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. Doom blazed 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!