Browse any horror section in any book store and chances are, you’ll find a bunch of Stephen King and Dean Koontz books. Mr. Koontz is a name I’ve heard a lot about, and in early 2020 I picked up a bunch of his books for cheap. My goal in 2020 was to read my first Stephen King book, as well as my first Dean Koontz book. I accomplished that when I finished IT, and in November I read The Voice of the Night. This book is said to be Koontz’s best work. Koontz has a mixed reputation. Some people enjoy his work, while others claim he’s pretty trash. I’ll have to read more before I come to my own conclusion, but after reading Voice of the Night I can say he ain’t half bad.
I HEAR VOICES IN MY HEAD…
Dean Koontz pulls no punches. The book opens immediately with our two main characters — Colin and Roy. Roy is your typical asshole whose mantra in life is to kill or be killed. As you might guess, Colin is the complete opposite, and that’s where the dynamic lies. Colin wants Roy to like him. Roy’s intentions, however, are a little more sinister…
Like… REALLYsinister. Colin does his best to give Roy the benefit of the doubt. He can’t tell with absolute certainty whether or not Roy is just pulling his leg. For instance, in the passage above we see Roy fantasize about people dying in a terrible train wreck (hence the cover of the American edition). That’s just something normal people don’t daydream about…
Like most sociopaths, Roy is charming and manipulative like a used car salesman. He leans into Colin’s desire for belonging and friendship. You may be able to fool naive Colin, Roy, but ya sure can’t fool us!
“Death isn’t the end. It’s the center… it’s the most exciting thing in life.” Oooh-kay. Poor Colin still can’t see the 5 alarm fire and red flags that are pouring out of Roy. This book is very dialogue heavy. Which means it makes for a rather quick read that constantly moves at a brisk pace. It’s an interesting character study, for sure.
I like how Koontz continually ups the ante. Things start out “small” but gradually escalates like a well crafted thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Apparently, Mr. Koontz was not a big fan of the 1963 cult classic!
“Even in the fast-dwindling, purple-amber light of late evening, the sudden sprinkle of sweat on his forehead and upper lip was visible; darkly glistening jewels.”Loved that description! And although Roy is a psychopath, I love the diatribe he spews here. Not that I believe in it, but I love how Koontz continues to build Roy’s aggressiveness and mad world views.
And this is where we get the Star 1985 cover from.
We get to see how Roy’s negative influence starts to creep up on Colin. The passage above says it all. Disturbing stuff…
Colin’s broken relationship with his father explains a lot. He’s constantly belittled and demeaned. Perhaps that is why he is seeking belonging with a guy like Roy. From one asshole father to an asshole “friend.”
My favorite passage from the book. The way he describes the darkening sky puts you right there as we rapidly approach the climax of the book.
A lot of people hate on Dean Koontz, but many have praised The Voice of the Night. I’m glad this was my first Koontz book. I definitely enjoyed it, and I am curious what other works of his I might enjoy. I plan to read more in the years to come. I’m sure some I won’t like (at all). But for this book, I loved the back and forth dynamic between Roy and Colin. It’s all fairly predictable, but it’s an intriguing character study. While it doesn’t crack my favorite reads of 2020 list, it definitely ranks somewhere in the upper half echelon. Speaking of 2020, kiss my ass! Goodbye 2020 and hello 2021! Happy New Year y’all!
If there was one thing I loved as much as video games when I was a kid, it was monsters. I was obsessed with Godzilla growing up. Any giant rubber suited monster movie was right up my alley. So combining the two — video games and monsters — was a grand slam for a kid like me. At least, in theory. Execution is entirely another matter. I remember being excited to play Ultraman: Towards The Future. After playing it, Towards The Garbage Bin seems like a more appropriate subtitle. Then came the SNES version of King of the Monsters. I loved the arcade version especially for its tag team bedlam mode. Not only was that gutted from the SNES port but they also scrapped two of the six monsters. 0 for 2 now. Would King of the Monsters 2 be the third strike, or would SNES owners finally get a decent monster game?
MY GREAT WHITE WHALE
My local arcades didn’t carry King of the Monsters 2. I was never able to play it, sadly.
I saw screenshots of it in magazines and it looked awesome.
The new monsters looked great, making me want to play it even more.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I searched high, I searched low. Nada. It wasn’t until a fateful Saturday afternoon back in June of 1994 that my best friend Nelson and I ran across the Super Famicom import version of King of the Monsters 2.
We couldn’t believe that standing before us were the import versions of Fighter’s History, King of the Monsters 2 and Muscle Bomber (Saturday Night Slam Masters). The North American versions were either weeks or even months away from release. Nelson grabbed Fighter’s History and so I had to make a choice between King of the Monsters 2 or Saturday Night Slam Masters. I loved Slam Masters but this was a clear no-brainer to me…
THE STORY GOES…
THE GOOD GUYS
The roster stands at just three. It’s a little disappointing, considering the original gave you double the choice. Hope you aren’t too attached to the likes of Poison Ghost, Beetlemania and Rocky…
THE BAD GUYS
Before you square off with King Famardy, you must first travel to six different parts of the world to romp and raid. At the end of each short level, there awaits a big and ugly monster for you to fight. Trust me, none of these guys will ever win a beauty contest! I like the cryptic touch of only being shown their silhouettes.
There are a couple bars to pay attention to. Your own, the boss bar and your power bar. When your power bar is fully charged, you can unleash a vicious special attack.
As seen here, each boss gets progressively tougher and tougher. Some of the bars get so long that they can be a little bit intimidating!
Charge your power bar by holding L. You cannot move or attack when charging, so you leave yourself wide open to enemy attack. With two players, it’s a lot easier to have your buddy entertain the boss while you charge, or vice versa. On your own though, you better pick your spots. As the old saying goes, charge wisely.
Just like the first game, grappling is still the main point of attack. Toggle back and forth like a mad man all while cursing and hollering like a raving mad lunatic. Trust me, it’s a lot more fun that way. Unlike the first game, however, here it seems the victor of a grapple isn’t random but actually awarded to the one who toggles faster. Imagine that — what a concept…
New is the ability to block. By simply pressing R, you can thwart the opposition’s blows. It’s a welcomed feature and adds some strategy to the fold, particularly in the 2 player game.
Formerly a (mad) scientist, he transformed into Astro Guy during an experiment gone wrong (or right…) when the Monsters first appeared in 1996. The ambitious scientist was looking to discover a way to make the human body immune to radiation. Well shit, look at him now. Surviving the ruckus of the original war, Astro Guy evolved into Atomic Guy. He’s now stronger and faster than ever. Master of lightning, fireballs and fashion!
Electrocute them like there’s no tomorrow!
Ahh, everyone’s favorite Godzilla knockoff, or at least, mine anyhow. Super Geon doesn’t move as fast as the others but his immense strength more than makes up for his lack of speed. Equipped with sharp spikes, fangs, claws and one very nasty disposition, Super Geon is ready to tear down any obstacle in his way. Looking more like FIN FANG FOOM here than Godzilla, this dragon beast makes the earth quiver with one of his mighty Earthquake leaps.
Woo underwent the most drastic transformation of all the monsters. An overgrown gorilla in the first game, he is now a lean, mean, fighting machine. No one knows for sure how he came to be in this state, but rumor has it he was assembled by the government as a top secret weapon. Some say the original Woo is dead and that this is something new altogether. Whatever IT is, the very hope of mankind may very well lie in Cyber Woo’s cold, steel hands!
Launching missiles into their ugly faces? Sign me up!
ALIEN BOSSES AND STAGES
The entry soldier of King Famardy’s line of defense. Huge Frogger looks like a nasty bugger that might give you fits, but he’s a bit of a wimp. Don’t overlook him though. He can still be slightly formidable thanks to his abilities. These include teleportation, laser beams and razor sharp elbow horns. He’s also got humongous feet and he’s more than happy to use them to smash your face in! He’s far too cocky for his own good, though. Occasionally, he’ll stop to just laugh at you. Be sure to make him regret that foolish decision! After you see his face, you’ll understand why he hides it behind that huge mask.
Apparently, Huge Frogger isn’t a huge fan of Brett Favre. He appears for a brief skirmish. However, the wimp will eventually teleport and meet you again at level’s end.
Great original city names so far, eh? This guy is quite a piece of work. His face is a disgusting tissue-y mass that has a parasitic alien brain sucking on it. He’s gifted with freaky strength. He’ll lift you high and pound you into the ground several times over before you can scream GODZELLER. Thanks to his ability of being able to stretch his limbs, he can strike from almost any distance. Once defeated, his blob-like brain will detach from the body for a desperate final battle!
Dhalsim but with the strength of Zangief… on steroids!
Bogun. Freaking Bogun from Ultraman. That’s the first thought I had when I saw Clawhead. What a grotesque creature. Hands for feet, creepy eyes tucked inside the mouth (which is bizarrely placed at the bottom), a pair of killer horns and two faces that could give Freddy Krueger nightmres! This two-headed menace guards the Grand Canyon with malice. What exactly is lurking in that hideous mouth beyond those eyes? Pray that you won’t have to find out…
So this stage is called Grand Canyon, but Mount Rushmore is in South Dakota. Last I checked, I’m pretty sure the Grand Canyon is still located in Arizona. WTF were y’all doing, SNK? Or rather, what were y’all smoking…
Let’s see… American City, French City… yup, by stage four they clearly said “f*ck it.” That’s why we now come to… DESERT. Remember the messenger from earlier? The brain that spewed all those threatening messages but then always scurried away? It now takes a stand. And to help it take that stand, it employs the hideous body of one, Beetle Master. Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would like a word with you, good sir. Oh, and whatever you do, DON’T say his name at night three times. Or else he’ll appear out of thin air to eat you whole. You’ve been warned…
[Uh, I don’t think that’s how it goes -Ed.]
While none of the monsters will be winning any sort of beauty contest, Sack Eyes truly takes the cake. He is one repulsive bastard. He’s also tougher than a two dollar steak. If his looks don’t kill you, his deadly repertoire will. His squalid face is the stuff nightmares are made of, and that throbbing red blob-like substance around his neck is every bit as dangerous as it is unnerving…
Meet King Famardy’s right-hand man, er, monster. Lavicus is tougher than nails. As the last line of defense, anything less would be disappointing. He’s not so bad with two players. But by your lonesome? Good luck. Just how tough is he? There is NOstage. You just fight him right away. The developers must have thought, “Why delay the inevitable ass-whupping? Let’s just feed them to Lavicus.” Best to get it over with, then.
Lavicus’ Lava Zone is rather lovely. It’s simple but therein lies its wicked effectiveness. The lava flows as the monsters duke it out. Jump up on the hill if that’s your thing, or settle the score right there in the bright scorching molten lava.
Congrats! You’ve made it to the last stage. Fatter than Santa but not nearly as jolly, King Famardy is a sight for sore eyes. He moves a lot faster than one might anticipate, and he comes equipped with a host of tools from which he can use to decimate you. Kill him and the world is yours to rule as King of the Monsters.
Thankfully, in-between each victory you’re given a supply of power-ups and such. Little L’s are for small health gain, large L’s for moderate health gain, P’s for leveling up, and if you’re lucky enough, the odd 1-UP will crop up here and there. However, one small catch. There’s only enough time to grab two, so pick the best ones. With two players, each player nabs two.
If you thought his front side was fugly, you ought to see his back side! I love the intricate details here, especially the scales. Check out the feet protruding from Famardy’s back. That should warrant a visit to his local alien doctor, one would think.
THE BAD ENDING
GAME OVER, MAN!
THE GOOD ENDING
First, if you’re browsing this on a desktop or laptop, click on the music video and follow along with the text-embedded pictures below.
It’s always times like these When I think of you And I wonder If you ever Think of meeee Cause everything’s so wrong And I don’t belon –
Um, ahem. The real ending, then…
TWO TIMES THE FUN
While I still miss the tornado tag team feature from the first game, I have to say it’s still a blast to team up with a buddy to take out the computer alien bosses one at a time. It’s a 2-on-1 handicap match essentially, and I cannot think of another SNES game that operates like such. Even beat ‘em up bosses tend to throw lesser henchmen at you, while this is strictly a 2-on-1 affair. It really makes playing King of the Monsters 2 unlike any other SNES experience.
Playing with a buddy also lends a certain strategy you don’t get when playing alone. It’s a short game but it’s pretty damn fun with two while it lasts. My favorite strategy is charging my power bar and then having my friend block while I attack from behind with my charged up special move. All is fair in love and war! Too bad though there isn’t an option for you and a friend to take on two alien bosses at a time. The three options are: 1P vs. CPU, 1P and 2P vs. CPU or the ho-hum 1P vs. 2P mode, where it’s just you and a buddy trying to win 3 out of 5. Unfortunately, you can’t control the alien boss monsters in this mode, which was a wasted opportunity.
The Sega Genesis version of King of the Monsters 2 is radically different from the SNES version. While the SNES port mimics the arcade game, the Genesis version opted to go the Street Fighter II route. It is strictly a 1-on-1 fighting game, but instead of a single plane, players are allowed to use the entire screen. It’s actually what I envisioned my own childhood game, MONSTER FIGHTER, to be back in the early ’90s. A blend of King of the Monsters meets Street Fighter II. The Genesis version received pretty solid reviews. Some people liked the fact that it cut out the side-scrolling beat ‘em up sections and got straight down to the action. If nothing else, it’s an interesting footnote in the history of the King of the Monsters series.
CAN I GET SOME CHEESE, PLEASE?
GET YOUR KEY CHAINS!
I remember doing this and getting my free King of the Monsters 2 key chain back in the day. Too bad I lost it. But yeah, these freebie give away prizes Takara used to do back in the ’90s was awesome.
WHO IS THE ROBOT MONKEY?
Throughout the annals of history, there have been some great philosophical questions posed.
“What came first: the chicken or the egg?”
“To BE, or NOT to be?”
“How much wood can a woodchuck chuck…
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”
And then, on July 7, 2008, a five year old student of mine asked me one of life’s greatest questions:
But let me back up the DeLorean a bit here. In college I studied to become a teacher, with a minor in Theatre Arts. Wherever I could, I implemented drama into my presentations and public speeches. I was in a Humanities class in 2006 and after one of my dramatic presentations this is what my professor wrote on our class’ online message board:
In the summer of 2008, I found myself teaching a public speaking camp to a group of five and six years old. On my first day of class, I began by introducing myself and asking my students to share some basic info about themselves. I’ll never forget these two twin boys. They were five and when their turn to speak came, they said they loved video games.
“And what is your favorite game?” I asked.
“KING OF THE MONSTERS!”
I almost fell over. The next day was Show and Tell. Guess what the twin boys brought to the party?
During break time, they were telling me all about their favorite monsters from the game. One of the twins was describing Cyber Woo to me and at one point he stopped. “Mr. Steve, who is the robot monkey?” I couldn’t help but laugh as I answered his thought-provoking question. Damn, it’s hard to believe it’s almost been 10 years since I taught that summer camp. Jeez, those twins are now 14 and in high school! I feel old now.
Later that day, I asked one of the twins who his least favorite monster was. He said Atomic Guy because “he’s weak and this little kick is all he can do.” Then the kid actually replicated the kick to a tee right in front of me, TWICE. It scared me how flawless his form was! It just goes to show you how genuine and real their passion for King of the Monsters 2 was. They restored my faith in humanity!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
The SNES translation didn’t win any awards or anything, but critics agreed it was a great port considering the hardware limitations of the 16-bit SNES compared to the mega arcade power that was the Neo Geo. EGM gave it scores of 7, 7, 7and 8. Super Play rated it 74%. It’s definitely one of the better arcade to SNES translations ever made.
That Saturday June afternoon of 1994 saw a dream of mine realized when I finally got to play King of the Monsters 2. I’m not quite sure if I liked it more than the first one but I know I had a blast playing it with my best friend, Nelson. And that’s what video games are all about. King of the Monsters 2 is filled to the brim with bright and bold colors. At times it is a visual feast. One look at the game and you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it’s a Super Nintendo game circa 1994. The monsters animate well, look terrifying and the special moves are a treat to behold. Atomic Guy’s Megaton Thunder, for instance, really lights up the screen. The giant monsters are intricately detailed as are the stages you wreck. It is this believability of the behemoths that makes the game work and also makes it fun.
Of course, there’s more to a good game than great visuals. As for the sound, King of the Monsters 2 has some solid rocking tunes which really help add to the whole B-Movie feel of the game. Sound effects are a bit hit and miss, though. Some are out of place or oddly missing altogether. Where’s the sound when my guy is crushing small buildings? What’s up with the fact that jumping on water sounds the same as when I’m jumping on the ground? So with the good comes some bad.
As for the gameplay, it’s a lot more sound than the original. This time, it really feels like the person who toggles the D-Pad faster actually wins. I do miss the tornado tag team mode, but I welcome the ability to block as well as the mode where you and a buddy tackle the alien bosses one at a time. Having only three monsters to select from is kind of lame, but on the bright side, unlike the original, their grapple moves are exclusively theirs. Only Atomic Guy can perform a front suplex while Super Geon makes good use of the spikes on his back like only he can. He heaves his foe five hundred feet in the air before the poor victim comes crashing down on a bed of nails. Ouch! Or Atomic Guy shocking the shit out of fools.
I also like how you have to march through each unique stage before fighting the boss. These little beat ‘em up sections range from cities to Grand Canyons to even an underwater sea bed where a mutated aqua slug resides. The stages are kept short too because the main focus here of course is on the seven boss monsters. The minor enemies you deal with as you romp through each level present minimal threat, but it’s still a blast to strike down foul land sharks, wretched one-eyed freekazoids and what have you. And of course, along the way there are various power-ups as well as bad ones, like the BOMB icon (to keep you on your toes), the Power Down icon, and the Roulette where you’re taking a chance with whatever icon the game decides to give you.
No one will ever mistake King of the Monsters 2 as one of Super Nintendo’s very best, but it serves its niche well as a creature feature. SNES fans got the shaft with the original but here is a bit of redemption. Yeah, the game is incredibly short, and there’s only a scant three monsters from which to use, but man is it fun playing with a like-minded friend. It’s hard to believe it’s now been 23 summers since that fateful June day that Nelson and I shitted our pants seeing the import version of this game sitting high and pretty on the top shelf over at Game Hunter. The exuberance surging through our ten year old bodies and the sheer thrill of finding this unexpected gem before us was the perfect way to kick off one of the last great summers of my childhood. I guess I’ll always remember King of the Monsters 2 most of all for that innocent summer day in June of 1994. I’m also happy to say that it’s a pretty solid little 2 player romp. If you love your wanton monster mayhem, then don’t miss out on King of the Monsters 2.
Ah, Rampage. Hard to believe the 1986 arcade game turned 30 last year. Next year will mark 30 years for the 8-bit NES port. Who didn’t play this game back in the day? I remember seeing the lovely cover at my local mom ‘n pop rental shop EVERGREEN VIDEO and absolutely going nuts. I loved monsters and the cover promised monster mayhem and destruction. My old man handed a Washington over to Tom, Evergreen Video’s owner, as my dad did every Saturday afternoon when my brother and I would go to rent the latest NES title. Remember when games were that cheap to rent? Hell, remember when renting games was a thing?! But I digress. That whole car ride home, all five minutes of it, was the longest five minutes of my life. I couldn’t wait to play Rampage. We rushed to our game room, popped it in and the rest is history. The fact that I remember it fondly to this day nearly 30 years later says it all.
KING KONG VS. GODZILLA
Man, I remember gawking at this VHS cover at Toys R Us in the late ’80s. Toys R Us used to have a super small VHS section that contained Disney movies and the odd Godzilla film. Long before Capcom made crossovers popular in the late ’90s, there was 1962’s KING KONG vs. GODZILLA! I had no clue such a film existed so I nearly crapped my pants when I first saw the box sitting pretty on the shelf. Suddenly I no longer cared about buying that latest ThunderCats toy or the newest Nintendo game. Rather, all I wanted was to walk away with just a movie… from Toys R Us! We’re talkin’ TOYS R US here! You know it had to take a pretty damn special movie to possess any kid to want to do that. King Kong vs. Godzilla was that special. My parents bought it on sight and I remember being a bit disappointed when I finally saw the movie. Still, I liked it enough and had no regrets of not buying Leonardo: Scuba Diving Edition!
Speaking of King Kong, I just watched Kong: Skull Island the other night. It was pretty good, and I am excited for this new “MonsterVerse” that Legendary has created. Crossover franchises are all the rage now, and I can’t wait for King Kong vs. Godzilla to hit theatres on May 29, 2020. That’s sure to be epic.
After discovering the internet in the late ’90s, I purchased a subtitled version of King Kong vs. Godzilla. I enjoyed it a lot more than the English dub. So, how does this all relate to Rampage? Well of course…
Yeeeeee-ahhh A used… pink bathrobe
A rare… mint snowglobe
A Smurf… TV tray
I bought on eBay!
My house… is filled with this crap
Shows up in BUBBLE WRAP
Most every day
What I bought on eBay!
Tell me why I need another pet rock
Tell me why I got that ALF alarm clock
Tell me why I bid on Shatner’s old toupee
They had it on eBay!
I’ll buy… your knick-knack
Just check… my feedback “A++!” they all say
They love me on eBay!
Gonna buy a slightly damaged golf bag
Gonna buy some Beanie Babies, new with tag
From some guy I’ve never met in NOOOORWAAAY
Found him on eBay!
I am the type who is liable to snipe you
With two seconds left to go, whoaaaa Got Paypal or Visa, whatever’ll please ya
As long as I’ve got… THE DOOOUGH!
I’ll buy… your tchotchkes
Sell me… your watch, please
I’ll buy… I’ll buy, I’ll buy, I’ll buy… I’M HIGHEST BIDDER!!
JUNK KEEPS ARRIVING IN THE MAIL
FROM THAT WORLDWIDE GARAGE SALE (Dukes Of Hazard ashtray) Hey! A Dukes Of Hazard ashtray OHHHH YEAH… I bought it on eBay!
Wanna buy a Pac-Man Fever lunchbox
Wanna buy a case of vintage tube socks
Wanna buy a Kleenex used by Dr. Dre, used by Dr. Dre!
Found it oneBay!
Wanna buy that Farrah Fawcet poster Pez dispensers and a toaster DON’T KNOW WHY… the kind of stuff you’d throw away
I’ll buy oneBay!
What I bought on eBay-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y!
Indeed. The best part of the game is scaling a building that allows you to clobber that one, the one behind it and the one next to it as well. That, along with playing with your brother or friend, was as good as it got in Rampage.
November 6, 1993 marks one of the strangest incidents ever witnessed in sports history. It was a rematch between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield. During round seven, a fan parachuted down just missing the ring. The bizarre incident caused a 21 minute delay.
Holyfield eventually won the bout after the fight went 12 rounds. He regained his World Heavyweight title. It was the only loss Riddick Bowe would ever suffer in his boxing career.
Every five or so stages, you conquer another region. No password or save system made beating this game a daunting and tedious chore.
RAMPAGE THROUGH THE YEARS
I was a bit saddened when we never got a Super Rampage on the SNES. I thought that spelled the end but Rampage saw a revival during the 32-bit generation in the form of Rampage World Tour. I bought a copy back in 2003 and it’s OK for what it is, but I was disappointed there wasn’t a three player mode. There was no excuse for that especially since the Saturn could more than handle it. Therefore the port always came off as incredibly lazy to me.
Rampage: Total Destruction came out on the Wii in 2006. Who knows if Rampage will ever be resurrected again (in video game form).
Coming to theatres in April 2018 — Rampage starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The Rock is no stranger to video game movie adaptations. This will be his second video game film, with his first being 2005’s Doom. That was not a good movie. Hopefully Rampage turns out OK, and I think it will. We’ll find out in about a year!
Even nearly 30 years ago, I knew Rampage wasn’t a great game or anything. It’s best played with a like minded bud for no more than 15 minutes. Is there a more mindless one trick pony game than Rampage? It is what it is. It can be fun to pop in for a few minutes once in a blue moon but it’s not something you’ll want to play often. I’ll always remember Rampage for its cool box art and allowing kids to live out our fantasy of being a towering monster crushing buildings left and right — even if it fell way short of what we imagined. I guess there’s only so much you can do with this sort of format. Rampage is one of those games that gives you the nostalgic feels but the memories far surpass the actual experience, if that makes sense. It’s certainly a memorable relic from the good old NES days of late ’80s yore.
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…
GEON 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.
ROCKY 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!
BEETLE MANIA 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.
ASTRO GUY 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.