrestler’s theme music!

Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium (SFC)

Arguably the greatest 16-bit wrestling game ever

Fire Pro Wrestling. It’s a cult classic franchise that has picked up steam over the years. Even back in the day of the late ’90s, when the internet was still relatively new, I remember hearing the rumblings online of Fire Pro. People were talking about Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium for the Super Famicom and Fire Pro S: Six Man Scramble for the Sega Saturn. My brother bought Fire Pro G on the Sony PlayStation and we played it to death. A little later on I bought Six Man Scramble.

Here comes the calvary
Here comes the calvary
It's an all out WAR!
It’s an all out WAR!
Somewhere Samurai Shodown is smiling
Somewhere Samurai Shodown is smiling
Tag team moves up the wazoo
Tag team moves up the wazoo

Fire Pro games are well known for being very realistic and in-depth. There were several entries on the Super Famicom but the last one, Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium, was the best of the 16-bit lot. Four could wrestle at once, and there was an extensive create a wrestler mode where you could create and save up to 80 wrestlers. It blew away any other “CAW” at that time (1996). It was revolutionary in many ways. The grappling is based on a timing and strength system. No button mashing here! I never was a huge fan of wrestling games where you had to mash away in order to win a grapple. Here you win based on timing, which is far more enjoyable. There are weak, medium and strong buttons. If you start out a match trying to use medium or strong moves, your opponent will counter because they’re still too fresh. No energy bars are shown — you’ll just instinctively know how strong or weak someone is.








There are a crap load of wrestlers to choose from. It spans many different federations and even include a few familiar American faces, like Hawk here of Road Warriors/Legion of Doom fame (R.I.P.)

























SUPLEX CITY! Somewhere Brock Lesnar is pacing as Paul Heyman preps his vocal cords. “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, MY NAME IS PAUL HEYMAN…”













There are several modes to select from. The game is mostly in Japanese but of course there is a fan English translation floating out there. I always switch the ref to this old guy here — he counts the slowest of all the refs and so the matches are extended a little bit beyond the norm.







HULK HOGAN and UNDERTAKER?! Yup, they’re available from the start.







Tonight’s main event is a FATAL FOUR WAY featuring the Undertaker, Hulk Hogan, Hayabusa and ECW’s homicidal, suicidal, genocidal death-defying maniac, SABU! It’s gonna be a barnburner, folks! That shot of all four men knocked out on the mat is a sign of the chaos and sheer insanity to come…







Hulkster does his classic pose. Sabu then points to the sky to honor his uncle, The Sheik. Just like their real life counterparts back in their hey day. Great attention to detail! Coming from HUMAN and Fire Pro you wouldn’t expect anything less.







Tonight’s main event will continue until there is one man (or dead man) left standing. Every man for himself, elimination style. Let’s check out the action!







Undertaker delivers a high impact side suplex while Hogan tries to shut up the marks with a well executed Boston Crab.







Hogan with the Big Leg Drop of Doom! Hayabusa tried to intercept it but his timing was a bit off there. In reality we all know nothing stops Hulkamania.













Hayabusa shows off his strength by slamming the dead man, followed by a nice senton flip. Meanwhile, the Hulkster delivers a sweet vertical suplex to the mad man, Sabu.







“STUNNER! STUNNER!! STUNNER!!!” -Jim Ross, probably



















Taker with his patented beautiful running flying clothesline. Meanwhile, Hulk hits Sabu with a nasty pinning power bomb.



















Hayabusa shows off his classic 450 Splash.







German suplex well executed. That’s gonna leave a mark.



















Nobody ever said Sabu was smart now. He lives up to the “suicidal” part of his nickname, for sure. Meanwhile, notice that gorgeous DDT on the Hulkster there. Hayabusa spiked him good! Somewhere Jake “The Snake” Roberts is grinning.



















FLYING SPINNING CARTWHEEL KICK AND A BEAUTY! Taker displays his power with a standing delayed vertical suplex. The mat crashes with the bodies of these fierce, insane gladiators.







Break up pin falls if you wish to have all the glory for yourself.













Hayabusa and Sabu form a temporary alliance to take down the Immortal One, but the Undertaker has other plans.

The X sign! He's injured!
The infamous X — he’s injured!

So much for that alliance, eh? Sabu turns on the masked warrior right after and gets him to submit. Not only that but judging by the referee’s X signal, that means we have a legitimate injury… after all, referees show the X sign in real life for real injuries. They’ve never used it as part of a storyline…

Or maybe they did (WrestleMania 22)
Or maybe they have… see WrestleMania 22 and Ric Flair. WOO!



















Speaking of the legendary Nature Boy, Ric Flair, look at Hogan taking a page out of Flair’s playbook!

Ric, it worked once in 63 years!
Ric, it worked like once in 49 bloody years!













Choke Slam and a beauty! That HAS to be it!








WrestleMania 25
Taker is SHOCKED!
Taker is SHOCKED!













Hogan tried to mock D-Generation X by doing their signature crotch chop, but the Dead Man wasn’t having any of that.













Guess Taker really took great offense to Hogan trying to rip off DX…

No hulking up here
No hulking up here



















“WOULD SOMEBODY STOP THE DAMN MATCH!” Look at the way Sabu’s head bounced violently off the mat. “GOOD GAWD ALMIGHTY!” is right, Jim Ross.

































Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium does a lot of things right, especially for 1996 standards. However, it’s not quite perfect. For starters, when you’re near the apron of the ring it’s far too easy to fall outside. It’s awkward and kind of kills the flow of a match. This of course was fixed in later Fire Pro games. Another disappointment is that submission moves are way overpowered. I hate seeing an opponent tap out in a simple head lock hold five minutes into the match. It’s just not realistic. Later Fire Pro games gave you the option to turn submissions off, which negates this flaw. Unfortunately there’s no such option here. Another thing that this game is missing are steel cage matches, tables, fluorescent light bulbs, barb wire and all the crazy gimmicks and weapons that the later Fire Pro games would introduce. Think of this as a very PG and promising start to the series, but it’s far from being the “perfect” Fire Pro game. It’s like an early proto of what would become the successful backbone of the series. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an excellent game but whenever I play it it’s hard not to think about the improvements the series would later introduce, and you kind of wish at least a few of those made their debut here. Hell, just give me the no submissions and I’d be happy. Nevertheless, even as is, this is easily one of the greatest wrestling games of the 16-bit era. Possibly even the greatest…


Classic WWF wrestlers!
Classic WWF wrestlers!

The Create A Wrestler (CAW) mode was revolutionary for its time. You could create and save up to 80 wrestlers. There were tons of moves and body models to pick from that you could closely replicate your favorite titans of the squared circle. Here we see Macho Man Randy Savage, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Sgt. Slaughter and the Ultimate Warrior. They all resemble their real life counterpart pretty damn well! So if you take the time you can easily recreate the magic of late ’80s/early ’90s WWF!

Rock it Four Horsemen style
Rock it Four Horsemen style
Going super old school with Bobo!
Go super old school with Bobo!


Wrestling digital Heaven
Wrestling digital Heaven

It’s easy to see why Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium is so beloved. Released in March of 1996, it’s been over 20 years now and the game remarkably still holds up well. As I stated a bit earlier, there are definitely better more recent Fire Pro games available, but considering this now 20 plus year old game can still stand toe to toe with most wrestling games from ANY era is no doubt impressive indeed. It speaks to how innovative and fresh this game was back in ’96. You want to recreate the Attitude WWF era? Or the Ruthless Aggression era? Or WCW? ECW? Perhaps relive the Monday Night War? With a little time and devotion to the CAW mode, you can! The game certainly isn’t without its flaws but you simply have to appreciate how deep this game was and still is. Human did a great job and should be highly commended. The series definitely didn’t peak here, but it no doubt laid its grass roots with Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium.

Umihara Kawase (SFC)

Dora the Explorer meets Bionic Commando!
Dora the Explorer meets Bionic Commando!

Before I delved deep into the obscure world of Super Famicom in early 2006, I remember hearing rumblings about a strange Japanese game. Its biggest selling point was it played something akin to Bionic Commando. As a kid the grappling in Bionic Commando captivated my imagination, and I always wanted to play a Super Bionic Commando. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Umihara Kawase isn’t that, but it doesn’t need to be. Imagine a wacky world where you navigate through the levels with your fish grappling hook, latching onto edges and using momentum and physics to push yourself up or across, or even down. It’s a unique experience the likes of which few Super Nintendo games can claim. On top of all that, throw in a distinct minimalist visual style and all manner of ocean “enemies” and you have one weird but memorable game.







Bionic Commando was released on the 8-bit Nintendo in 1988. It became a cult classic to many and it was surprising (and sad) that Capcom never made a proper 16-bit sequel. The closest thing to this on the SNES is probably Umihara Kawase.







Although actually, in 1992 Capcom released Bionic Commando to the Game Boy. It’s a very respectable game and features a password system which the NES game did not. It can be played on your Super Nintendo via the Super Game Boy. I have a copy myself and definitely recommend it as it’s a fun game to play on the go or on your big screen TV using an actual Super Nintendo controller. I consider it a bittersweet experience though. It’s good enough to tease you and make you really ponder what a “Super Bionic Commando” might look and play like.


It's like an acid trip...
It’s like an acid trip…

Right away you’ll notice the game sports a unique look. Compared to other SNES games of the era, Umihara Kawase is not exactly what one would call “bright” or even “cheerful.” It’s sort of a drab almost dreary looking world. No one knows why this Japanese school girl is suddenly forced to navigate this bizarre world containing mutated sea life. All we know is there is an exit and you must help her reach said exit door safely.

To reach your destination, you’re going to have to master the use of your tool. Each level opens up with a short demo to give you a taste.







Right away you can see why people have long drawn comparisons to Bionic Commando. The difference is the physics of the rope allows you to manipulate the ways you can move her around. It’s less “stiff” than Bionic Commando because things here are, literally, much more flexible.

Here’s an example:



















Mastering and getting used to the physics of the rope is all part of the fun.







Level one literally gets your feet wet. Love the detail of the little splashes.







The core of the gameplay is firing your hook at various platforms and ledges, then using momentum and physics of the elastic rope to swing yourself over to the next desired platform. It sounds simple but it’s rather complex and I like how there’s more than one way to solve any given level. It makes replaying the stages a more worthwhile endeavor than your typical platformer.

Go Dora go!
Go Dora go!

The way she pulls herself up onto a ledge is rather adorable. She isn’t the most athletic girl around (her jumps don’t go very high), but she’s got a charm to her.







Enemies litter the stages. Sometimes they’re roaming about. Other times they will appear mysteriously out of nowhere — a quick swirling dust cloud is the only indicator as to where they’ll pop up. The randomness of these enemy placements go a long way to increasing the game’s longevity. Most enemies can be eliminated by firing the hook at them and then reeling them in. She puts them in her pink backpack so she doesn’t “kill” them. It’s very family friendly. It’s a nice game that anyone can play. But few will master. That’s the beauty of the game.







Sometimes reeling in an enemy causes the poor little girl to crash into a platform! I love the detail of her chin literally smashing against the ledge there. It doesn’t hurt her but it sure is a fun sight gag. Gives the game a subtle sense of (black) humor and definitely gives it some extra personality.







Don’t underestimate those little fish bouncing around in that bucket there. You can capture them for points, but be careful they don’t bounce off your head and send you spiraling to an early watery grave.







Some enemies are much tougher, like this octopus which can’t be killed. It can only be avoided. Watch out for its black inky cloud. If it touches you it causes you to be paralyzed momentarily. The worst part though is you wobble about for a few seconds. This can leave our poor heroine stumbling off a ledge to her demise.







Marine life isn’t the only hazard though. Similar to Elevator Action Returns, be careful you don’t get squished to death by the various floating platforms! There’s no blood or anything, but the way she gets squashed is still pretty gruesome looking. The first time I saw this it shocked me a bit to be honest. I just didn’t expect this from a “kid’s game.” When in reality it’s not really a kid’s game as the gameplay mechanics are rather complex!







The objective of each level is to locate the exit and reach it. Locating it isn’t so hard — reaching it may present a stiffer task. It’s so satisfying to finally reach the exit. I love the way she swings the door open. Hey, it’s the little things in life and video games, right?







Here’s a nifty trick. In order to reach that exit down there you can’t just jump down because the angle and law of physics doesn’t allow you to do so. Instead, what you can do is stand at the edge, kneel and drop your hook down. This allows you to use gravity and momentum to safely swing yourself down to the next platform until you finally reach that sweet exit. It’s little tricks like this that make it so much fun. It’s like learning the ins and outs of using a yo-yo. This is a bit like “walking the dog.” Good stuff.







This requires a bit of skill but nothing you can’t get the hang of [I see what you did there -Ed.] after a bit of practice and elbow grease. It’s these little moments that make this game such a pleasure to play.

Get the hang of it. Geddit?
Get the hang of it. Geddit?
Some stages have multiple exits
Some levels have multiple exits
It's fun working your way to the exit
Always a blast solving the puzzle
Look out for bonus items
Look out for bonus items
Pull yourself up and swing over
Pull yourself up and swing over
Close! Wait patiently there
Close! Wait patiently there
Who knows how they got so big?
This is one trippy game…
But it's loads of fun!
But it’s loads of fun!

The first boss you’ll encounter is this creepy looking thing. The way it moves and how abnormal it looks freaks me out a bit. It reminds me of Godzilla’s second form from Shin Godzilla.

It's just weird enough to be a bit creepy
It’s just weird enough to be a bit creepy







The thing lays eggs which quickly hatch. At which point little green frogs come hopping your way.

Oh, they look harmless...
Oh, they look harmless…







You actually can’t kill this boss. The secret to winning is making sure it doesn’t touch you. Eventually it just gets bored and goes away. But be careful its frog babies doesn’t knock you off.


Retro Gamer Magazine blurb
Retro Gamer placed it 10th on their top 10 SNES list


This game is weird and awesome
This game is weird and awesome

Umihara Kawase is one of the best Super Famicom games that never came out stateside. It’s a pure joy to play. Learning how to manipulate the elastic grappling hook makes it different than any of the 976 other platformers on the SNES. I can’t say enough positive things about it, and it’s best you experience it for yourself if you haven’t already. It’s got an interesting soundtrack to boot. The sound effects, music and gameplay all combine to make it one of those nice relaxing and soothing games to play. The kind of game that you can fire up for 15 minutes after a long hard day at work and be completely satisfied by. Don’t let its looks fool you — Umihara Kawase is a true gem that belongs in any SNES recommendation list.

It's unlike any other SNES game
It’s unlike any other SNES game!

Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban (SFC)

Pocky & Rocky's weird cousin...
Pocky & Rocky‘s weird cousin…

Are you a big fan of the Pocky & Rocky games? Do you appreciate video games that veer off the path of “normal” and spiral deep into the depths of madness? Then Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban was made for you. Tackle 10 bizarre stages featuring even stranger creatures and enemies in a madcap attempt to save the world. The good news? Two guys are up to the task. The bad news? Those two guys aren’t exactly superhero material. Fortunately, they’ve got heart up the wazoo and the game is a friggin’ blast.


The game doesn’t take itself seriously at all

When EGM issue #66 came out, January 1995, there was a half page preview on a weird looking action game for the Super Famicom. It struck my fancy and it was just something that never left me. Finally, nearly 16 years later, I got a chance to play Tonosama. To me, one of gaming’s greatest pleasures is crossing Game X off the X Year Curiosity list. There’s something really cool about finally playing that game you had studied a half page preview on some 15+ years ago. Games which you thought back then you would never ever play. Such is the advantage of being older, having more resources and know-how. It seemed like a silly game from EGM’s description, and boy were they spot on. Tonosama is strange as all hell!








Mario and Luigi they are not!
Mario and Luigi they are not!

Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban is a one or two player overhead action game. It’s filled with little cultural items and oddities throughout, and the two “heroes” you can play as certainly are not your average video game good guys, so to speak. In fact their names are Baka-dono, which means Lord Stupid, and Baka-ouji, which means Prince Stupid. I’m not making this up. This comes from the actual game translation believe it or not. It gives you a good idea of its slapstick nature.

Pick your poison, I mean, player...
Pick your poison, I mean, player…

Lord Stupid and Prince Stupid play differently. Fanboy has a close range attack while the Prince’s roses act as projectiles. In a two player game, it’s nice to have the Prince attacking from afar with Baka-dono striking up front. Unfortunately, there is a bit of slowdown, even in the one player game as the screen can get fairly hectic from time to time with all the enemy sprites rushing in and out. These two also have some special moves you can work out. I personally prefer Baka-dono, despite Rose Boy being the better jumper.

I'll explain TGR a bit later
I’ll explain TGR a bit later
As always, save your bombs for the big bosses
As always, save your bombs for the big bosses
Nothing beats seeing % icons after transforming
Nothing beats seeing % icons after transforming

See the yellow % at the bottom there and the 20% icon on the bridge? That’s your TGR. When you press ‘X’ you transform to your father’s muscle bound ways. Every hit you take or deliver drops your %. Once it hits 0 you go back to being Baka-dono or Baka-ouji. Slain enemies may leave behind food, scrolls (magic) or TGR points. The fathers are very strong. Another good thing: as the father, your own health never decreases, only the % points. It’s funky, but it sure is fun!

Call me Boss again, toots [Oh this is going downhill fast -Ed.]
Call me boss again, toots [Oh brother… -Ed.]
Tonosama allows you to select your stage order. I always like games that allow you to pick and choose. You can start off with the final boss (blue triangle) first, but if so, you’ll have to run the gauntlet of the purple triangle bosses, with no scrolls or TGR, mind! So I really do not recommend tackling the blue triangle first. Plus, with the cool and crazy locales, you don’t want to miss a thing!








That big guy there is sort of a mini boss. His little cronies try to bum rush you. Later on Baka-dono comes face to face with some angry swordsmen.







Your first mid boss encounter (of many) occurs on this cool little red bridge. Baka-dono then calls on his father for some needed assistance.







Ye standard semi-tricky jumping bits are ever present in Tonosama. As you make your way through this deadly dojo, sumo wrestlers parade around trying to slap you down! By the way, I love how this game is filled to the brim with unnecessary explosions. Japanese shoji screens? They even explode in submission. Gotta love it.

I'm having an E. Honda and Samurai Shodown NIPPON! flashback!
E. Honda and Samurai Shodown NIPPON! mashup

And here is your very first boss fight — a ref and two grandmaster sumo wrestlers! It’s your lucky day — you get to maim three for the price of one. Watch out for their rolling attacks and make sure you take out the annoying referee who cowardly stays back, tossing projectiles at ya.








This is one of my favorite stages just because it has a creepy, ominous feel. Things look so bleak and depressing! Along the way you’ll be ambushed by jumping monkeys, ravenous crows and sprinting, shuriken-throwing ninja demons.







Be patient with this waterfall boulders-falling-down bit. Can get a little tight there toward the end. Near the end of the stage you’ll run into some zombies. I love the way they stagger about. When you kill them, they’ll burn up for a couple seconds before biting the dust! It’s a great enemy design that adds to the foreboding atmosphere of this groovy little stage.

This demon dude is a total badass. Aim for his face!
This demon dude is a total badass. Aim for his face!
Sick! A bit reminiscent of Jason Voorhees, eh?
Sick! A bit reminiscent of Jason Voorhees, eh?
[I'm baffled. This game is weirder than EVEN YOU!  -Ed.]
Let’s just move on…








The enemy roster goes from weird to weirder. I love that water part even though the dashing bald dudes can be fairly frustrating. Just love the way you can see the reflection of clouds in the water. It’s little graphical touches like this that draw you even deeper into a game.







Careful you don’t slip and drown! Poor Baka-dono doesn’t know how to swim (nor does his father, for that matter). Thankfully you just lose a little health and not a life. Mr. Fatso there serves as the mid boss of this level. He swings and chucks some sort of slingshot.







Next up you come to this little beach area where vicious spear-tossing madmen (!) do their damnedest to make sure you don’t advance any farther. Then you find three of them stabbing an innocent dolphin that’s been washed ashore! It’s sick and perverted yet makes you say, “Wow, that was different.” Kill the savages and rescue the dolphin. Free Milly!







Milly the dolphin thanks you and gives you a ride to Ganryujima Island. When necessary, jump from one dolphin friend to the next. It’s your standard force-scrolling section. I really like this one, though. It’s actually kind of fun and more than just tolerable while you wait for the next regular action bit to present itself.







After reaching the island you make your way through this creepy cave. The zombies return from the Cursed Village, and after crossing that bridge you come face to face with a most peculiar… ALIEN!? Sure looks like it… but what’s an alien doing there blocking the bridge passage? Bizarre, but deliciously imaginative and thought-provoking!

This boss is pretty tough. Use your magic or TGR
This boss is pretty tough. Use your magic or TGR
Use your last bomb before dying. Just snuck it in!
Use your last bomb before dying. Just snuck it in!
Now we can make our way to the blue triangle, Baka-dono!
Now we can make our way to the blue triangle
You can pick from two, I'll show the first one
You can pick from two. I’ll show the first one
Just copy the Zangief dude (wearing bunny ears?!) and you'll win
Just copy the Zangief dude (wearing bunny ears?!)







It helps to either have a Super Famicom controller (to know which color button is which) or to do a quick Google image search. Your reward is increased TGR beyond even 100%!


Sorry, folks. Binding contractual agreement. Let's pause
Sorry, folks. Binding contractual agreement…

[Dunno why but I could go for some HVG Tea now -Ed.]
[Dunno why but I suddenly want some HVG Tea -Ed.]
[What program am I watching here?! -Ed.]
[What program am I watching here?! -Ed.]
I love this boss. It’s a fun simple fight and he’s a hoot to pound and punch at. But he’s not the final boss of the game. After defeating him you’ll be transported to the next area where more levels await. Just when you thought things were already bizarre enough, prepare for more wacky strangeness that only the Japanese can seem to muster!


Let's hit up China first...
Let’s hit up China first








Yes, you get to kill, believe it or not, Chinese hopping vampires! Oh goodness, when I first saw them buggers hopping about, I nearly fell out of my chair in disbelief. Anyone who ever saw the 1985 classic MR. VAMPIRE will surely appreciate this. It’s things like this that help make Tonosama something that will stick in your memory vault for a long time to come. Later on there’s a semi-tricky jumping spot to work out.

Such fun childhood memories!
Such fun childhood memories!
Hopping vampires creeped the hell out of me
Hopping vampires gave me the heebie-jeebies
This bastard gave me nightmares
This creepy bastard gave me nightmares as a kid







That mid boss dude is tough. After defeating him, the stones give way falling to the abyss below. Don’t just stand there looking aloof — get a move on it!







Transformed into your overly muscular dead father, a mad flock of hopping vampires and mutant locusts quickly come your way. Now if THAT sentence doesn’t perfectly sum up the weirdness and awesomeness of Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban, I don’t know what will! A little later on you’ll even run into some Bruce Lee wannabes because, why not?







You even face off against giant turtles (Gamera, anyone?) and bamboo-shooting pandas. At this point, are you even really surprised?

Baka-dono: It ain't QUITE midnight yet, playa!
Baka-dono: It ain’t QUITE midnight yet, playa!
Although midnight's getting awfully close!
Although midnight’s getting awfully close!
Tough bastard. Time to highlight Baka-ouji now
Tough bastard. Time to highlight Baka-ouji now








This might be the most bizarre moment in the entire game. As the little boat carries you along, creepy ladies fly across the screen and some yoga dude is zapping away nonstop. To boot, yes, you can kill the chickens! Very weird but very fun stuff. After reaching land you’ll find a bevy of those yoga laser spewing henchmen strewn about.







Some half-naked dudes start bouncing your way. Later you come to what appears to be the Taj Mahal with wild bulls and curry plate-chucking (!) Indians. Ah, I wonder what the game designers were smoking when they made this?

This is my second favorite mid boss in the game
This is my second favorite mid boss in the game
You bad guy. Me good guy. That's why
You bad guy. Me good guy. That’s why
[At this point, NOTHING in this game shocks me -Ed.]
[At this point, NOTHING in this game shocks me -Ed.]
That's one nasty looking elephant trunk
That’s one nasty looking elephant trunk
I'm a big fan of boss fights where you battle both animal and owner
I love it where you battle both animal and owner

The caretaker tries to whip you, but focus on killing the elephant. Doing so takes out the guy as well. Tonosama‘s bosses flash just like bosses used to in the good old days.

The elephant explodes (yes) and the caretaker is severely humbled!
The elephant explodes because why not?
[Uh, no comment. Let us just move on, then... -Ed.]
[Uh, no comment. Let us just move on, then… -Ed.]








Here you’ll be attacked from all sides by fencers and, yes, what looks to be broom-riding witches and cherubs. Did you expect anything less, at this point?







This mini boss thinks he’s all rough and tough but once you rid of his external, you’ll find a rather limp and sorry guy on the inside. Not so big and bad now are we?

He's literally red with embarrassment  [Pack yer things -Ed.]
He’s literally red with embarrassment [… -Ed.]






This dining hall is absolutely loaded with goodies. However, in the room above, just like in pretty much every RPG, beware of treasure chests masquerading as the real McCoy…

Baka-ouji: Uh oh, I get a bad feeling they don't wanna be friends!
Baka-ouji: I’ve got a bad feeling about this…
Nice try, Prince Stupid!  Points for effort
Nice try, Prince Stupid! Points for effort
Great job, you've pissed him off now!
Great job, you’ve pissed him off now!
Let's see what you're made of, Prince!
Let’s see what you’re made of, Prince



The Fire Dragon is relentless and follows you for a bit
The fire dragon follows after you for a bit

Abra deals out a lot of fiery attacks, but the only way to harm him is to send that drum back at him. It will take 12 hits to kill him. Be patient while you wait for the drum cans and dodge all the various fire tricks he dishes out.

That flaming sprite looks like Metal Slug...
That flaming sprite looks like Metal Slug










You get to kill astronauts on Mars. I know. Later you encounter aliens IN LOVE (!?!!?) and rabbits scurrying around with hammers. The reason for the latter is the Japanese believe, apparently, that sometimes you can see a rabbit and a hammer in the moon. Go figure…

Reminiscent of the twisted bosses from Psychic Assassin Taromaru
So twisted — it’s like an evil alien nun!

This is just an awesome mid boss fight. It attacks with its eyes and even its head which is detachable from its body! The more you hurt it, the more it flashes until it blinks red like you’re at some frenetic rave party. Sweet.









Take the teleporter to this space station-like area. You can see Earth below.







Another deadly mid boss. Stay behind it if you want to cheat and save your life.


He's a tough bastard, the git!
He’s a tough bastard, the git!


Gotta love the old school boss damage flashing
Gotta love the old school boss damage flashing




Even giant aliens aren't immune to the low blow
Even giant aliens aren’t immune to the low blow


Oooh, them spooky eyes...
Oooh, them spooky eyes…
Jump and pray is the best way to avoid this assault!
Jump and pray is the best way to avoid this assault
You know he's weak when he starts to teleport
You know he’s weak when he starts to teleport
A very cool and satisfying moment indeed
A very cool and satisfying moment indeed
Things, naturally, end on a very bizarre note
Things, naturally, end on a very bizarre note

Ah, the alien perishes and what we have left here is actually, according to the in-game text, a monkey! Say WHAAAA?!

Don't worry, the Earth folks are the friendliest bunch around...
Don’t worry, earthlings are SUPER friendly…..
Who knew Baka-dono and Baka-ouji had it in them!
Who knew Baka-dono and Baka-ouji had it in ‘em!

Escorting the monkey, the two of you are magically whisked off back to planet Earth. You’ve saved the entire universe from a dreadful fate and also have handed over the single most precious discovery in the history of civilization. Congratulations, Baka!

A fittingly odd photograph to end a wildly odd game
A fittingly odd photograph to end a wildly odd game



Tonosama features a healthy heap of boss flashing and excessive explosions galore. Watch in sheer joy as mid bosses and end level guardians flash red and white alike! There’s a certain TMNT II: The Arcade Game nostalgic feeling about seeing big bosses flash red as they weaken, and the more they suffer damage the more they blink. Until at long last… KA-BOOM! I always think of Rocksteady whenever I see bosses flashing. There’s something real 1990 about it, and Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban definitely conjures memories of days gone by. Also, when you’re transformed into your muscular father, each punch dealt causes the screen to erupt in a massive explosion. It doesn’t take much for the screen to start resembling something you would see on the 4th of July! It’s all very over-the-top campy fun, and as you can easily see, the game doesn’t take itself seriously.

One of the most expensive Saturn titles
One of the most expensive Saturn titles

Other than Pocky & Rocky, you know what games Tonosama remind me of? Prikura Daisakusen and Psychic Assassin Taromaru. Prikura is an isometric shooter with smart bombs, huge flashing bosses, a crazy atmosphere and also an option to turn into a big steroid-pumped protagonist. Tonosama also produces shades of Taromaru for me in the sense that both games feature an impressive amount of mid and mini bosses, a distinctively peculiar atmosphere (though Taromaru is more on the creepy side) and some of the bosses from Tonosama remind me of some of the bosses from Taromaru.

Prikura Daisakusen (Saturn, 1996)
Prikura Daisakusen (Saturn, 1996)
It's weird and fun
It’s weird and fun
Taromaru is some kind of trip
Taromaru is some kind of trip


Pocky & Rocky fans will appreciate this offbeat title

I’ve played a few strange games in my career. Some were good while others relied more on gimmick to get by and leave an impression. Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban might be the weirdest game I’ve ever played, but it’s much more than a mere gimmick. It hooks you in — you can’t help but want to see what outlandish enemies lie just around the corner. Thankfully the game itself is actually quite fun to boot. There’s more to Tonosama than a coat of weirdness. Behind the eclectic exterior lies a rock solid action game. It’s made even better with the two player mode where you and a friend can really complement each other with Baka-dono’s close combat skills and Baka-ouji’s mastery of long distance warfare. Yes, there are bits of slowdown here and there; sometimes there’s just too much going on at once but nothing too crippling. If you’re like me, you’ll be too busy anyway laughing and shaking your head at all the on-screen silliness rather than denouncing the game for its semi-periodic slowdown. The game hovers on the easy side with plenty of lives and continues. It’s definitely not as hard (or frustrating) as the two Pocky & Rocky SNES games. Sometimes you just want to play a fun game and not have to worry about it being overly difficult. This game fits that bill.

If ya thought Pocky & Rocky was bizarre, try this one!
If only Rick Grimes and gang had Baka-dono, eh?

The game’s soundtrack fits nicely with themes appropriate to each unique world. I really liked the sound effects, too. They add to the game’s charm, of which it has plenty. The graphics are the weakest part of the game; they’re not quite up to early 1995 SNES standards. Still, the game has plenty of cool looking enemies for you to slay along the way. What draws you in though is the game’s personality and its insanely self-deprecating lunacy. And that is also exactly what will bring you back again and again. It never set out to be the best action game on your Super Nintendo, but it succeeds at being ridiculously quirky and mega weird. I mean, where else can you kill hopping vampires, astronauts on Mars, giant bamboo-eating panda bears, rotting zombies, aliens, ninjas, knights and Bruce Lee wannabes while transforming into a large steroid-injected muscle maniac who just happens to be the spirit of your deceased father? There’s only one, folks, and its name is Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban. It’s not as good as Pocky & Rocky, but it’s a uniquely solid game that true diehard SNES fans will want to play with a like-minded friend in tow.

It leaves an imprint with its odd locales and enemies
It leaves an imprint with its odd locales and enemies!

Pro Yakyuu Star (SFC)

Culture Brain's 6th and finest baseball game
Culture Brain exits with a HR

Remember the Baseball Simulator games? The first one appeared on the 8-bit Nintendo and was developed by Culture Brain in the year 1989. Two years later, Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 was released on the Super Nintendo. It’s had something of a quasi-cult following ever since. It was a baseball game, sure, but it incorporated “magic tricks” to make the game a little spicier than your average baseball title. Pro Yakyuu Star is the sixth and final Culture Brain SNES baseball game, and I dare say it’s the finest one of the (sand)lot. Let’s take a quick history lesson though before we take a closer look at Culture Brain’s baseball swan song.

BASEBALL SIMULATOR 1.000 (Nintendo, 1989)







Every franchise has to start somewhere. This is it. Don’t recall playing this myself (I was more into Baseball Stars 2, Base Wars and Bad News Baseball) but I recall a few friends who were fans of this game back in the day.

SUPER BASEBALL SIMULATOR 1.000 (Super Nintendo, 1991)







Arriving during the infancy of the Super Nintendo, this developed something of a semi-cult following. It was baseball spruced up with gimmicks like magic trick pitches and the like. It brought a little extra spice to the standard baseball simulations that flooded the market at the time, so it deserves props at the very least for being different.








Culture Brain launched a new baseball series with this game, which only came out for the Super Famicom. Think of it as Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 but with real Japanese ball players and improved visuals. It retains all the crazy Ultra Plays.

SUPER ULTRA BASEBALL 2 (Super Famicom, 1994)







Super Ultra Baseball 2 is the sequel to Super Baseball Simulator 1.000. Released three years later, this is most evident by its beefed up visuals. Never thought I’d say a baseball game looks pretty but this one sure does. All your favorite Ultra Plays are back. Some Japanese to navigate through but definitely a worthy sequel.








Culture Brain didn’t wait even five months after Super Ultra Baseball 2 (July 28, 1994) to release Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban 2 (December 22, 1994). I really like the super deformed route they took here. There is something charming about an old school 16-bit title featuring slightly deformed ball players. Also, Ultra Plays are still here. The best of the Jitsumeiban series.








Culture Brain released their fifth game in the SNES series, Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban 3, on October 27, 1995. As you will see, it features the visuals that Culture Brain would go on to use in Pro Yakyuu Star.

PRO YAKYUU STAR (Super Famicom, 1997)







Culture Brain took an entire year off to work on this game (no baseball titles released in 1996) and the effort shows. Although the Ultra Plays are gone, I like the feel of this game a lot. And hey, you’ll always have the five other games if you’re adamant on using Ultra Plays.

*GASP* Players can actually throw!
*gasp* Players can actually throw

One of my pet peeves with these vintage baseball games is that more times than not, outfielders can’t throw for jack squat. The ball ends up rolling to second base or bouncing several times to home plate. It completely ruins the fun of the game but thankfully in Pro Yakyuu Star these professional baseball players are actually, you know, well trained pros! Imagine that!







Speaking of being pros, I also like the numerous nice defensive stops you can do. Take for instance this diving catch in which the defender ends up rolling around for a bit. It’s a small detail but points to the level of craftsmanship Culture Brain was able to achieve after five previous SNES baseball outings.







Couple more defensive gems.







Whatever you do, don’t let the ball roll to the gap. D’OH!

Wow, that wasn't even close
You only missed it by… 15 feet!

I would normally say “good job, good effort” but COME ON, MAN! You’re killing me out there. Tsk tsk…







Other than a home run, one of my favorite sights in a baseball game is seeing the ball smacked all the way to the outfield wall. And then rounding the bases as madly as I can while watching the defenders give chase. Good stuff.







Speaking of satisfying, how about a good old bloop single or double down the left or right field line, just barely inside the foul line? It’s a great feeling to see that white baseball find a vacant spot on that beautiful grassy outfield, just outside a defender’s reach.







Sliding home safely just before the tag is the best.







Swiping second base feels so good. Some baseball games don’t let you steal. Either your runner is too slow or the catcher’s arm is too strong. Culture Brain seems to have struck a fair balance here. The running game comes into play a bit more here than in other 16-bit baseball games. Hell, a fast runner can even swipe third base, which was near impossible for most games from that era.







Rickey Henderson would be proud. After stealing second, I’m off stealing third. NO MERCY! Gotta love the cloud of dirt and dust that gets kicked up as you slide in for the steal.







Those are some of the angriest fans I’ve ever seen!







Attention to detail is on point. Look at the batter digging his cleats into the soft dirt. In the other shot we see the anguish of a batter who just struck out. Somewhere Patrick Stewart is smiling.

*CRACK* "!"
*CRACK* followed by “!”

Speaking of attention to detail, I love how the pitcher sometimes will react with an exclamation mark if the ball is hit particularly hard. It doesn’t always result in a home run or even a hit, but just like in real life sometimes you hear the crack of the bat and you go uh oh.


Take me out to the ball game...
Give it your best shot, pal

Although I like Super Ultra Baseball 2 and Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban 2 a lot, Pro Yakyuu Star probably does play the best of the (sand)lot. However, it’s missing the wacky Ultra Plays and when it comes down to it, the gap in sheer playability is not wide enough for me to prefer playing those games instead. This was Culture Brain’s final baseball game. They were planning to release Shin Choujin Ultra Baseball and Choujin Ultra Baseball for the Game Boy Advance but that was cancelled.

Super Ultra Baseball 2
Super Ultra Baseball 2

Also of worthy note is that they chose to make Pro Yakyuu Star its own stand alone entity rather than Super Ultra Baseball 3 or Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban 4. It’s kind of neat to see how the Baseball Simulator series started and ended here more or less. These quirky baseball games deserve a little more recognition. I hope this gives you a few new intriguing oddities to try out for yourself.

Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban 2
Ultra Baseball Jitsumeiban 2