GeGeGe no Kitarō (SFC)

Pub: Bandai | Dev: Bec | 2.5.93
Pub: Bandai | Dev: Bec | 2.5.93

Another in a long line of Japanese anime/manga turned Super Famicom video game adaptation, GeGeGe no Kitarō is one of the strangest SNES games you could ever encounter. It’s a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up platformer. Originally known as Kitarō of the Graveyard, the manga series made its debut in 1960, with an anime series following in 1968. The focus is on the last survivor of the Ghost Tribe, Kitarō, as he faces off with various ghouls and goblins of Japanese mythology. Created by Shigeru Mizuki, GeGeGe no Kitarō has a long and storied history spanning five decades, over 400 anime episodes and even two live action movie adaptations.

A strange cast if I ever saw one
A strange cast if I ever saw one
Kitarō's reincarnated father. Yep, you read right
Kitarō’s reincarnated father. Yep, you read right

Meet Medama-oyaji, translated literally as Eyeball Father. ‘Nuff said.

Oh those Japanese... some zany ones I tells ya
Oh those Japanese… some zany ones I tells ya



Hey, don't slander Shigeru Mizuki's good name!
Hey, don’t slander Shigeru Mizuki’s good name!
On second thought... I kid I kid!
On second thought… I kid!
Oh noes!


Kitarō has the ability to fire bullets from his hair. Of course, to make it even more bizarre, who does the firing but none other than his Eyeball Father! Unfortunately, bullets don’t travel the full length of the screen. Be prepared to meet many unusual abominations along your journey.


Kitarō has a shield to block projectiles with as well as three special weapons he can call upon. However, these special skills can only be used once you’ve killed a ghost creature and captured its soul. The more souls swiped, the more special moves you rack up.


One special move is a cane like whip that is short and rather useless. Another is a sandal-based attack that goes across the bottom of the screen and back. The third is the BFG of the game. Multiple electric blasts are emitted from Kitarō’s body. It’s best saved for the bosses thanks to the high damage it inflicts.


There are 19 levels, which may sound like a lot until you factor in just how insanely short each stage is. Deal with a few regular bad guys (some can be rather tough) and then it’s off to tackle the guardian boss. Some levels have as little as two (!) enemies before the boss fight. What the hell! I’ve never played a game as odd as this; the construction of the levels is a little baffling to say the least.


Some bosses include a witch with the power to change you into small random objects, a vampire in the form of a giant bat accompanied by a legion of bats and what’s a horror themed video game without Frankenstein represented in some form or fashion?


Also boss is a gigantic dragon who has 10 heads, but you face only one at a time. The dragon dwells in a dark cave set against a waterfall which makes for a lovely visual.


Don’t let the game’s Saturday morning cartoon look fool ya — even though there’s no blood anywhere to be found, GeGeGe no Kitarō has some unexpectedly vicious moments. One boss splits in half after being slain. Another one uses her razor-sharp claws to impale an innocent bystander through the heart! That definitely took me by surprise.


It’s a shame then how unfair the game can be at times. Certain levels have these tiny ass platforms… and if that weren’t annoying enough, spirits hound your ass like white on rice. As you can imagine, thanks to the ridiculously small ledges, you’ll likely fall to your death if touched. Also, you’ll make leaps of faith where you can’t even see the platform on the right until you jump. Only then does the screen scroll forward. In a game already as difficult as this one is, that’s just plain wrong.


On the upside, the monsters are gruesome and highly memorable. The boss from the first level for instance is something you might see in Hayao Miyazaki’s work (Spirited Away). The graphics are excellent and invoke the feeling of watching Saturday morning cartoons. And the music has a nice oriental flare and gets rather creepy from time to time.


Another positive aspect is that it has a pretty cool 2-player mode. The second player controls a character who has a fireball similar to Sagat’s that travels the full length of the screen. With Kitarō blocking and the second player spamming fireballs, the game takes on new life. There are pictures and some Japanese text to advance the story after each level is beaten.


“Chip? Monterey? Gadget? Zipper?!”

“Hey bud! Wrong tree house, wrong show!”


This very first villain requires several hits to kill and zips around like a mad flea.


Then this lady appears from behind the tree. Don’t get seduced…

[Reminds me of my ex -Ed.]
[Reminds me of my ex -Ed.]

Hey he looks pretty friendly. Let’s chat him up. What could go wrong?

“Hey buddy! Yeah, you over there. You want a breath mint? I got grape — “




Not surprisingly, GameFan gave this game some high marks while Super Play wasn’t as generous. GameFan gave it scores of 78, 79, 88 and 93%. Super Play rated it 61%.






I lean more toward Super Play than GameFan when it comes to this game. I wanted to like GeGeGe no Kitarō a lot — it’s quirky, macabre and downright deliciously devilish. Perfect to play during the Halloween season. But the difficulty and the unnecessary cheapness of the game really hurts it. It’s much more tolerable and enjoyable, however, when playing with a buddy. You’re not missing much if you skip this one, but it’s a decent add to your horror gaming collection if you so desire.


Shōnen Ashibe (SFC)

Pub: Takara | Dev: Nova Games | 12.22.92
Pub: Takara | Dev: Nova Games | 12.22.92

Shōnen Ashibe is yet another Japanese comic turned TV series turned Super Famicom exclusive. Masterminded by Morishita Yumi, the comic was published in Weekly Young Jump from 1988 to 1994. It became a TV series in 1991 and the Super Famicom game was released just days before Christmas of 1992. The story centers around Ashibe, a 1st grade boy, and his wacky pet harbor seal, Goma-chan. Yup, that’s about as Japanese as Japanese gets. And only the Japanese, eh? Nonetheless, Shōnen Ashibe is unabashedly adorable and full of sunshine and rainbows.

Some people own dogs or cats. Not this fool
Some people own dogs or cats. Not this fool
Life is never boring with a pet seal hanging around
Life is never boring with a pet seal hanging around

That SEALS it, I'm getting a pet seal [... -Ed.]
That SEALS it, I’m getting a pet seal [You’re fired -Ed.]

Shōnen Ashibe is a cute platformer where you guide Goma-chan through many levels featuring classic themes such as forest, cave, haunted house, etc. In a manner befitting of the source material, Goma-chan can’t hurt enemies. Jumping over them is his only defense. Enemies range from humans (little brat boys and girls) to animals (bats, polar and teddy bears to name a few).


Your goal is to locate 8 items in each level. The item is connected to the level theme (i.e. stars for ice world, squids for water, etc.)


Once 8 are collected, head for the exit. If hit, one apple (or whatever it may be) squirts away, waiting to be reclaimed (not unlike Sonic the Hedgehog). The seal also whimpers “Eeeek!” The only way to lose is by being squeezed into submission by one of the bratty kids or if the timer reaches 0. The animals can’t kill you even if you have 0 items when they touch you. This was aimed at small children, obviously.


Some items are hidden while others are out in the wide open. You can smash walls with your head to potentially reveal hidden items. There are only two buttons: one makes Goma-chan jump and the other makes him perform a head butt. The gameplay is very basic — it was geared toward younger children — but it’s done in a respectable manner, all things considered.


There are some cool set pieces, like this giant hippopotamus machine. Releasing basketballs from its mouth, your task is to head butt them back into the hippo’s mouth. Doing this is much harder than it looks, especially as the timer runs down and the pressure mounts. Each good basket grants you an apple. The hippo machine holds 4 apples; the other 4 are scattered throughout the level.

Reminds me a bit of this from Earthworm Jim 2
Reminds me a bit of this from Earthworm Jim 2


Pick your level from this overhead map. Backtrack if you wish. Along the way some folks provide information, others will share a 16 character password and some even challenge you to mini games. The boy is an unplayable character, and that’s just as fine. Who wants to be a little 1st grader when you can be a cuddly seal?


Shōnen Ashibe has some nice details but nothing we haven’t seen before. Reappearing blocks, moving platforms and so forth. One really nice detail is the haunted house theme where you can see lightning flash outside the windows.


There’s definitely a me too feeling throughout the game but hey, if you can’t get enough of these games you’ll be right at home. Controlling a seal has its advantages, too. For example, Goma-chan can cling on edges which is quite cool.


My favorite theme is the ice world. The ice levels are extremely slippery, more so than most other platformers I can recall. The poor fella just slides around like a mofo as soon as you pick up any sort of momentum.

Reppin' the Northern Lights!
Reppin’ the Northern Lights!
DoReMi Fantasy did it better
DoReMi Fantasy did it better

It sure did but DoReMi Fantasy also came out exactly 3 years and 3 months later (December 22, 1992 —> March 22, 1996). One has to account for such a huge technological gap :P

Nothing beats the real deal though!
Nothing beats the real deal though!



Super Play, who erroneously referred to it as Syo the Seal, gave Shōnen Ashibe a very respectable 79% rating. It remains a fairly obscure game to this day, but those who have played it have shared similar sentiments. It’s certainly not bad and has its moments here and there.




Not shabby — surprisingly somewhat solid even — yet nothing worth writing home about. The graphics are nice; they’re simple yet colorful and charming in that Japanese sort of way. The music isn’t bad though it gets sugary sweet in spots to the point it can quickly become a bit annoying. All in all, Shōnen Ashibe is a great choice for kids. Older players probably won’t dig it as much, but you might find yourself a bit surprised at how well it plays if given the chance.

That darn Goma-chan... he's just too stinkin' cute!
That darn Goma-chan… he’s just too stinkin’ cute!


Miracle Girls (SFC)

Pub: Takara | Dev: Now Production | 10.22.93
Pub: Takara | Dev: Now Production | 10.22.93

Miracle Girls is based on the Japanese manga by Nami Akimoto, which made its debut on July 6, 1991. It was later translated into a 51 episode anime series from January 8 to December 24, 1993. Along the way, there was even a video game adaptation, made exclusively for the Super Famicom.





Select either Tomomi and Mikage Matsunaga (twin girls with supernatural powers) and traverse platforming stages with mini games thrown in for good measure. You begin with 3 hearts and up to 5 can be stored by collecting fruit. The levels are so colorful you just may go blind.


Miracle Girls is a very simple game. There are only 2 buttons at play: jumping and throwing candy. As you might have deduced from the visuals and source material, this is very kid friendly. Instead of killing enemies, you throw candy as bait, which then allows you to safely evade bad guys who are busy getting diabetes. They chomp for roughly 5 seconds and can’t harm you in this altered state. Otherwise, touching them deducts a heart.

Animals cant resist sweets. FACT
Fact: animals can’t resist sweets
Cute animations abound
Cute animations abound

While they’re busy chewing, you can stand on their heads to collect otherwise unreachable items and power-ups.


There is a dreamlike atmosphere to Miracle Girls that sort of hearkens one back to the days of Capcom’s Little Nemo: The Dream Master.

One of the coolest box art covers of my youth
One of the coolest box art covers of my youth


Besides the bright colorful graphics, one thing that stood out was the aid of your twin. She’ll pop up from time to time to provide some helpful tips.


Your twin sister will help guide you through perilous sections. Her speech is in Japanese but thankfully there’s only two voices and you’ll quickly be able to differentiate the two. One indicates orange while the other denotes white. Before long you’ll learn two Japanese words! Whichever color she yaps is the flower color you want to hop on. The other will drop, sending you to an early grave if you’re unlucky enough to be standing on it.

Cue Van Halens JUMP
Cue Van Halen’s JUMP


There are also mini-games scattered throughout, as well as a mini-game mode on its own and a 2-player mini-game mode. After the first level you play water tag with a bumblebee. The overhead action looks somewhat similar to Super Bomberman. My advice is to hit him ONCE and then RUN LIKE HELL. After firing your water gun, you’ll need to recharge before shooting again. Thankfully, you’re not left completely vulnerable as there’s an umbrella cover defense that lasts for half a second. Use it wisely!


Bubbles begin to roam the field halfway through. If contact with said bubbles is made, that person will lose 1 point off their score (whether human or computer controlled). It helps to keep players honest by limiting one’s ability to “babysit” and wait things out. Whoever has the most points at the end wins.


Mikage says until next time, good nigh!
Mikage says “Good night…”

Miracle Girls isn’t too shabby; it’s certainly playable if not enjoyable. However, it may be way too cute for its own good. I can see how the source material may instantly remove it from playing contention for certain gaming connoisseurs. However, if you can look past its extremely cute exterior, there lies a decent platforming game underneath. Just don’t expect anything too fancy or mind blowing and chances are you’ll have a decent time with this one.

Power Lode Runner (SFC)

Pub: Nintendo | Dev: Atelier Double | 1.1.99
Pub: Nintendo | Dev: Atelier Double | January 1, 1999

Today (January 1, 2019) marks 20 years since Nintendo published a Super Famicom game by the name of Power Lode Runner. It was released only in Japan as a “Nintendo Power” cartridge, where players could download various games on said accessory. Thus, you won’t find an official cartridge of Power Lode Runner on the internet. Power Lode Runner is an update on the classic Lode Runner formula.


35 years old and counting!
35 years old and counting!

Developed in 1983 by Douglas E. Smith, Lode Runner went on to become a smash success. Released in countless versions and on way too many platforms to name, Lode Runner is a classic action puzzle game with a simple premise that grows increasingly complex. Therein lies its brilliance!

Gotta love those old school gaming ads
Gotta love those old school gaming ads
Japan always did it crazier and wackier
Lode Runner was big everywhere, including Japan
From NES to Sega Saturn, so many variations exist
From NES to Sega Saturn, so many variations exist
Classic stuff
Classic stuff
Lode Runner Legacy is the latest variation
Lode Runner Legacy (2017) is the latest variation


[Here we go again… *whips out big check* -Ed.]




*loud rumbling in the background, couple F-bombs and gunshots later*

Ahem, well I guess we won’t be hearing from Movie Trailer Voice Guy again. At any rate, Power Lode Runner is a curiosity and an oddity indeed. Released on New Year’s Day 1999 (happy 20th anniversary), this version of Lode Runner is a bit more modernized though it plays much the same as ones before it. “B” digs a hole in the ground to your left while “A” digs a hole to your right. Trap a bad guy and safely walk over their head. Collect the items necessary to unlock the next level. Control a blue rabbit-like animal, named Muguru-kun, and go through all manner of themes. There are 3 different worlds you can select from the very beginning, with themes changing every 5 levels. Let’s take a look at some of the worlds.


The world shots look great!
The world shots look great!

I love the art style here. Muguru-kun is adorable and has a unique look that screams “leading mascot potential.” Kinda makes me long for a platformer starring him!


To your bottom left is the map (which can be switched off) and to your bottom right is the item count (in yellow) required before being able to leave that stage. Touch the logs encased in the bubble there, leaving you with 3 left to collect.

Youll do plenty of climbing
You’ll do plenty of climbing
Small touches make it fun to play
Small touches make it fun to play

I appreciate games with sensible mechanics which allow the player to be efficient. There’s no need to climb down a tree, not when you can slide off at a moment’s notice. Grab your second item. 2 down, 2 to go!

Quit monkeying around
Quit monkeying around

Those are the BAD guys?! Why yes. In this theme, those rather innocent looking monkeys are the source of danger. Each theme, which alters every 5 levels, is home to its own unique enemies.

Monkey See, Monkey Die
Monkey See, Monkey Die

Applying some good ol’ Lode Runner know how will make quick work of them.

There's sneaky contestant #3
There’s sneaky contestant #3
Rope underneath? Fall down
Rope underneath? Fall down
Good way to evade bad guys
It works well to evade bad guys
A lone monkey tries to thwart ya
A lone monkey tries to thwart ya
I'm walking on sunshine whoa oh And don't it feel good HEY!
“I’m walking on sunshine whoa oh!
And don’t it feel good HEY!”
Last one!
Last one!
Home sweet home
Home sweet home

You’ll spot a giant teddy bear head throughout each level. That marks the stage’s exit point. After collecting all the items needed, stand by the giant teddy bear face and it’ll swallow you whole, taking you to the next stage. Cute, yet slightly disturbing. Let’s look at some other levels from this first world.

Sometimes it's easy like such
Sometimes it’s easy like such
This part is really fun to navigate
This part is really fun to navigate
Look out for barbaric beavers
Look out for barbaric beavers
A little spooky here, sans Teddy
Dang, only 2 out of 7 items

Spotting Teddy does squat if you haven’t collected all of the items necessary. In such cases, it’s time to backtrack to find those missing pieces.

"So... you come here often?" "Yeah, great place to hang out."
“So… you come here often?”
“Yeah, great place to hang out.”
Metal parts are unbreakable
Metal parts are unbreakable

Bad guys can throw various objects at you. You’re momentarily stunned if hit, but thankfully it doesn’t mean automatic death.

"Ninety-eight... niiiinety-niiiine..."
“Ninety-eight… niiiinety-niiiine…”
Try to catch me, Donkey Kong!
Try to catch me, Donkey Kong!

Evading enemies left and right, weaving through them and going from point A to point B is quite satisfying. You can really get in the zone and develop a great rhythm that makes Power Lode Runner a really fun game to play.


So freakin' gorgeous
So freakin’ gorgeous
Cover up, it's flu season!
Cover up, it’s flu season!


Evokes so much adventure
Evokes such a grand adventure

It does, doesn’t it? Makes one yearn for an actual platformer game starring the ever lovable Muguru-kun. There’s a sense of adventure and stealth that gets the ol’ heart pumping.

Look out for crabs and ghosts
Look out for crabs and… ghosts?!
Muguru-kun is a trained professional. Kids, do NOT try this at home
Muguru-kun is a trained pro.
Kids, do NOT try this at home



Power Lode Runner is just a simple and enjoyable action puzzle affair. It celebrates 20 years today, and although you can’t get it officially on cartridge, there are of course various ways to still play it. And that I recommend you do, especially if these old school action puzzle games appeal to you. And if you like this game, I also suggest checking out another 1999 Super Famicom hit in the form of Power Soukoban (another modern spin on a classic formula). I slightly prefer Power Lode Runner over Lode Runner Twin. Power Lode Runner has Lode Runner Twin beat on visuals, sound and gameplay. The level design and enemy roster is also better as it oozes with more creativity and charm. Of course, you can’t go wrong with either.

PS- Happy 2019 to everyone out there! Speaking of anniversaries, can you believe RVGFanatic will turn 12 years old in less than a week from now? Insanity. Here’s to more SNES goodness in 2019 :)

Lode Runner Twin (SFC)

Pub  Dev: TE Soft | July 29, 1994
Pub & Dev: TE Soft | July 29, 1994

Lode Runner was first developed in 1983 by Douglas E. Smith. It was released on many platforms, such as the Apple II and Commodore 64. More than a decade later, the Super Famicom received its own variation in the form of Lode Runner Twin.




*End Movie Trailer Voice Guy*

[Wait a second, how much does he cost us anyway? -Ed.]




Lode Runner, to some of us retro gamers, is like an old trusty friend. You may not call this friend every week or even every month. But whenever you do, you pick up right where you left off. Thanks to T&E Soft, Super Nintendo players have a version to call their own. And while the mechanics are similar to classic formula, the look and atmosphere is distinctly different.

A map helps you sift through
A map helps you to sift through
Turn off map for a tougher challenge
Turn it off for a harder challenge



Indeed it’s not. Say bye to Jack Peril (from Lode Runner Returns) and hello to Justy and Liberty, two chaps that look like they stepped right out of an anime. Lode Runner Twin has a story mode (complete with password), free play and a couple 2 player split screen modes.



Collect all the candy wrappers. Only then will a ladder magically appear to whisk you to the next level.


Bad guys quickly attempt to gang up on you, but you can cave in floors where applicable and walk safely over their head(s).


Gone are the cannibalistic monks from previous Lode Runner games. In their place are trident wielding little imps. The game has a very cute look.


Our hero gracefully glides his way to safety, leaving the devilish lackeys in the dust.


There’s something very satisfying about gliding through the ropes.

Last piece of candy!
Last piece of candy!
Whats that oily drop there?
What’s that oily drop there?
Ah, its another bad guy
Ah, it’s another bad guy

You might have gotten rid of that one, but notice his buddies quickly gaining ground. A magic sound effect rings out after you’ve collected the last piece of candy. A ladder appears, which will take you to the next level. Of course, the bad guys will give chase to the very bitter end.


Drop and hell follow accordingly
Drop and he’ll follow accordingly


As soon as you land, make your way toward the ladder and slide across the rope. You’re home free! It’s easy but moments like this make the game fun to play and satisfying.



I love retro games. It’s the spirit of the age you know, the zeitgeist — looking forwards by looking back. Or something like that. Heck, maybe I’m just an old codger. I remember when games were rationed, you know. But in all seriousness, I enjoyed Lode Runner Twin for what it was. If you can overlook the annoying music, what you have here is a nice variation of a classic game. If you like this, be sure to check out Power Lode Runner too. And as a final fun aside, Super Play ran a review for Lode Runner Twin back in the ’90s. They rated it 55%, which I feel is a pretty harsh rating. It’s not the best game ever, but it’s certainly fun and has its moments.


Kamen Rider (SFC)

Pub: Bandai | Dev: Sun L | November 1993
Pub: Bandai | Dev: Sun L | 11.12.93

Premiering on April 3, 1971, Kamen Rider (translated as Masked Rider) was a smash hit TV show in Japan. An insect-like superhero who rides on a motorcycle and beats up bad guys was a winning recipe. Over 20 years later, Kamen Rider was released only on the Super Famicom where you clean up the streets of early ’70s Japan in this fun and cheesy beat ‘em up.



As you make your way through the levels, the boss’ health meter at the bottom slowly increases. So don’t mess around and beat up the lackeys as fast as you can.


The garish blokes are tougher than their less colorful brethren.


Enter the abandoned warehouse. Hmmm, it’s awfully quiet in here. TOO QUIET…


PEARL HARBOR! But even their nefarious schemes are no match for your fleet-footed prowess. Use the pit to send their sorry asses to an early grave.

A sticky adversary [Oh you -Ed.]
A sticky adversary [Oh you -Ed.]

In classic beat ‘em up fashion, the boss is joined by a legion of low tier lackeys.


The bosses even resemble their real life cheesy rubber suits! Nice. When things get hot and heavy, press “X” to become the mighty Kamen Rider.


Kamen Rider is a superior fighter and he has a separate health bar as well.


Of course, being the Super Nintendo/Famicom, Mode 7 madness ensues.


A cutscene depicting the demise of the assailant is shown to reward your successful effort.


Taking out a pair of Luchadors :P
Taking out a pair of Luchadors :P
Mr. Veggie is a mid-boss of sorts
Mr. Veggie is a mid-boss of sorts
Cue the token truck trope
Cue the token truck trope
Enter this fancy building complex
Enter this fancy building complex



This stage is home to waste dumps and the like, lending the game a gloomy rundown atmosphere. It really places you in early ’70s Japan. In fact, it somehow reminds me a lot of Godzilla vs. Hedorah (AKA The Smog Monster), which coincidentally enough also came out in 1971. There is a very bleak feel to that film and to this particular level. Battle your way through the outskirts of town before culminating in a rooftop tangle.


Bad guys come out of the woodwork from the staircase. Somewhere in the background a part of me can feel Godzilla and Hedorah battling it out :P

No need to mention the flying Godzilla scene...
No need to mention the flying Godzilla scene…
Love the atmosphere of this level
Love the atmosphere of this level
He got cancer lurking in that water
They’ll try to ambush your ass


What brings you to Japan, Venom?
What brings ya to Japan, Venom?

Similar to the legendary GOLDEN AXE series, gaping holes can be used to your advantage.

An extra from Godzilla vs. Hedorah
An extra from Godzilla vs. Hedorah
But who's gonna save your ass?
But who’s gonna save your ass?
Such a crazy and bonkers Godzilla entry
Such a crazy and bonkers Godzilla entry
The sea has cobalt, it's full of mercury. Too many fumes in our oxygen. All the smog now is choking you and me...
“The sea has cobalt, it’s full of mercury.
Too many fumes in our oxygen.
All the smog now is choking you and me…”
Trippy good shit
Trippy good shit
[Um, getting back to Kamen Rider, then -Ed.]
[Um, getting back to Kamen Rider, then -Ed.]



This amusement park is anything but! At least it provides plenty of cool set pieces though, like this roller coaster track.

"C'mon Haru, quit horsing around!"
“C’mon Haru, quit horsing around!”
Oooh, how macabre
Oooh, how macabre
Oh get a room you two!
Oh get a room you two!

More levels await beyond this. Play the game to discover the rest on your own.



Temptations to modernize this old franchise wouldn’t have been shocking, but Sun L. (makers of Mega Man Soccer) wisely and respectfully opted for an authentic early 70’s Japan setting. It’s nice to see a game remain so faithful to its source material. The setting really grew on me as I played the game. It’s depressing, gloomy and there’s just something so desolated about the whole thing that beckons for a superhero to save the day…

I found a love for me Darling just dive right in And follow my lead Well I found a girl beautiful and sweet I never knew you were the someone waiting for me 'Cause we were just kids when we fell in love
I found a love for me…
Darling just dive right in
And follow my lead

What began as lukewarm impressions quickly developed into something of an affection, even if said affection veers toward the guilty pleasure plane. The levels are divided into segments and a solid pace is maintained throughout. Best of all, a friend can join you to help sweep up the streets. Kamen Rider won’t challenge for a top 10 slot on any SNES beat ‘em up list, but it is a good old fashioned example of the genre akin to those from the halcyon days. And one you’re likely to enjoy if you dig old Japanese rubber suited monster madness.

Sengoku (SFC)

Pub & Dev: Data East | September 19, 1993
Pub & Dev: Data East | September ’93

Sengoku was released in arcades on February 12, 1991. A Super Nintendo home port was scheduled to come out in early 1994, but it was canned and never saw the light of day in North America. It did, however, grace the Super Famicom. Although watered down, it’s still fairly fun (especially with a buddy by your side). After all, any game that allows you to briefly assume the form and spirit of a ninja, samurai or even a lethal canine can’t be too bad.

It just wasn't meant to be
It just wasn’t meant to be

The North American version must have been completed or at the very least very close to being finished, as a review turned up in the pages of EGM (issue #56, March 1994).


As a kid I recall anticipating any arcade port that came out to the SNES. It was naturally understood and accepted back then — gosh, a quarter of a century ago now — that such home ports on the SNES were never going to fully match the arcade original. But that the really good ones would capture the essence of such games. It was a fun time to be a kid growing up on arcade games and the SNES. The luxury of playing a lesser version at home was a really big deal back in those days, and it was still fun to play the arcade originals whenever you were at the arcade. I was sad when Sengoku was scraped. Then, years later (2006 to be precise), I came back into the SNES scene and discovered that a Super Famicom version had made its way to Japan. I quickly tracked down a copy and ended up enjoying it, even if it was a watered down version. Like I said, it was standard operating procedure. I didn’t personally care that it wasn’t arcade-perfect. I knew I liked it and that was all that mattered to me.


Select between Bill or Dan. I prefer Dan because I find him to be a more effective fighter. Here he is, decked out in glorious early ’90s fashion from head to toe, kicking a bunch of Foot Soldier ass.


You know what I particularly love about beat ‘em ups? Those Andore-like enemies. You know, those towering titans that are several tiers below that of a boss, but they’re also several tiers above the cannon fodder. Sengoku has a good Andore representation. I love how big and bizarre these lumbering ogre-like creatures are. These hulking menaces are tougher than the rest, but by nabbing various orbs you can take the shape of a samurai to help even up the odds!

Or become a badass ninja!
Or become a badass ninja!
Or Okami :P
Or Okami :P
Shades of Altered Beast
Shades of Altered Beast :)
The same level from the arcade original
The same level from the arcade original
Arcade original obviously looks a lot better
Arcade original obviously looks a lot better
He ain't no Old Yeller
He ain’t no Old Yeller

Sengoku shifts from regular looking stages that you would find in any beat ‘em up to strange astral stages, where it feels like you’re in some unworldly dimension. It helps to break up the monotony a bit and gives the game a rather unique feel.

Arcade version
Arcade version
Arcade again
Arcade again
And again
And again
Yet again
Yet again


The SNES version tried hard but obviously does not hold a candle, graphically, to the original.

Unique location for a boss fight
Unique location for a boss fight
Arcade version
Arcade version
Hay, look, random bonus stage
Hay, look, random bonus stage :P


The ninja form is swift and super efficient when upgraded to the ultimate form, where he can fling 3 Shurikens at once.


Not to be completely outdone, the dog form can toss out smaller versions of himself. Nice.

Of course, the samurai ain't bad either
Of course, the samurai ain’t bad
A little blood would have been nice
A little blood woulda been nice
OK lemme rephrase... RED blood
OK lemme rephrase… RED blood
Gotta have token female enemies
Gotta have token female enemies
This power-up rocks. HADOKEN!
This power up rocks. HADOKEN!


Your journey will take you through a decent amount of various locales, including this deadly sewer. Where are the gawd damn Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when you need ‘em, eh?!

Not even the subway is safe! [Oh, Jared proved that years ago -Ed.]
Not even the subway is safe!
[Oh Jared proved that years ago -Ed.]. Wow. OUCH.

Arcade shot
Arcade shot


As mentioned earlier, you’ll also travel to very strange otherworldly realms. It feels like a hazy dream or nightmare…

Arcade original was a little more twisted
Arcade original was a little more twisted
OK pal, you acting real sketchy
OK pal, you acting real sketchy…
Like a nightmare after Taco Bell
I love the sinister atmosphere!

Sengoku excels in setting an uneasy tone. You always get this sense in the air that something isn’t quite right. Take this bridge scene for instance. The wolf-like creature it turns into looks like something out of a twisted children’s fairy tale you read at the library when you were 7.

Plenty of mid bosses, too
Plenty of mid bosses, too
Arcade comparison
Arcade comparison

SengoRVG26Some bosses are demonic and ghastly.


While others are the traditional big and beefy kind.


He reminds me slightly of Salamander from The Combatribes.

Good ol' Sally
Good ol’ Sally
Other bosses are simply monsters
Hmm, where have I seen ya…
Shades of Serpentor, anyone?
Shades of Serpentor, anyone?
From the classic G.I. Joe
From the classic G.I. Joe franchise
#Childhood, #Nostalgia, #GOJOE
#Childhood, #Nostalgia, #GOJOE
Cool oriental designs abound
Cool oriental designs abound
Shame they don't spring to life
Shame they don’t spring to life



The graphics are below average and the sound is weak to boot, but the saving grace is Sengoku is fairly fun (despite being a watered down port) to play if you throw expectations out the window. It’s just a mindless beat ‘em up with some neat power ups, bizarre bad guys and a moody atmosphere that combines both oriental and the occult. If that sounds like a good time to you, then be sure to give Sengoku a shot.


Ranma ½: Chougi Ranbu Hen (SFC)

Pub: Shogakukan | Dev: Atelier Double | April 28, 1994
Pub: Shogakukan | Dev: Atelier Double | April 1994

There were three Ranma ½ fighting games on the SNES. The first one was embarrassingly repackaged as Street Combat. The second one, Ranma ½ Hard Battle, was released in North America 25 years ago and received mixed reviews. The last of the trilogy, Ranma ½: Chougi Ranbu Hen, was scheduled to come out stateside but was canned due to poor sales of its predecessor. It’s a shame since Chougi Ranbu Hen is easily the best of the trilogy. It plays a bit like an old SNK fighting game. The lack of speed takes some getting used to but unlike Hard Battle which features an awkward control scheme, Chougi Ranbu Hen is much more traditional with special moves performed in Street Fighter II fashion. Not only does that make for a more enjoyable experience but Chougi Ranbu Hen also features a rare tag team mode. Very few SNES fighting games can claim that!

It just wasn't meant to be...
It just wasn’t meant to be…
Thanks to the poor sales of its predecessor
Thanks to the poor sales of its predecessor










By pressing the “L” button at any point during the battle, your character will perform a rather long taunting animation. If you can successfully pull this off without getting hit, you will activate your super power. Your moves will inflict more damage and you can even perform a super desperation move.






A code to be the boss in a fighting game. How original
A code to be the boss in a fighting game. How original



Ranma ½: Chougi Ranbu Hen received mostly positive reviews from those who have played it. Consensus has it that it’s easily the best of the SNES trilogy. Super Play rated it 79%. It’s often considered as one of the best fighting games found exclusively on the Super Famicom, ranking right up there with the likes of Godzilla: Kaijuu Daikessen, Gundam Wing: Endless Duel and SD Hiryu no Ken. Personally, I like those three brawlers a lot more than Chougi Ranbu Hen. Nevertheless, it definitely belongs in the conversation.



If you like old school fighters, don’t mind a slower paced fighting game and you’re a Ranma ½ fan, then I recommend this game. If those parameters aren’t suited for you, however, then this game won’t sway you the other way. It’s a perfectly decent fighting game that represents the brand well. Control is smooth and combos are easy to execute (something the previous two Ranma games lacked). The tag team mode adds some extra novelty and there are other cool little options. Examples include four color choices for each fighter, the ability to select stages and play the computer even in the VS. mode (and not just the story mode). However, it is disappointingly slow with no speed option available. If only it played a little faster, I would have enjoyed this game far more. But all in all, Ranma ½: Chougi Ranbu Hen is solid fighting fare, and is easily the best of the Ranma ½ trilogy.


The Firemen (SFC)

Beautiful cover. Love it
Pub & Dev: Human | 9.9.94

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 DieHard-esque...
How Die Hard-esque…

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)

Crawl to avoid high flames
Crawl to avoid high flames

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!



Bombs away
Bombs away

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.


Your partner helps out a bit
Your partner helps out a bit
Simple, good stuff
Simple, good stuff
Boss numero uno
Boss numero uno
Watch out when it spazzes
Watch out when it spazzes

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?


Too bad it's not 2 players!
Too bad it’s not 2 players!
Exploding glass adds a nice touch
Breakable glass adds a nice touch
Beware of exploding containers
Beware of exploding containers
Great Ball of Fire...
Great Ball of Fire…

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.

Boss #3
Boss #3
Try not to let it surround you
Try not to let it surround you
Try not to let it...
Try not to let it…
Try not -- ah crap
Trap you… ah crap

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 class to level completion times to total play time to % 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.



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%.



This game is on fire. Sorry
Solid but not spectacular

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).

Rock on, Danny and Pete
Rock on, Danny and Pete