Today marks the 26th anniversary of Super Mario World (based on the Japanese release). November 21, 1990. That was the day the Super Famicom launched in Japan along with Super Mario World, and gaming was never the same again. It’s crazy to believe it’s been 26 years. I figure there’s no better time than now to examine one of the best Super Nintendo games ever created. And sure, there’s nothing new to be said about this game that hasn’t already been said the past 26 years but being a fansite dedicated to all things SNES, it would be a crime not to have a Super Mario World review. So Mario and chums — here’s to ya!
HE DEFINED AN ENTIRE GENERATION
If you were like me and grew up in the ’80s, then you too grew up on 8-bit Nintendo. Which meant you got to experience all the joys of the Mario games as a youth. All three titles were finely tuned and fantastic. Mario was beloved by all and went on to become a household name. Together, the faction of Nintendo and Mario dominated the ’80s. But as long as the universe has existed there is one undeniable truth. Time passes, and change is inevitable. As the ’90s approached and our old best friend, the 8-bit NES, began showing its age, the rumblings could be heard. There was a new “super” system just over the horizon. Double the bits, and hopefully double the awesomeness. It was the Super Nintendo. And it’s fitting that the system would debut with a 16-bit version of Mario. The stage was set, then, for continued video game domination. And once again, the fans were the winners.
NOW YOU’RE PLAYING WITH SUPER POWER
Confession time: I didn’t play through Super Mario World until 16 years after its Japanese release. I remember growing up watching my brother and his friends playing it, but I never really did. I’d just sit there and watch the older kids go at it. Even through just watching it, you could feel the energyin the room. The year was 1991. Things of the old guard were going the way of the ill-fated dinosaur. The future was now. Childhood favorites “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage were giving way to younger superstars like Bret “The Hitman” Hart and “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. Godzilla at the time seemed dead (to an eight-year-old with no knowledge of the Heisei series). And another dear old friend from the ’80s was gasping its final breath. As the 8-bit Nintendo faded off into the sunset, in came riding a brand new cowboy. And with it came Super Mario World. A fitting passing of the torch, the Super Nintendo made its debut with an old portly friend spruced up in 16-bit trimmings. It was nothing short of video gaming magic.
10 years ago (November 19, 2006) I sat down to play Super Mario World with the intention of beating it in mind. It was an absolutely glorious experience. What took me so long? This may shock you but I was a weird guy [was? -Ed.]. Sure I appreciated the Mario games growing up, but mainly I would watch my brother play them. I was always a big fan of the lesser known games and have been that way my entire life. But after returning to the SNES on January 17, 2006, I knew this was a second chance at gaming redemption. And I knew it was time to right a 15+ year wrong. I turned off the computer, plopped onto the sofa, kicked my feet up and finally booted up Super Mario World. And what followed was a week filled with some of the best single-player gaming moments of my life. It was a sheer joy to play through. Hey, better late than never!
THE STORY GOES…
New to the Mario universe is this magical cape. It possesses great power. You can spin attack the enemies with it, and you can also take to the skies.
Mario and friends came to Dinosaur Land hoping to catch up on their R & R. Instead of course they find themselves in a world filled to the brim with danger.
It’s a long and tough road ahead. But a wise person once said that an arduous journey begins with one step [That was me, clearly -Ed.]
Progress is made in a linear fashion although you can backtrack and even skip ahead, provided you know how! *wink wink*
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
Indeed, Mario didn’t come alone to this rodeo. Yoshi, a rollicking reptile with an appetite for menacing meanies, will help carry Mario through some tight jams. Though he’ll quickly run for the hills the second an enemy hits back.
Gigantic Banzai Bills come flying at you in the very first level. You had to listen closely for the warning sound and either duck or jump. We all know what a great game this is, but I feel the visuals don’t get enough love for their time. Pardon the pun but shots like these point to the game being no slouch in the graphic department!
Yoshi wasn’t created simply for marketing cosmetic purposes. He gave you an extra hit and some added offensive firepower as well.
Remember how cool it was seeing those little platforms dipping when you stood on them too long?
One of the most bizarre enemies on the roster, this smiley cactus dude can be gobbled up by Yoshi piece by piece. Do you remember the sweet sound that accompanied it? Some morbid humor can be found when only its head comes crawling after you, smile fully intact (!)
At certain points you can switch over to the other side. Definitely added an extra dimension to these parts.
I’ll be saying this a few times because I feel it bears a little repeating: the visuals have a nice depth to them. Sure it didn’t blow you away back in August 1991 like F-Zero did, but it’s plenty solid in its own right.
Doesn’t that pillar looks thick like a redwood tree? The convincing sound of them crashing down only adds to its brilliance.
Iggy Iggy can’t you see.
Sometimes your words just hypnotize me.
And I just love your flashy ways
Guess that’s why they broke, and you’re so paid.
Another example of Miyamoto magic: knocking out a string of bad guys with a single shell. Completely satisfying.
The castle dungeons are filled with hazards galore and will put your hand
eye coordination and platforming skills to the ultimate test. With silky smooth control and stellar sound, Super Mario World set the bar, and set it damn high.
Big ol’ Morton is boss number two. This time it’s a more traditional boss battle, requiring 3 hits to eliminate him.
Yes Yoshi, I know. At long last the title most synonymous with Super Nintendo gets a review on RVGFanatic. Yoshi’s Island superior? Hmm, we’ll see about that… in due time…
I love me some Vanilla Dome. It’s not as “vanilla” as its name might suggest. Some sweet old fashioned platforming levels with a great atmosphere make it one of my favorite areas in the entire game.
On to the Twin Bridges we go, AKA section 4 of the game. Can you find the two secret stages in this world?
Next up is the Forest of Illusion. Almost every section of the forest maze includes multiple exits.
I’m generally not the biggest fan of underwater stages in platformers, but there’s something about the underwater levels in Super Mario World that does it for me.
Even the exit gates serve an extra purpose. Depending on how high you can hit it, extra points are awarded. Miyamoto left no stone unturned.
Getting the switch block is like carrying around a precious golden egg. Every movement you make is done with extra precision and calculation. Every change in direction, even the slightest shift as you navigate your way through, is critical.
Festive though they may be, with Bowser there’s no such thing as fluff. Everything has its own purpose. This one? Mainly the sole purpose of killing you.
A more up close and personal look yields some pretty interesting yelps between the two.
Indeed, Mr. Roy thinks he’s the most interesting Koopaling in the world. Why just ask him if you don’t believe me.
Roy’s quite the drama queen. Talk about someone who knows how to ham it up.
At the end of each successfully defeated castle, there’s a little cutscene. Post Roy’s is one of the best. Poor Mario gets charred for all of his hard work!
Said it before and I’ll say it again. I love the way this game looks. More importantly, I love the sense of soul, spirit and adventure that the Nintendo staff carefully infused it with.
Welcome to World 6, Chocolate Island. Here you’ll find dino critters of all shapes and sizes.
These little cheese-esque hills descend, so unless you wish to be lava soup, keep Mario moving!
Finally, we arrive at Wendy’s castle. And what a castle it is. All sorts of traps lie in wait to snag Mario for good.
Back in the glorious late ’80s to mid ’90s, I ran with a group of folks who were my brothers and sisters. Our monthly family friend sleepovers were in a word, legendary. My gaming group gave me countless memories. One that sticks out occurred in 1993. There were about 20 kids that night. My older brother, myself, Sushi-X and his brother Zack were assigned the mission of buying burgers for all. So we hit up a local Wendy’s. The guy we affectionately called Sushi-X (for his intense love of Street Fighter which matched that of the EGM persona) ordered 30 (!) Big Bacon Classics (now defunct). Behind us was a lengthy line of folks. The ones immediately behind us, an elderly couple, shook their head at one another and bickered, “I told you, Hank! We should have gone to Red Lobster!” They stormed off and a couple of the other people behind them left as well. Standing off to the side of the cash register, I watched in bewilderment as Sushi-X single-handedly drove off the customers. We brought the loot back home and crowded around the Sony TV in the living room to watch Saturday Night Live and enjoy our burgers. There was such an abundance of Big Bacon Classics that 10 were left in the fridge for a midnight snack. Every time I drive by a Wendy’s these days, I can’t help but think of that Sushi-X memory and the night of our epic bacon feast. Thanks for all the memories, Game Crew and Dave Thomas
Before you can pass through to the Valley of Bowser, you must contend with this evil Sunken Ghost Ship.
My grandpa used to tell me all the time that money doesn’t grow on trees. I used to tell him “You’re right. They don’t, because they grow out of thin air, and I know this because Super Mario World told me so.” Then, he’d look at me sideways and say, “Son, you’re a special boy.”
Once you’ve escaped the Sunken Ghost Ship you’re ready to brave it all and step into the deadly Valley of Bowser. I hope she’s worth all the trouble, Mario.
You’ll need Yoshi in Valley of Bowser 4 if you wish to nab the key to the Star Road.
The battle against Larry is highly reminiscent of the one with Iggy, way back in the first world. Defeat him and then face the KING.
Isn’t it great how those red glowing eyes peer on in the background there? OK, so they were added in by yours truly. Still, one of my favorite moments in the entire game. It’s just so incredibly atmospheric.
EXTRA EXTRA: READ ALL ABOUT IT!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Super Mario World earned high marks just about everywhere. In EGM’s 100th issue (November 1997) it ranked #11. EGM gave it scores of 9, 9, 9 and 9. EGM reviewer Martin Alessi wrote, “I’ll take 96 levels of Mario over 20 of Sonic any day!” Nintendo Power placed it #16 on their Top 100 list in issue #100 (September 1997) and later bumped it up to #8 in issue #200. Super Play Magazine had it at #4 in their own Top 100 SNES Games list (issue 42, April 1996). Super Play scored it a massive 94%. While fans have long debated whether Super Mario World or Super Mario Bros. 3 is superior, Super Mario World is an exemplary example of the platforming genre done right and then some. It was the perfect game to debut with the Super Nintendo 26 years ago. And it still holds up incredibly well to this very day. You can pop it in now in the year 2016 and still be in awe of its smooth gameplay, crisp control and various nuances. It was a masterpiece then, and remains so to this very day 26 years later.
Early Sunday morning, November 19, 2006. 10 months into my SNES resurrection and two days before the game’s 16 year anniversary, I at long last powered up Super Mario World. I had never beaten it before. Early that Sunday morning I shifted my way through the darkness, determined to atone for past sins. In the riveting book The Kite Runner,Rahim Khan’s piercing words over the telephone haunts Amir. “There is a way to be good again.” I happened to be reading through that novel when I was going through this game for really the first time. As sad as it may sound, it was exactly how I felt about finally playing and beating this masterpiece. “There is a way to be good again.” It was my gaming redemption.
Going through Super Mario World for the first time in 2006 was a bittersweet feeling. I wished I hadn’t waited so long to finally beat it, yet I was thrilled at the opportunity to redeem the gaming missteps of my youth. As I waded my way through every castle, fortress and hill valley, it was almost as if I had taken a time machine back to the early 1990s. This game reaffirmed my love for this classic genre, as well as for this amazing system. Over the past 25 years the Super Nintendo has given me a bevy of memories. Somehow, it was always playing in the backdrop of my youth. Getting back into it in 2006 was the greatest decision of my gaming career. Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You can, indeed, go home again. And as I ventured back to the roots of my childhood, I recalled all the characters (i.e. Sushi-X from my Game Crew) and favorite games. It wasn’t just about reminiscing, though. I had another mission firmly set in mind… to travel down the gaming roads I never did back in the day but should have. And these pathways have opened up a whole new treasure chest of gaming memories for me to carry on forever. Super Mario World is a rare gem of an adventure I shall always cherish. Gaming redemption never tasted so sweet.
You can’t talk about Super Nintendo’s very best without citing Super Mario World. It’s a timeless adventure that exudes excellence from top to bottom. A quintessential platformer, Super Mario World deserves its rightful due place on Super Nintendo’s Mount Rushmore.
The Legend of Zelda is one of the most iconic games in Nintendo history, hell, make that video game history. The NES classic provided countless memories for many of us who grew up in the glorious ’80s. I’ll admit I appreciate the game for what it is, but it’s never been one of my top favorites. Link to the Past, however, is another story entirely. But you got to respect the first one. When I found out several years ago that the original game was “souped up” for the Super Nintendo, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. It was released as a downloadable game in the late ’90s only via Japan’s Satellaview service.
The first thing you will notice immediately is the enhanced graphics. While I feel they’re not quite on the “enhanced” level as Super Mario All-Stars, I have to say this will do. To me they strike a healthy balance between 8-bit and 16-bit. 12-bit, if you will. Hey, at least the graphics were enhanced more than what we got with Ninja Gaiden Trilogy!
Pretty cool to see the original world in 16-bit visuals, no? It definitely strikes the eye as simple and pleasing. The colors are much richer (naturally) and the whole world seems to come alive that much more. Here’s one more example:
Diehard purists may scoff, but I welcome these changes with open arms. The Legend of Zelda never looked so good before!
But enough of the visuals. How does the game play? Pretty much the same classic Zelda you know and love. You can collect more Rupees here, the overworld is altered and the maps are different. But the same weapons and items are there, and the quest remains the same: kill Ganon, restore peace to Hyrule, collect the Triforce pieces and save Princess Zelda. Weapons can now be conveniently switched with a tap of the shoulder buttons L or R. Nice.
Although I’m not the biggest fan of The Legend of Zelda, I enjoyed playing this one very much so. The visual upgrade is very pleasing to the eye, the music is as memorable as it was in the original (I find the dungeon music in BS Zelda to be much creepier) and the game plays like classic, vintage Zelda. I wouldn’t play this over Link to the Past, but as far as “remakes” go, this one ranks up there. It makes me wish there was a BS Metroid, BS Kid Icarus, BS Rygar, BS Contra, BS Mega Man 2 and the list goes on and on. But hey, at least we got BS Zelda. It’s definitely worth a playthrough. I can’t guarantee you’ll like it more than the original, but you’ll probably get a good kick out of seeing familiar sights in 16-bit glory.
In the dying days of the 8-bit Nintendo, the SNES hype train was roaring along faster than even the Shinkansen. Not just by the months and weeks but seemingly by the days and hours. And every Nintendo geek had their own specific game they wanted to see through the wonders of 16-bit. Mario, Zelda, Gradius, Metroid, Castlevania, Mega Man, the list goes on and on. But for yours truly, and many others, Contra was right at the top of that highly esteemed list.
Commando wannabe geeks everywhere in the good ol’ US of A saw their wish come true when Contra III: The Alien Wars was unleashed in April of ’92. Yet ironically, it took me nearly FIFTEEN years later until I could finally call it my own. My SNES rebirth in January 2006 wasn’t merely a resurrection, it was also a chance at gaming redemption.
IN THE BEGINNING…
While many kids grew up on Mario in the mid-late 1980s, and don’t get me wrong — I liked the Italian plumber too, it was really Konami’s CONTRA that cemented me as a video game fan for life. There’s something about being a machine gun strapped soldier blasting alien chunks set over highly atmospheric levels with some of the most memorable video game bosses of all time. Perhaps the best thing about it: you could do it with a buddy. My brother Kevin and I fell in love with Contra when we discovered it at a rental store in 1988. Uncle Jimmy, who then recently moved in, also fell prey to the wonders of this game. I can recall many nights where the three of us rotated turns per level with aid of the infamous Konami “30 MEN” code. A part of me can’t believe it’s almost been 30 years since the three of us stayed up late huddled around the small Sony TV, taking turns saving the universe. Contra was an awesome two-player game. This is not a case of looking back with rose tinted glasses — the 8-bit NES conversion still stands up remarkably well to this day, even nearly 30 years after its release.
From the very first level, that memorable jungle romp, you knew you were in for some kind of treat. Contra conjured quite the intense atmosphere that very few others could. And it paved the way for future run and gun greats like Metal Slug and Gunstar Heroes. It did a lot for gaming, and richly deserves its lofty spot in gaming history. Thank you, Konami, you bastards.
Though ironically, as much as we loved beating the game over and over, Uncle Jimmy never did buy it for us. We rented it several times and a close friend of ours loaned us his copy in exchange of Legendary Wings — a fair trade if there ever was one…
So perhaps it’s fitting I never owned Contra III back in the day either. I never played it extensively until 2008. My old friend Tommy had a copy that I’d play here and there back in ’92 but mostly I would watch our mutual friends Brian and Bryce play. So yeah, it’s a bit strange that I didn’t jump at Contra III back then despite it being at the top of my most wanted list. I guess one reason why — Uncle Jimmy moved out in the spring of ’92 when his wife was pregnant for the second time… the same time Contra III came out — maybe I thought it just wouldn’t be the same without him by our side hooting, hollering and having a good old time. Whatever the reasons were, in October 2008 I decided it was time to finally right a 16 year wrong…
THE STORY, WELL, SUPPOSEDLY…
“Here we are again bro… just you and me. Same kind of moon, same kind of jungle…”
“Real number 10 remember… whole platoon, 32 men chopped into meat… we walk out just you and me, nobody else. Right on top huh? Not a scratch… not a fuckin’ scratch. You know whoever got you, they’ll come back again. And when he does I’m gonna cut your name right into him.”
The year was 1987. In an undisclosed location in Central America, a special task force was called in to take care of mysterious enemies that hid in the dense and dark jungle. The soldiers assumed it was yet another typical mission but tragically, it was anything but.
The band of soldiers searched the jungle but found no traces of the enemy, only the bones of the unlucky. At nightfall they split up in several mini-camps, keeping guard. As the men huddled around, an ominous chill filled the raw night air. A soldier’s sixth sense is well developed, and one in particular, Bill Rizer, knew something big was about to go down. His long time partner, Lance Bean, watched as the full moon continue its steady climb in the sky. At its zenith, the bloodshed began.
The soldiers were savagely attacked. All order and control went right out the window as many fled for their very lives. The vile creatures knew the jungle inside and out. The men were mice trapped in a snake’s cage. One by one, they were picked off by this invisible threat. The soldiers who did steal a glance saw a sight far too horrible for words.
Gunfire and screams of terror filled the jungle. The enemy was too fast, too smart and too cunning for the men to overcome. Those who stood their ground and fought head on were ripped apart, those who fled were gunned down and those who hid were hunted and swiftly destroyed.
The men were fighting against an enemy not of this earth. It attacked with an unrelenting fury. This force, this thing that lived inside of them came from a source too VIOLENT, too DEADLY for you to imagine. It grew inside them — contaminating their souls. And now these alien invaders have come to Earth… to kill.
But miraculously, two strong soldiers not only survived the menace — they destroyed it! These two elite soldiers were named…
“Jesus ain’t got nothing to do with this.”
“And we’re supposed to somehow KILL THAT?!”
“If it bleeds, we can kill it. No sweat.”
“I see you sweatin’ from over here!”
“I AIN’T GOT TIME TO SWEAT.”
And you sure need a whole lot of it! Thankfully, now even your default gun is on auto-fire. Some old favorites, like the classic spread gun returns, along with some new updated weapons thanks to the advent of the 1990s (or the 27th century, I suppose). You also have one powerful M-80,000 Helio Bomb per life to blow the aliens to Kingdom Come!
As mentioned above, at least your standard issue rifle is now automatic. It’ll get the job done in a pinch but you definitely want to make an upgrade soon. The laser cannon packs quite a wallop but it’s pretty damn slow.
Glad to see the spread gun back, but in my view it was much better in the NES game. The homing missiles definitely come in handy, though weak compared to others.
This is quite a powerful weapon, especially when you have it in both hands.
The flame thrower is very useful against certain enemies, and it earns cookie points for looking so damn cool.
You now have the ability to carry two different weapons at once! Plus, when you hold L and R, fire the trigger button to shoot both weapons at once like a mad man.
LEVEL ONE: NEO CITY
Where were you back in 1992? Do you remember the first time you fired this game up and anticipated the 16-bit wonders ahead? This stage set the stage!
Weapon Wings appear high in the sky just like in the original and must be shot down. You can switch to your other gun, nab that spread shot and have that as your second gun. When you feel like you might die, switch to the less effective gun. That way, when you come back, you still have the good one. Nice! And here we see the smart bomb in its first phase of action. Players get one smart bomb per life. Unfortunately for you, they do not serve as invincible barriers so even a momentary lapse in attention can prove fatal. Smart bombs expand in a massive destructive arc and are best saved for the humongous bosses. The closer you are when you unleash this devastating force the better, as the victim will receive more damage from that extra bit of prolonged exposure.
Watch out for these sucker guns bursting from out of the ground. And be sure to watch your back for incoming guards.
Another advantage over the NES game is the ability to hold your ground while shooting in any of the eight directions. So now you can fire away anywhere you wish without having to worry about changing your position one iota! Gotta love that SNES controller
Who could ever forget the very first classic boss from NES Contra? It was so huge that it blew my little five-year-old mind away back in ’88. Talk about one imposing structure! It was a lot easier to kill than it looked but it’s got to be one of the most memorable level one bosses of all time. From the lone red sniper up top to the funky looking gumballs it spewed out, and the cool looking hi-tech square cover at the base there, man, Konami knew HOW TO WORK IT.
And while it was a lot more intimidating in the original, it was still nice to see this base make a comeback. And since it’s not a boss, one can see why it’s a much smaller model than its big brother classic.
I love when companies acknowledge their prequels by resurrecting some of the more memorable baddies. It gives the sequel a certain touch of class and history.
Another satisfying explosion. Gotta love the flash flash. Simply classic stuff.
[Say a prayer, but let the good times roll.
In case God doesn’t shoooow…
And I want these words to make things right…
… but it’s the wrongs that make the words come to life.
“Who does he think he is?”
If that’s the worst you got, better put your fingers back to the keys!
One night, and ONE MORE TIME! Tanks for the memories, TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES! Even though they weren’t so great… ahem, sorry… -Ed.]
Some Weapon Wings contain a Barrier Shield, which conveniently turns red as it’s about to expire. It doesn’t last very long so better get a move on it.
Nope, just a tank and a foot soldier reject. Kind of a wasted opportunity here at a really cool mid-boss but it’s all good. This guy’s OK and kind of a throwback to another Contra baddie…
Remember this heavy-duty tank rumbling toward ya in level five of NES Contra?
[How could I forget? It killed my guy every gawd damn time! -Ed.]
Some shades of that nightmare-inducing tank no? Too bad Jimbo doesn’t have his own tank here as well. That would have been too sick.
Whereas this tank, not so much. It barely puts up a fight.
At last you reach the end section. You knew it was boss time. You just didn’t know who or WHAT. But knowing Konami, you knew it was gonna be good…
Konami, never one to disappoint, certainly didn’t here. It’s the giant mutant turtle monster BEAST KIMKOH! Man, I thought the first boss from NES Contra was impressive. This guy is a true terror in every sense, especially in how realistically it seemed to twitch and pulsate.
Watch out for that horrible long neck of his. He also emits blue bullets from God only knows where…
That way you can avoid both his fire breath blast and his bullets. But on the ground? You’d be screwed because it cancels out the option of jumping. You develop lifesaving strategies as you go along and learn the finer points of the game. Good stuff.
Beast Kimkoh was such a memorable design. The way it pulsated and squirmed left a lasting impression, and pumped you up to see what horrors lay ahead…
LEVEL TWO: MARIA CALDERON HIGHWAY
With Neo City swept and cleared of all villains, it’s off to the Maria Calderon Highway. Now things are viewed from a top-down perspective. Your goal is to eliminate five Red Corporals hiding in domed manholes. All the while overgrown insects and mad guards hunt you down through this maze of elevated roadway and bridges.
Flamethrower should definitely be one of your two guns here if you can nab it.
When playing the 2 Player Mode A, you get a split screen for this overhead level. However, if you wish to play this stage in a single screen, select 2 Player Mode B. It’s the little things that help make a game (extra) special.
Level 2 in Contra III reminds me a bit of level 2 from NES Contra. It’s different from the traditional side scrolling stages. They are decent diversions to lend the game some variety. Interestingly enough, just as there were two of these “into the screen” levels, there’s two overhead levels in Contra III. Coincidence?
HINT: Each time it descends, the red spot rotates 90° from its last position. This mechanical spider-esque menace spins high above you before it comes crashing down. Keep moving to avoid being squashed like an ant.
The flamethrower is a gem as it can reach the eye without being centered on; remember, it can go through objects to reach an enemy(‘s weak point)!
LEVEL THREE: THE OLD CYBER STEEL MILL
I remember seeing this damn stage every single freaking time I headed over to Tommy’s house back in ’92. I just love the atmosphere this stage brings. That dark smoggy sky, the brown depressing colors… playing this level particularly on a dark afternoon is rather surreal.
The evil forces of Red Falcon have taken over the last remaining functional steel factory in Neo City. The aliens use it as a landing pad for arriving allies. Be sure to equip yourself with a flamethrower — you’re gonna need it…
You see? These Gigaflies are toast. BURN BABY BURN!
Say hello to ole Chrome Dome, and I’m not talking about the villain from the Ninja Turtles. He’s a cinch with the flamethrower as you can reach him from there. Otherwise you gotta grab hold of his “arms” and shoot his red eye as you go around in circles. Once killed, he’ll flip his arms wildly in one last ditch effort to take you down to hell with him.
Far be it for Konami to let you have a nice and easy climb, no, another mid-boss terror comes right after you. Shoot down those missiles.
Running out of the pod, the wretched flock swoops down on our hero… like lambs to the slaughter!
Uh oh… glancing through the opening, you see clear as day what lies ahead. There’s no turning back now, Jimbo…
AH-HA! The evil robots spring to life and war is waged. This is one of the coolest boss fights ever. Once disposed of both BOBs (remember their torsos flying around?)… it ain’t quite over yet…
Uh oh… you knew it couldn’t be THAT easy, and you were right! [I always am -Ed.]
It’s the ROBO-CORPSE!
I have fond memories of watching Brian and Bryce tackle this titantic tin of terror. Back in ’92 this literally blew our minds and EVEN today it still impresses.
This is one of the most memorable and classic sights from gaming history. It was stunning then and remains an epic experience even to this very day, nearly 25 years later.
Robo-Breath fires homing lasers from his eyes and also does one mean Godzilla impersonation. What a perfect boss — it was gorgeous yet grotesque!
Pelting him like no tomorrow is utterly satisfying. Watching his whole body flash and waiting until the last possible second to get the hell outta dodge. Climb to the top, drop down and repeat. It was as intense as it was epic. Konami FTW again.
When Robo-Corpse bites the dust, he REALLY bites the dust. The very thing that gave him “life” so to speak is the same thing that swipes his head clean off… a fitting end to an unforgettable boss encounter. Konami were freakin’ maestros in this domain, bar none.
LEVEL FOUR: THE BATTLE OF THE BLAZING SKY
No rest for the wicked, but thankfully you’re able to give your weary legs a break as you leap aboard a hovering motorcycle (like the speeder bikes from Return of theJedi). Psycho Cyclers attempt to cut your quest short with a few well-placed grenades.
You’ll be attacked both on the ground and in the air. Thankfully you can leap above your motorcycle and not worry about becoming roadkill — they will automatically move under you because of their advanced rider-tracking system. It makes for one intense, fast-moving, action-packed level.
A gigantic battleship flies just above you as it rains down a parade of laser beams. Lock your position and let ‘er rip! Later, a bomb is dropped that engulfs the entire road, so make sure to time your jump well. One split nanosecond off and you’re fried.
This strange looking mid-boss can be somewhat unpredictable, swinging his legs around wildly and even charging at our hero. The longer you let it live, the more erratic his pattern seems to grow.
After catching a lift on a helicopter, Slash comes to greet ya. He’s pretty tough, attacking with a sword and throwing shuriken-like blades.
LEVEL FIVE: THE MUCHO GRANDE BADLANDS
The Mucho Grande Badlands (what a funky name) is a return in concept to level two’s Maria Calderon Highway. Players must gun down five enemy entrances while avoiding mutant insects and crossing precariously thin strips of land and collapsing bridges.
On easy mode he can be finished with the laser gun in literally under 10 seconds. But on Hard… YEAH. Good luck…
LEVEL SIX: RED FALCON’S MAIN BASE
This is it. The last stand. The final whistle, if you will. Better stock up on bombs…
Who could ever forget this monstrosity from the NES game? I used to call him the “Long Neck Alien Monster.” My brother, Uncle Jimmy and I loved killing this guy. When I think of Contra, this parasite here is always the very first bad guy that comes to mind. He blew our minds back in ’88 and he wasn’t even a boss! Remember how you stood at the edge of that wretched pillar there, blasting away at his jaw while your buddy took care of the shrimp? I know you do. I know I do. There are video game enemies that you remember for life. This is one of them.
In a true nod to the fans if there ever was one, Konami resurrected the nasty Para-Slug for Contra III, once more serving as Red Falcon’s “mini-boss” terror in the game’s final stage. He’s not quite as intimidating and menacing as he was in his first appearance, but he still looks pretty dang cool.
Speaking of knowing and appreciating one’s history, remember the last stage in the NES game? That decrepit alien lair littered with scorpion-spiders and abominable parasites? Let’s see how they do it 16-bit style…
Here’s another classic sight seared into our memory banks. It’s the final boss from NES Contra, that vile beating heart of Red Falcon! Nothing quite satisfied like pumping that organ full of lead until it exploded unmercifully! Ahhh, just thinking about it warms the heart (no pun intended). Really hard to fathom it’s almost been 30 years, no?
I love seeing the old memorable baddies from NES Contra resurrected for this 16-bit sequel. Although this is a neat design in its own right, the NES one I have to say was that much more memorable. Still, it’s a most welcomed sight indeed.
You thought at first you had saved the world but a pesky feeling kept gnawing at you as you stood there admiring your handiwork. And just up ahead the sinister path, you got your answer…
Suddenly the landscape changes to an even more rotten state. The ground rumbles madly and from the rubble comes forth a truly horrific monster!
He’s easier than he looks. When he rushes you, be ready to jump onto his spider-like legs. You can even catch a lift up top. When he lets his guard down, aim for his face and don’t hold back.
The fourth and final mini-boss, the Vicious Slave Hawk, can be a bit of a bitch if you don’t have the flamethrower.
Sometimes pictures are worth a thousand words. What a spectacular sight for sore eyes this was and still is.
How astute an observation on your cunning part, Jimbo. Who needs college, eh?
Here are a few examples of his offensive attacks. The Russian Roulette manner is pretty neat. Never know what form you’ll get and it makes fighting this final boss slightly different each time.
I like this one. It’s got a nice look. He moves pretty fast so don’t get too greedy in shooting him down. Pick your spots and move along accordingly with him so you don’t get squashed!
WOO HOO, you saved the universe — job well done, soldier. Now… GET TO DA CHOPPA!
In typical classic sci-fi and horror movie style, the bad guy comes back for one last stand. This only happens on Hard, and it is only on Hard that you can get the real ending.
Some lovely black and white photos are shown in the real ending.
CLASSIC KONAMI CHEAT? ON THE CONTRA-RY
Don’t bother looking for the infamous Konami code in the US version of Contra III because it doesn’t exist. If you really want to cheat, and I could understand why — the game’s blasted difficult as heck on Normal or higher, then you’ll need a Game Genie.
Game Genie Cheats:
Infinite Lives (on side-scrolling levels): 22BB-AD01
Infinite Lives (on top-down levels): 22BB-6F0B + 6DBB-64DB Infinite Bombs (on side-scrolling levels): 2264-D760
Infinite Bombs (on top-down levels): 22B8-0766
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN US, JAPANESE AND PAL
That is refreshing, indeed. The Super Famicom box art is infamous for sporting a very striking Arnold lookalike. The Super Famicom version is titled Contra Spirits and has a 30 lives code (but is not done in the traditional Konami fashion). Unlike other US conversions (such as Super Castlevania IV), not much has been censored to the best of my knowledge. The US effort is by and large the exact same game as the Japanese one, except the US version is a bit more difficult to say the least. Contra Spirits gives you infinite continues, plus you can see the real ending on Normal not Hard as it is with Contra III.
I’M SO “AD” TO SEE YOU
FROM THE BOOK OF KONAMI
Throughout gaming’s history we have seen some amazing, mind-blowing bosses. Screen filling demons and monsters that ruled our living room, leaving us speechless upon sight and utterly pleased as we watched them crumble after a hard fought battle. Indeed, few companies had the magic touch that Konami had. Their bosses are simply the stuff legends (and nightmares) are made of.
Thankfully, Contra III continued Konami’s masterful tradition. From the very first boss, that menacing mutant snapping turtle, bursting out of the bloody walls, you were sure of two things. One, you would never forget the image. And two, Konami still had it. They still had that magic touch. The first thing that comes to mind whenever someone mentions Konami are the many memorable bosses the firm has produced over the years.
God I loved the ’80s…
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Contra III: The Alien Wars was destined for instant classic status the moment it hit game stores nationwide back in good ol’ 1992. Fans of the previous games and game reviewers everywhere ate it up. To this day, with as many Contra incarnations as there are, many still cite Contra III as being the very best Contra game of all. Mighty high praise indeed, considering the franchise had more than its fair share of stellar games.
EGM:9, 9, 9, 9
From the very start players enter a post apocalyptic war torn universe overran with alien forces. From blowing up cars and towers to hitching rides on tanks and braving through a flame-engulfed section, the stage is set beautifully for one epic, intense action fest. The graphics are often impressive and at times they are truly spectacular. The music is brilliant, with an excellent mixture of metallic guitars and big orchestral pieces. The sampled grunts and screams complement the on screen mayhem. It’s everything you hope 16-bit Contra would be and more.
Perhaps the best thing about Contra III is the same quality that made the first Contra so damn good. Crisp, smooth and intense action that lets you run and gun with a buddy. There’s something really cool (and fun) about strapping on your boots, teaming up with a pal and taking on evil forces that outnumber you by the hundreds. Contra III plays and controls like a dream. It is truly well deserving of all the hype and praise that’s been thrown its way over the past quarter century!
There are so many improvements over the NES game and that was already a great game to begin with! For starters, the smart bomb brings a certain back pocket security card to the table. Then you have the ability to carry two different weapons at once. The current weapon you’re holding is gone when you die. In a hairy situation you can even pause the game to switch! You can also fire both guns at once. In addition, they resurrected some old sights and baddies as a nod to the fans. There’s more strategy here than ever before. And let’s not forget about that handy lock feature. The different difficulty levels cater to players of varying skill. Contra III has got both style andsubstance.
The gameplay is still classic Contra, except now 10 times as intense. With two players it’s simply an unbeatable experience. I only wish it were a level or two longer. Breathtaking boss battles, memorable mini bosses, awesome set pieces, amazing atmosphere, smooth-as-hell run and gun gameplay, impressive graphics and sound to match — what more could you ask for? It’s a short game but I find myself coming back for more, and often. Contra III deserves all the hype it gets. A level or two short of perfection, this ain’t your Uncle Jimmy’s Contra — it’s even better. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta get back to saving the world and blasting some alien ass. BOO YAH!
As I write this it’s Halloween 2016. It brings back fond memories as exactly two years ago, I left work early Halloween 2014 due to being under the weather. That was a memorable day for a couple reasons. Number one, it marked 20 years since I experienced the greatest Halloween of my life (October 31st, 1994). And number two, it was the night I finally played Shadowrun. It’s been a game long on my to-play list, and on that rainy evening, with me being sick, I couldn’t think of a better game to start than Shadowrun. Even though it’s not a “Halloween” game in the vain of a Super Castlevania IV or Zombies Ate My Neighbors, it’s got a dreary and grim atmosphere that is great to play this time of the year. Prepare to immerse yourself in the morbid and sordid universe of Shadowrun.
YOU AWAKE ON A SLAB IN THE CITY MORGUE
Explosions are erupting all over the city.
It’s Seattle. The year is 2050. And civilization has devolved.
The game opens up with this rather intriguing bit. Two night shift workers load you, Jake Armitage, onto a slab in the city morgue. You’re apparently done for.
The slackers take off. Look, they didn’t even bother to shut the slab all the way in. What a bunch of assholes, eh? Just can’t find good help these days.
Shaking off the cobwebs, you don’t have any memories of who you are or where you came from. It’s a race against time and technology as you fight for your life.
Pulling up the menu you have all you need at your fingertips.
The hand cursor helps you to explore your environment. Move it around the screen and place it on items of interest. A little note will appear if further action can be taken.
A really cool feature Beam Software implemented was the use of the shoulder buttons. Yeah you can click on a button which brings up a menu to give you further choices, or you can examine or pick up by simply pressing L or R respectively. It saves an extra button press and is just convenient and makes the overall playing experience much more smooth than having to press extra buttons unnecessarily.
Don’t forget to check and raid the fridge. That’s rule number one in life and video games. For sure.
It’s easy to miss small items like this. Every piece of information is integral to your success, so make sure to comb each playing area thoroughly.
What’s inside Warehouse number 5? Hmmm.
You fling the door open and scare the living daylights out of the night shift workers. It’s a fun little moment that just pulls you in. Very effectively done.
I appreciate the mood and atmosphere of Shadowrun. Its cyberpunk universe, the detailed visuals and the isometric view. Makes you wish there were more games like this on the Super Nintendo.
Each new playing area brings with it a new view. Some screens are full screen while others are smaller. I love this — it brings a quirky, unique sense of ‘flavor’ to the game.
Heading out of the city morgue, you run into a strange lad roaming the streets. You call out to him and the following conversation ensues…
I love the portraits of the characters in this game. They add perfectly to the seediness of Seattle 2050 as this game envisions it.
An interesting aspect of Shadowrun is that you have preset talking points and can select from a list of topics to ask the various NPCs that appear throughout the game. Sometimes you have to broach a topic in order to unlock new topics. It was quite a unique system and lends a sense of discovery and deduction.
If one topic doesn’t bring about any results, try the next topic. I like the dialogue in this game, by the way. Really gives off an air of shadiness and bleakness.
You know a game’s dialogue is top-notch when you look forward to talking to every single last NPC. Here is another fun little interaction.
In a hurry to do what, fella? Certainly not hitting the gym, are we?
Go through the list of preset topics. Rinse and repeat. It may seem repetitive but it quickly grew on me and it somehow works for this game. I can’t imagine it any other way.
Hmm, not sure I trust him. But whatever the case may be, he’s definitely low ranking in the grand scheme of things. Leave him be to his newspaper and find bigger fish to fry.
Yeah, this guy doesn’t look like a shady character whatsoever…
Speaking of shady, Longhorn Jack… what a gimmick name.
The NPC dialogue adds to the sense of dreadful urgency that runs rampant throughout Shadowrun. Very well done there, Beam Software.
The battles take place in real time. You aim a crosshair icon at a bad guy and fire away. Each hit either way brings a number point over the character’s head as to indicate the damage points incurred. Kill more bad guys to earn karma (think skill points in RPGs) and nuyen (money). The more karma you earn the better you can level up your skills and attributes.
Some battles take place inside buildings while other wars are waged in the middle of the street. As you run through the seedy streets of Seattle, you never know when some scumbag will pop out of nowhere to fire shots at your head. I love the battle music that plays for each gun fight.
Scumbags pop out of nowhere. From rooftops to dumpsters, you always have to watch your step. Love the way their carcasses litter the screen when you’re through with them!
I like these mini cut scenes whenever Jake travels. There’s one for a train, a chopper, an elevator, a boat, etc. It’s simple but an effective way to convey the feeling that you’re really traversing various parts of town.
I can’t imagine Shadowrun being anything but isometric. It just wouldn’t be the same if the perspective was, say, Link to the Past.
I just love how gritty and grimy the whole world of Shadowrun is. Really a nice little action adventure game to play at midnight with all the lights turned off!
This is an odd recurring character you will run into throughout to say the very least…
Upgrade your guns as you progress to stand a chance. There’s nothing like a dark alley gun fight, is there? Really gets the blood flowing… literally.
The game map isn’t too big, but is big enough to convey a real sense of being immersed in a dubious, underhanded world. You never really get too lost (at least I didn’t, anyhow) but there are enough interesting little nooks and crannies to be explored that really suck you into its twisted world.
Go to the bar to find out more information. You can also hire mercenaries! So even though you only control Jake, he can have up to 3 mercenaries trailing him at any point to help you in your quest. The computer AI on your mercenaries isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough to get the job done.
Hiring help is not mandatory but it sure helps Jake’s cause. They have some funky names too — my favorite name being “Dance With Clams.”
Love me the graveyard section! Zombies come crawling out the earth looking for a taste of human flesh. It’s slightly creepy and goes extremely well with this time of the year.
If you haven’t experienced playing Shadowrun at midnight with the lights turned off, you need to.
My favorite occult-ish moment of the game is when you run into a nest of vampires. They’re hiding off in some big fancy house near a graveyard. Better come armed with some mercenaries in tow!
There are a few tricky moments here and there where if you miss a key item (pardon the pun) the game comes to a screeching halt. I always try to solve a game on my own first without resorting to a FAQ. It took me a while here until I realized there was a bronze key laying on the book shelf that was somewhat hard to make out at an initial glance. One of those “D’OH!” moments when you finally see it for the first time.
The boss battle with Dracula himself was a fun one, if not a little creepy. I hate the way he moves. It was unnatural and very stilted. Gave me the creeps…
Oh great. This big bastard guards this night club. But you got to find a way to somehow bust through. Hmmm…
Love the small rooms. It reminds me of EarthBound because some of the rooms take up half the size of the screen, or even less!
Shadowrun will suck you right into its fascinatingly squalid world.
I suppose no seedy underworld is complete without an equally seedy junkyard.
Hobos litter the area as does gun-toting mad men. It’s quite the ruthless and dog-eat-dog world. By the way, is there nothing better than surviving a fight with next to zero health remaining? It never fails to get the heartbeat racing a bit as you scramble around to find a health kit refill, or the like.
Make your way through this giant boat. I love the way the screen is mostly black and the only thing that is detailed are the green stairways. It’s really quite an artistic little game.
You gotta appreciate a video game that does things to differentiate it from the crowd. Shadowrun is definitely a unique title in the vast ocean of SNES goodness.
Another thrilling section, you can feel the pressure kicking in as you slowly uncover bit by bit the Jake Armitage mystery.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Shadowrun scored positive reviews with the critics. Well at least for the most part it did. EGM gave it scores of 7, 7, 6 and 6. GameFan rated it 89, 84, 80 and 80%. Super Play scored it 85%. It has a positive reputation within diehard SNES circles. It’s not your typical bright and cute Super Nintendo title, which is part of its appeal. There have been many talks over the years on which is better: the Genesis or SNES version of Shadowrun. Both play differently. I’ve never played the Genesis version myself, but I can say I love SNES Shadowrun. Not only is it a blast to play but I love the whole vibe of the game. There’s no teenage angst or love side story BS. It was just a man on the run fighting time, magic, monsters and unraveling the mystery of the puzzle piece by piece. Good stuff.
Two years ago — Halloween 2014. I left work early on a dreary late afternoon due to losing my voice. I was bummed I wouldn’t be able to head out that night for Halloween shenanigans, but it worked out OK. There was nothing I wanted to do more than finally at long last firing up Shadowrun and seeing what it was all about. It’s a game my brother played to death over 20 years ago. I have fond memories of that Halloween night exploring the first few hours of this game. It was raining and I made sure to wait until after 9 PM when the trick-or-treaters had all gone home. Now it was nothing but me, Jake Armitage and the crazy sordid universe of Seattle 2050. All things considered, it turned out to be a pretty good Halloween. And on a side note, the following week I told my brother I was finally going through the game for myself, and he grew very nostalgic at the mere mention. Next thing I know we’re talking about deckers and Drake. This may sound silly but that’s the magic of video games. You can go 20+ years without playing or even thinking of a certain game, but the second you recall it, you’re transported back to a more innocent and carefree time in your life. A time when it was just taking out the trash, doing your homework and playing the latest and greatest 16-bit games. Good times.
I enjoyed upgrading Jake’s armor, guns and magic. I like how karma is awarded for kills which allows you to upgrade abilities such as shot accuracy and health. There is a bit of “farming” you can do in order to increase your karma. The gun sound effects are pretty weak but I love seeing the numbers pop up over their heads, letting me know how much damage I just inflicted. The visuals are not spectacular but I do like the little details and overall art style. I found myself getting lost a bit here and there, but it’s nothing too bad. Mainly I forgot to grab an item that forced me to be stuck. Each locale feels different from the other, and it’s fun to see what weird scene you’ll run into next. It’s a tight 15-20 hour adventure, so it’s just long enough to satisfy but not too long that it wears out its welcome. Combat isn’t the greatest as you just point the cursor and fire away, but it works for the game and serves its role. Shadowrun isn’t perfect by any stretch, but it really is rather one of a kind as far as Super Nintendo titles go. Cyberpunk, monsters, magic, mystery and noir! Hard to go wrong. Just remember, never ever cut a deal with a dragon.
Halloween is almost here. It’s one of my favorite days of the year. And this game is perfect to play on Halloween night. In the late ’90s I bought Clock Tower for the PlayStation and played it to death (pardon the pun). It was a few years later that I discovered the first Clock Tower originated on the Super Famicom. Thanks to the efforts of some diehard SNES fanatics, the game has long since been translated into English for the rest of us to enjoy. And enjoy it we did. One of the true Halloween staples in any video gaming collection, Clock Tower delivers one creepy and tense adventure the likes of which few SNES games can claim!
Clock Tower combined two things I absolutely love. It resembles a horror movie — I like its creepy villain, SCISSORMAN, almost as much as Michael Myers — and it’s on my favorite system of all time, the Super Nintendo. What more could I ask for, right? Unfortunately, the game never received a North American release. By the time it came out in Japan on September 14, 1995, the SNES was quickly losing steam as the 32-bit machines gained more and more momentum. That and, of course, there was no chance (even with the Play It Loud! movement) that Clock Tower was going to get approved by Nintendo of America! What a shame it never saw American soil because this is one of the most unique and original efforts on the Super Nintendo. But thanks to the fan translation scene, we can now experience this macabre game in all its gory glory.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love the HALLOWEEN series. Uncle Jimmy let me rent the first one back in 1989. I spent more than half the movie hiding behind the sofa with one hand covering my eyes. I even had a nightmare of Halloween‘s iconic madman, Michael Myers, later that night. And I was hooked. Go figure. I dreamt about someone turning the Halloween concept into a video game. I mean, how awesome would it be to take control of a protagonist who is constantly being chased by a masked maniac? That every room you enter he could be lurking in the shadows… watching and studying your every move… waiting for the right moment to jump out and slit your throat wide open. Clock Tower delivers that sense of dread and drama in spades!
MY -FIRST FEAR- WITH CLOCK TOWER
My first exposure to Clock Tower was in 1997. I’ll never forget it. From the moment I read its splendid three page ad in EGM #97 (August ’97), I was hooked. Seriously the best advertisement ever. I knew I had to buy the game then, and it was the only PlayStation game I ever cared enough to buy! The ad is so awesome that I am going to replicate parts of it below.
CRIMSON FOUNTAINS OF GORE
A bright plume of warm crimson rain erupted as the giant scissors rent the flesh of his next victim… this is certainly not the game for the timid or weak of stomach! From corpses at your bedroom door to half eaten bodies in the restroom, ASCII has packed Clock Tower to the belfry with some of the most gruesome and spectacular graphics of the year! Watch in horror as the limping gait of the immortal Scissorman approaches your present hiding place — only to see the bright fountain of your own blood if he happens to find you! Any horror fan will quickly recognize the brilliance of the programmer’s virtuoso performance in the lighting, shadowing, angles, and sheer volume of gruesome content! Lots of animation and full 3D polygons were used to bring the bloody, murderous surroundings to life. This, in conjunction with the well detailed backgrounds and characters, will have you at the edge of your seat — praying that you make it through the night!
THE HORROR OF SILENCE
The chilling sound of the banshee’s scream itself couldn’t have been more dreadful than the sound of the sheering scrape of sharpened steel blades sliding past each other — not to mention the wonderful effect of pure silence in some of the most chillingly tense scenes of the game. There’s something terribly dreadful in the sound of your own two feet echoing through some of the most profoundly evil halls ever wrought, and I couldn’t agree more with the programmers when they spoke of the “Terror of Sound” which they labored for in this game! ASCII’s purpose in the sound scheme of this game is fairly easy to understand… with sounds that aren’t there when they should be, sounds in impossible places, the chilling music of the chase, and the haunting scrape of the Scissorman himself as he stalks you with inhuman determination… they want to scare you out of your skin!
Of course, the voice-overs and sound effects of the surrounding environments are a beautiful addition to the already impressive audio display. The tightly knit unison of background noise, voices, sound of movement, music and silence create a living auditory atmosphere that will draw you into the world of terror on the screen right before you.
RUN FOR YOUR LIFE
In a game where one false move could easily mean the difference between escape and grisly death, control is of paramount importance. This is another area where Clock Tower excels! From fleeing down dark corridors and hiding in shower stalls, to hurling chairs and brawling with your would be assailant, the full range of movement offered by Clock Tower will leave you breathless with the fight or flight instinct. For those who like to hide, just try to avoid hiding in the same spot too many times in a row. Scissorman has a limited IQ, but he’s not that stupid!
Also remember to check every nook and cranny for items that you may be able to use later. With a little help, you might just live to see the light of tomorrow.
A series of brutal murders have signaled the return of one of the most terrifying killers in the history of Romsdaaren, Norway — Scissorman! Terror gripped the hearts of the mixed party of ten as they finally reached the unholy walls of the Barrow’s family mansion in England. No one could have imagined the unspeakable horrors that lay behind the infamous Scissorman case when the malevolent butcherings had begun. Now, the dreadful search for the answers had culminated into a lynching party that brought them all here, to the very doorstep of Hell itself. Would they finally find the key to send this twisted soul back to the nether regions of death that had so maliciously spat him into their lives? Only time will tell…
I have such great and fond memories with this game. As I said it was the only PlayStation game I ever bothered to buy. For a while there in ’98 it was all that I played. I used it to scare the living daylights out of my then 10 year old cousin, David. Uncle Jimmy, the one who rented Halloween for me back in ’89, used to visit us a lot back in the late ’90s. David would always come to watch me play this, only to run out screaming whenever Scissorman gave chase. Ahhh, the good old days eh? So when I found out Clock Tower originated on the SNES, I simply had to get my hands on it.
THE STORY GOES…
There’s something about the way her finger is pointing that inexplicably gives me the heebie jeebies. Ms. Mary definitely has the low key witch vibe about her…
“Puzzles” in Clock Tower are quite elementary [Good thing for you! Ha! -Ed.]
What happens next? Find out on your own! What secrets are tucked away in this mansion of unspeakable horrors? What’s the deal with Scissorman? Is someone pulling the strings? Was it Ms. Mary, or something far more demonic? Will you survive the grisly night to see the light of day? CLOCK TOWER awaits! Turn off the lights, crank up the sound and say a prayer…
WORKING THAT ROOM LIKE A PRO, BABY
WHAT THE CRIT — FANS SAID
Normally this is where I’ll put the game’s scores according to the “Super Three” (EGM, GameFan and Super Play Magazine — if applicable). But with Clock Tower being a special fan translated repo, I’ll cite some fan comments instead. The following haunting stories come from various gamers who have encountered Scissorman’s wrath over the years…
Clock Tower creates an underlying wave of fear throughout the game’s course, and there are certain scenes in the game that may act as a proverbial moon to bring in this terrifying tide. Clock Tower doesn’t pull any punches, and the horrifyingly realatmosphere of the Barrows’ mansion had me paranoid for at least a week! In fact, one of my friends who I first played the game with noted that the scariest part of the game was that almost everything in it can easily be connected to real life. Compounding off this, my first playthrough of the game was at a small party I held for six or seven close friends, and with the exception of one (she’s oddly impervious to that sort of shock value), we were all scared out of our wits. Clock Tower is just cool that way -Amai Yuuwaku
Gloomy and ominous, Clock Tower is a wonderful experience for any fan of interactive horror, and well worth playing through whether as a longtime fan of the series or a wide-eyed newcomer -Tachibana Ukyo
After playing through it for only a meager half-hour, I know that I am never going back to it! I am a bit tense when it comes to Hitchcock movies, and I must say, this game has a lot of Hitchcock-esque horror elements. Clock Tower doesn’t make the game scary with blood and gore, no sir. It’s just the sounds and sudden happenings that cause you to psychologically snap (a lot like Hitchcock movies!) -Alain Garamonde
Clock Tower: the story of hope, betrayal and survival. The game revolves around Jennifer and a couple of her friends who get adopted by a family. They get to the mansion in the woods in hopes of a new, happy life. All seem well, until the group gets split up. That’s when they start to meet Scissorman. Instead of a happy life, what they got was a heart-pounding adventure. Their test was a test of wit and resourcefulness against the wrath of Scissorman -xTurksx
I’m never scared by any horror video games. Never ever. So my friend bet me $20 at my birthday party that I would be scared by this game. I took that bet and I definitely lost that bet. This game is absolutely scary -Windscar18
I didn’t know what to expect when I tried this game out. I found myself in control of a teenage girl all alone in a huge mansion, so I figured I was meant to go exploring. I went walking down the nearby hall, passing a couple of doors when all of a sudden this creepy music starts playing! Just like in a horror movie! So of course, like a total imbecile, I explored the door I was in front of when it began to play. I found myself in a hazy bathroom, and looked at the various fixtures. The only thing the cursor responded to was the closed shower curtains. So again like an imbecile, I went to look. The tub was full, but the person in it was hanging from her wrists from the shower curtain’s bar. Apparently it was one of the girl’s friends, but I didn’t have long to think about that. Suddenly this figure jumped out of the bathtub, brandishing a huge pair of scissors! It was a blue-skinned dwarfish being in a schoolboy’s outfit, with a four-foot-pair of scissors. This was the beginning of my Clock Tower experience… -The Manx
I hate this game. I can’t tell you how much I do. That may be misleading, but I hate this game in a I’m-too-scared-to-turn-it-on way, not the I-don’t-want-to-play way. I’ve played Clock Tower for PlayStation. Clock Tower for the SNES is 4 times as good. This game really messed with my mind, and it reminded me of Maniac Mansion in its control scheme, but that’s a good thing. The interface is easy to control and actually fun, as you run through rooms chased by the maniacal Scissorman, trying to find a place to hide, with his shears getting louder and louder as he dogs your steps, the clicking on objects getting more frantic as you realize he’s just one room behind you… and then SNAP! DEAD END! -Nevergrace
I type this as I look out my door on Christmas Eve. He’s coming. I can hear it. It’s been about two whole days since I’ve played the game, but I am still rather leery -Lord Flamingo
My fellow gamers above said it best. I echo many of their sentiments. Have you ever had one of those special gaming experiences you’ll never forget? Perhaps it was, in addition to the game itself, the weather, the season in your own life, or the place where it happened. Christmas 2010. I was sleeping over at my parents’ huge two story house, and that was the first time I went through Clock Tower from start to finish. Playing til 4:30 AM, every bloody sound that emanated from either the game or the house had me on the edge of my seat and peeking over my shoulder with much trepidation. It’s been a long time since I’ve been a little kid, but that night Scissorman sure made me feel like one. With multiple endings, a sinister masked maniac and a simple yet compelling story, the game draws you in like few others and then spits you out leaving you feeling exasperated, a bit uneasy, and completely satisfied.
Simply put, there is no other game quite like Clock Tower on the SNES. That alone makes it noteworthy. Throw in the fact how well it was executed and what you have here is one uniquely special game. Scissorman is easily one of the most memorable villains in SNES history. He waits in the shadows and pops out at the most (in)opportune moments. Grisly and horrifying deaths, high tension cat and mouse chase scenes, and not knowing for sure where Scissorman lurks makes Clock Tower great! The graphics are well done and give the game an ominous atmosphere. The sound will raise the hair up on the back of your neck. It’s not too long but the nine endings give incentive to replay. After that night at my parents’, I met up with my cousin David the following day. Yes, the same one I scared with PlayStation Clock Tower more than a decade ago. I told him how I spent much of last night playing the original Clock Tower on Super Nintendo and what an awesome experience that was, with the whipping rain outside, and I swear, just the mere mention of SCISSORMAN gave poor David a horrid flashback. Heck, I don’t blame him. Just saying Scissorman out loud gives me the heebie jeebies. Do what you gotta do to play this game and be sure to turn off the lights, lock your doors and pray for mercy!
Graphics: 8.5 Sound: 9 Gameplay: 8.5 Longevity: 7
In 2007 a Japanese horror film was released based on a rumor that ran rampant throughout early 1980’s Japan — the Slit (or Severed) Mouth Woman! This horrible disfigured lady apparently roamed the streets of rural Japan looking for children to answer her one simple, deadly question: “AM I PRETTY?” The wrong response was met with grave consequences. Through comic books and magazines this became a popular urban myth. It became such a hysteria that ALL students were forbidden to go home alone and groups were formed for safety. There was even an incident where a lady chasing some kids was struck by a car. Her mouth was revealed to have been slit from ear to ear! Was it the Slit Mouth Woman?
This mysterious and deranged woman wore a surgical mask to cover her scar. In addition, she wielded a giant pair of scissors similar to Scissorman. Was Clock Tower influenced in any way by the Slit Mouthed Woman urban legend of 1980’s Japan? We don’t know for sure, but I can tell you this, the 2007 movie is creepy as hell! I saw it with my cousins (again, poor David) and they could barely finish it! As most Japanese horror films tend to be, and much like Clock Tower the game itself, the movie is something of a slow burn. But once it gets going, shit hits the fan. Some of the scenes still haunt me to this day. Even I felt a little uneasy… there’s something about the movie that makes you feel terribly unsettled…
The movie is known as “Carved.” There was also a sequel. It wasn’t too bad for a sequel, but much like Halloween itself, the original will always be the best. I recommend this film to horror buffs. It’s sick, twisted and if you happen to love Scissorman as much as I do, this is the closest we might ever get to seeing Scissorman in movie form. Who doesn’t love a good old fashion ghost story urban legend? I don’t know why but any movie taking place in rural Japan is automatically 50 times scarier and creepier than any American horror film. Those Japanese artists have some sick minds. Carved is a solid slasher and the fact that it’s based off a real Japan urban legend “Kuchisake Onna” makes it all the more unsettling and spooky.
In the early days of the Super Nintendo, games like Super Mario World, F-Zero, ActRaiser, Final Fantasy II and Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts help set the foundation for what would be one epic gaming library. Such a list would be incomplete without citing Super Castlevania IV. Its intensely atmospheric levels, striking music and satisfying gameplay etched an indelible mark on all those who have played it. Nearly 25 years since its release, it still resonates with gamers all over the world to this very day. That speaks volumes to the game’s greatness.
And now, with Halloween nearly upon us, let’s look back at the game that was, is and forever will be one of the cornerstones of the SNES library.
YOU’RE SO VAIN-IA! [OH LORD -ED.]
Confession time: I never played this game back in the day sans a quick go or two at a friend’s house. Yup. The ghoulish feel definitely did appeal to me, but my tastes back then were quite different (I enjoyed playing mostly the ‘underdog’ titles) and of course, my bro pretty much made all the buying decisions as well as 90% of the renting choices. He was an RPG buff and 2-player guy, so with this being 1-player, we never bothered to rent it. As I returned to my old SNES roots in January of 2006, this game was right at the top of my list to buy and beat. What a sweet opportunity at gaming redemption it was. I got my copy on April 8, 2006. Driving home on the freeway, windows rolled down, the radio blaring, I couldn’t wait to finally right a 15 year wrong. Later that night I began my journey to slay Dracula and his minions of the night. At long last I had quelled my 15 year long folly. And it was bloody sweet.
IN THE BEGINNING
My brother Kevin and I, as children born of the early ’80s, grew up on a steadfast diet of good ol’ hearty 8-bit Nintendo adventures. When our esteemed fun-loving uncle moved in with us in the mid-late ’80s, life couldn’t have been more swell. My parents rarely bought us Nintendo video games. Rather it was our benevolent Uncle Jimmy who helped us procure much of our 18-game collection, over a 5+ year span of 1986-1991.
Castlevania was a game I’d seen in Nintendo Power Magazine, and one we rented. There was something about the cover art that captivated my imagination. Being a fan of monsters and such, Dracula’s vile mug immediately intrigued me. I wanted badly to be that barbaric chap there on the box, armed with my trusty magical whip and broad sword, thwarting the evils of Dracula and his cronies. Our childhood friend Tommy had a huge NES collection — I’m talking around 100! Nowadays such a collection is not as impressive, but back in ’89 it was mind-blowing (with carts going $50+ a pop). Lucky rich bastard. Anyway, I vividly remember seeing Castlevania in his collection. We’d play it here and there. Never got too far but I enjoyed the atmospheric music and concept very much. As the series grew and evolved, it become a juggernaut of a franchise beloved by countless gamers who are still talking about it and playing its various games to this very day. No doubt Konami hit the jackpot with this one!
With the Super Nintendo lying in the wings, it was only inevitable to see a souped up 16-bit version. And sure enough, on Halloween 1991, Dracula was once more unleashed. The game came out stateside a little over a month later. Did it live up to expectations? Only the individual can discern that, but the consensus answer is a RESOUNDING YES.
By the way, did you know that Super Castlevania IV is actually a remake of the original? It still centers around one, Simon Belmont and the year 1691, just one year prior to the infamous Salem Witch Trials. And now, kick your feet up and make yourself comfortable. Let’s usher in Super Castlevania IV with severed, blood dripping arms…
THE STORY GOES…
“Come on, old-timer! Let’s go!”
“Anything for a fellow pilgrim. We’re all on a quest. Sometimes we need help getting where we want to be.”
“Reverend Jackson P. Sayer of Dumont County. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“God’s country… Promise Land. Where are you heading, Mr. uh?”
“… Loomis. Haddonfield.”
It’s always got a face and a name.”
“I’ve been hunting the bastard for 30 years, give or take. Come close a time or two.”
“You can’t kill damnation, mister. IT DON’T DIE LIKE A MAN DIES.”
“I know that, Mr. Sayer.”
“OH you’re a pilgrim all right! Yeah, I saw it on your face back there in the dust. I saw it clear as breasts and blue suede shoes.”
“You’re sharp, Reverend.”
“Speaking of which, let me tell you a story about a fellow pilgrim of ours; one that my great grandfather used to tell me….
… his name was Simon Belmont…”
Note: Click on the video below as it goes along with the text to follow. However, if you’re reading this on your smart phone, it doesn’t work as clicking on the link takes you to the source.
“Those fools should have never revived the dark demon! But they did JUST THAT on one foul and malicious night — the night HE CAME HOME!
It doesn’t matter where you go, Mr. Loomis. It can be Dumont County or Haddonfield; evil’s all the same — always got a face and a name. In Transylvania, a small peaceful country out in medieval Europe, there lies a legend that says once every 100 years, when the power of Christ wanes, the forces of evil revive through the prayers of those with wicked hearts. That corrupted evil manifests itself in the form of the one and only, Count DRACULA.
And with each revival, his dark power grows stronger. His goal is to turn all humanity into creatures of darkness, to be ruled under his iron fist. He has appeared in this world many times, and there are many people who fear that in his next appearance, he may well be unstoppable.
There is one group that has always been around to see that Dracula is defeated: the Belmont family. For generations the Belmonts have passed along the secrets and skills of vampire-hunting to the eldest child of the family. While many of the Belmonts have lived peaceful lives without encountering the Duke of Darkness, they remain ever vigilant. There are occasional skirmishes with lesser monsters, but the Belmont clan would always emerge victorious.
100 years have passed since the last battle between Dracula and the Belmonts. Tensions mount as Transylvanians reported mysterious sightings of odd creatures appearing under the cover of darkness. Some folks believed it was an omen while many others were convinced it was nothing more than a mere bout of paranoia. Despite the divided ties, the good citizens remained united and a curfew was invoked for precautionary reasons. Children were encouraged to stay out no later than 5 PM.
With the curfew in full effect, weeks passed without incidence. Then tragedy struck when a farmer slept walked into town at the witching hour. The next morning, shrill screams of horror echoed across the land when only the farmer’s entrails were found lying on the cobbled road by the clock tower. But rather than fleeing, the people banded together in this time of great need. On the night of Easter, a grand carnival was held in town to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
Meanwhile, on the outskirts of town inside an old abbey, a heathenistic group held a ceremony attempting to revive the Duke of Darkness. As they carried out their ritual, dark thunderclouds descended over the countryside. The sinister group stirred itself into a frenzy of mysterious chanting and pagan dancing when a single thunderbolt struck the abbey. The ground shook violently under their feet as the abbey walls shattered. Once more, the almighty Dracula LIVES!
The time has come for the young successor Simon Belmont to call forth the powers of good to aid him in his battle. Armed with his mystical whip, his courage and the centuries-old knowledge of Belmont family training, he sets forth on his mission. The mist clears… but the battle before Simon Belmont is only beginning…”
Remember the haunting howling of the wolves here? EPIC!
WHIP IT! WHIP IT GOOD!
Simon Belmont indeed knows how to whip it well. Never before have players enjoy this much whipping prowess, as Simon can direct his whip in eight directions. In addition, his new and improved whip can be swung in a circular motion. This whip wave isn’t as powerful as a straight strike, but has its uses and certainly is very pleasing to employ. Also the whip can latch onto anchors and be used as a swing to cross open spaces. Simon can jump better than ever as well. He can also squat and move at the same time allowing him to pass through low ledges. Now you can jump onto stairs by holding up, and jump off them by holding down + jump. These little touches go a long ways to making the game play like the kind of game we have always dreamed of.
The same 5 sub weapons (only one can be carried at a time) from the NES games return. But thanks to Simon’s newfound whip skills, these sub weapons aren’t nearly as critical as before. The stop watch serves its purpose of freezing annoying winged baddies from knocking you off into an abyss f’rinstance, and the boomerang remains a game changer.
Once inside, players must contend with savage skeletons and swooping bats. What a memorable romp this is, especially how in the beginning the iron gates rise from the depths of Hell! And of course, the classic Castlevania sound roaring.
Ah, Simon has never been better with the whip. Picking off enemies from a safe distance is utterly satisfying, and you gotta love how their bones go flying every which direction!
Letting the whip just hang at your side acts as a shield of sorts from such projectiles. Simply hold on to the attack button. As for the whip wave, move the D-Pad accordingly as you continue holding down the attack button. Works like a dream.
Once inside, you quickly realize this isn’t your average stable… beware the vicious nest of vipers clinging to the ceiling above you. They patiently lie in waiting for unsuspecting fools.
Told you this wasn’t your average stable! These wretched creatures, oddly dubbed Mr. Hed, float after you often in packs. Sure, we’ve all heard of the Headless Horseman, but this is nuts!
Those damn annoying Medusa Heads are back to wreck havoc and generally shorten your life expectancy, maybe in more ways than one. But thankfully they’re not too bad in this game. Watch out for those loose floorboards!
Your first boss encounter comes in the form of Rowdain and his “little” pet. I love pet and rider boss fights. You get to kill two for the price of one *evil grin*
Rowdain is a very easy boss fight, but an enjoyable one nonetheless. He’ll try to impale you with his evil lance. In many action games from this era, bosses flash white or red when damaged. Here they flash a weird green-red-ish color. He also twitches in pain with every whip shot. Keep your distance or he’ll lunge at you with his lance. It’s a very simple boss fight. Sure, the boss fights are short and of the whip-whip-whipuntilthey’re dead in 15 seconds sort. But it’s still a blast and doesn’t take anything away from the greatness of the game.
At the conclusion of each successful boss fight a Magic Crystal (sometimes called the Ball of Light) magically falls from the Heavens. Grab it to restore vitality to 100% and prepare for the next challenge.
Deep in this dark and twisted forest lies a haunted cemetery where its guests are just DYING for you to stay a while.
Whip as many candles as you can. They provide hearts (used to determine the amount you can utilize your sub weapon), replenishment, money, sub weapons and so on. Sure they make the place look festive, but a romantic dinner this ain’t. The only date you got here is the one Drac wishes to carve on your tombstone!
After the forest make your way through a swamp and this subterranean river.
Cross this creaky old bridge and you’ll soon come face to face with the one and only…
Boy, if looks could ki — [Don’t even try it mister -Ed.]
She’ll lob snakes at you. It’s another easy but cool little boss fight.
Cross this stream after defeating Medusa to pass level two. It’s kind of strange that beating Medusa doesn’t lead you straight into the next level, but I actually kind of like it.
Now Simon must venture through this cold, creepy cavern. They say that caves are the unknown wonders of the world. And some believe some caves weren’t meant for man to cross. Such as this one…
A flock of bloodthirsty bats come swooping after you as a giant golem meanders just ahead. The golem is easily my favorite regular bad guy — it’s so much fun to kill him. It never gets old to see him breaking down into smaller versions of himself.
You see!? He splits into many smaller versions as you whip him like a sorry government mule. It’s always the little things, eh?
Gotta love how this pillar of bones is oddly positioned here. I love when game programmers place baddies in the weirdest spots; it just kind of gives a game a certain pulse to it.
Keep an eye out for hidden rooms. Whip the blocks and wait in case a top one drops. It’s really cool how these blocks shatter when you whip them.
It’s one of gaming’s longest and greatest mysteries… why is food like burgers and fine pork chops just lying out in the wide open? Or, as in this case, buried deep within a cave behind some heavy rocks no less. But perhaps it’s just an answer mankind was never meant to know.
Their color change warns you of incoming fire, so get that whip ready.
Dracula’s domain includes many towers and castles. Level four takes travelers to the Outer Keep, a place of unspeakable horrors and wonders. Face multiple bosses and experience some of Super Nintendo’s most graphically brilliant moments!
Watch out for twisted Japanese horror movie-esque monsters popping inexplicably out of the castle walls. What malpractice!
The peculiarly named Puweyxil is your first test here. A giant skull with a long serpentine tongue filled with acid. Never before has the term “Crackin’ skulls!” been more appropriate.
Who could ever forget this rotating room of doom? Better hang on for dear life!
And then you have this spectacular spinning corridor. Ooooh, ahhhh. It still impresses to this day, and I could only imagine how TRULY mind-blowing it must have been to experience this back in December 1991.
Level 5 is a very short romp though one of Dracula’s courtyards. There is no boss to contend with here. It’s merely a race against the clock. Beware of the harpy.
I love this little scene. It just reminds me so much of the NES Castlevania games. While flashy colors and trippy Mode-7 can be great, this goes to show you how even the most basic colors can be effective to setting an atmospheric tone.
As you gaze up at the statues, you see some form of ill-play has plagued the region. Remaining ever vigilant, you push on ahead, ready for any and all challenges…
You now find yourself in the hallowed halls of one of Drac’s castles. Fine statues and chandeliers decorate the place, but you quickly discover your average hall this ain’t!
I dig the soft green tiles found within these hallowed halls. The cool thing about the graphics is that they don’t give you the reality of a castle, but rather the impression of one. Video games shouldn’t be about mimicking reality in my view. They’re a form of escapism. And Super Castlevania IV does a great job of that.
Cross spiked-filled gaps by quickly hopping from one narrow block to the next. To make matters more dire, these blocks crack if you stand on them for more than a split second. Make haste!
Ahh, one of the simple pleasures of this game: to take a dump while whip waving two lowly skeleton guards into a pile of scrap. If this ain’t fun [and relieving -Ed.] then quite frankly I don’t know what is.
Remember the annoying red resurrecting skeleton from the NES games? He’s baaack!
“Well Simon, which hand is the ball in? Come on, I ain’t got all day now. Well actually, I do. But still — come on now!”
If these ghostly dancing partners ever sign up for SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE, they’re a shoe-in for the title. Simply because they’ve been partners for eternity!
Making your way past the hallowed halls and into the library, Simon must deal with all sorts of unholy knights. They require multiple strikes to kill.
These winged-demons make crossing through this bit rather perilous. If you have the stopwatch sub weapon, now is a perfect time to use it.
Oversized floating books serve as your means of transportation in this slightly tricky bit, thanks mostly to the red resurrecting skeleton standing guard there.
A chill runs down your spine as you step foot into this ominous hallway. You feel as if you’re being watched, and that one wrong step could be your very last…
SURPRISE! The spooky woman in the portrait springs to life, holding you hostage in her iron grip. Meanwhile, a flock of ravenous bats come swooping for ya as an unholy knight heaves a bloody ax with your name written on it. Great stuff.
I love bizarre and creepy enemies like the old witch in the portrait there. These type of strange creatures really adds an extra bit of mystery and atmosphere to a game. It makes Super Castlevania IV the perfect game to play on a stormy night with the lights turned off.
YIKES! Check out the size of this sucker. What a nasty bugger.
The guardian of this level is Sir Grakul, a giant knight who was peacefully resting until you came along…
Sir Grakul attacks with a giant ax and sword. Though he’s a rather simplistic design and more akin to a level 1 or 2 boss, he’s still a blast to slay. Send him to an eternal slumber.
Tricky bit this is! Thank God for an energy bar and no one-hit wonders eh?
All whom have traveled to the Treasury have been driven mad by the endless gold pieces and treasure chests, as well as all the vengeful spirits that fill this place of unspeakable horrors.
Trespassers couldn’t believe the wealth of gold and jewelry that laid before them. Alas, Simon cares not for riches but only to thwart the evil plans of the Duke of Darkness.
Earn yourself a pork chop if you leap on one of these treasure chests 255 times. Weird but true.
At times Super Castlevania IV is about deliberate pacing, but other times you must high-tail it. This part is the latter, as the riches-filled platforms give way immediately following contact.
You’re so close to Dracula’s keep, but before you can meet up with the Duke of Darkness you must survive this clock tower jaunt.
Now is definitely not the time to linger! A massive buzz saw gives chase, and of course, the stairs fall off as soon as you touch them.
I bet you remember this cool part too. These stairs just fall off as you barely catch the next flight. Good stuff.
The evil bird-like Slogra is the first of three boss fights you must beat in order to face Dracula. This was the first boss to give me some trouble. He must have been pretty popular as Konami resurrected him for PlayStation’s Symphony of the Night.
THE DUKE OF DARKNESS
Ol’ Drac can be a tough customer. He has a deadly wave of purple projectiles and can even conjure the powers of lightning. I guess being the Duke of Darkness has its perks, eh? He’s not so tough though if you know about the infamous pre-battle trick… and I hope you know what I’m talking about. Because if you don’t, where the hell have you been living for the past 25 years?!
WHAT’S THE PASSWORD?
Konami sees to it that every gamer will find success with Super Castlevania IV. Included is a slightly cumbersome yet very handy password system.
SUPER CENSORVANIA IV
There are some slight differences between the US version and the Japanese version (Akumajō Dracula). F’rinstance, in stage 8 the pools are filled with blood, but in the US version that color was changed to be green, becoming an acid-filled pool. Blood also no longer drips from the ceilings. There are some other small changes. Overall, nothing worth crying about, but it just reminds us of how conscious Nintendo was about keeping things PG in the early days of SNES.
SYMPHONY OF THE NIGHT
Castlevania‘s debut on the PlayStation came in a BIG way in ’97 with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It’s considered by many as one of the finest action adventure games in not just 32-bit gaming history, but of all time. No longer was it about merely getting through 11 stages. It’s a massive backtracking adventure that helped form a new gaming phrase dubbed “Metroidvania.”
TIMELINE OF TERROR
Very few video game series stand the test of time, but Konami’s Castlevania series has managed to provide more than a few surprises over the years.
With Castlevania X: Symphony of the Night for the PlayStation and now Saturn, the series has reached a new generation of gamers. However, Castlevania didn’t earn its impressive reputation over night. Since 1986, when the first game appeared, the Castlevania series has earned a loyal following. Almost everyone who has played any game in the series loves it, and anyone who hates the series probably hasn’t played it at all!
One of the most enthralling aspects of Castlevania is its story. So far, each game has fit perfectly within a century-spanning storyline.
Originally, Castlevania was planned as a Star Wars style epic, with three games set in the past, three set in the present, and three set in the future. However, it now looks like that idea has been scrapped, as more games take place in the past (although CastlevaniaBloodlines was the most contemporary of the Castlevania titles, as it takes place in the early 1900s). To get SSM readers up to speed, here’s the complete Castlevania timeline to date with important characters and events included. Some of the entries don’t actually take place in a specific year, so we’ve used a bit of artistic license in the compilation of this trip through yesteryear…
1421: Elizabeth Bartley Count Dracula’s niece, Elizabeth Bartley, was put to death after she was found guilty of being a vampire
1431: Count Dracula Dracula was at the height of his power and fully terrorized the country of Transylvania
1450: Sonia Belmont
Sonia is the first female Belmont character in the Castlevania series. Sonia is also the main character in an upcoming Castlevania title for Game Boy. The game has no title yet, but apparently Alucard also makes an appearance. Sonia is 17 years old
Trevor is the originator of the Belmont “warrior chromosomes” and takes the center stage in Dracula’s Curse, the biggest and best of the 8-bit titles. Along his perilous journey to Dracula’s castle, one of three characters could join Trevor: Sypha Belnades, a sorcerer, Grant DaNasty, a thief, and Alucard, Dracula’s rebellious son (who appears again inSymphony of the Night). The Japanese version of Castlevania III was an easier game, and Sypha’s character was a woman
1592: Christopher Belmont The Castlevania Adventure(Game Boy, 1990)
Christopher Belmont was limited to just two Castlevania titles — both for the Game Boy
1607: Christopher Belmont Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge (Game Boy, 1992)
Christopher’s son, Soleiyu, is kidnapped by Dracula. Christopher takes on Dracula again in the hopes of finding his son alive
1692: Simon Belmont Castlevania (NES, 1987)
Super Castlevania IV (Super NES, 1991)
Simon Belmont took up the battle 100 years after Trevor defeated Count Dracula. Super Castlevania IV is actually a remake of the first 8-bit title and possibly one of the best games in the series
1699: Simon Belmont Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES, 1988)
Simon Belmont discovers he was cursed by Dracula to die a slow and agonizing death. To lift the curse, he must revive Dracula and then destroy him
1792: Richter Belmont Dracula X (PC Engine, 1993)
Castlevania: Dracula X (Super NES, 1995)
Richter’s story is set long after Simon’s game. Dracula X introduced Maria, Richter’s sister-in-law. Although she is not of the Belmont vampire hunter bloodline, she has super powers nonetheless. Richter is 17 years old; Maria is 11
1798: Alucard Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation, 1997; Saturn, 1998)
Alucard awakens from his self-imposed eternal slumber only to sense that Dracula is going to be revived. Alucard sets off to Dracula’s castle in the hopes of stopping his father once and for all. Symphony of the Night’s ending opens up a potential relationship between Maria and Alucard, which will (hopefully) be explained in future titles
1892: Eric LeCarde is born in Segovia, Spain
1895: John Morris is born in Texas, USA
1897: Quincy Morris dies
The latest Belmont descendant. Quincy dies moments after defeating Dracula. Watching in the shadows are his son (John) and his best friend (Eric)
1917: Elizabeth Bartley is revived and rejuvenated Castlevania: Bloodlines (Megadrive, 1994)
Drolta Tzuentes, an amateur witch, accidentally brings Elizabeth Bartley back to life. Bartley immediately makes plans to revive Count Dracula. John Morris, Quincy’s son and latest vampire killer in the Belmont bloodline, joins his friend Eric LeCarde. LeCarde’s girlfriend, Gwendolyn, was turned into a vampire by Bartley
That’s where the Castlevania timeline ends… for now. However, with an N64 title looming on the horizon, as well as potential PlayStation and Dreamcast games, this chilling saga is thankfully far from over!
(Special thanks once again to SEGA SATURN MAGAZINE, issue #34, August 1998, for that Castlevania timeline of terror!)
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Super Castlevania IV was lavished with high praises and nearly everybody who played it fell in love with its ace soundtrack, visuals and gameplay. As you can see, the critics absolutely ate it up, as did the fans. It’s widely regarded as a top-tier Super Nintendo title, and rightfully so!
Super Castlevania IV lived up to the hype and then some. It’s got it all: incredible graphics, amazing sound and classic gameplay. Some might say it’s not nearly challenging enough and while I agree it leans on the easy side, I much rather have a game be slightly too easy than for it to be impossible. The last couple stages can be very grueling, but of course, your mileage may vary. Yes, the game does have some slowdown (see the boss fight with the Orphic Vipers) but honestly I didn’t find it nearly as bad as some were claiming. It didn’t take away much from the game at all. Speaking of the bosses, while they’re not Konami’s very best, they still are quite a treat to behold (and even more satisfying to slay).
I believe the very best video games are the ones that take you on a journey. Super Castlevania IV simply possesses an epic quest feel to it, and that’s what makes it special for me, nevermind the excellent graphics, sound and gameplay. You’re Simon Belmont with the sole goal of defeating Dracula. You trek through 11 wide-ranging and diverse stages ranging from haunted cemeteries, zombie-infested woods, creepy caverns and cursed castle halls to name but a few. It’s simple but so highly immersing. You latch onto the quest. It’s escapism at its best! Many of us play games to be swept away to a land of wonder, mystique and adventure — Super Castlevania IV certainly does that well. And it’s a shame there aren’t more epic games like this.
As mentioned earlier, the colors of the game give it a striking and surreal feel. It doesn’t give you the reality of a castle, but rather the impression of one. I don’t want my games to simulate life or be too realistic. I like digging into a fantasy adventure, get swept away and become totally enraptured with its atmosphere, action and world. From the very chilling moment you press start at the title screen and hear that wolf’s haunting howl, you knew you were in for a special treat. The kind that sadly, games all too often fail to achieve. Then, as you make your way across that introductory sequence, with that hulking skull looming in the distance, you pass through the massive drawbridge with the classic Castlevania music kicking in. Beautiful. The early stages may not impress much but the later levels really take it up a notch. I enjoyed the first couple levels but it wasn’t until stage 3 — the Creepy Caverns — that things suddenly clicked. From there, I never looked back.
While many prefer the newer style of play (the exploring, leveling up and backtracking), I still prefer this basic style. Just move forward, not worrying about having item X, conversing with side characters or any of that. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy that type of game too, but when a game is this good and doesn’t need all that extracurricular activity, I can’t help but love it even more. The bosses have their energy bars, I have mine, and soon, one of us won’t. Simple as that. And sometimes the simplest things are among the best things. Not just in life but also in video games. I look back to that Saturday night of April 8, 2006, when at last I had finally began my quest to slay Dracula and his minions of the night, and a devilish grin crosses my face. I was damn near 15 years late to the party, but it was worth the wait. I wished I’d experienced this back in the early ’90s, but that’s OK. I had the luxury of playing it as an older, wiser and more appreciative gamer. Dracula may indeed revive every 100 years but damnit, every Halloween or so, I’ll send him BACK to his bloody grave!
Super Castlevania IV is a stirring classic and a must-own for any Super Nintendo fan, period.
Technically known as BS Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman Zero, this franchise (known as Shockman in the US) had a one-off entry for the 16-bit SNES. Sadly, it never came out officially. It was released only through the Satellaview in Japan. But now thanks to time and technology, back in 2010 I was able to get this on an actual cart. Some call it Schbibinman or Tyoujin — not Choujin. However you want to spell the title, what matters is the game itself. And thankfully, Kaizou offers more than enough to make itself noteworthy.
GOOD LOOKING OUT, EGM!
Back in the day, EGM had a sweet import section they called International Outlook. Each month they would highlight a select small handful of Japanese games. It was in issue #61 that I first found out about this game — way back in summer of 1994. Right away I was intrigued and wanted to play it badly. I figured it would only be a matter of time before it came out to the US. Sadly, that never happened. Time went on and I forgot all about it. Fast forward to January 2006. I got back into all things SNES and did so with a vengeance. Buying games left and right, crossing want after want off the ole, er, want list… and basically reclaiming bits and pieces of my childhood. I remember searching for Shubibinman on the Super Famicom scene to see whether or not it slipped under the radar. Imagine my horror when I realized it never came out. But thank God for repros, eh? It’s a great opportunity for us to play the ‘lost titles’ of our youth! Nothing’s sweeter.
TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE
Perhaps the coolest thing about BS Shockmanis its 2-player mode. Unlike most other 16-bit 2-player games, this one added in a little twist. You can pull off techniques that you cannot otherwise do when playing alone. Our heroes, Raita and Azuki, can charge up for a super blast. If one of them hits the other with their super blast, then that gives the other player a split second to launch an all-out attack of epic melee proportions. It’s quite awesome! Best of all, the charging only takes about a second, much less than Mega Man. Nice.
BS SHOCKMAN IS NO BS
I would have loved to seen this as an actual stage in the game, but sadly it is only used as a set piece for the intro.
There is quite a bit of platforming to do which gives the game a nice mix between a platformer and a good ol’ beat ‘em up. Lots of tiers for you to jump on or down from. NCS did an excellent job splicing these two genres because neither aspects ever feel out of place. The putty variant with the gun presents much more of a challenge and later stages like this one even have obstacles in the playing field. At times it almost feels like you’re playing Super Mario Bros. with a little Mega Man and even a dash of Street Fighter thrown in for good measure.
I really enjoy the different bosses this game throws your way. Some are just people, like you’d see in a beat ‘em up, while others are massive mechanical monstrosities, like the sort you’d find in a platformer. It all goes back to NCS mixing in the two classic genres seamlessly. This strange and compelling octopus boss fight, complete with snakes for tentacles, comes to mind. Jumping from different platforms, avoiding the snakes’ red bullets and smashing the octopus’ head in is nothing short of sweet and satisfying.
The stages are somewhat short and there are only about 8 of them, but they vary in locale and look. MostBS Satellaview games didn’t have the most elaborate of graphics (as compared to traditional SNES releases of its time) and it’s the same case here. However, I still like it. It’s bright and colorful enough to present me with a real gaming world, yet not so souped up that it destroys the illusion of playing a video game.
Wait, is that an alien pe… nevermind. You start out with four life bars and four continues. As you progress, you can level up and gain more life bars. The game starts out in the city before going underground and then finally to outer space. It’s all quite a wild, fun-filled ride. It’s not too difficult and can be beaten in well under an hour. But hey, not every game needs to be super long. Games like this, which only require 45 minutes or so, are a great break from the RPG norm. For my money, the SNES did it best!
LEFT FOR DEAD IN 1994
It’s a shame this game was never released to US shores back in ’94. Still to this day, not too many people know about it except for the most diehard of fans. It’s not a blockbuster title or anything, but it’s most certainly a fun addition to any Super Nintendo library. Scenes like this only point to the oddity and charm of the game. I love all the different tiers you can jump on or off, and the putty looking bad guys are endearing in their own right. I love charging up for Raita’s Hadoken-esque blast, letting it rip and seeing the baddies fly back in dramatic slow motion (the game does that on purpose for dramatic effect). Unfortunately, the game does slow down in the 2-player mode during some of the more intense portions, but who cares when it’s so much fun? It’s too bad this one isn’t coming out officially anytime soon, if ever. Luckily, savvy fans don’t have to sit idly by
With its fun gameplay mechanics and bizarre sights, BS Shockman is a winner. It never wears out its welcome and I find myself coming back to it randomly for the odd go-through. Each time I have a blast. There’s something simple and very charming about it that I really enjoy. The boss fights are varied and it helps to keep the flow moving along. One boss launches needle rockets at varying heights, forcing you to ascend to the top in order to knock some health off. Being able to duck, run and jump at will with no control issues is part of what makes it so fun. Another boss fight has you dodging explosions while hitching rides on precarious floating balloons. It’s not all mindless button mashing. The platforming aspect of this game really suits it well and makes it a cut above the norm, since there is some actual thinking and plotting to be done here!
BS Shockman uniquely blends different aspects from a variety of classic franchise games. There’s some Mario spliced in with a little Mega Man, some Street Fighter, even some Castlevania. It’s all mixed in with a spot of humor (i.e. see the Super Aniki background which refers to NCS’ Cho Aniki series) and some rocking tunes, not unlike what you might hear from a Mega Man title. I highly recommend this game to all SNES fans. It’s obscure, it’s fun, it’s wacky and it’s a blast with a friend. It’s a true shame when drivel like Rise of the Robots gets put out and fun little games like this are lost to time and politics. Thankfully though, technology allows us to restore and experience otherwise lost gems. While this isn’t a OMG-you-gotta-drop-everything-and-play-this-now!! kind of game, it’s definitely something Super Nintendo fans will want to seek out if they haven’t before. It’s not perfect, but it’s the perfect kind of game to play when you’re hankering to get back to the basics. BS Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman Zero, or BS Shockman, or whatever you want to call it, is a quality 2-player affair. And that, my friends, is no BS.
By 1997 the SNES was a long afterthought. The 32-bit era had taken over and most gamers had already jumped ship. Yet this didn’t stop Lenar, a company not known for its epic titles, from crafting one last great Super Nintendo game. Gunman’s Proof is a fast-paced, quirky action RPG that’s loaded with charm, humor, AND personality. So strap on your cowboy boots and throw on your 10 gallon hat — we’re off to the Wild West! As a PSYcho once sang… OPPA GUNMAN STYLE!
THE STORY GOES…
1880. A pair of streaking meteors befalls Strange Island. This unleashed a horde of terrible monsters. In hot pursuit of these vile Demiseed creatures were a couple of space sheriffs. Meanwhile, a young boy, often castigated by his very own father, yearns for something bigger. Hungry for adventure, fate steps in when this young boy and two cosmic space sheriffs cross paths. This is where our peculiar story begins. Along the way you’ll earn the respect of your old man, gain powerful skills from an eclectic group of island ragtags, and blast the holy hell out of various baddies while exploring a haunted house, dungeons, mines and more. It’s over way too soon but it’s one memorable and fun-filled ride while it lasts. It’s one of the best “hidden gems” on the Super Nintendo and it makes me wanna shout, OPPA GUNMAN STYLE!
From its likable characters to its odd sense of humor, Gunman’s Proof delivers a hellacious trek through the old Wild West. The visuals are bright and vibrant, with decaying dungeons and a unique art style. The music is quite catchy, especially that giddy Robaton theme, but the bulk of the game is blasting hordes of minions to kingdom come utilizing everything from a shotgun to a bazooka cannon. It is one of those games that’s perfect to play after a long day at work. Forget about swords and axes because you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. I do wish however the game were a bit longer but there’s something to be said about its simplicity and the fact that you can beat it in one (four hour) sitting. Gunman’s Proof is one of the best SNES games you’ve probably yet to play… and I highly suggest you go rectify this. Strafing and incinerating bad guys never felt so good. If you’re looking for a quirky and fun action RPG, then be sure to check out Gunman’s Proof. Like the last cowboy riding out of town at dusk, it just might be the last great Super Nintendo game ever made.
The Super Nintendo in the early-mid ’90s was where all your old 8-bit favorites went on to become immortalized. Taking everything that made the 8-bit classics so great and adding some 16-bit horsepower to the mix often times made for an even better game. Sadly though, not all 16-bit sequels lived up to the hype. And in some cases, they even fell way short. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind the clock back to the summer of 1991…
LEAN, MEAN AND GREEN
When the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon hit airwaves back in 1987, it sparked a revolution. It wasn’t long before we saw other similar mutant animal factions sprout up overnight like a bad pimple [I see what you did there -Ed.] on prom night. The first time I laid eyes on the Battletoads box at Evergeeen Video one hot June afternoon in 1991, I was hooked. Instead of beating up foot soldiers, you took on mutant rats. Instead of playing as turtles, you played as some badass toads. The game immediately grabbed my attention. No sooner then did I take it to the counter for the old man to rent.
Double Dragon II was our jam. My uncle bought us a copy and we played it to death. Back then there was nothing like kicking in skulls and cleaning up the streets with a buddy in tow. As far as my 7-year-old self was concerned, nothing could top that. A jump kick here. An uppercut there. I was a pig in mud.
Double Dragon II was the pinnacle of NES beat ‘em ups. So my brother and I were excited to try out Battletoads especially coming off the heels of the very disappointing Double Dragon III sequel (February 1991).
It didn’t match the sheer awesomeness of Double Dragon II, but we definitely had our fair share of fun with Battletoads. One has to give it some credit for being different. At its heart you have another beat ‘em up, but it did a few quirky things here and there that has stood out in my mind even 25 years later. Whoa, speaking of which, I just realized NES Battletoads turned 25 two months ago. Cue the obligatory “Damn do I feel old now” comment.
Just look at this enemy. Very unconventional looking. Not only that but you can break its legs, take one and beat bad guys with said leg. It’s utterly ridiculous, but all part of that weird, unique Battletoads charm.
Unfortunately, Battletoads is also known for its gross difficulty, particularly that infamous air bike section. You know the one I’m talking about. Even to this day, it’s still referred to as one of the hardest sections a video game has ever seen. But hey, maybe in the 16-bit sequel they’ll reduce the difficulty, or get rid of it altogether, right? Right…
Things start out well enough. Unfortunately you can’t pick the toad you want to use. Player 1 always uses Pimple while Player 2 uses Rash. Zitz was captured in the game intro. Kind of a downer you couldn’t just select from any three, but whatever. It’s fun seeing Pimple transform his fist into a stone hammer the very first time.
As well as this. It starts out being quite comical, and satisfying. That is until more than one enemy shows up, and the time it takes to produce such exaggerated animations begin to cost you. Enemies can easily score cheap hits because of these overblown moves, and they’re no longer as fun to watch the 10th time. Which proves to me sometimes you just can’t beat good old fashioned efficiency and practicality. These are fun gimmicks, indeed, but not very effective ones in the long run.
I do like though how the run option requires no double tapping. Just hold left or right for a little bit and your toad starts sprinting. Very handy for sections such as these.
I love the exploding volcanoes in the backdrop of this stage. And all the excessive lava flowing around everywhere. It sets a pretty nice tone.
Ah, here’s something more practical for ya. Surrounded by enemies? Smash both of them away at the same time. Very efficient, and satisfying.
Shades of Golden Axe if you ask me! Try to knock these bozos off that little cliff there. Always a great feeling when you manage to pull it off.
Not a big fan of level design like this. You know, where certain sections of the landscape give way and you have to be in the clear or else lose a life. Always felt cheap to me and particularly unnecessary in a beat ‘em up. There’s just no place for it.
Love Pimple’s reaction there. The game definitely has a sense of humor to it, and I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more if the game was more sensible rather than annoyingly cheap and difficult, which later on it does become.
Speaking of annoying, be careful not to be squashed. If you are, you turn into a quivering pancake, and your sprite will wobble around the screen. Thankfully you can control it but you do run the risk of waddling right off the cliff and thus lose a life if you’re not careful. It just adds another point to the annoyance meter for me.
The final blow ends in a Michael Bay slow motion explosion. Quite dramatic and lovely. It’s a shame this first level is really the only true “beat ‘em up” level in the entire game. Yes, sad but true. This caught me off guard the first time. Stages 2-6 are all gimmicky bullshit that involves rides of one kind or another, and really take away from the enjoyment of the game. Honestly felt like I was duped. A classic case of bait and switch if I ever saw one before.
And so it begins. Your descent into gimmicky rides galore. At first it was like “OK, cool, they’re switching it up for stage 2 for some needed variety.” But then you realize these gimmicky scrolling stages never stop, much to the detriment of the overall game enjoyment.
Another glaring flaw is when playing with two players, should any one of the players die, the game resets to the beginning of the stage. How is that fair? How is that a good idea? Answer: it’s not fair, and it’s not a good idea. It practically makes it unplayable with two because of that. Sigh, there’s just so much that they got wrong with this one.
This part was just BS, too. At first it’s manageable, but soon the screen speeds up and you essentially have no chance in hell but to experience a completely cheap death that relies mostly on luck. The screen scrolls way too fast and your sprite is way too big, leaving you little room to react as well as little wiggle room. A terrible combination that isn’t fun but rather incompetently designed. Stuff like this really detracts from the game.
The bonus stages are OK, though. I like riding across the reflective surface there. It’s got a cool look to it. And it’s fun trying to collect as many of the good pins as you can while avoiding the bad ones. I just wish there were more regular beat ‘em up levels.
The infamous air bike section is back. And it’s as hard as ever. I’m sorry but this just isn’t fun. It’s way too hard for its own good. I don’t mind a legitimately stiff challenge as long as it’s reasonably fair and well thought out. This is not. It’s just borderline over the top ridiculous.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Battletoads in Battlemaniacs received some amazing reviews when it came out over 23 years ago. EGM gave it scores of 9, 8, 8and 8. GameFan rated it 94, 96, 99and 99%. Wow. GameFan was notorious for handing out high scores like free condiments, and this is a pretty prime example of such. Two 99 scores for a game with its fair share of flaws — who knows what they were smoking back in the summer of ’93? Finally, Super Play Magazine scored it 80%.
Earlier this summer I finally sat down to play Battletoads in Battlemaniacs for really the first time. Sure, I’m certain I had played it here and there for five minutes back in the early-mid ’90s, but I don’t recall ever thoroughly playing it. Needless to say, being a fan of the NES original, I came into this with lofty expectations. Imagine my shock when this turned out to be one of the most disappointing Super Nintendo games I have ever played. It’s not the worst game. But in terms of disappointing? Sadly I have to say it ranks up there. After a decent first stage of good ol’ beat ‘em up action, the game decides for some absurd reason to turn into a scrolling gimmicky ride. I just want to move from left to right and punch anything that comes in my way.
I can appreciate a game with a tough challenge. But when it crosses the line like it does here, it just feels wrong. This game simply didn’t sit well with me outside of its visuals and music. Honestly, this game reminds me of a sleazy bait and switch. I came in expecting NES Battletoads on steroids. And it starts out decently enough. But as soon as that bloody second level hits, the game takes off its mask and says, “HA! TRICKED YA! THANKS FOR THE FIFTY BUCKS, BITCHES!” I’ve played a ton of SNES games in the past quarter century. There are some bad games in that lot, for sure, but Battletoads in Battlemaniacs was the last game I expected to be this disappointing. Not sure if I would have liked it more back in 1993 (perhaps it’s aged very poorly), but this game is frustrating and broken. Not my idea of a good time or a game anywhere near deserving of a 99% or a 9 out of 10 score. If you like it, more power to ya. But this goes down as one of the most botched NES to SNES efforts I have ever seen. Oh well. Can’t win ‘em all. At least Battletoads & Double Dragon was somewhat playable and enjoyable…
It’s almost been 22 years since Jim Carrey’s The Mask hit theaters. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. So many people remember the movie, but how many people remember the video game? Coming out toward the back end of the Super Nintendo’s life span, it came and went with little to zero fanfare. Is it a classic case of a game that has been wrongly overlooked, or is it an exhibit of a licensed effort that just isn’t very good? Let’s take a look and unmaskthe mystery [You’re fired -Ed.]
“SOMEBODY STOP ME!”
In 1994, Michael Jordan went to play baseball, Bill Clinton was accused of sexual harassment, and OJ Simpson killed his ex-wife and Ronald Goldman before taking off in a white Bronco down 91 Freeway [So not going there -Ed.]. And nobody could stop Jim Carrey. It was in ’94 that Carrey became a star with films such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber, and THE MASK. He was Hollywood’s NEW golden boy, and the world was his oyster. Carrey’s 3 films grossed more than a total of 700 million worldwide. Most actors could only dream of half that success over an entire career, let alone one year! Of those films, The Mask is my favorite. Its wacky, over-the-top hero was perfectly portrayed and produced. And no one else could have brought the Mask character to life quite like Jim Carrey. My old gaming crew and I went to see the film in theaters on Saturday, July 30, 1994. I remember that fateful Saturday afternoon well. After all, when you’re 10, there’s nothing quite like seeing summer blockbusters with your best pals. It’s a childhood necessity as sure as riding roller coasters and navigating haunted houses.
When you were a kid, the words movie magic really meant something. There was a certain aura about going to the movies as a young child that can’t be replicated. You got swept up in the whole process. Of hopping into the old family van, staring at the movie titles gleaming on the marquee, gawking at the larger-than-life movie posters as you sidle over to the popcorn and candy section. Finally, entering the theater and seeing that humongous silver screen (remember how big it seemed when you were a kid?), and red plush seats that seemed to stretch on for miles and miles. It was all part of the magic of going to the movies.
A bit of interesting trivia: in the original comics, the Mask was created by an African tribe. But in the movie, it was made by Loki, the Norse God of mischief.
Stanley turns into the Haunted Mask. Wait, no, sorry, that was Carly Beth. But true story, when I first saw the previews for the Mask, I thought it was a rip-off of R.L. Stine’s Haunted Mask. Little did I know then that the Mask started out as a comic book originally. If anything, Mr. Stine drew inspiration from the comic. Nevertheless, I LOVED me some Goosebumps back in the day!
LEVEL 1: STANLEY’S APARTMENT
And it’s been recreated perfectly here. Smash weak floors to open up new areas.
OK… soooo… that didn’t work out too well. Hmm, let’s try a different strategy…
The Mask has many special abilities. He can morph into a raging tornado, leap 20 feet in the air, or bust out his collection of firearms. The downside being that all of these special moves will quickly drain your Morph points. You’d do well to save them only for sticky situations. When faced against the regular bad guys throughout the game’s stages, you’ll most likely be punching them to oblivion. It doesn’t eat away at your Morph points, and it’s serviceable enough on the lower tier enemies. I wouldn’t dare suggest punching against the bosses though! The enemies as you can see here look a bit strange, and the animation is awkward.
Now to get around, besides breaking certain sections of the floor to create new playing space, you also move about through the usage of elevators and various teleport warps, like vents. The type of teleport depends on the stage’s theme. In the forest for example, you can teleport through the hollows in the trees.
I like the warping aspect. It puts a twist on things; this is definitely not your typical hop ‘n bop licensed platformer. Teleport points give the levels a decent maze-like feel. If nothing else, bonus points for attempting to be different.
You have 500 points for your health and Morph magic. Collect hearts to regain vitality. Collect M’s scattered throughout to boost back up your Morph points. Different special moves eat up a certain amount of points. Guns cost you 100, f’rinstance. Once you hit 0, it slowly replenishes to 50, similar to Earthworm Jim (Jim’s ammo crawls back to 100 after hitting 0). Nice of them to throw us a bone.
LEVEL 2: THE MEAN STREETS OF EDGE CITY
LEVEL 3: THE MEAN STREETS IN ANOTHER PART OF TOWN
LEVEL 4: PARK PLACE
Controversy reared its ugly head when Jim Carrey chose not to promote his role in the film Kick-Ass 2. With the recent Sandy Hook tragedy, Carrey felt the film was TOO violent and refused to promote it. It stirred some rumblings among his fellow cast members who had varying opinions on Carrey’s sudden change of heart. The movie certainly wasn’t too violent when he was getting paid big bucks for his role in the film. Needless to say, Carrey isn’t remembered for this particular masked role…
LEVEL 5: JAILHOUSE ROCK
Electric grids must first be turned off by hitting a switch. Some of the switches are readily visible next to a grid while others are placed a ways away. In such cases, you have to hightail it. The switch is effective only for a short time. This requires precision and no wasted movement on your part.
LEVEL 6: SUCKY SEWERS
This level is not very fun. In fact, it’s kind of a pain. Multiple warp points during the long free falls will drive you mad, for instance. You know it’s bad when the game developers didn’t include a boss on this level — they knew just finding the exit was hard enough in and of itself. That’s really all you need to know…
LEVEL 7: CLUB COCO BONGO
“STANLEY! I knew you would come save me!”
“Yeah, alright, I know. Now quick, untie me!”
“I’m getting some funky ideas here, Tina…”
“WE CAN DO THAT LATER! But if Dorian –“
Game a little too hard for your liking? Wished you had infinite lives, health or morphing powers? Desire to skip stages? With this simple cheat, you can do all of that. SMOKIN’!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
The video game flew under the radar. EGMgave it scores of 6.5, 6.5, 6.5 and 7.5. The movie, however, was very well received. In 1994, The Mask became the second highest grossing superhero movie since BATMAN. Although it’s been outdone since ’94, The Mask remains a fan favorite among movie goers both young and old alike. Made on a budget of 23 million, it went on to gross more than 350 million worldwide. Siskel and Ebert gave it two thumbs up and listed it on their “Best of 1994″ list. That was a big year for Jim Carrey, as he starred in 3 films: Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, and The Mask. But it was the latter that did the best both commercially and critically. The Mask launched Jim Carrey into superstardom, sending him through the stratosphere as a major Hollywood player. Along the way he collected a lot of big bucks. The Mask also launched previously unknown Cameron Diaz into a leading lady of the silver screen. She went on to have a huge film career for the next 20 years. Not bad, eh?
The Mask does a nice job of replicating the feel of the film. Some licensed titles take a lot of liberty, but that isn’t the case here. Because of this, the video game has a silly comic book like feel. It comes off very authentic, and you feel like you’re really“being” the Mask character, with all of his unique reality bending abilities. This is a major plus. However, on the downside, you have the visuals, which for a game released in late ’95, isn’t even up to 1992 SNES standards. THE MASK looks great and animates well, but the enemies are fugly and animate with the grace of a cardboard. I wish they spent more time on these characters as they clearly did with the Mask. The sound captures that cartoon-ish aspect of the Mask’s world nicely. The music is not anything to write home about.
The game plays decently enough, with some levels being executed better than others. It’s nice they tried something different other than the standard hop and bop that so many licensed games seemingly turn to. The Mask comes off as a weird hybrid of a beat ‘em up and an action platformer. The boss battles are limited, though, due to the IMMENSE size of the characters in the game. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for actual gameplay skills. It’s truly then just a matter of standing back and firing off all your special attacks until your Morph points hit 0. Using his boxing gloves is tough since he’s such a big target, plus the bosses have long ranged attacks. Thus, the boss battles are largely unsatisfying, and that’s a shame because some of the levels themselves can provide for a mindless hour of mild entertainment, with various warp points and being able to live out the Mask’s larger than life, over-the-top shenanigans. He’s a fun and charismatic creature to control. You could do far worse than The Mask as far as games on the Super Nintendo go, but there’splenty better out there. All in all, this game is pretty much middle of the road. I wouldn’t go out of my way to actively look for a copy but if you come across it for 5 bucks or less, it’s not a bad add to your SNES collection… especially if you liked the film 20+ years ago.
I WISH YOU WOULD STEP BACK…
I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend.
You could cut ties with all the lies that you’ve been living in
And if you do not want to SEE ME AGAIN,
I would understand.
The angry boy, a bit TOO insane.
Icin’ over a secret pain.
You know you don’t belong.
You’re the first to fight; you’re way too loud.
You’re the flash of light on a burial shroud.
I know something’s wrong.
Well everyone I know has got a reason… to say, PUT THE PAST AWAY.
I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend…
You could… cut ties with all the lies that you’ve been living in.
And if you do not want to SEE ME AGAIN…
[Wait just a damn second here. I saw this scenein a game before… -Ed.]