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.


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…



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


“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.”


"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.


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






"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



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!”




The final war is at hand… WINNER KEEPS ALL!


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!


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.


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.


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


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





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.



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!



... 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.


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


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.


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.









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



[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.]







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.]


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


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!
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…


"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

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


[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…







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.


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.



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!







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…









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



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.











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?”



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.


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…


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.


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


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.


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!


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?


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!


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


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


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


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


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







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


#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%



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.


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!!!!!!!!!!”

Sutte Hakkun (SFC)

Quite possibly the last great SNES game released
Possibly the last great SNES game released

There are games you hear about and instantly know it’s right up your alley. But sometimes it seems too good to be true, and you find out the game was cancelled, never made available on physical cartridge or whatever. Sutte Hakkun was that to me — a game which I thought was an exclusive BS-X game (a type of Super Famicom downloading service in Japan). But then it achieved such positive word of mouth that Nintendo decided to release it on an actual Super Famicom cartridge on June 25, 1999. This is, quite possibly, the last great Super Nintendo game ever released.


I obtained my cartridge only copy through a mercenary I had living in Japan for $29 on October 11, 2006 (wow, 10 years fly by fast). Today cartridge only copies of Sutte Hakkun go for over $100 (which as ridiculous as that sounds is actually kind of surprisingly low considering how much some of these scarce highly sought after titles can fetch).

If you ever wanted a game based on this, here ya go!
If you ever wanted a game based on this, here ya go!

Sutte Hakkun is a platform-puzzler. Taking command of a translucent creature resembling a dipping bird, your goal is to reach the rainbow orb(s) in each level. It sounds simple but of course, as you can predict, the later levels get quite tough.

Some levels have two orbs
Some levels have multiple orbs
Suck and blow. Shush you
Suck and blow. Shush you

The buttons are very simple. B jumps and pecks. By pecking, you can absorb helpers (i.e. blocks) and move them to new positions to help you reach the exit. There are also jars which contain red, yellow or blue paint. By pecking, you can suck the color out of a jar and transfer the paint to blocks, causing the block to move in a set pattern, depending on the color you’ve injected. Red goes up and down, yellow diagonally and blue horizontally. Of course they don’t travel the full length of the screen — there would be zero strategy if that were the case. Rather, the blocks travel a short distance back and forth.


Absorb colors through your beak
Absorb colors through your beak
Reposition blocks (only after you absorb 'em)
This allows you to move a block
Red blocks travel up and down
You suck like a champ don’t cha

Sutte Hakkun translates to “Suck and Blow.” [We’re all mature enough here right? -Ed.]  And that’s exactly what you’ll be doing a lot of. In this game, I mean. At least in this game. [Oi -Ed.]. You’ll spend a lot of time sucking paint and transferring them into the transparent blocks.

Of course you can freeze a block’s movement by sucking the paint out of them, and it’s by this method that allows you to change a block’s height to better suit your goal.


Red causes that block to move vertically
Red makes blocks move vertically
Jump on, then jump off
Jump on, then jump off
Suck out the red and then put it back in
Suck it out, then put it back in
Reach new heights
Reach new heights

That block now travels higher based on where you’ve injected it. Nice!

You can now access the orb
You can now access the orb

As you can see, this is a rather unique puzzle action game. It’s quite creative and brilliant. You just can’t help but love it. Major props to Nintendo for breathing new life into a genre that has way too many similar games.

The beauty is there are multiple ways to solve a level. The method seen above is just one, but I’ve completed level 1 and some of the others in different ways. It’s really awesome to see how many different solutions there are but they all get you to your end goal — the next level.

Dump a color by pressing down
Dump a color by pressing down

And should you want to harmlessly dump a color for whatever reason, simply press down on the control pad.


Hop on
Hop on
Suck it, then put it back in
Suck it, then put it back in
Hop on the "new and improved" block
Hop on again
One down, one to go
One down, one to go







There are many stages, with 10 levels in each stage. The further you advance the crazier they get. Trust me, the later ones are INSANE. Just be grateful there’s no time limit!







This coming from Nintendo and all, Sutte Hakkun is filled with nice little details. Look no further than the stone that goes from a smile to a frown the moment you hop on its head. It’s these little touches that just make you grin and appreciate the great effort from the fine folks over at Nintendo.

Scope out the lay of the land
Scope out the lay of the land

Press R to scan the level — later stages have a bigger layout so this comes in handy. Sometimes it helps knowing what lays ahead.


Another awesome SNES gem
Another awesome SNES gem

A fine action puzzler that will last ages on account of the later stages being damn tough. I dare call it a must-have for every SNES owner who enjoys staring contemplatively at the screen until inspiration breaks through with the resolute “A-HA!” The last great Super Nintendo game ever released, Sutte Hakkun is a piece of history and a true piece of video gaming art. The Super Famicom received so many fantastic games that never saw the light of day here in America. Sutte Hakkun is another shining example of such. It’s a mind bender in every sense of the word, and puzzle fans are sure to eat this one up.

Puzzle’n Desu! (SFC)

One of the best Super Famicom games hardly anyone ever talks about
One of the best Super Famicom games hardly anyone ever talks about

You know, there are a lot of “hidden gems” on the Super Nintendo. Many are no longer “obscure” because they’ve received their just due and praise over the course of the past decade or so. But there remains a few titles that I still see don’t get the kind of recognition that they so richly deserve. Puzzle’n Desu! is one such game. It’s truly one of the best games on the system that you might have yet to play, or even heard of before. There’s a reason why the box says “Ultimate Cool Puzzle Game.” Hey, them some bold words. But if any puzzle game can live up to such a high title, it’s this one.







Hell of a brain teaser, this one. You move the little guy on the left around a giant square arena, trying to match all the like colors. You can only push one block at a time, and it’ll travel until it’s stopped by a wall or block.

Three like colors, minimum, are required to make a successful match. Sometimes there are four instead of three, so you must connect all four. Match only three in this instance and you’ll fail (as there would be one block remaining).

Let’s take a look at the first few stages.



If you can’t figure out how to solve this first level…








I like the way the blocks disappear. The little visual effect is always a welcomed sight. Hey, it’s the small stuff, right?


The blue blocks are a cinch as you can see… but the pink ones… what to do…

Set them up as such
Set them up as such







There you go, now this pink formation is ripe for the pickings. Can you solve the rest? As you can imagine, the later puzzles become murderous.

Interestingly enough, this mode can be played with up to three friends. I believe this is the only Super Nintendo action puzzle game that allows you to do such a thing. Very cool stuff!


An ace 4-player battle mode is included! Much more than a mere afterthought, this can rival Bomberman believe it or not! The goal is simple. Squish your opponent(s) via block pushing. The winner is the sole survivor. And for good measure, you get 10 different stage designs, whose block placement is randomly generated, enabling countless variants! (similar to the map system of the beloved WORMS franchise).

B = push

A = moves a block around you

Note the “A” command is only valid in the battle mode, for obvious reasons. Also, even in this mode blocks will disappear when accidentally or purposely matched. Awesome continuity.

Here are the 10 battle zones:



It’s your typical no-frills, no gimmicks first basic stage.



Blue blocks with the % marks are immovable.



The ice blocks dissipate when pushed against a wall or block. I like this stage.



The arrows determine the path of destruction. It’s very Super Bomberman-esque.



Those arrows affect block AND player movement — nice!



The arrow blocks here can only be pushed in the direction they’re pointing. The numbered blocks travel their respective number (i.e. 3 spaces). Very interesting, and rather different!



Teleporters! Bomberman is rolling over in his grave ;)


Great gimmick here. Arrows guide block movement. Easy to kill yourself if you don’t watch it. When walking on arrows, they act like butter, sliding you in their set direction.


The blocks here can be pushed despite touching each other. They fly across and through the screen disappearing whether they’ve crushed someone or not. Arguably the most chaotic stage due to its potential of numerous blocks zooming by at break-neck speed in all directions!



A veritable smorgasbord of the other battle arenas. Good stuff.


Unfortunately, this mode is restricted to human players. Why they didn’t allow computer opponents is a mystery. But it’s better than nothing. Like Bomberman, 2 to 4 can play, with the win total required for a stage adjustable from 1 through 10.

To cap things off, a create-your-own-stage option is available.


Puzzle'n Desu! is an awesome little game
Puzzle’n Desu! is too sweet

I love this game. The ability for a 4 player mode in the regular game and a Bomberman-esque 4 player “free for all” mode really makes this game stand out from the crowd. These games possess a purity I can’t help but love. They’re simply brilliant and brilliantly simple (yet complex). If you love pitting your logic skills to the test, and especially if you have gaming buds, hunt this gem down. From what I understand though, it’s rather scarce.

It’s not perfect, though. I am not a big fan of the timer. I feel like these action puzzle games benefit greatly when you’re able to take your sweet time and start contemplatively at the screen until inspiration strikes with the resolute “AH-HA!” Also didn’t like the fact that the 4-player battle mode is exclusive to humans only. I mean, it would be lovely to be able to play this mode on a lazy Tuesday night when it’s just you and your Super Nintendo. But at the end of the day, at least the mode is there as an option.

All in all, Puzzle’n Desu! truly rocks. And deserves a little more recognition in the retro gaming community. Highly recommended!

Dossun! Ganseki Battle (SFC)

Before there was Puzzle Fighter...
Before Puzzle Fighter

Dossun! Ganseki Battle is an awesome puzzle game. It feels like sort of a beta version of Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. Not as good but for its time it was a damn fine puzzler. Let’s take a closer look.







The game intro reveals a demon trying to conquer the land (supposedly). Jeez, don’t these demons have anything better to do? At any rate, there isn’t much Japanese but interestingly enough there is a fan translated version floating out there. Not that you need it but it’s there if you want the full English experience.

This game has a unique battle system. Two ways to claim victory:

  • The opposing player’s well fills up
  • Their energy bar hits rock bottom

Energy bar? In a puzzler? Say whaaaa??







Like Puzzle Fighter, the attacker sends over a spiffy, er, attack.

Eliminating 3 or more like pieces have varying results:

  • Green Rocks: Sends forth a dragon (see above)
  • Red Scrolls: Fireballs
  • Yellow Swords: Piercing swords
  • Blue Potion: Replenishes your health slightly (if needed)
  • Purple Squares: No effect whatsoever


Select from 3 heroes
Select from 3 heroes
Battle the numerous evil doers
Battle the numerous evil doers
The loser is paid a visit from ol' Grimsy
The loser meets ol’ Grimsy


Everyone is up for grabs
Every character is playable


I like this cool effect (see the purple)
I like this cool effect

Most puzzle games have a special piece or power. Dossun is no different. When you have a special pellet stored, pressing R clears every purple square. Although the graphics could easily be confused for an early Mega Drive title, this visual effect is somewhat noteworthy.


Like fighting games, special moves are a good way to inflict damage but the best players utilizes devastating combos. The same applies here. While clearing 3 pieces at a time is fine and dandy, pulling off 3-plus chain reactions is the meal ticket. Diagonal matches yield the best results if you set yourself proper.


Observe this lethal chain. The green rocks match diagonally and disappear.


The yellow sword drops, connecting with 2 other swords.


The swords’ elimination drops the red scroll… forming a crushing 5-PIECE horizontal and diagonal red match to end the 3 hit chain.


After completing a big combo, the character enlarges and performs a fancy attack.





Major attacks result in leaving the opposition hanging.

[By a moment! Desperate for changing, chasing after you… ahem, sorry -Ed.]


There’s only one music theme throughout the entire game, and it can get tedious. When someone’s energy bar flashes, the music breaks into a frenzy, sounding much better and adding nicely to the tension. But the regular music is a bit “meh.”


"It was ICE knowing ya!"
“It was ICE knowing ya!”

It’s essentially COLUMNS with a medieval fantasy battle theme. Dossun! Ganseki Battle really grew on me; I found myself saying “one more game” several times. It’s amazingly addicting. Sure the graphics and music are nothing to write home about but the gameplay is largely enjoyable and that’s what it’s all about. Definitely one of the finer puzzle games you could play on the Super Nintendo and one that should be in your collection if you like the genre even an iota.

Sweet game!

Shadowrun (SNES)

Dev: Beam Software | Pub: Data East | May 1993 | 8 MEGS
Dev: Beam Software | Pub: Data East | May 1993 | 8 MEGS

As I write this it’s Halloween 2016. It brings back fond memories as exactly two years ago, I left work early Halloween 2014 due to being under the weather. That was a memorable day for a couple reasons. Number one, it marked 20 years since I experienced the greatest Halloween of my life (October 31st, 1994). And number two, it was the night I finally played Shadowrun. It’s been a game long on my to-play list, and on that rainy evening, with me being sick, I couldn’t think of a better game to start than Shadowrun. Even though it’s not a “Halloween” game in the vain of a Super Castlevania IV or Zombies Ate My Neighbors, it’s got a dreary and grim atmosphere that is great to play this time of the year. Prepare to immerse yourself in the morbid and sordid universe of Shadowrun.


Explosions are erupting all over the city.


It’s Seattle. The year is 2050. And civilization has devolved.


The game opens up with this rather intriguing bit. Two night shift workers load you, Jake Armitage, onto a slab in the city morgue. You’re apparently done for.




The slackers take off. Look, they didn’t even bother to shut the slab all the way in. What a bunch of assholes, eh? Just can’t find good help these days.

Shouldn’t have drank so much…


Shaking off the cobwebs, you don’t have any memories of who you are or where you came from. It’s a race against time and technology as you fight for your life.


Pulling up the menu you have all you need at your fingertips.

Fun building up Jake's skills
Fun building up Jake’s skills


The hand cursor helps you to explore your environment. Move it around the screen and place it on items of interest. A little note will appear if further action can be taken.


A really cool feature Beam Software implemented was the use of the shoulder buttons. Yeah you can click on a button which brings up a menu to give you further choices, or you can examine or pick up by simply pressing L or R respectively. It saves an extra button press and is just convenient and makes the overall playing experience much more smooth than having to press extra buttons unnecessarily.


Don’t forget to check and raid the fridge. That’s rule number one in life and video games. For sure.


It’s easy to miss small items like this. Every piece of information is integral to your success, so make sure to comb each playing area thoroughly.


What’s inside Warehouse number 5? Hmmm.


You fling the door open and scare the living daylights out of the night shift workers. It’s a fun little moment that just pulls you in. Very effectively done.


I appreciate the mood and atmosphere of Shadowrun. Its cyberpunk universe, the detailed visuals and the isometric view. Makes you wish there were more games like this on the Super Nintendo.


Each new playing area brings with it a new view. Some screens are full screen while others are smaller. I love this — it brings a quirky, unique sense of ‘flavor’ to the game.


Heading out of the city morgue, you run into a strange lad roaming the streets. You call out to him and the following conversation ensues…


I love the portraits of the characters in this game. They add perfectly to the seediness of Seattle 2050 as this game envisions it.


An interesting aspect of Shadowrun is that you have preset talking points and can select from a list of topics to ask the various NPCs that appear throughout the game. Sometimes you have to broach a topic in order to unlock new topics. It was quite a unique system and lends a sense of discovery and deduction.


If one topic doesn’t bring about any results, try the next topic. I like the dialogue in this game, by the way. Really gives off an air of shadiness and bleakness.


You know a game’s dialogue is top-notch when you look forward to talking to every single last NPC. Here is another fun little interaction.


In a hurry to do what, fella? Certainly not hitting the gym, are we?


Go through the list of preset topics. Rinse and repeat. It may seem repetitive but it quickly grew on me and it somehow works for this game. I can’t imagine it any other way.


Hmm, not sure I trust him. But whatever the case may be, he’s definitely low ranking in the grand scheme of things. Leave him be to his newspaper and find bigger fish to fry.


Yeah, this guy doesn’t look like a shady character whatsoever…

This guy is, literally, Shady Character
[Someone say shady character? -Ed.]

Speaking of shady, Longhorn Jack… what a gimmick name.

More like Longhorn JAY, M I RITE
More like Longhorn JAY, M I RITE
Hmmm. Very funny, Beam Software. Very funny


The NPC dialogue adds to the sense of dreadful urgency that runs rampant throughout Shadowrun. Very well done there, Beam Software.


The battles take place in real time. You aim a crosshair icon at a bad guy and fire away. Each hit either way brings a number point over the character’s head as to indicate the damage points incurred. Kill more bad guys to earn karma (think skill points in RPGs) and nuyen (money). The more karma you earn the better you can level up your skills and attributes.


Some battles take place inside buildings while other wars are waged in the middle of the street. As you run through the seedy streets of Seattle, you never know when some scumbag will pop out of nowhere to fire shots at your head. I love the battle music that plays for each gun fight.


Scumbags pop out of nowhere. From rooftops to dumpsters, you always have to watch your step. Love the way their carcasses litter the screen when you’re through with them!

Ride the train
Ride the train

I like these mini cut scenes whenever Jake travels. There’s one for a train, a chopper, an elevator, a boat, etc. It’s simple but an effective way to convey the feeling that you’re really traversing various parts of town.


I can’t imagine Shadowrun being anything but isometric. It just wouldn’t be the same if the perspective was, say, Link to the Past.


I just love how gritty and grimy the whole world of Shadowrun is. Really a nice little action adventure game to play at midnight with all the lights turned off!


This is an odd recurring character you will run into throughout to say the very least…

Um, okaaay...
Um, okaaay…


Dog is integral to your quest
Dog is integral to your quest


Upgrade your guns as you progress to stand a chance. There’s nothing like a dark alley gun fight, is there? Really gets the blood flowing… literally.


The game map isn’t too big, but is big enough to convey a real sense of being immersed in a dubious, underhanded world. You never really get too lost (at least I didn’t, anyhow) but there are enough interesting little nooks and crannies to be explored that really suck you into its twisted world.


Go to the bar to find out more information. You can also hire mercenaries! So even though you only control Jake, he can have up to 3 mercenaries trailing him at any point to help you in your quest. The computer AI on your mercenaries isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough to get the job done.


Hiring help is not mandatory but it sure helps Jake’s cause. They have some funky names too — my favorite name being “Dance With Clams.”


Love me the graveyard section! Zombies come crawling out the earth looking for a taste of human flesh. It’s slightly creepy and goes extremely well with this time of the year.

Oooh, creepy stuff!


If you haven’t experienced playing Shadowrun at midnight with the lights turned off, you need to.

They tend to stay, eh? Nice subtle touch there!

My favorite occult-ish moment of the game is when you run into a nest of vampires. They’re hiding off in some big fancy house near a graveyard. Better come armed with some mercenaries in tow!

This key is difficult to spot, but critical to have
This key is difficult to spot, but critical to have

There are a few tricky moments here and there where if you miss a key item (pardon the pun) the game comes to a screeching halt. I always try to solve a game on my own first without resorting to a FAQ. It took me a while here until I realized there was a bronze key laying on the book shelf that was somewhat hard to make out at an initial glance. One of those “D’OH!” moments when you finally see it for the first time.


The boss battle with Dracula himself was a fun one, if not a little creepy. I hate the way he moves. It was unnatural and very stilted. Gave me the creeps…

Watch out for the ghouls too!
Watch out for the ghouls too!
Dracula's tough. If only I had a hint...
Dracula’s tough. If only I had a hint…


Oh great. This big bastard guards this night club. But you got to find a way to somehow bust through. Hmmm…

Love the small rooms. It reminds me of EarthBound because some of the rooms take up half the size of the screen, or even less!


Shadowrun will suck you right into its fascinatingly squalid world.


I suppose no seedy underworld is complete without an equally seedy junkyard.


Hobos litter the area as does gun-toting mad men. It’s quite the ruthless and dog-eat-dog world. By the way, is there nothing better than surviving a fight with next to zero health remaining? It never fails to get the heartbeat racing a bit as you scramble around to find a health kit refill, or the like.


Make your way through this giant boat. I love the way the screen is mostly black and the only thing that is detailed are the green stairways. It’s really quite an artistic little game.


You gotta appreciate a video game that does things to differentiate it from the crowd. Shadowrun is definitely a unique title in the vast ocean of SNES goodness.


Another thrilling section, you can feel the pressure kicking in as you slowly uncover bit by bit the Jake Armitage mystery.

Time to head back!
Time to head back!
Battle your way through some scummy sewers
Battle your way through some scummy sewers
You damn right it did. Shame I gotta kill ya…
Oh Shadowrun. You crazy thing you
Oh Shadowrun. You crazy game you
Back to business buildings we go
Back to business buildings we go
What did that one crazy guy say again...
What did that one crazy guy say again…
No one working the front desk. Bad sign...
No one working the front desk. Bad sign…
Let's ride the elevator up
Let’s ride the elevator up
Remember how you could shoot them? *wink*
Remember how you could shoot them? *wink*
Some serious shit is going down
Some serious shit is going down
Caught and cornered
Caught and cornered
No prisoners, no mercy
No prisoners, no mercy
Have a heart, Jake!
Clever little message. It was good for a chuckle
Don't let him escape!
Don’t let him escape!
You done mess with the wrong guy
You done mess with the wrong guy
But is it over...
But is it over…
Epic battle
Epic battle
GUESS you’ll never KNOW…
What the -- !
What the — !
You know a game is good when you're sad it ends
You know a game is good when you’re sad it ends


Nintendo Power ranked it #48 on their Top 100 list

Shadowrun scored positive reviews with the critics. Well at least for the most part it did. EGM gave it scores of 7, 7, 6 and 6. GameFan rated it 89, 84, 80 and 80%. Super Play scored it 85%. It has a positive reputation within diehard SNES circles. It’s not your typical bright and cute Super Nintendo title, which is part of its appeal. There have been many talks over the years on which is better: the Genesis or SNES version of Shadowrun. Both play differently. I’ve never played the Genesis version myself, but I can say I love SNES Shadowrun. Not only is it a blast to play but I love the whole vibe of the game. There’s no teenage angst or love side story BS. It was just a man on the run fighting time, magic, monsters and unraveling the mystery of the puzzle piece by piece. Good stuff.


Shadowrun plunges you into a dark seedy underworld

Two years ago — Halloween 2014. I left work early on a dreary late afternoon due to losing my voice. I was bummed I wouldn’t be able to head out that night for Halloween shenanigans, but it worked out OK. There was nothing I wanted to do more than finally at long last firing up Shadowrun and seeing what it was all about. It’s a game my brother played to death over 20 years ago. I have fond memories of that Halloween night exploring the first few hours of this game. It was raining and I made sure to wait until after 9 PM when the trick-or-treaters had all gone home. Now it was nothing but me, Jake Armitage and the crazy sordid universe of Seattle 2050. All things considered, it turned out to be a pretty good Halloween. And on a side note, the following week I told my brother I was finally going through the game for myself, and he grew very nostalgic at the mere mention. Next thing I know we’re talking about deckers and Drake. This may sound silly but that’s the magic of video games. You can go 20+ years without playing or even thinking of a certain game, but the second you recall it, you’re transported back to a more innocent and carefree time in your life. A time when it was just taking out the trash, doing your homework and playing the latest and greatest 16-bit games. Good times.

This intro NEVER gets old
Right away the game hooks ya!

I enjoyed upgrading Jake’s armor, guns and magic. I like how karma is awarded for kills which allows you to upgrade abilities such as shot accuracy and health. There is a bit of “farming” you can do in order to increase your karma. The gun sound effects are pretty weak but I love seeing the numbers pop up over their heads, letting me know how much damage I just inflicted. The visuals are not spectacular but I do like the little details and overall art style. I found myself getting lost a bit here and there, but it’s nothing too bad. Mainly I forgot to grab an item that forced me to be stuck. Each locale feels different from the other, and it’s fun to see what weird scene you’ll run into next. It’s a tight 15-20 hour adventure, so it’s just long enough to satisfy but not too long that it wears out its welcome. Combat isn’t the greatest as you just point the cursor and fire away, but it works for the game and serves its role. Shadowrun isn’t perfect by any stretch, but it really is rather one of a kind as far as Super Nintendo titles go. Cyberpunk, monsters, magic, mystery and noir! Hard to go wrong. Just remember, never ever cut a deal with a dragon.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8.5
Longevity: 8

Overall: 9.0

Gold Award
Gold Award




Sadly we never got Shadowrun II. Sigh
Sadly we never got Shadowrun II. Perhaps in the year 2050…

Clock Tower (SNES)

A night when evil roamed the streets...
“A night when pure EVIL roamed the streets…”

Halloween is almost here. It’s one of my favorite days of the year. And this game is perfect to play on Halloween night. In the late ’90s I bought Clock Tower for the PlayStation and played it to death (pardon the pun). It was a few years later that I discovered the first Clock Tower originated on the Super Famicom. Thanks to the efforts of some diehard SNES fanatics, the game has long since been translated into English for the rest of us to enjoy. And enjoy it we did. One of the true Halloween staples in any video gaming collection, Clock Tower delivers one creepy and tense adventure the likes of which few SNES games can claim!

The legend is born
The legend is born

Clock Tower combined two things I absolutely love. It resembles a horror movie — I like its creepy villain, SCISSORMAN, almost as much as Michael Myers — and it’s on my favorite system of all time, the Super Nintendo. What more could I ask for, right? Unfortunately, the game never received a North American release. By the time it came out in Japan on September 14, 1995, the SNES was quickly losing steam as the 32-bit machines gained more and more momentum. That and, of course, there was no chance (even with the Play It Loud! movement) that Clock Tower was going to get approved by Nintendo of America! What a shame it never saw American soil because this is one of the most unique and original efforts on the Super Nintendo. But thanks to the fan translation scene, we can now experience this macabre game in all its gory glory.

Here comes the boogeyman...
Here comes the boogeyman…

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love the HALLOWEEN series. Uncle Jimmy let me rent the first one back in 1989. I spent more than half the movie hiding behind the sofa with one hand covering my eyes. I even had a nightmare of Halloween‘s iconic madman, Michael Myers, later that night. And I was hooked. Go figure. I dreamt about someone turning the Halloween concept into a video game. I mean, how awesome would it be to take control of a protagonist who is constantly being chased by a masked maniac? That every room you enter he could be lurking in the shadows… watching and studying your every move… waiting for the right moment to jump out and slit your throat wide open. Clock Tower delivers that sense of dread and drama in spades!

What a thing of beauty
What a thing of beauty




This was my favorite PlayStation game
This was my favorite PlayStation game

My first exposure to Clock Tower was in 1997. I’ll never forget it. From the moment I read its splendid three page ad in EGM #97 (August ’97), I was hooked. Seriously the best advertisement ever. I knew I had to buy the game then, and it was the only PlayStation game I ever cared enough to buy! The ad is so awesome that I am going to replicate parts of it below.



A bright plume of warm crimson rain erupted as the giant scissors rent the flesh of his next victim… this is certainly not the game for the timid or weak of stomach! From corpses at your bedroom door to half eaten bodies in the restroom, ASCII has packed Clock Tower to the belfry with some of the most gruesome and spectacular graphics of the year! Watch in horror as the limping gait of the immortal Scissorman approaches your present hiding place — only to see the bright fountain of your own blood if he happens to find you! Any horror fan will quickly recognize the brilliance of the programmer’s virtuoso performance in the lighting, shadowing, angles, and sheer volume of gruesome content! Lots of animation and full 3D polygons were used to bring the bloody, murderous surroundings to life. This, in conjunction with the well detailed backgrounds and characters, will have you at the edge of your seat — praying that you make it through the night!


The chilling sound of the banshee’s scream itself couldn’t have been more dreadful than the sound of the sheering scrape of sharpened steel blades sliding past each other — not to mention the wonderful effect of pure silence in some of the most chillingly tense scenes of the game. There’s something terribly dreadful in the sound of your own two feet echoing through some of the most profoundly evil halls ever wrought, and I couldn’t agree more with the programmers when they spoke of theTerror of Sound” which they labored for in this game! ASCII’s purpose in the sound scheme of this game is fairly easy to understand… with sounds that aren’t there when they should be, sounds in impossible places, the chilling music of the chase, and the haunting scrape of the Scissorman himself as he stalks you with inhuman determination… they want to scare you out of your skin!

Of course, the voice-overs and sound effects of the surrounding environments are a beautiful addition to the already impressive audio display. The tightly knit unison of background noise, voices, sound of movement, music and silence create a living auditory atmosphere that will draw you into the world of terror on the screen right before you.


Talk about losing your head...
Talk about losing your head…

In a game where one false move could easily mean the difference between escape and grisly death, control is of paramount importance. This is another area where Clock Tower excels! From fleeing down dark corridors and hiding in shower stalls, to hurling chairs and brawling with your would be assailant, the full range of movement offered by Clock Tower will leave you breathless with the fight or flight instinct. For those who like to hide, just try to avoid hiding in the same spot too many times in a row. Scissorman has a limited IQ, but he’s not that stupid!

Also remember to check every nook and cranny for items that you may be able to use later. With a little help, you might just live to see the light of tomorrow.

Next time use a napkin, will ya?
Next time use a napkin, will ya?

A series of brutal murders have signaled the return of one of the most terrifying killers in the history of Romsdaaren, Norway — Scissorman! Terror gripped the hearts of the mixed party of ten as they finally reached the unholy walls of the Barrow’s family mansion in England. No one could have imagined the unspeakable horrors that lay behind the infamous Scissorman case when the malevolent butcherings had begun. Now, the dreadful search for the answers had culminated into a lynching party that brought them all here, to the very doorstep of Hell itself. Would they finally find the key to send this twisted soul back to the nether regions of death that had so maliciously spat him into their lives? Only time will tell…

EGM gave it scores of 8.5, 8.0, 8.0 and 6.0 in ish #98
EGM gave it scores of 8.5, 8.0, 8.0 and 6.0 in issue #98
Supercuts: Employee of the Month
Supercuts’ Employee of the Month

I have such great and fond memories with this game. As I said it was the only PlayStation game I ever bothered to buy. For a while there in ’98 it was all that I played. I used it to scare the living daylights out of my then 10 year old cousin, David. Uncle Jimmy, the one who rented Halloween for me back in ’89, used to visit us a lot back in the late ’90s. David would always come to watch me play this, only to run out screaming whenever Scissorman gave chase. Ahhh, the good old days eh? ;) So when I found out Clock Tower originated on the SNES, I simply had to get my hands on it.



For some reason that sentence gives me the creeps
For some reason that sentence gives me the creeps
"Oh Lotte, cant I admire the trees for a bitI?"
“Oh Lotte, can’t I admire the trees for a bloody bit?”
"Would I ever lie to you, Jennifer?"
“Would I ever lie to you, Jennifer?”

Reminds me of a witch. Heebie jeebies...clocktintro7-c






There’s something about the way her finger is pointing that inexplicably gives me the heebie jeebies. Ms. Mary definitely has the low key witch vibe about her…

And surprise surprise, one by one they perish
And surprise surprise — one by one they perish
This game mastered the art of creating tension
This game mastered the art of creating tension
Your mom had 9 months and she chose Lotte?!
Your mom had 9 months and she chose Lotte?!
Clock Tower excels at building up the suspense
Clock Tower excels at building up the suspense
Yup... shit just hit the fan
Yup… shit just hit the fan
Use the cursor to check every inch of every room
Use the cursor to check every inch of every room
What a demonic looking tree. Reminds me of Doom's trees
What a demonic looking tree. Reminds me of Doom
You might wanna think about saving yourself!
You might wanna think about saving yourself!
And a (terrifying) legend is born ^_^
And a terrifying video game icon is born ^_^
Sometimes you can't help but feel you're being watched...
Sometimes ya can’t help but feel yer being watched
I mean, what's the worst that could happen, right?
I mean, what’s the worst that could happen, right?
The repeating "I'll get chu!" voice-over is pretty creepy
The repeating “I’ll get chu!” voice-over is pretty creepy
I hope PETA isn't reading this
I hope PETA isn’t reading this
These dreadful moments always bring me to the edge of my seat
These tense bits bring me to the edge of my seat
Well said, Ron Simmons. Well said
Well said, Ron Simmons. Well said
"... DAMN!" -Ron Simmons
“… DAMN!” -Ron Simmons
So fun playing this at 2 AM in the dark...
Who knew a 16-bit game could be so scary?
This is SO Jamie Lee Curtis-Michael Myers circa 1978!
This is SO Jamie Lee Curtis-Michael Myers circa 1978
Surely it will be a safe haven up there, no?
Surely it will be a safe haven up there, no?
Aw poor Jennifer. She's pretty much screwed here
Aw poor Jennifer. She’s pretty much screwed here
If you're already in the red zone, you're in the dead zone
In the red zone? Then you’re in the dead zone
 Then again, neither does hiding. Sometimes even then he'll get ya
Then again, hiding doesn’t always guarantee results







“Puzzles” in Clock Tower are quite elementary [Good thing for you! Ha! -Ed.]

No Jennifer. That's just bird poop
No Jennifer. That’s just bird poop, my dear
I seen a scary film or two. Hit the lights!
I’ve seen a horror movie or two. Hit the lights!
Dang that's quite a big pocket you got there Jenny!
Dang that’s quite a big pocket you got there Jenny!
Looks like some kind of meat locker, but what's that inside?
Looks like a meat locker, but what’s that inside?
Scissorman isn't the only threat in this accursed mansion...
Scissorman isn’t the only threat in this mansion…
Hmmm, you'll need a special item to kill the bugs...
Hmmm, you’ll need a special item to kill the bugs…
Something shiny can be seen at the bottom...
Something shiny can be seen at the bottom…
Or is it simply part of a greater plan?
Or is it simply part of a greater plan?
Could be worse. They say man's the biggest monster of all...
Ah, young naive Jennifer, bless her heart
Ah, young naive Jennifer, bless her heart
Ms. Mary is a creepy old wretch in an effectively subtle way
She’s a creepy old wretch in an effectively subtle way
I knew something was wrong with that witch from the intro!
Girl don’t do it!
[OH NO YOU DIH-ENT!  *removes earrings*  -Shaniqua]
[OH NO YOU DIH-ENT! *removes earrings* -Shaniqua]
Yes Jennifer, take it AND SPLASH IT IN HER FACE!
Yes Jennifer, take it and SPLASH IT IN HER FACE!
[Uh, let's just return to the movie -Ed.]  [MMMM-HM -Shaniqua]
[Uh, back to our movie -Ed.]  [MMMM HMM -Shaniqua]
Ah Jenny. I sure hope you have a character arc like Laurie Strode did!
I hope Jen has a character arc like Laurie Strode did
Not two feet away from her sat a deranged and unkempt savage...
Not two feet away sits a deranged, unkempt savage
And could IT, whatever it is, be even WORSE than this guy?!
Whatever IT is, could it be even worse than this guy?!
One of the most cryptic messages in SNES history
One of the most cryptic messages in SNES history
I promise I'll never make fun of your name again!
I promise I’ll never make fun of your name again!
Lotte: Yeah, I saw a mad man limping around with HUGE shears!
I saw a mad man limping around with HUGE shears!
Laurie Strode, er, Jenny, has grown up before our very eyes *sniff*
Aw, Jenny has grown up before our very eyes *sniff*

What happens next? Find out on your own! What secrets are tucked away in this mansion of unspeakable horrors? What’s the deal with Scissorman? Is someone pulling the strings? Was it Ms. Mary, or something far more demonic? Will you survive the grisly night to see the light of day? CLOCK TOWER awaits! Turn off the lights, crank up the sound and say a prayer…


Quick! Get that shoulder outta sight, Jen! Here comes the Scissorman...
Quick, hide that shoulder before Scissorman comes!
Not Halloween theme epic, but does its job well
Not Halloween theme epic, but does its job well
No other SNES game offers this kind of tension
No other SNES game offers this kind of tension
Pray he doesn't find you
What a drama queen, that Scissorman


Normally this is where I’ll put the game’s scores according to the “Super Three” (EGM, GameFan and Super Play Magazine — if applicable). But with Clock Tower being a special fan translated repo, I’ll cite some fan comments instead. The following haunting stories come from various gamers who have encountered Scissorman’s wrath over the years…

  • Clock Tower creates an underlying wave of fear throughout the game’s course, and there are certain scenes in the game that may act as a proverbial moon to bring in this terrifying tide. Clock Tower doesn’t pull any punches, and the horrifyingly real atmosphere of the Barrows’ mansion had me paranoid for at least a week! In fact, one of my friends who I first played the game with noted that the scariest part of the game was that almost everything in it can easily be connected to real life. Compounding off this, my first playthrough of the game was at a small party I held for six or seven close friends, and with the exception of one (she’s oddly impervious to that sort of shock value), we were all scared out of our wits. Clock Tower is just cool that way  -Amai Yuuwaku
  • Gloomy and ominous, Clock Tower is a wonderful experience for any fan of interactive horror, and well worth playing through whether as a longtime fan of the series or a wide-eyed newcomer  -Tachibana Ukyo
  • After playing through it for only a meager half-hour, I know that I am never going back to it! I am a bit tense when it comes to Hitchcock movies, and I must say, this game has a lot of Hitchcock-esque horror elements. Clock Tower doesn’t make the game scary with blood and gore, no sir. It’s just the sounds and sudden happenings that cause you to psychologically snap (a lot like Hitchcock movies!)  -Alain Garamonde
  • Clock Tower: the story of hope, betrayal and survival. The game revolves around Jennifer and a couple of her friends who get adopted by a family. They get to the mansion in the woods in hopes of a new, happy life. All seem well, until the group gets split up. That’s when they start to meet Scissorman. Instead of a happy life, what they got was a heart-pounding adventure. Their test was a test of wit and resourcefulness against the wrath of Scissorman  -xTurksx
  • I’m never scared by any horror video games. Never ever. So my friend bet me $20 at my birthday party that I would be scared by this game. I took that bet and I definitely lost that bet. This game is absolutely scary  -Windscar18
  • I didn’t know what to expect when I tried this game out. I found myself in control of a teenage girl all alone in a huge mansion, so I figured I was meant to go exploring. I went walking down the nearby hall, passing a couple of doors when all of a sudden this creepy music starts playing! Just like in a horror movie! So of course, like a total imbecile, I explored the door I was in front of when it began to play. I found myself in a hazy bathroom, and looked at the various fixtures. The only thing the cursor responded to was the closed shower curtains. So again like an imbecile, I went to look. The tub was full, but the person in it was hanging from her wrists from the shower curtain’s bar. Apparently it was one of the girl’s friends, but I didn’t have long to think about that. Suddenly this figure jumped out of the bathtub, brandishing a huge pair of scissors! It was a blue-skinned dwarfish being in a schoolboy’s outfit, with a four-foot-pair of scissors. This was the beginning of my Clock Tower experience…  -The Manx
  • I hate this game. I can’t tell you how much I do. That may be misleading, but I hate this game in a I’m-too-scared-to-turn-it-on way, not the I-don’t-want-to-play way. I’ve played Clock Tower for PlayStation. Clock Tower for the SNES is 4 times as good. This game really messed with my mind, and it reminded me of Maniac Mansion in its control scheme, but that’s a good thing. The interface is easy to control and actually fun, as you run through rooms chased by the maniacal Scissorman, trying to find a place to hide, with his shears getting louder and louder as he dogs your steps, the clicking on objects getting more frantic as you realize he’s just one room behind you… and then SNAP! DEAD END!  -Nevergrace
  • I type this as I look out my door on Christmas Eve. He’s coming. I can hear it. It’s been about two whole days since I’ve played the game, but I am still rather leery  -Lord Flamingo


Grisly and grim, Clock Tower hits all the right notes
Grisly and grim, Clock Tower hits all the right notes

My fellow gamers above said it best. I echo many of their sentiments. Have you ever had one of those special gaming experiences you’ll never forget? Perhaps it was, in addition to the game itself, the weather, the season in your own life, or the place where it happened. Christmas 2010. I was sleeping over at my parents’ huge two story house, and that was the first time I went through Clock Tower from start to finish. Playing til 4:30 AM, every bloody sound that emanated from either the game or the house had me on the edge of my seat and peeking over my shoulder with much trepidation. It’s been a long time since I’ve been a little kid, but that night Scissorman sure made me feel like one. With multiple endings, a sinister masked maniac and a simple yet compelling story, the game draws you in like few others and then spits you out leaving you feeling exasperated, a bit uneasy, and completely satisfied.

The perfect SNES game to play on Halloween night
The perfect SNES game to play on Halloween night

Simply put, there is no other game quite like Clock Tower on the SNES. That alone makes it noteworthy. Throw in the fact how well it was executed and what you have here is one uniquely special game. Scissorman is easily one of the most memorable villains in SNES history. He waits in the shadows and pops out at the most (in)opportune moments. Grisly and horrifying deaths, high tension cat and mouse chase scenes, and not knowing for sure where Scissorman lurks makes Clock Tower great! The graphics are well done and give the game an ominous atmosphere. The sound will raise the hair up on the back of your neck. It’s not too long but the nine endings give incentive to replay. After that night at my parents’, I met up with my cousin David the following day. Yes, the same one I scared with PlayStation Clock Tower more than a decade ago. I told him how I spent much of last night playing the original Clock Tower on Super Nintendo and what an awesome experience that was, with the whipping rain outside, and I swear, just the mere mention of SCISSORMAN gave poor David a horrid flashback. Heck, I don’t blame him. Just saying Scissorman out loud gives me the heebie jeebies. Do what you gotta do to play this game and be sure to turn off the lights, lock your doors and pray for mercy!

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8.5
Longevity: 7

Overall: 8.5

Double Silver Award
Double Silver Award





Imagine taking her home to mommy
Imagine taking her home to mommy

In 2007 a Japanese horror film was released based on a rumor that ran rampant throughout early 1980’s Japan — the Slit (or Severed) Mouth Woman! This horrible disfigured lady apparently roamed the streets of rural Japan looking for children to answer her one simple, deadly question: “AM I PRETTY?” The wrong response was met with grave consequences. Through comic books and magazines this became a popular urban myth. It became such a hysteria that ALL students were forbidden to go home alone and groups were formed for safety. There was even an incident where a lady chasing some kids was struck by a car. Her mouth was revealed to have been slit from ear to ear! Was it the Slit Mouth Woman?

Them eyes creep the hell out of me
Them eyes creep the hell out of me

This mysterious and deranged woman wore a surgical mask to cover her scar. In addition, she wielded a giant pair of scissors similar to Scissorman. Was Clock Tower influenced in any way by the Slit Mouthed Woman urban legend of 1980’s Japan? We don’t know for sure, but I can tell you this, the 2007 movie is creepy as hell! I saw it with my cousins (again, poor David) and they could barely finish it! As most Japanese horror films tend to be, and much like Clock Tower the game itself, the movie is something of a slow burn. But once it gets going, shit hits the fan. Some of the scenes still haunt me to this day. Even I felt a little uneasy… there’s something about the movie that makes you feel terribly unsettled…

Aw hell no
Aw hell no

The movie is known as “Carved.” There was also a sequel. It wasn’t too bad for a sequel, but much like Halloween itself, the original will always be the best. I recommend this film to horror buffs. It’s sick, twisted and if you happen to love Scissorman as much as I do, this is the closest we might ever get to seeing Scissorman in movie form. Who doesn’t love a good old fashion ghost story urban legend? I don’t know why but any movie taking place in rural Japan is automatically 50 times scarier and creepier than any American horror film. Those Japanese artists have some sick minds. Carved is a solid slasher and the fact that it’s based off a real Japan urban legend “Kuchisake Onna” makes it all the more unsettling and spooky.

Not even the kids were safe in this film
Not even the kids were safe in this twisted film

"AM I PRETTY???" [Sweet dreams tonight eh? -Ed.]
Click for more info on the Slit Mouthed Woman.

Warning: the following video is a bit creepy. Watch at your own discretion:

Sweet dreams indeed, eh?

Finally, looking for more Halloween-esque games to play on the SNES? I got you covered! Check out my SNES Halloween Special.

SD F-1 Grand Prix (SFC)

If Super Mario Kart met Chuck E. Cheeses...
If Super Mario Kart met Chuck E. Cheese’s…

If that sounds like an enticing combination to you (we can’t be friends if it isn’t) then SD F-1 Grand Prix is right up your alley. Sure, we never got the Super Mario Kart 2 on SNES as we desired back in the mid ’90s, but Video System released this clone on October 27, 1995 (nearly 21 years ago as I write this on October 23, 2016). It’s no Super Mario Kart (2) but it’s a decent alternative — hell, even an adequate companion piece to Super Mario Kart. Let’s examine and see why.


They scared and fascinated me all at once
They scared and fascinated me all at once

If you grew up in the late ’80s and early ’90s in America then you probably have fond memories of hitting up Chuck E. Cheese’s as a kid. I know I sure did. It was the cheap pizza (which at the time felt like Heaven to a kid), the festive atmosphere and the ARCADES. It was an epic place for a kid to be. A place where a kid could truly be a kid. But I think we can also agree on this… those old school animatronics left us with an eerie memory or two! Just look at them. They’re so robotic and stiff, it’s a bit unnerving to watch them “sing” when you were a little kid. But we all have memories of it (for better or for worse). Chuck E. Cheese’s, I salute ya. Thank you SD F-1 Grand Prix for reminding me of a simpler time in my life. Perhaps that’s one contributing factor to why I like you so much.


10 racers with varying abilities
10 racers with varying abilities

Right away you can tell what the tone of this game is. It’s not serious. It’s cute, and fairly charming. I like how they give you stats for each racer. Even though the racers in Super Mario Kart had their pros and cons, it’s nice seeing it spelled out explicitly.

It's a case of deja vu all right
It’s a case of deja vu all right
Recharge your health. Hmmm...
Recharge your health. Hmmm…
Thought I saw that somewhere before
Thought I saw that somewhere







Similar to Battle Racers, you have a health bar that’s reduced any time you fall in a pit, ram into barriers or blasted by the opposition. Unlike Battle Racers though, instead of finding health refills inside capsules, SD F-1 has a healing strip along the beginning of each track much like F-Zero.

Battle Racers (Banpresto, 1995)
Battle Racers (Banpresto, 1995)


Bird eye's viewpoint
Bird eye’s view point

Sure it rips some things off from Super Mario Kart and F-Zero, but those aren’t bad games to get inspired by. There are different camera angles to pick from. The default is Mario Kart style. But one allows you to make SD F-1 look just like the earlier F-1 Super Famicom games… that being from a bird eye’s view point.

1 player games include:

  • GP Mode: first you race around a bare track for 2 laps to be awarded a starting position (1-10). Then you start the race at your designated spot against 9 rivals. Icons litter the course, collect enough to fill a bar and gain a temporary speed burst
  • Crash Mode: None of this 2 laps positioning nonsense. Start at #10 and instead of speed-bar-filling-up icons you get regular weapon icons (projectiles, etc.) I personally prefer this traditional Mario Kart mode over GP
  • Time Trial: Keeps track of best lap and overall times

2 player game (besides obvious GP and whatnot):

  • Dog Fight: Pick one of (surprise surprise) four specific battle arenas, and fight to the death. The goal is to zap other driver’s energy to zero by blasting him or her with any means necessary. Groovy

Now let’s look at some random tracks.


The classic, essential, bare bones first stage to acclimate the player to the mechanics of the game. To say it conjures memories of the first race track from Super Mario Kart would be a gross understatement.

Good times
Good times


Some tracks contain helpful arrows, such as this one. Maybe it’s just me but this course reminds me slightly of Bowser’s.


Lovely beach track. One of my favorites. Yeah it’s a total ripoff but it’s still sweet. The super jump bit is very cool, reminiscent of Ghost Valley 1.

1992 was a good year!
1992 was a good year!








Northern Lights! The ice has nice detailing as well. Another one of my favorites, this frozen lake course is actually cooler looking than the frozen courses found in Super Mario Kart. Just my opinion of course, but it’s the little details in the ice as well as the Northern Lights that gives SD F-1 Grand Prix the edge.


The lava track has a super jump section much like the beach one. I have to say graphically it is superior to Super Mario Kart but that’s kind of expected as one came out in 1992 and the other in 1995.


I love how you can see this course unwind far into the distance. Lovely!

ProTip: Avoid the muddy spots
ProTip: Avoid the muddy spots

Remember GamePro Magazine? That’s a classic ProTip they would have said. My favorite to this day was the ProTip about the CyberDemon. ProTip: Shoot at it. :D


I love the wide range of locales you race in — the visuals are pleasant to the eye and really makes you want to race each of the courses.



Super Mario Kart meets a cast of Chuck E. Cheeses rejects. In a nutshell, that’s what SD F-1 Grand Prix is. What it also is… is a damn fine racing game. It’s loads of fun with a few different ideas to differentiate it enough from Super Mario Kart. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a most blatant clone, but it’s a well made one. It’s not as smooth playing as Super Mario Kart, but visually it’s better and I really like some of its tracks. If you love kart racing games then you really owe it to yourself to get this one. SD F-1 Grand Prix is yet another great Super Famicom exclusive title. Pick up a copy if you can — you probably won’t regret it.

Super Bomberman 5 (SFC)

Doing Freddy, Jason and Michael proud!
Doing Freddy, Jason and Michael proud!

Most Super Nintendo owners know about the first two Super Bomberman games on the SNES. But what some don’t know is that the series went up to a whopping five. 3 was released in Europe and Japan while parts 4 and 5 were exclusively released in Japan only. Tonight let’s look at the final Bomberman game on the SNES. It’s the fifth one, and yes, it sure does Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers proud!

They just keep coming and coming...
They just keep coming and coming…



The 1-2 player mode is not shabby, although we all know by now where the meat and potatoes of any Bomberman title is. Nonetheless, here’s a quick look.

You even get stages from the first game
Deja vu, hmm?

There is a time warp-related plot. Therefore, you’ll see stages from the original SNES classic. A nice nod back to the glory days of yesteryear.

Pick your path
Pick your path

Another nice feature, at the end of each stage you’re given 3 exit points. Each one takes you to a completely different level. Sometimes you’ll select the one that takes you to the very next level. Other times you may select a stage that jumps ahead. You never know and it makes the game less linear, for sure.

Oops, no skipping
Aw shucks, no skipping
Yes, skippage!
Jumped from 1-1 to 1-5
Jumped from 1-1 to 1-7
Jumped from 1-1 to 1-7

And as you might notice, some of these stages are pulled right from previous Super Bomberman titles. I told you there was a time warping element to this game. It’s nice to see some of the old stages from the previous games. A nice fan service if nothing else.

But to TRULY complete the game you have to beat all the stages. Your reward is unlocking a bonus character… a golden bomber!

Difficult first boss
Difficult first boss

The first boss is rather annoying and hard. Unlike previous titles where you tackle giant machines, here the bosses are much smaller, quicker and more devious. This one drops a stealth bomb that is invisible until you step over it. Even worse, once the bomb is revealed you have only about a second to get out of the way before it detonates. I have to admit, while the boss fights are more challenging than ever before, I do miss the massive monstrosities of years past.


With that said, let’s get to what makes any Bomberman title shine.



The essential “plain” stage. A must have for any Bomberman game. A place where no gimmicks reside and no excuses can be forged. A pure and classic battlefield.




One of my favorite gimmicks, the conveyor belt sends bombs (and bombers) down the line accordingly. I really like the look of this stage.




My all-time favorite gimmick: the tunnel or roof stage. Here we have lovely treetops to obscure the playing field. These Bomberman games have never been about impressive visuals, but I do think it’s never looked better. A given, considering it’s the fifth and final game on the system.




Not my favorite kind, as it’s a little too gimmicky for my tastes. The field is mostly dark except for a bouncing spotlight. Definitely grounds for excuses galore…




The speed stage where players move REALLY fast. Not one of my favorites, but it’s a change of pace field, pardon the pun, for sure.




I like this one a lot. It appeared in Super Bomberman 3 and must have been so popular because it’s back. This stage has a few interesting gimmicks. Bombs that explode under the makeshift igloos will send the top sky high. Not to mention there is slight stealth bombing capacity here. Not as severe as in battle zone three, but the potential is there (which is nice). Secondly, there are portions of the field where the ice cracks, leaving a hole in its wake. You of course cannot cross these holes. Finally, that big snowball up top rolls once you blow it up. Get the hell out of its way!




It’s the arrow stage. I typically enjoy the arrow gimmick, but have to admit the look of this stage is a bit of a letdown. It just doesn’t look very pleasing to the eye.




A trolley lays in the middle. You can ride it and knock out the blocks in its way. Cool stuff. You also can’t die when riding the trolley, but be careful of the landing spot. You may land right into an explosion, or you might even get stuck between two blocks. Assess the situation properly and decide whether it’s worth a ride or not.




Those special knobs there will switch occasionally and possibly block you out. Not one of my favorites, but it’s adequate.




Remember this stage from Super Bomberman 2? It’s back. Everyone is powered up from the get go and there are no blocks. An ultimate battle of the supreme.




The classic hand glove is an awesome power-up. If you can find one early on when there are still a lot of blocks on the screen, you can easily kill off some rivals.

Speaking of killed opponents, not only is there an option to bomb from the outside once you’re killed, but if you manage to kill someone on the field the two of you will switch places. It’s a nice choice to have and adds new intensity to the mad bomber option.



When the timer expires, blocks drop to the very bitter end. No longer do they close off just a portion of the field, now they drop until they’ve claimed every last life possible. This often becomes a war of attrition. If you have an animal friend and your opponent does not, this works highly in your favor. I like that animal friend there as it can jump over flames. The poor green guy stands no chance!


If you haven’t noticed by now, up to five bombers can play in this game. Starting with Super Bomberman 3, players went from 4 to 5. It’s nice in case you have four friends visiting rather than three.

Bomberman Bowling!
Bomberman Bowling!
Earn a prize for next match
Earn a prize for next match
Taunts and groans ensue
Taunts and groans ensue
Some bombs are special
Some bombs are special

That is a hovering homing bomb. Which means it isn’t affected by the conveyor belt. How many times have you said to yourself it would be nice if my bombs didn’t move along the conveyor belt? Now, with this special bomb, you can do just that. Also, it has a built-in homing device. If an opponent goes near it, it will follow that person for a bit before detonating. It’s quite effective.

Spiked bombs are powerful
Spiked bombs are powerful

They truly are. They blow PAST blocks. So watch out or else…


In the trolley battle zone, watch out that you don’t trap yourself between two blocks. You’ll be a sitting duck if so!


A password screen is present. There are several codes that affects the game. For example, the codes 4622, 0413 and 0926 change the layouts of the levels. Observe.

Password 4622
Password 4622
Password 0413
Password 0413
Password 0926
Password 0926

Pretty dang cool, huh? It should be noted that Super Bomberman 3 and Super Bomberman 4 also had passwords to unlock varying layouts of their battle zones as well. Therefore it’s not like Super Bomberman 5 was the first to do so, but that doesn’t make it any less useful. Talk about expanding longevity when the replay value was already high to begin with!

This controller executes a special cheat!
This controller executes a special cheat!

Speaking of awesome, if you own Hudson’s Super Joy Card controller pad, you can use it to activate three hidden bonus battle zones! Now how sick is that? To do so, move the blue X button over and on the title screen hold X for about 6 seconds. A sound will confirm on success. These are the same stages found on the gold cartridge — a limited edition release of Super Bomberman 5. You can find gold cartridge editions on eBay for over hundreds and hundreds of dollars. So to play the extra bonus stages you can either plop down a couple Benjamins or pay about $20 for Hudson’s Super Joy Card. Yeah, I know which option I went for. Not to mention the Super Joy Card is an awesome controller.

Either that or plop $400 for this
Either that or drop $400 for this…

Let’s take a quick look at the three bonus battle zones.



There are 18 loops surrounding the stage. Go to one and you’ll be redirected randomly to any of the other 17.



Combines a conveyor belt along with tunnels. Gotta love it.



Combines a trolley with warp holes. Ride the trolley and appear randomly at another warp hole. Interesting gimmick mash-up!


Goes out with a bang
Goes out with a bang

I love the Bomberman games. You really can’t go wrong with any of the five on the Super Nintendo. I still prefer the original out of all of them, but between parts 3, 4 and 5, I have to give the slight nod to Super Bomberman 5. I like the fact that it combines certain stages from the four previous titles. It isn’t quite a “remix” but at times it does feel like one. As if they took the best from the previous games and added in some new things for the fifth outing on SNES. So if you had to get only one Super Bomberman title that never came out in the US, make it the fifth one. Although, why not get 3 and 4 too if you can. It might be overkill, but for me at least you can never have too much Bomberman.

Spark World (SFC)

Look, it's Bombercar
Look, it’s Bombercar

When I was searching for information on Spark World on the internet back in 2006, it (pardon the pun) shocked me there was nothing. Sure the game’s highly unoriginal, but it’s pretty good regardless, so I thought I’d find SOMETHING on it. I wasn’t expecting to find a full blown write up, but at least a blurb in a “Recommend me some good Super Famicom games” topic. There was nothing to be found. It’s sadly another case of an obscurity left lurking in the shadows. That’s a shame, so tonight let’s shine the spotlight on this little gem.

If Battle Cross was like Super Mario Kart meets Super Bomberman, with emphasis on the former, then Spark World is the same — only with the emphasis placed on the latter.

The story goes as follows:

In a distant world where intelligent cars rule, a shady casino operator who is actually a drug dealer casts his shadow over the alleys and streets. Two young cop cars, Beat and Barts, decide to take matters into their own hands (so to speak) when they learn that the police department is riddled with corruption by the syndicate boss. The intrepid pair must set off to points around the globe and blow up enemies by detonating fuel barrels. If you’re not in the mood to save the world you can always play against 3 friends (or computer controlled opponents in the battle mode).


The story mode allows you to select any one of nine stages. Each stage has three zones with the fourth being the boss. 4-character passwords are given after each stage.

A look at some of the levels from the 1-player mode:






Train boss!
The Terror Train is boss #1
















The classic themes are represented: jungle, river, ice, desert, etc. Each theme, as you can guess, is guarded by a boss.

The meat of the game, like Bomberman, is the battle mode with 12 selectable stages. Any combination of 2-4 players can play, and CPU AI is selectable from 1-9. You can set CPU 1 AI level nine, CPU 2 AI five and CPU 3 AI one if you so choose. Very user friendly.

And of course, by blowing blocks sky high, you reveal items that can either help or hinder. Longer sparks, more bombs dropped at a time, jelly bombs (I told you this game was highly unoriginal…), a boxing glove (though instead of punching bombs you punch the opponents — sweet), and so forth.

? marks are a HUGE gamble. If you get the bad side of it, a grim reaper appears over your head with a 30 second countdown. When it reaches 0, whoever has the icon dies. Luckily, you can transfer it to anyone you touch, and it can be passed back and forth until the timer reaches 0. It’s a riot making the switch to someone with 1 second to go!  *evil laughter*

There are no dinosaurs or animals here, but each player can sustain two hits.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the battle zones.



Basic plain classic stage where pure skills reign supreme.




At first glance one might assume the arrows indicate where bombs go, but rather than completely ripping off Bomberman, the arrows actually indicate where YOU can go. Similar to the boxing glove, it’s this slight gimmick twist that goes a long way.




Red button = no pass. Blue = OK. The colors switch occasionally and shrewd timing is the key to surviving and creating traps.




I thought my SNES broke when I first played this zone. You’re moved automatically! Challenging zone indeed.




When the sides are bombed, the doors on the floor open up. Get called up to the big house if you fall through!




Ahh, the classic stage with 4 exit points. I love the look here. Unfortunately, the sparks will NOT go through the exit points, unlike Bomberman. Shame, but oh well.




I love this stage’s design and gimmick. Once the boulder is free it’ll roll around the stage. Sparks influence its direction. Don’t let it crush you! There’s nothing better than blasting the giant rock right through your friend!




Ahhh, the classic conveyor belt stage. I also love the look here.


Note: battle zones 9-12 (not pictured) all have crazy gimmicks (i.e. gun placed in the middle, mega bombs, etc.) but they all use the same stage design.


Somebody got fired...
Somebody got fired…

You can set match victory to 1-5 matches much like Bomberman. The victory screen is a hoot… what the hell is victry? Whoops!


Yellow car screwed for round 2
Yellow is so screwed for round 2

While Spark World is a rip-off through and through, it does have a sweet feature that draws the battle lines in the sand quite emphatically. At the end of a round the game lets you know who your “rival” is. That way you know exactly who to target specifically the following round. It gets wild and loony when one car kills all 3 of his or her opponents. You can form a temporary brotherhood and go after that rival the following round. Makes for some good times for sure.


Damn, blue. You killin' it, son!
Damn, blue. You killin’ it, son!

So yeah, Spark World is a blatant Super Bomberman clone. But bloody hell if it ain’t a blast (sorry). There’s enough of a difference to make it more than a decent alternative. For example, I love that you can sustain two hits. It makes the battles last longer and gives you a chance at redemption rather than a one and done. Sure you can ride animals in the Bomberman titles but honestly I never liked them too much. Felt a little too gimmicky to me, personally. I also like that the boxing glove allows you to punch your opponents rather than punch fuel barrels. I mean, c’mon, does it really get any better than that?! Also, the arrows in battle zone two indicate where YOU can move, rather than your fuel barrels. It’s these slightly unique twists that add up to a slightly refreshing take. But my favorite thing might be that rival screen. Sure, you usually know full well who killed you, but that shot emphatically draws the battle line in the sand for the following round.

Of course it’s not better than the Super Bomberman titles but as far as clones go, this is an admirable and very solid effort. If you love these party games, definitely pick up Spark World. When the sparks get long the battles get really intense. It’s neat also how the spark color indicates who dropped the bomb(s). It’s just a fun game that I’m still playing even 10+ years later after buying it in 2006. Yet another unheralded semi-gem from the fascinating world of Super Famicom!

Sanrio World Smash Ball! (SFC)

More fun than it has any right to be...
Surprisingly more fun than one might first think

Sanrio World Smash Ball! is not only amazingly competent, it’s amazingly addicting and fun. You might say it’s a smash, or a ball. Sorry. Back in the early-mid ’90s many popular franchises outside of video games had its own game at some point. These often resulted in forgettable platformers. Sanrio Smash not only attempted something with a hint of originality, but it succeeded at delivering a quality product, which cannot be said for many licensed video games of the time.



May 19, 2005, is a day I’ll never forget. It was on this day that my friend and I caught the premier of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. It was a pretty good return to form — it didn’t touch the greatness of the original trilogy but was a far cry from The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.

But I recall that day fondly for another reason as well. It was the day I was unofficially hired by Sanrio.


I had an hour to kill before showtime, so I decided to scour the mall. It was quickly approaching the end of my Spring 2005 semester. I was 22 and looking for a summer job. Walking by Sanrio on this particular day I couldn’t help but notice a sign posted on the window.


And then for the first time in my life, I voluntarily walked into a Sanrio store. There was a cute young girl at the counter, probably 19 or 20 years old.

“I’d like an application.”

She looked at me like I was joking. When she realized I wasn’t, she gave me one.

I went outside and filled out the application on a bench. 5 minutes later, I placed the application on the counter. She looked up to see it was me again. Cat got her tongue for a second. Finally, she said:

“There hasn’t been a male employee here in five years…”

I grinned, and then in a surreptitiously confident manner, uttered the words that I knew won me the job then and there.

“I guess the odds are against me then.”

The reaction on her face was priceless. I walked out on that note, leaving her hanging.

Two days later they called me in for an interview. I nailed it and was hired on the spot. My first shift, the mall was packed like a sardine can, and they assigned me to take care of the Wheel Game where I ask customers to pay two dollars to spin for a mystery prize. 3 (most common and cheapest prizes), 2, 1 and Grand Prize were marked on the wheel, so everyone wins something.

Every Saturday I stood there and was the "wheel man"
Every Saturday I stood there and was the “wheel man”

Before I went to it one of my coworkers came over and told me to limit the Grand Prize winners. “But if they land on it, how can I change that?” I asked. Then she showed me a little knob on the back of the contraption. When twisted, you could get JUST enough on it to move the arrow indicator one space forward.

That afternoon a couple kids did land on the Grand Prize, and I never once manipulated the knob. This one’s for the little guys — LITERALLY!

For the next 7 months I was a salesclerk there. On the weekends I took charge of the Wheel Game because the boss said I made more money on it than the girls ever did, or could. I had the magic touch. Being the only male had it ups and downs, of course. I walked the ladies to their cars whenever I closed. I always answered the phone, because random guys would call and be creeps. Imagine their surprise when I picked up. On the downside, prices were ridiculous and I had to sell overpriced crap I didn’t care for to would-be consumers. After a while, that sort of wears you out. All in all though, it was a memorable experience.

So when I got back into the Super Nintendo roughly a year after working at Sanrio, I discovered there was a Super Famicom game based upon Sanrio. It looked a bit like Windjammers – I was completely sold.

Classic Neo Geo favorite
A cult classic Neo Geo favorite

Sanrio Smash was actually released July 1993 though, while Windjammers came out February 1994. So you can’t call it a Windjammers clone. Instead call it a perfect blend between Pong and Breakout.


Weighing in at a HEFTY and whoppin’ TWO megs, Sanrio Smash is the smallest game on the SNES, tied with Mr. Do! and Space Invaders. Tales of Phantasia and Star Ocean, both 48 megs, are 24 times bigger than Sanrio Smash. Thankfully, size doesn’t matter [Yeah, is that what she said? -Ed.]. As you can see, the visuals are serviceable enough.

It’s a simple and fun 2 player game. I know the cutesy nature may turn off some but don’t let that fool you. Sanrio Smash is an addictive and competitive game with many different level layouts. There are also power-ups inside blocks. For example one will instantly eliminate all the blocks protecting the opposition’s goal line, making him ripe for the pickings.


Some stages have X marks, which serve as a restriction line. There are some stages though that allow you the ability to go where you please.

As you progress the design gets crazier. Here’s one of my favorites void of those annoying X marks. The seesaw continuously rotates, affecting both players’ strategy on the fly.


Aside from your standard left and right swats there’s a super shot. By holding a button you’ll charge up a power bar. When full, pressing X enables your power shot, sending the disc flying straight ahead at 250 miles per hour. Your guy will swing his arms twice in a circular motion, so it’s possible to hit the disc twice in succession if it bounces off a block and comes right back to you. The bar will only fill up when you’re standing still and holding a button. It can be re-filled as many times as you wish.


Using my super shot, the first hit connects and breaks a block. It immediately ricochets back to me before my super shot animation expires, allowing for a second hit. And this time around, my opponent has no answer.


Some of the stage designs are very unique. There’s a 1-player mode, password option and 2-player mode. In 2-player mode you have 20 stages to pick from, and 4 Sanrio characters. Some of the stage gimmicks are pretty cool, like this pinball-inspired layout.


As the disc is making its rounds, you’d be wise to power up… watch.


Now powered up, my possessed looking frog friend is free to advance upward, ready to unleash hell on that poor boy.


With the boy cornered and a chink in his armor, one power shot is all that’s left…



Sanrio Smash is loads of fun, and a great modern update on Pong. There aren’t too many games like this on the SNES, which makes it noteworthy. When you factor in that it’s really good too, you have a nice little gem well worth having in your library. Note: the game has no music during gameplay (hey, it’s 2 megs after all). It’s just the sound of the disc being hit back and forth. Just pop in your favorite CD — problem solved!

I’ve yet to meet anyone who has played this and didn’t like it. In other words, it has quite a few fans and I suspect you’ll enjoy it too, if you can look past its license. It’d be a shame to dismiss this game based solely on that.

On a final note, if you like this, I also recommend checking out Pop’n Smash. It’s very similar and a decent companion piece to Sanrio Smash. It’s clearly a clone as it came out April 1994 (nine months after Sanrio Smash). It doesn’t play as well, but I really enjoyed that one, too. Can’t go wrong with either or better yet, both!

Super Play dropping some TRUTH!
Super Play Magazine dropping some TRUTH! Yeah, I said it…