SNES Party Games

There's nothing like gaming with family and friends
There’s nothing like gaming with family and friends

The SNES is my favorite system of all time, and one of the many reasons why I love it so much is because of all the great multiplayer games. While there are a ton of amazing 2-player SNES games, the focus here is specifically on Super Nintendo titles that allow 4 (or more) players to duke it out (or in some cases, work together). There’s something about being in a room with a group of friends playing the same game together. There’s an innocence and magic to it that will never fade away.

Tangled cords and bruised egos... ahhh
Tangled cords and bruised egos… ahhh

I have so many fond memories of the many party sessions I’ve had over the years with the SNES. It’s fitting that I’m writing this article so close to Christmas as the holiday season tends to bring people together. It’s the perfect excuse to bust out the Super Nintendo and play some old (or newfound) favorites with your loved ones.

I LOVE ME SOME FOUR-PLAY

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First, make sure you have one of these multitap adapters. There are lots of models but these are just a few examples.

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You’ll need one if you wish to play any of the following games with 3 or more friends.

This is the one I use
The one I use personally

HONORABLE MENTIONS

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There are many great 2-player SNES games out there, from Super Mario Kart to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. The list goes on and on. That’s a story article for another day. For now the focus is squarely on games that allow 4 or more to play. There’s always room however to quickly acknowledge those that didn’t quite make the cut but are noteworthy nonetheless. The following 3 games deserve a shout out since they each support up to 3 players. Not quite 4, last I checked anyhow, but close. Hence, my honorable mentions are as follows…

CRYSTAL BEANS: FROM DUNGEON EXPLORER

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Funky subtitle aside, Crystal Beans is a simple and enjoyable overhead action RPG with elements similar to Gauntlet. It has 8 characters (of varying classes) to select from and best of all, it supports up to 3 players. It only came out in Japan but there’s an English translation patch available for those interested. Not the best game but it can easily eat up a weekend or two especially if you have a few buds willing to join in.

SECRET OF MANA

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There’s a reason why Secret of Mana is so revered within retro gaming circles. Even 25 years later, it resonates with an entire generation that grew up glued to the screen vanquishing the latest creatures and critters. Doing it with 2 friends by your side, at a time where a 3-player mode in an action RPG was unheard of, made the experience even more irresistibly awesome.

SEIKEN DENSETSU 3

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Seiken Densetsu 3, AKA Secret of Mana 2, came out exclusively in Japan. Thankfully, an English fan translation has allowed gamers worldwide to experience this phenomenal action RPG in all its glory. On top of that, a 3rd player option was graciously added in as well.

4 OR MORE

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In this article (that I’ve wanted to write for over a decade now), I’ll share some of my favorite SNES party games. I’ll also list some I’m not too crazy about knowing that everyone’s mileage will vary. Some games listed are super well known while others are a lot more obscure. Not every 4+ player game on the SNES has been cited; the list is far too long so I’ve chosen only those that I wish to highlight. With that said, let’s dive in!

BAKUTO! DOCHERS

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I remember seeing Bakuto! Dochers in the pages of EGM in 1994 and being excited. A Bomberman clone but with cute animals? Sold! It does some unique things: 3 hits to die, 20 battle zones (although many look samey) and cannon fodder enemies litter the field even in the 4-player battle mode. But sadly, it’s just not fun. It’s hard to botch the Bomberman formula but somehow Bakuto! BOTCHERS managed to do so :(

BARKLEY SHUT UP AND JAM!

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A homeless man’s NBA Jam, Barkley Shut Up and Jam isn’t very good but it can be a guilty pleasure. If you and your buds have a burning desire to use Charles Barkley and a bunch of fictional playground legends, this could be your jam. Pun partially intended.

BATTLE CROSS

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Bomberman meets Mario Kart… kinda. The closest thing to that on the SNES, anyhow. Battle Cross is a 6-player single screen racer, although only 5 humans can play (kind of a shame they didn’t take advantage of that sixth slot). There’s a lot to like here. Whether it’s the cartoonish graphics, the insane customization, or the pure satisfaction of placing a land mine underneath an overpass to blow up unsuspecting foes, Battle Cross is a hit at retro gaming parties.

BOMBERMAN B-DAMAN SERIES

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The great Ric Flair once said, “To B-Daman, you gotta Beat-Daman! WOO!!” Many folks know about the great Super Bomberman titles on the SNES, but not many know about the B-Daman series which came out only in Japan. It deviates from the classic formula but still has its own 4-player battle mode. In the first B-Daman game, players can’t die. Instead, the goal is to score as many hits as possible within the time limit. It’s not nearly as fun as the classic Bomberman titles but that’s a given thanks to the restrictions at play here, such as being conformed to your side of the wall and having limited movement.

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The sequel, Bakukyu Rennpatsu!! Super B-Daman, is an improved effort but still feels like a lightweight novelty. Players are no longer restricted to rails and can freely move about. The goal is to push all the other people off the field and be the last (bomber)man standing. It’s nice to see them try something different but you’re better off sticking to the classic Bomberman games.

BS OUT OF BOUNDS GOLF

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Of all the games on this list, BS Out of Bounds Golf is perhaps the most fun and cutthroat party game of them all. It’s a blast and has to be experienced with 4 players. The amount of sabotaging and trash talking that naturally occurs is a thing of beauty. And because players take turns, there is ample opportunity to scout and plot out your plan of attack. It’s one of those special games that anyone can pick up and play, and it will appeal even to non-gamers. A magical unicorn, indeed.

CAPCOM’S SOCCER SHOOTOUT

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Not the best soccer game on this list, but a very competent and enjoyable one. Most noteworthy of all, Capcom’s Soccer Shootout has an indoor mode where the arena is shrunken down and the ball bounces off the wall for continuous play. Intense mode, especially with 4 players!

CHIBI MARUKO CHAN: MEZASE MINAMI NO ISLAND

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A strange 4-player game where you throw balls at the opposition in various arenas. Simple but loads of fun. Quirky games like this with oddball Japanese humor are always a guilty pleasure. Chibi Maruko Chan: Mezase Minami no Island is rather obscure and (sadly) rarely talked about. Check it out if you’re looking for something a little different for your next retro gaming party.

CORON LAND

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Speaking of not getting enough love, Coron Land is another obscure Super Famicom oddity that rarely ever gets mentioned. Blow and throw bubbles. It’s quirky and charming in its own unique way.

DREAM BASKETBALL: DUNK & HOOP

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If you’re like me and have fond memories of playing pickup basketball from way back in the day, then Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop is sure to take you right back to your blacktop days. There’s a clunky 5-on-5 full court mode but the 3-on-3 street ball mode, being half court and having less sprites onscreen, is where Dream Basketball shines brightest. A rare gem for those not opposed to playing arcade-like sports games that are a quarter of a century old.

FIGHTER’S HISTORY: MIZOGUCHI KIKI IPPATSU!!

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This is the only fighting game on the SNES that allows 4-players to play with a tag out feature. Pretty neat! Besides, who doesn’t want to play as Karnov?

FIRE STRIKER

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Part Zelda and part Arkanoid, Fire Striker contains a 2-on-2 mode where teams of two battle for supremacy. The physics are a little off but it’s still a blast.

AJ Styles recently snagged a copy on Up Up Down Down
AJ Styles recently sang its praises on Up Up Down Down
Shout out to Xavier Woods, AKA Austin Creed! I met him last week and he was a super cool guy. And speaking of professional wrestling...
Shout out to Xavier Woods, AKA Austin Creed!
I met him last week and he was super cool.
And speaking of professional wrestling…

GEKITOU BURNING PRO WRESTLING

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With over 115 wrestlers ready to be used and 800 different moves at your disposal, Burning Pro Wrestling is quite the package. It features real athletes from many different styles such as Puroresu, Lucha Libre and K-1 just to name a few. Play as or beat up the likes of Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Sting, The Undertaker and many more. The Battle Royal features up to 18 wrestlers and a grand total of 6 wrestlers can litter the ring. Fun stuff!

GO! GO! DODGE LEAGUE

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As if you can’t tell from the screenshot above, Go! Go! Dodge League is loosely based on dodgeball and doesn’t follow the conventional rules of the sport. It’s not the best game around but it has enough wacky Japanese charm to put a smile on your face.

HAT TRICK HERO 2

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Originally set for a US release as Super Soccer Champ 2, it was eventually scrapped. Released only in Japan as Hat Trick Hero 2, this is a fast scrolling arcade brand of soccer that features super power kicks. Worth a look if you love retro 4-player soccer games.

INTERNATIONAL SUPERSTAR SOCCER DELUXE

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The best soccer game on the SNES, hands (feet?) down, is made even better when experienced in glorious 4-player mode.

LOONEY TUNES B-BALL

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Even more outlandish than NBA Jam and arguably just as fun, Looney Tunes B-Ball is a sheer blast. Name another zany basketball game where you can drop a 16 ton weight on someone’s head or summon lightning to zap suckers into smithereens… you can’t!

MADDEN SERIES

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Madden Football isn’t the first game I think of when it comes to multiplayer affairs. But the ’94-’98 editions all allow up to 5 players. If you’re craving pigskin of the 16-bit variety, this might do the trick.

MICRO MACHINES SERIES

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Race your favorite miniature toy cars around 28 different tracks. These include a pool table, the living room floor and even your neighbor’s flower garden. The sequel, Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament, featured even more vehicles and tracks and was released only in Europe.

NBA GIVE ‘N GO

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NBA Give ‘N Go lacks blazing speed but makes up for it with an impeccable arcade-like feel. The presentation is a slam dunk and the wacky announcer will make you feel like you’re back at the arcades. Give ‘N Go is based after all on Run and Gun, Konami’s arcade smash hit.

NBA HANG TIME

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If you can look past its terrible aesthetics, NBA Hang Time gets the job done in 4-player mode.

NBA JAM SERIES

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BOOM SHAKALAKA! NBA Jam and more specifically, NBA Jam: Tournament Edition, rules the roost when its comes to 4-player basketball games on the SNES. Best of all, NBA Jam TE is just as fun to play today as it was 25 years ago.

NBA LIVE SERIES

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The NBA Live franchise blends simulation and arcade-like play extremely well. The ’95-’98 editions allow up to 5 players, with ’97 and ’98 featuring 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 modes for more intimate contests.

NHL SERIES

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NHL ’94 is the best of the lot and has 5-player capability. Oddly, only 2 players can play NHL ’95-’97. NHL ’98 went back to 5 players but stick with the original; it’s pure hockey bliss that can’t be beat.

N-WARP DAISAKUSEN

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The only 8-player game (!) on this list, N-Warp Daisakusen is certainly a curiosity. Developed in 2008 as a homebrew title, this simplistic melee brawler sets out to see who will be the last man standing.

OTOBOKE NINJA COLOSSEUM

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A Bomberman clone with a delightful twist. Rather than bombs, players set down capsules. Shurikens shoot out in all 4 directions. Get hit and you’re temporarily frozen. You lose only if someone hits you with their ball and chain while being suspended in animation. With a lens geared toward stealth and capitalizing on mistakes, Otoboke Ninja Colosseum makes for a fantastic 4-player romp.

PEACE KEEPERS

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The only beat ‘em up on this list! But sadly, 4 players can only duke it out in a special self-contained mode. Give Peace Keepers some credit but it’s a limited novelty at best. It’s a shame none of the SNES beat ‘em ups allow for 4-player cooperative play but that’s understandable given the hardware limitations.

PIECES

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Up to 5 people can work together to solve puzzles of various kinds. Pieces is perfect for younger and less experienced players such as little nieces and nephews.

PUZZLE’N DESU!

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An adorable Bomberman clone where you push blocks to subdue your opponents. One of my readers recently dubbed this game “Gnome Squish” which fits it perfectly! An absolute blast in 4-player mode.

SATURDAY NIGHT SLAM MASTERS

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My friends and I spent so many Saturday nights back in the summer of 1994 playing this. Frenetic, chaotic and always entertaining, Saturday Night Slam Masters was born to be a 4-player slobber knocker.

SHIN NIPPON PRO WRESTLING ’95: TOKYO DOME BATTLE 7

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Not as good or fun as Saturday Night Slam Masters but not a bad alternative. The visuals are on point and it’s always fun to kick some ass with either Great Sasuke or Jushin Thunder Liger!

SPARK WORLD

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Bomberman but with cars. It’s super blatant but also super fun. A few slight tweaks here and there, like 2 hits to die, help to make it not a complete carbon copy. Sorry.

SPORTING NEWS BASEBALL

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Sporting News Baseball holds the distinct honor of being the only North American SNES baseball game to support 4 players. You and a friend take turns batting on offense and on defense one pitches while the other plays defense. And hey, any excuse to play ball on the Field of Dreams cornfield sounds good to me!

STREET RACER

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Street Racer is no Mario Kart 2 but it’s an admirable effort. 24 tracks, 8 drivers and plenty of zany 4-player modes!

SUGOI HEBEREKE

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Smash and bash your way to victory in Sunsoft’s melee brawler. Sugoi Hebereke is a bit like Super Smash Bros. in some ways and is worth checking out, especially if you have retro gaming buddies to play it with.

SUPER BOMBERMAN SERIES

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Super Bomberman is the classic and quintessential party game on the SNES. All you needed back in 1993 was a copy of this game, a multitap, 4 controllers and 3 friends. My friends and I spent countless Saturday nights back in ’93 blowing each other up and loving every second of it.

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Super Bomberman 2 included a tag team mode. I prefer the original but you can’t go wrong with this one.

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Super Bomberman 3 came out only in Europe and Japan. It’s most notable for introducing mad bombers, animal friends (granting you an extra life and special abilities) and raising the player count from 4 to 5.

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Super Bomberman 4 was released only in Japan. Like pizza, you really can’t go wrong with any of the 16-bit Bomberman games.

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Super Bomberman 5 is my favorite of the 16-bit Bomberman games that didn’t come out in North America. And overall, I’d rank it second only to the classic original.

SUPER BOMBERMAN PANIC BOMBER WORLD

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Did you know there was a Bomberman puzzle game on the Super Famicom? And of course, it naturally features a 4-player mode. As the cool kids might say, this game is lit yo. Geddit? Sorry.

SUPER FAMILY TENNIS

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I love this game so much that I ranked it #2 on my top 50 favorite obscure Super Famicom games list. Super Family Tennis is full of charm and never fails to leave me feeling satisfied. 4-player doubles is where it’s at!

SUPER FINAL MATCH TENNIS

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Developed by HUMAN (creators of the beloved Fire Pro series), Super Final Match Tennis nails down the presentation but something about the gameplay is slightly off. There’s still some merit here but you’re probably better off playing Super Family Tennis instead. Still, it’s nice to have options.

SUPER FIRE PRO WRESTLING X PREMIUM

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Speaking of which, Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium is the final and best Fire Pro entry on the Super Nintendo. For the past 20+ years, the fabled Fire Pro franchise has been a staple among wrestling video game fans. While this edition may be primitive by comparison, it was revolutionary back in 1996 and remains just as enjoyable today.

SUPER PUYO PUYO TSUU REMIX

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There’s nothing like an intense 4-player Puyo Puyo match. This has the potential to ruin relationships, so proceed with caution.

SUPER TEKKYU FIGHT!

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On the surface it looks like yet another Bomberman clone. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find an interesting alternative. Flip tiles and jump on opponents to stun them, and then attack them with your trusty spiky ball. Super Tekkyu Fight! is an obscure hidden gem worthy of a spot in your retro gaming party collection.

SUPER TETRIS 3

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4-player Tetris, bitches. ‘Nuff said!

TINY TOONS WACKY SPORTS CHALLENGE

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Due to the hodgepodge of mini games, some have likened this as a precursor to Mario Party. You’ll like this if that’s your thing.

TOP GEAR 3000

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Many folks are familiar with Top Gear as it was one of the earlier SNES hits back in the day. Top Gear 3000 on the other hand is fairly obscure, receiving a quiet release with very little fanfare in early 1995. It’s most notable for its quirky 4-player split screen.

WORMS

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Released only in Europe, Worms is classic turn-based artillery multiplayer tactical warfare at its finest. Randomly generated deformable landscapes only add to the fun and strategy of it all. Sure, this first entry in the longstanding franchise may seem a bit outdated to some, but it’s where it all started. I can appreciate that. Besides, who can say no to blowing up worms via TNT?

WWF RAW

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Earlier this year Monday Night Raw celebrated 25 years. I remember those early Raw episodes well; every Monday night was must-see TV. But I digress. An improvement over WWF Royal Rumble, WWF Raw is the best WWF game on the SNES. But that’s only because we never got WWF WrestleFest!

ZEN NIPPON PRO WRESTLING 2: 3-4 BUDOKAN

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The Zen Nippon series gets forgotten about at times, and in my book is right up there with the fabled Fire Pro franchise as far as great wrestling games go. This is the last and best of the Zen Nippon series on the SNES. The Fatal 4-Way match is an absolute riot. Lots of fun await if you and your buddies enjoy classic retro wrestling games.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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Nothing will ever replace the sheer joy of playing a game huddled around your buddies in the same room. Not to mention all the silly trash talking and good-natured taunting that comes with the territory. It’s all part of the charm! There’s something special and magical about those gaming sessions that I recall with a deep fondness, and I always look forward to future gaming gatherings. The SNES has plenty of great 4-player games that would steal the show at any retro gaming party. I hope this list serves you well and gives you some new games to try out with your loved ones. Feel free to comment below too — glaring omissions perhaps or games you enjoy best from this list. Happy gaming, and happy holidays!

Let the good times roll :)
Let the good times roll :)

Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling Trilogy (SFC)

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On September 17, 2017, we lost one of the truly great ones. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. THE heel manager of the late 1980s and early 1990s, if you were a pro wrestling fan you loved to boo Bobby Heenan. He was a once in a lifetime performer. Always entertaining, Bobby knew how to make you laugh and hate him all at the same time. When he passed last September, I wanted to convert over my old review of the Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling games. That’s because in that review, I used Bobby Heenan to call the action. But life got busy and it never happened.

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Earlier today it was announced that Big Van Vader passed away on June 18, 2018. Vader was featured in the first Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling game so it’s time. It’s Vader Time!

The best wrestling manager that ever lived
The best wrestling manager that ever lived
One of the best big men ever. R.I.P. Vader and Bobby
One of the best big men ever. R.I.P. Vader and Bobby

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Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling is something of a sentimental purchase for me. The reason being it was the first Super Famicom game that I bought, and what started the “obscure” Super Famicom march for me. I remember it fondly. It was an early Monday morning, March 27, 2006. 4:22 AM. Yep, I was a vampire. I sniped Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling on eBay with 3 seconds to go. Crazy times. Anyway, this is the first of Varie’s Super Famicom wrestling trilogy. It features impressive big sprites of famous wrestlers like LIGER and VADER (10 in all).

That's gonna hurt
That’s gonna hurt

The grapple system relies on timing similar to the Fire Pro series. I was hoping it would be as good as Fire Pro. Unfortunately I think Varie spent too much time on the graphics because while they look great, the frame rate is choppy to the point where it’s just not very fun to play. This game was a huge letdown for me. The graphics are awesome, sure, but it doesn’t play very well. It’s too bad because it had a lot of potential. In terms of visuals, it actually reminds me a bit of WWF WrestleFest. Just a shame it didn’t play better.

What goes up...
What goes up…
... must come down
… must come down

A bittersweet experience, then. My first Super Famicom purchase so I’ll always remember it. But as a game itself? Not all that great. Varie followed this up with a sequel. Let’s see if it’s any better.

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The first game, Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling: Chou Senshi in Tokyo Dome, was released on September 14, 1993. The sequel, Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling ’94: Battlefield in Tokyo Dome, came out less than a year later (August 12, 1994). The sprites have been downsized and as a result the frame rate has been improved, making this sequel much more playable than its predecessor.

Double the wrestlers!
Double the wrestlers!

The roster doubled, going from 10 to a whopping 20 (including the Legion of Doom and yes, a very young pre-homicide Chris Benoit). Unfortunately, it still doesn’t quite come together.

"OHHHH WHAT A RUSHHHH!"
“OHHHH WHAT A RUSHHHH!”

Similar to the first game, it looks pretty good but something about the gameplay is a bit off, despite the improved frame rate. It’s a much better effort than the first one though, but it still doesn’t match the quality of a Fire Pro.

Better but not quite there yet
Better but not quite there yet

Varie would give it one last try. Might the third time be the charm?

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Released on June 30, 1995, Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling ’95: Tokyo Dome Battle 7 is the third and final game in the Shin Nippon trilogy (not counting the female version Stardust Suplex). Did Varie finally get it right? Well, somewhat. It’s easily the best of the trilogy but it still pales in comparison to Fire Pro. Some roster changes were made, though 20 remains the count. Say goodbye to the Great Muta and hello to the Great Sasuke. The frame rate is the best of the trilogy and the graphics were not sacrificed either. Weapons are introduced. But what really makes this game is the new FATAL FOUR WAY BATTLE ROYAL mode. It’s good fun and slightly reminiscent of Capcom’s Saturday Night Slam Masters (although that one was a Texas Tornado Bedlam rather than a true Fatal Four Way Match).

All time legends. Sadly, Vince is the only one still alive
All time legends. Vince is the only one still alive :(

At this time, I’ll hand the mic over to my two all-time favorite commentators: the late great Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. They’ll call the action that follows. Tonight we have a special treat for you. A blistering Fatal Four Way Battle Royal!

*Music plays*
*Music plays*

Introducing first… from PARTS UNKNOWN… he ISTHE MASKED MAULERTHE MONARCH OF THE MATTHE MINISTER OF MENACETHE GREAT SASUKE!!!

And introducing, from Michigan, Scott Steiner.

[The f*ck! -Scott Steiner]

Damn that was cold -Rick Steiner
Damn that was cold -Rick Steiner

And THEIR OPPONENTS… first he hails from THE COSMOS… he IS… the SUBMISSION SPECIALIST… the SADISTIC SAVAGE… the SANGUINARY SOLDIERJUSHIN “THUNDER” LIGER!!!

And finally, he resides from Bay City, Michigan… Rick Steiner.

[HEY! What gives? -Rick Steiner]

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Bobby: You know Monsoon, the Steiners are brothers.
Gorilla: Give me a break!
Bobby: I hate all four of these guys. I hope they all cripple each other.
Gorilla: Will you stop! How do you sleep at night?
Bobby: Oh, on my side, usually…
Gorilla: You need professional help.
Bobby: What?! Just answering your question! Sometimes I sleep on my stomach though…
Gorilla: WHAT A PIECE OF WORK YOU ARE!

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Gorilla: [ignoring the Brain] Ladies and gentlemen, history will be made here tonight. Capacity crowd, jam packed to the rafters, the electricity is so thick you can cut it with a knife.
Bobby: I have to give the edge here to Liger, much as I can’t stand his guts, Monsoon. He’s the quickest.
Gorilla: Rick Steiner might be at a distinct disadvantage here because he’s the most lethargic of the four.
Bobby: And he’s slow too!

*Bell rings*
*Bell rings*

Gorilla: WHAT A PEARL HARBOR JOB!
Bobby: I told you Monsoon! Sasuke was my guy all along!
Gorilla: Will you be serious? The guys with the white coat and the net are going to be looking for you.
Bobby: I rather not see your family again.

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Gorilla: The irresistible force meeting the immovable object.
Bobby: So much for that theory.

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Gorilla: Sasuke is really stretching out those lateral collateral ligaments in the knee.
Bobby: IN ENGLISH PLEASE!

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Gorilla: Ouch! That’s excedrin headache number 2,182. Makes me glad I retired.
Bobby: [Mocking Gorilla] There’s one to the cervial dervial part of the neck!
Gorilla: Oh will you stop!

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Gorilla: Sasuke just pinned and eliminated Rick Steiner! We now have a triple threat match! It’s pandemonium!
Bobby: I told you Monsoon, he was just too slow for this type of match.
Gorilla: [Mockingly] And lethargic too, right?
Bobby: Yeah, that too.

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Gorilla: Good night nurse!
Bobby: Not if she spent it with you!
Gorilla: Grow up, Brain.
Bobby: Hey Monsoon, you know why the Great Sasuke wears a mask?
Gorilla: No, why?
Bobby: Have you looked in the mirror lately?
Gorilla: Will you please!

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Gorilla: Sasuke has taken over the match! The arena is deafening!
Bobby: Get that Benjamin ready for me, Monsoon!
Gorilla: Will you stop! What kind of broadcast journalist are you?
Bobby: The kind that takes cash only!

 CLOSING THOUGHTS

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Tokyo Dome Battle 7 isn’t a shabby wrestling game, but it’s not as good as the Fire Pro or Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling titles. But to Varie’s credit, Tokyo Dome Battle 7 is the most refined of the trilogy. The added Battle Royal mode is chaotic and a good amount of fun. If you’re a diehard wrestling fan and you have to have one from this Varie trilogy, make it Tokyo Dome Battle 7. It pretty much renders the two previous entries useless unless you’re a collector or the type who enjoys seeing the ‘evolution’ of a series.

My Shin Nippon and Zen Nippon Wrestling collection
My Shin Nippon and Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling collection

It’s pretty obvious why all these games stayed in Japan, although Natsume Championship Wrestling (a variation of the Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling games) did make its way to North America in the summer of 1994.

Pouring one out for all these guys and gals plus all the others we’ve lost in the past couple years since this great music video was released. Thanks for the memories, y’all.

Sega Saturn Saga

Congrats big boy -- you can finally drink legally
Congrats big boy — you can finally drink legally

Today marks the 21st birthday of the Sega Saturn in North America. Insert obligatory “time flies” and “wow where does the time go?” comments here. I have a long and fond history with Sega’s 32-bit beast. It’s my second favorite system of all time (you can probably guess which system is #1 in my heart) and I credit the Sega Saturn as the first system that truly made me a diehard gamer-collector. Being that we toast to the Sega Saturn’s 21st today, I can’t think of a better time than now to share with you how I fell in love with the Saturn, and what it meant to me over the years. This is… my Sega Saturn saga.

A QUICK NOTE BEFORE WE PROCEED

If it weren’t for the Saturn, I probably wouldn’t be into video games today. Although I grew up loving the NES, Genesis and Super Nintendo, it wasn’t until my time with the Sega Saturn that I came to appreciate games on a ‘deeper’ level. Of course, age maturation factored in, too. Unknowingly, the Saturn turned out to be my first voyage into “diehard” gaming pastures. It all started innocently enough before morphing into a savage monster. Sit back a while, young lad, and listen to the tale of the elders.

FLASHBACK TO 1998

My brother and I had a PlayStation in the late ’90s. Sure, I played and liked it reasonably, but my passion for gaming was slowly and surely slipping away around 1998. By the tail end of that year I was barely playing video games at all. The PlayStation did not appeal to me in the way the NES, Genesis or SNES had. I was on the brink of losing interest in gaming altogether.

That’s when fate decided to step in.

... and hit me with a nice, stiff clothesline
… and hit me with a nice, stiff clothesline

At that time my bro was going through his e-fed fad. An e-fed is a group of folks who role play their own wrestling persona and the booker pits the wrestlers against one another, with the victor being decided by who wrote the better promo. The e-fed community was buzzing at that time about a wrestling game available only on the Japanese Saturn… FIRE PRO WRESTLING: SIX MEN SCRAMBLE.

My bro has his game, and I had mine...
My bro has his game, and I had mine…

Just like in the old days when my bro made me do all the dirty work renting his video games, he ordered me to find a Saturn for cheap. Of course, his motivation was Fire Pro. But I had my own: WORLD HEROES PERFECT. I remember seeing the little preview in an EGM issue a couple years back, thinking how cool it would be to own a copy but because it was a Saturn game, and an import no less, I thought I never would. But what was once seemingly a far-fetched fantasy was quickly morphing into reality!

EGM was still a solid read back in ole 1996
EGM was still a solid read back in ole 1996

Here’s the EGM issue I can thank, or blame, for that unconscious desire to one day, somehow, own a copy of World Heroes Perfect. My bro subscribed to EGM in ’96 and I remember seeing Perfect featured in a quick half-page preview in the back of the August ’96 issue. I was indifferent toward the Saturn at the time, and my bro, who made all the game system purchasing decisions, was totally anti-Saturn. So I knew I could pretty much kiss any realistic thought of owning Perfect goodbye. Still, when you’re 13, there’s a certain robust shimmer of hope that nobody can ever deny you, and that includes older brothers who are in charge of, well, everything.

The desire to own a Saturn hit me like a thousand punches
My desire to own a Saturn hit me like a hundred blows

For years the thought and hopes of owning this import title laid dormant in my mind. Until, that is, one frosty winter evening of 1998. My bro literally charged at me and commanded me to go find a Saturn on the cheap. At that precise moment of shock it hit me… I can finally soon play, and own, World Heroes Perfect! *maniacal laughter*

You could say it was a critical moment in my gaming fandom
It was a critical moment in my gaming fandom

Really, were it not for Fire Pro and my brother’s burning desire to own a copy back in the winter of ’98, I probably wouldn’t be into games today. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, or a bad thing!

After I got over the shock, I sprung into action
After I got over the shock, I sprung into action

We each had our own reasons to get a Saturn. And thus, the search was on!

HOOK ME UP, BRO

I pointed to the half-page preview desperately
“World… Heroes… Perfect-uh… what’s that?”

On a cold December night of 1998, my dad drove me to a local import store that promised to find any game in Japan your heart desired for the low deposit price of $14.99. I fondly remember rushing in that tiny, long strip of a mom and pop store, shoving the EGM issue in the guy’s face and saying, almost out of breath, “Put me down for this game!”

“World… Heroes… Perfect-uh,” the clerk said in a thick Japanese accent. “What’s that?”

Hanzou's favorite number is 31. Clearly...
Hanzou’s favorite number is 31. Clearly…

My jaw dropped ten meters. This fool never heard of these games before?! “Very old Street Fighter II wannabe,” I told him, pointing to the half-page preview. “Can you find it for me?”

“Hmmm,” he pondered, scratching his chin. “I am sure so. Our search and locate skills are the best. I just need one thing from you.”

“What?”

“Fourteen ninety-nine,” he said, a small grin crossing his face as he held out his hand.

With my hopes high, it felt like the perfect night, pardon the pun
With my hopes high, it felt like the “perfect” night…

I glanced over at my dad and just like the good old days, once again like he had done so many times before, he whipped out his wallet and made the magic happen.

I watched intensely as the clerk jotted down my information — name, number, title of wanted game, all that — before asking him excitedly and optimistically, “So, when can I expect to pick it up?”

There was a momentary pause. “Oh, well, there’s a, uhhh, slight chance we might not be able to find it…” his voice trailed off.

So much for best search and locate skills eh?

“But don’t worry,”
he assured. “We usually have success. If not, you get your full fifteen dollars back.”

While my dad paid, I stared at the Sonic Adventure demo running in the corner. It drew a hearty crowd, but I found myself only thinking of one game that fine evening. While everyone and their brother were eagerly huddled by the Japanese Dreamcast console, with its late ’90s newfangled technology, I was just barely getting started on the Saturn!

My love for gaming, like the Phoenix, was resurrected that night
My love for gaming, like the Phoenix, was resurrected

That night as my dad and I walked out of the small import shop sandwiched between a bakery and knick-knack store, I remember soaking in the energy of the night. In less than one month hopefully, I will finally be playing me some World Heroes Perfect! For the first time ever… BOO-YAH!

Only a month or two at the most, right? Right…

PUTTING THE FUN INTO FUNCOLAND

In January 1999, my dad and I entered a FUNCOLAND. Moments later, we walked out with a used Saturn for the low price of $39.99. Cradling the box against my chest as though it were Frankenstein’s heart, I walked out of the store feeling a jolt of adrenaline rushing through every fiber of my body. I just bought a Saturn. A whole new gaming world to explore… hell yeah!

THE HUNT CONTINUES

Meanwhile, no sign of either Perfect or Fire Pro. My bro sent our newly acquired Saturn off to NCSX for the modification job. Weeks later, my dad and I stopped by the import shop to inquire about the status of WHP. The clerk apologized, saying his men could not locate a copy over in Japan. Oh, the high walking in hoping for the best, and the low of having your bubble burst with a ten ton hammer of denial. Hey, at least my dad got back his $14.99, eh?

Here comes a real hero: the intrawebz!
Here comes a real hero: the intrawebz!

Then came the beautiful glow of that little thing known as… the internet. I posted on a SEGA newsgroup stating my desire to buy World Heroes Perfect. I received a response from a guy named “Azaziel” or something other. He was willing to sell his complete copy for $25. It was the very first video game internet transaction of my life (of what would end up totaling 1,000+…)

It all started with a newsgroup dealing… no feedback, no pics. I wasn’t so shrewd back then as I am now [HA! -Ed.], so I didn’t bother asking for those things you see. Really, I relied solely on my gut. Total blind faith. Something told me this would end well. Hell, I even sent cash through the mail. A crisp 20 and a fiver inside a VHS cover. Hey, I was 15 and dumb, OK? :P

A week later, World Heroes Perfect arrived in the mail. I’ll never forget that day. What a high seeing the package sitting pretty in my mailbox! Unfortunately, when NCSX sent our Saturn back there was an error that prevented us from playing World Heroes Perfect. Before my bro could ever send the Saturn back for repairs, there was a slight… snafu

WHERE’S A HERO WHEN YA NEED ONE?

What goes up... must come down...
What goes up… must come down…

That same month we were robbed. It’s horrifying to come home only to find your back window smashed, muddy footprints all over the carpet and the house a former shell of its past glory. The computer, my mom’s jewelry, and all our game systems, including the Saturn — were gone. All the cabinets were left open… like the scene out of POLTERGEIST! I scrambled onto a chair to check if the thieves found World Heroes Perfect or not. It was the only game I kept in a special separate section. Remarkably, there the game sat, on the middle shelf, atop a small red dictionary. All our games were stolen. Except for one. The lone consolation prize in what was a horrific day. I realized then and there, it had to be fate. The tables turned, and now it was *me* who wanted the Saturn most of all, rather than my brother. If this terrible experience taught me anything, besides the fact that being robbed sucks the big one, it was that nothing could get in the way between me and my mission of at long last playing World Heroes Perfect. Damnit, by hook or crook, pardon the pun, I was going to play the bloody game.

All I could do was scan over the manual 50 times
All I could do was scan over the manual 50 times

FuncoLand didn’t get in another Saturn until May 1999. When they did, I jumped on it. My bro once again sent the system to NCSX for modification. OK… round 2, here we go!

Meanwhile, I browsed through the game’s color manual several (dozen) times in anticipation. Hey, I waited this long. A few more weeks won’t hurt…

A PERFECT DAY

Now that's what I call JUSTICE [Sword... -Ed.]
Now that’s what I call JUSTICE [Sword… -Ed.]
On a calm May day in 1999, after the UPS man dropped off our modded Saturn on our porch, all systems were go. Damn I’ll never forget the excitement rushing through my body as the Saturn logo fired up for the very first time. Not to mention those cheesy but memorable ADK tunes blaring in my living room, like it was 1993 all over again! The long wait was at last over. Vindication was finally mine.

Later that summer I turned my eyes to another childhood favorite
Soon, another childhood favorite came calling

Later that summer I frantically searched online for a copy of Fighter’s History Dynamite. I loved Fighter’s History (arcade, SNES) back in the day, so when I discovered the ‘sequel’ had hit the Sega Saturn, I was all over that like a fat boy on cake. Like Perfect, it proved hard to find but I searched high and low, determined to track down a copy.

It was known as Karnov's Revenge in the arcades
It was known as Karnov’s Revenge in the arcades
Enter GameWorld.com
Enter GameWorld.com to the rescue

Note: The text in that picture was originally written in May of 2008. Today, May 11, 2016, it’s close to 17 (!) years now.

Here's the card Game-World sent me with the game
Here’s the card GameWorld sent me with the game

It took a while to finally arrive, but arrive in fashion it did. Tearing the envelope open, a card fell out… I made THEIR day? More like they had made mine!

And their business card. R.I.P. GameWorld
And their business card. R.I.P. GameWorld

GameWorld was a small chain of Texas-based game stores. I’m pretty sure they’re long defunct by now. I ran into a few gamers online over the years who worked for them and had some pretty interesting tales too…

It's the body of the tiger. That's the song right?
It’s the body of the tiger. That’s how the song goes, no?

I still remember the moment vividly when the game arrived. It was an early summer afternoon, 4th of July, 1999, ironically exactly two years on the dot since the Saturn port’s release (4th of July, 1997). At around 1 the UPS man knocked on my door. I popped the game in my Saturn and nearly cried tears of joy as adrenaline overtook my every being. I now owned two Saturn games and not just any two, but two dear childhood favorites whose sequels I had yet to play. Almost too good to be true, and for me, a slice of gaming heaven. Would you believe that for the next two years, I lived off just World Heroes Perfect and Fighter’s History Dynamite? True story. That either makes me nuts or just plain freakin’ sad. Probably both.

The game arrived at my doorstep exactly two years later
The game arrived at my doorstep exactly two years later
Hmm, 4th of July, Dynamite, oh those silly Data East boys
4th of July, Dynamite. Oh those silly Data East boys

An appropriate release date in a pretty obvious way, but also a surprising one in another way. It’s fitting for a game with DYNAMITE to be released on the 4th of July. And how ironic that it arrived on the 4th of July — two years after its release. It’s scary how these unplanned things happen. [Tell me and the wifey about it! -Ed.]. The surprising thing about this release though is that the arcade came out in early-mid ’94, so why even bother porting over such an “old” game by 4th of July, 1997? And it’s not like this game lit up the arcade scene back in 1994! It remains something of a mystery. But hey, I surely wasn’t complaining! I was just happy to own both World Heroes Perfect and Fighter’s History Dynamite. Two games from two of my most beloved series growing up… all mine to play at any time I want… it was almost too good to be true!

I love its simple mid '90s fighting game spirit
I love its simple mid ’90s fighting game spirit
And who could ever forget Ray's infamous BAKE POTATO?!
And who could forget Ray’s infamous BAKED POTATO?!
It was good to see Karnov, an old childhood friend, once again
Good to see Karnov, an old childhood friend, once again

WELCOME TO PLANET SEGA SATURN

I want Karnov at my next summer BBQ
I want Karnov at my next summer BBQ

My gaming life, so to speak, all changed in January 2001. For two years, I lived off Perfect and Dynamite. I probably played one or the other once a week or so. I never really thought of expanding my Saturn horizons, as odd as that may seem. I was, pardon the pun, perfectly content with World Heroes Perfect and Fighter’s History Dynamite. I’m set for life, right?

Looking back, it's crazy to think I lived off just two games
Looking back, it’s crazy how I lived off just two games

That all changed one night in January of 2001.

At my buddy’s house to study for a HUGE physics exam, I saw a Saturn lying on the ground. I nearly fell over. Remember, the PlayStation was all the rage back then, and by 2001 the Saturn was a long, LONG afterthought.

“Hey — you’re the first person I know who has one too,”
I said, pointing to his Saturn. I tried to sound as casual as I could about it. After all, it wasn’t too cool to be pro-Saturn in the year 2001. Still, I probably didn’t do a very good job of that, as it WAS quite cool to see someone else owning a Saturn in the year 2001.

“Oh yeah? I haven’t touched the thing in years.”

The hardcore addiction begins...
The hardcore addiction begins…

What’s this? I noticed Street Fighter Alpha 2 and Bust-A-Move 2 beside the system, both games looking pretty in their big bulky cases… seeing them triggered something inside of me that I thought was long dead. Suddenly, I felt very excited about games again… beyond just the two fighting games I had at that point.

“I still play my Saturn,”
I managed to bravely admit. “Though it’s been a while.” It was true. It had been months since I played Perfect or Dynamite. Love them as I did, two years is a long time to play JUST two games.

“If you want some of the games, go ahead. Take some. It’s cool.”

I nearly fell over. “I can’t do that, man.”

“No, go for it. Really. I don’t play them anymore. Plus I never even bought any of them to begin with.”

“I can’t, really, but thanks…”

“You sure?”

“… I’ll just take these two,” I said quickly as the moment overtook me. I lured Street Fighter Alpha 2 and Bust-A-Move 2 out of the pile. I remember seeing BUG! but not giving a damn whatsoever about it. I just wanted some Street Fighter and BAM 2 action!

The rest of the study session I found it difficult to focus on atoms or Murphy’s Law, and who could blame me. The moment of truth arrived when I came home and fired the games up, one by one. I cheered for every successful Dragon Punch, and I cringed for every “NO! I AIMED THE FREAKIN’ BUBBLE THERE, NOT THERE!” moment.

It truly was like having the arcade game in your living room
It was like having the arcade game in your living room

Street Fighter Alpha 2 in particular blew me away. It played so smoothly and had just the right amount of style and substance. Playing Bust-A-Move 2 was like being back at an arcade hall, plopping a quarter into a simple but delightful puzzler to tide me over until the lines for the latest fighting game died down a bit… ahh, good times.

It was an unbelievable arcade-like experience I had that fine evening. It made me think about what other gems this system has to offer…

As they say, the rest is history.

FUNCOLAND STRIKES AGAIN, NOT BACK

A relic of the past now...
A relic of the past now…

Back in the mid ’90s there used to be a chain of stores across the land known as FuncoLand. It sold mostly used games. You could play games there, and many systems were featured. You could trade in games. Many gamers have varying opinions and memories of FuncoLand, but it’s mostly always been pretty good to me, so I can’t complain too much. My theory was simple: Bring $20, browse for 10 minutes to see if there’s anything worth grabbing, and then get the hell out.

Love me some Galactic Attack
Love me some Galactic Attack

The very next month, February 2001, I was driving to Uncle Jimmy’s house to visit him and my cousin David when I saw FuncoLand’s big bright, colorful, neon sign calling out to me in the dark of the night. I remember being awed by their large luminous sign and being ecstatic about what Sega Saturn gems I might find inside. There I saw World Series Baseball II for just $3.99 and Galactic Attack for $4.99, both disc only. I didn’t hesitate to pluck both of them.

Ranked #86 on EGM's Top 100 Games list November 1997
Ranked #86 on EGM’s Top 100 Games list November ’97

There was also Quake and Fighters Megamix for $9.99 each but I passed (disc only). The clerk gave me a bewildered look when he saw me bringing World Series Baseball II and Galactic Attack to the counter.

“You still playing the Saturn?”

“No… kinda just starting in a way,” I said with a little grin.

He looked at me like I was crazy. And maybe I was… but damnit, if I was crazy, I was gonna have a good time.

Galactic Attack didn't disappoint. Something pure about SHMUPS...
There’s something pure about SHMUPS

Now I had six games in my collection. My library tripled in two short weeks prior to the two years I owned only Perfect and Dynamite! I couldn’t wait to try out Galactic Attack and World Series Baseball II. The sense of thrill of adding more quality titles to the ole collection became an addiction in every respect of the word.

Leaving my newly acquired Saturn games in my glove compartment, I made my way to my uncle’s house. They had to make a run at the grocery store. Told me I could join them or stay back and surf the net.

I stayed back. On that chilly February night of 2001, I searched for info (read: reviews) on my two new Saturn acquisitions. I’ll never forget the moment that evening when I stumbled upon . . .

One of the sites that originally inspired RVGFanatic!
One of the sites that originally inspired RVGFanatic!

My God — hundreds of user reviews! US and Japanese game reviews. The freakin’ works! I was absolutely floored by what they had on offer. I read through all the World Series Baseball II and Galactic Attack reviews until my cousins came back. It thrilled me to read all the good things the reviewers had to say about those two games. Over the years, I frequently referred back to the reviews found on sega-saturn dot com, either before purchasing a game, or just after playing it. Usually it was the latter; reading what others thought of certain games and then comparing that to how I felt was all part of the fun of buying and playing all the Saturn games that I did… and MAN was it a lot of fun.

I’ve definitely read one too many JM Vargas and Dark Falcon reviews! Those guys effin’ rock. Wherever you two are out there in the vastness of cyberspace, I salute y’all. Goes to show you how voice in reviews can go a long way to leaving lasting impressions. Some odd 15 years later, I still remember JM Vargas and Dark Falcon fondly, as well as their friendly ribbing and in-review in-jokes tossed at one another. Good times. You felt as if you knew them. Perhaps the best compliment a writer can ever hope to receive.

My 15 minutes of fame came when I wrote a review for Sega-Saturn.com myself on February 23, 2001. Can you guess which game?

BINGO!
BINGO! How did you guess right?

I was so moved by seeing all the Saturn reviews on the site that I knew I wanted to contribute some of my own. Besides, there was one review of Perfect already up and I felt the guy (fastguy, to be precise) did it wrong. I had to get my viewpoint out there. Looking back, I’m proud to have been a small part of that awesome site. I keep waiting for a successor, but year after year I always find myself disappointed. There may never be another Saturn fansite quite like it.

My second review was for, ah, you guessed it
My second review was for, ah, you guessed it

I also submitted one for Fighter’s History Dynamite the very next day as well (February 24, 2001). Those two reviews that I wrote were actually among the final four or so that was ever published by the site. Seeing my two reviews go up live that Saturday evening, I felt so excited and proud. The reviewing craze was born! Yes, before the days of YouTube, people used to write gaming reviews. Nuts, I know! :P

SO, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO FIRE PRO?

I can ramble on and on about Six Man Scramble
I can ramble on and on about Six Men Scramble

Ah, I’m glad you asked. Funnily enough, I never did buy a copy for my brother. And the reason was he no longer wanted it. His same wrestling e-fed group was now raving about the PlayStation version, Fire Pro G. My bro focused on that instead since he was always a PlayStation guy at heart. Go figure!

I later bought Scramble anyway. Because, reasons
I later bought Scramble anyway. Because, reasons

We played the shit outta Fire Pro G. I loved it as much as he did. AWESOME game. But I owe a lot to Six Men Scramble. Were it not for this game, I probably never would have pursued a Saturn, and I probably would have lost touch with video gaming altogether. Seriously. Yet because of this one game, I went on to have six WONDERFUL years with the Saturn. In 2003 I went ahead and bought a copy for myself. It only felt right.

This was the other hot Saturn import in 1998
This was the other hot Saturn import in 1998

In late ’98 X-Men vs. Street Fighter was ALL the rage. I remember it being talked about in hushed tones. There were really two Saturn imports making a ton of noise online at that time. This and…

As if you had to ask!
As if you had to ask!
Appropriately joined at the hip. Damn good times
Appropriately joined at the hip. Damn good times

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The WORLD is always in need of some HEROES
The WORLD is always in need of some HEROES

I have not played Saturn World Heroes Perfect or Fighter’s History Dynamite for a good number of years now. Not because I don’t want to, but because there’s still so much SNES goodness I want to experience. But, I know there will come a day where that itch will come calling. And I shall answer and scratch. From two Saturn games owned, to eventually, around 350, I have had quite the experience with the Sega Saturn. It’s my second favorite system of all time, and it’s the reason why I’m here now, probably.

The halcyon days... from a bygone era...
The halcyon days… from a bygone era…

A part of me still can’t believe this twist of fate: I started out loving World Heroes and Fighter’s History in the arcade and later the SNES, but never got to play the last game in each series until 1999 with the Saturn. That was around the same time my brother and I donated our SNES to our cousin, David. Many years later, 2006 to be precise, I got back into the SNES, bought copies of the originals, and to this day still love playing any one of them. It feels like I’ve come full circle with this hobby in a way.

With the Sega Saturn turning 21 here in the States today, as FOB once sang, thanks for the memories. While I’ll never view the Saturn with quite the same awe as I did those six years from 1999-2005, it’ll always have a special spot in my gaming heart. Long live the Sega Saturn!