The Legend of the Mystical Ninja (SNES)

Pub & Dev: Konami | February 1992 | 8 MEGS
Pub & Dev: Konami | February 1992 | 8 MEGS

The Legend of the Mystical Ninja was one of those games I briefly played with my buddies back in the day but never fully explored. I bought a copy in 2006 during my my SNES resurgence but it took me over a decade later to finally play it. Around this time last year I wrote a massive article highlighting my SNES collection. In it I talked about some of my most anticipated titles. That is to say, the most high profile games in my collection I’ve yet to play but can’t wait to. I cited Legend of the Mystical Ninja as one example. Some of my readers told me this was a matter that needed to be rectified ASAP. So this past October my girlfriend and I sat down and started going through the game. It is every bit the SNES classic that most say it is. Ah, it seemed like Konami could do no wrong back in the early ’90s.

25 YEAR CURIOSITY AT LAST QUELLED 

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The excerpt above is a story/article I wrote that my buddy Jeffrey Wittenhagen published in his SNES Compendium book released earlier this year. This article is about the seven reasons why I love the SNES so much. Reason #4 is the ability to quell longstanding childhood curiosities. As you can see, Legend of the Mystical Ninja was listed first. Glad I righted that wrong!

Thanks Cindy!
Thanks Cindy!

And yes, it is late Christmas night as I write this. A few minutes to midnight, in fact. Look what my girlfriend got me. Best Christmas ever :P

THE EVOLUTION OF GOEMON

Goemon started out as an arcade game in 1986
Goemon started out as an arcade game in 1986
There were four Goemon games on the SNES alone
There were four Ganbare Goemon games on the SNES

WHY MYSTICAL NINJA ROCKS

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The following pictures come courtesy of Retro Gamer Magazine. It gives a great overview on what makes Legend of the Mystical Ninja so good.

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MEET OUR HEROES

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MASTERING THE ART OF JUTSU

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In addition to your regular attacks, you can master the art of Jutsu throughout the game which grants you some special powers that will make your life a whole lot easier.

THE STORY GOES…

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Diabolical forces has struck the village of Horo-Horo. Their beloved princess has vanished and without her powers, a plague of locusts will ravage the helpless. Only two brave souls can save the village… Kid Ying and Dr. Yang!

I THINK I’M TURNING JAPANESE

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Oriental flavor was thankfully retained. Back then, it wasn’t uncommon for SNES games featuring Japanese-esque elements to be Americanized. Luckily, there wasn’t much of that here. There are 10 Warlock Zones in all with each composed of two sections. It’s not a long game but it’s certainly fun (especially co-op) while it lasts.

SHOP ‘TIL YA DROP

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Rather than being a straight-laced action platformer, Konami added in shops where you can buy useful items or simply gather information by speaking with the locals. It helps to break up the action and definitely adds a bit of strategy. Here’s a more in-depth look at the places you can visit.

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I like how Konami gave players a choice. Sure, you could rush to the end of the level to face the boss and avoid entering any of the shops, but it will make the game a lot more difficult. Take your time, explore what each town has to offer and fortify your skills! All of the shops are helpful in their own little way but keep an eye out for the Travel Logbook Shop. It will give you a password (albeit an absurdly long one) that pretty much acts like a direct save system.

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You get a short password when you Game Over. This allows you to continue at the last level.

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However, with the Logbook password, although much longer and more tedious to input, it allows you to leave right off where you were, items and power-ups intact. Pretty cool that we got both options! I don’t really recall many games using a similar style as this one. On a side note, I’m sure this was a bitch to write down back in the ’90s. Playing Mystical Ninja in the year 2017 with smart phones FTW.

Don't say I never did anything for ya!
Don’t say I never did anything for ya!

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

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Sinister samurais and fretful fishermen mill about. Bash them with your not so peaceful pipe. Killing them earns you coins which can be redeemed at the various shops. This is crucial to getting better equipment and the like. Also, you can fire your coins as a projectile attack. Obviously the more coins you have the better. The first level even transitions to a spooky night time. Oooh.

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Tanuki (raccoon dog) greets you. This leads to the second section of the first level, which now takes place on a single plane. If playing with two, the Tanuki will even give you a choice: go solo or play with two. This allows more skilled players the chance of beating these sections without a less experienced player struggling to keep up. It’s nice Konami gave us options, but my girlfriend and I like to team up. Besides, it’s all part of the fun.

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Pound that big bell to extinguish the flames. The first boss can only be hurt by deflecting her projectiles back at her. Pro Tip: it’s a good time to fire off some of your coins. That’s why you don’t want to rush through the levels!

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Cutscenes break up the action in-between the levels and advances the plot. It’s nothing mind blowing but a nice touch nevertheless.

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Warlock Zone II is most memorable for this wacky bit. It’s so peculiar that it feels like a sordid scene right out of a weird nightmare. If you have plenty of coin then try standing on those ledges there and firing away at the lantern boss.

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Warlock Zone III takes you across a lovely bridge that leads into an amusement park.

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What’s more Japanese than being a contestant on a quiz show? [I can think of a few things that shall go unmentioned… -Ed.]. Later on, you even encounter an arcade where you have a choice of playing the original Gradius — nice! Or you can play Tear Down The Wall. Insert Donald Trump joke here.

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Gradius in all its miniature glory. This was quite the lovely surprise. Of course it’s no Gradius III, and you only get to play the first level, but hey it was still pretty damn cool!

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Amusement parks with sumo wrestlers posing as statues can never be trusted, I’ve always said. Fun Konami fact: the end boss for this stage is Takosuke, a giant octopus which first appeared in Parodius Da! (1990).

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Warlock Zone IV takes us back to another small village, this time by the sea. Get to the second section where more hi-jinx ensues. My favorite being the ability to go either into the background or foreground of the dojo.

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Starts out pretty standard before evolving into an impressive bit of Mode 7! Talk about getting big-headed…

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Warlock Zone V intensifies with savage barbarians, rock firing henchmen and wild boars. Not to mention a bomb-infested race to the interior of a ninja castle where your troubles have only just begun.

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Travel by way of those giant golden wrecking balls. Thankfully, control is pretty tight and snug. The boss, a ninja assassin, throws a ton of foot soldiers your way before deeming you worthy enough to crush.

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Warlock Zone VI takes us to Tengu Mountain. Beware of the crazy monkeys that litter the second part of this stage. More than mischievous, they are downright nasty if not defeated immediately.

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Awesome set piece! The Tengu Demon Warrior statue leers at you ominously while you’re fighting for your life. Those two Tengu Warriors may look like the end boss but they are in fact only mid bosses. The actual boss defending Tengu Mountain is a killer Kabuki fighter. The difficulty ramps up with each passing stage.

Four more taxing levels await. My girlfriend and I are currently stuck on Warlock Zone VI. We’ll beat it one of these days!

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

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The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is heralded as a Super Nintendo classic, and rightly so. Super Play rated it 90%, ranked it a lofty #7 on its Top 100 SNES Games list back in 1996 and deemed it “Konami’s finest hour.” Very high praise indeed. The folks at Retro Gamer seem to agree, calling it “a timeless classic.” The game is well beloved by SNES fans and is considered one of the finer action games on the system. Certainly no SNES collection is complete without a copy.

Super Play sure loved them some Mystical Ninja
Super Play sure loved them some Mystical Ninja

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Phase one!
Phase I

I remember playing this game with my good buddy on a lazy Sunday morning in Sacramento 25 years ago. We only got to play it briefly however, but I remember having a blast with it. I always wanted to play it more thoroughly but never did until very recently. This past October, my girlfriend Cindy and I began tackling the game together. We’re having a good time! Whether it’s hopping from shop to shop, playing mini games galore, farming (i.e. killing bad guys for coins and goodies), or performing tag team techniques in the single plane sections, there’s always something to see and do. I also like the fact that there is a very minor open world aspect to each stage, or at least the first part of each stage anyhow. It’s not a linear game as you can travel up and down the towns and villages as well as left and right. This gives the game sort of an open feel but it never gets so big that it gets frustrating or requires you to chart out a map.

Phase II
Phase II

For more traditional action platforming fiends, that’s where the second section of each stage comes in. The open world shrinks into a single plane field where it’s a lot more linear. Versatility is a major positive as this game offers something for almost everyone. And it does it with bucket loads of charm that will appeal to even the most casual of players. My girlfriend for example is a fairly casual gamer. She’s played games before meeting me but it’s probably not something she’ll feel compelled to do on her own. However, she loves the wacky Japanese charm of this game and enjoys playing it with me. I’ve played it both with her and without. It’s fun both ways but it’s definitely more fun playing with two. Nothing beats a good couch co-op after all and this is certainly one of the better two player offerings on the SNES.

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The visuals are very good but they’re not quite on par with some of Konami’s other SNES titles from that era (such as Contra III: The Alien Wars). But they more than get the job done, with nice colors and an authentic Japanese style that makes it stand out from the crowd. The music and sound are typical classic Konami. Town themes are serene and soothing while action sections get a bit more intense. Boss themes are frenetic and intimidating, just like the bosses themselves. Control is tight and responsive. Very rarely did I die and felt like it was the fault of the game. Difficulty picks up steam with each stage. I wouldn’t call it insanely hard but it’s no walk in the park.

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Some games live up to the hype and some don’t. I always approach playing these higher profile games for the first (legit) time with some form of trepidation. I want to like them too obviously, but that’s not always the case. Fortunately, The Legend of the Mystical Ninja proves to be a damn good game. In fact, I don’t hesitate to call it great. I don’t quite agree with Super Play calling this Konami’s finest hour however. There’s some stiff competition there but it speaks more to the greatness of those other games. Bottom line, I’m glad I finally played this game. 25 years late to the party but better late than never. Now, where’s my trusty yo-yo?

Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Longevity: 8

Award4Overall: 9.0
Gold Award

 

Sayonara!
Sayonara!

Axelay (SNES)

Pub & Dev: Konami | September 1992 | 8 MEGS
Pub & Dev: Konami | September 1992 | 8 MEGS

How would Konami follow up their hit SNES shooter, Gradius III? Why, with Axelay of course. At first, you might be disappointed this isn’t a direct sequel to Gradius III. But that thought quickly subsides the second you play Axelay. It’s a technical marvel in many ways, displaying the various capabilities of Nintendo’s 16-bit wonder. Although the game only features six levels, each level is memorable and concludes with a massive, screen-filling boss that are among the very best in 16-bit history. From a terrifying multi-jointed robotic spider to a gigantic fire-spewing lava lord, Axelay stands as one of the best shooters on the Super Nintendo.

FIREPOWER

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Unlike most shooters, Axelay starts you out with your three main weapons. As you progress through the levels, your weapons receive a power-up boost. Another unique aspect of Axelay is the way in which your ship sustains damage. Getting hit by enemy fire causes you to lose whatever weapon you currently have equipped. This means you can take three hits before losing a life. However, kiss your Axelay goodbye if you make direct contact with an enemy ship or the environment. It works extremely well and makes playing Axelay a blast.

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MEMORABLE MOMENTS

Shout out to Retro Gamer Magazine for these shots
Shout out to Retro Gamer Magazine for these shots

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BIG BAD BOSSES

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THE STORY GOES…

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Something wicked this way comes. A family man admires his cherished family photo before facing the nearly insurmountable task that lies ahead.

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Corliss is being threatened by a terrible alien force.

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Axelay takes place in the fictional planetary system known as Illis. It was a peaceful place until the Armada of Annihilation decided to show up…

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There’s only one aircraft that can save Illis… Axelay!

LEVEL ONE: CUMULUSES

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Players are instantly introduced to an impressive scrolling world that sets the tone for all that is to come. Axelay is easily one of the best looking SNES games of 1992.

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There is sort of a funky gravitational pull that takes a moment or two to adjust to, but you’re off to the races blowing up the Alien Armada. You have access to all three weapons off the bat, so switch accordingly when necessary.

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Visuals are rich and vibrant. Axelay was further proof that few firms did it better than Konami in the early ’90s. Meet the boss of stage one: the terrifying Arachnatron.

LEVEL TWO: TRALIEB COLONY

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BLAST your way through space before arriving at an enemy base.

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Corliss, the planet which you call home, can be seen in the backdrop as a reminder of why you’re on this suicide mission. At level’s end, you come face to face with the T-36 Towbar — a war machine designed to impede a rebellion. Konami definitely drew inspiration from the ED-209 of RoboCop fame.

LEVEL THREE: URBANITE

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Urbanite is one of my favorite stages. Flying over the vibrant multi-colored lights of the city below is just so damn atmospheric. Even better is working your way through a network of barriers, with the more vulnerable segments needing to be blasted for passage of safety.

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Axelay has its share of mid-bosses. There’s nothing I love more than a space shooter with mini-bosses galore — well, except perhaps blasting an Alien Armada to Kingdom Come against the beautiful backdrop of a neon city at night.

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Regenertoid starts out as a funky looking black spinning top, but wearing it down reveals a sinister battle station with enough firepower to make MechaGodzilla blush.

LEVEL FOUR: THE CAVERN

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Space shooters and water-based stages nearly go hand-in-hand, and Axelay is no exception. Beautiful details like the water splashing as you go in and out speak to the level of care that Konami exercised.

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Water stages in platformers can be annoying but I love them in my SHMUPS. Once you reach the end of this level, prepare to battle the aggressive Aquadon. It’s got two weak spots but good luck focusing on which one reveals itself against the litany of hostile objects and laser beams flying at ‘cha!

LEVEL FIVE: LAVA PLANET

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Giant worms come barreling after you in a fashion that is reminiscent of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic, Dune. This level is easily the most visually impressive of the entire game.

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Gradius fans can’t help but smile at Konami’s nod here. But just when you think it doesn’t get any cooler, Wayler rises out of the fiery depths to completely blow your mind. This diabolical demon is easily one of the most memorable bosses in 16-bit lore.

LEVEL SIX: THE ARMADA OF ANNIHILATION’S FORTRESS

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Battle your way through a hostile alien fleet and infiltrate the enemy base.

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Intensity quickly picks up as the alien empire throws everything it has against you.

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Veinion is the evil leader behind the army. At first glance it appears to be some generic robotic overlord but after pelting away at it, it reveals its true form as a horrific alien organism. You wouldn’t expect anything less coming from Konami.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

EGM ranked it #91 on their Top 100 Games list
EGM ranked it #91 on their Top 100 Games list

Axelay is often hailed as one of the greatest SNES shooters of all time. One playthrough and it’s easy to see why. EGM gave it scores of 8, 9, 9 and 9. Super Play rated it 85%. Many fans agree that Axelay is one of the better shooters of the entire 16-bit era. As the EGM blurb above mentions though, many were also disappointed that an Axelay 2 never became a reality, as hinted at the conclusion of the game. What a tease! It’s rather reminiscent of Shadowrun.

Damnit. Still waiting...
Damnit. Still waiting…
Nothing but love for Axelay all around
Nothing but love for Axelay all around

DID YOU KNOW?

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CLOSING THOUGHTS

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Axelay is a technical marvel and yet another Konami stamp on their 16-bit résumé. From the moment you boot the game up, you find yourself waging war against an alien empire as your ship spirals into a vast cloudy sky. The special effects, music and visuals pound your senses in a way that only Konami (and a few others) could do back then. You knew you were in for a special ride. If it wasn’t confirmed by then, then surely it was by the time you reach the guardian of the first stage. A titanic terror, the Arachnatron moves its multi-joints in such a creepy and convincing manner that it makes your skin crawl. After blasting the robotic spider into thousands of pieces of metal, you’re off to the second stage which then becomes a horizontal side-scrolling affair. The six levels switch from vertical to horizontal in a seamless and impressive fashion. Although there are only six levels and it takes roughly an hour to beat, it’s such a blast that you’ll be revisiting Axelay time and time again.

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Unlike Gradius III, there isn’t much slowdown to speak of here. I love that all three weapons are available from the start and that you can upgrade them as you beat each level. It’s also pretty cool that you lose your guns on bullet hits rather than dying outright. Axelay is a fair bit more generous than your average 16-bit shooter. Its difficulty is adjustable — adequate players are challenged enough on easy while space ship shooting maniacs are taxed on the hard mode. This makes Axelay accessible to a wider audience. It also comes equipped with an auto turbo feature, unlike a few other shooters from the era (I’m looking at you, Aero Fighters and U.N. Squadron). Highly recommended, Axelay is one of the best shooters on the SNES and no respectable Top 100 SNES list is complete without it.

Graphics: 9.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Longevity: 7.5

Award4Overall: 9.0
Gold Award

A-F*CKING-MEN
A-F*CKING-MEN

Gradius III (SNES)

Pub & Dev: Konami | August 1991 | 4 MEGS
Pub & Dev: Konami | August 1991 | 4 MEGS

Originally released in the arcade on December 11, 1989, Gradius III served as one of the launch titles for the Super Nintendo in North America circa August 1991. I’ve always had a fondness for the classic space shooter, or SHMUP as it’s come to be known. In my view, the SHMUP is one of the purest genres. I’d put it right up there with platformers and beat ‘em ups. There’s something simple yet beautiful and exquisite about being a one man army defending the galaxy against a horde of enemy ships and giant nasty bosses. It just takes me back to my childhood and a great era in gaming where classic side scrolling shooters ruled the day. Gradius III does well to recreate those memories and conjures the feels of those halcyon days.

VIC VIPER, ROLL OUT!

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Introduction was simple and brief, but got you pumped up to save the universe.

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Unfortunately, that 2 player option isn’t co-op. But on the bright side, you’re given some options [I C WAT U DID DERE -Ed.] with regards to your power-up system. I love it when games give you options; it’s always fun to tinker around with and find out what suits you best.

LEVEL ONE

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Ahhhh, that classic first stage and those early opening moments. Combined with that impeccable music, it’s ultra nostalgic and never fails to bring a smile to my face. My mind was blown the first time I saw the massive dragon flying out of the sand.

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Speaking of unforgettable and memorable, how about seeing that humongous boss at the end of stage one for the very first time? As I’ve stated before many times, no one could do bosses like Konami back in the day.

LEVEL TWO

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Stage two opens up with bubbles galore. I’ll never forget the first time I popped the bigger ones, splitting them into smaller bubbles. Yet another mind-blowing moment for its time.

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Konami does it again. Not only did their bosses have the best design, but the level of detail that went into each one truly made the bosses feel alive and real.

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Breaking down its defenses and shooting at its giant eye always struck a chord with my imagination. The boss fights in Gradius III are so much fun.

LEVEL THREE

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Halfway through this stage, the music shifts from an upbeat tune to one far more dramatic and foreboding. It was a cool effect. The boss can be pretty tough and blowing it up felt oh so satisfying.

LEVEL FOUR

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Easter Island heads (AKA Moai) litter the playing field. Things can get messy and heated fast if you don’t respond in a timely matter.

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Appropriately so, the boss of this level is the mother of all Easter Island heads.

LEVEL FIVE

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Navigate your way through this fiendish, fiery hell. For your troubles, you’re greeted by a pair of fire dragons at level’s end. Lucky you.

LEVEL SIX

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Things begin venturing into the downright bizarre as you transition from the reaches of outer space to this dangerous plant world. A massive nightmare of a creature guards this stage, and it moves in a very unsettling way. Despite the slowdown, this blew my mind as a kid back in the early ’90s.

LEVEL SEVEN

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Action really picks up speed here as the screen scrolls faster than normal. You’ll have to work your way through tight corners and narrow spaces.

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Watch out for blue balls… [You were waiting to say that, huh? -Ed.]

LEVEL EIGHT

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Gauntlet time — you’ll face off with FIVE bosses!

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Konami couldn’t decide on which one boss to keep for this level so they said screw it, let’s throw all six at the player. My theory, anyhow.

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BOSSES R US! Say hello to boss number four and five of this stage.

LEVEL NINE

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Infiltrate the enemy base and rage against the machine.

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Nothing says SHMUP like a good old screen filling boss accompanied by some dramatic, epic sounding music.

LEVEL TEN

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Brings back memories of Life Force (AKA Salamander), eh?

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Blowing through the field in these type of games never gets old. At last we come to the end boss, and what a sight for sore eyes he is. Vintage Konami. No one did bosses like they did.

OPTIONS

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The Gradius series is known for its options (helpers) but Gradius III also excels in offering the player a plethora of options. Not only are you given a choice of which weapon lineup you wish to use but the game even allows you to fully customize your choices. You can form your dream team so to speak and mix and match to your heart’s content.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

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Gradius III on the SNES has a mostly favorable reputation, but is mainly criticized for its (immense) bouts of slowdown. Although to be fair, the 1989 arcade had its share of slowdown as well. I didn’t mind the slowdown so much as it actually helps more than it hinders. Slowdown is just more forgivable when that’s the case. EGM gave it scores of 8, 8, 8 and 8. Super Play rated it 82%. Being a launch title in North America, Gradius III is one of the more nostalgic games in the SNES catalog for many folks, myself included.

We'll never forget sights like this!
We’ll never forget sights like this!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Not perfect but perfectly nostalgic
Not perfect but perfectly nostalgic

There’s a reason why so many folks hold Gradius III in high regard. While it’s certainly not the best playing shooter on the Super Nintendo, there’s an undeniable charm to it that has left a lasting impression on those who initially played it back in 1991. The graphics were amazing for its time but it was the stellar soundtrack that completed the package, ensuring that Gradius III would always have a special place in our gaming hearts. Even to this day, I can still hear the tunes playing in my head. Whenever I think of classic space shooters, Gradius III always immediately comes to mind. It’s a game I find myself revisiting rather frequently throughout the years and one that never fails to make me smile.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 9.5
Gameplay: 8.5
Longevity: 8

Overall: 8.5

Double Silver Award
Double Silver Award
Some shit never gets old
LONG LIVE GRADIUS III, BAY BAY!!

Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES)

Pub: Konami | Dev: LucasArts | September 1993 | 8 MEGS
Pub: Konami | Dev: LucasArts | September 1993 | 8 MEGS

Remember all those great late night horror movies? And how you stayed up to watch them even when your parents told you not to? Remember how you told yourself you wouldn’t look away? And how, when the scary music hit, inevitably you found yourself always cowering behind the family sofa? If you do, then this is the game for you! Relive all your favorite horror B-movies in Zombies Ate My Neighbors! Being that it’s October and Halloween season, I can’t think of many other SNES games I would rather reminisce about right now than this one. But has it stood the test of time nearly 25 years later? Let’s take a closer look…

A QUICK HISTORY LESSON

Before it became ZAMN, it was MONSTERS
Before it became ZAMN, it was MONSTERS

Originally titled MONSTERS, LucasArts flaunted its eclectic game at the Winter CES in January 1993. Incorporating elements from various gaming genres; run ‘n gun, action, adventure and puzzle to be specific, MONSTERS is a clever pastiche of all the horror movies you’ve ever seen, from the supernatural Hammer Film efforts to the timeless rubber-suited alien invasion shockers of the McCarthy-ite era. It borrows freely from such directors as George Romero, John Carpenter, Roger Corman and a host of others. Everything from the 1950s to the early 1990s…

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Now throw all of that into a two player game with a quiet American suburb as its backdrop and some kickass tunes. It was clear that LucasArts had one of the most memorable SNES efforts of 1993.

LucasArts needed a publisher and a title change...
LucasArts needed a publisher and a title change…

All they needed was a publisher. Konami was the winner when the dust settled, having acquired the rights to MONSTERS. Only now it was no longer to be known as such… thankfully it was rebranded as Zombies Ate My Neighbors. And the rest is history.

DO THE MONSTER MASH

The monster BIBLE of our childhood
The monster BIBLE of our childhood

Growing up, my best friend Nelson and I loved (and I mean LOVED) monsters. In the early 1990s my dad bought this monster book for me at Suncoast of all places. I fondly remember spending that entire evening flipping through the book with my best pal, Nelson. We loved those campy old Godzilla flicks, we loved horror movies (the Halloween series in particular) and we drove people nuts with our constant monster chatter. We believed in ghosts, aliens, Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster. Hell, we even did Bloody Mary one time. So when we saw magazines such as EGM and GameFan previewing Zombies Ate My Neighbors in the late summer of 1993, it was as if the game was made specifically for Nelson and me. It was on an idyllic Saturday in September of ’93 that I rented and brought home Zombies Ate My Neighbors. I immediately called Nelson and before I could even hang up the big guy had rode his bike over. This was big time. This was serious business. This was indeed a happening.

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Nearly 25 years later, I still remember the swirling title screen as if it happened only yesterday. It was cheesy, sure, but right away the game set the mood proper.

I was always Zeke. Sorry Nelson. My house, my rules!
I was always Zeke. Sorry Nelly. My house, my rules!

Zeke and Julie play exactly the same, which is a bit of a shame when you think about it. For example, Zeke could have been stronger (two extra energy bars) while Julie could have been slightly faster. Nonetheless, it’s a riot with two players and the game almost has to be experienced in this way.

A LOOK AT SOME OF THE 55 LEVELS

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The game opens with 10 neighbors to rescue
The game opens with 10 neighbors to rescue
Boy, if I could just take this fork and... [Zeke! -Ed.]
Boy, if I could just take this fork and… [Zeke! -Ed.]
Toggle the map on and off with the shoulder buttons
Toggle the map on / off with the shoulder buttons
Continue exploring or head for the exit
Continue exploring or head for the exit
Starts out easy... gets absolutely brutal later on
Starts out easy… gets absolutely brutal later on

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"C'mon man! How intriguing could zombie shit be? "
“C’mon man! How intriguing could zombie shit be?”
What goes up...
What goes up…
... must be saved
… must be saved
Missed opportunity at black cats jumping out...
Missed opportunity at black cats jumping out!
Keys, hostages, perhaps your local strip bar...
Keys, hostages, perhaps your local strip bar…

[Did Michael Myers show up here or what? -Ed.]
[Did Michael Myers show up here or what? -Ed.]
[Clever AMHAIN bit. OK, you're re-hired -Ed.]
[Clever AMHAIN bit. OK, you’re re-hired -Ed.]

Doh! Hate when that shit happens
D’oh! Hate when that shit happens

[Whats my mother-in-law doing here?!?! -Ed.]
[What’s my mother-in-law doing here?!?! -Ed.]
[Oh its just a zombie. THANK GOD -Ed.]
[Oh whew, it’s just a zombie. THANK GOD -Ed.]

Thriller... one of the true classics from the 80s
Thriller… one of the true classics from the ’80s
Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go
Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go

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This remind you of anything? It should...
This remind you of anything? It should…
Well, if you were a child of the 80s, anyway
Well, if you were a child of the ’80s, anyway

Zombies Ate My Neighbors is filled with nods to classic horror movie icons, such as Chucky from Child’s Play. A supernatural horror movie, Child’s Play follows the exploits of the “Lakeshore Strangler,” Charles Lee Ray. Moments before croaking in a toy store, Charles Lee Ray does a demonic ritual to transfer his soul into one of the “Good Guys” dolls.

ADE DUE DAMBALLA...
ADE DUE DAMBALLA…

It was good campy fun that frightened the shit out of the five year old me back in 1988! Coming up on 30 years? GAWD DAMN!

Happy almost 30th, Chucky!
Happy almost 30th, Chucky!

On a side note, the Child’s Play franchise continues to this very day. The latest entry in the series, Cult of Chucky, is released officially on October 20, 2017. I’ve seen it and found it to be only OK, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless to see the old Chuckster still kicking and screaming nearly 30 years after his initial appearance.

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This shit creeped me out as a kid!
This shit creeped me out as a kid!

The Zuni Warrior doll first appeared in Trilogy of Terror, which aired on ABC in 1975. A sequel was made nearly 20 years later. Trilogy of Terror II aired on October 30, 1996. I remember staying up to watch it. The little guy even graced the cover of TV Guide that week. Possessing the spirit of a Zuni Warrior, he springs to life to kill if the gold chain adorning his neck ever comes off. Lots of camp value and a true guilty pleasure on a stormy night!

He deserves a comeback!
He deserves a comeback!
Tommy does Chucky proud!
Chucky would be proud

Tommy the Evil Doll, in another nod to Chucky, may give chase even after death! Remember the apartment finale from the first film? Or the factory finale in the sequel? Cinematic masterpieces! Er, maybe not, but you really oughta watch them if you haven’t already, if nothing else but to appreciate ZAMN even that much more.

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They don't make 'em like they used to
They don’t make ‘em like they used to

[No sir, they don't -Ed.]
[No sir, they don’t -Ed.]
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Loads of campy fun :)
Loads of campy fun :D

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This stage legitimately spooked me as a kid
This stage legitimately spooked me as a kid
Nelson's MASKED MANIAC come to life!
Nelson’s MASKED MANIAC come to life!

Back in the early ’90s, Nelson told me a story that resonated with me so deeply I’m crazy enough to retell it on a Super Nintendo gaming blog a quarter of a century later. In our old hometown, according to Nelson you see, there was a maniac on the loose. On the prowl. Believed to be… at large. Again, according to Nelson, mind you. This maniac wore a white hockey mask and wielded a deadly chainsaw. He was… THE MASKED MANIAC. Of course, I knew Nelson was just bullshitting, but there was a small part of my nine year old being that latched on to the story. The Masked Maniac became our little inside joke over the years, and these days whenever it gets brought up, we still laugh about those good old days… to be young again, eh? Anyway, so imagine our shock (and delight) when we first came face to face with Stanley Decker. HOLY CRAP!

But of course it was a combo of Jason Voorhees...
But of course it was a combo of Jason Voorhees…
... and Leatherface. Same thing Nelson did!
… and Leatherface. Same thing Nelson did!

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THE MASKED MANIAC, ER, I MEAN, STANLEY DECKER!
THE MASKED MANIAC, ER, I MEAN, STANLEY DECKER!

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Chainsaw Hedgemaze Mayhem legitimately spooked me as a 10 year old kid playing this back in late 1993. Wherever you go, Decker pursues you relentlessly. And not just one but several. The first time I saw one cutting through the hedgemaze I nearly crapped my pants. Very few levels have ever made me feel as tense as this one did, especially back in those olden days.

Who will get to the baby first? I can't watch...
Who will get to the baby first? I can’t watch…

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Thank God you can't hit each other in co-op mode
Thank God you can’t hit each other in co-op mode

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Stalked wherever you go. The AI was absolutely relentless, like ants on sugar.

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Killer man-eating plants and debris nearby? Call upon the ever handy weed whacker. Just a shame it uses up “ammo” so fast. Rescue the cheerleader down there before they can get to her.

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Pyramid scheme? More like pyramid scare! Am I right? Sorry, I’ll see myself out.

Check behind
Check behind
Ta-da!
Ta-da!

I always got a kick out of seeing what lies behind those clumps of dirt. Sometimes you get something good, other times not so much. This is also the first level that takes you outside your suburb. It’s good to see the variety. Expect to see a lot more.

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Shout out if you remember this too
Shout out if you remember this too

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That Zeke boy, I tell ya, such a photogenic lad
That Zeke boy, I tells ya, such a photogenic lad

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Many terrors await. You'll hafta find out for yourself...
Many terrors await. You’ll hafta find out for yourself

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[Something tells me we would get along, Dr. Tongue -Ed.]

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Redefines the saying "big crybaby" eh?
Redefines the saying big crybaby eh?

One of the most memorable villains in 16-bit history, this baby is nothing but bad news. He’s double tough, fast and annoying as hell. Forget about using your water gun here. Even the almighty Bazooka doesn’t work well — it’s just too damn slow. No, the best way to handle this gigantic goober is by…

... turning into a monster yourself!
… turning into a monster yourself!

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Denied! Sorry pal, you need to locate the Skull Key first
Denied! Sorry pal, you need to find the Skull Key first

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Somehow, Zeke manages to rip off one last shot from his bazooka cannon in this life or death tussle.

Whoa baby! No pun intended...
Whoa baby! No pun intended…
Sure, "easy stuff" alright
Sure, “easy stuff” alright

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Watch out for them jelly blobs, Julie
Watch out for them jelly blobs, Julie

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Relax, Snoop. Your stash is safe. Fo shizzle. [Don’t EVER say that again -Ed.]

The most outrageous musical comedy in years
The ’80s produced some of the craziest shit, eh?

Do you remember watching this film in the mid-late ’80s? I do. The plant gave me the creeps. The shit the ’80s got away with!

The stuff nightmares are made of
The stuff nightmares are made of
Speaking of NIGHTMARES...
Speaking of NIGHTMARES…

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Doctor Tongue, you’ve got it all wrong. Pimpin’ ain’t easy.

More madness from the 80s!
More madness from the ’80s!

Interesting flick, this one. I remember watching it on TV in the late ’80s. They were hyping the national broadcast debut of the film on the TGIF lineup during the commercials. Years later, around 1997 to be precise, I was introduced to the wonders of the internet. There I poked around for the title of this film as it had slipped my consciousness over the years. All I remembered was there being red, yellow and blue alien-like monkey creatures and some pool scene. Bless the internet — 23 minutes later my memory was validated. I knew I hadn’t gone bonkers (yet), and I dropped by the local rental store to relive a blast from the past. Er, let me just say some things are better left in the past!

Shit was bizarre even for the 80s, and creepy!
Shit was bizarre even for the ’80s, and creepy

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Nothing like exiting just in the nick of time
Nothing like exiting just in the nick of time

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Terrifying to the bone? I don’t know, Doc, have you ever seen teenage girls at the mall before? It’s more like their play pen…

The 80s strike yet again
The ’80s strike yet again
SHOP TIL YA DROP...
SHOP TIL YA DROP…

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What’s worse than facing Tommy or Decker? Facing them both at the SAME time. It makes for some tense moments and as a kid it was the closest thing to a dream (nightmare?) Child’s Play-Friday the 13th crossover as you were gonna get!

I need a change of underpants...
I need a change of underpants…

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They been dateless for 500 years. Can ya blame them?
They been dateless for 500 years. Can ya blame ‘em?

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Disappointed I didnt see any of these guys!
Disappointed I didn’t see any of these guys!
Spoiler: probably not
Spoiler: probably not

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[Sounds like an exciting Saturday night -Ed.]

So creepy!
So creepy…
Run, bitch!
Run, bitch!
Wheres a giant magnifying glass when ya need one?!
Where’s a giant magnifying glass when ya need one
Of course, a bazooka will do, too
Of course, a bazooka will do, too

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Must be one of them "9 to eternity" jobs
Must be one of them “9 to eternity” jobs

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I reckon not
I reckon not
I reckon so
I reckon so

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Another classic from the 80s
Another classic from the ’80s

Too bad we don’t get a Freddy Krueger-inspired monster, though.

But hey, we got this. So yay?
But hey, we got this. So yay?

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Good shit came out in the 90s as well!
Good shit came out in the ’90s as well!

TREMORS was a fun little horror comedy monster film that ushered in 1990 with a bang. The movie centered around a small Nevada town being hunted by a group of large burrowing man-eating monsters dubbed “Graboids.”

[Looks like my mother-in-law in the morning -Ed.]
[Looks like my mother-in-law in the morning -Ed.]
Tremors developed quite a cult following for its simple, easy-to-get-into premise and memorable characters. It spawned several sequels, but the original will always be #1 and fondly remembered by B-Movie fans everywhere. For what it’s worth, Tremors currently has a very respectable 7.1 rating on IMDB. Besides, it’s got Kevin Bacon. And if there’s one thing everyone can agree on: you can never go wrong with a little bacon.

And heres a "Snakeoid" in action. No relation, obviously
Here’s a Snakeoid in action. No relation, obviously
*GULP* You know where it is...
*GULP*  You know where it is…

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Gawd damn, wheres Godzilla when ya need him?
Gawd damn, where’s Godzilla when ya need him?!
Its up to Zeke now
It’s up to Zeke now

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Zombies Ate My Neighbors was almost meta at times and it was one of the earliest games that I can remember feeling like it broke the 4th wall…

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It that you, Dr. Tongue? *transmission cuts out*
It that you, Dr. Tongue? *transmission cuts out*

GAME OVER, MAN!

One of the best game over screens around
One of the best game over screens around

I loved (and hated) the way the purple ooze would slowly drip down your TV screen each time you bit the dust. Of course it couldn’t be red…

PAYING MORE HOMAGE

It was all part of the fun
It was all part of the fun

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It was clever, it was neat, and at the time it was a breath of fresh air. It never took itself too seriously and it was fun with a capital F. Just making it to the next level just to read the next zany title was all part of the game’s charm. And seeing with your friends who got the various references and who didn’t. The ones who didn’t were unmercifully mocked, naturally. Good times.

MY PERSONAL FAVORITE LEVEL

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With over 50 levels, you have no shortage in choice. I absolutely adore this stage. Nothing beats the rush of dodging, weaving and outwitting Stanley Decker and friends, all set in a giant crate factory warehouse. This level feels like the grand finale of a horror film — except this time you get to decide how it all plays out!

Looking sharp there, Zeke
Looking sharp there, Zeke
A key AND Skull Key? Something must be up...
A key AND Skull Key? Something must be up…
"OUTTA MY WAY, BITCHES!"
“OUTTA MY WAY, BITCHES!”
Deploy Pennywise the decoy when in a pinch
Deploy Pennywise the decoy when in a pinch
If these walls could talk, they wouldnt. Theyre dead
Jeez, not even walls are safe!
Yikes! If this isnt survival horror, I dont know what is
If this isn’t survival horror, I don’t know what is
I call this simply, "Deer In A Headlight"
I call this simply, “Deer In A Headlight”
Credit Pennywise for the assist. Now grab that key!
Credit Pennywise for the assist. Now grab that key!
The tension, THE DRAMA...
The tension, THE DRAMA
Um, I hope you didnt bet on Zeke
Um, I hope you didn’t bet on Zeke
WTF!
Whoa…

Upon further review it’s clear why Decker is so effective. Is it his raw, brute strength? No. Is it his sharp, loud chainsaw? No. Is it his deadly ass crack? Most definitely. It’ll get ya every single damn time.

TIPS

This is not an easy game by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, due to a high potential shortage of weapons and neighbors to rescue, the later levels can be downright BRUTAL. So then, some tips for ya…

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  • Keep an eye out for suspicious looking shrubbery. If you spot a hedge facing out of the screen, try firing your Bazooka. Chances are you’ll find a handy item for your troubles. Likewise, the grilled windows in the malls can be blasted to bits. You can see whether there’s anything of worth behind windows. Be thankful for small favors!
  • If enemies get to the neighbors before you can — sometimes you’ll just hear a nearby scream indicating a neighbor’s demise off screen — then you need to try a different route. Perhaps one that may even take you through walls and over rooftops… hint hint.
  • Speaking of the neighbors, the more points you earn the more bonus neighbors you’ll rack up. If you already have 10 neighbors, you’ll get an extra life instead!

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  • It doesn’t take much to kill the Martians but they are agile bastards. They also shoot fast and if nailed, you (or the neighbors) will be imprisoned in a bubble. Plus, Martians tend to hang out in packs which makes them 10 times as worse. Keep your guard up and keep moving!

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  • One tip that really helps with Martians is shooting them at an angle. This eliminates the chance of their bubble gun damaging you (their shot only goes straight). Keep in mind though, you have to be running about in order to shoot from an angle. This game really could have used a strafe and lock button.

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  • The same strategy applies for zombies. You’ll find them clawing their way up from the ground beneath your feet if you remain idle for even just a few seconds.
  • Check under giant plants for any additional items (usually keys). It’s very easy to miss them. To check, of course, means to kill these plants.
  • Some weapons, like fizzy cans and tomatoes, can be thrown over walls and other obstacles. Over the counter, through windows, over desktops, etc. This lets you eliminate foes from a position of relative safety before dashing in, or in some cases dashing out.

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  • These tiny spiders are easy to kill but sometimes hard to spot. The surroundings may obscure their position so tread carefully. And always keep in mind that every second wasted could mean the life of one of your bratty neighbors!

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  • Thanks to their agility, spiders are a major pain in the butt when you’re busy battling the bigger baddies! Be weary of spiders swooping in like vultures to sap your precious health.
  • Don’t waste your time looking for weapons until you’ve saved all the neighbors. Try using a pair of Speed Sneakers at the start of a new level to bomb around the stage and rescue the victims before the monsters can get to them.
Credit to Thanwe from spriters-resource.com
Credit to Thanwe from spriters-resource.com
  • Use the landscape to outrun pursuers. Being chased and have to cycle through your inventory to find the right weapon? You’ll need all the time you can buy. So duck into houses, nip through gaps and generally weave about to make life tougher for the incoming undead.
  • As long as you have one neighbor to save, the game goes on. However, for each neighbor lost, the neighbor count on the next level goes down a notch. Having only one to rescue becomes impossible in the later stages.

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  • The inflatable clown decoys come in very handy but only work on some of the dumber monsters.
"ZAMN" right they are [D'oh -Ed.]
“ZAMN” right they are [D’oh. Really?? -Ed.]
  • A slime blob attached to your head eats up three health points. Be sure to use the medi-kit (if you have one) when you get down to your last three energy bars in any area that has been compromised by slime blobs.

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  • There are bonus levels galore! Can you find them all? Day of the Tentacle, f’rinstance? Can you reach MARS NEEDS CHEERLEADERS with the full complement of 10 neighbors? Also, look for bonus ?-boxes throughout the game. Can you find the son of Dr. Tongue?
  • Save your monster potions for bosses or really hairy situations.
Extra challenges for the weekend warrior
Extra challenges for the weekend warrior

GAME GENIE CHEATS

While the game provides you with a password every fourth level, it’s still a damn tough cookie. These cheats may come in handy if you just want to mess around:

Unlimited lives: 82AA-CF07
Unlimited health: 3C20-4D0D
Unlimited weapons: DD30-1FA7
Unlimited special items: DD39-34D4

WEAPON KILL CHART

Water Gun

Your starting weapon. Refills are easy to find. Works well against low-tier baddies but against tougher ones… well, you know the drill.

Zombies: 1
Clones: 1
Plants: No effect
Mushroom Men: 2
Mummies: 5
Werewolves: 11
Decker: 16
Tommy: 5
Martians: 1
Squid Men: 5
Ants: 5
Little Spiders: 1

Bazooka

Usually found near the soldier neighbor. Pretty much the BFG of ZAMN!

Zombies: 1
Clones: 1
Plants: 1
Mushroom Men: 1
Mummies: 1
Werewolves: 1
Decker: 1
Tommy: No effect — they duck!
Martians: 1
Squid Men: 1
Ants: 1
Little Spiders: 1

Soda Cans

Great for tossing over barriers from a safe distance. Think of them as hand grenades, really.

Zombies: 1
Clones: 1
Plants: 5
Mushroom Men: 1
Mummies: 1
Werewolves: 2
Decker: 4
Tommy: 1
Martians: 1
Squid Men: 1
Ants: 2
Little Spiders: 1

Ice Pops

Sorta like soda cans but not as effective (except on jelly blobs)

Zombies: 1
Clones: 1
Plants: 13
Mushroom Men: 1
Mummies: 3
Werewolves: 6
Decker: 8
Tommy: 2
Martians: 1
Squid Men: 3
Ants: 5
Little Spiders: 1

Plates

Honestly, they’re pretty useless despite being long-ranged. Unless you have no other weapons…

Zombies: 1
Clones: 1
Plants: 9
Mushroom Men: 1
Mummies: 2
Werewolves: 4
Decker: 6
Tommy: 2
Martians: 1
Squid Men: 2
Ants: 4
Little Spiders: 1

Silverware (Knife and Fork)

Works great on werewolves…

Zombies: 1
Clones: 1
Plants: 7
Mushroom Men: 1
Mummies: 2
Werewolves: 1
Decker: 4
Tommy: 1
Martians: 1
Squid Men: 1
Ants: 3
Little Spiders: 1

Ancient Artifact

This talisman produces a fire that encircles and protects you, destroying the monsters it touches. Hold down for sustained use. Great on werewolves and everyone, really, but it eats up ammo fast.

Zombies: 1
Clones: 1
Plants: 2
Mushroom Men: 1
Mummies: 1
Werewolves: 1
Decker: 4
Tommy: 1
Martians: 1
Squid Men: 1
Ants: 1
Little Spiders: 1

Football

Utterly useless including a slow release. However, it works extremely well against the Football enemies.

Zombies: 1
Clones: 1
Plants: 25!
Mushroom Men: 2
Mummies: 5
Werewolves: 11
Decker: 20!
Tommy: 4
Martians: 1
Squid Men: 5
Ants: 10
Little Spiders: 1

Tomatoes

Another long-range weapon that’s honestly a bit meh. Martians hate them, though…

Zombies: 1
Clones: 1
Plants: 13
Mushroom Men: 1
Mummies: 3
Werewolves: 6
Decker: 8
Tommy: 2
Martians: 1
Squid Men: 5
Ants: 5
Little Spiders: 1

Weed-eater

Mows down deadly ground debris as well as the monsters. Particularly effective against plants, werewolves and spiders

Fire Extinguisher

Freezes baddies temporarily. But can kill Jelly Blobs.

Martian Bubble Gun

Captures enemy in a bubble. Try it on ants…

ALTERNATIVE TITLES

Monsters!
Grave Consequences
Zombie Invade Suburbia
Zombies Need BBQ Sauce
Suburban Zombie Bake-Off
Don’t Build That Mall Here!
Ghouls Just Wanna Have Fun
Please Don’t Feed the Zombies!

My Zombie, Make BIG Mistake
The Zombies Wrong Turn At Alpha 6
Michael Barone and the Zombie Hunters
Return of the Teenage Son of the Bride of a Zombie, Part 2

ALTERNATIVE BOX ART

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I much prefer this to the one we got. Needs some Julie, though.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

High praise indeed
High praise indeed

Zombies Ate My Neighbors turned out to be one of the most notable 16-bit games released in 1993. The critics ate it up. For its time especially, it was considered a work of art. Brilliant, ingenious and a tribute to all B-Movie horror fans everywhere. After all, when Anita Placetohide endorses your game, it simply doesn’t get any better than that.

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I still vividly remember the GameFan issue with the Zombies Ate My Neighbors cover. Zombies, killer dolls, chainsaw wielding masked maniacs and titanic toddlers — what’s not to love? LucasArts had a mega hit on their hands. EGM rewarded it with “Game of the Month” honors, doling out scores of 9, 9, 9 and 9. GameFan scored it 88, 89, 90 and 93%. Super Play rated it 89%. Konami was wise to slap their name to this product. Even to this day, some people still confuse Konami as the developers to ZAMN. Hell, look at the GameFan cover above. But I see you, LucasArts. I see you…

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CLOSING THOUGHTS

"But Susie, we're JUST DYING to meet you!"
“But Susie, we’re JUST DYING to meet you!”

I have to admit, Zombies Ate My Neighbors strikes an incredibly nostalgic chord with me. I remember spending countless evenings playing it with my best friend, Nelson, all throughout the fall of 1993. If you were a fly on the wall back then you would hear our hooting, hollering and cries of joy and agony as the game punished us as much as it rewarded us for our perseverance. ZAMN is a veritable melting pot of all those great (and not-so-great) B-Movies, low budget affairs and rubber-suited cheesy flicks we grew up on as kids. I think back to that fall of ’93 very fondly. Nelson and I were huddled around my 27 inch Sony TV monitor blasting Martians, mummies and mushroom men back to the stone age. All those sinister bedraggled figures shambling towards us through the half-lit haze… there’s something beautiful about it. Intensely atmospheric, ZAMN does a great job of sucking you in and may well provide for some sleepless nights…

ZAMNFrank

The sheer joy of popping a zombie’s melon with a salad fork, or saving the teacher right before ole Tommy boy can chop her to pieces, is a great feeling. On the other hand, the pain of Frankenstein’s electric personality, or thinking you’re in the clear to rescue that cheerleader right as Decker comes out of NOWHERE, is absolutely crushing. There are so many mood swings one will encounter while playing through any given level in this game, and that is something that cannot be said for many games to the degree in which ZAMN pulls it off. You’ll go through the ups and downs, the peaks and valleys. You almost feel like you’re Zeke yourself, right down to the geeky 3D shades and Punisher t-shirt. OK, maybe just me then. But there’s no doubt ZAMN becomes super bloody fun when playing alongside a like-minded friend.

Cycling weapons sucks...
Cycling weapons sucks…

It’s not perfect, though. The weapons, while there are plenty to pick from, are excessive. Too many of them feel a bit useless and only clog up the inventory. The silverware serves its purpose against the werewolf but the football, plates and tomatoes seem like a waste. It wouldn’t be that bad if cycling through weapons were implemented better. Sadly, you can only switch weapons with button B which means there’s no backtracking through your weapon inventory. Miss the weapon you want by one? Sorry, you’re out of luck. There’s no way to backtrack — you have to cycle through your inventory another time. And no, you can’t pause the game to cycle through your many weapons. I mean, do we really need both L AND R to toggle off the map? A missed opportunity there. It sucks running away trying to get to the right weapon because of some thoughtlessness on the part of the programmers, but maybe that’s just me being nit-picky. A strafe or lock button also would have been nice. As great as this game already is, these features would have made it (in my opinion) one of the top 20 SNES games of all time. You can’t help but feel it’s not QUITE as polished as it could have been.

Each level is packed with atmosphere and great music
Each level is packed with atmosphere + great music

Thankfully, that’s pretty much where my complaints ceases. ZAMN has incredible atmosphere, it’s great at being a pick-up-and-play game, and the tunes are simply awesome. The music ranges from a carnival atmosphere to haunted houses and ancient Egypt all depending on the level you’re currently on. It’s eclectic and highly memorable. Some of the music and sound effects are firmly embedded in my soul even nearly 25 years on.

ZAMNSpid

And who could ever forget that monster cast? Although it makes me long for even more, the enemies here are among some of the most memorable in 16-bit history. It’s a marvel to see some of those giant monsters muck about with zero slowdown in sight. The giant spider and titanic toddler in particular are a real doozy to behold!

And you thought your baby was a monster...
And you thought your baby was a monster…

Other than weapon cycling and a lack of strafe/lock option, there’s another way ZAMN could have been enhanced. I wished there were extra modes of play. Imagine if each stage had an exit and it played just like Doom. Saved no neighbors? No bonus points but you still can advance to the next level. The other option would be to kill every monster in a level in order for the exit to appear. This mode would be for the macho action heads out there, or when you’re simply in the mood to blow shit up without worrying about the neighbor count. Of course, that’s just me. The game gets difficult as nails and very unforgiving as you progress — I wished they toned it down a bit or like I said, gave you these extra modes to enjoy. But I digress.

Props to Liquid Night Shade for this epic art!
Props to Liquid Night Shade for this epic art!

It’s hard NOT to like Zombies Ate My Neighbors. The list of positives run high. It plays well and has a killer two player mode — ZAMN often appears on “Best Two Player SNES Games” list and rightfully so. It features tons of levels and secrets, a memorable cast of villains, terrific sound and a ghoulish atmosphere that will appeal to anyone who ever loved monsters… or still do. Sure it’s not without its flaws but there’s a reason why Zombies Ate My Neighbors is considered a classic and a staple of the vast SNES library. While I admit it has aged perhaps not as perfectly well as I would have liked, it’s still a top-notch effort and one of those games that truly brings out the 10 year old in me still to this day.

Graphics: 7.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8.5
Longevity: 7.5

Award4Overall: 9.0
Gold Award

 

Meta before meta was cool!
Meta before meta was cool!
Somewhere, Chris Tucker is smiling
Somewhere, Chris Tucker is smiling

Oh and speaking of ZAMN 2, or Ghoul Patrol, proceed at your own risk. It’s actually not that bad but as far as “spiritual sequels” go, it should have been a lot better. Oh well… at least we’ll always have Zombies Ate My Neighbors

Tsuyoshi Shikkari Shinasai Taisen Puzzle-dama (SFC)

Konami delivers a high quality puzzle game
Konami delivers a high quality puzzle game

Tsuyoshi Shikkari Shinasai Taisen Puzzle-dama is an incredibly long name, and difficult to pronounce (for me anyhow), which makes me grateful that this is a fansite rather than a YouTube channel. That way I don’t have to butcher saying the name! But whatever (or however) you want to call it, call it damn good. It’s one of my favorite puzzle games on the entire Super Nintendo. Why? Let’s take a look.

CHIBI MARUKO CHAN NO TAISEN PAZURUDAMA

Loved this game in the early 2000s
Loved this one back in the early 2000s

As previously documented, before I got back into the SNES scene in early 2006, I was living on planet Sega Saturn from 1999-2005. In the early 2000s I bought a rare import by the name of Chibi Maruko Chan No Taisen Pazurudama. I saw a screenshot of it on the internet and knew I had to own it. When it arrived it did not disappoint. Colorful graphics, cute chibi characters and a classic puzzle piece system made this an instant favorite.

The very definition of kawaii
The very definition of “kawaii”

Imagine my joy when I discovered in 2006 that Konami had developed a very similar game on the Super Famicom, Tsuyoshi Shikkari Shinasai Taisen Puzzle-dama. It was released on November 18, 1994 — one year before Maruko came out in the Japanese Saturn market (December 15, 1995). It features the same classic gameplay but obviously with lesser visuals. What I really like about it is that you have 10 characters to pick from, each with their own block patterns. Think of it as a beta version of Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. It makes for some competitive battles and high replay value.

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See? It comes off as an early beta version of Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo which came out nearly a full two years later (June 1996).

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I love the versus screen, too. It’s simple yet super vibrant and catches your eye. Gets you amped up for war!

HOW ELIMINATING PIECES WORK

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Pieces drop from the top in two. They vary from red, yellow, blue and green. You can rotate them to be horizontal (or keep them vertical).

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Pieces disappear when three or more like colors are matched. They just have to be touching (except diagonally) so it’s possible to form a match with two blues on one row and just a single blue right above.

GARBAGE BLOCKS NOT SO GARBAGE

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Debris come in the form of clear blocks with a certain color encased. These blocks fall on your screen when your rival performs a nice combo. Or they can come from the well itself, which you don’t see a lot of in puzzle games from that era. The great thing about these debris blocks is that they have the potential for some lethal chain reactions. Anytime you clear faces touching a clear block, that block explodes freeing the color inside for proper usage.

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the lower bottom left. Those three yellow faces form a match and as they disappear from the field they free the three boxes right below.

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The three then dissipate which clears the box right next to it. That box contains a yellow face, which is now liberated. That yellow face connects with the two yellow faces up top. Those three disappear which frees the three yellow boxes right next to it…

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Just your typical 7-hit chain reaction! I love how crazy the combos can get in this game. It’s not uncommon to get 10+ hit chain reactions. I love how each match sends this projectile upward. It makes a sweet sound effect and is a nice visual to boot. Seeing fireballs shoot from your screen like 7-10 times in a row is a rush! It makes for some ideal trash talking and some serious sweating on your opponent’s part. It can be absolutely demoralizing to be on the other end and seeing and hearing the constant swoosh-swoosh. You know you’re in for one major pounding.

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It’s so satisfying to see your opponent’s well rise and rise until their well is completely filled. Good stuff.

MORE COOL CHAIN REACTIONS

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Connect the yellow to make a match and start this nice little chain reaction.

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It drops the green piece on the other two green pieces. The green pieces connect and frees the red block there.

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The three yellow pieces connect as the red connect. Just a simple little three hit combo to let your opponent know you’re here. Now, for a more damaging combo…

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The green and yellow pieces connect for a nice six piece match. I love how the faces explode — their eyes and mouths pop before bursting. It’s the small details :)

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The yellow piece drops on the bottom two while the four red pieces connect. Meanwhile, major liberation is taking place (which is the key to creating monster chain reactions).

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The blue pieces connect, freeing that yellow imprisoned block there.

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The yellow faces match, freeing two blue blocks and the yellow block up top.

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Now the blue faces dissipate, releasing the two yellow blocks for the 6th hit of this massive combo.

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As your combo meter increases, so too do the debris on your opponent’s screen. The characters’ reactions are priceless and add to the anxiety (and thrill) of a competitive contest. Seeing the characters wince in pain before crying uncle is all part of the fun of watching your opponent’s well fill up completely.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Konami's most unknown SNES gem
Konami’s best kept SNES secret!

Tsuyoshi Shikkari Shinasai Taisen Puzzle-dama is a blast. It’s a ton of fun to see 10+ hit combos filling up the screen. It’s competitive, charming and cutthroat. And seeing the characters react in the background, whether they’re celebrating or biting their fingernails, never gets old.

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“No, no, no! YES, YES, YES!” Ah, the back and forth of a thrilling match.

On the down side, the visuals aren’t the best. I wish the backgrounds were a little more colorful than the semi-drab green that they used. Not a deal breaker for me by any means but I’m sure Konami could have added a little more color. Another negative is that the pieces aren’t as operational as some other games in this genre. For example, take moving a vertical two piece set down a narrow column. In most puzzle games you can switch these pieces despite having no room. You can’t do that here. Therefore, you have to make certain adjustments. Again, not a deal breaker for me but it’s something to be noted.

A must-have for puzzle fanatics
Puzzle fans can’t go wrong here

Puzzle fanatic? Got a girlfriend or wife who isn’t much of a gamer, but enjoys these cutesy puzzle games on a casual level? Still rocking out with the SNES? If so then do yourself a favor and check out Tsuyoshi Shikkari Shinasai Taisen Puzzle-dama. Konami smashes yet another Super Nintendo gem. Unlike their other SNES hits though, this one never got the recognition it so richly deserved. Hands down Konami’s best kept SNES secret!

Super C (NES)

Contra is back, and boy is it tougher than ever
Contra is back, and boy is it tougher than ever

Last Saturday night I was inspired to fire up the old NES for the first time in ages. I still love the system to this day but in terms of actually playing it, it’s been a while. I don’t get to game as much as I’d like these days due to work getting busier and busier, but when I do game I tend to play my Super Nintendo. But last Saturday I had the strangest and strongest urge to revisit my old friend, and my old flame, the 8-bit Nintendo. The first game I played? Super C. Now back in the day I recall playing it briefly, but never thoroughly, and I was adamant on changing that. The game initially kicked my ass until I enabled a few Game Genie cheats to help see me through. Normally I try to beat a game fair and square but I had no guilt here. I just wanted to see all of the crazy levels. This was my journey through hell and back.

Note: Credit vgmuseum.com for these pictures.

Note 2: This past weekend I also published reviews for NES Contra and Contra III: The Alien Wars. Be sure to check them out, too.

Love the orange purple sky
Love the orange purple sky
You descend upon Hell on Earth
You descend upon Hell on Earth

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Super C came out April 1990, two full years before Contra III: The Alien Wars. I can kind of see where the influences for Contra III‘s first level emanates from. Some of these sights here look awfully familar. Hmmm….

I do miss the classic foot soldiers
I miss the classic foot soldiers
They finally shoot back for a change
They just had a little more style and pizzazz to them
It ain't Contra if it doesn't have a turret
The soldiers run pretty fast
More turrets to take out
More turrets to take out
Forge on ahead
Forge on ahead

The first stage is pretty solid. Sure that first boss isn’t anything mind-blowing or ultra memorable, but I love how after you destroy all the turrets a red beating orb appears in the middle for you to gun down. It sets the stage as a lot of the bosses have compartments or turrets to take out first.

Hey, a top down level!
Hey, a top down level!
Shades of Contra III
Shades of Contra III

Indeed, playing Super C is like peering into the future. Some of Contra III‘s levels and ideas seem to derive somewhat from Super C.

It's also a bit Heavy Barrel-esque
It’s also a bit Heavy Barrel-esque
More turrets
This game has turrets syndrome
A pretty fun romp all in all
A pretty fun romp all in all
A simple but effective boss
A simple but effective boss
Shades of Contra's jungle
Shades of Contra‘s jungle
In the jungle the lion sleeps... TO-NIGHT [... -Ed.]
I do prefer the original, but it’s nice to see the nod
It's too flat for my liking
It’s too flat for my liking

It is. The first game’s jungle had lots of different platforms to jump on or off of. This jungle version lacks that. It’s pretty much a straight flat shot through, and that takes away a lot of the fun and intrigue. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fun level to work your way through, but it’s just not as fascinating as the original.

Mandatory water bit
Mandatory water bit
You can feel a mid boss coming
You can feel a mid boss coming
What did I tell ya?
What did I tell ya?
Bloody collapsing floors!
Bloody collapsing floors!
COMPARTMENTS R US!
COMPARTMENTS R US!
The bubbles are deadly
The bubbles are deadly
It gets rather hard here
It starts to get rather hard here
The 'Eagle Men' are back!
I’ve seen you before…
Going in deep now...
Well I’ll be damned
So many guns...
It’s hard to keep a weapon long

I keep dying and end back up with the weak pea shooter. Did I mention this game is double tough?

Interesting boss...
Decent boss but c’mon Konami

The plates come down one at a time and it’s pretty fun to navigate successfully, but I want some more monsters in my Contra bosses, damnit.

Going into the great wide unknown
Going into the wide unknown
Reminiscent of the Waterfall stage
Shades of the Waterfall stage

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I do prefer the Waterfall level in Contra over this one in Super C, but that has been a running theme, no?

Shit gets real here
Shit gets real here
Unbelievably tough
Unbelievably tough
It's not fair...
It’s not fair…
Bombs away!
Bombs away!
Oooh, creepy and ominous
Oooh, creepy and ominous
Alright, I'm digging this
Alright, I’m digging this
Points for something new
Points for something new
How do you not die here?
How do you not die here?
You can't hold me back, Trump!
You can’t hold me back, Trump!
You looking good, Donald
You looking good there, Donald
Now wait a second...
Now wait a second…
You've hit the motherload, Jimbo
You can see the influences Super C had on Contra III
This is not gonna be good...
This is not gonna be good…
This must be Hell all right
This must be Hell all right
Neat bit where you shoot down
Neat bit where you shoot down
It's those spider scorpions!
More ALIEN than ever before!
You remind me of an old pal
You remind me of an old friend
Who could forget the Demon that guarded the top of the Waterfalls?
Who could ever forget this massive monstrosity?
I must have lost 50 lives here
I must have lost 50 lives here
Finally a moment to breathe
Finally a moment to breathe
Rest time is over
Rest time is over
Awesome mini-boss. They don't make 'em like they used to!
Shame they didn’t bring back the demonic giraffe
Super C: Super Cheap?
Super C: Super Cheap?

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Now wait a second...
A worthy sequel albeit super hard

It was nice to finally go through this game last Saturday, even if I did have to enable a cheat code in order to do so. I managed to finish the game with precisely one life remaining. I doubt that I could ever legit beat this game, even if I were to devote 20 years to mastering this game. I love a good hard challenge but this game seems to cross the line and wander into super cheap territory. I do like it a lot, but I just wish it weren’t so damn difficult. It’s so hard that for me it takes away some of the fun if you’re playing this as is. I know there is a camp of Contra fans who prefer Super C to the original. But for me the original will never be touched, outside of Contra III: The Alien Wars that is. Still, Super C stands as a worthy sequel and it’s cool to see the influences it would come to have in Contra III.

Ranking the first three Contra games (Contra Force doesn’t bloody count).

1. Contra III: The Alien Wars
2. Contra
3. Super C

PS- Remember the creepy commercial? See below.

Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES)

Pub: Konami | Dev: Konami | April 1992 | 8 MEGS
Pub: Konami | Dev: Konami | April 1992 | 8 MEGS

In the dying days of the 8-bit Nintendo, the SNES hype train was roaring along faster than even the Shinkansen. Not just by the months and weeks but seemingly by the days and hours. And every Nintendo geek had their own specific game they wanted to see through the wonders of 16-bit. Mario, Zelda, Gradius, Metroid, Castlevania, Mega Man, the list goes on and on. But for yours truly, and many others, Contra was right at the top of that highly esteemed list.

Commando wannabe geeks everywhere in the good ol’ US of A saw their wish come true when Contra III: The Alien Wars was unleashed in April of ’92. Yet ironically, it took me nearly FIFTEEN years later until I could finally call it my own. My SNES rebirth in January 2006 wasn’t merely a resurrection, it was also a chance at gaming redemption.

IN THE BEGINNING…

NES Contra ruled my world in 1988
NES Contra ruled my world in 1988

While many kids grew up on Mario in the mid-late 1980s, and don’t get me wrong — I liked the Italian plumber too, it was really Konami’s CONTRA that cemented me as a video game fan for life. There’s something about being a machine gun strapped soldier blasting alien chunks set over highly atmospheric levels with some of the most memorable video game bosses of all time. Perhaps the best thing about it: you could do it with a buddy. My brother Kevin and I fell in love with Contra when we discovered it at a rental store in 1988. Uncle Jimmy, who then recently moved in, also fell prey to the wonders of this game. I can recall many nights where the three of us rotated turns per level with aid of the infamous Konami “30 MEN” code. A part of me can’t believe it’s almost been 30 years since the three of us stayed up late huddled around the small Sony TV, taking turns saving the universe. Contra was an awesome two-player game. This is not a case of looking back with rose tinted glasses — the 8-bit NES conversion still stands up remarkably well to this day, even nearly 30 years after its release.

In the jungle the lion sleeps... TO-NIGHT [... -Ed.]
In the jungle the lion sleeps… TO-NIGHT [… -Ed.]
From the very first level, that memorable jungle romp, you knew you were in for some kind of treat. Contra conjured quite the intense atmosphere that very few others could. And it paved the way for future run and gun greats like Metal Slug and Gunstar Heroes. It did a lot for gaming, and richly deserves its lofty spot in gaming history. Thank you, Konami, you bastards.

Contra spoke to boys in the '80s like none other
There was no other NES game quite like it

Though ironically, as much as we loved beating the game over and over, Uncle Jimmy never did buy it for us. We rented it several times and a close friend of ours loaned us his copy in exchange of Legendary Wings — a fair trade if there ever was one… ;)

So perhaps it’s fitting I never owned Contra III back in the day either. I never played it extensively until 2008. My old friend Tommy had a copy that I’d play here and there back in ’92 but mostly I would watch our mutual friends Brian and Bryce play. So yeah, it’s a bit strange that I didn’t jump at Contra III back then despite it being at the top of my most wanted list. I guess one reason why — Uncle Jimmy moved out in the spring of ’92 when his wife was pregnant for the second time… the same time Contra III came out — maybe I thought it just wouldn’t be the same without him by our side hooting, hollering and having a good old time. Whatever the reasons were, in October 2008 I decided it was time to finally right a 16 year wrong…

THE STORY, WELL, SUPPOSEDLY…

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“Here we are again bro… just you and me. Same kind of moon, same kind of jungle…”

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“Real number 10 remember… whole platoon, 32 men chopped into meat… we walk out just you and me, nobody else. Right on top huh? Not a scratch… not a fuckin’ scratch. You know whoever got you, they’ll come back again. And when he does I’m gonna cut your name right into him.”

"I'M GONNA CUT YOUR NAME RIGHT INTO HIM!"
“I’M GONNA CUT YOUR NAME INTO HIM!”

"Roger one, we got that, OVER"
“Roger one, we got that, OVER”

The year was 1987. In an undisclosed location in Central America, a special task force was called in to take care of mysterious enemies that hid in the dense and dark jungle. The soldiers assumed it was yet another typical mission but tragically, it was anything but.

No training could have prepared them for this
No training could have prepared them for this

The band of soldiers searched the jungle but found no traces of the enemy, only the bones of the unlucky. At nightfall they split up in several mini-camps, keeping guard. As the men huddled around, an ominous chill filled the raw night air. A soldier’s sixth sense is well developed, and one in particular, Bill Rizer, knew something big was about to go down. His long time partner, Lance Bean, watched as the full moon continue its steady climb in the sky. At its zenith, the bloodshed began.

They were outnumbered, outgunned and outmatched
They were outnumbered. Outgunned. Outmatched

The soldiers were savagely attacked. All order and control went right out the window as many fled for their very lives. The vile creatures knew the jungle inside and out. The men were mice trapped in a snake’s cage. One by one, they were picked off by this invisible threat. The soldiers who did steal a glance saw a sight far too horrible for words.

"AH FUCK ME..."
“AH FUCK ME…”

Gunfire and screams of terror filled the jungle. The enemy was too fast, too smart and too cunning for the men to overcome. Those who stood their ground and fought head on were ripped apart, those who fled were gunned down and those who hid were hunted and swiftly destroyed.

This alien force was too much to handle
This alien force was too much to handle

The men were fighting against an enemy not of this earth. It attacked with an unrelenting fury. This force, this thing that lived inside of them came from a source too VIOLENT, too DEADLY for you to imagine. It grew inside them — contaminating their souls. And now these alien invaders have come to Earth… to kill.

But miraculously, two strong soldiers not only survived the menace — they destroyed it! These two elite soldiers were named…

Bill Rizer code named Mad Dog
Bill Rizer code named Mad Dog
And Lance Bean AKA Scorpion
And Lance Bean AKA Scorpion

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"MY GOD..."
“MY GOD…”
The blast was so great that even the men, flying in from several cities over, could see it
The blast could be seen from miles and miles away

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This became known as the Alien Wars
This became known as THE ALIEN WARS

“Jesus Christ…”

“Jesus ain’t got nothing to do with this.”

“And we’re supposed to somehow KILL THAT?!”

“If it bleeds, we can kill it. No sweat.”

“I see you sweatin’ from over here!”

“I AIN’T GOT TIME TO SWEAT.”

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The final war is at hand… WINNER KEEPS ALL!

FIREPOWER

And you sure need a whole lot of it! Thankfully, now even your default gun is on auto-fire. Some old favorites, like the classic spread gun returns, along with some new updated weapons thanks to the advent of the 1990s (or the 27th century, I suppose). You also have one powerful M-80,000 Helio Bomb per life to blow the aliens to Kingdom Come!

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As mentioned above, at least your standard issue rifle is now automatic. It’ll get the job done in a pinch but you definitely want to make an upgrade soon. The laser cannon packs quite a wallop but it’s pretty damn slow.

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Glad to see the spread gun back, but in my view it was much better in the NES game. The homing missiles definitely come in handy, though weak compared to others.

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This is quite a powerful weapon, especially when you have it in both hands.

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The flame thrower is very useful against certain enemies, and it earns cookie points for looking so damn cool.

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You now have the ability to carry two different weapons at once! Plus, when you hold L and R, fire the trigger button to shoot both weapons at once like a mad man.

LEVEL ONE: NEO CITY

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Where were you back in 1992? Do you remember the first time you fired this game up and anticipated the 16-bit wonders ahead? This stage set the stage!

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... but I got some alien chunks to blow!"
… but I got some alien chunks to blow!”
The car explosions never get old
The car explosions never get old
I love being able to carry two guns at once
I love being able to carry two guns at once

Weapon Wings appear high in the sky just like in the original and must be shot down. You can switch to your other gun, nab that spread shot and have that as your second gun. When you feel like you might die, switch to the less effective gun. That way, when you come back, you still have the good one. Nice! And here we see the smart bomb in its first phase of action. Players get one smart bomb per life. Unfortunately for you, they do not serve as invincible barriers so even a momentary lapse in attention can prove fatal. Smart bombs expand in a massive destructive arc and are best saved for the humongous bosses. The closer you are when you unleash this devastating force the better, as the victim will receive more damage from that extra bit of prolonged exposure.

They're like the turrets in the jungle from NES Contra
They’re like the turrets in the jungle from Contra

Watch out for these sucker guns bursting from out of the ground. And be sure to watch your back for incoming guards.

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Enemies leap out of windows like a beat 'em up
Enemies leap out of windows like it’s a beat ‘em up

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Explosions galore
Explosions galore
So much for man's best friend, eh?
So much for man’s best friend, eh?
Excellent head shot, soldier!
Excellent head shot, soldier!

Another advantage over the NES game is the ability to hold your ground while shooting in any of the eight directions. So now you can fire away anywhere you wish without having to worry about changing your position one iota! Gotta love that SNES controller ;)

Talk about a little fan service
Talk about a little fan service
600 years later and they still haven't patched that up!
600 years later and they still haven’t patched that up
One of the most iconic level one bosses ever
One of the most iconic level one bosses ever

Who could ever forget the very first classic boss from NES Contra? It was so huge that it blew my little five-year-old mind away back in ’88. Talk about one imposing structure! It was a lot easier to kill than it looked but it’s got to be one of the most memorable level one bosses of all time. From the lone red sniper up top to the funky looking gumballs it spewed out, and the cool looking hi-tech square cover at the base there, man, Konami knew HOW TO WORK IT.

"HASTA LA VISTA, BABY!"
“HASTA LA VISTA, BABY!”

And while it was a lot more intimidating in the original, it was still nice to see this base make a comeback. And since it’s not a boss, one can see why it’s a much smaller model than its big brother classic.

I love when companies acknowledge their prequels by resurrecting some of the more memorable baddies. It gives the sequel a certain touch of class and history.

contra3-1-17cccontra3-1-18cc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another satisfying explosion. Gotta love the flash flash. Simply classic stuff.

contra3-1-19

TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES!
TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES!

[Say a prayer, but let the good times roll.

In case God doesn’t shoooow…

And I want these words to make things right…

… but it’s the wrongs that make the words come to life.

“Who does he think he is?”

If that’s the worst you got, better put your fingers back to the keys!

One night, and ONE MORE TIME! Tanks for the memories, TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES! Even though they weren’t so great… ahem, sorry… -Ed.]

contra3-1-21contra3-1-22

 

 

 

 

 

Some Weapon Wings contain a Barrier Shield, which conveniently turns red as it’s about to expire. It doesn’t last very long so better get a move on it.

Some six-armed mutant freak? A three-eyed dragon?
Some six-armed mutant freak? A three-eyed dragon?
Well, that was a letdown
Well, that was a letdown

Nope, just a tank and a foot soldier reject. Kind of a wasted opportunity here at a really cool mid-boss but it’s all good. This guy’s OK and kind of a throwback to another Contra baddie…

A subtle nod to this vehicle?
A subtle nod to this vehicle?

Remember this heavy-duty tank rumbling toward ya in level five of NES Contra?

[How could I forget? It killed my guy every gawd damn time! -Ed.]

"COME AT ME, BRO!"
“COME AT ME, BRO!”

Some shades of that nightmare-inducing tank no? Too bad Jimbo doesn’t have his own tank here as well. That would have been too sick.

Difference is this tank was BRUTALLY HARD
Difference is this tank was BRUTALLY HARD
"Seriously bro, the TechnoDrome's THAT-A-WAY!!"
“Yo, the TechnoDrome is THAT-A-WAY!!”

Whereas this tank, not so much. It barely puts up a fight.

"Now what kind of idiot would say that?" -Arnold
“Now what kind of idiot would say that?” -Arnold

contra3-1-28

Well Jimbo, most gamers agree this was epic
Sorry Jimbo, but most gamers agree this was epic
See? We knew gaming had just LEVELED UP!
See? We all knew gaming had just LEVELED UP!
WELCOME TO 16-BIT, BISHES!
WELCOME TO 16-BIT, BISHES!
This ain't your Uncle Jimmy's Contra
This ain’t your Uncle Jimmy’s Contra
The Homing Gun works wonders here
The homing gun works well here
It was truly mind-blowing back in '92
It was truly mind-blowing back in 1992
Thank goodness for Jimbo's CrossFit training
Thank goodness for Jimbo’s CrossFit training
Crazy that this is still only the first level
Crazy that this is still only the first level
The anticipation mounts to a fever pitch
The anticipation mounts to a fever pitch

At last you reach the end section. You knew it was boss time. You just didn’t know who or WHAT. But knowing Konami, you knew it was gonna be good…

contra3-1-39

"WHAT THE -- !"
“WHAT THE — !”
One of the best looking level one bosses ever
One of the best looking level 1 bosses ever

Konami, never one to disappoint, certainly didn’t here. It’s the giant mutant turtle monster BEAST KIMKOH! Man, I thought the first boss from NES Contra was impressive. This guy is a true terror in every sense, especially in how realistically it seemed to twitch and pulsate.

Er, at least I think it's a he [You check -Ed.]
Er, at least I think it’s a he… [You check -Ed.]
Watch out for that horrible long neck of his. He also emits blue bullets from God only knows where…

[I'm gonna tell Kimkoh you said that -Ed.]
[I’m gonna tell Kimkoh you said that -Ed.]
Gotta love the mutant maggots
Gotta love the mutant maggots
When he's pissed like such, make sure you take the top platform
When he’s pissed, get to the top platform
Good call, Jimbo
Good call, Jimbo

That way you can avoid both his fire breath blast and his bullets. But on the ground? You’d be screwed because it cancels out the option of jumping. You develop lifesaving strategies as you go along and learn the finer points of the game. Good stuff.

Oh quit being dramatic
Oh quit being a drama queen
"ONE DOWN, FIVE TO GO"
“ONE DOWN, FIVE TO GO!”

Beast Kimkoh was such a memorable design. The way it pulsated and squirmed left a lasting impression, and pumped you up to see what horrors lay ahead…

John Woo would be so proud
John Woo would be so proud

LEVEL TWO: MARIA CALDERON HIGHWAY

[I once met a ho -- housewife -- named Maria Calderon... -Ed.]
[I knew a ho — housewife — named Maria Calderon… -Ed.]
With Neo City swept and cleared of all villains, it’s off to the Maria Calderon Highway. Now things are viewed from a top-down perspective. Your goal is to eliminate five Red Corporals hiding in domed manholes. All the while overgrown insects and mad guards hunt you down through this maze of elevated roadway and bridges.

Flashbacks of PlayStation Loaded, anyone?
Flashbacks of PlayStation Loaded, anyone?

Flamethrower should definitely be one of your two guns here if you can nab it.

I prefer 2 Player Mode B, personally
I prefer 2 Player Mode B, personally

When playing the 2 Player Mode A, you get a split screen for this overhead level. However, if you wish to play this stage in a single screen, select 2 Player Mode B. It’s the little things that help make a game (extra) special.

I like the overhead levels better than these ones
I like the overhead levels better than these ones

Level 2 in Contra III reminds me a bit of level 2 from NES Contra. It’s different from the traditional side scrolling stages. They are decent diversions to lend the game some variety. Interestingly enough, just as there were two of these “into the screen” levels, there’s two overhead levels in Contra III. Coincidence?

HINT: Each time it descends, the red spot rotates 90° from its last position. This mechanical spider-esque menace spins high above you before it comes crashing down. Keep moving to avoid being squashed like an ant.

The potent laser gun also works well against the Metallican
The potent laser gun also works well here

The flamethrower is a gem as it can reach the eye without being centered on; remember, it can go through objects to reach an enemy(‘s weak point)!

Shame on ya, Sully. Nowhere to be seen...
Shame on ya, Sully. Nowhere to be seen…

LEVEL THREE: THE OLD CYBER STEEL MILL

 

 

 

 

 

I remember seeing this damn stage every single freaking time I headed over to Tommy’s house back in ’92. I just love the atmosphere this stage brings. That dark smoggy sky, the brown depressing colors… playing this level particularly on a dark afternoon is rather surreal.

 

 

 

 

 

The evil forces of Red Falcon have taken over the last remaining functional steel factory in Neo City. The aliens use it as a landing pad for arriving allies. Be sure to equip yourself with a flamethrower — you’re gonna need it…

 

 

 

 

 

You see? These Gigaflies are toast. BURN BABY BURN!

With a bud you can cover both sides with a flamethrower
2 players can cover both sides with a flamethrower

Say hello to ole Chrome Dome, and I’m not talking about the villain from the Ninja Turtles. He’s a cinch with the flamethrower as you can reach him from there. Otherwise you gotta grab hold of his “arms” and shoot his red eye as you go around in circles. Once killed, he’ll flip his arms wildly in one last ditch effort to take you down to hell with him.

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Far be it for Konami to let you have a nice and easy climb, no, another mid-boss terror comes right after you. Shoot down those missiles.

contra3-3h

contra3-3i

Sure, stand in the searchlight why don't cha!
Sure, stand in the searchlight why don’t cha!
"I like my wings nice and fried!"
“I like my wings nice and fried!”
Going in deep now...
Going in deep now…
That "lock" option is a game  changer
That “lock” option is a game changer

Running out of the pod, the wretched flock swoops down on our hero… like lambs to the slaughter!

contra3-3lcontra3-3n

 

 

 

 

 

Uh oh… glancing through the opening, you see clear as day what lies ahead. There’s no turning back now, Jimbo…

They're called BOB 1 and BOB 2. No joke
They’re called BOB 1 and BOB 2. No joke
I'm the real B.O.B. and I do not approve of BOB 1 or 2
I’m the real B.O.B. and I don’t approve of BOB 1 or 2
Double your fun, double your pain...
Double your fun, double your pain…

AH-HA! The evil robots spring to life and war is waged. This is one of the coolest boss fights ever. Once disposed of both BOBs (remember their torsos flying around?)… it ain’t quite over yet…

contra3-3q-ccontra3-3r-ccontra3-3s-c

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uh oh… you knew it couldn’t be THAT easy, and you were right! [I always am -Ed.]

"HOLY SHIT!"
“HOLY SHIT!”

It’s the ROBO-CORPSE!

I have fond memories of watching Brian and Bryce tackle this titantic tin of terror. Back in ’92 this literally blew our minds and EVEN today it still impresses.

This is one of the most memorable and classic sights from gaming history. It was stunning then and remains an epic experience even to this very day, nearly 25 years later.

"Hey buddy, ever heard of LISTERINE?"
“Hey buddy, ever heard of LISTERINE?”

Robo-Breath fires homing lasers from his eyes and also does one mean Godzilla impersonation. What a perfect boss — it was gorgeous yet grotesque!

This is what gaming is all about
This is what gaming is all about

Pelting him like no tomorrow is utterly satisfying. Watching his whole body flash and waiting until the last possible second to get the hell outta dodge. Climb to the top, drop down and repeat. It was as intense as it was epic. Konami FTW again.

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When Robo-Corpse bites the dust, he REALLY bites the dust. The very thing that gave him “life” so to speak is the same thing that swipes his head clean off… a fitting end to an unforgettable boss encounter. Konami were freakin’ maestros in this domain, bar none.

"Would you like Gigafries with that?"
“Would you like Gigafries with that?”

LEVEL FOUR: THE BATTLE OF THE BLAZING SKY

contra3-4

No rest for the wicked, but thankfully you’re able to give your weary legs a break as you leap aboard a hovering motorcycle (like the speeder bikes from Return of the Jedi). Psycho Cyclers attempt to cut your quest short with a few well-placed grenades.

ProTip: Stay to the far left
ProTip: Stay to the far left

You’ll be attacked both on the ground and in the air. Thankfully you can leap above your motorcycle and not worry about becoming roadkill — they will automatically move under you because of their advanced rider-tracking system. It makes for one intense, fast-moving, action-packed level.

PS2's Contra: Shattered Soldier replicated this
PS2’s Contra: Shattered Soldier replicated this bit

A gigantic battleship flies just above you as it rains down a parade of laser beams. Lock your position and let ‘er rip! Later, a bomb is dropped that engulfs the entire road, so make sure to time your jump well. One split nanosecond off and you’re fried.

Talk about having fire in your eyes
Talk about having fire in your eyes

This strange looking mid-boss can be somewhat unpredictable, swinging his legs around wildly and even charging at our hero. The longer you let it live, the more erratic his pattern seems to grow.

contra3-4d

After catching a lift on a helicopter, Slash comes to greet ya. He’s pretty tough, attacking with a sword and throwing shuriken-like blades.

Not even Chuck Norris stands a chance
Not even Chuck Norris stands a chance
... is right. Another epic boss battle in the books, folks
… is right. Another epic boss battle in the books
Once again Sully is nowhere to be found...
Once again Sully is nowhere to be found…

LEVEL FIVE: THE MUCHO GRANDE BADLANDS

I like how the overhead levels lets you pick where to start
I like how you can pick where your starting point is

The Mucho Grande Badlands (what a funky name) is a return in concept to level two’s Maria Calderon Highway. Players must gun down five enemy entrances while avoiding mutant insects and crossing precariously thin strips of land and collapsing bridges.

contra3-5a

Shifting sand ain't bad -- it's the swirly ones I hate!
Shifting sand ain’t bad — it’s the swirly ones I hate!

On easy mode he can be finished with the laser gun in literally under 10 seconds. But on Hard… YEAH. Good luck…

JIMBO: The Lone Planetary Defender
JIMBO: The Lone Planetary Defender

LEVEL SIX: RED FALCON’S MAIN BASE

Many foul creatures await
Many foul creatures await

This is it. The last stand. The final whistle, if you will. Better stock up on bombs…

Awesome mini-boss. They don't make 'em like they used to!
Epic enemy. They don’t make ‘em like they used to!

Who could ever forget this monstrosity from the NES game? I used to call him the “Long Neck Alien Monster.”  My brother, Uncle Jimmy and I loved killing this guy. When I think of Contra, this parasite here is always the very first bad guy that comes to mind. He blew our minds back in ’88 and he wasn’t even a boss! Remember how you stood at the edge of that wretched pillar there, blasting away at his jaw while your buddy took care of the shrimp? I know you do. I know I do. There are video game enemies that you remember for life. This is one of them.

LOOK WHO'S BACK, JACK!
LOOK WHO’S BACK, JACK!

In a true nod to the fans if there ever was one, Konami resurrected the nasty Para-Slug for Contra III, once more serving as Red Falcon’s “mini-boss” terror in the game’s final stage. He’s not quite as intimidating and menacing as he was in his first appearance, but he still looks pretty dang cool.

Konami no doubt loved the ALIEN films
Konami no doubt loved the ALIEN films

Speaking of knowing and appreciating one’s history, remember the last stage in the NES game? That decrepit alien lair littered with scorpion-spiders and abominable parasites? Let’s see how they do it 16-bit style…

Well it's very similar here -- only 10 times more intense!
It’s very similar here — only 10 times more intense!
Nearly 30 years and Contra's heartbeat still resonates
Nearly 30 years and Contra‘s heartbeat still resonates

Here’s another classic sight seared into our memory banks. It’s the final boss from NES Contra, that vile beating heart of Red Falcon! Nothing quite satisfied like pumping that organ full of lead until it exploded unmercifully! Ahhh, just thinking about it warms the heart (no pun intended). Really hard to fathom it’s almost been 30 years, no?

Konami with another nod to the fans
Konami with another nod to the fans

I love seeing the old memorable baddies from NES Contra resurrected for this 16-bit sequel. Although this is a neat design in its own right, the NES one I have to say was that much more memorable. Still, it’s a most welcomed sight indeed.

I love how the heart flashes with each shot it takes
I love how the heart flashes with each shot it takes

Talk about a hell of a heart attack [Tsk tsk -Ed.]
Talk about a hell of a heart attack [Tsk -Ed.]
You thought at first you had saved the world but a pesky feeling kept gnawing at you as you stood there admiring your handiwork. And just up ahead the sinister path, you got your answer…

 

 

 

 

 

Suddenly the landscape changes to an even more rotten state. The ground rumbles madly and from the rubble comes forth a truly horrific monster!

"YOU ONE UGLY MUTHAFUCKER!"
“YOU ONE UGLY MUTHAFUCKER!”

He’s easier than he looks. When he rushes you, be ready to jump onto his spider-like legs. You can even catch a lift up top. When he lets his guard down, aim for his face and don’t hold back.

Red Falcon's final line of defense
Red Falcon’s final line of defense

The fourth and final mini-boss, the Vicious Slave Hawk, can be a bit of a bitch if you don’t have the flamethrower.

You've hit the motherload, Jimbo
You’ve hit the motherload, Jimbo

Sometimes pictures are worth a thousand words. What a spectacular sight for sore eyes this was and still is.

You don't know what, but something bad is happening
“This can’t possibly be good…”

How astute an observation on your cunning part, Jimbo. Who needs college, eh?

I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE
I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE

Here are a few examples of his offensive attacks. The Russian Roulette manner is pretty neat. Never know what form you’ll get and it makes fighting this final boss slightly different each time.

"Oh damn, it's DEFINITELY a male..."
“Oh damn, it’s DEFINITELY a male…”

I like this one. It’s got a nice look. He moves pretty fast so don’t get too greedy in shooting him down. Pick your spots and move along accordingly with him so you don’t get squashed!

Kinda looks like a sinister starfish
Kinda looks like a sinister starfish
But wait a second, what's this?
All is clear and safe, right? Uh, sure…

WOO HOO, you saved the universe — job well done, soldier. Now… GET TO DA CHOPPA!

"AW SHIT!"
“AW SHIT!”
OH SNAPS
OH SNAPS
"SEE YA IN HELL RED FALCON!"
“SEE YA IN HELL RED FALCON!”

In typical classic sci-fi and horror movie style, the bad guy comes back for one last stand. This only happens on Hard, and it is only on Hard that you can get the real ending.

Good luck Donald Trump and America...
Good luck Donald Trump and America…

"Jimbo, let's blow his brains out!"  [HA HA HA -Ed.]
“Let’s blow his brains out!”  [HA HA HA -Ed.]
Some lovely black and white photos are shown in the real ending.

Mad Dog and Scorpion would have been proud
Mad Dog and Scorpion would be proud

CLASSIC KONAMI CHEAT? ON THE CONTRA-RY

Who could ever forget this?
Up up, down down, LEFT RIGHT OUTTA THE GAME!

Don’t bother looking for the infamous Konami code in the US version of Contra III because it doesn’t exist. If you really want to cheat, and I could understand why — the game’s blasted difficult as heck on Normal or higher, then you’ll need a Game Genie.

Game Genie Cheats:

Infinite Lives (on side-scrolling levels):  22BB-AD01
Infinite Lives (on top-down levels):  22BB-6F0B + 6DBB-64DB
Infinite Bombs (on side-scrolling levels):  2264-D760
Infinite Bombs (on top-down levels):  22B8-0766

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN US, JAPANESE AND PAL

For a change, the US cover is 10 times better
For a change, the US cover is 10 times better

That is refreshing, indeed. The Super Famicom box art is infamous for sporting a very striking Arnold lookalike. The Super Famicom version is titled Contra Spirits and has a 30 lives code (but is not done in the traditional Konami fashion). Unlike other US conversions (such as Super Castlevania IV), not much has been censored to the best of my knowledge. The US effort is by and large the exact same game as the Japanese one, except the US version is a bit more difficult to say the least. Contra Spirits gives you infinite continues, plus you can see the real ending on Normal not Hard as it is with Contra III.

The UK called Contra III Super Probotector
The UK called Contra III “Super Probotector”
It's still relatively the same exact game...
It’s still relatively the same exact game…
... except the heroes are robots rather than humans
… except the heroes are robots rather than humans

I’M SO “AD” TO SEE YOU

And what's that, playa?
And what’s that, playa?
Yeah, that works
Yeah, that works

FROM THE BOOK OF KONAMI

Who could forget the Demon that guarded the top of the Waterfalls?
Who could ever forget this mechanical monstrosity?

Throughout gaming’s history we have seen some amazing, mind-blowing bosses. Screen filling demons and monsters that ruled our living room,  leaving us speechless upon sight and utterly pleased as we watched them crumble after a hard fought battle. Indeed, few companies had the magic touch that Konami had. Their bosses are simply the stuff legends (and nightmares) are made of.

Mutagen gone horribly wrong!
Mutagen gone horribly wrong!

Thankfully, Contra III continued Konami’s masterful tradition. From the very first boss, that menacing mutant snapping turtle, bursting out of the bloody walls, you were sure of two things. One, you would never forget the image. And two, Konami still had it. They still had that magic touch. The first thing that comes to mind whenever someone mentions Konami are the many memorable bosses the firm has produced over the years.

The "Transformers" boss from NES Contra was a hell of a sight
The “Transformers” boss from NES Contra was sick

contranl4-b

transformersicontransformersicon2

 

 

 

 

God I loved the ’80s…

The '90s were pretty rad, too
The early-mid ’90s was special, too
Thanks Konami for making those years extra memorable
Thanks Konami for making that time extra enjoyable

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

#8 on EGM's Top 100 List issue #100  (Nov. 1997)
#8 on EGM’s Top 100. Issue #100 (November 1997)

Contra III: The Alien Wars was destined for instant classic status the moment it hit game stores nationwide back in good ol’ 1992. Fans of the previous games and game reviewers everywhere ate it up. To this day, with as many Contra incarnations as there are, many still cite Contra III as being the very best Contra game of all. Mighty high praise indeed, considering the franchise had more than its fair share of stellar games.

  • EGM: 9, 9, 9, 9
  • Super Play: 90%

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"DIE YOU SON OF BITCHES!  YO JIMBO -- COVER ME!"
“DIE YOU SONS OF BITCHES! YO JIMBO — COVER ME!”

From the very start players enter a post apocalyptic war torn universe overran with alien forces. From blowing up cars and towers to hitching rides on tanks and braving through a flame-engulfed section, the stage is set beautifully for one epic, intense action fest. The graphics are often impressive and at times they are truly spectacular. The music is brilliant, with an excellent mixture of metallic guitars and big orchestral pieces. The sampled grunts and screams complement the on screen mayhem. It’s everything you hope 16-bit Contra would be and more.

"I'M KINDA BUSY OVER HERE MYSELF, SULLY!"
“HEY I’M A LITTLE BUSY OVER HERE MYSELF, SULLY!”

Perhaps the best thing about Contra III is the same quality that made the first Contra so damn good. Crisp, smooth and intense action that lets you run and gun with a buddy. There’s something really cool (and fun) about strapping on your boots, teaming up with a pal and taking on evil forces that outnumber you by the hundreds. Contra III plays and controls like a dream. It is truly well deserving of all the hype and praise that’s been thrown its way over the past quarter century!

Konami delivers an instant 16-bit classic
Konami delivers yet another instant 16-bit classic

There are so many improvements over the NES game and that was already a great game to begin with! For starters, the smart bomb brings a certain back pocket security card to the table. Then you have the ability to carry two different weapons at once. The current weapon you’re holding is gone when you die. In a hairy situation you can even pause the game to switch! You can also fire both guns at once. In addition, they resurrected some old sights and baddies as a nod to the fans. There’s more strategy here than ever before. And let’s not forget about that handy lock feature. The different difficulty levels cater to players of varying skill. Contra III has got both style and substance.

The mind is a terrib -- terrific thing to waste!
The mind is a terrible, nay, TERRIFIC thing to waste!

The gameplay is still classic Contra, except now 10 times as intense. With two players it’s simply an unbeatable experience. I only wish it were a level or two longer. Breathtaking boss battles, memorable mini bosses, awesome set pieces, amazing atmosphere, smooth-as-hell run and gun gameplay, impressive graphics and sound to match — what more could you ask for? It’s a short game but I find myself coming back for more, and often. Contra III deserves all the hype it gets. A level or two short of perfection, this ain’t your Uncle Jimmy’s Contra — it’s even better. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta get back to saving the world and blasting some alien ass. BOO YAH!

Graphics: 9
Sound: 9.5
Gameplay: 9.5
Longevity: 9

Overall: 9.5

Double Gold Award
Double Gold Award

 

 

 

"We think we're a 10 but we'll take the 9.5!"
“We think we’re a 10 but hey, we’ll take the 9.5!”

“Thanks for the top score, mate!”

“Hey, we earned it!”

“I only have one last thing to say…

… GET TO DA CHOPPA!!!!!!!!!!”

Contra (NES)

It's the game that got me into games -- for life
An essential video game of the ’80s, Contra stands the test of time

For many kids growing up in the mid-late 1980s it was all about Mario and his chums. I was a fan myself, but the one game that really cemented me as a video game fan for life was Konami’s Contra. The gun-slinging, alien-shooting atmosphere was off the charts, with incredible graphics, sound and gameplay. And unlike Mario, two could play at once. In short, it was a senses-shattering, adrenaline-filled action thriller. It was the kind of game you talked to your buds about on the playground at recess. The kind you never get tired of beating again and again, provided you had a friend firing alongside you every step of the way.

Tonight we take a trip down memory lane, recalling along the way the memorable nasties, the unforgettable little moments, and why this game has stood the test of time.

A FREAKY COINCIDENCE

This tribute piece was originally written almost 10 years ago now, back on February 9, 2008. As I was writing it, I decided to search when Contra was first released on the NES. I kid you not, the date was *drum roll please* February 9, 1988. So exactly 20 years later, to the very day, I was commemorating Contra. It’s one of those freaky coincidences that prove there are indeed greater and mysterious forces at work here.

I made this back on February 9, 2008
I made this back on February 9, 2008

And although RVGFanatic is mainly a platform where I share my passion for all things Super Nintendo, I’m happy to occasionally honor games that didn’t appear on the SNES at all. Contra is the first game of a brand new section on the site entitled “Random Retro.” And I can’t think of a finer first game than this.

THE INFAMOUS KONAMI CODE

Who could ever forget this?
Who could ever forget this?

Ah the classic Konami code which gave you 30 men. Ask any serious Nintendo fan about the code and they’ll recite it for ya on cue (select, start for 2 players).

THE JUNGLE

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The first stage is the very memorable jungle romp. Indeed, it was always amusing to us young kids how your guy was as big as the trees themselves!

contranl1-a

One of the great things you first notice are all the convenient angles you can fire at. It made you never look at games where the hero could only shoot across quite the same ever again, yeah?

contranl1-b

For some reason this silly mechanical bridge really captivated my imagination as a youth. My brother and I would often see who could cross it successfully, sort of a game-within-a-game type thing, yeah.

contranl1-c

Uh, yeah, I meant to fall off that collapsing bridge. Of course I did…

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Each time I saw him my mind would wander to such thoughts as “How did he luck out to get that hiding spot? It sure beats running in the wide open like some kamikaze soldier!” Ah, the thoughts we had as kids, eh?

Now THAT'S what I'm talking about
Now THAT’S what I’m talking about
I know I sure haven't
I know I sure haven’t

This first towering boss really set the tone for what the rest of the game would turn out to be. Contra simply tickles the imagination. It’s a world where massive monstrosities call home and where being a deft action megastar is the only ticket out alive.

This was an amazing sight back in 1988!
This was an amazing sight back in 1988!

At the end of the jungle lies this humongous base. I remember thinking what a huge boss it was at that time, and if I wasn’t sold yet, I was now. A sucker for any sort of elaborate Lego base or set, I was blown away by how cool this imposing structure appeared.

First order of business is to eliminate the entry soldier up top. Next, take out the two turrets, which spits out lovely red gumballs. Seriously, was I the only one who thought they looked like giant red gumballs?

Always love me a good spread
Always love me a good spread

Indeed. After clearing the two turrets, wipe the base plate out and proceed onto level two. What great horrors and thrills await you there?

BASE ONE

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This scene blew my mind back in 1988. It was like nothing I had ever seen before on the ole 8-bit NES. Like all of the game’s levels, to this day I can hum level two’s theme.

Simply riveting stuff back in '88
My imagination ran wild at the horrors laying ahead
Wow, this was mind blowing back in '88!
Wow, this was mind blowing back in ’88!

Boss number two is yet another awe-worthy gigantic structure. First you must blow away the pods. Once you do, look at the black screen for a good luck message… or at least yet another notable boss, anyhow.

Shades of Cobra from G.I. Joe!
Shades of Cobra from G.I. Joe!

Oh I know you can hear the music right about now, yes? Don’t deny it. You can even recall the sound that occurs every time you die, can’t you? Good stuff. Except that dying part, though.

We called this boss “Snakey” or “Snake Breath.” No explanation needed… just look at him! To this day I can see him zooming across his tiny black space back and forth, desperately spewing his venomous breath. This game was chalk full with memorable bosses. They stay with you even nearly 30 years later. Jeez!

WATERFALL

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Stage three… gotta make your way up to the top of this treacherous mountain. Keep your eyes peeled and your guns ready.

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The classic rocks-falling-down bit. Remember to keep pace with player 2
(if applicable). The bottom of the screen in 2-player mode acts as sort of an invisible pool of burning lava.

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Another cool part. Those two small fires move back and forth while turrets and soldiers from above try their damnedest to take you out.

Thankfully you’ve got that invulnerable icon there…

Capitalizing on the Running Man trend of the late '80s!
Capitalizing on the Running Man phenomenon!

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After a lengthy and arduous journey some 5,000 feet up this mountain top, you have to deal with the guardian from Hell…

MIND.OFFICIALLY.BLOWN
MAMA MIA!

YIKES! What a beast this guy is. Nobody could do bosses quite like Konami. That was their M.O., no? First you gotta take out his two limbs.

MIND.OFFICIALLY.BLOWN
MIND.OFFICIALLY.BLOWN

Then once that’s done, blow his gawd damn jaw off! You can actually position yourself where you’re able to hit him and he just misses you. An easy bloke, but a damn impressive and highly unforgettable one. He’s one of my favorite bosses of all time. I remember my reaction the first time my bro and I saw him: “WHOA!”

Beat him and proceed safely to level four. Wow, we’re not even halfway through and already this game is killing it! No wonder it’s one of the best games of all time.

BASE TWO

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A reprise of level two, but a bit tougher and nastier. Don’t touch the electric ropes, and don’t stay in one spot for too long!

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I just love that vast bleakness up ahead, as well as the little specks of red there. A really nice touch that makes it seem very ominous, indeed. Really accentuates the feeling of stepping into the great wide unknown…

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Watch out for the dough rollers as I used to call it back in the day. Hey, that’s what they looked like to me!

Blackness peppered with ominous red... oooh
Blackness peppered with ominous red… oooh
Konami you bastards. You did it again
Konami you bastards. You did it again

This is what lies ahead! Just like the boss of level two, except now with two heads to contend with! Again, you must destroy the pods. Some Eagle Men (as we kids called them) swoop down upon you in the process.

This was a somewhat tough boss as the little bubble shots it spewed required impeccable skill to successfully dodge. In typical classic boss fashion, once weakened, it’ll start to flash red.

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Damn right it reminded me of the Autobots and Decepticons. Man, you had Transformers, Nintendo and bloody Hulk Hogan all ruling the ’80s. What a time to be alive, eh?

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Pretty damn similar, no? I liked how the red brain pulsated harder and harder the weaker it got. It made it more intense as if the thing was going to explode into a million bloody pieces!

SNOWFIELD

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Brrr… you may not need a jacket but you will need lots of skill and luck.

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Oh sure he seems harmless enough. But then factor in foot soldiers running up your back end [that sounds… painful -Ed.] and suddenly it’s not so easy now is it?

Not Yoda. Just only way to fit that text in, ha!
Not Yoda. That’s just so that the text can fit, ha!
They finally shoot back for a change
They finally shoot back for a change
Yah, you definitely need a potent firearm, or two players!
You definitely need a potent firearm, or two players!
We kids called this the UFO Boss. Creative, huh?
We kids called this the UFO Boss. Creative, huh?

ENERGY ZONE

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I like how each of the game’s locales has a slightly different look and feel. Aside from the two base stages, no two levels look alike. Gotta appreciate that.

Patience is required in level six
Patience is required in level six due to these flames
Awesome set piece!
Awesome set piece! Stay focused, or else…
Run through them like a knife through hot butter
Run through them like a knife through hot butter

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Remember Larami Corp’s Super Soaker lineup? Very popular stuff circa 1992-’93. First there was the orange Super Soaker 50 if memory serves right, then the OMG ultra-cool Super Soaker 100 which EVERY kid on my block had to have. My bro was the first to buy one and of course, he became a legend within our circle of friends. Good times.

They don't make 'em like they used to
They don’t make ‘em like they used to

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Little subtle touches like this tile floor changing colors right before a gigantic boss fight don’t go unnoticed. It’s the little details that make a game for me.

Well said
Well said

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Nobody did bosses like Konami did. You could say that they were the boss of that domain… [You’re fired -Ed.]

Somebody's been eating their Wheaties
Somebody’s been eating their Wheaties

Good ole 1988-1989. The year I was in Kindergarten. At the table with the big white styrofoam blocks I would share my tales with my friends of the battles I had with the “50 foot tall purple and orange alien monster.” My friends looked on with eyes wide open, urging me to continue my story. Just imagine this little six-year-old story teller will ya!

On a side note, back in 2008 I visited my old Kindergarten classroom to help out for a day. The teacher, remarkably, in her old age still somehow remembered me: an impromptu 20 year reunion! It was simply surreal. I looked over at the corner and saw that 1989 scene replay in my head — where I was weaving magic by the campfire about this Contra baddie. Mmm. Some things just stay with you forever.

HANGAR

This was my favorite stage of them all
This was my favorite stage of them all

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The imagery this level had was highly compelling to say the very least. Rolling mine carts, trident-esque hooks, hi-tech computer-y interior… there was just something about it that left a lasting impression.

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I love the spiked walls that would pop out of the ground. Sometimes weapons may get caught in-between as well. It’s a small detail, but they really do add up.

[Psssst. Manute Bol FTW -Ed.]
[Shoot. Manute Bol FTW. R.I.P. big man -Ed.]
Remember, I made these pics back in 2008!
Remember, I made these pics back in early 2008!
DUM DA DUM DUM!
DUM DA DUM DUM!
I love these damn spiked walls too much
I love these damn spiked walls too much
Contra is one macho video game
Damn right it is!

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You know, I think Konami might have been obsessed a little bit with stars. Almost every stage is outdoors and features stars. Red, orange, green, blue…

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Foot soldiers come trampling out the door and from behind, all while the turrets below sprout up fireworks. Two players really come in handy here, believe that!

ALIEN LAIR

Stage 8 is short and sweet
Stage 8 is short and sweet

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Ah yes, who could ever forget this epic mini-boss. We called him “The Long Neck Alien Monster” — catchy, huh? I remember not being able to eat shrimp for a while after seeing this monstrosity for the very first time!

Like I said, I made these pics back in 2008...
Like I said, I made these pics back in 2008…

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This last level didn’t host very many baddies but they were all  memorable due to their distinctly demented nature. As well as they should be, seeing as how the level takes place in an alien’s lair. It perfectly captures the foreboding mood of a giant mother alien waiting for you at level’s end…

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This is it. The final stand, the last whistle. My brother and I always had to kill all four pods before attacking the heart; it’s much more fun that way. Destroy the Red Falcon‘s heart to restore peace to the universe.

"ONE OF US HAS TO DIE!!!"
“ONE OF US HAS TO DIE!!!”

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Thanks for all the memories, Contra
Thanks for all the memories, Contra

NES Contra remains one of my all-time favorite video games. I credit it as the game that hooked me for life. I always enjoyed video games prior to playing Contra, but it was Contra that blew my mind in a way no other video game before it was able to do. My brother Kevin, my uncle Jimmy and I played it to death. Though oddly, as much as we loved it, we never bought it back in the day. But thanks to a mom ‘n pop shop called Evergreen Video, we must have rented it half a dozen times. Plus borrowing our friend’s copy, but of course we had to loan him our copy of Legendary Wings – a fair trade if there ever was one ;)

Contra steamrolled its competition in 1988
Contra steamrolled its competition in 1988

Each of the eight stages have their own unique quirks and little details you can’t help but fondly remember. It’s the sign of not just a great game, but one that somehow sticks with you for a lifetime. They are far and few between. Playing Contra is akin to going about your daily routine as usual, only to inhale a whiff of a comforting scent that takes you back to a certain period in your youth. A much calmer time when things weren’t so hectic and chaotic. A more innocent time if you will. Contra conjures memories of ’80s yore, and reminds you of why you love video games in the first place.

Where's Godzilla when ya need him?!
Where’s Godzilla when ya need him?!

Who could forget the sights and sounds? Konami were maestros. 25+ years later the tunes are still stuck in my head, and the bosses are firmly planted in my heart. Nobody could do bosses like Konami. They knew just how to spark your imagination, and really brought the enemies and end level guardians to life. Never have I played a game where we talked about the bosses as much as we did with Contra. They were awe-inspiring, gruesome and unforgettable. Killing them always felt so satisfying, and if you were anything like me, you shared “war stories” about it with your friends as if it were a genuine badge of honor. The game had, and still has, that special connection with gamers the world over. That is partly why we cherish it so, even nearly 30 years later.

Until we meet again, my friend...
Until we meet again, my friend…

From telling my friends in Kindergarten about my battles with the 50 foot tall purple and orange monster to the many nights my brother, uncle and I spent locked up in the gaming room blowing up alien chunks, I will never forget the fond memories I have of Contra. But it’s not just nostalgia talking. This is still a damn EXCELLENT game. One of the best on the 8-bit Nintendo in my humble estimation. Its gameplay fares well to this day, and it has a unique aura about it all its own. Mario? Yeah don’t get me wrong, the Italian plumber is cool and all, but here’s the game that made me a video game fan for life. Here’s the game that turned boys into men. And here’s the game that damnit, just might be my favorite NES game of all time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta get back to blasting some alien ass. Boo-yah!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (SNES)

Pub: Konami | Dev: Konami | Dec. '93 | 16 MEGS
Pub: Konami | Dev: Konami | Dec. ’93 | 16 MEGS

Back in the early-mid ’90s fighting games ruled the scene. Street Fighter II launched a phenomenon that spawned clone after clone. Very few came close to the level of Street Fighter. Some were even downright ATROCIOUS. But once in a while, one came along that completely surprised you. One of those games was a Super Nintendo exclusive. It never came out in the arcades, but Konami could have fooled me. Its name… Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters.

Last night a friend and I caught the latest TMNT movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. It was far better than I expected, especially since I didn’t like the 2014 version at all. I mean, it wasn’t great or anything, but I can genuinely say I wouldn’t mind the inevitable 3rd film in this Michael Bay series. Seeing the movie made me nostalgic for the Turtles from my childhood, and so it’s a perfect time to talk about one of the best fighting games the SNES ever saw.

EXCUSE ME, SAY THAT ONE MORE TIME

"It's SF 2 Turbo with DEATH moves!"
“It’s SF 2 Turbo with DEATH moves!”

Those were the haunting, earth-shattering words of my brother’s friend, Kerwin, back in December ’93. According to him, he had just played this new amazing fighting game — one that he claimed had“Fatality” like moves during combat and one that actually played better than Street Fighter II Turbo. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought Kerwin worked for Konami himself. At that time I had never conceived of anything like the idea of death moves. These were essentially SUPER special moves that dealt out a TREMENDOUS amount of damage and could only be done when your 2nd bar was full. Just the idea of two energy bars blew my 10 year old mind, let alone the idea of a screen-filling, flashy, super special attack. Maybe there was another game that had already done this at the time, but alI I knew was, Tournament Fighters was my first exposure to the wonderful wacky world of super specials. It’s one of those epic memories you always carry with you, in your gaming heart. TMNT: Tournament Fighters would have been terrific even without their Ultimate Attacks but WITH them it makes for one truly amazing fighting game.

SF 2 Turbo with death moves? Mind blown
Street Fighter II Turbo with death moves? Mind blown

Since late 1993, death moves have become a key staple in the genre. Everything from looks to command (i.e. how to pull off a super special move) has only gotten crazier and crazier. By comparison, these ones may seem tame today… but man, back in the day, they were something else to behold!

I wonder if she's singing "Great Balls of Fire..."
I wonder if she’s singing “Great Balls of Fire…”

Tournament Fighters has two bars. One serves as your energy bar while the second fills up each time you land a blow, blocked or not. It’s a free flowing bar, meaning that if you are not on the offensive the bar swings back the other way slowly but surely. Thus, a great deal of emphasis is put on being aggressive, rather than defensive. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself compromised as your opponent unleashes his possibly two or even three times in a single round. When full, the bar ignites and you have three seconds to perform your super special. If you fail to execute your big move in that time frame, then the bar swings back the other way. Thankfully, it moves one smidgen at a time. Meaning if for whatever reason you couldn’t pull off your big move, just one or two more (blocked) attacks will see your bar refilled once more. It was a brilliant and innovative feature for its time. Back in December of 1993, none of my gaming crew nor I had ever seen anything like the Ultimate Attacks. And we loved them. It changed the dynamic of a typical fighting game match, and some of the screen-filling moves were truly awe-inspiring 20+ years ago.

Side effects include...
Side effects include…

However, there were some downsides to the Ultimate Attacks. Namely, since you only have about three seconds to unleash it… human opponents are very likely to block it. Though some can cause a good deal of damage even when blocked, it would be better if there was no time limit and the bar could remain full until you were ready to use it. It would have led to a bit more strategy. Instead, the game plays like a mad melee, which is not bad in its own right. Props for having these mega death moves at all.

CHRISTMAS MAGIC IN JANUARY

Santa has a Tic Tac with your name on it, Mikey
Santa has a Tic Tac with your name on it, Mikey

Having hounded both my parents about Clay Fighter and with them knowing how disappointed I was that I didn’t get it or even a video game that Christmas, my mom allowed me to buy one video game in January of ’94. I had just rented Clay Fighter and was thankful I did (boy, was it disappointing). They took me to Good Guys and I bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. I had never played it before but it was #2 on my want game list that Christmas season, trailing only Clay Fighter. I grew up on the Ninja Turtles, and it looked like a terrific Street Fighter II clone. I loved the cover and will never forget seeing it at Good Guys looking all pretty in its wrapping. It seemed to call out to me. Right away I knew it was the one. My mom and dad took the game to the counter to pay for it while I stood there nearly quaking in my shoes. What a wonderful belated Christmas gift! It was the second SNES game my mom ever bought for me, just about one year after she’d bought me my first, King of the Monsters. It was one of the longest car rides home that I can remember. It was time to see if Kerwin was right or not — was this truly Street Fighter II Turbo but with death moves??

"I THOUGHT OH SWEET JESUS... I RAN FOR MY LIFE!"
“I THOUGHT OH SWEET JESUS. I RAN FOR MY LIFE!”

THE STORY GOES…

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Heisenberg!
BLAH — I ordered extra pepperoni!
Suddenly the TV's been hacked
Suddenly the TV has been hacked

Mike:  Hey, who hacked our tube? This is SO NOT COOL, DUDES!
Raph: SHADDUP MIKEY! I wanna hear this…
Don:  Amazing, I wonder what kind of device they used to hack our streaming service?
Leo:  Guys, there could only be one villain behind this…

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AH-HA! The rat has found his golden ticket
AH-HA! The rat has found his golden ticket
They don't call him MASTER Splinter for nothing!
They don’t call him MASTER Splinter for nothing!

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Classic, VINTAGE Konami
Classic, VINTAGE Konami

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COWABUNGA! [You're fired -Ed.]
COWABUNGA! [You’re fired -Ed.]
There's even a code for Hi-Speed 3
There’s even a code for Hi-Speed 3

I’ve always enjoyed the presentation / vibe of most Konami titles. They had a classic, basic yet sleek look to them. You could always count on Konami to deliver the goods :)

I was so sad SNES Martial Champion never happened
I was so sad SNES Martial Champion never happened

When I first saw this 20+ years ago, I instantly said to my brother, “It’s Martial Champion!” We liked it. It was different from most other fighting games which all seemed to have the same select screen. This one was different enough to be a bit of a stand out, however.

I remember picking Titi (AKA Chaos) first
I remember picking Titi (AKA Chaos) first

Martial Champion came out February 1993. It was one of a thousand Street Fighter II clones flooding the market at the time. I fell in love with it, but I was basically sleeping with every fighting game that came out during that golden age of 1992 to 1994 or so. It was colorful, outlandish and a bit different from your average SF II clone.

Loved Titi so much that I even drew a pic of him
Loved Titi so much that I even drew a pic

Titi (renamed Chaos in the US) was my favorite character. It looked like a cross between Freddy Krueger and a Chinese hopping vampire! Sold and sold! The game was unique thanks to its high jumps and how you could disarm your opponent and steal their weapon to use it against them. Looking back, it wasn’t a great fighting game or anything, but it was yet another fun entry in that epic era I fondly refer to as the ‘Fighting Game Golden Age.’

MARTRIAL Champions. Man, am I glad I learned how two spel..
MARTRIAL Champions. Man, glad I learned how two spel

Take a look and see for yourself! Yeah, I know. I couldn’t draw for jack but man… the memories of those fun and simple times. Running in those arcade halls with my old gaming crew, going from fighting game to fighting game. It was akin to a buffet lineup. A grand time those days were, indeed.

SETTING THE STAGE

Oh we'll get to the Genesis version a little later on, believe me...
Oh we’ll get to the Genesis version a little later…
You really gotta use mouthwash, Mikey
You really gotta use some mouthwash, Mikey

Of the many things I love about this game the one I adore the most might be the stages. Just look at this one f’rinstance. First off, the idea of a duel to the death on a rooftop is appealing, but then you add in massive billboards and a pretty backdrop of some hotels and business buildings, including a nifty flashing neon Konami sign all set to an atmospheric night time hue, and what you have is a winner. Most of the stages in this game are chock full with detail, color (admittedly at times almost TOO much color), and oh yeah, cameos. You’ll see tons of familiar faces from the TMNT universe scattered throughout, from foot soldiers to Neutrinos to Rocksteady and Bebop (though they should have been playable fighters but I digress). You’ll battle it out everywhere, from shady back alleys to ancient ruins, sunken ships, raucous rock concerts, roaring trains and cafés filled with jukeboxes, neon signs and bloodthirsty spectators. The stages captured my imagination 20+ years ago, and to this day, in my book, they’re still some of the best backgrounds I’ve ever seen in a 16-bit fighter.

I also dig how you can spot the big set pieces in the little avatars
<3 how they show the big set pieces in the little shots

What’s a fighting game without some sort of stage select screen? I’ve always liked the one here… with the Statue of Liberty front and center, and the little light that searches for the next stage. The sound effects here, as can be expected, are top-notch and firmly embedded in my mind more than 20 years later.

Good God, this game brings back so many nostalgic memories...
Man, this brings back so many nostalgic memories

THE FIGHTERS

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LEONARDO | 5’8″ | 170 lbs.

The leader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Leonardo is as straight-edge as they come. Focused and determined, his trusty katana blades often pushes him ahead of the competition. Not surprisingly, he plays like Ryu. Leo’s never been my favorite turtle, but he’s a solid all-around fighter, and an easy choice for beginning players. As expected, his swords provide him solid range. You can slice and dice to your heart’s content… something I always wanted to see in the old cartoon but never did for obvious reasons — but here you can fulfill those long forgotten childhood dreams.

Where's Jesse Pinkman when you need him?  [Getting high -Ed.]
Where’s Jesse Pinkman when you need him?
Hustlers, hookers and hoodlums litter this shady looking back alley. In an attempt to shed his choir boy, straight edge image, Leo invites his opposing rivals to meet him way out in this dilapidated part of town in the middle of the day, breaking the age-old ninja code of hiding in the shadows. Leo is ready, at last, to step outta his shell.

Beware slow recovery time
Beware slow recovery time
Are-You-Krang!
Are-You-Krang!
Millenium Wave!
Millenium Wave!
Tired of the shadows, Leo takes to the mean streets
Tired of the shadows, Leo takes to the mean streets

TMNTTF33RAPHAEL | 5’8″ | 170 lbs.

Though Mike was my favorite growing up, Raph is a very close second. It’s hard not to like him. He was part of the team but it always felt like he was one small misstep from snapping [A snapping turtle? -Ed.]. Raph was easily the edgiest turtle of the lot, always exuding this aura of coolness. Maybe it’s because he’s a quasi-rebel and a hard-ass, which deep down there’s a little bit of that in all of us. He didn’t use his sai much in the old cartoon, but makes plenty good use of them here, including a M. Bison torpedo-esque move that can be a pain in the neck to deal with. Just a shame Casey Jones isn’t around as that’s one fight I’d love to see!

Part of me half expects Marty McFly to barge in any second now
Part of me expects Marty McFly to come bumbling in

This was one of my most favorite fighting game backgrounds as a kid. It’s got the classic long counter you’d find at any diner worth half its salt, a jukebox, a colorful neon sign that lights up and what’s up with that strange looking cat in the middle there? He looks like an ape and for pete’s sake sir pull your shirt all the way down, son! Damn. Way to spoil one’s appetite, eh?

Smallest fireball ever
Smallest fireball ever
Sai-cho Crusher!
Sai-cho Crusher!
"Holy BALLS!" -Mean Gene Okerlund
Energy Spray!
The maverick of the group, Raph has got some SERIOUS BALLS
The maverick of the group, Raph’s got some serious balls

TMNTTF39DONATELLO | 5’8″ | 170 lbs.

Often referred to as the brains of the group, Donatello is usually busy working on his latest inventions. This time however, he’s taking a firm stand to show he can not only hold his own, but that he’s the most skilled fighter of his clan. His bo gives him good coverage and he’s just plain fun to use, especially with his Cranium Crusher that is exclusive only to him. Plus, his Ultimate Attack ranks as one of the most memorable — Donnie [Yen, apparently -Ed.] sends forth a ginormous dragon wave. It was jaw dropping back in ’93, and 20+ years later still puts a huge grin on my face whenever I see it. Donnie reminds us he’s more than just a brainiac.

This must be where Jesse's RV was dismantled [no spoilers! -Ed.]
This must be where Jesse’s RV was dismantled…
In a corner tucked far away from town lies a rundown scrapyard where the dirtiest of deeds go down. Classic characters from the cartoon, like the vigilante Casey Jones and mad scientist Baxter Stockman, make cameos here in a definite tip of the cap. When Donnie isn’t busy scouring the scrapheap for random parts to tinker with, he’s busy kicking some ass.

Great recovery on the Ground Claw
DANCING DONNIE?!
Dragon Wave!
Dragon Wave!
Summon the power of a dragon!
Summon the power of a dragon!

TMNTTF44MICHELANGELO | 5’8″ | 170 lbs.

Easily my favorite Ninja Turtle growing up, every kid I knew identified themselves with Mikey at one point or another — the classic fun-loving, pizza-craving party animal of the troupe. Mikey never really used his nunchucks in the old ’80s cartoon, so it’s a fan’s dream come true to see him swinging them here like no tomorrow. He plays like a tantalizing mix of Ryu and Blanka, with a cool arcing rolling attack and a deadly rising uppercut. Mikey’s also got the best stage in the entire game. To cap it off, his Ultimate Attack is a swift and sick 10-hit barrage known as the Dance of Fury.

Might be the best backdrop of any SNES fighting game I've seen
Gotta love the blatant shameless advertising

Hands down my favorite background of the game; hell, I’d put this up against any other fighting game stage on the SNES. The flashing Konami sign, the billboards on each side, the atmospheric city life with the bright lights — it’s a crime not to like this stage. I bet Mikey goes here after picking up a pizza and watches over the city as he munches away to his little heart’s content. Bless the lad, really.

If Blanka had a fireball...
If Blanka had a fireball…
"RISING THUNDER!"
“RISING THUNDER!”

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Dance of Fury!
Dance of Fury!

TMNTTF50ARMAGGON | 8’0″ | 400 lbs.

This guy had to be every kid’s dream come true back in the day. At least he was for me. Who didn’t drool at the thought of being a mutant shark? At the time I thought he was a brand new character constructed just for the game, but he actually comes from the comic book universe of Ninja Turtles fame, like quite a few of the other characters found in this game. While I was initially disappointed in the lack of familiar faces from the cartoon, I always liked Armaggon. Everything from his look to the giant octopus sitting in the middle of his stage… he’s JAWESOME [You’ve jumped the shark -Ed.].

The eyes track your every movement. It's a little unsettling!
The eyes track your every movement. A bit unsettling

This stage creeped me out when I was a kid. If I were really fighting, I’d find it impossible to focus on my opponent with that grotesque abomination stalking my every move. Its eyes literally track you wherever you go. Talk about unnerving. But it’s also frigging awesome.

I love his alternative color
I love his alternative color
Fin Slicer has great range
Fin Slicer has great range
Just when you thought it was safe...
Tsunami!
Where are the Street Sharks when ya need 'em?!
Where are the Street Sharks when ya need ‘em?!

TMNTTF56ASKA | 5’2″ | 110 lbs.

Okay, so I have a small confession to make. When I was growing up, female fighters were never really my cup of tea. I always wanted to pick either the Ryu clone, the “cool” Guile rip-off, or the freaks (stretch fighters, monsters and other assorted weirdos). Female fighters, bless their hearts, simply never moved my meter. Back then the only one I used to any degree was Janne from the World Heroes series. Well, here’s another rare like. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but Aska’s always been cool in my book.

Rumors you could use the frog. Ah, pre-internet days...
Rumors you could use the frog. Ah, pre-internet days

In 1993 there was a very popular SNK fighter by the name of Samurai Shodown. This backdrop always made me think of that game. Noh is a classic Japanese drama dance show that surged sometime in the 14th or 15th century. The mutant frog which resides in the middle of the stage always intrigued me. I remember rumors circulating within my own gaming crew that the giant frog was a secret character you could use. Of course, it was just a BS rumor my friends and I formed — it was a sign of the times. The good old days…

Builds your meter fast
Builds your meter fast
Love that trailing butterfly effect
Tornado Blast!
Tornado Blast!
Did you know: she's based off Mitsu from 1993's TMNT III
Aska is based off Mitsu from 1993’s TMNT III film

TMNTTF62CHROME DOME | 5’10” | 200 lbs.

Considering how most of the roster consists of antagonists NOT from the cartoon universe, Chrome Dome was a very welcomed addition. I love how Konami gave the token “stretch fighter” the game’s biggest damage-inducing throw (outside of the bosses). It’s very cool as it’s just something you didn’t see in fighting games at all during that era. So in some ways, Chrome Dome felt like a slight mix of Dhalsim meets Zangief. He could stretch for defense and offense, and if you get too close to him, he could grab ya and take you on one SHOCKING ride.

With the Neutrinos hanging around, I'm sad Traag didn't show up
We get a Neutrinos cameo, but sadly no Traag

Who knew tin head was so artsy fartsy? With a penchant for the fine arts, the culturally cognizant Chrome Dome gets his kicks off on piledrivering his competition at the local art museum. Familiar cartoon faces make a spot cameo in the form of Mousers and the Neutrinos. ‘GROOVY!’ indeed.

Every SF II clone has a stretch freak
Stretch fighter? Check
Shades of Terry Bogard
Shades of Terry Bogard
He electrocutes them to boot
Piledriver ends in electrocution
Chrome Bomb!
Chrome Bomb!
Chrome Dome: an ass-kicking, culturally-hip kind of 'bot
Chrome Dome: so badass and underrated

TMNTTF69CYBER SHREDDER | 6’6″ | 280 lbs.

This ain’t your regular Shredder you remember bumbling around in the ’80s cartoon. No, far from that. Indeed, this is THE SHREDDER ON STEROIDS. This is Cyber Shredder, a walking weapon of destruction. Part of me wishes we got the ’80s version instead, for nostalgic reasons. I was saddened to hear about the passing of one, James Avery, in December 2013. Better known as Uncle Phil, Avery was the voice of the late ’80s and early ’90s Shredder. When I found that fun little factoid in the late ’90s or so, I never looked at Shredder the same way ever again.

No one speaks of it as they refer to it as the 'Wrong Side of Town'
Don’t get caught in the ‘Wrong Side of Town’

On the outskirts of town, there exists an iniquitous construction site that is rumored to have been taken over by the evil and nefarious Cyber Shredder and his Foot Clan. There are even whispers on the street, though apocryphal, that the police themselves dare not step foot onto the Cyber Shredder’s hot new territory. It’s considered a lost part of town and most have turned a blind eye in exchange for their own personal safety. All hail the mighty Foot!

Reflect opponent projectiles
Reflect opponent projectiles
It slices, it dices!
It slices, it dices!
Looks awkward, but is effective
Looks awkward, but is effective
Lightning Crusher!
Lightning Crusher!
"TONIGHT, I DINE ON TURTLE SOUP!"
“TONIGHT, I DINE ON TURTLE SOUP!”

TMNTTF76WAR | 8’0″ | 350 lbs.

A savage bipedal triceratops? Sign me up! Those were my sentiments when I first laid eyes on him 20+ years ago. Originating from the comics, he was one of the Four Horsemen — along with Death, Famine and Pestilence. A real shame then, considering the superb look and cool name. He goes down in fighting game history as one of the most disappointing fighters ever. He’s limited to two special moves that aren’t too hot. Thankfully, his stage stands out and his Ultimate Attack is a rip-roaring attention grabber. War hurls himself around the screen like a pinball of destruction, but even that can’t save him from feeling like a largely wasted roster space.

If only you could use Bebop and Rocksteady
If only you could use Bebop and Rocksteady

It’s a beautiful sunny day, with only a couple clouds hanging overhead. Your breath is taken away as you look around at all the beautiful sights, until you catch sight of your old bumbling rivals, Bebop and Rocksteady. You chuckle to yourself as a savage roar erupts nearby. A giant 8 foot tall armored monster leaps within 10 feet of ya, the sunshine shimmering off his razor sharp talons. And just as quick, your smile fades.

If Balrog were a dinosaur...
If Balrog were a dinosaur…
War Dynamic!
War Dynamic!
Someone needs a mani and pedi I'd say...
Someone needs a mani and pedi…

TMNTTF81WINGNUT | 6’0″ | 300 lbs.

I remember thinking to myself, “Why this bastard over a classic fan fave like Bebop or Rocksteady?” Wingnut appeared briefly in the ’80s cartoon series and had a much bigger role in the comics. He’s the very definition of an “unorthodox fighter.” It will take a highly skilled player to get the most out of his unusual offense. Possessing a somewhat awkward moveset, and considering how his Ultimate Attack can be a total flop, to his credit he’s got one of the coolest stages in fighting game history. What’s better than a rock concert while watching two combatants knock the stuffing out of each other?

It's the soundtrack of rock 'n roll and violence MASHED together
Music and violence — what more could ya want?

Wingnut, the master of soundwaves, is hardly a stranger to loud noise. Whereas it distracts and even causes damage to the ear drums of most mere mortals, Wingnut relishes on such raucous and frenzied environments. From the HEAVY METAL headbanging to the strobe lights to the t-rex twins, the ringing Thunder Dome produces a mad rocking atmosphere like no other. The audience is more than happy to pay top dollar for this BARBARIC MASHUP.

Even his fireball is weird as hell
Even his fireball is weird as hell
Mad Spectre!
Mad Spectre!
Best seat in the house
Best seat in the house

THE BOSSES

Whenever you see April, bad stuff happens
Whenever you see April, bad stuff happens
Rat King is a powerhouse. I prefer his classic cartoon look
I much prefer his classic cartoon look, though
Now that's the Rat King I love!
Now that’s the Rat King I know and love!

In the comics, Rat King had a telepathic super power where he could communicate with rats. In the ’80s cartoon series he had to use a flute. He’s always been a cool cat [rat? -Ed.] in my book, and I wish we saw more familiar faces from the cartoon than the comics. Although I realize by late 1993 the cartoon series was not nearly as popular as it once was. Still, how lovely would it have been to see the likes of Krang, Rocksteady, Bebop and Casey Jones?

At least the Japanese version made it slightly more interestin
At least the Japanese version made it more interesting

Studio 6 is where they film this game show format for Tournament Fighters. High school cheerleaders adorn the stage. A badly missed opportunity at a sewer-based stage. If you’re not going to give it to one of the turtles, then at least give it to the Rat King (AKA the King of the Sewers). This game has plenty of cool stages, but this one was rather dull. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.

Shock Sphere!
Shock Sphere!
Looking more like the Mummy King...
Looking more like the Mummy King…
"Damn GURL, do you EVER have good news??"
“Damn GURL, do you EVER have good news??”
Karai is, hands down, one of the most annoying end bosses ever
Karai is one annoying final boss
Karai is now a very popular, well-known character in TMNT-dom!
Vernon Fenwick cameo woot woot

A duel to the death atop a screaming metro train. Mr. Vernon Fenwick from Channel 6 News captures the chaos for all to see from the comfort of their home. Perhaps Konami knew all along just how bloodthirsty humanity is…

Dark Thunder!
Dark Thunder!
I would have gone with Krang, myself
I would have gone with Krang, myself

THE END?

Is... that... it?
Is… that… it?

The endings are rather disappointing. Each character ending has only two shots with hit-or-miss artwork and a few text messages. For as difficult as the computer opponents are, this is a major letdown.

BONUSES

If it ain't broke, don't fix it  [HA-HA. I see what you did there -Ed.]
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it [I see what you did there -Ed.]
Like most fighting games of the early-mid ’90s, there lies breakable furniture in some of the stages. It’s a damn classic staple of the genre. The ones here are, admittedly, a bit ‘weak’ [I see what you did there -Ed.], but hey, they’re there.

I think it just speaks to a 10 year old boy's desire to DESTROY
It speaks to a 10 year old boy’s desire to DESTROY

Speaking of um, bonuses, check out probably my all-time most favorite fighting game bonus stage around. Destroying bank safes one after another? Sign me up!

Konami really made you believe it was real coins
The sound of coins falling sounds so realistic

I love the idea that someone was dropping these bad boys from the sky like a madman. They kept raining down, and you had to bust ‘em up until there were none left. It was extremely satisfying and I much rather play this bonus stage than any other.

See the $100 bills? That's EARTHBOUND money right there playa
Konami made you believe it was the real deal

Besides the concept and killer sound effects, I love this bonus round because unlike 90 to 95% of bonus rounds you come across in the genre, this one is actually quite challenging. You need a plan of attack rather than just mindlessly pound away. There were enough safes that ya barely had enough time, and it was SO cool how they can topple over (and knock you out, too).

Sure. I mean, leave it to Mikey to be the voice of reason, right?
Leave it to Mikey to be the voice of reason, eh?
My bad, yo. That's on me
My bad, yo. That’s on me

ONLY IN JAPAN

Only in Japan? Those 3 words have never been said before...
Only in Japan: such words have never been said before…

There a few notable differences between the American and Japanese versions of the SNES game. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Warriors (to give it its Japanese namesake), among the differences include Rat King’s extra stage bit, where combatants can be knocked through the wall revealing the control room of Studio 6.

TMNTTF105

The other difference is the censorship of Aska. In the Japanese version you can see her buttocks a bit, but they covered it up in the North American version.

GE*NES*IS VERSIONS

Pros: It's Casey! Cons: Er, yeah...
Pros: It’s Casey! Cons: Er, yeah…

In what very well might be the first and ONLY time in gaming history, Konami released simultaneously three games of the same name on the NES, Genesis and SNES, but with very different game engines and rosters. While cool of them to diversify like that, it was clear SNES owners received the superior version. The Genesis version is broken and by comparison, crap. By late ’93, the Genesis was starting to look like the grandfather on the block while the SNES was just hitting its prime. With Tournament Fighters released across all three platforms, it was clear (at least in my mind) who the king of the jungle was. I was happy to own all three systems, but Super Nintendo was clearly KING in my household.

Props for even bothering to try...
Props for even bothering to try…

The 8-bit NES game is not even worth talking about from a gameplay standpoint; although, it does make for a fun water cooler topic as far as near final NES releases go. The NES was gasping its last breath by late ’93, so any title released was newsworthy, indeed. This was just a painful reminder though that my dear old friend couldn’t keep up with a changing of the guard. I love the 8-bit Nintendo and Sega Genesis, but I’m just calling it like I see it. When Tournament Fighters came out on all three systems, it was like a subtle declaration in my own heart which of those three systems reigned supreme.

CRACK THE CODE

The game was chock full of codes
The game was chock full of codes
But one code stood above the rest...
But one code stood above the rest…

TMNTTF110TMNTTF111

And on a cold night in January '94, I somehow cracked the code!
And on a cold night in January ’94, I cracked the code
Well, it ends as legendary as it began...
Well, it ends as legendary as it began…

I sat there completely dumbfounded, my jaw on the ground. I had to do a double take. Right there in my friend’s room, I could play as the Rat King or Karai. I ran downstairs to tell my friends about it. I still remember the skeptical looks on their faces, and how they kept saying, “Dude, this better not be a hoax. I’m about to eat some KFC!” They followed behind me as I took the stairs 2 steps at a time. I stood at the doorway and stretched my hand out as to welcome them in. One by one they filed in and I stood there still in the doorway smiling when I heard the collective HOLY SHIT! cries. I can’t tell you how red my hand got that night because of all the high fives. They asked what the code was, and sadly, I had no clue. We left the game on the entire night just so we could play as the bosses. When we finally turned it off at 12 something in the morning, we turned it right back on so I could try the code again. No such luck. Whatever I punched in randomly before was now gone.

The very next month I saw this printed in the pages of EGM...
The very next month I saw this printed in EGM

The infamous boss code. Right there in all its glory. Looking back, it’s a fond memory for me. The thrill of cracking the code, the joys of sharing it with my friends, creating a lifetime memory. Back then, you couldn’t just log into damn GameFAQs for your hints and secrets, oh no. It was either through tip sections in gaming magazines like such, or plain discovering ‘em yourself through dumb luck. Discovering the boss code made me the man of my group for that one epic night, anyhow, and I recall with deep fondness just the sights, sounds and smells of that great night. The KFC aroma in the air, the thundering footsteps up the stairs, the tingling rush that I felt sweeping every fiber of my being when I saw Rat King and Karai on the select screen, the cries of sheer joy from my friends, as though we just collectively won the Mega Million Lottery, and the stinging high fives. Man, we must have played like 3 straight hours that night. Boss code, how I miss you and your simplicity. Boy, were things different back then. I’m very grateful I was lucky enough to have grown up when I did. When gaming with friends was all that mattered.

20+ years ago this all went down, eh? Oh my, I'm a dinosaur now
20+ years ago this all went down, eh? I feel old

Look, she’s taunting me! GRR! So, I discovered the most wanted code and could have won a free game from EGM, but I couldn’t remember the code anyway, so Konami giving it to EGM first was a moot point as it would turn out. I suppose that softened the blow for not being able to remember the damn code!

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

Konami serves up yet another SNES classic. LET'S KICK SHELL!
Konami with another SNES classic. LET’S KICK SHELL!

Tournament Fighters was received well by the press. It garnered high scores across the board and I can’t recall anyone ever having a bad thing to say of it. From the critics to regular gamers like you and me, the game was beloved and extolled by many. It is also widely regarded as one of the better fighting games on the SNES. EGM gave it scores of 8, 9, 9 and 9. GameFan rated it 85, 92, 96 and 96%. Super Play Magazine scored it 90%. It was not only one of the BEST fighting games of 1993, but one of the best games, period, that year. One play and it’s easy to see why the game had so many diehard supporters. It succeeds where most clones fail miserably: it’s fun, fast, fluid and to boot it’s the TEENAGE MUTANT f*ckin’ NINJA TURTLES!

Tournament Fighters joins the canonization of great SNES games
Tournament Fighters joins the ranks of great SNES titles
It built up a massive tidal wave of supporters [Ya had to huh -Ed.]
It built up a massive tidal wave of supporters…

CLOSING THOUGHTS

20+ years later, this one hit wonder still awaits a proper sequel
20+ years later, this game still holds up well

Tournament Fighters is a fantastic fighting game. In fact I think it’s the best SNES-exclusive fighter. In an age where crap clones were slapped together and shipped out the door like no tomorrow, Tournament Fighters was groomed for success. It’s packed full of quality from top to bottom. Those graphics are bright, bold and classic mid ’90s SNES magic. The sound and music both hit the mark, with tunes you can rock out to. The fighting game engine just feels right. Jumps aren’t floaty. Physics don’t feel off. It’s extremely well polished. What can I say, I loved it 20+ years ago, and even still to this day I’ll play it for a round or two, or 50. It’s not better than Street Fighter II Turbo but came DAMN closer than most.

She asked for my snake, but I gave her the dragon
She asked for my snake, but I gave her the dragon

But best of all, how about the wild Ultimate Attacks, eh? Whether you prefer to call them desperation moves, super specials or death moves, there’s no denying they are a game changer. They added an extra layer to the battles, encouraging the player to be offensive-minded. For balance, the weaker your health, the easier it is to fill up your extra bar. Likewise, the stronger you are, the harder it is to fill it up. Tournament Fighters did a lot of cool things, but for me the Ultimate Attacks come to mind first. Whether it was a giant ass mythical dragon or a deadly tidal wave screaming across the TV, it was jaw dropping and all part of the fun. Like fine wine, the game has aged tremendously well. Konami delivered again, crafting a finely tuned fighting game that exudes meticulous care and is bursting with quality from every seam. Sure, a bigger roster including the likes of Rocksteady, Bebop, Krang, and Casey Jones would have been perfect, but the list of negatives are short and brief.

TMNTTF121

Konami sure did hit a home run here, as they often did back in the ’90s. There aren’t many home-grown fighting games on the SNES, and the only ones giving Tournament Fighters any run for its money are: Ranma ½: Chōgi Rambu Hen and Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Duel. Some other SNES-grown fighters include Tuff Enuff, WeaponLord and Double Dragon V. Of all of them, I’d happily play this game the most. To me it’s a LEGIT Super Nintendo classic. It’s a quality fighting game with an engine that stands the test of time well. I still break it out on occasion to pass the odd evening or two. I will forever harbor fond memories of this game, from Kerwin’s unbelievable stamp of approval to my parents buying it after Christmas to the night I randomly unlocked Rat King and Karai… DAMN, the nostalgic goodness just goes on and on. Tournament Fighters, I salute thee!

Rest In Peace James Avery. You will be missed. 11.27.45-12.31.13
Rest In Peace, James Avery. 11.27.45-12.31.13
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time... coming soon-ish
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time coming…

Graphics: 9
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Longevity: 9

Overall: 9.0

Gold Award
Gold Award

 

NBA Give ‘N Go (SNES)

Pub: Konami | Dev: KCEO | Nov. '95 | 16 MEGS
Pub: Konami | Dev: KCEO | Nov. ’95 | 16 MEGS

One of the thrills of growing up during the mid ’90s were all the awesome arcade games just waiting for you to plop a quarter in. And the longing hopes and dreams that one day soon the spirit and essence of your favorite arcade title would receive a respectable enough translation on your 16-bit console of choice. They never captured the arcade original perfectly, but the best ports brought home a piece of the arcade. Sometimes you didn’t have to wait very long. Other times, it would be years later. Such was the case for NBA Give ‘N Go. Was it worth the wait? Strap on your squeaky sneakers and let’s take a look.

BEFORE THERE WAS NBA JAM…

THE arcade game for basketball junkies
THE arcade game for basketball junkies

… there was Run ‘N Gun. It was loud, in your face and full of that early-mid ’90s arcade wonder. Walk into any arcade hall more than 20 years ago and you would be bombarded by dazzling lights and ear-crunching sound effects all vying for your quarter’s attention. Right in the thick of the Golden Fighting Game era, Konami released a basketball game that emphasized action and fun over strategy and simulation (although it certainly had some of that too, especially when compared to NBA Jam). My brother, friends and I immediately fell in love with it. And we were counting down the days until it would be ported over for either the Sega Genesis or the Super Nintendo. Our wish came true but unfortunately, no sooner than two plus years later.

Nothing like throwing down a monster jam
Nothing like throwing down a monster jam
The rich bold colors captivated me
The rich bold colors captivated me

My brother was a huge basketball nut back in 1993. Me? The sport was OK. I liked it reasonably well enough, but I didn’t go out of my way to catch the games when it came across the ol’ telly. To be honest, at 10 years old I was far more interested in playing video games or watching WWF wrestling. But my perspective on the game of basketball all took a turn on one particularly fateful day…

MEMORIAL DAY MIRACLE

The day I became a basketball lover for life
The day I became a basketball lover for life

Monday, May 29, 1995 is a day I’ll never forget. Hard to believe the other day marked 21 years since that fateful day…

It was Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals which pitted the young uprising Orlando Magic vs. the Indiana Pacers. I was at the local mall walking past Radio Shack when I saw they had the game playing on 10 TV screens. There were 3 people standing there, watching in angst and talking in-between plays. I joined, making it a crowd of 4. The game was in the final 3 minutes, and as the drama unfolded, the crowd steadily grew from 4 to 8 to 12. Even the employees stopped what they were doing and joined our huddle.

These are the moments you live for as a sports fan (as I would come to find out), and to boot it was one of the greatest finishes EVER in NBA playoff history.

With under 15 seconds to go, this improbable sequence took place:

  • Brian Shaw’s 3 pointer gave the Magic the 1 point lead
  • Reggie Miller answered with one of his own, putting the Pacers back up by 2 causing the Indiana crowd to erupt in a frenzy
  • Mere seconds later the player many then believed would carry Jordan’s torch as well as the NBA into the new millennium, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, nailed a dramatic heart breaking 3, giving the Magic a 1 point lead with 1.3 seconds to go. It left the sold out capacity crowd in stunned silence
Penny in his prime was something special
Penny in his prime was something special

As the game went to its final commercial break there was a deafening buzz within Radio Shack’s small confines. I was right in the middle of it and the raw adrenaline was indescribable. I felt like I was at the game myself!

To this day I still can hear that classic NBA on NBC theme, being played on no less than TEN television monitors, in full blast stereo reverberating throughout the store and the entire mall itself. It’s one of those vivid childhood memories that haunts me to the core… even 21 years later.

Suddenly we were no longer just a bunch of strangers, no. This playoff basketball game magically banded us together. We were basketball fans, enjoying and living up the moment.

I saw basketball in a new light — the likes of which I hadn’t seen before. There was strategy, there were tactics. Beyond that, I started appreciating the concept of teamwork and five different people of varying size and skills working as one well oiled machine.

That day I developed a much deeper appreciation for basketball. It’s the moment I became a fan for life.

Fakes... shoots... HE HITS HE HITS HE HITS!!!
“Fakes, shoots and — HE HITS HE HITS!!”

Down 1 with 1.3 seconds left, the ball made its way to the dunking Dutchman, Rik Smits. He faked, shot and the ball ripped nothing but net as the buzzer sounded off. The place became unglued and the roof blew off. Radio Shack’s walls were shaking as we all screamed, jumping up and down in pure disbelief at what we had just witnessed on the 10 TV monitors that stood before us.

I was only 11 years old while everyone else around me in the store was probably 20 or older. Those 15 minutes or so catching the 4th quarter and cheering and booing madly at the TV screen with a bunch of folks I never met before… PRICELESS. I remember on the car ride home in the backseat I kept replaying the events in my head… thinking to myself that that was the coolest thing that ever happened to me so far in my young life. Ha! But the moment was nothing short of magic.

I think back 21  years ago… part of me can’t believe it, you know. It was the best NBA Playoff game I ever saw, and to this day, I have not seen a game better or more dramatic than the one that occurred on May 29, 1995 — the Memorial Day Miracle.

Memorial Day Miracle 2.0...
Memorial Day Miracle 2.0… nothing like witnessing heroics and an arena erupting

Yesterday brought back some goosebumps and fond memories for me… as the Golden State Warriors battled the Oklahoma City Thunder in a decisive Game 7… also on Memorial Day. 21 years later ALMOST TO THE DAY… it was a miracle that the Warriors were able to storm back and push the series to a 7th and final game, as they were down 3-1 but not only down — they looked completely out of it. Somehow, they dug deep and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson knocked down some ridiculous 3 point shots. It was a nice dramatic game but the Warriors eventually won 96-88. It’s hard to compare it to the Pacers-Magic game 21 years ago, but it certainly was special in its own unique way.

I just wish they would bring back that classic NBA theme regardless of which station the games emanate from. There’s nothing comparable to John Tesh’s amazing Roundball Rock score!

HOOP IT UP

Why not try the Konami code here?
Why not try the Konami code here?
Up, up, down, down...
Up, up, down, down…
Gonna replicate the Memorial Day Miracle from '95
Gonna replicate the Memorial Day Miracle from ’95

All NBA teams and players are here, including that year’s All-Star selections. The Shooting Stars and Supreme Team are five player teams that consist of the best five players from each conference. Think of it as a Dream Team. You can also edit it to form your own fantasy team. More on this later.

Find out who's hot and who's not tonight
Find out who’s hot and who’s not tonight

Give ‘N Go has an interesting quirk where players are rated per stars. Three max. This changes from game to game randomly. It basically indicates how the player is “feeling” that game. The more stars, the higher chance he’ll have at making baskets. It’s a unique feature that factors in the “human” element of players’ feelings on a game by game basis. You can still have a good game with a guy who has zero stars, but it’s tougher. Hey, maybe his wife cheated on him that day, who knows! Like a box of chocolate, ya never know what you might get.

Hoping to see lots of stars was just part of the fun
This is an example of a time you want to see stars

I can’t think of any other 16-bit basketball game that gauges how a player is feeling on a game-to-game basis. It’s fun firing the game up and hoping to see many stars across the board. As it was randomly generated game by game, it added an extra element of spice.

Sometimes it would spur me to sit a starter for a bench player — say if the starter had zero stars and the capable bench player was feeling particularly spry with three stars. Good stuff.

C'mon, you know it's coming. Oh yeah...
C’mon, you know it’s coming. Oh yeah…
MODE 7 MADNESS!!!
MODE 7 MADNESS!!! *Monster Truck Voice Guy*
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
The game nails it in the presentation department
The game nails it in the presentation department

Miller is cocked and ready to shoot [That's what she said -Ed.]
Miller, cocked, ready to shoot! That came out wrong
You gotta love how big the players are. There’s a nice ‘thickness’ to them [That’s what she said -Ed.] and they really do look like the actual stars themselves. Can you tell that’s Reggie Miller there? Quite easily, I’d wager. Look at the defensive stance of that bloke over there — very realistic eh? One hand guards the ball, the other guards the passing lane. Hey, I aced Beginning and Intermediate Basketball in my day, ya know? Picked up a few tricks along the way ;)

If it's Reggie, it's good. It's Miller Time
If it’s Reggie, it’s good. It’s Miller Time

“JUMP, YA BUM!”

Miller soars up with the greatest of ease as Nick Anderson is caught with sand in his shoes. Great visuals, eh? Now this is basketball! Player mechanics are accurately mimicked.

Nothing like the dramatic bounce of the ball...
Nothing like the dramatic bounce of the ball…
Gotta love those lucky bounces :)
Gotta love those lucky bounces :)
Run back to your invisible bench and coach
Run back to your invisible bench and coach
"The Pacers have to do a better job of converting those dunks"
“Pacers have to do a better job converting those dunks.”

“And after one it’s a real tight ball game we have here today, Bob.”

“Indeed. If this is a sign of things to come, fans I hope you’re all strapped in — it’s gonna be one heck of a ride!”

“What a great first quarter of action, Bob.”

“Can’t ask for much more on this beautiful Memorial Day, 1995!”

“It just may come down to a buzzer beating last second shot for one of these teams…”

Will the "Dunking Dutchman" live up to his name?
Will the “Dunking Dutchman” live up to his name?
Perhaps next time, then
Perhaps next time, then
Never know what these players are thinking or saying during the course of a game!
Never know what they’re thinking during the game
"THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!!"
“THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!!”

GiveNGo28

Pacers really surged ahead in that 2nd quarter
Pacers really surged ahead in that 2nd quarter
Speed depends on the player's actual FT % from that NBA season
Speed depends on the player’s free throw %
Damn, times are tougher than I thought!
Damn, times are tougher than I thought!
Not quite the Memorial Day Miracle barn burner, eh?
Not quite the Memorial Day Miracle barn burner, eh?

Life is like a hurricane
HERE IN… Duckburg
Race cars, lasers, airplanes
It’s a… DUCK BLUR
Might solve a mystery…
Or rewrite history!

DUCK TALES!

Ahem, sorry… [You’re fired -Ed.]

Love seeing the stats at the end. Sorry no Shaq
Love seeing the stats at the end. Sorry no Shaq
A solid all-around team performance, with Miller leading the charge
Everyone contributed, with Miller leading the charge

NEAT STUFF

NBA Give 'N Go_00009

Nothing humbles the opposition quite like a big time block. I love how that one Magic player is running back up the other side of the court… thinking his teammate has got the basket. Uh, I’ve got something to say about that…

This must be awkward...
This must be awkward…
"BALLS!"
“BALLS!”

NBA Give 'N Go_00000

Thankfully, NBA Give ‘N Go gives players an option. When going for a slam dunk, you can press the shoot button to change the dunk animation into a layup midway through!

Very handy indeed
Very handy indeed

It keeps the opposition honest, and because the game is so block friendly, this scoring alternative is a God send, especially in two player games with a buddy.

Pump fake...
Pump fake…
Hustle around...
Hustle around…
Cock the ball back...
Cock the ball back…
... and destroy that rim!
… and destroy that rim!
Few things are as satisfying
Few things are as satisfying
Rodman's liable to shoot from right there, the nut!
Rodman is liable to shoot from right there, the nut!

As I said earlier, players look like the real players. Here you see Dennis Rodman in all his crazy madness. Unfortunately though, the game does not account for the size differences. John Stockton is just as tall as Patrick Ewing. Shame about that, but oh well, what can ya do? [Play NBA Jam -Ed.]

Gotta love the Garden
Gotta love the Garden

One of the really neat things about Give ‘N Go is seeing all the different NBA arenas. Though they’re not as unique as, say, baseball parks, some of them definitely have their own sense of history and atmosphere. It’s one thing this game definitely has over any other SNES basketball title, such as the NBA Live and NBA Jam series.

This is my go-to court to play on
This is my go-to court to play on

But my absolute favorite is easily the All-Star court. With its brightly colored court, it just makes it fun to shoot at all odd corners of the floor. I don’t know what it is about that, but on this court, I just love pulling up for 17, 18 foot jump shots. Something about shooting on that solid purple floor is mighty addicting…

The two Dream Teams add some replay value to the game
The two Dream Teams add some extra replay value
Have at it and have it your way
Have at it and have it your way

SOME NOT SO NEAT STUFF

North American owners got gypped!
North American owners got gypped!

Don’t know why but the Japanese version of this game is battery-backed, while the US version received a super crappy password feature to save the regular season games. Talk about absurd — look how long the password is!

"Um... I just got out of the pool. No really!"
“Um… I just got out of the pool. No really!”

HUH! Yep, sometimes players will shrink for a very brief period of time. It doesn’t affect gameplay — at least so far that I’ve been able to witness — it’s more of a sight gag if anything. I guess it’s just the SNES straining from the odd time to time. Give ‘N Go is no Killer Instinct or DOOM in terms of pushing the system to the limits, but it also wasn’t Super Tennis.

Look at the Pacers' 3 point percentage...
Look at the Pacers’ 3 point percentage — 3 for 17?!

It’s easy hitting 3 point shots in the 1st quarter. After that, oddly enough, it becomes hard even if you’re a 3 point specialist like Reggie Miller. Not saying it’s impossible to nail 3 point shots past the 1st quarter — it just becomes much harder. Why this is, I have no idea. But it does put a bit of a damper on the game. See, the Magic hit 1 out of 2, but I kept chucking threes into the 2nd half of the game, and I kept missing them (even with a dead-eye shooter such as Reggie). Not cool.

MORE NEGATIVES

  • - Rim physics aren’t realistic (then again, it IS an arcade game)
  • - Whoever is running down court has a disadvantage. The rim on the bottom half of the court isn’t visible at all times
  • - Stat tracking leaves something to be desired. No assists — what?
  • - Guards are as tall as centers. Those who can’t dunk in real life can dunk in the game
  • - Alley oop system can be abused
  • - Gameplay is not as quick as NBA Jam or NBA Live. It may feel too slow for some folks. Personally, I think it still plays fine in spite of the less-than-stellar speed

MORE POSITIVES

  • + I gotta give PROPS to the announcer. He’s pretty wacky. “REBOUND AND JAAAM!”  (adds to the early-mid ’90s arcade feel of the game)
  • + Speaking of the sound, unlike many basketball games, Give ‘N Go actually incorporates music during the game. I found the upbeat melodies to be pleasant
  • + Visually, the game’s quite ace. Players are huge and easy to make out. Amazing little details like Dennis Rodman’s wild hair and Horace Grant’s goggles give the game a sense of “life” and personality. Plus the NBA courts are nicely detailed
  • + Another praise for the 0 to 3 star rank system. On any given night, any player can be a capable threat. Some nights your star players will feel like superstars. But on other nights however, perhaps your 10th man on the bench is feeling particularly spry. It’s all randomly generated and you never know who’s feeling hot (or not) on any given night. Cool feature if you ask me! It’s nice too that 0 star players can STILL have a big game for you… 3 stars only mean he’s THAT much more capable
  • + Rarely slows down. Impressive considering the size of ten big players running around
  • + Can edit your own Dream Team of stars and scrubs however you like
  • + Menus and game presentation is absolutely top-notch and crisp
  • + It’s RUN ‘N GUN on your SNES! Or at least, halfway close enough. 4-player games rock :)
  • + GameFan gave it scores of 84 and 86%. Super Play rated it 85%

CLOSING THOUGHTS

There's a nice simple charm to this game :)
There’s a nice simple charm to this game :)

I still remember fondly the day I rented this game in late ’95 for me and my brother. Back in the day he always had me rent the games he wanted, but for a change, we both couldn’t wait to play this. We loved it. It was a long wait, but Give ‘N Go did not disappoint. It brought home the large colorful graphics, the squeaky sneakers, massive slam dunks, monster block shots and thrilling games that came right down to the final second. It’s not without flaws though: the game plays slower than other SNES basketball titles. It’s hard to make 3 point shots after the 1st quarter, the alley oop feature can be abused (though easily fixed by agreeing to have a “1 per quarter” limit or so), player sizes are all the same so Stockton can dunk (yeah right!) just as well as Shawn Kemp, and so on. But you know what, this was never the perfect basketball game to begin with. What it was — and as I found out recently — what it *IS*… is a damn fun basketball game with an impeccable arcade-like feel. In many ways I liken it to Super Baseball 2020. Taken for what it was intended to be, it does its job well. I have as much fun with NBA Give ‘N Go today as I did over 20 years ago. Anytime I can say that, that game’s all right by me. It’s not the first basketball title I pull off my shelf to play, but it’s a nice alternative to the NBA Lives and Jams of the world, for sure. Give ‘N Go does an admirable job of bringing the zany arcade experience home.

Can't wait for Warriors-Cavs 2.0!
Can’t wait for Warriors-Cavs 2.0!

Hard for me to believe it’s been 21 years now since that epic Memorial Day playoff game between the Pacers and Magic. It was the game that cemented me as a basketball fan for life. What a mad finish! And what a shot by Rik Smits!  From the classic NBA on NBC tune to the countless strangers huddled around that Radio Shack monitor cheering and booing, it was one hell of a way to kick off the final summer of my preadolescence. Some images, some sounds and some smells stay with you for a lifetime. May 29, 1995 was such a day for me :)

NBA Give ‘N Go is a fond reminder of the good old days. When times and things were a bit simpler. When you could walk into an arcade hall not five blocks from your house, smell the piping hot cheese and have your ears tickled by the innocent laughter of children. Not only is it a nostalgic blast, I find Give ‘N Go still holds up to this day. It plays on the slower side but it’s also presented in a light that makes it stand out compared to any other SNES basketball game. Better late than never? Yes. Or perhaps I should say, “YES SIR!” [Pack yer things -Ed.]

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 7.5
Gameplay: 7
Longevity: 8.5

Overall: 7.5

Bronze AwardBronze Award

SmitsGWSSmitsGW