I fell in love with EarthBound after playing it for the first time back in November 2012. It was one of the best RPGs that I ever played. Wanting more, I searched online for similar titles. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered there was one on the SNES called TheAdventures of Hourai High. It’s an obscure Japanese only RPG that can best be described as a mix of EarthBound and Final Fantasy V. Say no more. Take my money! Thankfully, the game’s dialogue has long since been fan translated from Japanese to English. Thanks to the effort of these good men, Westerners can now enjoy a visit to the wacky and nutty Hourai High School…
20 YEAR REUNION
Just yesterday the Nintendo 64 and Mario 64 celebrated 20 years since both were first released in Japan. Dude, that just blows my mind. Where does the time go? Speaking of 20th Anniversaries, a couple months ago The Adventures of Hourai High turned 20 years old itself. I guess them crazy cats had their 20 year class reunion somewhere in Japan. Thinking about that makes me reminisce about my high school years. I just crossed the 15 year mark myself. Damn I’m getting old…
MEMORIES OF SENIOR YEAR
Who doesn’t remember high school? From getting your driver’s license, your first job, or perhaps even your first girlfriend [or boyfriend -Ed.], those were the days of our youth. We formed friendships and learned life lessons. We also learned a little bit more about who we were going to be. Senior Prom, Grad Night, crappy group projects, the Senior Prank, cliques, clubs, crushes, awful school lunches, crappy teachers, cool teachers, and a whole lot of posturing to be cool and hip, especially with the “in-crowd.” High school now feels like ancient history to me, and while I feel college was a lot more important, it’s impossible to deny that high school has its place too. I was sort of a regular kid in high school. I wasn’t part of the “cool kids” group, but I wasn’t one of the dweebs that got bullied, either. I was good old Steve, the nice guy the girls liked (as their friend only, of course) and I hung out with other regular Joes who were right in the middle of the pecking order, so to speak. We had a good time, forged some good memories but when all was said and done, we sailed out into the sunset, never looking back sans the odd nostalgic moment here and there.
In terms of pecking order, I hit my peak during senior year. I started branching out from my friends, taking classes that interested me (such as creative writing and acting) which helped to develop my confidence. I also landed my first job at the local Blockbuster, and my employee perk of being able to get 5 free movies a week suddenly made little ole me a man in demand. Many nights I would see a lot of my cute senior classmates stroll in and I would take advantage of the opportunity by chatting with them as I rung them up. My biggest crush was easily Judy. She was the prom queen of our school. The girl was smoking hot. I always felt like we shared a great rapport. Somehow Lady Luck had it that we sat next to each other in a couple classes. I’d call Judy many nights to exchange class notes before talking about random topics for a little bit. This was back in the day when cell phones had yet to explode in popularity, so I had Judy’s house number. I wanted her email so I could directly connect with her — sometimes it felt a little awkward to have to talk to her mom or dad first. Unfortunately she was dating a jock at the time and so I was left daydreaming.
Yearbooks were passed out the week of our Graduation. I remember that last week of my senior year fondly. Passing yearbooks around, signing them for your buddies and everyone feeling excited about the future. Many felt as though we had the world at the tip of our fingers. That youthful optimism that only comes when you’re 17 almost ready to graduate and head off to college. I had never told Judy how much I enjoyed our friendship. I decided to tell her in my yearbook signing. We exchanged yearbooks at lunch and I went to work. I hoped she’d somehow include her email in my yearbook. Finally, we exchanged again and I walked home anxious to read what she had wrote. I’ll never forget the feeling of butterflies soaring in the pit of my stomach when I cracked my yearbook open to read what Judy had written. Was she going to pour out her soul to me as well?
I never felt so high and light in my life before. My biggest high school crush read my mind. She not only gave me her email address but asked me to hang out with her as well. Life was good. Thanks for the memories, Judy.
Timewalk was a famous little fan company within the retro gaming community. They once sold beautiful repro games and some of them even had gorgeous boxes and manuals. Before they closed shop in early 2014 I was fortunate enough to buy the boxes and manuals of Gunman’s Proof and The Adventures of Hourai High. Man I’m glad I did. I always meant to buy more of their SNES box/manual sets but sadly never got around to it before they unexpectedly closed. Timewalk boxes nowadays go for a pretty penny as they’re now officially a limited quantity.
Timewalk’s products are amazing but the manual to Adventures of Hourai High deserves a special shout-out. Designed by member JM, this 44-page booklet was written in composition notebook form. It’s written from the perspective of the female protagonist. Recall that you can play as either a male or female. It makes sense that they chose to write the manual from a female perspective since high school girls are more prone to journaling. There are no how-to instructions in this diary. Instead, it’s a full-blown account of her times at Hourai High from the moment she arrives, April 1st, to nearly a year later on March 25th. The entries are written from a 16 year old female’s point of view — all of the dairy entries are downright emo. It totally fits and I commend JM for the incredible effort. Even more impressive, JM used actual facts from the game that players will quickly pick up on. It sort of adds another layer to the whole experience.
THE WACKY STORY GOES…
The jungle is probably my favorite chapter in the game. I love how Hourai High uses a modern backdrop, but throws in more exotic locales such as this wild jungle. It’s similar to what EarthBound did to keep the journey fresh as well as exciting. Here in the jungle you’ll encounter all sorts of untamed savages ready to devour your party whole. I enjoyed all chapters of Hourai High but I like the jungle one most because it captures what the FIELD TRIP FROM HELL would be like. Good times. Or rather, bad times? Ah you get my drift.
SIDEWAY STORIES AT HOURAI HIGH
One of the best things about elementary school was receiving the latest book order. Remember circling all the book titles you wanted and getting your parents to buy most of them? It was a much easier sales pitch than a video game on account of being far cheaper and educational. Best of all, that magical morning you come into the classroom and find a stack of brand new books sitting atop your desk! Sure, it might not have been as wondrous as getting a video game on Christmas morning, but then again, as a kid what was? Seeing new books on your desk was still pretty damn cool. And while my love for the Goosebumps series has been well documented, one of my absolute favorites was easily Sideway Stories From Wayside School. It told the wacky tales of a zany school that was constructed 30 stories high! Featuring an evil teacher, Mrs. Gorf, each chapter highlighted a different student. The stories were beyond bizarre. My favorite was the chapter “Stephen.” Because it had my name (well, close enough) AND it was based on my favorite holiday as a kid: Halloween. Stephen also gets the best of Mrs. Gorf. I remember living vicariously through him. It was a reminder that even a little brave kid could stand up to a big mean adult.
There’s no denying the game’s humor and charm. However, a few key flaws keep it from being great. The biggest flaw? Equipping better armor and weapons seem to make NO difference at all. How Dynamite missed this is baffling, but this was the only game they ever developed, so take that for what it’s worth. So then this game is super hard right? Wrong. It’s actually very easy, even with this flaw. Your characters do level up, so their strength does increase, and that helps. You just can’t increase your strength by equipping a stronger weapon, so it makes armor and weapon buying useless, which is a shame as that’s part of the fun. So even though you can earn a variety of cool skills from all the various clubs you’ll join, it really doesn’t make a dent in the gameplay much in the end, as battles are so easy the only strategy consists of spamming the attack button (or use auto battle). The next major flaw: there are some game crashing bugs. I’ll highlight some below. Fortunately, on my playthrough, I avoided the bugs and thus was able to see the game through. Finally, the enemy encounter rate is ridiculously high. Sometimes you can’t take 4 steps it seems without a random battle occurring. Thus, it can drag the game down a bit. Thank God for that auto battle option.
Like I said, there are some flaws that one just cannot overlook. Having said that, now let’s talk about the positives. Visually, it’s got a very clean and unique look. The characters look great. Enemies and the various locales have a good deal of detail. The music is surprisingly well donefor a company who only made one game. Lots of catchy tunes that range from frenetic and upbeat to soothing and relaxing, like a cool summertime breeze. There are many friends to make, many playable characters to try and many different clubs you can join to earn a myriad of offensive and defensive skills. You can partake in up to 3 clubs at once and you are free to switch out whenever you like.
You also earn Friend Points after a fight. Distribute it as you wish. After maxing out one’s Friend Points, that character becomes your best bud. You then unlock certain special skills and moves. Pretty cool stuff.
FAST TIMES AT HOURAI HIGH
It took me 30 hours to beat this game. I will definitely play through it a second time at some point down the road, and use the female protagonist next time. I’d like to thank the translating crew over at Aeon Genesis, who made this fan translation possible. A job well done, AG!
Adventures of Hourai High will take you back to high school in some ways, but it’s also far beyond anything anyone ever experienced in high school. Yes, you’ll make buddies (even to varying degrees), join clubs and learn different skills, and even forge a few enemies but if it stopped there it’d be boring. Here, you’ll go on the adventure of a lifetime. Everywhere from rancid sewers to wild jungles to spooky demonic temples. Along the journey there’s plenty of charm thanks in large part to its amusing dialogue and all the wacky characters who inhabit its kooky world. It’s like high school, only taken to the very extreme, with a very peculiar Japanese touch that ONLY the Japanese can offer. If that sounds like a good time to you then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it — warts and all — like I have!
Adventures of Hourai High exudes charm and humor in spades. And that’s the best quality it has going for it. Where it falls short in execution, it excels in charming the pants off ya. All the strange characters that you meet, the diverse locales you’ll travel to and all the weird enemies you battle, not to mention the amusing dialogue, makes you press on in spite of its flaws. It’s one of the most endearing video games I’ve ever experienced. If you’re willing to look beyond the rough edges (high enemy encounter rate and broken weapon system), there’s a wonderful adventure lying underneath. This game made me smile constantly. It’s loaded with personality and heart. It’s too bad Dynamite didn’t iron out the kinks because this could have been a real gem. Still, it’s one of those rare games where in spite of its glaring flaws there’s something about it compels you forward. Who knew an RPG based around high school teenage life could be so addicting? If you can bear its missteps, this is one high school definitely worth visiting.
One of the most notorious games from the vast Super Nintendo library is without a doubt EarthBound. Released 21 years ago, it stood out in the crowd of RPGs by having a contemporary setting, a zany sense of humor, and a very unique style. And as the years passed, the game grew in demand, popularity and reverence. So much that some people would even tell you that the game has been overhyped beyond belief. In 2012, I finally got to play through EarthBound. It was an adventure the likes of which I’ll remember FOREVER.
WHEN PRICES WERE DOWN TO EARTH
When I got back into the Super Nintendo scene 10 years ago in early 2006, the games were still quite cheap. I picked up titles like Ninja Gaiden Trilogy, Castlevania: Dracula X, Aero Fighters, Mega Man X³, andEarthBoundeach for $40 or less. No such luck doing that today! It bogglesthe mind how crazy expensive these old games are now. Back in 2006, EarthBound didn’t carry the mainstream reputation it would later gain in recent years. It was just another game I’d never played back in the day but was now interested in doing so. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that the game would become the monster that it is today. It makes me wonder how much these games will command 5 to 10 years from now. All I know for sure — I’m glad I got in when I did and got out before the market went sky high. Life is truly about timing, and a little lady luck never hurts too!
ALIENS FROM ANOTHER PLANET
As a kid UFOs fascinated me. Alien beings that lived far above us in the outer reaches of space. The idea that intelligent (and possibly menacing) creatures living above us is mystifying. Growing up, I would scan the skies late at night with my binoculars hoping to see something, yet at the same time dreading the possibility that something mightsee me back. My best friend Nelson and I became obsessed; we even had the odd “sky stakeout” here and there. While it may sound a bit sad, there are worse ways to spend an evening than to hang out with your best friend shooting the breeze and scanning the skies while sharing a pepperoni pizza. We never saw anything, not even once, but I think Nelson and I both silently understood that we used it as an excuse to veg out on a Friday night after a long school week. About once a month we’d bust out the lawn chairs, set our piping hot Totino’s pizza on the little table outside, kick back and talk about our crushes on Jenny and Elaine, video games and anything monster-related while staring out at the beautiful early evening sky. Munching on cheesy carbs and sipping on fizzy soda, Nelly and I would gaze up at the sky talking the night away. We’d stay outside so late that his mom would flip the back porch light on. Those “stakeout” Friday evenings have stuck with me all these years later. Time marches on, but I still recall those lazy nights vividly.
The best thing about UFOs for me was the idea that they could be anywhere. The Loch Ness Monster was confined to Scotland, Bigfoot could only lurk in the woods, but aliens could be anywhere. The idea that they could be watching you at any time was all part of the fun of believing in them as a kid. And the fact that aliens could be whatever you wanted them to be. Maybe friendly and precocious like E.T., or deadly and malicious, or just advanced and neutral. They were whatever you made them out to be. EarthBound is awesome for a myriad of reasons. One being they took a lot of my childhood interests and crammed them into one epic RPG. Nessie, Bigfoot, aliens, dinosaurs, zombies — EarthBound strikes a certain childhood chord with me no other video game ever has.
An all-American kid living in an all-American town, Ness is proof that there lies a hero deep inside each one of us. He’s the kid next door, with a loving mom, a plucky sister and a workaholic but extremely generous dad. One minute Ness is living a basic ordinary life, but when the meteorite crashes, everything changes. An alien believes Ness to be the chosen one with the power to alter cosmic events. A nice all-around character with a good balance of speed, IQ, offensive power and psychic ability. His weapon of choice is a baseball bat. This journey will drain and test Ness at every step of the way. He enters it as a kid, but one way or another, he’s going to leave it a man.
Remember your Winnie Cooper growing up? You know, your biggest childhood crush? That’s kinda the role one might initially think Paula plays, but there’s so much more to her. Try incredible psychic powers and one mean frying pan. Paula loves to scramble eggs, if you get my drift. She doesn’t mind rolling up her sleeves and getting her hands dirty. Hailing from Twoson, her mother runs the Polestar Preschool. Paula’s the first one to join you on your epic quest, and you must rescue her from the clutches of an evil cult called the Happy Happy Village, led by Mr. Carpainter. Being one in touch with her spiritual side, Paula can pray in a pinch. I renamed her as Jenny, based on my own Winnie Cooper growing up.
No healthy childhood would be complete without the aid and presence of a best friend. While Jeff is not touted as Ness’ best pal, I like to think of him as such. The mechanical genius of the team, Jeff is son to a famous scientist. It shows, as he can use machines and gadgets that no one else on the team can. He also has a knack for repairing broken devices, which proves to be invaluable. While he doesn’t possess any psychic ability, Jeff makes up for it with his tremendous knowledge of being able to fashion great weapons out of broken items. He might be a little weak offensively, but his IQ is critical to the group’s success. I renamed him Nelly, in honor of my childhood best friend, Nelson.
The mysterious prince from the East (Dalaam to be precise) is the third and final friend to join you in your quest. Being the oldest member of the group, plus possessing that ever so mysterious charm of being from somewhere far, far away, Poo has great physical, mental and spiritual strength. One of his best talents is the magic ability to assume the shape of an enemy attacker (known as Mirror). Trained in ancient martial arts, this mystical fighter is a much welcomed addition when he finally enters the fray a decent way into the game. He is a bit of a ladies’ man, too, which gives his character an interesting layer to say the least. I renamed Poo to be Sushi-X, in honor of a family friend growing up who, much like Poo, was older than I was and had sort of a mythical aura about him. Everyone in my gaming group called him Sushi-X because he loved EGM and Street Fighter II.
THE REAL HERO
THE STORY GOES…
It’s another idyllic sunny day in the small, sleepy town of Onett. Turning off your Super Nintendo, you grab your bike and head off for your weekly paper route. You’ve been working hard to save up enough to buy that new Super Nintendo RPG EarthBound. Hell, you’re so ambitious you even ride out as far as Twoson. You certainly don’t mind it, as there’s nothing like riding your 10 speed bicycle, the wind whipping against your face, that open road ahead. For that small window of time, you’re a free man. Riding out to Twoson was always a bit of an adventure. You could almost feel the whiskers kicking in. Times have changed now. Kids aren’t allowed to go out alone anymore… but back then… this was our life. Besides, it was in Twoson where your crush, Jenny, resides. You’ve stalked, uhhh, I mean, seen her working around the preschool whenever you passed by. You never had any houses on that block of town, but that never did stop you from willingly and happily taking the scenic route.
Having hand-delivered the odd paper or two to Orange Kid, you’ve developed a bit of a relationship with him. He is Twoson’s infamous inventor, well, one of the two. The other is Apple Kid but no one likes him. Orange Kid on the other hand is a chick magnet. After all, ya can’t compare apples to oranges… [har har -Ed.]. Being that you’re Steve, and NOT such a ladies’ man, you decide to stop by today for a bit of advice on how to win hearts and be more than just another sappy shoulder to cry on. Normally busy, Orange Kid is in a very giving mood today — he spends the better part of an hour divulging some insider tips that’s sure to make even Steve a certified G and a bonafide stud. Rejuvenated, you spend the next couple hours over at the flea market in Burglin Park and Twoson’s pride, MACH PIZZA. Sure, Onett’s Burger Barn is 5-star quality according to their 275 Yelp reviews and counting, but Onett’s not exactly known for its pizza. It’s just another reason why you never complain when it’s time to ride over to Twoson. But you never share this with Orange Kid, fearing that he just might laugh at you if he ever knew the real reason.
BLINK BLINK. Your eyes open slowly as you realize you fell asleep in Burglin Park. The once inviting sunshine has withered, giving way to a cold, bleak darkness. Mom’s probably worried but this is the mid ’90s when kids could get away with such things. Your bicycle still safely beside you, you hop on and bound homeward.
Good old home. It’s your haven. Even though your dad isn’t around, you have almost everything you could want. Sure, you got annoying neighbors, but hey nothing’s perfect. As you head out of Twoson and back to Onett, you beam ear to ear having learned some of Orange Kid’s secrets of the trade. There’s no way Jenny can resist you now.
By now the sleepy town of Onett has been entirely devoured by darkness. An eerie stillness settles over the suburb, sending a chill up your spine. What once stood as an assuring sight during the day has turned into something sinister in the night. But crime has always been so low that no one really pays mind to anything bad happening in this quaint quiet town. Of course, we all know that’s how it usually starts out…
Being an invincible kid ripe off acquiring the fortified knowledge of the players’ handbook, you’ve got not a single care in the world as you come bounding down the all too familiar sight of the suburbs. Closing your eyes and dreaming of your beloved crush, Jenny, you have no idea that a terrible terror is about to overtake your quiet, sleepy town. And thrust you toward a hellacious voyage that will see you ultimately fulfilling your God-given destiny…
Meanwhile, somewhere in Onett, a woman wakes up in a pool of her own sweat. A loud bang outside her bedroom sends shivers down her spine. It’s coming from the den. Frightened, she clutches the blanket to her chest while listening in the darkness… silence. Then suddenly, RAP RAP RAP. Someone or SOMETHING wants in. Cautiously tip-toeing her way to the bedroom door, a dark, shadowy and twisty figure appears from behind her…
After “going home pronto” (AKA sneaking about), you find your annoying neighbor, Pokey, poking around in police business. Whatever’s happening here tonight has to be huge, and you’re not gonna miss it for the world.
“Officer, sir, if you don’t mind just letting me slip through here. I have a friend I need to check up on.”
“Sorry kiddo, no can do. I’ve been given strict orders from the chief not to let anyone pass through, and that especially includes punk kids such as yourself.”
“Okaaaay… how about this nice glazed donut, then?”
“GAH! Alright kid, you’ve got five minutes but ONLY five, you hear?!”
“Hey, who let this punk kid through?”
“Steve! Boy am I glad to see you. Something strange is going on…”
“Alright, enough! You bastards get on out of here!”
Atop the hill, as the police drag you away like a rag doll, you catch a glimpse of a fallen meteor. Rubbing your eyes in disbelief, you wonder if it’s just a dream.
Mom knows best. One look at your kisser and nothing else needs to be said. Still shaking, you saunter to your bedroom. But before you can replay the night’s events in your mind, your head hits the soft, cool pillow and you fall into a deep sleep…
“There’s my bro, Picky! Quick, Steve, save him! Or else my parents are gonna let me have it!”
“Wait, why am I helping you again?”
“Because you’re Steve, an all around good guy!”
“Oh, of course. Damn, it’s a curse to be this kindhearted and good looking.”
Buddy: Master, I don’t think Pokey said good looking but whatever…
Upon arriving at the top they come within 15 feet of the meteor. The air is hot and humid; you can still see steam coming from its core…
“Umm, you go on ahead and grab him, Steve.”
“What! He’s your brother. You go fetch him.”
“No, I think I’m good. I’m with Buddy. Right here is good for me.”
“Fine. You pansy.”
On their trek home, the boys are stopped dead in their tracks when Star Man Jr., one of Giygas’ nefarious henchmen, appears out of nowhere to confront the 3 boys. Luckily, Buzz Buzz, the source of the voice, is by your side. Protecting the crew with his psychic shield, our hero is able to defeat Star Man Jr. After which, Buzz Buzz warns them the worst is yet to come but he has faith. Legend has it 3 boys and a girl are destined to save the universe. Buzz Buzz believes you are one of those 3 brave, young warriors.
In his dying breath, Buzz Buzz gives our hero the Sound Stone. “To defeat Giygas, your own power must unite with that of earth.” Our hero sets off to visit 8 sanctuaries to record the sound of each with the Sacred Stone. First stop? The infamous Giant Step!
It truly is. Combining a modern setting with your typical suburban town in Anytown USA, any kid who ever grew up in a sleepy suburb in America can instantly relate. From the moment the game began, I knew right away I was in for one magical, epic journey.
There’s been some major hate dumped on the crude visuals of the game… but I personally love the look. They are INTENTIONALLY retro-fied. I like to think of it as 12-bit… it’s not quite 8-bit NES yet it’s not quite 16-bit. It’s just EarthBound.
By the time I grab my books, And I give myself a look, I’m at the corner just in time to see the bus fly by! It’s alright ’cause I’m saved by the bell! If the teacher pops a test, I know I’m in a mess, And my dog ate all my homework last night, Ridin’ low in my chair, She won’t know that I’m there, If I can hand it in tomorrow, it’ll be all right! It’s alright, ’cause I’m saved by the bell!
[MY OFFICE — RIGHT NOW -Ed.]
When we were kids, my parents used to drive me and my bro to the Gaming Crew’s neck of the woods. About an hour into the drive we would pass by these sewers covered by giant “cat masks.” It was big enough that my bro and I could spot it clearly even from the freeway hundreds of feet away. I’d always wondered what the hell they were doing there. The cats became a trademark sight that my bro and I would always point to anytime our parents drove us by. This part of EarthBound brought back buried memories of those bizarre giant sewer cat masks…
You are introduced to the 4th and final player of your party, Poo, or in this case, Mr. X. He’s a smooth cat prince living in the palatial mountain village of Dalaam. Take X on a life-altering quest to gain the power of wisdom, valor and patience as you karate chop and decimate all obstacles blocking you from enlightenment. After all, you simply can’t beat a hideous alien force without the pivotal aid of a badass martial artist who hails from a far away land, can you? Well, maybe, but it sure as hell wouldn’t be nearly as fun.
Sushi-X was a cat that ran in my gaming group back in the day. He was older than most of us and he always walked around with this certain aura of mystique. In many ways I looked up to him as a kid growing up. We affectionately nicknamed him Sushi-X for his affection of EGM and Street Fighter II, just like the infamous Sushi-X persona on the old EGM review crew. Unfortunately the game didn’t allow me to fit in “Sushi-X” so I went for the next best thing: “Mr. X.”
JENNIFER — MY CHILDHOOD WINNIE COOPER
Jennifer and Elaine were the two hottest girls in the 5th grade. Nothing could beat being in the same class with your best friend as well as the two cutest girls in school. Nelson favored Elaine while I preferred Jennifer. Sadly, my family moved in the middle of 7th grade and that was the last I saw of Jennifer… until 7 years later. One day during my sophomore year in college I was walking down this long hallway when a young beautiful lady walked right by. Instantly I got a huge whiff of 1994 and was suddenly transported back to my childhood. Could it be, was it — yes, it was Jennifer. Too paralyzed to say anything, I could only watch in silence as we went in opposite directions until she disappeared around the corner. I kicked myself for not saying hi, hoping that we’d bump into each other again. As fate would have it, not long after that, we did. I asked her if she remembered me from elementary school. She smiled warmly and said “Of course. I remember you suddenly left one day in junior high and that was that.” I nodded, the both of us soaking in the moment. Life was different back in the ’90s. We didn’t have Facebook or email to stay in touch. 7 years is a long time not to see or speak to someone but she remembered me. It meant a lot.
A long time ago I used to wonder what might have happened between me and Jennifer had I never moved. My imagination wandered to an alternate future where we’re happily married with two kids, a dog and a white picket fence. She’s now married with a kid. The last time I saw her was about five years ago. I was acting in a musical and she came out to support me. We exchanged pleasantries and hugs after the show in the lobby. And that was the last I ever saw of Jennifer — my childhood Winnie Cooper.
KNOW YOUR MOTHER. TREAT HER RIGHT
As many of you know by now, EarthBound is the 16-bit sequel to the 8-bit Famicom game Mother. Mother was released in Japan July 1989, and was set to come out in the US September 1990. But with the impending launch of the SNES, Mother was never released. There’s a pretty fascinating history behind this, and you can find out all the sordid details by way of a quick Google search. There are also some great YouTube history videos on this subject matter. The game has since been fan translated, and is known now as EarthBound Zero. EarthBound on the SNES is known as Mother 2 over in Japan. There was also a Mother 3 released in 2006 for the GBA, but it never left the land of the rising sun. EarthBound is the only Mother game ever to see an official US release. A crime if you think about it.
Mother 3 has since been fan translated. To date, this has been the final game in the beloved Mother series. It’s sad that two of the games never left Japan. It’s a bit sad also that many gamers know of Ness via Super Smash Bros and not EarthBound, although his Smash outings have definitely stirred interest from people who came in knowing nothing about the Mother series. I guess that’s not a bad thing at least.
FUN EARTHBOUND CLONES
There are 2 SNES games I would highly recommend to EarthBound fanatics. Both of them are Super Famicom exclusives with English fan translations available. The first title is called Gunman’s Proof which is actually an action RPG along the lines of a Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It’s got tons of charm and quirkiness and is simply a load of fun. Think Zelda meets the wild wild west with a dash of EarthBound thrown in for good measure. It’s one of the most criminally underrated SNES games out there. It’s on the short side but I can’t recommend it enough. The second is Adventures of Hourai High. Wacky and zany describes it best. It is like EarthBound meets Final Fantasy V. Taking place in a Japanese high school setting, you can join a wide variety of clubs — this is how you gain different skills. Its sense of offbeat humor is extremely reminiscent of EarthBound, and while it has its fair share of flaws, Hourai High is worth a visit.
Gunman’s Proof is one of my personal favorites. I love the game’s humor, style, atmosphere and fun fast-paced gun slinging action. It’s too damn short (similar to The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang) but it’s a blast, pardon the pun, while it lasts. If you haven’t played it before, I highly suggest rectifying that.
Adventures of Hourai High is a unique RPG. You can play as a boy or girl. The dialogue is hilarious and almost as entertaining as EarthBound. Sadly, a few key flaws hamper Hourai High from being a notably nice game. The encounter rate is way too high, and there was a major screw-up: weapons and armor equipped do not change your stats. Somehow, the programmers botched this and so you only increase in stats by leveling up. In essence, you never have to buy new weapons or armor.I still recommend it to diehard EarthBound fans however, despite its glaring flaws.
WHAT THE CRITICS (AND YOU) SAID
EarthBound is one of those interesting and fascinating cases of a game that got its fair share of love when it came out originally. But really it wasn’t until years later that it exploded in popularity. Curiously, EGMnever did review it. GameFan did, however. They gave it scores of 85, 90 and 92%. Super Play Magazine scored it 88%. In a recent poll I asked the public to rate EarthBound on a scale of 1-10. One voter gave it a 1. Another gave it a 7. A few rated it an 8, but the majority of readers voted 9. Of course, there was a healthy smattering of fans who gave it the perfect 10 out of 10 score. Pretty much what I expected — lots of 9s and 10s with one vocal minority who gave it the lowest rating possible. Oh Earthbound, truly the polarizing RPG of our time.
I didn’t play EarthBound back in the day. When I started it up in November of 2012 it was an entirely fresh experience. Therefore, zero nostalgia goggles here. Two weeks and 30 hours later, I knew I’d just played one of themost engrossing and captivating games ever. From the refreshing and comforting sights of suburbia in the early stages of the game to the more exotic locales found later on, it took me on an incredible journey of youth, bravery, loyalty and adventure. I felt like I was playing an RPG that combined Goonies, The Wonder Years, Peanuts and Dragon Quest. Not a bad little recipe! If you love RPGs and you still haven’t played this, STOP whatever you’re doing. And go rectify this matter. Now.
EarthBound perfectly captures the sheer awe of childhood, combined with a longing desire to push one’s suburban limits to the very brink. Playing the game made me feel like a kid again. Like I was back in my old hometown haunts hanging out at the arcade, going around town to the local pizza joint and flipping through the latest Goosebumps book at the library. And that’s just the beginning of the game. Soon it all transforms into something much more, as you meet new friends and unlikely allies all in the name of stopping an implacable force known only as Giygas. The game opens with our hero in bed in his striped pajamas. It seems like any other ordinary night in the ol’ neighborhood of suburbia. You are then awoken — it’s great subtle symbolism because for the first time in your young prepubescent life, you’re truly awake. The many wacky, perilous and funny events to unfold all shape this tremendous coming-of-age adventure. You leave home and like any other epic story ever told, you embark on a journey that changes you from a boy to a young man. You’ll conquer many obstacles — both externaland internal. Playing EarthBound was like being in a never-ending state of reverie, and I loved every damn second of it.
There’s a certain timeless, nostalgic quality about this game. It stirs the feeling of being a kid in Anytown USA who leaves home to voyage on the adventure of a lifetime. From your local 3-story mall to far away lands exotic, mysterious and menacing, EarthBound tugs on all the right notes to create an experience like no other. The music’s an eclectic mix that’s among the best you’ll hear on the SNES. The gameplay is fairly standard, but there are some nice ideas here like instant wins and a rolling health meter. But EarthBound is so much more than this. EarthBound is, quite simply, a quintessential tale of growing up and overcoming trials in a not so perfect world. It’s light-hearted yet serious when it needs to be. The many diverse locales are great and I find the visuals to be a bit underrated. Many like to dismiss it, but I love the style and can’t imagine the game any other way. There’s a reason why EarthBound has so many fervent fans. It was a work of art that resonated with our inner child, leaving us with a lasting and memorable impression. Indeed, the tale of Ness and his friends is one that has stood the test of time. And one that I believe will continue to do so for generations to come.
Back in the early-mid ’90s fighting games ruled the scene. Street Fighter II launched a phenomenon that spawned clone after clone. Very few came close to the level of Street Fighter. Some were even downright ATROCIOUS. But once in a while, one came along that completely surprised you. One of those games was a Super Nintendo exclusive. It never came out in the arcades, but Konami could have fooled me. Its name… Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters.
Last night a friend and I caught the latest TMNT movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. It was far better than I expected, especially since I didn’t like the 2014 version at all. I mean, it wasn’t great or anything, but I can genuinely say I wouldn’t mind the inevitable 3rd film in this Michael Bay series. Seeing the movie made me nostalgic for the Turtles from my childhood, and so it’s a perfect time to talk about one of the best fighting games the SNES ever saw.
EXCUSE ME, SAY THAT ONE MORE TIME
Those were the haunting, earth-shattering words of my brother’s friend, Kerwin, back in December ’93. According to him, he had just played this new amazing fighting game — one that he claimed had“Fatality” like moves during combat and one that actually played better than Street Fighter II Turbo. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought Kerwin worked for Konami himself. At that time I had never conceived of anything like the idea of death moves. These were essentially SUPER special moves that dealt out a TREMENDOUS amount of damage and could only be done when your 2nd bar was full. Just the idea of two energy bars blew my 10 year old mind, let alone the idea of a screen-filling, flashy, super special attack. Maybe there was another game that had already done this at the time, but alI I knew was, Tournament Fighters was my first exposure to the wonderful wacky world of super specials. It’s one of those epic memories you always carry with you, in your gaming heart. TMNT:Tournament Fighters would have been terrific even without their Ultimate Attacks but WITH them it makes for one truly amazing fighting game.
Since late 1993, death moves have become a key staple in the genre. Everything from looks to command (i.e. how to pull off a super special move) has only gotten crazier and crazier. By comparison, these ones may seem tame today… but man, back in the day, they were something else to behold!
Tournament Fighters has two bars. One serves as your energy bar while the second fills up each time you land a blow, blocked or not. It’s a free flowing bar, meaning that if you are not on the offensive the bar swings back the other way slowly but surely. Thus, a great deal of emphasis is put on being aggressive, rather than defensive. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself compromised as your opponent unleashes his possibly two or even three times in a single round. When full, the bar ignites and you have three seconds to perform your super special. If you fail to execute your big move in that time frame, then the bar swings back the other way. Thankfully, it moves one smidgen at a time. Meaning if for whatever reason you couldn’t pull off your big move, just one or two more (blocked) attacks will see your bar refilled once more. It was a brilliant and innovative feature for its time. Back in December of 1993, none of my gaming crew nor I had ever seen anything like the Ultimate Attacks. And we loved them. It changed the dynamic of a typical fighting game match, and some of the screen-filling moves were truly awe-inspiring 20+ years ago.
However, there were some downsides to the Ultimate Attacks. Namely, since you only have about three seconds to unleash it… human opponents are very likely to block it. Though some can cause a good deal of damage even when blocked, it would be better if there was no time limit and the bar could remain full until you were ready to use it. It would have led to a bit more strategy. Instead, the game plays like a mad melee, which is not bad in its own right. Props for having these mega death moves at all.
CHRISTMAS MAGIC IN JANUARY
Having hounded both my parents about Clay Fighter and with them knowing how disappointed I was that I didn’t get it or even a video game that Christmas, my mom allowed me to buy one video game in January of ’94. I had just rented Clay Fighter and was thankful I did (boy, was it disappointing). They took me to Good Guys and I bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. I had never played it before but it was #2 on my want game list that Christmas season, trailing only Clay Fighter. I grew up on the Ninja Turtles, and it looked like a terrific Street Fighter II clone. I loved the cover and will never forget seeing it at Good Guys looking all pretty in its wrapping. It seemed to call out to me. Right away I knew it was the one. My mom and dad took the game to the counter to pay for it while I stood there nearly quaking in my shoes. What a wonderful belated Christmas gift! It was the second SNES game my mom ever bought for me, just about one year after she’d bought me my first, King of the Monsters. It was one of the longest car rides home that I can remember. It was time to see if Kerwin was right or not — was this truly Street Fighter II Turbo but with death moves??
THE STORY GOES…
Mike:Hey, who hacked our tube? This is SO NOT COOL, DUDES! Raph:SHADDUP MIKEY! I wanna hear this… Don: Amazing, I wonder what kind of device they used to hack our streaming service? Leo: Guys, there could only be one villain behind this…
I’ve always enjoyed the presentation / vibe of most Konami titles. They had a classic, basic yet sleek look to them. You could always count on Konami to deliver the goods
When I first saw this 20+ years ago, I instantly said to my brother, “It’s Martial Champion!” We liked it. It was different from most other fighting games which all seemed to have the same select screen. This one was different enough to be a bit of a stand out, however.
Martial Champion came out February 1993. It was one of a thousand Street Fighter II clones flooding the market at the time. I fell in love with it, but I was basically sleeping with every fighting game that came out during that golden age of 1992 to 1994 or so. It was colorful, outlandish and a bit different from your average SF II clone.
Titi (renamed Chaos in the US) was my favorite character. It looked like a cross between Freddy Krueger and a Chinese hopping vampire! Sold and sold! The game was unique thanks to its high jumps and how you could disarm your opponent and steal their weapon to use it against them. Looking back, it wasn’t a great fighting game or anything, but it was yet another fun entry in that epic era I fondly refer to as the ‘Fighting Game Golden Age.’
Take a look and see for yourself! Yeah, I know. I couldn’t draw for jack but man… the memories of those fun and simple times. Running in those arcade halls with my old gaming crew, going from fighting game to fighting game. It was akin to a buffet lineup. A grand time those days were, indeed.
SETTING THE STAGE
Of the many things I love about this game the one I adore the most might be the stages. Just look at this one f’rinstance. First off, the idea of a duel to the death on a rooftop is appealing, but then you add in massive billboards and a pretty backdrop of some hotels and business buildings, including a nifty flashing neon Konami sign all set to an atmospheric night time hue, and what you have is a winner. Most of the stages in this game are chock full with detail, color (admittedly at times almost TOO much color), and oh yeah, cameos. You’ll see tons of familiar faces from the TMNT universe scattered throughout, from foot soldiers to Neutrinos to Rocksteady and Bebop (though they should have been playable fighters but I digress). You’ll battle it out everywhere, from shady back alleys to ancient ruins, sunken ships, raucous rock concerts, roaring trains and cafés filled with jukeboxes, neon signs and bloodthirsty spectators. The stages captured my imagination 20+ years ago, and to this day, in my book, they’re still some of the best backgrounds I’ve ever seen in a 16-bit fighter.
What’s a fighting game without some sort of stage select screen? I’ve always liked the one here… with the Statue of Liberty front and center, and the little light that searches for the next stage. The sound effects here, as can be expected, are top-notch and firmly embedded in my mind more than 20 years later.
LEONARDO | 5’8″ | 170 lbs.
The leader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Leonardo is as straight-edge as they come. Focused and determined, his trusty katana blades often pushes him ahead of the competition. Not surprisingly, he plays like Ryu. Leo’s never been my favorite turtle, but he’s a solid all-around fighter, and an easy choice for beginning players. As expected, his swords provide him solid range. You can slice and dice to your heart’s content… something I always wanted to see in the old cartoon but never did for obvious reasons — but here you can fulfill those long forgotten childhood dreams.
Hustlers, hookers and hoodlums litter this shady looking back alley. In an attempt to shed his choir boy, straight edge image, Leo invites his opposing rivals to meet him way out in this dilapidated part of town in the middle of the day, breaking the age-old ninja code of hiding in the shadows. Leo is ready, at last, to step outta his shell.
RAPHAEL |5’8″ | 170 lbs.
Though Mike was my favorite growing up, Raph is a very close second. It’s hard not to like him. He was part of the team but it always felt like he was one small misstep from snapping [A snapping turtle? -Ed.]. Raph was easily the edgiest turtle of the lot, always exuding this aura of coolness. Maybe it’s because he’s a quasi-rebel and a hard-ass, which deep down there’s a little bit of that in all of us. He didn’t use his sai much in the old cartoon, but makes plenty good use of them here, including a M. Bison torpedo-esque move that can be a pain in the neck to deal with. Just a shame Casey Jones isn’t around as that’s one fight I’d love to see!
This was one of my most favorite fighting game backgrounds as a kid. It’s got the classic long counter you’d find at any diner worth half its salt, a jukebox, a colorful neon sign that lights up and what’s up with that strange looking cat in the middle there? He looks like an ape and for pete’s sake sir pull your shirt all the way down, son! Damn. Way to spoil one’s appetite, eh?
DONATELLO |5’8″ | 170 lbs.
Often referred to as the brains of the group, Donatello is usually busy working on his latest inventions. This time however, he’s taking a firm stand to show he can not only hold his own, but that he’s the most skilled fighter of his clan. His bo gives him good coverage and he’s just plain fun to use, especially with his Cranium Crusher that is exclusive only to him. Plus, his Ultimate Attack ranks as one of the most memorable — Donnie [Yen, apparently -Ed.] sends forth a ginormous dragon wave. It was jaw dropping back in ’93, and 20+ years later still puts a huge grin on my face whenever I see it. Donnie reminds us he’s more than just a brainiac.
In a corner tucked far away from town lies a rundown scrapyard where the dirtiest of deeds go down. Classic characters from the cartoon, like the vigilante Casey Jones and mad scientist Baxter Stockman, make cameos here in a definite tip of the cap. When Donnie isn’t busy scouring the scrapheap for random parts to tinker with, he’s busy kicking some ass.
MICHELANGELO |5’8″ | 170 lbs.
Easily my favorite Ninja Turtle growing up, every kid I knew identified themselves with Mikey at one point or another — the classic fun-loving, pizza-craving party animal of the troupe. Mikey never really used his nunchucks in the old ’80s cartoon, so it’s a fan’s dream come true to see him swinging them here like no tomorrow. He plays like a tantalizing mix of Ryu and Blanka, with a cool arcing rolling attack and a deadly rising uppercut. Mikey’s also got the best stage in the entire game. To cap it off, his Ultimate Attack is a swift and sick 10-hit barrage known as the Dance of Fury.
Hands down my favorite background of the game; hell, I’d put this up against any other fighting game stage on the SNES. The flashing Konami sign, the billboards on each side, the atmospheric city life with the bright lights — it’s a crime not to like this stage. I bet Mikey goes here after picking up a pizza and watches over the city as he munches away to his little heart’s content. Bless the lad, really.
ARMAGGON | 8’0″ | 400 lbs.
This guy had to be every kid’s dream come true back in the day. At least he was for me. Who didn’t drool at the thought of being a mutant shark? At the time I thought he was a brand new character constructed just for the game, but he actually comes from the comic book universe of Ninja Turtles fame, like quite a few of the other characters found in this game. While I was initially disappointed in the lack of familiar faces from the cartoon, I always liked Armaggon. Everything from his look to the giant octopus sitting in the middle of his stage… he’s JAWESOME[You’ve jumped the shark -Ed.].
This stage creeped me out when I was a kid. If I were really fighting, I’d find it impossible to focus on my opponent with that grotesque abomination stalking my every move. Its eyes literally track you wherever you go. Talk about unnerving. But it’s also frigging awesome.
ASKA | 5’2″ | 110 lbs.
Okay, so I have a small confession to make. When I was growing up, female fighters were never really my cup of tea. I always wanted to pick either the Ryu clone, the “cool” Guile rip-off, or the freaks (stretch fighters, monsters and other assorted weirdos). Female fighters, bless their hearts, simply never moved my meter. Back then the only one I used to any degree was Janne from the World Heroes series. Well, here’s another rare like. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but Aska’s always been cool in my book.
In 1993 there was a very popular SNK fighter by the name of Samurai Shodown. This backdrop always made me think of that game. Noh is a classic Japanese drama dance show that surged sometime in the 14th or 15th century. The mutant frog which resides in the middle of the stage always intrigued me. I remember rumors circulating within my own gaming crew that the giant frog was a secret character you could use. Of course, it was just a BS rumor my friends and I formed — it was a sign of the times. The good old days…
CHROME DOME | 5’10” | 200 lbs.
Considering how most of the roster consists of antagonists NOT from the cartoon universe, Chrome Dome was a very welcomed addition. I love how Konami gave the token “stretch fighter” the game’s biggest damage-inducing throw (outside of the bosses). It’s very cool as it’s just something you didn’t see in fighting games at all during that era. So in some ways, Chrome Dome felt like a slight mix of Dhalsim meets Zangief. He could stretch for defense and offense, and if you get too close to him, he could grab ya and take you on one SHOCKING ride.
Who knew tin head was so artsy fartsy? With a penchant for the fine arts, the culturally cognizant Chrome Dome gets his kicks off on piledrivering his competition at the local art museum. Familiar cartoon faces make a spot cameo in the form of Mousers and the Neutrinos. ‘GROOVY!’ indeed.
CYBER SHREDDER |6’6″ | 280 lbs.
This ain’t your regular Shredder you remember bumbling around in the ’80s cartoon. No, far from that. Indeed, this is THE SHREDDER ON STEROIDS. This is Cyber Shredder, a walking weapon of destruction. Part of me wishes we got the ’80s version instead, for nostalgic reasons. I was saddened to hear about the passing of one, James Avery, in December 2013. Better known as Uncle Phil, Avery was the voice of the late ’80s and early ’90s Shredder. When I found that fun little factoid in the late ’90s or so, I never looked at Shredder the same way ever again.
On the outskirts of town, there exists an iniquitous construction site that is rumored to have been taken over by the evil and nefarious Cyber Shredder and his Foot Clan. There are even whispers on the street, though apocryphal, that the police themselves dare not step foot onto the Cyber Shredder’s hot new territory. It’s considered a lost part of town and most have turned a blind eye in exchange for their own personal safety. All hail the mighty Foot!
WAR | 8’0″ | 350 lbs.
A savage bipedal triceratops? Sign me up! Those were my sentiments when I first laid eyes on him 20+ years ago. Originating from the comics, he was one of the Four Horsemen — along with Death, Famine and Pestilence. A real shame then, considering the superb look and cool name. He goes down in fighting game history as one of the most disappointing fighters ever. He’s limited to two special moves that aren’t too hot. Thankfully, his stage stands out and his Ultimate Attack is a rip-roaring attention grabber. War hurls himself around the screen like a pinball of destruction, but even that can’t save him from feeling like a largely wasted roster space.
It’s a beautiful sunny day, with only a couple clouds hanging overhead. Your breath is taken away as you look around at all the beautiful sights, until you catch sight of your old bumbling rivals, Bebop and Rocksteady. You chuckle to yourself as a savage roar erupts nearby. A giant 8 foot tall armored monster leaps within 10 feet of ya, the sunshine shimmering off his razor sharp talons. And just as quick, your smile fades.
WINGNUT | 6’0″ | 300 lbs.
I remember thinking to myself, “Why this bastard over a classic fan fave like Bebop or Rocksteady?” Wingnut appeared briefly in the ’80s cartoon series and had a much bigger role in the comics. He’s the very definition of an “unorthodox fighter.” It will take a highly skilled player to get the most out of his unusual offense. Possessing a somewhat awkward moveset, and considering how his Ultimate Attack can be a total flop, to his credit he’s got one of the cooleststages in fighting game history. What’s better than a rock concert while watching two combatants knock the stuffing out of each other?
Wingnut, the master of soundwaves, is hardly a stranger to loud noise. Whereas it distracts and even causes damage to the ear drums of most mere mortals, Wingnut relishes on such raucous and frenzied environments. From the HEAVY METALheadbanging to the strobe lights to the t-rex twins, the ringing Thunder Dome produces a mad rocking atmosphere like no other. The audience is more than happy to pay top dollar for this BARBARIC MASHUP.
In the comics, Rat King had a telepathic super power where he could communicate with rats. In the ’80s cartoon series he had to use a flute. He’s always been a cool cat [rat? -Ed.] in my book, and I wish we saw more familiar faces from the cartoon than the comics. Although I realize by late 1993 the cartoon series was not nearly as popular as it once was. Still, how lovely would it have been to see the likes of Krang, Rocksteady, Bebop and Casey Jones?
Studio 6 is where they film this game show format for Tournament Fighters. High school cheerleaders adorn the stage. A badly missed opportunity at a sewer-based stage. If you’re not going to give it to one of the turtles, then at least give it to the Rat King (AKA the King of the Sewers). This game has plenty of cool stages, but this one was rather dull. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.
A duel to the death atop a screaming metro train. Mr. Vernon Fenwick from Channel 6 News captures the chaos for all to see from the comfort of their home. Perhaps Konami knew all along just how bloodthirsty humanity is…
The endings are rather disappointing. Each character ending has only two shots with hit-or-miss artwork and a few text messages. For as difficult as the computer opponents are, this is a major letdown.
Like most fighting games of the early-mid ’90s, there lies breakable furniture in some of the stages. It’s a damn classic staple of the genre. The ones here are, admittedly, a bit ‘weak’ [I see what you did there -Ed.], but hey, they’re there.
Speaking of um, bonuses, check out probably my all-time most favorite fighting game bonus stage around. Destroying bank safes one after another? Sign me up!
I love the idea that someone was dropping these bad boys from the sky like a madman. They kept raining down, and you had to bust ‘em up until there were none left. It was extremely satisfying and I much rather play this bonus stage than any other.
Besides the concept and killer sound effects, I love this bonus round because unlike 90 to 95% of bonus rounds you come across in the genre, this one is actually quite challenging. You need a plan of attack rather than just mindlessly pound away. There were enough safes that ya barely had enough time, and it was SO cool how they can topple over (and knock you out, too).
ONLY IN JAPAN
There a few notable differences between the American and Japanese versions of the SNES game. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Warriors (to give it its Japanese namesake), among the differences include Rat King’s extra stage bit, where combatants can be knocked through the wall revealing the control room of Studio 6.
The other difference is the censorship of Aska. In the Japanese version you can see her buttocks a bit, but they covered it up in the North American version.
In what very well might be the first and ONLY time in gaming history, Konami released simultaneously three games of the same name on the NES, Genesis and SNES, but with very different game engines and rosters. While cool of them to diversify like that, it was clear SNES owners received the superior version. The Genesis version is broken and by comparison, crap. By late ’93, the Genesis was starting to look like the grandfather on the block while the SNES was just hitting its prime. With Tournament Fighters released across all three platforms, it was clear (at least in my mind) who the king of the jungle was. I was happy to own all three systems, but Super Nintendo was clearly KING in my household.
The 8-bit NES game is not even worth talking about from a gameplay standpoint; although, it does make for a fun water cooler topic as far as near final NES releases go. The NES was gasping its last breath by late ’93, so any title released was newsworthy, indeed. This was just a painful reminder though that my dear old friend couldn’t keep up with a changing of the guard. I love the 8-bit Nintendo and Sega Genesis, but I’m just calling it like I see it. When Tournament Fighters came out on all three systems, it was like a subtle declaration in my own heart which of those three systems reigned supreme.
CRACK THE CODE
I sat there completely dumbfounded, my jaw on the ground. I had to do a double take. Right there in my friend’s room, I could play as the Rat King or Karai. I ran downstairs to tell my friends about it. I still remember the skeptical looks on their faces, and how they kept saying, “Dude, this better not be a hoax. I’m about to eat some KFC!” They followed behind me as I took the stairs 2 steps at a time. I stood at the doorway and stretched my hand out as to welcome them in. One by one they filed in and I stood there still in the doorway smiling when I heard the collective HOLY SHIT! cries. I can’t tell you how red my hand got that night because of all the high fives. They asked what the code was, and sadly, I had no clue. We left the game on the entire night just so we could play as the bosses. When we finally turned it off at 12 something in the morning, we turned it right back on so I could try the code again. No such luck. Whatever I punched in randomly before was now gone.
The infamous boss code. Right there in all its glory. Looking back, it’s a fond memory for me. The thrill of cracking the code, the joys of sharing it with my friends, creating a lifetime memory. Back then, you couldn’t just log into damn GameFAQs for your hints and secrets, oh no. It was either through tip sections in gaming magazines like such, or plain discovering ‘em yourself through dumb luck. Discovering the boss code made me the man of my group for that one epic night, anyhow, and I recall with deep fondness just the sights, sounds and smells of that great night. The KFC aroma in the air, the thundering footsteps up the stairs, the tingling rush that I felt sweeping every fiber of my being when I saw Rat King and Karai on the select screen, the cries of sheer joy from my friends, as though we just collectively won the Mega Million Lottery, and the stinging high fives. Man, we must have played like 3 straight hours that night. Boss code, how I miss you and your simplicity. Boy, were things different back then. I’m very grateful I was lucky enough to have grown up when I did. When gaming with friends was all that mattered.
Look, she’s taunting me! GRR! So, I discovered the most wanted code and could have won a free game from EGM, but I couldn’t remember the code anyway, so Konami giving it to EGM first was a moot point as it would turn out. I suppose that softened the blow for not being able to remember the damn code!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Tournament Fighters was received well by the press. It garnered high scores across the board and I can’t recall anyone ever having a bad thing to say of it. From the critics to regular gamers like you and me, the game was beloved and extolled by many. It is also widely regarded as one of the better fighting games on the SNES. EGM gave it scores of 8, 9, 9 and 9. GameFan rated it 85, 92, 96 and 96%. Super Play Magazine scored it 90%. It was not only one of the BEST fighting games of 1993, but one of the best games, period, that year. One play and it’s easy to see why the game had so many diehard supporters. It succeeds where most clones fail miserably: it’s fun, fast, fluid and to boot it’s the TEENAGE MUTANT f*ckin’ NINJA TURTLES!
Tournament Fighters is a fantastic fighting game. In fact I think it’s the best SNES-exclusive fighter. In an age where crap clones were slapped together and shipped out the door like no tomorrow, Tournament Fighters was groomed for success. It’s packed full of quality from top to bottom. Those graphics are bright, bold and classic mid ’90s SNES magic. The sound and music both hit the mark, with tunes you can rock out to. The fighting game engine just feels right. Jumps aren’t floaty. Physics don’t feel off. It’s extremely well polished. What can I say, I loved it 20+ years ago, and even still to this day I’ll play it for a round or two, or 50. It’s not better than Street Fighter II Turbo but came DAMN closer than most.
But best of all, how about the wild Ultimate Attacks, eh? Whether you prefer to call them desperation moves, super specials or death moves, there’s no denying they are a game changer. They added an extra layer to the battles, encouraging the player to be offensive-minded. For balance, the weaker your health, the easier it is to fill up your extra bar. Likewise, the stronger you are, the harder it is to fill it up. Tournament Fighters did a lot of cool things, but for me the Ultimate Attacks come to mind first. Whether it was a giant ass mythical dragon or a deadly tidal wave screaming across the TV, it was jaw dropping and all part of the fun. Like fine wine, the game has aged tremendously well. Konami delivered again, crafting a finely tuned fighting game that exudes meticulous care and is bursting with quality from every seam. Sure, a bigger roster including the likes of Rocksteady, Bebop, Krang, and Casey Jones would have been perfect, but the list of negatives are short and brief.
Konami sure did hit a home run here, as they often did back in the ’90s. There aren’t many home-grown fighting games on the SNES, and the only ones giving Tournament Fighters any run for its money are: Ranma ½: Chōgi Rambu Hen and Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Duel. Some other SNES-grown fighters include Tuff Enuff, WeaponLord and Double Dragon V. Of all of them, I’d happily play this game the most. To me it’s a LEGIT Super Nintendo classic. It’s a quality fighting game with an engine that stands the test of time well. I still break it out on occasion to pass the odd evening or two. I will forever harbor fond memories of this game, from Kerwin’s unbelievable stamp of approval to my parents buying it after Christmas to the night I randomly unlocked Rat King and Karai… DAMN, the nostalgic goodness just goes on and on. Tournament Fighters, I salute thee!
One of the thrills of growing up during the mid ’90s were all the awesome arcade games just waiting for you to plop a quarter in. And the longing hopes and dreams that one day soon the spirit and essence of your favorite arcade title would receive a respectable enough translation on your 16-bit console of choice. They never captured the arcade original perfectly, but the best ports brought home a piece of the arcade. Sometimes you didn’t have to wait very long. Other times, it would be years later. Such was the case for NBA Give ‘N Go. Was it worth the wait? Strap on your squeaky sneakers and let’s take a look.
BEFORE THERE WAS NBA JAM…
… there was Run ‘N Gun. It was loud, in your face and full of that early-mid ’90s arcade wonder. Walk into any arcade hall more than 20 years ago and you would be bombarded by dazzling lights and ear-crunching sound effects all vying for your quarter’s attention. Right in the thick of the Golden Fighting Game era, Konami released a basketball game that emphasized action and fun over strategy and simulation (although it certainly had some of that too, especially when compared to NBA Jam). My brother, friends and I immediately fell in love with it. And we were counting down the days until it would be ported over for either the Sega Genesis or the Super Nintendo. Our wish came true but unfortunately, no sooner than two plus years later.
My brother was a huge basketball nut back in 1993. Me? The sport was OK. I liked it reasonably well enough, but I didn’t go out of my way to catch the games when it came across the ol’ telly. To be honest, at 10 years old I was far more interested in playing video games or watching WWF wrestling. But my perspective on the game of basketball all took a turn on one particularly fateful day…
MEMORIAL DAY MIRACLE
Monday, May 29, 1995 is a day I’ll never forget. Hard to believe the other day marked 21 years since that fateful day…
It was Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals which pitted the young uprising Orlando Magic vs. the Indiana Pacers. I was at the local mall walking past Radio Shack when I saw they had the game playing on 10 TV screens. There were 3 people standing there, watching in angst and talking in-between plays. I joined, making it a crowd of 4. The game was in the final 3 minutes, and as the drama unfolded, the crowd steadily grew from 4 to 8 to 12. Even the employees stopped what they were doing and joined our huddle.
These are the moments you live for as a sports fan (as I would come to find out), and to boot it was one of the greatest finishes EVER in NBA playoff history.
With under 15 seconds to go, this improbable sequence took place:
Brian Shaw’s 3 pointer gave the Magic the 1 point lead
Reggie Miller answered with one of his own, putting the Pacers back up by 2 causing the Indiana crowd to erupt in a frenzy
Mere seconds later the player many then believed would carry Jordan’s torch as well as the NBA into the new millennium, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, nailed a dramatic heart breaking 3, giving the Magic a 1 point lead with 1.3 seconds to go. It left the sold out capacity crowd in stunned silence
As the game went to its final commercial break there was a deafening buzz within Radio Shack’s small confines. I was right in the middle of it and the raw adrenaline was indescribable. I felt like I was at the game myself!
To this day I still can hear that classic NBA on NBC theme, being played on no less than TEN television monitors, in full blast stereo reverberating throughout the store and the entire mall itself. It’s one of those vivid childhood memories that haunts me to the core… even 21 years later.
Suddenly we were no longer just a bunch of strangers, no. This playoff basketball game magically banded us together. We were basketball fans, enjoying and living up the moment.
I saw basketball in a new light — the likes of which I hadn’t seen before. There was strategy, there were tactics. Beyond that, I started appreciating the concept of teamwork and five different people of varying size and skills working as one well oiled machine.
That day I developed a much deeper appreciation for basketball. It’s the moment I became a fan for life.
Down 1 with 1.3 seconds left, the ball made its way to the dunking Dutchman, Rik Smits. He faked, shot and the ball ripped nothing but net as the buzzer sounded off. The place became unglued and the roof blew off. Radio Shack’s walls were shaking as we all screamed, jumping up and down in pure disbelief at what we had just witnessed on the 10 TV monitors that stood before us.
I was only 11 years old while everyone else around me in the store was probably 20 or older. Those 15 minutes or so catching the 4th quarter and cheering and booing madly at the TV screen with a bunch of folks I never met before… PRICELESS. I remember on the car ride home in the backseat I kept replaying the events in my head… thinking to myself that that was the coolest thing that ever happened to me so far in my young life. Ha! But the moment was nothing short of magic.
I think back 21 years ago… part of me can’t believe it, you know. It was the best NBA Playoff game I ever saw, and to this day, I have not seen a game better or more dramatic than the one that occurred on May 29, 1995 — the Memorial Day Miracle.
Yesterday brought back some goosebumps and fond memories for me… as the Golden State Warriors battled the Oklahoma City Thunder in a decisive Game 7… also on Memorial Day. 21 years later ALMOST TO THE DAY… it was a miracle that the Warriors were able to storm back and push the series to a 7th and final game, as they were down 3-1 but not only down — they looked completely out of it. Somehow, they dug deep and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson knocked down some ridiculous 3 point shots. It was a nice dramatic game but the Warriors eventually won 96-88. It’s hard to compare it to the Pacers-Magic game 21 years ago, but it certainly was special in its own unique way.
I just wish they would bring back that classic NBA theme regardless of which station the games emanate from. There’s nothing comparable to John Tesh’s amazing Roundball Rock score!
HOOP IT UP
All NBA teams and players are here, including that year’s All-Star selections. The Shooting Stars and Supreme Team are five player teams that consist of the best five players from each conference. Think of it as a Dream Team. You can also edit it to form your own fantasy team. More on this later.
Give ‘N Go has an interesting quirk where players are rated per stars. Three max. This changes from game to game randomly. It basically indicates how the player is “feeling” that game. The more stars, the higher chance he’ll have at making baskets. It’s a unique feature that factors in the “human” element of players’ feelings on a game by game basis. You can still have a good game with a guy who has zero stars, but it’s tougher. Hey, maybe his wife cheated on him that day, who knows! Like a box of chocolate, ya never know what you might get.
I can’t think of any other 16-bit basketball game that gauges how a player is feeling on a game-to-game basis. It’s fun firing the game up and hoping to see many stars across the board. As it was randomly generated game by game, it added an extra element of spice.
Sometimes it would spur me to sit a starter for a bench player — say if the starter had zero stars and the capable bench player was feeling particularly spry with three stars. Good stuff.
You gotta love how big the players are. There’s a nice ‘thickness’ to them [That’s what she said -Ed.] and they really do look like the actual stars themselves. Can you tell that’s Reggie Miller there? Quite easily, I’d wager. Look at the defensive stance of that bloke over there — very realistic eh? One hand guards the ball, the other guards the passing lane. Hey, I aced Beginning and Intermediate Basketball in my day, ya know? Picked up a few tricks along the way
“JUMP, YA BUM!”
Miller soars up with the greatest of ease as Nick Anderson is caught with sand in his shoes. Great visuals, eh? Now this is basketball! Player mechanics are accurately mimicked.
“And after one it’s a real tight ball game we have here today, Bob.”
“Indeed. If this is a sign of things to come, fans I hope you’re all strapped in — it’s gonna be one heck of a ride!”
“What a great first quarter of action, Bob.”
“Can’t ask for much more on this beautiful Memorial Day, 1995!”
“It just may come down to a buzzer beating last second shot for one of these teams…”
Life is like a hurricane
HERE IN… Duckburg
Race cars, lasers, airplanes
It’s a… DUCK BLUR
Might solve a mystery…
Or rewrite history!
Ahem, sorry… [You’re fired -Ed.]
Nothing humbles the opposition quite like a big time block. I love how that one Magic player is running back up the other side of the court… thinking his teammate has got the basket. Uh, I’ve got something to say about that…
Thankfully, NBA Give ‘N Go gives players an option. When going for a slam dunk, you can press the shoot button to change the dunk animation into a layup midway through!
It keeps the opposition honest, and because the game is so block friendly, this scoring alternative is a God send, especially in two player games with a buddy.
As I said earlier, players look like the real players. Here you see Dennis Rodman in all his crazy madness. Unfortunately though, the game does not account for the size differences. John Stockton is just as tall as Patrick Ewing. Shame about that, but oh well, what can ya do? [Play NBA Jam -Ed.]
One of the really neat things about Give ‘N Go is seeing all the different NBA arenas. Though they’re not as unique as, say, baseball parks, some of them definitely have their own sense of history and atmosphere. It’s one thing this game definitely has over any other SNES basketball title, such as the NBA Live and NBA Jam series.
But my absolute favorite is easily the All-Star court. With its brightly colored court, it just makes it fun to shoot at all odd corners of the floor. I don’t know what it is about that, but on this court, I just love pulling up for 17, 18 foot jump shots. Something about shooting on that solid purple floor is mighty addicting…
SOME NOT SO NEAT STUFF
Don’t know why but the Japanese version of this game is battery-backed, while the US version received a super crappy password feature to save the regular season games. Talk about absurd — look how long the password is!
HUH! Yep, sometimes players will shrink for a very brief period of time. It doesn’t affect gameplay — at least so far that I’ve been able to witness — it’s more of a sight gag if anything. I guess it’s just the SNES straining from the odd time to time. Give ‘N Go is no Killer Instinct or DOOM in terms of pushing the system to the limits, but it also wasn’t Super Tennis.
It’s easy hitting 3 point shots in the 1st quarter. After that, oddly enough, it becomes hard even if you’re a 3 point specialist like Reggie Miller. Not saying it’s impossible to nail 3 point shots past the 1st quarter — it just becomes much harder. Why this is, I have no idea. But it does put a bit of a damper on the game. See, the Magic hit 1 out of 2, but I kept chucking threes into the 2nd half of the game, and I kept missing them (even with a dead-eye shooter such as Reggie). Not cool.
- Rim physics aren’t realistic (then again, it IS an arcade game)
- Whoever is running down court has a disadvantage. The rim on the bottom half of the court isn’t visible at all times
- Stat tracking leaves something to be desired. No assists — what?
- Guards are as tall as centers. Those who can’t dunk in real life can dunk in the game
- Alley oop system can be abused
- Gameplay is not as quick as NBA Jam or NBA Live. It may feel too slow for some folks. Personally, I think it still plays fine in spite of the less-than-stellar speed
+ I gotta give PROPS to the announcer. He’s pretty wacky. “REBOUND AND JAAAM!” (adds to the early-mid ’90s arcade feel of the game)
+ Speaking of the sound, unlike many basketball games, Give ‘N Go actually incorporates music during the game. I found the upbeat melodies to be pleasant
+ Visually, the game’s quite ace. Players are huge and easy to make out. Amazing little details like Dennis Rodman’s wild hair and Horace Grant’s goggles give the game a sense of “life” and personality. Plus the NBA courts are nicely detailed
+ Another praise for the 0 to 3 star rank system. On any given night, any player can be a capable threat. Some nights your star players will feel like superstars. But on other nights however, perhaps your 10th man on the bench is feeling particularly spry. It’s all randomly generated and you never know who’s feeling hot (or not) on any given night. Cool feature if you ask me! It’s nice too that 0 star players can STILL have a big game for you… 3 stars only mean he’s THAT much more capable
+ Rarely slows down. Impressive considering the size of ten big players running around
+ Can edit your own Dream Team of stars and scrubs however you like
+ Menus and game presentation is absolutely top-notch and crisp
+ It’s RUN ‘N GUN on your SNES! Or at least, halfway close enough. 4-player games rock
+ GameFan gave it scores of 84and 86%. Super Play rated it 85%
I still remember fondly the day I rented this game in late ’95 for me and my brother. Back in the day he always had me rent the games he wanted, but for a change, we both couldn’t wait to play this. We loved it. It was a long wait, but Give ‘N Go did not disappoint. It brought home the large colorful graphics, the squeaky sneakers, massive slam dunks, monster block shots and thrilling games that came right down to the final second. It’s not without flaws though: the game plays slower than other SNES basketball titles. It’s hard to make 3 point shots after the 1st quarter, the alley oop feature can be abused (though easily fixed by agreeing to have a “1 per quarter” limit or so), player sizes are all the same so Stockton can dunk (yeah right!) just as well as Shawn Kemp, and so on. But you know what, this was never the perfect basketball game to begin with. What it was — and as I found out recently — what it *IS*… is a damn fun basketball game with an impeccable arcade-like feel. In many ways I liken it to Super Baseball 2020. Taken for what it was intended to be, it does its job well. I have as much fun with NBA Give ‘N Go today as I did over 20 years ago. Anytime I can say that, that game’s all right by me. It’s not the first basketball title I pull off my shelf to play, but it’s a nice alternative to the NBA Lives and Jams of the world, for sure. Give ‘N Go does an admirable job of bringing the zany arcade experience home.
Hard for me to believe it’s been 21 years now since that epic Memorial Day playoff game between the Pacers and Magic. It was the game that cemented me as a basketball fan for life. What a mad finish! And what a shot by Rik Smits! From the classic NBA on NBC tune to the countless strangers huddled around that Radio Shack monitor cheering and booing, it was one hell of a way to kick off the final summer of my preadolescence. Some images, some sounds and some smells stay with you for a lifetime. May 29, 1995 was such a day for me
NBA Give ‘N Go is a fond reminder of the good old days. When times and things were a bit simpler. When you could walk into an arcade hall not five blocks from your house, smell the piping hot cheese and have your ears tickled by the innocent laughter of children. Not only is it a nostalgic blast, I find Give ‘N Go still holds up to this day. It plays on the slower side but it’s also presented in a light that makes it stand out compared to any other SNES basketball game. Better late than never? Yes. Or perhaps I should say, “YES SIR!” [Pack yer things -Ed.]
Yesterday saw the release of the latest X-Men movie: X-Men Apocalypse. As I sat in my seat waiting for the lights to dim and the first trailer to play, I couldn’t help but think back 20+ years to the time Capcom released X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse on the SNES. All in all, I enjoyed the movie but felt it was a bit disappointing. Is that foreshadowing for the game itself? But as always, I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. Let’s rewind the clock back some shall we…
THE MARVEL SUBCULTURE OF THE ’90S
If you were a child of the early ’90s, chances were you somehow got mixed up in the superhero subculture. It was simply a sign of the times. From trading cards to cartoons to toys to video games, superheroes and super villains dominated the scene. My brother, our friends and I used to hang out at this card shop, Triple Play. It was right next to the local library and a mom and pop rental shop. What a great time to be a kid! We spent hours of our childhood down at the card shop, buying the newest Marvel ’91 series and trading them. When we weren’t trading or buying them, we played the Street Fighter II arcade cab right in the store. It was just an amazing time to be a young kid.
My favorite thing about the Marvel ’91 cards? Hands down the enticing stats on the back of the cards. This is where my obsession with numbers and ratings probably first developed, and a large reason (EGM is another factor) as to why I personally like to rate video games. To me numbers have always been a fun snapshot at things. I remember Fin Fang Foom’s stats were off the charts. He had something nuts like three 7’s. Fun times.
As a kid I remember thinking to myself how badly I wanted to play a really good superhero game, particularly at home. Uncanny X-Men (NES) definitely failed to deliver on that front.
NES Wolverine? Better than Uncanny X-Men, but nope.
NES Silver Surfer? Heavens no.
NES Captain America and the Avengers? Try again.
My wish for a good superhero game came true in 1991 with the arcade quarter muncher, Captain America and the Avengers. I was counting down until the inevitable Super Nintendo port. Unfortunately…
When the port arrived, I nearly cried tears of sadness. It was such a watered down attempt and easily one of the most disappointing arcade ports to ever hit the SNES. My dreams were crushed. But a year later…
The X-Men arcade game is one of the most iconic multiplayer arcade games ever created. When it hit the scene in 1992, it took everyone by storm, pardon the pun. I was eagerly anticipating the SNES translation but alas, it was never meant to be.
Just look at that hulking beast. Six player cabinet. It was truly worthy of the superhero name. My friends and I loved dumping quarters into this machine and we pumped hours into this one like none other. I always used Colossus. That was my guy!
That same year, Halloween 1992 to be precise, the X-Men cartoon hit television screens the world over. And our Saturday mornings would never be the same again. There was only one thing missing: a proper Super Nintendo representation of the X-Men. Finally, two years later, X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse was announced for the SNES. Better yet, it was developed by ever reliable firm, Capcom. Surely the Big C wouldn’t let us superhero fanboys down, would they? Surely console owners would finally get a good superhero game? Well, for the most part anyway. Let us delve in, then…
MUTANTS ON A MISSION
Right off the bat you have the choice of using one of five different members from the X-Men force. Each mutant has his or her own unique mission to complete. Each level is designed with that mutant’s abilities well in mind. After you finish off the first five stages, the game allows you to select any mutant to use on the final handful of levels. I like that each mutant has his or her own unique mission to begin with, and I like how Capcom allows you to select them in whichever order you please. It’s very Mega Man-esque. Let’s begin with my favorite of the group…
Wolverine always knew how to make one hell of a dramatic entrance, didn’t he? Things start off hot as the savage mutant comes bursting out of a elevated window. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
Each character has a few special moves that are executed via Street Fighter II-esque motions. As expected from a firm such as Capcom, the controls are tight and responsive. Pulling off special moves left and right is as easy as 1-2-3. I particularly love Wolverine’s Dragon Punch. I always thought to myself as a kid that it blows the real Dragon Punch out of the water on account of the flesh-cutting adamantium claws. Sorry Ken, not even your Burning Dragon Punch stands a chance.
This is a recurring mid-boss that you’ll encounter throughout the game. I was intimidated as hell when I first saw it as a kid, but it’s more bark than bite.
Wolverine can interact with his environment in the way of scaling tall walls. It’s not implemented as much as I would have liked, but the few bits you get to do it it’s undoubtedly satisfying.
Not only does that enemy get the worst of Wolverine’s claws, but he also got knocked into the razor-sharp robotic fingers for extra damage. Small moments like this delight — it’s a shame then that they’re too few and far between.
A giant pissed off Sentinel guards the end of Wolverine’s stage. Goons and cronies will come at you from both sides, so dispatch them quickly. The laser beams create a somewhat spooky look for the Sentinel. A nice, creepy touch.
Cyclops, not surprisingly, is slower to control than Wolverine. He’s also a bigger target which makes avoiding hits a bit more difficult. But he has one thing on Wolverine: long distance attacks. His optic blast is basic, but effective.
Somehow, this never gets old
Gambit’s long legs allow him to take out the opposition within a very generous radius. The coolest part is seeing two bad guys approaching you, from both sides, and knocking them out in stereo with the Scissors Kick.
Even cooler is when you deliver death from below. You just can’t beat it.
What makes Beast unique from the others is his ability to hang from ledges. It sort of makes the game feel a bit like Metal Storm, at least, for a few minutes anyhow. An interesting gimmick that isn’t fully fleshed out due to the shortness of this level (in fact, all the levels are criminally short).
Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned screen-filling boss? We all have our own form of video game fetishes. For me it’s definitely towering end-level bosses and…
I know. I need to seek professional help [Please, take all the time off you need… -Ed.]
You also get to use whichever character you want for the game’s remaining stages. Of course, different characters are more effective in certain stages. It’s fun to explore but I just wish the levels were longer.
No seriously, it really is. Walk about 20 feet over and then it’s boss time. What the flipping heck, Capcom? Makes you wonder if development on this game was rushed for it to hit store shelves in time for the Christmas season push…
Some of the choices boggles the mind, but on the bright size, the Tusk sprite looks pretty damn awesome. Look at how he towers over Wolverine. Heck, you can even see his bulging muscles. Great attention to detail for an otherwise forgettable boss.
Speaking of bright sides, at least there are a few fun little gimmicks thrown in here. You can knock Tusk into the lava BUT do watch out for that falling lift!
Just for fun, I like scaling the wall and making the bastard try to reach me. It’s oddly entertaining but then, the little things tend to be that way, don’t they?
The next level forces you to move swiftly as a lava gives chase. This is where the game sure could have used a dash option. Thankfully each of the characters have some sort of dashing special move you can pull off as a substitute for a lack of a dash button, except for Cyclops (who I definitely don’t recommend you selecting here).
Get stuck in front of a pillar though and you’ll have to smash your way through. This can cause for some intense moments to say the least!
For a big bad boss whose name is featured in the game title itself, the encounter with Apocalypse is a bit underwhelming to say the least. His special moves all sort of look weird and as it turns out, he’s not even the final boss. After defeating him you’re transported back to the Danger Room for more training. It’s a bit jarring… almost like Capcom said, “Oh crap, we need to throw in a little more shit because this game is way too short!”
After this it’s off to face the final bad guy of the game: Magneto. Good luck.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
I have fond memories of EGM issue number 65. It came right in time for the holiday season of 1994 (what I consider to be an epic year both personally and in terms of gaming) and clocked in at over a massive 400 pages! I always said EGM sold their souls to the devil… for EGM in my humble estimation was never the same again after producing this tree-killing monster of an issue. I remember the joke that this issue was bigger than some small towns’ phone books! And I believe that. It had a badass cover featuring X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse. The critics were not too kind to this game. EGM gave it ratings of 8, 8, 8 and 7. But GameFan, who was notorious for handing out high scores like free condiments, gave it shockingly “low” scores of 78, 75and 70%. Super Play Magazine, who were much harder graders in general (not to mention they weren’t huge fans of the beat ‘em up genre) rated this game 52%. Public fan reception has been a little more positive though. Most gamers would agree that this is a pretty good game, especially by X-Men standards at that time.
I enjoyed playing this game back in 1994, and revisiting it again this past week leading up to the new X-Men movie has been, for the most part, an enjoyable experience. It’s definitely not Capcom’s best effort and certainly feels rushed at times, but it’s still quite fun to play through the game using the various characters and utilizing their unique special moves. The graphics are big, bright and bold — it has that classic SNES look to it where you just know at a glance that it was made in the year 1994 (if that makes sense). It has a pretty rockin’ soundtrack to boot. Not in the same league as say a Mega Man X or a Donkey Kong Country but I dare say it more than holds its own. Control is tight and crisp, but the levels are way too short. Just as you’re about to sink your teeth into a stage, it ends. It leaves you with sort of an empty feeling. It’s fun while it lasts, but it never lasts long enough to kick the game playing experience into that extra gear that very good or great games have. Had Capcom spent a little more time fine tuning this aspect, this game could truly have been one of their many SNES classics. Instead, it’s simultaneously disappointing yet fairly solid in spite of its flaws.
I don’t mind single-plane beat ‘em ups, although I prefer more traditional “free roaming” ones such as Final Fight or Streets of Rage, but it works here. The inclusion of special moves done via Street Fighter II motions is pretty neat, and there’s a little more platforming here than seen in most typical beat ‘em ups. Instead of each mutant having a “clear all” attack that takes a little health off their health, each one has special mutant powers that can be executed without penalty or limit. I thought that was a pretty cool twist on the whole beat ‘em up trope. X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse feels like a bit of an amalgam of three classic genres: beat ‘em up, action platformer and in some cases, hints of a 2D one on one fighter. There were certainly instances (like the fight with Juggernaut) where I started daydreaming about this game actually being a legit Street Fighter II clone. Man, too bad Capcom didn’t incorporate a bonus mode where you can pick any of the superheroes and villains to duke it out, Street Fighter II style. Sure, it wouldn’t be terribly polished, but we got such bonus modes in NES Double Dragon and SNES Combatribes. Mutant Apocalypse would have done it better. Anyway, it’s not fair to criticize a game for not including a mode that thinks outside the box, but it is an indication that the game could have been more (generally speaking) and that Capcom didn’t let this one “cook to perfection” for one reason or another. Still, it’s a rock solid title that’s worthy of a spot in any Super Nintendo collection. It’s just a shame it wasn’t even better but hey, it’s hard to complain much when you see all the gems Capcom gave us during the vaunted SNES era.
By September 1995, the SNES was quickly entering the final stages of its life. Although game quality was at an all-time high in terms of what companies could now do with the system, it’s a given that every 4-5 years the new wave of next gen gaming takes over, and the older models quietly fade out in the background. This however did not stop the unlikely conversion of PC smash hit, DOOM. And on the first of September 1995, SNES owners had their own version of Doomsday.
MY MEMORIES OF DOOM 1993-PRESENT
I consider the early-mid 1990s as a very special time. Not only was I in the thick of my childhood, but those years cranked out some of the most iconic and groundbreaking video games around. While the whole Street Fighter II craze was sweeping the nation, in December 1993 a little violent game by the name of DOOM came out and took the nation by storm. Playing as a marine battling a horde of zombie soldiers and demons, Doom was the most intense action game of its day. It made your heart beat a little faster. Palms perspired. Those growls you hear around the corner… that ammo count dipping dangerously low… Doom produced an adrenaline kick like no other. Who could ever forget the first time you experienced Doom? It’s one of those things that you carry with you for life. Kind of like the first time you came across a Playboy Magazine. Doom was a transcendent gaming experience that turned boys into men and soiled more than a few underwears over 20 years ago. It is revered fondly for a good reason.
December 1994. One year after the epic release of Doom, we were given the sequel, Doom II. It was only a matter of time. While the clones rushed in and out the door (and backdoor, for that matter), the original king stood mighty, proud and tall and victorious over all comers. But now it was time for round two. A game with more weapons, monsters and mayhem. It did not disappoint! Doom II was a worthy sequel indeed and although my brother and I didn’t own it, we definitely found ways to experience it. Because it was simply something you just had to. No ifs, ands or buts here. Doom II was the SHIT.
How badass was Doom II? So badass that I put it on my 7th grade “All About Me” poster. I somehow found this pic here on a computer store ad, mighta been Comp USA (damn there goes a name from the past) or Fry’s Electronic. Cut it out and pasted it on my poster to show the whole 7th grade world. At that time gaming wasn’t considered cool, much. But not Doom II. Doom II broke barriers. You were proud to declare to the entire universe of its greatness. Keep in mind gaming in 1995 was a lot less mainstream and “accepted” than it is in today’s society.
A few weeks before Doom II came out, my world changed forever. It was mid-November 1994. It was a cold and dreary, foggy Monday morning. I remember the fog being so thick I could barely see past my first neighbor’s house. I was walking to school with my good old best friend Nelson, and it was another week in the ol’ neighborhood. Little did I know, leaving my house that morning, that when I would return later that day, my innocence would be lost, ripped and shattered.
2:25 PM. The school bell rang and Nelson and I rushed out. We walked home laughing and talking up a storm, crunching the autumn leaves on the gavel beneath our shoes. We got to the fork where he went left and I went right. We bid farewell and I vividly remember to this very day how much I couldn’t wait to get home from school just so I could play Doom for the 1,000th time. Shoot, I was already daydreaming about firing the rocket launcher on the two Barons of Hell on the Phobos Anomaly map. Nothing was better than coming home from a long school day, tossing your backpack off, and wading over to the computer room where your most favorite video games resided. And I was deep in the middle of my daydreaming when I turned the corner and had the wind knocked out of me. There my house lied in the distance, with a police car parked in the driveway, and two policemen conversing with my mom. I ran over and my mom quickly embraced me, hugging me harder than she ever had in years, with tears streaming down her face. My eyes widened in terror when I looked straight ahead from the driveway, saw the front door wide open, and realized the mess that laid before us. We were robbed. They took nearly everything, including the computer and Doom. That day I didn’t just lose material things. That day I lost a large chunk of my innocence
September 1995. As some readers may recall from my Memories of Renting article, back in the day I did 90-95% of the game renting, and most of those times that I did, I was forced by my older brother to rent the titles HE liked. Well, in September of ’95 my bro surprised me one weekend when he left the house and came back with SNES Doom. He thought I would be happy but I was actually pissed. Seeing it, although it did have a cool red shell case, only reminded me of that fateful day where I lost my innocence. After playing it I was DISGUSTED with it. I couldn’t help but constantly compare it to its PC original. And under those given circumstances, I hated the SNES version with a burning passion. So much that I vehemently refused to play it for the rest of the weekend that we had the rental copy. My bro never mentioned it, but I think he was a little hurt by it. He made a nice gesture, but instead of gratitude I showed him contempt and annoyance. And that was the last game I can ever recall him renting for me…
December 14, 1996. Two full years after the initial release of Doom II, my dad took me to Staples one night. Yeah, some dads take their kids to Disneyland. Other parents take their kids to Universal Studios. Mine took me to friggin’ Staples. Hey, I’ll give the old man credit. Because on this night I saw a deal that blew my mind. There it was, Doom II, for only $4.97. I rubbed my eyes not once, not twice but trice. I thought maybe there was a 2 in front, or at least, surely a 1. But just $4.97?!?! I grabbed the box, flipped it over and read front and back 10 times over. Was this shareware? Was this April Fools? No, you fool, I thought to myself. It’s December 14, damnit. Holy shit. It was the real deal AND for a real deal. I snatched it up quicker than OJ Simpson driving away in his Bronco, and of course, at less than the cost of a #1 Big Mac combo meal, there was no way my pops could deny me this one. Maybe the old man knew. My brother and I always wanted Doom II two years ago, but we never got it. Now we were vindicated. When I got home and my bro saw the receipt, he just about fell over. I have kept the receipt all these years later. Thing of beauty when an awesome deal drops unexpectedly into your lap. Look at that up there. “YOU SAVED $25.02″ — damn sick! $5.36 for Doom II in 1996? Hey, it happened. Moral of the story… screw Disneyland. Next time I’m taking my kids to motherfukken STAPLES, bitch.
In 1999, after being out of the gaming scene for a year or two, I came back STRONG with the Sega Saturn (check out the previous blog post if you don’t believe me). But it wasn’t until 2001 that I became a diehard Saturn fanatic. I amassed a huge collection, and by 2005 was pretty much done with my collecting. Then I took a chance on the Japanese version of Saturn Doom, seeing as how it was released months AFTER the US reject. I was hoping that maybe, just maybe, the frame rate on the Japanese version would be improved. And it was! I recall fondly making usenet posts way back in the day (late ’90s to mid 2000s) on the old rec.video.sega newsgroup, spreading the news that the Japanese version was superior. Hell, I even created a YouTube account way back in December 2005 (yeah, when YouTube was just in its infancy) just to show off how improved the Japanese version’s frame rate was, compared to the lame version we received in the US. It was a discovery that no one had spoken of on the internet yet, and it felt like I was breaking some news there. I love the feeling of spreading obscure gaming knowledge. Man, those were the days… it’s amazing how different the internet has become in the last 10 years, but I digress.
On January 17, 2006, I returned to the SNES scene. I was a man on a mission. I was now a young adult longing for my childhood and to discover “new” gems I missed out on. I bought most of my wanted games in 2006; Doom was never on the original want list. I had some… ahem… sour memories of it you understand, and so never wanted to give it another shot. But finally, in 2010, I said what the hell. It’s time to face old demons [Well played for once -Ed.] and see what’s what. So I bought Doom, replayed it and did so this time with a clear open mind. And I was surprised to find out that I actually enjoyed it a good bit. I had a few four hour marathons with it where I tried my damndest to beat all of the 22 levels in one sitting (because they gave you no other choice). I’ll be damned. My opinion of SNES Doom did a complete 180. Taking it for what it is, I can’t help but marvel a bit at the fact that it’s even up and running on my Super Nintendo. It captures the essence and spirit of the original Doom pretty damn nicely, and that’s the bottom line. In many ways, I felt like I had come full circle with not only the SNES but with Doom as well.
Thankfully, by late 1995 the SNES’ kid friendly mantra of no blood had shifted. Games like Mortal Kombat II, released about one year prior, broke the mold. Doom without its grisly gore just wouldn’t be the same. The SNES port keeps the bloody mayhem intact at the very least. Because when you think of Doom, you instantly think of the carnage. Oh and…
FORMER SOLDIER: At one time you swapped war stories with this guy. Now he’s nothing more than a rotting, pistol-toting maggot. So waste this sucker without remorse. He stopped being your buddy a long time ago…
FORMER SERGEANT: Similar to above, but with more piss and vinegar. Packing a heavy duty shotgun, you best take these bald baddies out fast or they’ll do more than pelt you. Aim carefully, because if you miss that means you’re likely eating some damage. You need every last health point!
IMP: When you think of imps, you might think of a small hideously cute thing that is sneaky and mischievous. Think again! This bastard heaves fireballs down your throat and will claw the hell out of you up close. It’s time to find a shotgun.
DEMON: Yes, finally, an enemy with no long range weapon. That’s the good news. The bad news? It moves faster than you might think, and if it bites you, it’s gonna HURT. A LOT. The chainsaw works well on these bad boy, and saves the ammo.
CACODEMON: This big red bastard takes a lot of bullets to go down. It’s time to upgrade from the shotgun if you haven’t already. Cacodemons make a loud, nasty screech when they first see you or hear of your presence. They launch fireballs that pack a more potent punch than the imp’s. A chaingun works well since the rapid firing bullets prevent this vile creature from sprouting fireballs off at your head.
LOST SOUL: Maybe the Doom makers were fans of Ghost Rider? It flies around. It screams. It scorches. And it dies with a few well-placed shotgun shells.
BARON OF HELL: Ah, here’s the man. Er, demon, rather, I suppose. Deman? Sorry. I can write and reminisce about this goat-legged horned menace all day long. His debut at the end of Episode 1 has got to rank in the top 10 of all time as far as boss entrances go. It’s an image that has been burned into my retina for over 20 years now. There was nothing like staring at the two pods knowing hell is coming.
CYBERDEMON: Remember the first time you ever laid eyes on this bastard? You thought the Barons of Hell were bad news. This guy is basically death on two legs. From his heavy stomps to his lightning-quick rockets coming straight for your head, the Cyberdemon is the stuff nightmares are made of. Before Resident Evil had the Tyrant, Doom had the Cyberdemon. He was a hulking weapon of mass destruction. ProTip: Shoot ’til it dies.
THE SPIDER MASTERMIND: Ever since I was a kid, I hated spiders. Just hate the buggers. They make my skin crawl. So when I first came across the Spider Mastermind, I probably screamed like a little girl [I have no doubt you did -Ed.]. Thank goodness for small favors — at least ol’ Spidey wields a chaingun and not the plasma gun. That’s one big motherfukken spider, indeed.
With such deadly demons and maniacal monsters milling about the hellhole, you’re going to need more than quick feet and wit to survive this apocalypse. You’re gonna need top-of-the-line artillery to give you even a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning. Which brings us to…
You start the game out with your fist and a standard military-issue pistol. You better find some upgrades quickly or you’ll become dinner even quicker!
CHAINSAW: Anyone who has ever seen the Texas Chainsaw Massacre will smile at the inclusion of this death instrument. Perfect for confined areas, the chainsaw will bring out the Leatherface in you. The only bad thing is it doesn’t actually slice demons in two. Guess you can’t have it all.
SHOTGUN: One of the most iconic and memorable weapons in video gaming history. Blowing away zombie soldiers and imps with the shotgun was immensely satisfying. From the sound effect to the reloading animation, the shotgun delivers the good.
CHAINGUN: Take your pistol’s puny bullets, and pump them out rapid fire, and suddenly you’ve got a formidable weapon of choice. Pull the trigger and watch the monsters of Hell do one hell of a dance number.
ROCKET LAUNCHER: Pure destruction. A specialty weapon in every respect of the word, this can either make your day, or make your grave. Few things rival the sheer joy of watching demons explode into a quivering bloody mess. Just make sure you’re not standing nearby!
PLASMA GUN: The “perfect” weapon. The plasma gun has it all: speed, strength and style. As an added bonus, it’s just strong enough to potentially blow the weaker enemies into tiny bloody bits — making this the preferred weapon of Doom 90% of the time.
THE BFG 9000: Here is the mother of all shooting game guns.. the BIG FUCKIN’ GUN. Excuse my language, but with a weapon this destructive, it simply cannot be censored or contained. It eats up a lot of ammo, but fire this baby and admire how it can take out an entire room of demons. Besides, any gun that can kill a Baron of Hell in one shot is definitely badass.
KNEE-DEEP IN THE DEAD
THE SHORES OF HELL
“I THINK I’M TURNING JAPANESE, I REALLY THINK SO!”
Years ago I happened to wonder whether the Japanese version of SNES Doom was any different than its US counterpart. The reasons being twofold. Number one: I recall fondly discovering that the Japanese version of Sega Saturn Doom was released later than its US version and had an improved frame rate. What really hampers SNES Doom in my opinion is the complete lack of a password or save system. At least Wolfenstein 3D gave us passwords level to level. That increases the likelihood that I’ll tinker with a game long after I’ve finished it. It’s always fun to go back to a random level and muck around, after all. Well, SNES Doom afforded you no such luxury. You had to beat the game in one sitting. All 22 levels. That’s a 3-5 hour task for most. It’s just too much. So when I found out the Japanese version of SNES Doom was released in March 1996, a full six months after the US release, I became real curious. Scouring the net for information, I read that the Japanese version does indeed have some noteworthy differences compared to the American version — making the Japanese version superior. Unfortunately, the frame rate remains much the same, but there were still some pretty cool differences. Here, let’s take a closer look at the two versions.
In a nutshell, the main difference between the Japanese and North American version is that the NA port restricts which episode you can start off in. Sure, you can start off in The Shores of Hell or Inferno on the NA port, but the game punishes you by forcing you to select Ultra Violence or Nightmare. And since you start off an episode with only your bare hands and a pistol, it’s essentially a suicide mission. You might as well forget about even trying.
The Japanese version, on the other hand, allows you to start on the last episode even on the easiest difficulty level (I’m Too Young To Die). Although it’s still lacking a save or password system, at least it helps to SOMEWHAT mitigate this glaring flaw of having to beat all 22 levels in one sitting. For this fact alone, the Japanese version is the one to get for diehard SNES fans who simply must have Doom in their 16-bit game library.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
PC Doom needs no backing. Its place in gaming history has long been cemented, and it’ll be fondly remembered long after all of us are gone. But how did the Super Nintendo port fare? For the most part, people either backed it or they hated it. Gamers either cited the port as an incredible 16-bit effort and a small miracle, or bashed it, questioning the reasoning behind even bringing this over to the SNES as late in its lifespan as it did. EGM was in the latter camp, as they gave it mediocre scores of 5, 5, 5.5, and 6. GameFan was plenty more generous and impressed, rating it 89, 92 and 95%. Super Play Magazine scored it 92%and ranked it as the 17th best SNES game in their Top 100 Best SNES Games list. SNES Doom was one of those love or hate affairs. You either get it for what it is, or hate it for what it isn’t.
As I sit here thinking of the times I’ve had with DOOM over the years, both good and bad, I can’t help but just smile. Doomblazed an amazing trail. It was the first game that really made me feel like I was the character himself. It was an intense, gripping and unrivaled experience. Doom always had me on the edge of my seat. The SNES version is one that I have grown to appreciate and genuinely like as time has gone on. When I first played it in ’95 I thought it was a steaming pile of horse crap. But when I revisited it years later as a young adult, I realized it’s no small programming feat, and when viewed entirely on its own, it’s actually quite good. It captures the spirit and essence of Doom nicely, and that’s what ultimately matters. Graphics took a hit, naturally, but are still serviceable. On the bright side, the music is stellar! It really adds to the tense atmosphere of the game.
Other than the annoying few instances where you creep along a wall and get “stuck” to it, the game plays surprisingly well. It’s by no means the definitive version of Doom, but for the SNES it’s impressive. There seems to be two camps: those who enjoy SNES Doom, and those who hate it. It depends on whether you look at it for what it is, or if you look at it for what it isn’t. When I first played the SNES version in 1995, I was looking at everything it wasn’t, compared to the original PC king. But when I replayed it some 15 years later, I did so consciously from a posture of “Let’s see what it does do well rather than what it doesn’t.” And I found myself pleasantly surprised when approaching it from that angle. While I still prefer the SNES port of Wolfenstein 3D (it plays a bit more smoothly), I genuinely feel that this port of Doom doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Although I understand where the critics are coming from, I like to view it from this perspective: is Doom a quality Super Nintendo game or not? My answer to that is a resounding yes. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go blast some demon ass to Kingdom Come!
There’s something special about the earliest SNES titles. That first wave of first generation games… games in which developers dipped their toes into 16-bit water for the very first time. Looking back at those early games is very nostalgic for me, as I remember the time well. The 8-bit NES was still alive and kicking in late 1991, and the SNES was just beginning its run here in the US. It was an interesting time of playing your dear old favorite NES while slowly exploring what the SNES could do. One of the earliest titles on the SNES was an action RPG by the name of Lagoon. Developed by Zoom and published by Kemco, Lagoon hit the 16-bit market in December of 1991. Now the last SNES game I reviewed was the epochal Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Gamers in America didn’t get that one until April 1992. So, we had to make do with Lagoon, which was the first ARPG on the SNES North American market. And it came with mostly negative reviews, although there is a small camp of Lagoon backers. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind to the beginning…
THE YEAR WAS 1991
At this point in time I wasn’t one for ARPGs or RPGs in general. Those genres were never my thing. My older brother enjoyed them, but I wanted more “immediate gratification.” I didn’t stray far from my platformers and beat ‘em ups. But upon seeing this ad in late 1991 in a GamePro Magazine, I actually wanted to play an action RPG for the first time in my life. I remember being drawn in by the various grotesque looking creatures and demons. The two in-game shots blew my eight-year-old mind. The green orbs seemed to bounce around in my mind and the ghoulish boss on the right was the stuff nightmares are made of. I was instantly intrigued. But of course, Lagoon became like about 300 other SNES games from my youth. As many titles as I played from 1991-1995 or so, there were so many more I always wanted to try out but never did.
One of the best things about this hobby is the ability to finally play all those games you were curious about from your youth. Even though Lagoon has a less than stellar reputation within the retro gaming community, I was still curious to check it out for myself. After all, you never know for sure how you feel about a game until you’ve played it yourself.
THE STORY GOES…
Players start out in Atland. Gather some clues from the locals to figure out what’s next on the agenda. It’s very simple stuff, and an ideal ARPG for novices.
An interesting aspect of Lagoon is how unlike many other games of the genre, when you enter a building here you don’t necessarily enter it. In most cases, there is no interior. You just get this type of scene. At first it was a little jarring, and I felt like I was getting robbed. This element gives off a vibe of low budget, but after a while I came to appreciate it. One could view this low budget move as a time saver and the game getting down to the nitty gritty. I came to actually not mind it, which isn’t a great compliment, but for this game and its world, it somehow works.
The shop system is very straight forward and things never get too cluttered.
Equipping weapons and armor is as easy as 1-2-3.
Eventually you find your way to the Mayor’s house where he sheds some light to you. Which is ironic considering you’re the Champion of LIGHT, but I digress. Hey, we all need help on the journey of life (and saving kingdoms, of course). After a bit of chit-chat you realize that Giles is in trouble. His parents named him Giles after having nine months to think about it.
I know, they had nine months to think of a name and…
What’s up with demons and caves, anyway? Well, it’s a good thing we’re armed with a sword that would make Link and the Master Sword proud…
Wait a second! Er, what the HELL is that? Yes, one of the biggest complaints about Lagoon is the incredibly pathetic butter knife you wield. Some sword, huh?
Expect to see this a lot early on. You’ll try to swipe at the enemy, but instead it’ll miss and you’ll end up eating damage. It’s easy to stop here and say, “Man this game blows!” But stick with it a while and realize the trick is not to go on the offensive but rather, wait back and let them come to you.
Once you do that, Lagoon becomes playable and actually somewhat enjoyable. Sure it’s a gameplay flaw, but nobody ever said this game was perfect. It’s just a different type of combat than what most folks are used to.
If you can put up with the short length of Nasir’s “sword,” then Lagoon isn’t a bad game. The dungeons never get too big and confusing, and the game is a pretty simple straight forward ARPG.
One of the best aspects about Lagoon is the ability to save the game anywhere. This makes it an ideal game to play for 15, 20 minutes right before bed. Before you know it, you will have beaten it. Not like it’s a long adventure to begin with, either.
It’s fun to keep an eye on your status. Leveling up increases all of your stats, and there’s a certain satisfaction in watching your character grow stronger by the step. In addition, if you’ve taken damage, simply stand still and Nasir will automatically recover. It’s a pretty cool feature that makes Lagoon that much easier to beat. His magic points will also recover in a resting state. Give it a chance and pretty soon you’ll be hitting a sweet little rhythm of waiting for enemies to run into your sword, resting if need be, checking your status on occasion and repeat. I found it oddly addicting.
Tougher enemies soon appear, giving you more experience points when killed. There’s a definite simplicity to Lagoon that I appreciate.
The best part of Lagoon is hands down the music. It’s the one aspect of this game that is almost always universally praised. It’s funny… in that sense it reminds me a lot of Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest. Both games have a poor reputation but it’s generally agreed upon that the soundtrack rocks. Although Mystic Quest has a slightly better reputation than Lagoon and is the better, more redeeming game.
While the game is far from great, there IS a certain sense of satisfaction roaming the dungeons, killing the monsters, and rocking out to the awesome soundtrack.
Ah, it’s nice to see the sky and smell the air again after being in that dank, decrepit dungeon. Go on to find Giles.
I hope you found the Healing Pot prior. Otherwise you’ll have to do some backtracking and that’s never too fun.
After rescuing Giles, you’re not done yet. You have to guide him back to Atland. This son of a bitch moves like a grandma. If you go too fast he might get confused and lost, so always keep him in the line of sight.
Ah! Move it, you bastard! Thankfully, Giles can’t be hurt even if the enemies touch him. Weird. You would think then that he wouldn’t need you to save him. Shoot, if I were invincible too, the things I could do! Freaking Giles. This must be a rib or something.
Yes, I’m interested in acquiring Little Samson for the NES. And yes, I know it’s a DEMON of a game on the ol’ wallet. Thanks for nothing, old lady!
Now you can open the gateway to access Samson, the game’s first boss.
Shoot, I’m not surprised. With all the crazy dollars that collectors are throwing at Samson these days, one would think he got a little too big-headed for his own good!
Oh shit. You mean, you’re notLittle Samson, as in the NES game? Heh, my bad. I’ll just head back out and close the door. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, big red scary guy…
Yeah, that’s just not a fair fight. God damn it… this is all messed up.
Samson sheds his helmet once he’s weakened up some. And it’s not a pretty sight, folks. In fact, I dare call it an eyesore…
Once conquered, Samson screams like an elephant, oddly enough. You get some fancy little explosion pixels going off all over him.
For your troubles you get your very first magic spell: the Fire Crystal.
This allows you to shoot fireballs, giving you a much welcomed long range attack. It eats up magic points but as I stated earlier, your MP recovers in a resting state. It definitely helps to flesh out the gameplay of Lagoon, making the pathetic short sword less annoying.
Hey wait a damn second here… where have I seen you before…
So you’re telling me there is a Princess, and she was kidnapped. Riiiight…
After Atland you head to the town of Voloh. Here you’ll meet a strange cat by the name of Thor. He’ll enlist your help to find the tablets.
As you progress in the game it’s fun to see the length of your energy bar increase as you continually level up.
There are your typical fire and ice dungeons to navigate and work through. The graphics aren’t anything to write home about, even back in late 1991 when it came out, but they’re alright and serviceable enough.
One thing I’ve always been a sucker for in video games are the mini-bosses, or the regular bad guys that are bigger and tougher than the rest of the regular bad guys. They look intimidating, but aren’t TOO hard to defeat. And yet they’re always satisfying to kill every single time. Lagoon does a decent job of throwing small, medium and even big monsters your way.
The bosses were intimidating due to a combination of their size, their menacing sprite work, your puny sword and their massively long health bar. They might be tough at first, but nothing you can’t work around with a little persistence. It’s just a matter of finding their sweet spots. Although it should be noted that during boss battles you can’t heal or use your magic. This could lead to some frustrating moments.
By the end of the game your health bar should be as long as theirs. Speaking of which, it took me 11 hours to beat Lagoon on my first attempt. It’s a game one could probably beat in under 10 hours (I like to grind here and there). So it’s definitely on the shorter side, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The game moves along at a brisk pace, much like Mystic Quest. In that way it never wears out its welcome. It’s an easy title to pick up and play. Saving anywhere is a big bonus, as you can always pace yourself rather than being at the mercy of having to go to an inn to save.
There are plenty of weird locales to hit up, and some entertaining NPC’s to interact with when you’re not bashing baddies and blowing through dungeons.
As an aside, I also remember Lagoon for being the first game I played following the Teacher’s Fair in March of 2012. At the time I was teaching part time and acting in a Broadway-esque play. My goal was to become a full time teacher. I gathered my portfolio earlier that morning, put on my best suit and shook hands all day long following a two hour morning rehearsal. It was a memorable time in my life as I was living out my passion (acting) while pursuing my real life goal of becoming a full time teacher. Later that night, with over 500 SNES games from which to choose, I picked Lagoon. The urge to finally quell this longstanding childhood curiosity overcame me at long last. So anytime I think of Lagoon, I’m instantly transported back to that exciting time in my life. And yes, I got a full time position thanks to attending that Teacher’s Fair. I’m still teaching at the same school, going on five years. Man, where does the time go?
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Lagoon was not well received by the public. Most panned it, calling it a frustrating and boring Zelda clone. Super Play Magazine gave Lagoon a score of 56%when it hit the UK mindbogglingly late in May of 1993. On Youtube there are two excellent video reviews of this game which I highly recommend viewing. One is from The CG Dudes and the other is from Stop Skeletons From Fighting (formerly known as The Happy Video Game Nerd). Both video reviews pretty much sum up my feelings toward this game.
Lagoon is far from a hidden gem, but far from a dud as well. A lot of people dislike it, and they’re well within their bounds to do so. However, I feel a lot of the hatred toward this game is due to a lack of understanding rather than anything else, as the game itself is fairly manageable once you get the nuances down and operate within that world. Such qualifiers are signs of a flawed game, sure, but not an entirely wasteful effort. I’ve played plenty worse on the Super Nintendo. Once I understood the mechanics of the game and employed the best strategies, I had a pretty good time making my way through this early first generation SNES title.
The magic spells really open the game up, and make killing the monsters much easier. I didn’t have to worry about the puny butter knife so much, and shooting various projectiles at enemies across the screen became rather addicting. If you’re looking for something new on your SNES and you’ve already beaten the rest, give Lagoon a chance. It’s a quick action RPG that can hold you over for a week or two. It’s rather flawed, but not without some “first generation charm.”
Today, April 13, 2016, marks 24 years since The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past graced the North American gaming world. Widely regarded as one of the best SNES titles around (if not THE best in many circles), it’s also considered one of the best video games of all time, period. When I got back into all things Super Nintendo over 10 years ago, I did so with two main goals in mind. The first was to relive my childhood. And the second? To right the wrongs from my past. In many ways it was the closest thing to having a time machine. There were so many SNES games I wanted to play back in the day but never did.Along with Super Metroid, A Link To The Past was atop my list of games to play and beat. I finally played through Super Metroid and finished it on February 10, 2007. It was ah-mazin’. Looking at my collection for the next game to play, I knew it had to be A Link To The Past. So it was. On February 20, 2007, I began my trek to Hyrule, and what a trek it was…
LEGEND HAS IT…
It’s a calm and cool night in Kakariko Village. Just like any other night. On the surface, at least. But dig a little deeper… put your head to the ground… stand entirely still and listen to the howling of the wind… the leaves dancing on the twisted tree branches… something is happening. Something is coming. Nightfall quickly approaches and the stars are out tonight in full force. Suddenly the wind whips the weathercock viciously, the elders cease work on their farms and quickly rush inside to take cover. A loud rumbling can be heard from the far distance, getting closer and closer with each passing second. An ominous banshee-like scream cuts through the night sky like piercing sirens.
Link arrives but oh woe is he, for the young lad is too late! The moon completes its destiny, shedding tears of pain all over Hyrule, transforming the landscape of the peaceful villages. People turn into monsters. Crops die. Dogs turn into ducks. And so forth.
And the prophecy is coming true…
WAIT A SECOND!
[You got it all wrong, ya git! -Ed.]
Right. Let’s start at the very beginning… the first Zelda on the NES, then…
[NO, NO, NO!Let’s try this one more time -Ed.]
Alright, I’m sober now. Let’s do this for real…
Although The Legend of Zelda appeared first in the series of Zelda adventures, it actually takes place many years after the third game. In this time, Hyrule had declined, becoming a rustic land with only a few remaining signs of its earlier glory. The land was overrun, and Ganon was to blame. At the heart of the conflict lay a missing piece of the Triforce and Princess Zelda.
When Princess Zelda discovered that Ganon had acquired a piece of the Triforce, she broke the Triforce of Wisdom into eight pieces and hid them. She knew a hero was needed to challenge Ganon, so she sent her nurse, Impa, to search the land, even as Zelda herself was captured. During her quest, Impa long evaded Ganon’s reach, but in a forest glade she too fell into his clutches and would have been killed if not for the heroic actions of a passing youth named Link. Once the villains had been driven away, Impa told the young man about Zelda’s secret. Then, unable to hold back her tears, she told him how the Princess had been taken captive.
Link’s heart burned with passion, and he pledged to defeat Ganon and rescue the Princess. He set off at once, knowing only that he had to collect the eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom. At every turn in the path he met waves of monsters from Ganon’s unholy army. They challenged him in battle.
Link’s first task was to find the hidden dungeons where Zelda had secretly hidden the divided Triforce. Many of the entrances were disguised, and only by using all of his wits and the scraps of hints that he picked up along the way was he able to succeed. Inside each dungeon he met countless enemies, for Ganon’s minions had taken hold of even the most remote chambers.
In the end Link was able to gather all eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom, then he scaled Death Mountain and gained entrance to Spectacle Rock. Ganon’s great maze dwarfed any that Link had previously encountered. In a hidden chamber, he discovered a magical Silver Arrow and, taking the prize, he came face-to-face with Ganon himself. The battle between youthful hero and villainous miscreant raged across the chamber, unaffected by the cuts of Link’s sword. As Link began to tire, he tried a last desperate strategy, putting the Silver Arrow to the test. The bowstring sang and the arrow flew straight. Ganon was destroyed!
With the defeat of Ganon, Link’s mind turned to the purpose that had driven him here — the rescue of Princess Zelda. One final chamber stood before him. Link pushed ahead. Here Zelda greeted him and the pieces of the Triforces of Power and Wisdom were reunited.
With the destruction of Ganon and the power of the Triforce restored, peace reigned once more in Hyrule. Princess Zelda now ruled the land, and the country prospered. It seemed as if the shadow of Ganon had been destroyed forever. But Link remained ever vigilant. Wherever Link roamed, he looked for signs of Ganon’s return, for he could not believe that he had truly banished evil from the land.
THE LEGEND CONTINUES
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link takes place several years after The Legend of Zelda. An older, taller and perhaps wiser Link has seen the country prosper. But peace is a fragile commodity in Hyrule and history has a way of repeating itself.
Marked by the sign on his hand, Link was destined to become a hero. But in the peaceful days following his first quest, he became restless. He combed through the forests, crossed the deserts and delved into the caverns of Hyrule, looking for clues to explain his feelings of unease. In time he became aware of a whisper that passed between the birds, beasts, and even the blades of grass: there was a new magic in the land… a new magic nameless and terrifying.
Lying as still as a marble, Princess Zelda slept the dreamless sleep of enchantment. When Link found her in the North Palace, he saw at once that she was spellbound. His greatest fear had come to pass. By refusing to reveal the secret power of the Triforce to a wizard, Zelda had brought on her own downfall. But not all was lost. If Link could somehow unlock the mystery of the Great Palace, then he could save Zelda and the Triforce of Courage to boot.
Again Link took to the fields and forests, but these places had become wild and dangerous, inhabited by enemies of old. Link found himself relying on his wits and swordplay at every step. Creatures he had never before seen also waylaid him: spiders called Deelers that dropped from the trees, tall Geldarms that rose from the sands of the Tantari Desert, and of course the Moblins, armed with spears and hatred.
Link’s mission? Enter each of the six palaces and restore a missing crystal to a statue. Together the statues created a magical lock on the Great Palace. Only by replacing the six crystals could Link open the final door. In each palace, however, he had to battle a Statue Guardian of great strength: Barba the Dragon, Ironknuckle the Knight, Carock the Wizard and many other nasty surprises awaited our youthful hero.
Link came across many strange looking statues and structures. Some had switches that only the brave, OR the foolish, would pull.
As he closed the palaces off one by one, Link crossed the whole of Hyrule, from Ruto in the northwest to Death Mountain in the south, from the Island Palace in the Stormy Straights to Maze Island in the Far Eastern Sea. He helped villagers whenever he could, but he never lost sight of his ultimate goal. Finally, after uncovering the secrets of Old Kasuto, Link pushed on to the Great Palace where he met the Thunderbird.
Once the Thunderbird was vanquished, Link thought that Zelda and Hyrule would be saved, but it was not to be… not yet. Exhausted from his journey, Link had one more enemy to defeat — an enemy so unexpected that he did not know what to do, for the enemy was his own shadow.
THE LEGEND GROWS
Back in the mists of time, before the era of The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link, Hyrule was a land of fabulous palaces and magic. It was also a troubled land, and the divisions of Light and Dark were tearing it apart. The origins of this conflict lay even deeper in the shadows of time, with the coming of the Triforce and the greed of Ganondorf, King of Thieves.
To comprehend Hyrule and Link’s desperate quest, one must first know the ancient legend of the Triforce. In the Golden Land, where it was placed by the creators of the world, the Triforce beckoned to people. Ganon and his band of thieves long searched for the secret entrance to the Golden Land, eventually stumbling upon it. Then Ganon defeated his fellows for possession of the Triforce.
In a period known as the Imprisoning War, the King of Hyrule brought seven wise men together to seal the door to the Golden Land, for Ganon’s evil power had been spilling forth, causing corruption and darkness. The once peaceful land became a place of dreadful rumors of the coming of a magical enemy. At this time the Master Sword was forged, but there was no hero valiant enough to wield it.
Before the wise men could seal off the Golden Land and the Triforce, Ganon’s army surged into Hyrule and besieged the castle. The knights of Hyrule fought heroically, but the power of the Triforce controlled their enemies, giving them inhuman strength. The battle raged back and forth. Many foes fell in the tide of battle, but too many knights perished as well. It seemed that they were beyond hope.
Then, at the end of the day, the wise men finally succeeded in blocking the door to Ganon’s Realm. With the power of their master removed, the enemies fled or threw themselves into the moat. Hyrule was saved and over the years the Golden Land, which then became known as the Dark World, faded from collective memory.
While the people of Hyrule forgot about the Dark World, the master of that evil land had not. Ganon brooded in his prison, surrounded by reminders of his fall. He grew ever more bitter as the dark years passed like the wailing of cold wind on a winter’s night. Ambition burned in his eyes. He vowed to one day return to power.
Many centuries passed with Ganon and the Triforce safely locked away. Then the disasters began: plague, drought, quakes and fire. The King sought sage advice and a wizard named Agahnim stepped forth, ending the strange disasters. He became a powerful advisor to the King, but he kept his true plans to himself…
It seemed like a Golden Age, but it wouldn’t last.
Once Agahnim had consolidated his power, he began to abuse it. First to fall victim were the ancestors of the seven wise men. The wizard imprisoned six maidens in crystal cocoons, never to be seen again. Then Princess Zelda herself was captured as she sent a telepathic plea into the night. The Hylian gift that enabled Zelda to send her message also allowed Link to hear her.
Having received Zelda’s message, Link felt compelled to save her, but his uncle forbade him to leave the house. Link’s uncle thought that the lad’s courage outweighed his common sense, yet he knew that something had to be done to save the princess. Turning away from Link, he gripped his sword. He knew a secret entrance into the castle, although he didn’t know the way out.
Link couldn’t tell how much time had passed since his Uncle had left — a minute? An hour? The only thing he knew was that Zelda had spoken to him. He could bear sitting around no longer. Taking a lamp to light his way, Link stepped out into the lashing rain and headed toward the castle.
As Link floundered about in the storm, he heard a second telepathic message from Zelda telling of a secret route into the castle. When he found the entrance, he also found his uncle inside, wounded and unable to carry on. Link took his Uncle’s sword and promised to return…
KEY ITEMS AND ABILITIES
Here are some of the cool things Link can do. You’ll be doing lots of this, and as you’d expect from Nintendo, the control is crisp and feels spot on. So far, so good!
And here are some of the items you must find in order to complete your quest. Some have multiple uses, some are one and done, while others act as teleporting devices! Nice.
The Magic Bottle is an awesome item. You can carry up to four and these babies can hold magic potions (recovering health, magic power or both), fairies (which if you have activated when you die, the fairy will escape the bottle and revive you there on the spot), etc. Can you find all four? Here’s my favorite of the four. A hobo trying to just see the light of tomorrow. I love how totally atmospheric this is and it gives Hyrule a real pulse.
Like I said earlier, many items serve multiple purposes, which speaks to Nintendo’s ability to make such playable games. The hookshot also acts as a potent offensive weapon!
Here, Link shows off the powers of the almighty Firerod.
The Goriya can be a tricky foe at first, but his pattern is actually simple, particularly in large open spaces. The green ones are a push over but the red ones are defiant with their scorching fireballs. Be sure you have a set of arrows on you and be prepare to move your feet.
Hmmm, I wonder what happens when you drop a bomb by damaged walls? Oh look this is just too hard. Back to my Rampage games, then.
Use your net to capture bees and store them in a bottle. They can be unleashed to help you battle Ganon’s minions. Did I mention how awesome the bottle is? And recall how items can serve multiple purposes. Did you know, in addition to the sword deflecting the magic of Agahnim, that the net ALSO works? Try it!
Hyrule is filled with cool legends and urban myths. Is the Tale of the Good Bee for real? Only weary travelers know for sure.
That little swirly spot is the mark of the Magic Mirror which allows you to go from the Light to Dark World. I love this shot. Just look at the billow of smoke blowing from the chimney, the little swords adorning the exterior, and hey, what would happen if you smash the stake down with the magic hammer?, Could you drop off the ledge into that opening down there… where would it lead? Hmmmm…
RAIN OVER ME
The opening scene, with the rain lashing down on Hyrule, is considered one of the most awe-inspiring gaming moments in 1992. It was simple, but it has stuck with many SNES players.
Your first goal is to head to Hyrule Castle, but you’ll need to find an alternative route…
One of the many great things about this game was that it wasn’t just a pure action game. You had to use your wits to progress throughout the game, making it all the more rewarding when you finally do conquer it.
Rescuing Princess Zelda is no easy job. First you must come to blows with the Ball and Chain Trooper. His demise comes with the prize of a big key. Congratulations, you’ve saved the damsel in distress and the game is over! Of course, wouldn’t be much of a game, so the silly lass gets kidnapped again. That wacky Miyamoto…
After you retrieve the three pendants (and solve a host of puzzles while killing tons of enemies), make your way to the Lost Woods and see if you can’t find the mythical Master Sword. Be careful, the Lost Woods is home to weird creatures, thieves hiding behind bushes, and to make matters worse it’s filled with fog and lots of false swords. Can you find the Real McCoy?
The mist clears and the surrounding thieves quickly scramble for cover. No normal being can so easily extract the Master Sword like that. Whoever this Link was, they knew better than to mess with him. And with that, the adventure is only beginning…
THINGS TO FIND AND DO
In each dungeon a Big Key must be collected in addition to a host of other keys. I love how the Big Keys are kept in these large treasure chests. Therefore, it’s rather satisfying whenever you locate these bad boys.
Other treasure chests hold not keys, but valuable goodies. Link like, oh yes, Link like a lot.
You gain an extra heart for each boss defeated, but 24 hearts are scattered throughout Hyrule in the Light and Dark World. Collecting four gives you one full heart. Some are hidden underground, others high above ground. Be creative! Push and pull any weird looking tombstones, trees, etc. Can you find all 24 hearts?
There’s one! Random games can be played, at the price of some Rupees, and you just might find a piece of a heart in the process.
This is one of my favorite mini-games. It took me like 100 tries before I found the piece of heart! Worth it? YOU DAMN RIGHT!
Along the Swamp Ruins, Hyrule historians surmised that the civilization must have cultivated crops and practiced an early form of irrigation.
[They what? -Ed.]
Oh look, in layman terms this is another underground dungeon, but rather than being just another level, they lavished some feeling of history behind it to create its own unique world; such is the love that Miyamoto devoted into the game.
Before you arrive here you must get by the intricate stonework and maze-like garden of the Dark Palace, which features a unique monkey motif. Due to the passage of time the garden has become unpredictable and thus can prove to be difficult to navigate…
The only way to enter this dark catacomb was to flip a switch up top. But how can Link get up there? Hmmm. Talk about monkey business…
The very ominous looking Eastern Palace, with twin gargoyle heads adorning the courtyard, is even more frightening inside. Link entered the stark domain where he soon encountered materializing skeletons and slumbering giants. Here lies the almighty Bow, but it’ll awaken the deadly Armos Knights…
Nowhere in Hyrule was it safe. Agahnim’s guards patrolled the castle walls and even on the Sanctuary grounds.
Many strange places call Hyrule home. Few adventurers dare make the trek in some of the more suspicious looking entrances. Thieves carved out this opening in a huge, old redwood stump, then tunneled into the earth to create a cave. Rumor has it, no one who has entered has come out alive. Children are advised to stay far away. It’s even said that a man-eating goblin lives deep underground…
Speaking of ghouls and goblins, the Hyrulian Cemetery was full of legends and rumors. One of which was that the tombstones didn’t always hide bodies, but treasures. Will you go tramping around and risk the chance of disrupting the slumber of the dead? Who knows what spirits you might unleash… or what treasures you might find!
The lightning laser guards Agahnim’s Tower. Man, if only I could find something to break that pesky magical seal…
Link can see all over the land of Hyrule atop the pyramid, but an odd sense of clot overcame the young warrior. So he did not linger around for very long. But he also sensed, somehow, that he’d return to the pyramid sooner rather than later…
A tricky section, this. Rather than floors you have intricate catwalks. Torches could be lit via the Lamp or Firerod, and then Link would have to make haste to the next position where he could relight the flame before it flickers out. You could also use the Magic of Ether to briefly light the way or push a block created by the Cane of Somaria. Or, you could just study this picture.
Across the land of Hyrule there are several fortune tellers. Villagers whisper that these mysterious cloaked figures are not human, and that to enter their shops is to take your own life by the throat. In a quaint cottage near one entrance to the Lost Woods you can find one of them. For a price, she would stare into a magical crystal ball and tell what fate lies in your future. Some people took the predictions seriously and visited often, while others felt it was a waste of money and claimed their crops never grew again after the visit. Link did not believe in such silly superstitions, and knew that with each fortune telling he also had his health fully restored. So, how bad could the fortune teller really be?
Many trees litter the landscape of Hyrule. In the Light World they don’t present any sort of threat. But in the Dark World some timbers are rumored to speak. Explorers claim they’ve heard weird chants and believe these trees to be Golden Land sentries who were petrified by Ganon’s magic. Link came across hostile trees and could feel the power of Ganon growing by the step.
This mischievous monkey, known as KiKi, has strange powers and is in love with rupees. In exchange for a set amount, he promises to do a huge favor that will right your quest. But can he be trusted? Will he steal your money and scamper off high in the trees? If you say no, will he summon his primate pals in a revolt? It’s your call…
Life in the Mire is a nasty place. The Swamolas, believed to be the cousins of the Lanmolas, hid below the muck and slime, surfacing only to snatch a meal [Sounds a lot like my ex-wife… -Ed.]
The chickens are innocent harmless creatures, that is, until you attack one repeatedly. Then, it calls upon its buddies to revolt against you. Useless? Perhaps. Fun to mess around with? You betcha!
In the Dark World the Ghostly Garden was filled with evil, from the bomb chucking Hinox to the squirming blobs.
Don’t be fooled by the Hinox’s grin, he is one of the tougher regular baddies in the game. Thank goodness then that they only patrol the Dark World!
The electro-blobs can cause havoc in packs, especially in close quarters.
Can you find the blacksmith’s partner? Without him your sword cannot be tempered.
Finding the partner will require some wit and cunning skill. Nicely done.
Sahasrahla the village elder proves to be very helpful throughout your journey.
Zelda can communicate telepathically with Link through various panels found on the walls of the various dungeons. She offers handy tips to further your progress.
Fairy Fountains are a Godsend, re-energizing weary travelers to full strength.
Can you rescue all six trapped maidens?
Steve, the handsome hero, once again [Yeah, ONLY in video games -Ed.]
YOU AIN’T THE BOSS OF ME
Many boss battles take place throughout the adventure and I won’t spoil all of them, but here are some to feast your eyes on.
The Armos Knights look intimidating, but they’re a cakewalk. Three well-placed arrows will dispatch of each one, but the last one is double tough. Defeating them earns you the Pendant of Courage.
Moldorm guards the Mountain Palace and can be very tricky. If you fall over you must start over. I suffered this such fate several times before I got the best of old Moldy. Once you upset him, he starts slithering really fast. It’s almost disturbing in a “It shouldn’t LOOK LIKE THAT!” sort of way.
Blind the Thief is very sneaky. Finding him is half the battle. Good luck with that, friend.
Agahnim guards Hyrule Castle and has captured Zelda, the swine.
[Zelda or Agahnim? -Ed.]
Hmmm, both, really, come to think of it.
Hint: He can only be hurt by deflecting his magic. Why not try out the bug-catching net?
Oh Lord… this doesn’t look too good…
Vitreousguards the Misery Mire. It sees all, har har har. Watch out for the lightning this vile creature emits, and once the giant eye comes after you like such, hack away. Like most of the boss battles, it’s easy but nonetheless very satisfying to kill.
The fall of Vitreous sees you rescuing the sixth and final maiden. Finally, the location of Princess Zelda will then be disclosed.
Ooooh, that’s one nasty looking bugger.
The Helmasaur King is a big bad boy all right, and guards the double tough Dark Palace. He starts the battle out wearing a gigantic mask. The first step is to remove it, somehow…
Can you destroy the evil Ganon and save all of Hyrule? The quest awaits.
MY FAVORITE LEGEND
Link to the Past has plenty of legends, rumors and urban myths. It gives Hyrule a real heart beat, a real pulse. It’s the magic that only Nintendo and Miyamoto seem able to craft. I love almost all of them, but I have to share this one… the good ole LEGEND OF THE FLUTE PLAYER.
Witnesses have seen animals gather around a fading flute player in a grove in central Hyrule. Others claim they can hear the faint playing of a flute hauntingly swirling from the grove north of the Swamp. They would run in the direction of the sound and then find absolutely nothing. Silence fell over as they approached the stump. Suddenly the music would play again and they ran for their lives, convinced that the grove was haunted by an evil, restless spirit. And ever since, everyone knows of the location simply as THE HAUNTED GROVE.
One day, Link ran into the Haunted Grove to escape some of Agahnim’s soldiers. There he found one of the strangest sights he had ever seen in all of Hyrule. A ghost-like boy sat on a stump playing a flute. Surrounding the boy was a host of animals. When Link approached, the animals ran away and the boy vanished. Try as he might, he could not catch the animals or the boy. Link later discovered they were ghosts…
Later in his journey Link came across villagers who indulged the youth on the legend of the Flute Boy.
In the Dark World, the mystery of the Flute Boy was slowly but surely unraveling…
The Flute Boy gave Link his shovel. Now if Link could only find the lost flute…
Link got to work, in hopes he would find the Flute and discover its magical powers…
I won’t say how the tale of the Flute Boy plays out exactly, but it’s pretty sad. I grew quite fond of the bloke. Blast it to all heck.
THE TRUE STORY OF ZELDA — FINALLY UNCENSORED!
Stop the presses! I’ve got the scoop to end all, er, scoops! Hidden in the vaults of Nintendo Headquarters I have managed, through my adventurous and plucky spirit, to secure the DIRECTOR’S CUT of how the story REALLY plays out!
Take a look below.
Yoinks! Looks like when the pressure was on, his Master Sword broke… [Oh dear -Ed.]
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
EGM: 8, 9, 9, 9
Super Play: 93%
In their 100th issue, November 1997, EGM listed Link to the Past as the 3rd best game of all time.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE SHIGSTER
[Don’t call me that ever again -Mr. Miyamoto]
Credit Super Play Magazine (a UK Super Nintendo publication that ran from 1992-1996) and Onn Lee of Electric Brain fanzine for their conversation below with Zelda mastermind Shigeru Miyamoto! Circa November ’92.
Shigeru Miyamoto has the golden touch. He’s directly responsible for both the Zelda and Mario series of games developed at Nintendo’s ‘Entertainment Analysis And Development’ department in Japan, making him perhaps the most important games creator at work in the world today. When a piece of software sells 10,000 copies in Japan it is considered a hit, but many Mr. Miyamoto has been involved with have shifted millions, as well as become household names worldwide. It all puts him rather in the super-league. Here’s a conversation recorded with Mr. Miyamoto earlier this year.
What exact role do you take in the games development process?
SM: I don’t actually do any of the programming, but I am involved in organizing the programming teams. Instead of imposing deadlines, I find that constant encouragement of your staff is the best way to keep them going. Perhaps it’s one of the reasons for our success.
Are the Super Famicom and SNES versions of Zelda III the same?
SM: Because the SFC version completely used up all 8 megabits of memory, we originally estimated that we’d need another megabit to cope with the text being translated into English for the American game. That being the case we’d need a 9 megabit cartridge for America, but wouldn’t be using up all the space on it, so we toyed with squeezing in a few of the spare ideas left out of Zelda 1 to fill up the space. In the event, though, we managed to fit the English version onto 8 megabits anyway, so any ideas like that went out the window. So yes, both versions should be exactly the same.
When was Zelda III originally meant to be released?
SM: We were hoping to release it at the time the Super Famicom itself first came out, back in November 1990 alongside Super Mario World. We couldn’t make that, so after that a March ’91 release was planned, but the project dragged on beyond that, too. Eventually it became a Super Famicom first anniversary release instead.
How many people actually worked on the game?
SM: We started with just a handful for about a year, but then added more as things progressed. Basically the small team works out a rough draft plan, and the large team refines this into a game.
What kinds of things did you have in mind when planning the new game?
SM: We wanted to improve on all the shortcomings of the 8-bit games that had been imposed on us by the technical limitations of the Famicom. In the 8-bit Zelda the player had to imagine a lot of effects that the graphics couldn’t simulate. Also, back in 1987 Zelda had introduced lots of new features to games, like the ability to save your game and buy items, but in the meantime these had become the bog-standard components of any RPG. We knew that to keep ahead of the pack, Zelda III needed more.
How difficult did you want to make Zelda III?
SM: On average it takes about 40 hours to complete, but the fastest recorded time at Nintendo is five hours! We’ve actually tried to make it as easy as possible. The way the game is structured you can’t take alternative routes to finish the game, so we’ve made it that, for example, if you come across a blocked passage you will be able to progress further, even if you have forgotten a certain item. If mainstream gamers could cope with less linear adventures, though, we might have made it a lot harder.
Is it true that loads of brilliant ideas had to be dropped because of a shortage of memory space?
SM: No, we dropped the average ideas and picked the best!
And finally, how about the future?
SM: I can’t discuss new games at the moment, but we’ve got lots of plans, at least one of which is along the same lines as Pilotwings[And that, as one might guess, became most likely….Star Fox -Ed.]
Thanks once again to Super Play Magazine and Onn Lee!
Interesting that Shigs [Oh forget it -Mr. Miyamoto] mentioned the average of 40 hours. Here’s how I fared on my first go ever…
As you can see, Turtle Rock and Dark Palace gave me the most fits. Most Zelda III players complain about Turtle Rock and Ice Palace. Ice Palace wasn’t too bad for me. I had a night class at 7 PM and had an hour to kill. I decided to tackle Ice Palace and ended up beating it just in time before class started. Nothing beats that I tells ya! Ah, good times.
On Sunday evening, March 11, 2007, 19 days after I started Link to the Past, I dethroned Ganon and finally liberated Hyrule.It was bittersweet in some respect. Sure it was nice seeing the land blossom again and what have you, but a part of me wanted just one more dungeon to work through, one more boss to decimate, one more item to procure, one more heart piece to discover, one more mini-game to play and one more urban legend to solve. It was 30 hours of bliss, and the more I progressed the more the game grew on me, until it nearly consumed me, making me even all the more shameful I waited 15 years to finally play through this. Ah, to live and learn eh?
Every little touch in this game is just great. The hobo taking cover under the bridge, the tale of the quarreling brothers, the bedridden boy, the legend of the Flute Player, the witch, all the dungeons and bosses… there is so much to do and take in. And take it in you will. Not nearly enough games reach the level that Link to the Past did. And what a shame that is. This is more than a game — it’s an EXPERIENCE. Corny and cliche, but true. Take it from a converted fan of this genre, I am just beginning to discover the joy this type of game can generate. It’s not immediately satisfying perhaps, but it doesn’t take long before the quest takes over your every waking moment. After I beat the Ice Palace I ran to my night class. As my professor lectured on and on about BICS and CALP, I could only find myself thinking about what horrors the Misery Mire would bring, and counting down the hours until class would end. Is this the sign of a truly captivating game, or a truly sick man? Probably both.
Further proof of the latter… something disturbed me deeply regarding the theme of the Dark World. Play through that again and TRY TO TELL ME that the theme doesn’t sound like the infamous Saturday Night Live music skit DICK IN A BOX!
[Uh yeah, reminder to self: edit that out…. -Ed.]
Any complaints? Well, there is a hint of slowdown here and there, like the boss fight with Mothula f’rinstance. And while it’s relatively clear what you need to do next, a few of the puzzles are slightly, in my opinion, obscure and can be tough to figure out if playing guide-free. The incessant beep that plays when you’re on your last heart is annoying. These are minor quips though, quite frankly. Other than that, it’s hard to find a real flaw in the armor.
Zelda III was released in Japan on November 21, 1991, exactly one year after the Super Famicom made its debut. The American release was held back for six months. When it finally did appear it sold 250,000 copies in the first six weeks — faster than any other Nintendo game in history! If by some crazy chance you’ve yet to play Link to the Past, then I hope you make it a priority to do so. I still have a lot of classics I need to go through, and I can only hope they’re half as good as this.
Yes, Link to the Past is worth all the hype. You cannot call yourself a Super Nintendo fan, hell, forget that, you can’t call yourself a VIDEO GAME fan until you’ve played through this fine masterpiece. One of the best games on the Super Nintendo, heck, on any system ever. Magic, mystery, action, loads of multi-purpose items, puzzles, giant guardians, huge sprawling mazes, it’s got the lot! An epic hall of fame adventure you simply must go through at least once, if not twice, before you die.
It’s no secret that the SNES lacks in the abundance of “mature games.” The Genesis is more well known for its darker, grittier games while the SNES is often seen as the system with super colorful, bright, “cutesy” type games. With furry critters, mascot platformers galore and cute mannerisms when said mascot is idle. However, that doesn’t mean the system was completely devoid of mature games. One of the very finest in that department is BLACKTHORNE. Players assume control of Kyle Blackthorne, an elite badass mercenary who is easily one of the coolest protagonists in 16-bit history. As a kid playing this you couldn’t help but feel so BADASS carrying a sawed-off shotgun and blasting goblins to Kingdom Come. Only you can deliver swift justice in a war-swept nation of chaos!
“I HAVE COME HERE TO KICK ASS AND CHEW BUBBLE GUM. AND I’M ALL OUT OF BUBBLE GUM”
I first played Blackthorne back in ’94 when I rented it for my brother for the weekend. We fell out of our chairs when my brother “accidentally” shot a good guy and actually killed him. The game has been firmly embedded in my gaming heart ever since. There’s just something really cool about Blackthorne. It feels different from your typical SNES game, and there’s something to be said about that. Hell, I still have the poster EGM handed out to subscribers back in the day. I love its comic book-like art style. It proudly hangs in my game room to this day. Each time I walk in I take a moment to not only admire my collection, but the artwork of the poster as well.
Blackthorne may not be a Super Nintendo classic per se, but damn if it doesn’t come rather close. It captured my imagination more than 20 years ago. It’s a game I enjoy coming back to again and again still to this day. Part of what captivated me so much was the game’s story and opening cinematic. I always felt this would make such a cool sci-fi movie. The intro absolutely resonated with my 11-year-old being at the time. It set the scene perfectly, creating a moody, morbid world of good versus evil. The whole prodigal son angle adds even more intrigue. I mean, who doesn’t love a good redemption story?
Bee tee dubs [TELL ME … YOU DIDN’T JUST… SAY DAT -Booker T], here’s a fun little fact. This is a “lost” review from my original site, RVGFanatic.com. I worked on it all October long, and was set to launch it right on the eve of Halloween 2015. That’s when I first discovered I couldn’t. Never fret, this “lost” review is now being restored and revealed for the first time in the history of cyberspace. Can’t you just feel the excitement bubbling over? [It’s practically up to my neck… -Ed.]
RAMPAGE, RUIN AND REDEMPTION…
On a related note, I find it fascinating that the plot of Blackthorne nearly mirrors that of the Lion King. Both feature a fair and just king only to be murdered by an evil adversary who then takes over the throne. Meanwhile, the rightful heir to the throne and the son of the former king is living his own life somewhere far away. Until that is, one day he’s finally summoned back home to take care of unfinished business. Back to where it all began to avenge the death of his father. There’s a lot of striking similarities between the two but it’s all probably just random coincidence as the Lion King came out June 1994 and Blackthorne was released only three short months later. The Lion King‘s plot isn’t exactly original or one-of-a-kind, either. Nevertheless, I find the whole connection between the two (even if it’s completely happenstance) to be of note. I love the father-son and prodigal son redemption theme that both of them possess. And yes I’m still holding out for the Blackthorne motion picture and Broadway musical.
Furthermore, both good kings had a wise elder in some sort of advisory role. Mufasa had that creepy little monkey Rafiki while Vlaros had Galadril by his side. And both Rafiki and Galadril were responsible for beckoning Simba and Kyle Blackthorne back to their homeland in order to reclaim it as their own. It’s just another wild similarity. Now you know if you ever become king, make sure you have a wise advisor at your side. That way should you die, your advisor will at least be able to lure your wayward son back home to save it!
FLASHBACK TO A TIME WHEN GAMES WERE OUT OF THIS WORLD
Blackthorne employs a rotoscoping animation technique. Some other SNES games incorporating this technology were Out of This World, Flashback, Prince of Persia and the long delayed Nosferatu. Kyle comes with highly detailed animations but at the cost of Mario-esque fluid platforming. You have to be very precise with your movements and it can feel a bit mechanical at times. It takes a bit of time to get used to, but for this sort of game I feel it works. Just don’t expect to zip through the levels because Mario you ain’t! But then again, I guess you could say Kyle Blackthorne Mario ain’t!
TAKE NO PRISONERS, NoA
I’ll never forget the time I sat there in my old living room, watching my brother play this game. He fired off a shot at an innocent good guy and as he crumbled to the ground, so too did we! It was a moment in history for us. With the uncensored Mortal Kombat II also released at roughly the same time, this was a major change of heart for Nintendo of America. No longer was this strictly a “kiddie” system as NoA battled head to head with the Sega Genesis for 16-bit brand supremacy in the mid-’90s. OK sure the blood is green but STILL, killing chained innocents! It was simply unheard of at the time, and in my 11-year-old mind it instantly elevated Blackthorne into a special category all its own.
There are no ramifications one way or the other for killing or saving them, though. I kind of wish the game rewarded you for keeping them alive (especially when enemies come into play and you save the prisoners from getting killed in the line of fire). This would have added in an extra layer to the game. An extra layer of skill and morals. With there being no punishment though, I freely admit that still to this day I rarely hesitate to put a slug in their heads each and every single time. I know, I’m terrible. But damn is it still a blast more than 20 years later. Well, maybe not for the Androthi, but definitely for moi
Be sure to talk to them first at least before putting them out of their misery. Some will have helpful items or the odd hint here and there. If you kill them before conversing, then you risk losing out on whatever advice or item they had for you. After a bit of chit chat though, they are indeed fair game…
YOU GO HIDE, AND LET ME SHOOT. LET ME BE THE ONE TO MAKE YOU HOOT
The bulk of the gameplay consists of you battling these goblin henchmen known as Graggs. The first wave of Graggs early on in the game start out simple enough. A couple shots and they die. Later they get much tougher and fire off more bullets so the difficulty jumps by quite a bit. Get ready for plenty of “hide and shoot” battles. Duck into the shadows to avoid the bullets being pumped your way. Once the Gragg takes time to reload, you bound out of the darkness to fire back. Blizzard obviously took creative liberty since I don’t think in real life you can dodge a bullet by merely ducking into the shadows [Try it out sometime Steve, and let me know how that works out for ya -Ed.]. I like to think of this system as a very early, primitive model of what would eventually morph into games such as Gears of War. Blackthorne‘s early take on hide and shoot isn’t exactly the most thrilling gameplay experience, especially today in 2016, but it’s the atmosphere that makes this game through and through. There’s simply not much else like it on the SNES.
Blackthorne is a very methodical game. Kyle can only walk when holding his shotgun. To run or jump you have to first put your gun away. It puts sort of a “speed bump” in the action. On the bright side, Kyle can kneel, roll and even hang onto ledges by the tip of his fingers. This style of slower paced gameplay isn’t for everyone, especially those who enjoy more seat-of-the-pants action. It can grow a bit repetitive as the game progresses since there are only a small handful of level themes, but it’s got such an engrossing atmosphere that I don’t mind traversing the many similar looking levels.
TOOLS OF DESTRUCTION
Along the way you’ll find some helpful items for Kyle’s cause. These items can be found either by talking to the Androthi prisoners or in some cases can only be found by killing a certain bad guy. Don’t mind if I do! I love all of the items but my favorites have to be the bridge key (for how damn cool it looks and how neat it sounds inserting the key) and the levitator.
THE KARNELLIAN SWAMPS
It’s refreshing to see the Androthi unchained on these levels. However, you can still “accidentally” fire at them. But this time, if you do that…
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Blackthorne fared well with the critics. It earned Game of the Month honors with EGM, who scored it with marks of 8, 8, 8 and 8. I remember thinking back in ’94 how cool it was that the Game of the Month didn’t receive any 9s. If I’m not mistaken, that was a first in EGM history. GameFan gave it ratings of 90, 88 and 85%. Super Play wasn’t quite as impressed (what else is new). They rated the game 76%. Nintendo Power was a big fan. In their 100th issue (Sept. ’97) they ranked Blackthorne as the 86th best Nintendo-related video game of all time. That’s some mighty praise there. Overall, it’s been well received.
When it comes to darker mature games, the SNES is certainly a bit lacking in that department. However, Blackthorne is a shining example of an atmospheric game that went against the grain of your typical SNES offering. Combine that with some excellent animation and solid (albeit basic) action puzzle platforming and what you have here is a very strong effort. Unfortunately, it’s weighed down by a few too many flaws to be considered a bonafide classic. The incredible animation came at the expense of ultra fluid gameplay. Blackthorne is not the smoothest playing game in the world. There are moments where you may want to scream and shout at your TV. Mario fluid this is not. You must be very precise and deliberate in your choices. It’s a rewarding experience although perhaps one that isn’t always instantly gratifying.
Another flaw is that while the game starts out with a bang, it can quickly grow a bit tedious and tiresome. Duck in the shadows. Run and jump. Hang on ledges. Solve simple puzzles. There isn’t a great deal of locales either. There are 17 levels containing one of four themes: mine, swamp, sand and Sarlac’s castle. After a while they all seem to somehow blend together a bit. But for all the flaws listed, this game knocks it out of the park in terms of attitude and atmosphere. Every detailed pore of its world bleeds with desolation, despair and dread. There’s an overwhelming sense of bleak futility that permeates the game’s 17 levels. Yet in spite of the foreboding thickness, there’s always a glimmer of shining hope in the form of one, Kyle Blackthorne. With his trusty sawed-off shotgun and a never-say-die attitude, players are flung into a grim world of grays and darkness. It’s one of the more immersive games I’ve ever played on the Super Nintendo, and one I enjoy breaking out every late fall or winter season. There’s just something cool about it. While it’s far from perfect, it’s damn good and one of the better “mature” games on the entire system. As such, it will always hold a noteworthy place in the annals of SNES history.
Ever play an obscure-ish game for a little bit and walk away feeling like you had just unearthed a hidden gem? Then for whatever reason that game gets lost in the shuffle. You always mean to come back to it, but somehow you never do. Until you do. And you stick with it a little longer the second time around. Then it suddenly dawns on you that the game isn’t a hidden gem at all but rather, it’s a disappointing effort that could have been (really) good with a little more polish. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s rewind a bit and start from the beginning.
THE YEAR IS 1996, AND 16-BIT FINDS ITSELF BATTLING EXTINCTION
The first game I bought to ignite my SNES resurgence (January 17, 2006) was Power Moves. And fittingly so, it was the first game I reviewed on RVGFanatic.com exactly one year later (January 17, 2007). With this WordPress being sort of RVG’s second coming, it’d only be appropriate to kick off the SNES reviews here with the second SNES game I purchased just seconds right after winning Power Moves. The same seller was selling an obscure little platformer called Prehistorik Man. It was one of those games I remember seeing in EGM, being oddly curious about, but never played. By the time it came out (early ’96, although some reports cite mid ’95), gaming took a bit of a backseat in my life as middle school loomed front and center. So faced with the opportunity at gaming redemption, there was only one thing left to do. I began counting down the days until I could quell this childhood curiosity.
One of my primary reasons for getting back into the SNES was my burning desire to play platformers. When I think SNES, “platformers galore” is one of the first things that, er, jumps[Oh dear -Ed.] to mind. And if Power Moves represented another main factor for why I got back into all things Super Nintendo (i.e. nostalgia), then Prehistorik Man was a shining example of the other factor: a desire to play the games I missed out on back in the day. So it was fitting that these were the first two game purchases of my SNES resurrection. A game I have fond childhood memories of, and a game that more or less “got away” from me. It was the perfect blend of revisiting my past while rectifying the errors of my youth.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Firing up Prehistorik Man, the game opens up well enough. It blasted me with that unmistakably bright and bold mid-’90s SNES look. Like a Saturday morning cartoon bursting at the seams, I was instantly impressed and won over. I couldn’t wait to maneuver Sam around this colorful world of hop and bop bliss.
Sam’s club [I see what you did there -Ed.] strikes hard and fast. Bonus points for the swing radius as you can take out enemies coming from even behind you. Barry Bonds has nothing on this caveman critter. Speak softly and carry a big stick Sam does. Except, he doesn’t… speak softly, that is.
It’s quite the useful tactic, you see. Especially when the enemies grow in strength and quantity. They come at you pretty fast and soon the club becomes less and less effective. Luckily, Sam’s super scream doesn’t take precious health points away, like it would in a beat ‘em up. Good thing this is a platformer then! Here you have a scream bar that gradually builds up each time you’ve used your super shout. It’s nice that Titus gave this to us as sort of a “free” special move if you will. You just got to be careful when and where you use it, though. There are times where spiders swing back and forth. And the only way to advance is to hop on them to catch a ride. Use the Starscream and you’ve killed your only ticket. But thankfully, Prehistorik Man does the whole Mega Man “move off screen and enemies will respawn” trick. Super useful. But, also, super annoying in any other area but. A classic tale of the ol’ double edged sword, no?
Titus had some neat tricks up their sleeves. In addition to clubbing enemies into oblivion, they also gave you the choice of the good ole hop and bop. Now, one hop can send Sam soaring into the air. This allows you, the cunning and skilled player, the opportunity to collect otherwise unreachable goodies for extra bonus points. Or, hop on an enemy a few times consecutively and you’ll kill them but ALSO earn bones. The bones collected will allow you to enter the shop scattered throughout the levels to buy clues, continues and more. So you can go for the straight clubbing kill, which requires little skill, or you can go for the more tricky multiple hop kill which rewards you with bones for the shop system they’ve set up (pardon the pun). This allows sort of a differentiated level of play for novices and experts, and is a pretty cool little system.
TITUS’ DINO SIZED SINS
Do you see that “save game” option above? You might have to squint and lean in real close, or simply zoom in if you’re browsing on your smart phone or tablet. For all the neat little things this game does, it botches it with some truly idiotic blunders. Take for example this whole “save game” BS. You pay your hard earned bones to save the game but guess what, as soon as you turn the system off, the save game is null and void. So what’s the whole point of this option at all? It makes no sense, and really puts a damper on the whole game. Worst of all, there is no password system. It sure could have used one being that it’s 23 levels long. Granted, the levels aren’t long, and some are incredibly short, but 23 is still a lot.
TITUS REDEEMS ITSELF
Thankfully, along comes one of my favorite cheat codes ever…
So, in a weird way, that whole null and void thing on the save system is now null and void (again) thanks to this handy cheat. Damnit Titus, what the hell were you doing?! [That’s what Vince McMahon said… -Ed.]. At any rate, at least Titus made up for it with this cheat.
Sam isn’t alone in his quest. Along the way you’ll meet various NPCs that engage you in entertaining ways. I like the game’s sense of humor and the elder in particular is vintage “GIT OFF MAH LAWN!” material. Er, if cavemen had lawns. Ah you know what the hell I meant!
… AND TITUS SCREWS UP YET AGAIN
In addition to NPCs, Prehistorik Man attemtps to break up the mundane by incorporating various transportational devices. Quite frankly, they’re tough to master and have a somewhat steep learning curve. I consider myself to be a pretty decent platforming player, but these rides took me some time to figure out, and even then I felt like I was dying more than I should have. In other words, the control on these sections feel a bit finicky and feel like they could (and will) betray you at the drop of a hat. It’s too bad because I do like the idea of them, but they lack the polish of a primo platformer. Hence why I think for all the good this game does, it still ends up in the middle of the pack.
In addition to the various rides, Sam can pick up assorted weapons. Some of them even serve multiple purposes, which is something I always love and appreciate. Well, ALMOST always.
There’s one infuriatingly maddening level in this game (actually, there’s more than a few) that I have not been able to bypass sans cheat code. The spear seems like a cool weapon at first. Unfortunately, the execution is terrible. It cuts through multiple enemies in a single fling. COOL. It can also pierce itself into surfaces which allows you to jump to higher ground. Again, COOL. But at the end of this blasted level, you come to a humongous tree that requires you to throw a spear and jump on, rinse and repeat. I can do it about 4-5 times consecutively but I can never reach the top. Either the spear gives way or my button push to jump doesn’t register in time. It’s way harder than it needs to be. It was symbolic. I kept falling and each time it felt like Titus was laughing in my face. Just like how they added that stupid save system but when you turn the game off it no longer saves! Seriously, screw you, Titus. Bunch of gawd damn assholes!
BUT EVEN AN ASSHOLE CAN HAVE SOME REDEEMING QUALITIES
ONCE AN ASSHOLE, ALWAYS AN ASSHOLE
Prehistorik Man is one of those games that wows you early on, but regresses as you progress. After the impressive multi-jointed dino boss, you enter “Slime World” (Todd’s rolling in his grave somewhere in 16-bit purgatory). These slime themed stages (whose only correlation to slime has to do with the few blobs that exist in these lame levels) are horribly designed and unappealing, both to look at and to play. There’s way too many blind jumps and too many instant death pits. Sure, you can move the camera around a bit like in Super Mario World, but SMW didn’t have the weird herky-jerky scrolling and slippery controls that plague Prehistorik Man. These aspects adversely affect the game.
I do like the fact that some of the levels involve certain goals other than survive and advance to the exit at the far right. But when these goals include narrow ledges in far off places and sometimes require blind leaps of faith to find them… it becomes very annoying very fast. But just when you think the game becomes a bit too unbearable, we thankfully see a return of better stage design.
It should be noted that the bosses in this game will give you nightmares. They are way too hard. Especially when you only have 3-5 hearts to work with while their energy bars stretch from California to New York. Add in the slightly too slippery control and you have a bad combo.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
EGM rated it 9.0, 9.0, 9.0 and 8.5. It did well with the critics in North America, anyhow. Good old Super Play though, like the tough loving father that they were, didn’t quite agree with our friends at EGM and GameFan. They gave the game a 76%. Initially, when I first played Prehistorik Man in early 2006, I fell in love with it after 15 minutes and thought of it as an “8.5” game. I recently sat down with it 10 years later to finally THOROUGHLY play it. The more I played it, the more disappointed I became. It’s certainly not a BAD game by any stretch. But it’s a prime example of a game that sort of wows you early on, but can’t maintain or build on the early momentum of the game. Few things are more disappointing in a video game than that. Still, there’s some value to be had here. On a side note, as of this writing it doesn’t seem to go for very much. It’s not very common as it came out later in the system’s lifespan. If you consider yourself a fan of the genre then I recommend picking up a copy now while you still can for $20. It wouldn’t shock me one iota if this commands $50+ one day soon.
With a little more polish, Prehistorik Man could have very well been a hidden gem. I used to think it was until I sat down to play it longer than 15 minutes. For the past decade I kept wondering why no one ever mentions it in “SNES hidden gem” threads. Now I know why. It’s one of those games that upon initial play tricks you into believing it’s better than it is, but press on and the flaws soon become readily apparent. The game has amazing visuals. Well, for the most part at least. I’m not crazy about those bland looking “slime” stages. But the other stages are vintage SNES era stuff. The sound effects can be annoying, particularly the grunts. And the music is very forgettable. So much so that the GameFan review (see above) went out of its way to mention it. And as you may know, GameFan rarely complained about music as they tended to overhype EVERYTHING. So it just goes to show you how forgettable the music in this game is. The gameplay is hit and miss which leads to a very uneven playing experience. Sometimes it will delight while more times it’s likely to infuriate. There’s enough good to make it worth your while but it’s also plagued by enough bad that only fans of the genre should seek it out.