Well, it’s not quite tennis, but it’s close. Pop’n Smash can best be described as a cross between Pong and Breakout. Or, since it came out 9 months later, it might be easiest to call it a Sanrio World Smash Ball! clone. But a darn fine one it is.
Heisei Inu Monogatari Bow: Pop’n Smash, to give it its full name, is based on canine Bow (who resembles Spuds MacKenzie), star of a popular manga and anime series.Spuds was famous for her Super Bowl ’87 commercial, by the way.
Ah, Bow and Spuds has more than a passing resemblance. Socks the Cat? Give me Spuds MacKenzie, damnit!
It controls and plays very much like Sanrio Smash, right down to the charging bar power shot (which can also hit the ball twice in succession under the right circumstances). Talk about shameless!
So, what’s different? This game has more options. In Sanrio 2-player mode you have a choice of four characters and 20 stages. Here you have sixcharacters and 30 stages. There are even 9 different tools to choose, ranging from mallets to baseball bats to brooms to even, a branch! I haven’t been able to discern if these various tools have pros and cons or if they’re just cosmetic, but nonetheless variety is the spice of life.
The 1-player version is limited to a choice of 4 tools (as seen above). Here, Bow opts for the twig over the tennis racket… I mean, wouldn’t you too? A no-brainer!
(SANRIO) SMASH VS. (POP’N) SMASH
Even the power-ups here are similar to those found in Sanrio Smash. One eliminates all blocks protecting the opposition’s goal line. Another instantly gives you full power. But there’s at least one different icon: the bomb. You’re frozen in place for a good 4, 5 seconds if it touches you, leaving you mighty vulnerable and unable to protect your goal line. Pretty cool.
You can also dive to make amazing last second saves and stops. Slide north, south, east or west by pressing Y and the appropriate direction. Good stuff I say. Sanrio Smash didn’t have this.
Go through each character in 1-player mode, with the VS. screen showing the password on bottom much like Sanrio. Hmmmm.
X MARKS THE SPOT
Another big difference: more freedom to roam. Many stages are void of restrictive X marks, unlike Sanrio. There are some stages with restriction points, but most allow you to go anywhere. I only wish you could beat up the opponent as well — what great fun that would be! Sort of a Pong and beat ‘em up crossover, but alas, I’m digressing. C’mon, admit it, it would be sick if you could smack each other over the head with mallets and tennis rackets.
Sanrio World Smash Ball! has restrictive X marks. They prevent you from crossing over to your opponent’s side of the field. But Pop’n Smash allows for more of a wild free-for-all, which is a refreshing little change.
There’s also a “catch-as-many-butterflies-as-you-can-in-forty-seconds” mini game in the 1-player mode. It’s a nice break from the norm.
Sayaka displays the power shot. Unfortunately for her, it is most ill-timed. The ball will ricochet off the barrier and into her own goal line. D’oh!
Certain objects are breakable, like those pots up there. I like all these environmental objects and items that you can interact with.
Sayaka’s helpless expression as the ball sails just past her reach is too cute.
Pop’n Smash is a fun 2-player game and one of the many enjoyable Super Famicom-exclusive games that few folks ever talk about. Since it is a Sanrio Smash clone, it begs the question: which is better? Well, opinions will vary but here’s mine. I really enjoy the little touches in Pop’n Smash. The additional options it has over SanrioSmash — one might assume gives it perhaps a stronger lifespan and thus the overall edge. But SanrioSmash plays better. I can’t put my finger on it, but it just feels a little bit more polished than Pop’n Smash. So at the end of the day, I have to give the slight nod to Sanrio Smash, but it’s super close.
Both are really good though, and both are certainly worth having in your SNES collection. Although they’re similar, there’s just enough difference to warrant getting both. Both are great fun with a friend, and vastly underrated and unique titles.
Pop’n Twinbee is a SHMUP on the Super Famicom, but Konami originated the series in the arcade way back in 1985 (Twinbee). Pop’n Twinbee Rainbow Bell Adventures is an action platformer that feels like a trip on acid. It’s colorful, wild and a bit ridiculous. It’s also a hell lot of fun.
Select from TwinBee, WinBee or GwinBee. Each one has their own strengths and weaknesses. There is a punch and jump meter, and the length of each one varies from character to character.
TwinBee attacks with a mallet, but only after you’ve collected the proper bell. His punch and jump meters are evenly balanced.
WinBee attacks with a lasso after procuring the proper bell. Her punch meter is long but her jump meter is super short, making her the ideal character for those who like to rack up frequent flyer miles.
GwinBee throws those rattles once you’ve nabbed the proper bell. He’s the opposite of WinBee — his jump meter is awfully long but his punch meter is extremely short.
So, what happens when the punch meter is fully charged? Well, this!
It can be shot in any one of eight directions. This mega shot allows you to break certain sections of the landscape that otherwise impedes your progress.
What about the jump meter… what happens when it’s fully charged? Well, this!
It zips you across the screen in your direction of choice (like the mega shot you can aim it in any one of eight directions). It also breaks barriers as such.
Killing enemies and collecting the various colored bells is the name of the game. Each color grants you a different skill or power-up. Unfortunately whenever you take damage you lose all your bells, but just kill more enemies to recollect them.
Each of the three characters can shoot a gun when a blue bell is collected. This gives all of the characters a long range shot that can be fired at any time at will. Yes, they can fire the mega shot too but obviously there is a charge time for that. On the downside, the gun cannot break barriers. It also can only be shot straight ahead. It’s nice that the game gives you choices but each choice has its own pros and cons. I love it when games do that. Makes it feel very versatile!
You can do some crazy flying in this game, including soaring into the outer reaches of space as the game starts to highlight your kilometers in the air after a certain height. It gets pretty ridiculous!
You can also float in mid-air as you recharge your jump meter. Or you can cancel the float and descend as normal. Again, options and choices. This game excels at giving you that.
Fly all over the place — you never know when you might crash through some breakable walls to discover “hidden” goodies!
Yeah, the mega shot and the gun is fun to use, but sometimes you just can’t beat smashing a bad guy over the head with a good old fashioned mallet. Good times.
To top off this fun little game, you have a password system to save your progress. There are also two 2-player modes. The first is a co-op mode that gets a little crazy. That’s because it’s easy to leave your partner behind when one of you decides to take flight. It’s nice to see Konami included this 2-player mode but truth be told it’s not the best co-op game in the world as it’s far too easy to get caught off-screen unless you and your friend are determined to stick together. The second mode is a battle mode. This is a split screen 3 minute war where both players are pitted against one another in a duel to the death. It’s an interesting option for sure as I can’t think of many SNES 2-player games that feature such a barbaric option. If you can think of another one, sound off in the comments. Hell, it’s possible this might in fact be the only one of its kind!
Pop’n Twinbee Rainbow Bell Adventures is a fun and delightful action platformer. It’s easily one of Konami’s best SNES games never to hit the US. There was a PAL European release, however. The game has some quirky and entertaining gimmicks backing it, making it a unique experience in a world bloated with way too many hop and bop affairs. The visuals are so sugary sweet that you just might get a cavity just by looking at it. The sound is typical Konami goodness. And the gameplay is different, challenging enough and definitely loads of fun. You can’t go wrong with Rainbow Bell Adventures. Konami could do almost no wrong back in the mid ’90s, and this is simply another shining example of such.
Technically known as BS Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman Zero, this franchise (known as Shockman in the US) had a one-off entry for the 16-bit SNES. Sadly, it never came out officially. It was released only through the Satellaview in Japan. But now thanks to time and technology, back in 2010 I was able to get this on an actual cart. Some call it Schbibinman or Tyoujin — not Choujin. However you want to spell the title, what matters is the game itself. And thankfully, Kaizou offers more than enough to make itself noteworthy.
GOOD LOOKING OUT, EGM!
Back in the day, EGM had a sweet import section they called International Outlook. Each month they would highlight a select small handful of Japanese games. It was in issue #61 that I first found out about this game — way back in summer of 1994. Right away I was intrigued and wanted to play it badly. I figured it would only be a matter of time before it came out to the US. Sadly, that never happened. Time went on and I forgot all about it. Fast forward to January 2006. I got back into all things SNES and did so with a vengeance. Buying games left and right, crossing want after want off the ole, er, want list… and basically reclaiming bits and pieces of my childhood. I remember searching for Shubibinman on the Super Famicom scene to see whether or not it slipped under the radar. Imagine my horror when I realized it never came out. But thank God for repros, eh? It’s a great opportunity for us to play the ‘lost titles’ of our youth! Nothing’s sweeter.
TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE
Perhaps the coolest thing about BS Shockmanis its 2-player mode. Unlike most other 16-bit 2-player games, this one added in a little twist. You can pull off techniques that you cannot otherwise do when playing alone. Our heroes, Raita and Azuki, can charge up for a super blast. If one of them hits the other with their super blast, then that gives the other player a split second to launch an all-out attack of epic melee proportions. It’s quite awesome! Best of all, the charging only takes about a second, much less than Mega Man. Nice.
BS SHOCKMAN IS NO BS
I would have loved to seen this as an actual stage in the game, but sadly it is only used as a set piece for the intro.
There is quite a bit of platforming to do which gives the game a nice mix between a platformer and a good ol’ beat ‘em up. Lots of tiers for you to jump on or down from. NCS did an excellent job splicing these two genres because neither aspects ever feel out of place. The putty variant with the gun presents much more of a challenge and later stages like this one even have obstacles in the playing field. At times it almost feels like you’re playing Super Mario Bros. with a little Mega Man and even a dash of Street Fighter thrown in for good measure.
I really enjoy the different bosses this game throws your way. Some are just people, like you’d see in a beat ‘em up, while others are massive mechanical monstrosities, like the sort you’d find in a platformer. It all goes back to NCS mixing in the two classic genres seamlessly. This strange and compelling octopus boss fight, complete with snakes for tentacles, comes to mind. Jumping from different platforms, avoiding the snakes’ red bullets and smashing the octopus’ head in is nothing short of sweet and satisfying.
The stages are somewhat short and there are only about 8 of them, but they vary in locale and look. MostBS Satellaview games didn’t have the most elaborate of graphics (as compared to traditional SNES releases of its time) and it’s the same case here. However, I still like it. It’s bright and colorful enough to present me with a real gaming world, yet not so souped up that it destroys the illusion of playing a video game.
Wait, is that an alien pe… nevermind. You start out with four life bars and four continues. As you progress, you can level up and gain more life bars. The game starts out in the city before going underground and then finally to outer space. It’s all quite a wild, fun-filled ride. It’s not too difficult and can be beaten in well under an hour. But hey, not every game needs to be super long. Games like this, which only require 45 minutes or so, are a great break from the RPG norm. For my money, the SNES did it best!
LEFT FOR DEAD IN 1994
It’s a shame this game was never released to US shores back in ’94. Still to this day, not too many people know about it except for the most diehard of fans. It’s not a blockbuster title or anything, but it’s most certainly a fun addition to any Super Nintendo library. Scenes like this only point to the oddity and charm of the game. I love all the different tiers you can jump on or off, and the putty looking bad guys are endearing in their own right. I love charging up for Raita’s Hadoken-esque blast, letting it rip and seeing the baddies fly back in dramatic slow motion (the game does that on purpose for dramatic effect). Unfortunately, the game does slow down in the 2-player mode during some of the more intense portions, but who cares when it’s so much fun? It’s too bad this one isn’t coming out officially anytime soon, if ever. Luckily, savvy fans don’t have to sit idly by
With its fun gameplay mechanics and bizarre sights, BS Shockman is a winner. It never wears out its welcome and I find myself coming back to it randomly for the odd go-through. Each time I have a blast. There’s something simple and very charming about it that I really enjoy. The boss fights are varied and it helps to keep the flow moving along. One boss launches needle rockets at varying heights, forcing you to ascend to the top in order to knock some health off. Being able to duck, run and jump at will with no control issues is part of what makes it so fun. Another boss fight has you dodging explosions while hitching rides on precarious floating balloons. It’s not all mindless button mashing. The platforming aspect of this game really suits it well and makes it a cut above the norm, since there is some actual thinking and plotting to be done here!
BS Shockman uniquely blends different aspects from a variety of classic franchise games. There’s some Mario spliced in with a little Mega Man, some Street Fighter, even some Castlevania. It’s all mixed in with a spot of humor (i.e. see the Super Aniki background which refers to NCS’ Cho Aniki series) and some rocking tunes, not unlike what you might hear from a Mega Man title. I highly recommend this game to all SNES fans. It’s obscure, it’s fun, it’s wacky and it’s a blast with a friend. It’s a true shame when drivel like Rise of the Robots gets put out and fun little games like this are lost to time and politics. Thankfully though, technology allows us to restore and experience otherwise lost gems. While this isn’t a OMG-you-gotta-drop-everything-and-play-this-now!! kind of game, it’s definitely something Super Nintendo fans will want to seek out if they haven’t before. It’s not perfect, but it’s the perfect kind of game to play when you’re hankering to get back to the basics. BS Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman Zero, or BS Shockman, or whatever you want to call it, is a quality 2-player affair. And that, my friends, is no BS.
If you’ve ever seen the old 1974 flick THE TOWERING INFERNO (Fred Astaire, OJ Simpson, yes THAT OJ Simpson) then you will know exactly what to expect from this.
Ever since EGM ran a spiffy 2-page feature on The Firemen back in 1994, I’ve been curious about it. Made by HUMAN, perhaps most well known for their Fire Pro Wrestling franchise, The Firemen is a 1 player top-down action game where you navigate a firefighter through the burning MetroTech building. Use your water hose to extinguish flames, dispatch mechanical objects gone haywire and of course face intimidating end level bosses.
The Firemen is rock solid. It’s graphically pleasant with well-shaded characters adding a perception of depth, plays really well and the theme is unique. All of this culminates in a game which has that “cool” factor. There is some in-game Japanese text communication between Danny and Pete the firefighters, but nothing that hinders the game. Oddly, the game intro is in English.
It’s 6 PM on Christmas and a small fire in the MetroTech kitchen left unattended has spread throughout the complex. With the building burning to a crisp and injured people stuck inside, it’s your job to get in and neutralize the situation. There are six floors in all. Thanks to the whole theme and atmosphere, it reminds me of Die Hard, except replace the terrorists with deadly flames and the guns with a water hose.
Your partner carries an axe and helps in eradicating fires and other enemies, including bosses. He’ll carry out the victims as well. Finding and rescuing victims are not necessary, per se, but finding more means a better score and each time you save someone your health will be restored by roughly 60% (if necessary).
The buttons are simple.
Y = straight ahead spray
B = downward spray
X = extinguishing bomb (limited)
A = crawl
L/R = locks position and strafes (you can shoot in 8 directions)
You’ll mostly use the straight spray but the downward spray is the only way to eliminate small fires. The two main fire types are small and large. You can touch small flames without getting hurt. Crawling is critical at times. Much like Burning Rangers you’ll hear a quick whiz before all hell breaks loose. By crawling you can avoid backdrafts and fireballs. You’ll also crawl under high flames, desks and even through a vent!
The bomb is your ultimate weapon and up to 3 can be carried. Save them for the bosses! If you have 3 already and find another bomb, pick it up so you can transform into a super firefighter with a bigger and stronger spray. There is also a separate icon for this rare power-up.
Let’s check out the game’s first 3 stages.
Just stay diagonal of this first boss because it shoots 4 flames (north, south, east and west) and then scurries around the screen. Another interesting thing about this game is that the bosses are not monsters or demons. They’re just flame-related, mostly normal everyday appliances gone haywire. Kinda gives the game a “realistic” feel to some degree. It’s not like you’re battling these grand three-headed flaming dragons, y’know?
This scorching flame ball boss can only be attacked with the downward spray. Keep in mind with this type of spray you move exceptionally slower. Be careful or it will char you to a burning crisp.
Things start to get trickier as stage 3 introduces back drafts, new enemies and collapsing floors.
Does this game have any flaws? Of course, it’s not perfect.
No 2-player option (bummer)
Isn’t hard and is short — I beat it on my third try in 75 minutes. Each level you have 10 minutes (sometimes more) to complete. 3 continues
No option screen, so there’s no way to crank up the difficulty
L or R allows you to strafe, which is great, but one of those buttons should have been a 180° turn
Unlike Burning Rangers the flames are not randomly generated. So once you play through it, you know where everything is… a bit of a shame as it takes the replay value down a notch.
On the upside, at the end a detailed account of your game playing is given; everything from classto level completion times to total play timeto % of rescued people and a total point score out of 100, so that can be something to shoot for on repeated plays. But the replay value is only slightly above average at best.
Other than those flaws, The Firmen does things more right than wrong.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
The Firemen is considered to be one of the better Super Famicom exclusive games out there. Its merit has been recognized a lot more in the past decade than when it originally came out. That’s due to it being cancelled as a North American release. Thankfully, fervent SNES fans dug into the system’s library in the 2000s and the game has found its way on to many “hidden gem” recommendation lists ever since. Super Play rated it 75%.
You know, when I first played The Firemen back in 2006, I really enjoyed it. I still like it but now that it’s been 10 years later, the novelty has long worn off, and I don’t view this game with the same lens as I did a decade prior. It’s still a quality action game, but I no longer view it as one of Super Famicom’s very finest. The action can get a bit tedious after a while. It’s too bad there isn’t a 2-player mode. The fact that you have a computer-controlled ally constantly assisting you only rubs salt in the wound. Also, I wish the fires were randomly generated, like Burning Rangers. Don’t get me wrong, I still recommend this game, but don’t go into this expecting some kind of masterpiece. But it’s solid, and definitely better than Jaleco’s Ignition Factor (AKA Fire Fighting in Japan).
Today marks 20 years since the release of one of the finest platformers you could play on your SNES: DoReMi Fantasy. I originally wrote about this game nearly 10 years ago when it wasn’t as well known as it is today. When I first got back into all things Super Nintendo (January 2006), I did so in large part because I wanted to get back to my platforming roots. I scoured the net and looked at the entire SNES library. I saw pictures of a Japanese game called “DoReMi Fantasy” and instantly fell in love. Ever see a picture of a game and knew right away that you had to play it? DoReMi Fantasy had me instantly charmed. The Super Famicom has some amazing games that we Westerners sadly never received. DoReMi Fantasy is one of the best. 10 years ago it was actually obscure. It’s a lot more well known these days due to positive word of mouth over the years. Plus, a Wii Virtual Console release in March 2008 certainly didn’t hurt. It isn’t uncommon to find this game on hidden gem and must have SNES lists. It couldn’t happen to a nicer game, as the old saying goes [I’m pretty sure it doesn’t go like that but ok… -Ed.]
DoReMi Fantasy is a highly polished side-scrolling platformer. There are 8 worlds each with their own theme. In each world there’s a minimum of 6 levels followed by a boss. An overhead map allows you to backtrack. The levels aren’t particularly long but they possess plenty of detail, quirky enemies, excellent backdrops, ace set pieces and ultra smooth gameplay. The game’s sound is also noteworthy — it occasionally foregoes music for ambient sound effects instead. It all helps to create a unique world well worth exploring and spending a weekend or two with.
Milon is a great character, full of charm and animated brilliantly. Graphics are outstanding. The game has a real sense of life to it. You really have to see it in motion to fully appreciate it. Milon can take up to 3 hits. His suit starts out green, then turns blue when hit and finally red. Jumping on an enemy’s head will only stun them. To kill them, you have to first encase them in a bubble and then pop them. It’s a slight twist on the ole hop ‘n bop routine that works well. Although it’s nothing groundbreaking by any means, this slight deviation from the norm is welcomed.
From world 2 on, each level contains a Musical Star you must find and grab (usually not that hard, but later on becomes trickier). Therefore, you’re forced to explore the beautiful layouts (if you finish a stage without getting the star, you can’t battle the boss). Speaking of worlds, let’s take a look at them.
1. THE WOODS
It’s the ole standard forest theme world. Although basic, it manages to pull you into its charming world. Something about SNES visuals that just does it for me. Sure, there might be better out there (i.e. Neo Geo) but visuals like this get me every single time. As with any platformer, the first world is simple and will get you acquainted to the game’s mechanics and control. You may feel a bit uninspired initially but it gets much better. Highlights of this world include a log ride, falling leaves over a pit where you must time your leap from one leaf to the next, and a neat little haunted cabin featuring Pinocchio-esque dolls.
2. FOOD CONSTELLATION TYPE WORLD?
If the first world seemed a bit ho-hum to you, then the second world is a lot more likely to catch your eye. It’s not often that you find a themed world consisting of food and drink items combined with a very atmosphere celestial backdrop. It’s almost like some weird acid trip. Lots of neat graphical touches, a surreal and ambient soundtrack and some bizarre-o enemies make these levels particularly memorable.
Launching posts propel Milon high through the air and usually sends the little guy bursting through blocks in the process. And it feels as awesome as it looks.
Another impressive set piece, if you leave Milon idle for a while, he’ll pull his pointy wizard’s hat over his head as the wine comes pouring down over him. It’s a cute, charming moment that brought a smile to my face the very first time I saw it. Moments like this bring DoReMi Fantasy to life.
Some creepy music here! It’s not what you expect, and caught me off guard when I first heard it. It gives this stage a rather eerie, empty feel. Highlights of this world include a bell hopping stage and a unique level where on/off switches litter the floor. Touch any off switch and darkness devours the scene, except for the color of the switches and Milon’s white pupils.
Though much of this level is on land, there are plenty of underwater sequences. I quickly developed a burning hatred for those annoying spear throwing frogmen. And I suspect you will too.
I love this world. It features some of the game’s best looking visuals and stages. It’s incredibly fun to play through. Stage 5-3 is a sled stage that particularly rocks.
Blow a bubble. It’ll freeze, forming a block for Milon to hop on. Brilliant. And yes, as you’d expect those icy blocks are more slippery than a used car salesman. Overall, a really fun world and easily my favorite in the game. So incredibly atmospheric. Those Northern Lights never fail to bring a smile to my heart. You can almost feel the chill. Be sure to play this one by the fireplace if you can
C’mon you knew this was coming! No 16-bit platformer is complete without the ole mandatory fiery-themed level. I don’t mind tropes so long as they’re done well. And Hudson doesn’t fail to deliver here.
Two fairly difficult force-scrolling levels are spread across this blazing world. OK, so DoReMi Fantasy fulfills all the platforming tropes. When it’s this well done though, who cares? Certainly not me.
7. TOYS R US
The toy stages are stunning. The richness of colors immediately jumps out, radiating off your TV screen. It’s a reminder that 16-bit visuals, when done right, has an undeniable charm that hits all the right notes [I see what you did there… DoReMi Fantasy… notes… har har… -Ed.]. In addition to some gnarly visuals, there are plenty of dangerous little gadgets in this toy world from hell. Black Friday ain’t got nothing on this.
There’s also a haunted house-inspired world. But I’ll save some for you to imagine, or better yet, experience it yourself! If you haven’t played this yet and you consider yourself a fan of the 16-bit era platformer, this is a must play. It’s one of the best Super Famicom-only games ever released, and I wouldn’t hesitate to say it could be the best non-Mario platformer on the entire system. Yes, I believe it’s that damn good.
Slowdown does occur but it’s not often nor does it affect gameplay really
When you lose (whether to a boss or anywhere on a level), you start with 1 hit (red suit). So you’ll find yourself backtracking often to restore your health to 3 hits (green suit) before re-facing the boss. Hard love it is, indeed. Yes, you can backtrack because this game incorporates a map
4 character password system (too bad it wasn’t battery-backed). Passwords put you on the 1st stage of that world, so you have to do all the work again if, say, you quit at a boss battle
Hold attack until Milon flashes to unleash his super attack. Some situations require his super attack to advance, so be sure to make a mental note of this
Different power-ups are available and hidden inside breakable items. Power-ups include floating shoes, double bubble, bubble gum (very handy should you fall in a bottomless pit), and so forth.
The storyline unfolds in pictures and text. While the text is in Japanese, there isn’t a whole lot. The pictures are self-explanatory when it comes to these cutscenes introducing new gameplay elements in each world
Milon is a selectable character in Hudson’s Saturn Bomberman (1997)
A fan translation (as seen above) was released in August of 2007. Like I said earlier, you can enjoy the game without the translation as there isn’t much text, but it’s sure nice to get the whole package.
DoReMi Fantasy is an excellent platformer every serious SNES fan should own. It’s a shame it didn’t receive a domestic release. But seeing as how it came out March 1996 (the SNES was practically dead in the US by then), it’s hard to harp on that much. Personally, I think DoReMi Fantasy ranks right up there as one of Super Nintendo’s finest platformers. It’s terrific from top to bottom, and as a friend of mine once put it perfectly: “It’s about as charming as a video game can be.” I couldn’t agree more. Happy 20th anniversary, DoReMi Fantasy!