Capcom could almost do no wrong back in the early-mid ’90s. They were like King Midas; almost anything they touched turned to gold. Their Street Fighter II franchise caught lightning in a bottle. In 1993 Capcom released an arcade wrestling game by the name of Saturday Night Slam Masters. Can we pause here to acknowledge that Saturday Night Slam Masters has to be one of the greatest titles for a video game ever? Who doesn’t love Saturday nights, and who doesn’t want to take control of a Slam Master? The title completely captures the carny and zany nature of the professional wrestling underworld. I loved playing the arcade game back in the day and was psyched when a Super Nintendo port was announced. Boosting 10 crazy comic book-like grapplers, the best thing about Slam Masters was its frenetic 4 player tag team bedlam mode. Yup, Saturday nights at home with the SNES and three friends was never going to be the same again.
30 YEARS BEING A WRASSLIN’ FAN
On an innocent Saturday night in early October of 1987, my uncle introduced me and my brother to the wacky world of professional wrestling. That night we saw Saturday Night’s Main Event. In particular, I’ll never forget that moment when Intercontinental Champion Honky Tonk Man smashed Macho Man Randy Savage over the head with his guitar. Coincidentally, one of the men holding Savage hostage there, Bret “The Hitman” Hart, was recently featured here on RVGFanatic.
Hulk Hogan made the save and the two joined forces to create The Mega Powers. And on that night I became cemented as a wrestling fan for life. My fandom has been going strong nearly 30 years now, and I’ll always be a sucker for a good wrestling product. Speaking of which…
I’ll never forget the summer of 1994. It was such an epic summer that I wrote all about it here: The Summer of Imports. Saturday Night Slam Masters played a big role in that memorable summer over 20 years ago.
Known as Muscle Bomber: The Body Explosion in Japan, Slam Masters isn’t the most technically proficient wrestling game around but what it lacks in proper technique it more than makes up for with tons of character, charm and chaos.
SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALRIGHT FOR FIGHTING
Accompanied by a rockin’ guitar riff, the intro is short and sweet. It also sets the mood perfectly for the pandemonium to come.
THE SLAM MASTERS
Jumbo and Scorp are considered “boss characters” and are only selectable in the tag team mode. Scorp is an absolute badass. I like all of them but as a kid I took an immediate liking to Titanic Tim. He was my man! My brother gravitated to El Stringray, the Rey Mysterio Jr. wannabe. Of course, you can’t go wrong with Haggar, either. But Titanic Tim was my favorite. As a kid I had two phrases I would always shout whenever I hit someone with Tim’s big boot or his running shoulder tackle. Hey, I was 10 . It went like such…
WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
Weapons are occasionally strewn about outside the ring in the one on one mode. Nothing satisfies like cracking someone’s cranium with a sturdy table.
Gunloc is rumored to be the brother of Guile. One can definitely see the similarities…
Turnabout is fair play! Gunloc finishes off the remains of the table and quite possibly Biff as well.
Nothing gets a better laugh though than smashing someone over the head with a beer bottle!
Perhaps you want something more traditional, though. In that case grab a chair which takes two hits to completely destroy. Love the way Haggar sells!
Modern day David vs. Goliath — not looking good for the little guy at the moment…
Titanic Tim LAUNCHES El Stingray high into the stratosphere. Love his reaction there. Reminds me of Randy Orton cringing when he threw Samir Singh too hard…
TAG TEAM WARFARE
Stingray’s Atomic Diver looks painful as hell, to BOTH guys.
Haggar is pissed off and delivers his classic spinning clothesline. Stingray’s Jalapeno Comet is probably the coolest looking special move in the game.
Alexander the Grater’s Tornado Toss is arguably the most gruesome and wince-inducing move. He tosses you high into the air, even going above the screen, before you come crashing down to the hard canvas with no give. OUCH!
Haggar is pissed off at Stingray for the lack of help and takes out the little guy.
Secret to beating a big bully? Recruit an even bigger one! Besides, Titanic Tim feels guilty for launching Stingray into the far reaches of outer space that one time, and is paying back the favor he owes to El Stingray. Not to mention, he’s kind of taken a liking to the little guy, if truth be told.
Capcom absolutely NAILED the entrances. It completely captures the over the top nature of the wrestling business.
Titanic Tim starts out by targeting Haggar, choking the life out of him. Later on, Jumbo uses his girth to put the big squeeze on the big man.
Massive suplex! Thing of beauty.
Haggar submits to Tim’s Torture Rack. At the end you get a classic Capcom Street Fighter-esque post fight quote. By the way, my favorite thing about the tag team bedlam mode is that it’s elimination style. Meaning you can enjoy a nice little 2-on-1 handicap match after defeating one of your opponents. It’s a total blast with 4 players!
Taking a page out of Bret Hart’s playbook, Tim delivers a picture perfect Reverse Russian Legsweep. I love catching them from behind while they’re dealing with my tag partner. These sneak attacks are the best. Also love the impact of the mat. It sounds painful as hell.
Getting a double 3-count pin in stereo is almost the coolest thing in this game. Check out how Grater there turns a shade of red after being defeated!
Speaking of coolest, nothing beats this. Seeing your tag partner thwart the opponent’s attempt to save their partner in the nick of time is a fist pumping moment for sure! Close saves (both ways) create the most compelling moments in this game by far.
Haggar is back for revenge and this time he has a new partner: Scorp. Judging by that second pic there, it’s a good call…
Haggar’s Spinning Piledriver is absolutely devastating.
Scorp’s Spiral Slam is just as lethal.
Defeat all comers and Capcom lets you do it again, Ghosts ‘N Goblins style.
Falling face first at the game over screen always made me chuckle.
Quotes from each wrestler appear pre and post match. It was a sign of the times.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Saturday Night Slam Masters fared well with the critics as an arcade port. EGM gave it ratings of 7, 7, 7 and 8. Super Play rated it 78%. It’s obvious it’s best when played with 4. It takes a huge hit when playing solo, moreso than other 4 player games I feel. EGM said it best when one of their reviewers cited, “This is awesome for parties and gatherings, but not one I’d want to sit down and play all day.” I had a blast with this game back in the summer of 1994. My brother, our friends and I would all rotate having a go. It’s aged well but I’m reminded of how limited this game is, having played it recently. Yeah, it is an arcade port but you wish Capcom threw in some extra modes. It’s a straight port of an arcade game that didn’t have many bells and whistles. What you see is what you get. This worked fine with Street Fighter II, but Saturday Night Slam Masters is the CLASSIC arcade game. By that I mean it’s a lot of fun to play for a short go each time you see it in the arcade hall, but its flaws are exposed with longer sessions.
Super Play perhaps put it best:
“It’s totally atmospheric and, along with the over-the-top glitziness of each of the 10 fighters, it makes for an entertaining game to watch, if never totally satisfying to play. The problem is it’s very much an arcade experience. It’s fine to stick a couple of quid in for a laugh when you happen to come across it at the Trocadéro, for example, but it doesn’t have the gameplay or depth backing it. It’s just a matter of exchanging punches and kicks for a while, moving in for a spot of grappling, and hoping you get in there first. Sure, it may take a while to learn the special moves, and when to best apply them, but there aren’t many, and that’s as far as any strategy goes.”
Don’t get me wrong, for all the flaws that Saturday Night Slam Masters has, I still like the game a whole bloody lot. You can’t talk about the best 4 player SNES games without mentioning this one. And if you take it for what it strictly is, you should be satisfied. It’s a crazy arcade wrestling game that places more emphasis on an arcade style than it does a pure technical wrestling style. You may come away feeling a bit cheated if you’re looking for anything beyond that. Computer AI can be very cheap, pulling off miracle comebacks and knowing your next move before you even attempt it. But it all goes back to the true nature of this game: it’s meant to be experienced playing alongside 3 pals.
Yes, it’s a bit shallow but as far as straight arcade ports go Capcom did a great job. Extras would have been appreciated but the graphics and sound are on par with what you’d expect from Capcom in this era. In other words, they do a good job bringing home an arcade-like quality experience. It’s by no means a deep game, so I knocked it down a point or two. It’s just a matter of hanging in there and hoping for the best, as Super Play perfectly encapsulated a bit earlier.
Overall, it’s a great arcade translation but it was best played in spurts with friends in the arcade, and the same applies here.