It’s early Christmas morning as I write this, and believe it or not, this game will forever be connected to Christmas. 24 years ago, in late December of 1992, my mom bought me King of the Monsters on the Super Nintendo. It was the first game she ever bought for me without first conferring with my brother. And it took something of a Christmas miracle to pull it off, so you can see my nostalgic desire to write about this game on this day. Sure, the SNES port was butchered. But the memories of this game live on to this very day. It was not only the first SNES game my mom ever bought for me but it was also one of the earliest arcade games I can remember experiencing. In fact, I remember it as if it only happened yesterday… *cue fuzzy flashback sequence*
***SOME TIME IN MID 1991***
The 2nd* arcade game I can remember playing was at Safeway with my brother, Kevin. It was like any other typical Tuesday night in the old neighborhood. The year was 1991. My bro and I tagged along with our dad to the local grocery store, doing our best to convince pops to buy us those delicious dinosaur fruit snacks. And if we were lucky, the WWF ice cream bars as well. We would be ecstatic if pops caved in to even just one of them. On this trip, no such luck however. We made our way to the end of a very long line. Kevin and I weren’t exactly the best behaved kids in the history of kids. Neither of us could stand still to save our lives. Unknowingly, it was a cunning strategy, for we spotted an arcade cab nearby in the corner where they sell the coal. Pops was more than happy to oblige, plopping two quarters in our hands, in exchange for a few minutes of peace and quiet. Off to the races we disappeared like two chalky ghosts in the night.
*The first arcade game I played was Street Fighter II.
When we arrived at the cab, I gazed up in amazement like it were the Sistine Chapel. What an amazing sight the Neo Geo MVS cab truly was. These were machines that housed four different SNK arcade games. I remember seeing Sengoku, a side scrolling beat ‘em up. But when I saw King of the Monsters for the first time ever, I knew I had found my match. It pitted six giant monsters against one another in a duel to the death. My brother and I were instantly sold. He picked the Ultraman clone, Astro Guy, while I chose the Godzilla lookalike, Geon. We played the tag team bedlam mode, which allowed me and my brother to team up simultaneously to rampage against two computer foes. Being an avid fan of Godzilla and monsters, I found myself enamored. My brother and I couldn’t shut up about it on the car ride home. That night I fell in love with King of the Monsters.
December 1991. My parents took me and my brother to our favorite place, Chuck E. Cheese’s, to celebrate the end of the year. My mother was rather strict so these rare opportunities where she allowed us to binge on our desires were not taken for granted! They ordered two large pizzas and got us 50 tokens. I knew where I was going to be for the rest of that night — at the King of the Monsters cab determined to beat it! It took me some time and way too many quarters to count but at last I did it, all while my mom sat back at the table eating unwanted leftover pizza crust and watching the whole thing go down.
I stepped back, drenched in sweat from wrestling with the joypad, and stared back at my mom who sat there smiling. I looked back at the arcade to watch the ending. My boy Rocky destroyed the news studio as a wide grin formed on my kisser. I recall thinking to myself, “I can’t wait for this to come home on the SNES!”
My mom and I used to go to the mall all the time. It was one of our traditions. She took me after school every Friday, rain or shine. I loved it because this was a time in life when the world was a different place. Even as young as 8, my mom allowed me to hit up my stores while she went shopping for clothes. This gave me a great sense of independence and for about 30 minutes I was on my own completely! I always visited Suncoast, Kay Bee Toys, Walden Books, Sam Goody, and of course, the classic SOFTWARE ETC.
Now rarely did she ever end up buying me anything once we reconvened, but that was never the point. It was fun enough thumbing through books, EGM magazines and drooling at the various action figures. It was the feeling that it produced. Just knowing you were on your own for half an hour made going to the mall a fun time. But the best times always came during Christmas season.
The mall Santa was there taking pictures, kissing babies and shaking little hands. At nine and a half years old now, I was too old for that stuff, but not old enough to not still believe in the magic of Christmas. So instead of sitting on Santa’s lap, I simply sat back from afar to admire what had been, and what once was.
My mom came over asking if I wanted to meet the mall Santa, but I told her I was too old. She looked at the kids rushing up to Santa just 20 feet away from us, lost in her thoughts. Somewhere in her aging face I saw her loosen up, as if she suddenly missed the days when I was that young scampering around. Perhaps it was the right kind of Christmas magic I’d need for what was about to transpire on that most magical December evening…
There it was, plastered in big and bold blue letters. I always made it a point to hit up SOFTWARE ETC. each time we visited the mall. Of course, I could only dream of my mom complying to buy me a video game. Still, like a moth to flame, those bold blue letters always sucked me in. I stood there that evening in sheer awe of the endless shelves of SNES goodies — games in which I could only dream of owning. And then, there it was. High on the shelf I saw it, shining like a beacon of light. KING OF THE MONSTERS for the Super Nintendo! It was just one short year ago that I’d beaten the arcade and thought to myself, “Man, I can’t wait for this to come home!” And now, it finally has. Only one problem, of course. How can I convince mom to buy it? Standing there, staring at the pristine shiny King of the Monsters box, my mind desperately raced through everything I could think of in order to weigh the odds in my favor.
I didn’t have very long to think…
“C’mon honey, we gotta get back home now.”
“What is it?”
“That…” I pointed to the King of the Monsters box sitting on the top shelf. “I want that.”
OK, so much for poetic language and convincing arguments.
My mom gave me “the look.” Uh oh. In the history of “momkind” the look has never been good news. Whether it was a look of frustration, disappointment or disgust, the look has denied kids an untold number of desserts, toys and video games. This task, I could tell, was going to be about as easy as Quantum Physics.
“Honey, that’s fifty five dollars.”
“No, it’s fifty four ninety nine!” I quickly countered. HA! I thought I had her — ahh, the bliss of being nine years old…
“Well actually with tax it’s about sixty,” she corrected.
Well DAMN. Talk about backfiring!
And then, out of nowhere, it hit me. My trump card. I explained to her how it was my favorite game, how I had to have it, and how much joy it would bring Kevin and me. And that if she bought it, it would count for not only my Christmas gift but also my birthday as well.
My mom grabbed the box to examine it closer. “Hey, isn’t this the game you played all night last year at Chuck E. Cheese’s? Is this the same one?”
I nodded furiously and watched as my mom bit her lower lip, contemplating what to do. Finally, after what seemed like forever, she took the game to the counter. I stood there in awe watching as they swiped her credit card. It was the first video game she bought for me. Outside I could hear the chattering of youngsters and the HO-HO-HOs of the mall Santa. The Christmas season was ringing in full force, and this bit of Christmas magic only punctuated the moment. I couldn’t wait to get home and play it…
NOT QUITE THE KING…
Right away we noticed there was no Player 1 and Player 2 vs. CPU 1 and CPU 2 option. In other words, there was no tornado tag team mode — hands down the best thing about the game.
The HELL?! What gives? Where was the King Kong wannabe, Woo? And what about the Smog Monster AKA Hedorah, where was his twin, Poison Ghost? So not only did Genki scrub the best mode of the game, but they also scrapped two of the six monsters. Man, was I disappointed.
But you know the funny thing? I was a kid and even I knew it was a pretty butchered port, but there was a big part of me that somehow managed to still enjoy it quite a bit. It was weird. So much of the game had been gutted, but it was still King of the Monsters in my living room. And, at the time, that accounted for something.
NOT JUST FLAVOR OF THE MONTH
In the early part of 1993, my mom took me to places like ROSS. I remember one time I brought the King of the Monsters manual with me. I walked up and down those aisles with my head buried in the booklet. As mediocre as the port was, I kind of became oddly semi-obsessed with it. Well, at least my mom got her sixty dollars’ worth, eh?
THE STORY GOES…
Special Attack: FLAME CRUSHER
When an ice glacier melted due to the abnormal warm weather in the Russian mountains, it unleashed the horror that is Geon. Unhappy to be roused from his deep slumber, he takes it out on anybody, or anything, that gets in his way. His hobbies include destroying cities and gobbling trains. The first character I selected, I have a soft spot for ol’ Geon. I tend to use him the most — his level 3 FLAME CRUSHER is quite a sight to behold.
Special Attack: ROCKY BOMBER
No one knows for sure where this mountain of rocks comes from. Rumor has it Rocky is a monster evolved from the Sphinx, Egypt’s God of Protection. Others believe he descended from the stars, angry with the way 20th century mankind has mistreated the environment. But one thing is for sure, he’s got a nasty disposition! Don’t let this pile of stone fool you — how Rocky can move so well is a mystery. I like Rocky. He has a cool roar and was the monster I used to beat the arcade game 25 years ago. Guess we been through a lot over the years, eh, Rocko?
Delivers one hell of a running clothesline. Any wrestling fan would approve!
Special Attack: BEETLE MISSILE
An ordinary beetle residing in the Amazon, one fateful evening that all changed when the mad creature underwent a horrific and mysterious transformation. Lacking any kind of intelligence, he destroyed even the forest in which he was born! However, his skills are plenty. With a hard body shell and tremendous fighting spirit, Beetle Mania now roams the earth in search for the next great fight. Unfortunately it comes at the expense of civilization as we know it!
Beetle Mania was clearly based off Godzilla’s 1973 nemesis, Megalon. Like many others in the Godzilla universe, I too am a fan of the “one hit bug wonder.” It’s too bad he wasn’t resurrected for Godzilla: Final Wars like how his battle mate Gigan was, but I digress. I always found Megalon’s suit really cool.
Special Attack: FLASH WAVE
Holding the distinct claim of being the only, uh, human, to a certain degree you understand, Astro Guy originally started out as a mad scientist. Naturally, through experimentation he transformed himself into a super musclebound creature to fight the monsters suddenly appearing all over the world. What began as noble intentions to protect cities and rid the world of monsters was soon corrupted by the absolute allure of having no equal. Now what his true intentions are is anyone’s guess…
Obviously inspired by SPECTREMAN! Ah, the tin wonder played a role in my childhood. I remember how bulky the cases were for the Spectreman tapes. It really caught your eye on the video store shelf. My dad bought me the one where he battles both an Alien and the “Monster Hedgehog.”
The theme song was the best part
In a flash, like a flame,
faster than a plane,
a mystery with a name,
Power from space,
he’ll save the human race,
yet, they’ll never know the face of Spectreman!
We will never know the source
of his powers and his force
as he guides this planet’s course…
You battle each monster twice. In the arcade this meant a grueling 12 rounds. At home it’s a much more manageable 8. And this is the only time I’m happy to see four monsters instead of the full six. Stage 1 is home to Geon, but since we’ve seen it already (see the screenshots above), let us jump straight to stage 2 where we take on Rocky.
As a kid I thought the stages were randomly constructed. Years later I came to realize they’re based on real life landmarks. Nice.
Yes, some of these towering skyscrapers can be seen, and destroyed, in the two Osaka stages. With Okayama having no tall buildings really, switching over then to Osaka was a very welcome sight.
“Alright gentlemen. We went over the rules in the back but just to reiterate, I want a good clean fight, alright? That means no zapping below the belt. Remember, I’m fair but firm. Let’s touch gloves!”
Monsters love to play hide and seek too, apparently. Or hide and maul, as it were.
Nothing was better than hitting a big move on your opponent and watching the poor hapless sap go crashing through one of the big monuments scattered about. Sure, you can demolish the big buildings with three punches yourself, but the real fun comes in the form of sending your rival through one!
Adding insult to injury was always fun.
The classic GET UP severed hand remains. Continue and experience a jolt of power as your monster gets resurrected.
THE END ?
UNH, JUST THROW IT ON ME, UNH!
Hit them with the strongest move in the game — the german suplex.
“What’s so cheap about this?”
For some ridiculous reason, this move leads to a re-dizzy. You can repeat this tactic 20 times in a row. No joke. Did someone not play test this thing? One might be thinking, “Well it must be pretty hard to dizzy them, right?” Not so. A few consecutive throws with their health bar on low does the trick. They get up in a daze, go behind them and press Y. Boom, german suplex. Then wait for them to get back up in a daze yet again, and repeat. For ultimate damage, while they’re on laying on the ground, unleash your special attack. Sometimes you can nail them twice with your projectile. Yikes.
The german suplex can also be applied in front during a grapple by pressing Y+B. But when your opponent is dizzy, simply pressing Y or B from behind works.
But hold on a second, if you thought THAT was cheap…
There’s only one answer to this, besides your opponent mistiming it. The Japanese military finally notches a small victory against giant rubber suited monsters!
Hey thanks, Genki. Appreciate it. I hope you’re not just sucking up…
Genki dude: Of course not… oh, here’s some fruitcake — for you!
Genki dude: Uh the holidays, sir.
Ahhh. Si, si…
Feel like it’s Jet Jaguar vs. Megalon all over again! Hmmm, come to think of it, seeing Godzilla and his buddies in a King of the Monsters universe would have been pretty cool. Imagine Godzilla and company in this style of game. I’m sure we would have ate it up! Well, at least we got Godzilla: Kaijuu Daikessen.
Rocky’s bite animation always reminded me of the robot bloke on the NES Mega Man 3 cover! You see the resemblance, don’t cha?
Credit this wonderful art here to Nathan Newell and his excellent cool site nathansmuscleblog.blogspot.com/
That’s Black Hole Sunshine vs. Wood Beetle for the record, but damn do Rocky and Beetle Mania look like them!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
It was all quiet on the western front. The game was released just before GameFan’s time and EGM only ran a quick one page preview. They ended up never reviewing it. Super Play rated it 79% though an actual review never appeared in the magazine. SNES King of the Monsters just never got much publicity. If only it did then maybe I wouldn’t have been so caught off guard with all the cuts!
GENESIS VS. SNES VERSIONS
Which port is better? I’ve never played the Genesis port but it does look damn impressive. Looks much more identical to its arcade brother than the SNES port does. How it plays though I have no idea. Released about one year after the SNES port, the tag team mode and two monsters are still missing, but everything else looks to be pretty good. Check the graphical differences between the Genesis and SNES ports below.
GameFan gave the Genesis port some good loving with scores of 89, 87, 83 and 82%. “It blows the doors off the SNES version” and “makes it look like dog meat” were some of the comments recorded. The Genesis port was developed by SPS.
The arcade original was released by SNK in Japan on February 25, 1991. By freak accident, exactly 15 years later, I bought the SNES port (for the second time but this time with my own money). Back in ’92 I recall having a strange fascination with the port despite my knowledge of how butchered it was. Replaying the SNES port in 2006, I wondered how much my opinion might change or not. Turns out not much has. It’s a port that was stripped of its best feature and a whopping 33% of its original cast. It should have been so much better, but what remains is kind of still King of the Monsters. It was never a perfect game to begin with. Some key aspects missing definitely accentuate the flaws but what’s left isn’t unplayable by any means. You just have to take it for what it is, or simply leave it. Still, I couldn’t help but enjoy playing it for 15-20 minutes. Perhaps if nothing else but for the nostalgia of that unforgettable Christmas 1992 season. I acknowledge this game is ho-hum at best, but it is admittedly something of a guilty pleasure for me.
The graphics are the best part of this game. Though grainy and lacking intricate detail in the monsters themselves, the cities look pretty fantastic, especially the ones at night. Each stage gives you plenty of space to roam within the confines of two electrical barriers. Sound and music is decent, fitting for this game which has a Japanese 1960’s B-Movie feel to it. Sadly, it’s the game play that abandons it. What could have been! First, the grapple system. Is it based on timing? No. Button mashing? Not that either. Nope, it appears that the victor is totally random. And thus, grappling is a wash and never feels wholly satisfying. Secondly, to win a match you must score a 3 count on your rival. But in order to do so, you must pin them multiple times after their health bar has been fully depleted. Let’s say you pound on Rocky for three minutes solid once his energy bar has hit zero before going for the cover. He’ll still kick out at 2 (in John Cena fashion). What gives? It makes no sense to have to pin them several times every single time. It’s rigged to be like this, and it feels incredibly cheap. You should be rewarded for kicking the snot out of them, but you’re not. And then you have the two erroneous gameplay tricks as documented earlier, in addition to the missing tornado tag team mode and monsters.
Speaking of the monsters, and this by the way was prevalent in the arcade game as well, the monsters are exactly the same! Well, aside from their special move and rushing attack. No differences in strength, speed, agility, or any of that good stuff. The moveset is severely limited — you’re relegated to a throw, german suplex, pile driver and a bear hug or a bite hold in a grapple. How cool would it be if the monsters had their own unique moves, to go along with speed and strength differences?
Yet despite all these glaring flaws, I still kind of like the game in some small ways. Call it nostalgia, call it what you want, but there are some games you just have a connection with (for better or for worse). Though they’re far from being great, or even good, you still play them once in a blue moon because in some strange and small way you enjoy doing so. We all have a few games for which that rings true. Nobody can say exactly why someone would like it, except for that person, and that person alone. Yeah, part of me is still annoyed that Woo and Poison Ghost are nowhere to be found and that the tag mode was scrapped, but like a good longtime friend you accept them for who they are, warts and all.