Earlier this month, RVGFanatic turned all of 15 years old. Opening its virtual doors on January 7, 2007, it’s crazy to believe that it’s been that long. I celebrated another milestone earlier this month as well — January 17, 2006 marked the fateful day that I decided to embark on my SNES resurrection. And this is what truly blows my mind: since the start of my SNES comeback, I’ve been playing it longer than its existence from 1991-2005 (14 years). My SNES resurgence now spans 16 years (January 2006 to January 2022). RVGFanatic is now older as well (15 years). My goodness. Talk about time flying! Although my SNES fever is nowhere near what it was during 2006-2018, I still play it regularly to this very day. With my Player 2 No matter where life takes me, the SNES will always hold a special place in my heart. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane…
LIFE IN THE EARLY ’90s
As a proud kid of the late ’80s to mid ’90s, I grew up during the golden age of gaming. Arcades were amazing and the technological leap from the 8-bit NES to the 16-bit SNES was mind-blowing. Many weekends consisted of my brother, our friends and I gaming to our hearts’ content. It was a simpler time. Those halcyon days forever burn in my soul. I would never want to be 10 years old again, but I’d love to visit for a few hours and be a fly on the wall.
Don’t get me started on the toys and cartoons of that era! Most everyone likes to claim that their childhood was the best time to grow up, but for me, I feel very fortunate to have grown up when I did. Simple pleasures like raiding an arcade hall with your best buds, or gawking at all the cool toys and games in the long aisles of Toys R Us, or strolling through the local video rental store to rent the latest game or movie… those days, more or less, are forever gone. I’m so thankful that I grew up when such entities were at the height of their powers.
My family moved in early 1996, and life got busy with middle school and high school. But in 1999, I bought a secondhand Sega Saturn for $40 from FuncoLand because my brother wanted to play Fire Pro Wrestling: 6 Man Scramble. I had my own motivation in the form of World Heroes Perfect.
It wasn’t long before I became a Sega Saturn diehard. I was obsessed with it from 2001-2005 and acquired 350 Saturn titles during that time. I was a frequent visitor (and even a contributor) to sega-saturn.com. I loved reading all the user reviews and in many ways, I credit that website (along with Rob Strangman’s OPCFG) as early influences for RVGFanatic.
I attended University in the early to mid 2000’s, and had a great time exploring my interests and figuring out who I was. I dabbled in theater arts, performed in stage plays and got my teaching credential. I learned from all the people I met, the friends I made and the varied experiences I had. One of my favorite things about college though was that sweet fat 6 week break that lasted between mid December to late January. It’s always a nostalgic time of the year for me, as it invariably brings back to mind all those fond college memories of just hanging around at home bumming around and doing much of nothing. Just binge watching (horror) movies and playing video games galore until 3 AM almost every night. It was during the winter break of late 2004/early 2005 that I first had the thought of getting back into the Super Nintendo…
One day in the middle of January 2005, I revisited my childhood Hollywood Video. At the time many Hollywood Video stores had a Game Crazy hub inside the store, which served as a video game center where you could buy current and older games. That day I spotted the SNES and some of the juice started kicking up. Also, my Saturn passion was starting to wane during this time period. It had been a strong 5+ year run with the Saturn but I was starting to run out of steam. Somehow, the SNES seemed awfully inviting but for whatever reason I just could not pull the trigger.
Just one short year later, I decided to pull the trigger. The following winter break, I was completely out of the Saturn scene. The SNES drum began beating loudly in my heart, and this time I decided not to ignore it. The desire to play all the SNES games I loved during my childhood as well as all the countless ones I missed but always wanted to play became way too overwhelming.
During my Sega Saturn run, I had a secret weapon. A sort of Weapon X, if you will. My guy, Mike, from Collector’s Cards and Games. He owns a real life store but you can buy online as well. It’s awesome to see that he’s still living the dream, as his website is still up and running to this day. Even better, he hasn’t changed the graphics from the mid 2000s, almost 20 years ago!
I sent my guy Mike an email late Tuesday morning (my God, I was up at 3:42 AM… damn, those 6 week college winter breaks were the freaking best). January 17, 2006 is the fateful day I officially got back into the Super Nintendo. As the email stated, I thought my game buying days were over. Little did I know!
The very next day I enthusiastically shared my news with the good folks over at Digital Press. The stage was set for my greatest gaming adventure yet. I was so ready to revisit what I’ve always considered, and still do as a matter of fact, the best damn gaming era that ever existed.
These were among the first SNES games I bought. As you can see, back in early 2006, most of these games were only $5. Some as cheap as $4 or even $3. 2006 was truly a golden age where for the price it would cost to rent these games back in the ’90s, you could now own it for just as much.
Unfortunately, Art of Fighting was purchased from his store so we removed that from the list. On the bright side, I looked at the list again and added Great Circus Mystery and Joe & Mac. My wife and I actually replayed Joe & Mac earlier this month. Crazy that the SNES port just turned 30 years old. We enjoyed it a lot and I think it holds up pretty well, in spite of the slowdown.
January 26, 2006, was another unforgettable day for me. It was a cold and rainy Thursday night. My SNES package had yet to arrive from Mike, but it was only a short handful of days away. Feeling nostalgic as well as curious as to what SNES gems I might find waiting for me, I decided to drive to my old hometown and revisit my childhood Hollywood Video. Did I also mention that this fateful day was the 10 year anniversary of the day I moved? Yep, the stars were all aligning…
I’ll never forget being at a red light, with the rain dancing down from the heavens, and seeing this glorious lit up sign emblazon the night. This was back in 2006 where, even though the video store was quickly going the way of the dinosaur, you could still find them kicking and clawing to the very bitter end. You knew it just couldn’t last forever, so you cherished the moments you had left. It was a wonderful time in my life where I was getting ready to embark on my teaching journey while revisiting my gaming past. A special time in life where I was existing in multiple planes constantly. Part of me was looking back just as much as I was looking to the future. It’s hard to describe, but I love balancing those two dichotomies.
Game Crazy did a Buy 2 Get 1 Free deal on retro games back in those days. That night I picked up Art of Fighting (the game I wanted from Mike but someone beat me to the punch — how quickly that was set straight), Clay Fighter, Mortal Kombat II and Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 (which I got for free). All 4 games for just $16 or so. Like I alluded to many times in the past, 2006 was a gold mine for SNES fans as most of the games were dirt cheap to acquire.
Right afterward, I revisited my childhood home. My parents rented the place out to some tenants. I wasn’t close to them, but they knew I was the son. I share all this because in the summer of 2020, after my wife and I got married in July that same year, we took over the house. That’s right. I currently live in my childhood home with my wife, and we have our first kid due in June of 2022. It’s a boy! Super excited to start that adventure of parenting alongside my wife. And in my childhood home no less. We remodeled it so it doesn’t look too much like the home I remember living in 25+ years ago, but that’s even better because we’ve upgraded and modernized it to a fair degree!
Speaking of boys, Mike’s SNES deluxe package arrived only 4 short days later. It arrived on a Monday. January 30, 2006. Another super nostalgic day for me. Unfortunately, it was my first day back at University, so I had to wait until class was over to dive in. But man, I waited this long so what’s a few more hours?
Backtracking a bit, one of my biggest regrets with my Sega Saturn fandom was that I never really documented my Saturn journey. With the SNES it was a chance at redemption. So I started a journey to do just that! My wife chuckled when she read it…
Shout out once again to my man, Mike! He was my guy and helped fed my Saturn and SNES passion in the early-mid 2000’s. Crazy that his website today looks the same as it did 20 years ago…
And here’s the beautiful day that my SNES baby arrived. And I still get that lovely feeling these days seeing the mailman stroll up to my door. Except instead of video games, it’s now books
Damn, less than 3 weeks in and I already amassed 85 SNES games. I was a beast in those days! Hunting and buying games left and right. Like I said, most were $5 or less back in those days, so it was hard to pass up!
I remember gamers and collectors lamenting the price of SNES games around 2011 or so. I was super lucky in that I beat much of the crowd and was bit by the SNES bug years before the scene got super crazy. But as you can see from Mike’s email above, the SNES was “real hot” in early 2006. But luckily for me, prices had yet to skyrocket through the roof like they would in the years to come. As always, life is always about timing!
As an aside, years and years later, I hit up Mike again to buy a few more SNES items to round out my collection. This was his reply:
It’s always nice to be remembered. As Mike shared here, a lot changed between 2006 and 2014. SNES was in ultra high demand and the nostalgia bug was hotter than ever, with many 30 something year olds longing for the past and having a larger disposable income. Mike used to sell me SNES boxes and manuals by the boatload for $1 each. Not no more! And you can’t blame him. Sellers change their prices as items change in terms of supply and demand. I’ll always look back fondly on those early years. In particular, 2006. That’s where it all started (again) for me.
In the fall of 2006, after being back in the SNES scene for 9 months, I started a topic on various gaming forums entitled Steve’s Obscure Super Famicom Impressions Thread. Every 2-3 days, I updated the topic with my thoughts on the more obscure Japanese only Super Famicom games. It ran through December and was a major hit, stirring much retro gaming discourse. Eventually the topic became such a monster that loading a page became very cumbersome as I often posted hundreds of photos and the thread was starting to grow too big for its own good. I never considered a website, not because I didn’t want one but because I don’t have a lot of technical know-how. That’s when a Digital Press member by the name of Pete Whitley gave me the ultimate encouragement to push forward.
And that’s when the wheels started churning. And sure enough, guess what. it was winter break of University again. And as such, big moves happen during those glorious 6 weeks off. With many friends and colleagues cheering me on, I tinkered with a website during those late December nights in 2006. I kept tinkering and tinkering, realizing that a website IS possible…
Opening on January 7, 2007, the first day had a little note welcoming readers. The next day I posted my first review in the form of Godzilla: Kaijuu Daikessen. It was only fitting since that was the first game I highlighted in my obscure Super Famicom topic. After clicking on PUBLISH, my dad called to ask if I could drive him down to the auto repair shop to pick up his car. There was a light rain that Monday night as I recall the vigor of knowing that someone somewhere was viewing my content and among the first visitors to do so. I was floating on cloud 9 as I drove my dad on that wet drizzling freeway. It’s a moment in time that I remember fondly to this day, even 15 years later.
WHAT THE FUTURE BRINGS…
Since 2020 or so, my SNES updates have been fairly sparse. Most of my work these days revolve around book reviews and remembrances. I’d like to get back to writing more SNES reviews and articles. But with a boy due in June (our first baby!), I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to update. I’m going to push forward however and keep RVGFanatic alive one way or another. Here’s to another 15 years, right? But in all seriousness, there is something I’ve been wanting to do for over 16 years now. And it’s a promise I fully intend to see through…
Some of my long time readers may recall that over the years I’ve stated that my ultimate goal with RVGFanatic has always been to publish a personal top favorite SNES list. It’s something I’ve been working on and tinkered with since January 2006. In fact, a few of you may even remember that I teased the launch way back in the summer of 2017, saying that it would come online October 2017…
Better 5 years late than never, right? I was hoping maybe last August for the Super Nintendo’s 30th anniversary in North America, but that didn’t work out. So maybe third time’s the charm. Also, I’m putting it out there in the universe. It’s going to finally happen at some point in 2022. I even have a teaser promotional ad ready for your viewing. Drum roll, please…
Being an ambitious nut and wanting to show off as many viable titles as possible, I’m not aiming for a top 100 list. Not even top 150. But 200. TWO HUNDRED. Are there even 200 SNES games worth playing? In my book, obviously yes. Maybe the backend selections are merely for the diehard SNES fans out there, but I have a list of 200 SNES games I consider to be my top favorite on the system. And I shall reveal those entries as 2022 progresses. I’m excited to finally share my SNES list with you all. And I appreciate the support and love you’ve given me over the past 15 years!
I can’t believe RVGFanatic is now 15 years old and counting. I’ve had the gaming time of my life collecting and playing the Super Nintendo for nearly 2 decades now. Although my passion for it burns differently today than how it did from 2006-2018, I’ll always fondly remember all the good times I’ve had with the SNES over the years. I’m excited to eventually introduce it to my son. It’s also been an absolute blast having a platform where I can share as well as document my random nostalgic thoughts on books and gaming. I very much see RVGFanatic as that local mom and pop store still standing on the corner chugging along year after year. And I hope to update it over the next15 years! Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and prosperous 2022. Until next time, take good care!
This past November the Super Famicom (SNES as it’s known over in Japan) turned 30 years old. But on the North American side, it was on this day 30 years ago (August 23, 1991) that the Super Nintendo made its debut. Naturally, you’re going to see a lot of tribute pieces and articles praising the system’s amazing library of games, as well as plenty of retrospectives sure to bring a virtual nostalgic tear to your eye. Heck, you might even see some Top 30 or Top 100 lists floating around in celebration of the big 3-0. But I’m going to do something a little different. As great as the SNES has been these past 30 years, I can think of more than a few games that never made it to the SNES that would have made the console even stronger had they been. Specifically, I’m talking about 20 arcade ports the SNES should have received but, for one reason or another, never did.
Arcade gaming in the ’90s was a magical thing to experience as a young kid. There was something intoxicating about being in the thick of an arcade hall, with the flickering lights and glowing screens all vying for your quarters, iconic gaming sound effects galore blasting your ears, the alluring aroma of a cheese pizza wafting through the air. It was a social playground and THE place to be on Friday nights and weekends. All you needed were a few friends and a few quarters and you had a one way ticket to gaming nirvana.
But it was impossible for all my favorite arcade games of my youth to make the home leap. For many, it was like two ships passing in the night. Never meant to be, never saw the light of day. However you want to put it, these ill-fated arcade greats never made their way home to a Super Nintendo. But first, let’s examine the thrill of arcade to home ports back in the early-mid ’90s…
THE MAGIC OF 16-BIT ARCADE PORTS
One of the best aspects about growing up as a gamer during the early-mid ’90s was hyping yourself up about all the arcade ports that companies would develop for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. Playing the arcade game, loving it, dreaming about a Genesis or SNES port, then reading a few pages (sometimes less) about said port in EGM or GameFan Magazine (or both), and letting your imagination run wild as you studied the small grainy screenshots 20 times over. Rinse and repeat. It was a tried and true formula of that era! You knew both systems lacked the horsepower to replicate an arcade-perfect translation, but you were ecstatic if the home port captured the essence and spirit of its arcade counterpart. And sometimes, there was just enough magic out there in the moonlight for that to ring true.
The gaming world changed when Capcom unleashed Street Fighter II on the SNES in the summer of 1992. Capcom blew everyone’s minds by how well the home port looked, sounded and played. Sure it wasn’t arcade perfect, but it was more than good enough. It was, for its time, phenomenal. It truly felt like a piece of the arcade game was right there in your very own living room.
As a kid I remember telling my best friend Nelson, “Man, a quarter per play? If we play the home port of so and so at least 240 times, we’ll match the value of what my mom paid, and eventually get more than her money’s worth!” Because SNES games cost around $60 and 240 multiplied by 25 cents is $60. Ah, the innocence of youth…
Arcade ports on the SNES, especially those of arcade fighting games during that Golden Age of 2D fighters, became all the rage in the early-mid ’90s. Gamers couldn’t get enough and wanted more and more. If you played a game in the arcade circa 1992 or ’93, chances were that a 16-bit home port was inevitable the following year.
But that wasn’t always the case. There were many awesome arcade games that never saw a Super Nintendo conversion, for one reason or another. Here are my top 20 arcade games that sadly never saw the light of day on the Super Nintendo.
HONORABLE MENTION: TIME KILLERS
What would a list be without an honorable mention? I’ll keep it to just one this time, however. Time Killers, admittedly, wasn’t a good game even in its original arcade form. I’m not citing it for its quality of play. This is based upon pure curiosity and nostalgia.
Released in November of 1992, Time Killers is a weapons-based fighting game with buckets of blood for days. Players can aim specific body parts and cut them off. It didn’t play very well but it was like a 9 year old boy’s perverse dream come to life.
Almost every fighting game back then had your prototypical Ryu clone, but Rancid was in a class of his own. A punk rocker type wielding a chainsaw. Yeah, he was my guy whenever I plopped a quarter into this vile game.
A Sega Genesis port was planned but scrapped. Then in 1996, for some inexplicable reason when the Genesis was on life support, Time Killers finally came out. It received overwhelmingly negative reviews (EGM gave it scores of 5, 3, 3 and 3). As bad as the Genesis home port was, part of me still wanted to see a Super Nintendo conversion.
James Severin from Michigan City did as well!
According to this response, it appears as though there MIGHThave been plans for a Super Nintendo release but alas, it was never meant to be.
#20: THREE WONDERS
Released in May of 1991, Three Wonders features, not shockingly, 3 games in 1. The winner of the lot is easily Midnight Wanderers. It’s so good that it could have been a standalone game.
Midnight Wanderers is one of Capcom’s best lesser known games for my money! There was a Sega Saturn version of Three Wonders released, but only in Japan. Still, I would totally have loved this on the SNES!
The same protagonists return for a shooting game in the vein of Gradius. Chariot is fine but nothing special.
The third and final game in the package is a puzzle game by the name of Don’t Pull. It’s definitely NOTDon’t Play as it is perfectly playable and entertaining, but much like Chariot it’s nothing particularly memorable. Three Wonders didn’t make this list for the last two games. Consider those two as the appetizers and the main course being Midnight Wanderers (which has got to be one of the most underrated badass video game titles of all time).
Speaking of never seeing the light of day, Nightmare Busters was clearly inspired by Midnight Wanderers. Sadly, its planned SNES release was canned and even sadder, it’s an incredibly disappointing game. Although never officially released, there are ways to experience this game. You can if you want out of wild curiosity, but I was crushed by the broken mechanics of this game.
#19: SHOGUN WARRIORS
One of the earliest arcade games I can recall playing, Shogun Warriors is a massively nostalgic game for me. It features 8 generic characters who don’t even have proper names! They simply go by Geisha, Samurai, Ninja, Sumo and so on. I love the game’s exotic Japanese atmosphere. I was obsessed with Kappa, the green turtle-like creature who could stretch his limbs like Dhalsim and hurtle himself into a rolling attack like Blanka.
Developed by Kaneko and released in April of 1992, Shogun Warriors was one of the earlier Street Fighter II clones to hit the market. And it plays exactly like how you would expect a fighting game from early 1992 to play. 8 characters, all with 2-3 special moves each, bonus rounds and 4 bosses to battle. There’s a certain charm to how simple this game was. It certainly was inferior to Street Fighter II but I always appreciated the underdogs and had a good time whenever Shogun Warriors and I linked up.
I remember hoping that I would be able to play this game on my SNES either by Christmas of ’92 or spring of ’93 by the latest. Sadly, as is the case for every game on this list, that wasn’t meant to be. And unlike some of the other games on this list, there’s absolutely no question the SNES could have handled a very spot-on port of this arcade game.
Instead, Kaneko gave us Power Moves on the SNES in early 1993. It was bleh. Should have given us Shogun Warriors! But I digress…
#18: MARTIAL CHAMPION
For years Capcom and Konami battled it out for supremacy. Both companies were wildly beloved, produced seemingly an equal amount of fan favorites and were often cited as the top two developers in the industry. Konami dipped its fingers in the fight game with the release of Martial Champion in early 1993.
The year was 1993. Every week it seemed as though a new fighting game came out. It was the very height of the 2D fighting game boom. Martial Champion was one of my guilty pleasure favorites that year. I say guilty pleasure because deep down I knew it wasn’t the best. It was decent, but nothing special. I really dug how huge the fighters were, though. And the bright vibrant visuals were always catchy whenever I walked by the arcade cab. I just think it would have made for a fun SNES home conversion. But Konami clearly had other plans.
I was all about Titi — I know that sounded funny but how can you NOT love a Chinese hopping vampire?! Honestly, I wanted a home port just so I can play as him.
Never seen a hopping vampire movie before? You’re missing out! I highly recommend Mr. Vampire (1985). It’s essentially the one that started it all, and has never been outclassed. To me it’s the Halloween (1978) of hopping vampire films.
A home port of Martial Champion was released, but only for the PC Engine. It looked drastically different from the arcade game. I like to believe a Super Nintendo port would have been more faithful.
Instead of working on a port of Martial Champion, Konami gave SNES fans Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. That game rocked, but I still wish we got Martial Champion as well. But if I had to pick one, Konami made the right call for sure.
#17: WORLD HEROES 2 JET
For a long time, if you’d asked me for my all-time favorite gaming franchise, my answer would have been World Heroes. Both SNES ports of World Heroes and World Heroes 2 were top-notch. So when World Heroes 2 Jet hit the arcade scene in April of 1994, I figured I would be playing it on SNES at some point in ’95. Nope!
Yes, I’d argue it was the sleeper hit of 1994. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, as seen above. But despite the positive reviews and desire for a Super Nintendo translation, it never materialized. Possibly it was because it would have been released a little too late in the system’s life span — the 32-bit “next gen” consoles were fast on the move by 1995. The other reason could be perhaps sales of World Heroes 2 on the SNES indicated diminishing returns.
It’s a shame it never came out because Jet introduced faster gameplay (hence the name), 2 new playable characters (Jack and Ryofu) and brand new special moves for certain fighters. Janne for example now has a stunning phoenix attack. Jack, by the way, was based off the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper.
For fans of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Ryofu was based off legendary warlord, Lu Bu.
World Heroes will forever hold a special place in my gaming heart. Oh, and oddly enough, there WAS a port of World Heroes 2 Jet… on the Game Boy of all systems!
The fighters have adopted a cute chibi look. Surprisingly, all 16 characters remain intact. For a Game Boy port, it plays amazingly well. It makes me only wonder even more how great a Super Nintendo port would have been. But hey… technically… you can hook this game up to a Super Game Boy and play World Heroes 2 Jet on a Super Nintendo. Fact: I have done that before and it is quite a damn good fighting game. I just wish it received the full 16-bit SNES treatment!
#16: TOP HUNTER
A delightful 2 player romp, Top Hunter is unique among its peers for a few reasons. The first being that you can execute special moves with Street Fighter II-esque commands. There are also super special moves because it was 1994 and why not? Another cool feature is the ability to switch between the foreground and background. These aspects added some depth to what would have otherwise been another side-scrolling co-op action platformer. Oh, and some of those bosses are crazy!
The SNES has its fair share of fun co-op games; Top Hunter would have fit in beautifully. The graphics are quite detailed so there definitely would have been a dip there. But I like to think the SNES could have handled some version of this game in a satisfying manner.
It did come out in the summer of 1994 though, and that period seems to be a cut-off point for the SNES. By virtue of the fact that by the time a port of a mid ’94 arcade game is ready for release on the SNES, it’d be spring or even summer of 1995. By then the 32-bit monsters were already gnawing at the door. Perhaps developers and publishers alike knew it did not make sense from a cost-effective perspective.
Whatever the reason may be, I think we can all agree Top Hunter would have been a welcome addition to the Super Nintendo’s amazing library!
#15: BUCKY O’HARE
As a kid growing up during the peak of Saturday morning cartoons, I was lucky to witness many fantastic shows. From Transformers to ThunderCats, I gobbled them all up like a sugary bowl of frosted cereal. There were many lesser known and underrated cartoons that flew under the radar, however. In late 1991, I was introduced to Bucky O’Hare. Based off a comic series in the mid ’80s, I fell in love with the quirky characters and space-based battles. Not surprisingly, like many cartoons during that time, someone snatched the right to make a video game out of it.
Even better, that company was Konami. In such reliable hands, Bucky O’Hare was a terrific 4 player shoot ‘em up that would have been great on the SNES, even as a 2 player game. But, we all know how that turned out…
Curiously, Konami did release a Bucky O’Hare game on the 8-bit NES in early 1992. It’s often cited as one of the system’s best “hidden gems.” While I’m happy Konami gave us that stellar game, I’m also a bit saddened that they never made a Super Nintendo version of any kind. Bummer indeed!
#14: WILD WEST C.O.W.-BOYS OF MOO MESA
They say the only things certain in life are death and taxes. Add to that Konami making badass games out of cartoon IPs during the early ’90s. The cartoon series made its debut in September of 1992; the arcade game came out only 2 months later. I remember watching the cartoon. It was one of those shows I always wanted to like more than what I actually did. The arcade game, on the other hand, did not disappoint whatsoever.
With up to 4 player simultaneous mayhem, Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa was a rollicking good time. It plays similarly to Konami’s other run and gun, Sunset Riders. Some people even see this as sort of a spiritual successor. Alls I know is it’s yet another stellar Konami game from the early 1990s. What else is new?
The fact that Sunset Riders (September ’91) received a SNES port (October ’93) and a DAMN GOOD one at that… makes this omission a harder pill to swallow. But it makes sense when you factor in that the show went off the air in late ’93, and a port would have been released no earlier than ’94. Unless it’s a super popular IP, such things can have a short shelf life with only a small window to capitalize.
“This town ain’t big enough for both of us,” the old saying goes. That rang true as only Sunset Riders saw a SNES home port. Forced to pick one, I can’t argue with Konami. I just wish there was room for both.
#13: BASEBALL STARS II
One of the most beloved baseball games of all time, Baseball Stars II is loads of fun. Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball is my favorite baseball game of all time, but Baseball Stars II gives Griffey a run for its money.
We could only imagine how awesome a 16-bit port would have been. Sadly, that was a swing and miss… [I see what you did there -Ed.]
#12: CADILLACS AND DINOSAURS
In the early ’90s Capcom could seemingly do no wrong. That continued with Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, a wild beat ‘em up that, much like the name suggests, affords you the opportunity to drive fancy Cadillacs and beat up agitated dinosaurs. It was simple and so, SO ’90s. It was perfect.
There are few things I enjoy more than some classic run and gun action. Contra was always one of my favorite NES games. And Contra III: The Alien Wars was perhaps even better! Cyber-Lip is definitely no Contra, but man would I have loved to play this in the comfort of my living room back in the early ’90s.
Released in November of 1990, this is the oldest game on my list. The Super Famicom just made its debut over in Japan during that time. Imagine Cyber-Lip as an early launch title to go along with the Super Nintendo in North America circa September 1991! The units it would have sold… what a missed opportunity.
Featuring some of the most memorable and craziest looking bosses I’ve ever seen, Cyber-Lip left a definite impression on me. More than 30 years later, some of those unforgettable visuals are still vividly seared in my mind. Seriously, whoever created that boss design above is one sick and twisted individual. There are better examples of this type of game out there, but to me few are as nostalgic!
Ever since playing NES games such as Rygar and Yo-Noid, I’ve always been a fan of games where your main weapon is either a yo-yo or a boomerang-like weapon. Data East’s Spinmaster satisfied that itch and more!
I couldn’t help but stop and gawk at this game anytime I came across it in the arcades back in late 1993. The graphics were so rich and colorful. It looked like a Saturday morning cartoon come to life. There’s something about the aesthetics of Spinmaster that really speak to me. And it just looks like the kind of game that would have fit perfectly on the SNES! Toned down of course, as was always the case with arcade conversions, but still capturing the essence of the arcade original.
Data East was a solid company back in the ’90s. They weren’t on that magical Capcom or Konami tier, but you could almost always count on them to deliver something worth your precious quarters.
While Spinmaster may not top many people’s minds when talking about favorite arcade games from the ’90s, it’s one of those games that I always had to plop a quarter (or two) into whenever I spotted it in the wild. Be it some random pizza joint or even a laundromat, it was always fun to play especially with a friend fighting the good fight right beside you.
#9: NIGHT SLASHERS
Speaking of the devil Data East, in early 1993 they combined two of my most favorite things: horror and beat ‘em ups. And it was, as you can surmise, glorious. Who didn’t want to dispose of rotting zombies and various monsters of all sorts? It was bloody, brutal and simply splendid.
Unfortunately, like all games on this list, Night Slashers and the SNES were like two ships passing in the night. This was before Nintendo loosened up on their family friendly image circa mid-1994, allowing SNES games to take on more of a violent nature if need be. What a shame too, as this would have been a hell of a fun game to play at home with a friend.
One of my favorite arcade games in 1991, Vendetta by Konami is often times the game I have in mind whenever I think about beat ‘em ups. To me there’s just something quintessential about Vendetta that warms my beat ‘em up loving heart. For one, I love being able to play as either the clone of Mr. T or Hulk Hogan. Right off the top, you simply can’t beat that.
Another huge win for Vendetta were all the cool weapons littered throughout that you can use to even the odds. Knives, guns, spiked baseball bats, wooden crates, garbage cans, whips, beer bottles, chains, barrels, hell even bags of flour! As a kid it blew my mind the insane number of weapons available at your disposal. Vendetta was all about having a good time.
Up to 3 friends can join you for the mayhem and destruction. A Super Nintendo port would surely have been reduced to just 2 players, but it still would have been a blast. I loved all the locales too, with my favorite being a goddamn grocery store of all places. That’s the kind of ingenuity I want in my beat ‘em ups!
#7: SUPER PUZZLE FIGHTER II TURBO
Arriving in arcades in May of 1996, the SNES was already nearing life support in North America at that time. So one might think a conversion of Puzzle Fighter to be highly unlikely. I would agree had it NOT been for Capcom releasing an amazingly competent port of Street Fighter Alpha 2 on the SNES in late ’96. I could easily envision Capcom doing the old 1-2 punch combo releasing BOTH titles that holiday season as one last hurrah, but perhaps they decided instead to put all their SNES eggs into one basket. Puzzle Fighter pits Street Fighter and Darkstalkers characters against one another, all in the name of gem smashing supremacy.
Each of the 8 characters have their own gem patterns, which added to the game’s strategy and replay value. Chibi renditions of the fighters stand center stage and perform their special moves on one another when players execute big combos. It all added to the fun and charm of Puzzle Fighter. It’s one of those simple games that is easy to pick up but hard to put down.
And not being a particularly demanding game in terms of graphics and specs, I’m sure Capcom could have easily converted this for a quick buck for those still clinging to their SNES that holiday season of 1996 (surprisingly more people than you think because some were not ready, for one reason or another, to move on to the 32-bit systems just yet). I sure wish that were the case, because Puzzle Fighter would have given Tetris Attack a good run for its money as best puzzle game on the SNES!
#6: SAMURAI SHODOWN II
Samurai Shodown (known as Samurai Spirits in the Land of the Rising Sun) made waves when it landed on the arcade scene back in the glorious summer of 1993. Similar to Shogun Warriors (featured earlier on this list at #19), Samurai Shodown is set in feudal Japan with a focus on weapon-based combat. It caught many an eye with its unique aesthetics and atmosphere. The sound effects of swords clanging and slicing flesh were haunting! Even the smallest details, such as the whipping wind sound effect of Haohmaru’s tornado projectile, is seared in my memory bank nearly 30 (!) years on. A scaling effect had the camera zoom in when combatants were in proximity of each other, and would pull back to show the scope of the battlefield when the fighters were farther apart. Either view was awe-inspiring and further helped to separate Samurai Shodown from the rest of the fighting game pack.
With a fantastic foundation already in place, the sequel blew the door off the hinges with 4 new fighters, more special moves (including super special attacks with the RAGE meter), advanced techniques such as ducking and rolling, and easter eggs just to name a few. Samurai Shodown II was the pinnacle of fighting game nirvana in late 1994. That was around the same time the SNES received a decent (but not spectacular) port of the first Samurai Shodown. Gone was the scaling and humongous fighters. The fighters were sadly reduced to a pint size, and some censorship issues marred the SNES port. Still playable, but definitely missing some of the key aspects that made the arcade original so fun and special.
But as we saw with the SNES ports of Fatal Fury 2 and King of the Monsters 2, there are some examples of mediocre (or even awful) first ports in a series that received a far superior sequel port. I am of the mindset that Samurai Shodown II would have been one of the best fighting games on the SNES. Alas, the world shall never know.
#5: ELEVATOR ACTION RETURNS
Most of us who grew up gaming in the late ’80s are likely to remember Elevator Action on the 8-bit NES (although it began its life in the arcades in 1983). An interesting game in theory, I never quite liked it as much as I was hoping to. More than 10 years later (1994), Elevator Action Returns rectified all of the previous game’s shortcomings. The game I always pictured in my mind wanting the NES version to be finally came to fruition, and it was nothing short of amazing.
Taking on a grittier atmosphere, as one of 3 agents you navigate the various stages shifting elevators, blasting bad guys and blowing shit up. The game tickles the imagination in a way that most games can only dream of doing. Among the many things I love about this game are all the little touches, such as graffiti sprawled on the walls. My favorite being CRUSH THE OLD ORDER!!It really transports you to a far-flung dystopian world that’s corrupt beyond repair, dripping with evil and decay at every nook and cranny.
Few things are as satisfying as blowing up a box of explosives in a hallway and seeing a bad guy come out of the door right on cue, thereby setting himself aflame. Even better? Seeing his friends follow suit one after another, lighting each other up like a trail of birthday candles! Elevator Action Returns has a subtle sense of dark humor that adds to the overall enjoyment and really elevates it (sorry) above the rest. Who knew crushing enemies underneath an elevator could be so much damn fun?!
Best of all, you can save the world with a friend in tow. Each of the agents have their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as a special attack, to increase replay value. The game is short and sweet, and one I often revisit. Sega Saturn owners were lucky enough to receive a flawless port. It’s one of my top 10 Saturn favorites — I replayed it so much in the early-mid 2000’s and still play it once in a while to this very day.
Still, I would have loved to play Elevator Action Returns on the SNES back in the ’90s with my gaming pals. There aren’t enough quality 2 player run ‘n gun experiences on the SNES, and EAR would have been a much welcome addition.
#4: WWF WRESTLEFEST
I grew up watching the WWF religiously with my uncle, brother and best friend. I loved the larger than life characters and the zany circus world of professional wrestling. In the summer of 1991, we were graced with the presence of WWF WrestleFest at our local arcade. The huge sprites, the insanely colorful visuals and the ability to play as the heroes of my childhood (such as Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior) made WrestleFest a damn near religious experience.
WrestleFest quickly took on sort of a mythical status within my gaming crew in the early ’90s. As ardent wrestling geeks, we poured countless quarters into the machine as we punched, kicked, scratched and clawed our way to the top. It’s one of those special games that’s definitely in my Mount Rushmore of “Oh man, how I wish this came out on the SNES!”
It has some of the greatest aesthetics I’ve ever seen in any game, ever. The wrestlers were big and beefy just like they were in real life. The blue mats with the classic old school WWF logo really popped, and the short yellow energy bars (with red indicating the damage inflicted) made it visually very satisfying to look at. It’s exactly how I picture a WWF arcade game to look like (don’t get me started on the crappy aesthetics of WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game…)
Sadly our hopes and dreams were crushed when a home translation never materialized. Instead, SNES owners were “treated” to the very forgettable WWF Super WrestleMania. Some small form of redemption appeared in 1993 with WWF Royal Rumble and WWF Raw the following year, but neither could hold the jock strap of WrestleFest.
A Super Nintendo port would come with much (graphical) sacrifice, but I bet it would have been a competent effort easily worth one of our birthday or Christmas bullets. Alas, CARD SUBJECT TO CHANGE…
#3: THE SIMPSONS ARCADE GAME
In 1991, both The Simpsons and Konami were on fire. Neither could seemingly do any wrong. So when the two mega brands joined forces, you knew the end results would be nothing short of phenomenal. And that’s exactly what eager arcade goers got with (un)arguably one of the most memorable arcade games of all time.
Playing as one of either Homer, Marge, Bart or Lisa, The Simpsons Arcade Game perfectly captured the zaniness and wacky appeal of the popular cartoon show. Few things could rival corralling 3 buddies and bashing your way through Springfield.
I can’t tell you how many quarters my friends and I wasted lovingly spent on this game. It was just one of those games that whenever you saw the arcade cab, you JUST had to play it. There’s an instant pick up and play factor to it that reminds you of why you love video games so much. At their core, video games should be fun distractions that help to take your mind off the real world and transport you to a magical land where clogged six lane highways and bills don’t exist. Few did that better than The Simpsons Arcade Game.
Obviously, a SNES port would require some scaling back. No 4 player mode. Less animations. Lower quality of sound and visuals. All perfectly acceptable. My buddies and I were ready for the “inevitable” home port. Therefore, a small part of us collectively died when it sadly never did.
As much as never being able to play this on our SNES crushed us, there was another Konami brawler based off another highly popular IP that cut us even deeper…
In 1991 my friends and I were absolutely obsessed with Marvel’s 1991 trading cards. We bought packs like crazy at a local card shop by the name of Triple Play. Each pack, costing only $1, contained 12 cards. It was awesome because $1 was easy enough to wrangle from your parents on any given day. Then you’d head to Triple Play, buy a pack or 2, check out your new goodies and negotiate to trade away your doubles for that elusive card still missing in your ever growing collection. This, mind you, was all conducted while waiting excitedly for the Street Fighter II line off in the corner to die down. It was a foolproof recipe for a perfect lazy Sunday.
In early 1992 Konami dropped yet another gem, this time featuring the incomparable X-Men. To say that my friends and I were over the moon would be the understatement of the year. Up to 6 players can team up and take out Magneto and his vile lackeys. My ride or die character? Colossus. Always Colossus!
Confession time: There was a time in 1992 when I was being an outright prick. My friend and I used to cruise the arcade hall, and whenever we saw a little kid playing X-Men, I would walk right up to his control panel and spam the special attack button. This unleashes a powerful attack BUT at the expense of a little health. So I would basically drain the poor guy’s health bar to zilch and then he’d die in quick fashion. I remember doing this maybe 2 or 3 times, and laughing with my friend as we ran off. I don’t know why I did that — I’m certainly not proud of it and usually was a goody two shoes by all accounts. I guess it was a phase I went through and I just had to get it out of my system. To this day I can still see Colossus spamming his special attack. Poor kid. If you’re reading this, I apologize for being an asshole. I know it’s an apology 30 years too late, but yeah.
So I’ll take ownership and full responsibility. My terrible actions led to some bad karma, which then nixed any chance of a Super Nintendo port. At least Capcom gave us X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse in late 1994. It’s nowhere the same as the X-Men arcade game in terms of quality, but it was at least pretty solid in its own right. Hey, sometimes you gotta take what you can get, right?
The year was 1994. I was in the 5th grade and at the height of my childhood prime. Fighting games were still on top and my love for monsters and all things macabre were at an all-time high. So it was a match made in heaven (er, hell?) when Capcom released Darkstalkers in the summer of 1994. Featuring 10 monstrous characters, ranging from clones of Dracula to Frankenstein to a werewolf and more, it was a true monster mash of epic proportions.
To simply label Darkstalkers as “Street Fighter II but with monsters” would be doing it a gross disservice. It has its own distinct feel that made it so fun and unique to play. The visuals and aesthetics were all top-notch as we came to expect from Capcom in the ’90s. Hell, I can still hear the memorable music and sound effects loud and clear in my head to this very day.
Like many of the other games on this list, a SNES port would have been scaled down by a great degree. Fewer frames of animation, less vibrant colors and other sacrifices would have been necessary to fit it all on one tiny 16-bit cartridge. But I believe it could have been done successfully. The monsters would be smaller and the speech samples would have less impact but man would I have loved to play this on my SNES in 1995!
Some of the more gruesome parts, like Bishamon slicing his opponent in two, would need to be cut (sorry, no bad pun intended). But especially knowing what Capcom managed to pull out of the SNES with their stellar port of Street Fighter Alpha 2, Darkstalkers would have been a cinch for the Big C.
Capcom didn’t do much wrong in the ’90s or on the Super Nintendo, but never releasing a Darkstalkers port tops my very short list of things they misfired on. But given all the great SNES titles they bestowed upon us, this glaring omission is a forgivable sin. Still, a competent Darkstalkers port would probably have been one of the top 5 fighting games on the SNES.
Thankfully, many of the games on this list has been made playable on the Nintendo Switch. And there are few, if any, imperfections. Still, there’s no accounting for how priceless it would have been if all these games came out on the SNES when we were kids in the ’90s. Because even though all Super Nintendo ports of arcade games had some degree of flaws and warts, a good number of them managed to capture the feel and essence of what made their arcade counterpart so much damn fun to play. And it was that special feeling of bringing them home from the rental store (or Toys R Us) for the first time and being blown away that you were playing a variation of the arcade game you loved so much in the comfort of your very own living room. There was something pure and magical about that. It’s a time capsule to what is a very nostalgic period of our lives for many of us reading this. So long as the home port represented the arcade game moderately well, we were as ecstatic as vampires crashing a bloodmobile. So here’s to 30 years of the Super Nintendo kicking ass and taking names. What a damn fun journey it has been. But as great as it was, it would have been even better had these 20 games come out. Yet for all the great home ports we missed out on, let’s remember how lucky we have been over the past 30 years. To this day, the SNES for my money still boasts one of the best gaming libraries ever assembled. Happy 30 years, SNES!
This past week, within a 24 hour period, two massive icons — especially to those who grew up in the early to mid ’90s — celebrated their 30th anniversary. On November 21, 1990, the Super Famicom made its debut in Japan. The following day, November 22, 1990, the Undertaker made his debut at the 1990 Survivor Series. A whopping 30 years later, both the Super Nintendo and the Undertaker live on in the hearts and living rooms across the globe. What an amazing 30 years it has been, and I can’t think of a better way to toast these two icons than to review a wrestling game featuring the Undertaker that came out exclusively for the Super Famicom. But before we get to that…
THE BIRTH OF A LEGEND
It’s hard to fathom that 30 years ago, the Super Famicom made its splashy debut in Japan. Damn, are we getting old or what? I remember when the 8-bit NES turned 30. I felt old enough then, but the Super Nintendo now being 30? Dang. Where does the time go? Thank you for 3 decades of terrific memories.
The following day, November 22, 1990, the 4th Annual Survivor Series took place in Hartford, Connecticut. The Million Dollar Team had a mysterious fourth member. Who was it going to be? I remember my brother and friends talking all about it for weeks on end. It was an exciting mystery.
I’ll never forget when The Undertaker first came out. He was a towering titan. He looked scary and sinister. And Roddy “Rowdy” Piper punctuated the moment perfectly by screaming, “LOOK AT THE SIZE OF DAT HAMHOCK!” (You just don’t hear cool shit like that anymore these days).
Man, look at the legends in the ring there. The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Koko B. Ware, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, Bret “The Hitman” Hart… geez, how cool was wrestling back in 1990?
The Undertaker quickly established his dominance as he took out the opposition one opponent at a time. What a badass. You knew right away he was the real deal.
Back in 2007, one of my earliest articles I wrote was about the connection the Super Nintendo and the Undertaker share. It’s wild knowing that both entities are now celebrating 3 decades. The fans have never forgotten either one of them over the past 30 years.
There is an English fan translation available to make it much more accessible.
There are a lot of different options. My personal favorite is the Battle mode, which lets 6 wrestlers duke it out for total supremacy.
One of the cool aspects of Burning Pro Wrestling is the ability to run diagonally. This gives a wrinkle to how you can dismantle your opposition, and is not featured in any other SNES wrestling game that I know of. Here, we see the Undertaker’s signature flying clothesline, just like we’ve seen throughout the past 3 decades!
Unfortunately, Hulk Hogan broke up the 3 count. I’ll get you your receipt later, Hulkster. Meanwhile, Hayabusa has “hulked up” and is temporarily impervious to pain. This special feature can happen to any character. Even Taker’s flying clothesline bounces off Hayabusa harmlessly. It’s a pretty neat feature that other SNES wrestling games did not have.
The Nature Boy Ric Flair is the first to be eliminated. The Dead Man delivers a picture perfect DDT on Hayabusa. That looks absolutely painful.
My revenge tour on Hogan begins! Take a flying clothesline, sucka!
Taker too slow for the save on Sting. I guess that’s one dream match that will have to remain in our wrestling dreams. Damn you, Vince! Should have done it at WrestleMania 31 in 2015! Alas, I digress.
Hayabusa reenters the ring as I’m about to take off the Hulkster’s head.
Somewhere JBL is wincing and green with envy. Those 24 inch pythons have knocked Hayabusa out of the match… leaving it to the Hulkster and the Dead Man. Of course, right? It had to end with these two titans.
Gekitou Burning Pro Wrestling is a fun addition to the SNES wrestling catalog. I played it with my wife earlier this week, and she said she enjoyed it more than Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling 2: 3-4 Bodoukan, which I consider to be a very fine and accessible wrestling game. Somehow, Burning Pro flows a little better for her. It’s definitely simpler. It’s just a fun game that’s based on timing rather than who can mash the buttons faster. I definitely appreciate that. If you’re looking for a fun alternative to Fire Pro and Zen Nippon, give this game a shot! It’s a shame we didn’t get Burning Pro Wrestling in America circa, say, 1993. It would be lionized to this day if that were the case.
Happy 30th Anniversary once again to the Super Famicom and the Undertaker! Two GOATs in their respective industries, indeed. Thanks for all the memories!
Wow, it’s hard to believe we’re now in the year 2020, and even harder for me to fathom that RVGFanatic turned 13 years old earlier this month on January 7, 2020. My baby is now a teenager! But in all seriousness, with well over 200 SNES reviews and a slew of random articles written over the past 13 years, it’s been quite the ride. Usually, I would probably roll out some kind of retrospective, but there’s been plenty enough of thoseover the years! Instead, I’m going to repost (and slightly retweak) one of my earliest articles from my original site: Craigslist Memoirs. There will be a small update at the very end, because just earlier today, January 30, 2020… I had my first Craigslist transaction for the first time in over 12 years! Enjoy this trip down memory lane…
1. OLD FRIENDS AND OLD GAMES Saturday, March 25, 2006 @ 12:27 PM
In January 2006 I was struck hard by an overwhelming desire to revisit my childhood in the form of one, the Super Nintendo. There were so many great games from my youth I wanted to play again and even more that I always wanted to play back in the ’90s but never did. Early 2006 was a special time. Most SNES games sold for a measly $5. There was a paucity of nostalgic collectors back then; the market had yet to explode. It was a classic case of right place, right time. I acquired most of my SNES games on the internet, but I also bought more than my fair share in real life. And there’s something special about that. It’s kind of like playing a video game with your buddies in the same room rather than online play. There’s a purity to the real life exchange that simply can’t be beat. I’ve had some great deals and met some interesting cats in those early days of 2006. One of my favorite memories was the day I ran into an old college acquaintance while out hunting.
March 25, 2006. 12:27 PM. Two months into my SNES resurrection, I left my house that Saturday afternoon full of hope and optimism. Burnt out on Saturn gaming, it was during a long University winter break that the urge to play my childhood favorites, and discover the gems that I missed back in the day, hit me like a ton of bricks. But I digress. Back to March 25. The night before I made my local rounds on Craigslist and found an ad of some guy liquidating all his old 16-bit games. I emailed him and he promptly replied, asking me to come visit his store (a good 45 minute drive both ways) on Saturday to browse his selection. He promised to give me a good deal.
And so the next morning I was off on yet another trek. I fondly recall those early hunting days. There was sort of a magic to it all… like the possibility that anything could happen and any game on my want list was lying out in the open. Having a want list of literally hundreds meant a good chance I was always going to find something. It was a peaceful spring Saturday morning. Listening to my blaring music, windows rolled down, driving all over town to reclaim bits and pieces of my childhood… there was something very ‘romantic’ about those early days.
Upon my arrival I met Aaron, the guy whom I had been in contact with. He looked oddly familiar… I couldn’t escape the feeling that I’d seen this fool somewhere before. As I browsed his SNES offerings it suddenly hit me. I had a college class with him back in the spring of 2002! In fact, we were groupmates for the final! How’s that for a weird little story? It had to be destiny.
He was looking at me sort of funny too. It had been four years since we seen each other. As we looked at each other my memory started flowing back to me. For our Final we had to share with the class something we were passionate about (it was a rec class). I talked about my love for playing basketball. At that time my love with the game was at its peak (thanks largely to Coach Butler and 9/11). Meanwhile, Aaron shared with the class his passion for video games, which included Nintendo, Sega and even the Atari Jaguar.
As I stood there recalling to myself exactly who this guy was, as if on cue, he came over to break my train of introspective thought.
“Finding everything good?”
I answered his question with a question of my own. “Hey man, didn’t we take a rec class together in college like four years back?”
“Man, I knew you looked familiar! … Steve, right? Yeah I totally remember that class… easiest A+ of my life! How the hell ya been?”
We chewed the fat for a while. So random and crazy! Turns out Aaron’s dream has always been to own his very own game store. And at just 22 years young, he was the manager of this little gaming store. I was happy for him. We were never best buddies in college but we were cool, and just seeing him randomly on this day and finding out that he achieved his dream at just 22 years old, that was sweet. It’s always nice to run into an old face and find them doing well in the game of life.
I eventually brought these four games to the counter. I was so excited to dig up Knights of the Round; it was my first time in two months spotting a copy in the wild. Such good childhood memories spent playing it and Super Baseball 2020, which I also bought and ironically it’s now actually the year 2020 — hey where are my robot baseball players?! Never got to play the SNES port of Power Instinct but I always wanted to. Aaron gave me a good deal. Knights of the Round was priced at $8 but he sold it for $6. Power Instinct was $8 but he took $4. Super Baseball 2020 went for just a measly $1 (!) and Super Soccer Champ ran $2.
What a wild trip, all courtesy of my checking Craigslist the night before. Little did I know I would run into an old face from my early college days, see that he was doing well and that life had been good to him, and get a nice little deal in the process. Driving home that Saturday afternoon, I rolled down the windows with the radio blaring. There was such a feeling of excitement in the air back in those early days of retro game hunting. It was a fascinating time in my life; I was getting ready to wrap up college and look to the future, yet at the same time I was also looking to the past. Glancing over at the four games sitting on my passenger seat, a big fat smile crossed my face as old fond memories of playing them began surfacing. It was the perfect drive home. Those early hunting days… man, I’ll never forget those exuberant days. The feeling of excitement in the air… reclaiming my childhood… running into old faces… crossing want after want off the list. Good times indeed they were.
2. MY NEXT (SHADOW)RUN
Sunday, March 26, 2006 @ 4:45 PM
No rest for the nostalgic! The very next day I drove out 45 minutes to meet a guy for Shadowrun. At the time it was going for about $15-$20 and the guy was offering it for $10. It wasn’t the greatest deal factoring in gas, so why did I do it? It was a lazy Sunday late afternoon and I felt like going for a drive, hitting up the local Game Crazy stores in that region and looking for more SNES games to add to the ever growing library. At that time, I was just a couple months into my Super Nintendo resurrection. There were two Game Crazy locations near his place, and I knew even if I found nothing, I still had Shadowrun to come home with. Good stuff, I figured. At the second Game Crazy I bought Inspector Gadget for $5.39, which was a harder to find game and a decent deal at the time. It wasn’t mint but that was alright by me. I was just happy to cross off yet another want.
Then I drove to his place to pick up Shadowrun. His house was on this lone stretch of road, kind of isolated and in the middle of nowhere. I was a bit paranoid at first naturally, but at no point did my “alarm in my gut” go off. Thus, I kept proceeding… of course, maybe I was just young and (game) crazy. Just normal slight paranoia, I told myself. But it was getting dark…
As I pulled up this long stretch of road, I saw him walking out of the driveway. He looked nothing like what I imagined, based on our phone calls. Scruffy looking fella in his mid 20s. I handed him a $10 bill, he handed me Shadowrun (which was in great condition), we thanked each other and I drove away, happy to be heading home at long last. It was a scenic drive and I had no idea that first weekend of Craigslist dealings would lead to a spring and summer full of them…
3. RAINING GHOULS ‘N GHOSTS
Friday March 31, 2006 @ 3 PM
Less than one week removed from my first Craigslist dealing, I was back at it again. This time it was a 20 minute drive. I was going to meet Kevin to buy some Genesis games for $20. Based on the titles he had, it was a hell of a deal. In February 2006, I bought a Genesis to complete my 16-bit journey. I felt it was only natural. However, no sooner than 7 months later, I sold my Genesis and all 130 games. I just couldn’t get back into it like I hoped — not like how I did with the SNES. The last Genesis game I sold? Ghouls ‘N Ghosts — one of the games Kevin sold me. I suppose it was only fitting. But I digress.
Kevin and I met up at a local grocery store. I remember it well. It was 3 PM on a Friday afternoon, and it was raining cats and dogs (or ghouls and ghosts, if you will). I met Kevin in the parking lot. He waved over to me as he sat in his red Toyota pick-up. I suppose he could tell who I was based on my nostalgic (and searching) eyes. Standing outside his truck, umbrella in hand, I watched as he spoke fondly of the games he was selling to me, mentioning how they had been sitting up in his attic for years and years now, and how they were all purchased brand new back in the day. A small cute beagle stood on the passenger seat, its head tilted as it looked at me quizzically. I bought all five games for $20.
Kevin told me these games were bought back when they first came out. He told me how much he loved them but alas it was time to move on. He picked up Ghouls ‘N Ghosts specifically and said, “This is one of the best games I’ve ever played.”
It was this experience that really tuned me into what Craigslist was all about. There are a ton of older guys out there, who still have their old games lying around in the attic somewhere. They just don’t have the time or energy to list them on eBay, so instead dump them on Craigslist in hopes of selling them off quick and easy. Usually looking for the first suitor. And not really looking for equal value either.
So there I was, holding an umbrella as the rain was cascading like crazy. As I handed him a twenty, he told me how happy he felt knowing that no longer would these games collect dust and someone was finally going to play these masterpieces once again.
I’ll always remember this because it was a great deal, sure, but it was nice to meet the people behind the games as well. It’s the human element — something you can’t get through eBay.
Two days later… I had my fourth Craigslist experience, and boy… was that one something else…
4. THE PAUL GIAMATTI EXPERIENCE
Sunday, April 2, 2006 @ 2:25 PM
Around this time I was going through the final stages of getting rid of some excess Saturn games. 23 American games in their bulky cases to be precise. Saturn fans KNOW what a big pain in the butt such an ordeal would be. 1). These largely common and unwanted games have a value of very little 2). Their bulky fragile cases make it a bitch to ship and not break.
So after my three successful Craigslist romps, on Saturday April the first I posted an ad of said undesirable games. Chris called me Sunday morning around 10. He and I agreed on the price of $125. I was pretty shocked, because that was WAY better than I was hoping for! That meant I would get about $5.43 per title. Factoring in 1). he’s coming here 2). I don’t have to spend time packaging the games 3). or spend money on shipping — I was over the moon with his offer. I don’t know why he wanted such bad games, but he was clearly a Saturn fanatic who wanted to round out his collection with the more fringe titles of its library. AKA exactly who I was back in the early to mid 2000’s.
I was waiting outside my house talking to a friend on the phone. At 2:25 he pulled up with his girlfriend. She stayed in the car while he walked up to my porch to greet me. Wow. He looked EXACTLY like the actor Paul Giamatti. In fact, I was almost expecting Thomas Haden Church to come popping out of the backseat going, “C’MON MILES! LET’S GO FIND SOME CHICKS!”
I had the box of 23 Saturn titles lined out for him. As he sat down to further examine the box, he and I chatted about the Sega Saturn. He asked if I had Panzer Dragoon Saga — assuming I might be one of those ex-gamers with “gold in the attic.” I told him I had it but it wasn’t for sale At the time it was going for around $150 for a complete mint copy. I just did a quick eBay check and in 2020 it goes for around $850!
Halfway through the process he told me, “Wow you’ve kept these in great shape.” He looked like a kid in a candy store as he was opening each case, removing the disc and examining them up to the light.
I just love when everything fits perfectly, like those games did in that box. I threw in some extras for him. He asked if I had any blank cases for sale with no cracks. I had five, sold him each for a buck. So in all, I walked away with $130, a lot less clutter off my mind and another memorable experience courtesy of Craigslist.
Before he left, I asked him if the lady waiting in his car was his wife. He looked at me and said with a smile “I’m hoping so.” I wished him the very best and watched as he carried the box to his trunk. His girlfriend waved at me and I waved back. What nice people.
Another awesome Craigslist deal in the books. It’s more than simply exchanging goods, although that is the main goal. The rest is a mere bonus if you meet a guy as nice as Paul, er, Chris!
5. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASS… MAGAZINES
Sunday, July 23, 2006 @ High Noon
Looking back on it all, I definitely wouldn’t do that today. I think it had a lot to do with being young and dumb. I was a lot bolder then, willing to drive long distances and meet God knows who in the name of immortalizing my childhood. It was just the excitement of getting back in the fandom, getting out there and reclaiming bits and pieces of my childhood. Safety was not a priority — getting the goods was. Like I said, there was an energy and buzz to those early hunting days that will never be replicated, and I’m glad those days are over with. I’m so happy to be retired from collecting video games. I got back at a good time too, when things were still cheap and affordable. Prices these days are outrageous!
Here are some of the magazines and guides the guy sold me:
Back in the late ’80s to early-mid ’90s, Suncoast was a staple of my childhood. It was always the first store I visited whenever my mom or dad took me to the local mall. It was en route to other classics such as SOFTWARE ETC., Walden Books, B. Dalton, Sam Goody, and of course, the awesome CYBERSTATION arcade hall on the upstairs wing.
Upon hitting Suncoast, I would raid their vast horror and Sci-Fi section, drooling over the mesmerizing horror movie boxes and reading the back of every Godzilla VHS box I could find. There was a definite sense of idyllic innocence to those olden days that a small part of me still misses to this day. Jeff Rovin’s Monsters book was one that my friends and I devoured each time they visited my house. Fun times
The seller and I flipped through each guide as we reminisced about the good old days. We exchanged shared memories and the like. It was an incredible stroll down memory lane. The final guide at the bottom of the box was Chrono Trigger. He flipped his lid when he saw it, admiring it for what felt like an eternity.
“A whole decade ago,” he started. “A whole summer bro. Summer of ’96… was totally devoted to this game. This guide helped me like you wouldn’t believe. Have you played Chrono Trigger before?”
“WHAT?! Oh man, are you in for a treat. Damn. I’m jealous. I wish I could play this again for the very first time. You’re gonna have a blast with it.”
We stood there further recollecting past gaming memories, and how fast the years go on by. Finally, the discussion of price came up.
“I tell you what, you can have everything for twenty five bucks.”
Twenty five dollars?! Nice.
“Wow, that’s a great deal. Thank you bro.”
“Ah don’t worry about that. I know they’re going to a good home, and that’s all I could ever ask for them,” he smiled. “Someone who will love ‘em as much as I once did. That’s what it’s all about.”
Hell! The Chrono Trigger guide, which I was looking for at the time, one ended at $40 on eBay a few weeks earlier! He helped me carry the two boxes to my trunk, which included the crapload of Nintendo Power magazines from their glory 16-Bit days (not shown).
We chatted for another minute before I told him to enjoy the surprise birthday party later tonight which he had mentioned during our conversation earlier. He told me to take care of the guides. It was another great Craigslist story.
I cannot begin to describe what it was like driving home that day. It wasn’t just the incredible deal he gave me… it was the sheer experience itself. You definitely can’t get that human connection through online purchasing. Oh, and I finally did play Chrono Trigger not that long after. What a game indeed…
6. THE GREAT EGM SCORE
Wednesday, May 16, 2007 @ 4 PM
This was it. The final Craigslist transaction of my career (or so it was for 12+ years). I owned all the EGM issues from 1992-1994 but was missing much of 1995. Randomly one night I decided to browse Craigslist. As luck would have it, I found a guy selling off his old EGM issues, all of which were mint and even still had the wrapper. He sold me 16 issues for $29. I was happy and at this point in mid 2007, I was pretty much done with my collection. It was a good way to go out.
EGM’s quality started to decline in 1995, but they were still a decent read. I actually thought they were decent up through 2003. But I digress. I bought this lot mainly for the ’95 issues, but I didn’t mind the mint ’94 doubles.
7. THE REUNION Thursday, January 30, 2020 @ 4:30 PM
As readers may know, I’ve been on a major book binge as of late. I’ve always loved books as a kid and last year, I rekindled that love. So one night I decided to hit Craigslist randomly to see what books I might find. I found someone selling the Spy School series by Stuart Gibbs. It’s a popular series for middle grade readers. We agreed to meet outside a local post office.
She was a nice lady and the transaction took all of 15 seconds. We greeted briefly, I handed her a 20 and we thanked each other. It was a crazy day because my girlfriend JUST moved in last night. I wanted to get home to make sure she was adjusting OK but she told me to take my sweet time and do what I need to do. There was a local bookstore nearby that I hadn’t visited yet, and it advertised used books for cheap. I spent about an hour there and by the time I drove back in town it was dark already. I decided to buy pizza for me and my girlfriend. Getting out of the car, I saw a lady in her mid 30s disciplining her son, who looked to be 7 or 8 years old. She was laying into him pretty harshly, and I remember thinking to myself, “DAMN. I wonder what that kid did to deserve that!”
I head into the store and the cashier tells me my pizza is about 5 minutes away. Then the door opens and in walks the same lady who was yelling at her son just half a minute ago. She looked oddly familiar, and the pizza place has a screen where their patrons’ names are listed. She was listed as “Judy.” Oh my gosh, could it be? Judy from high school?! My biggest crush senior year!?
I looked at her. “Judy??”
She looked back. “Yeah… hey! Oh my God, Steve!?”
What followed was a lot of life updates and reminiscing for the next 5 minutes that we both waited for our pizzas. It was our first time seeing each other in damn near 20 years! She married her high school sweetheart, has two kids and the whole nine. I was so happy for her, and she was so happy for me that my girlfriend just moved in last night. What a random and crazy experience! What a way to close out my Craigslist career. You really can’t top that one!
Before there was Final Fantasy III (AKA Final Fantasy VI)… following Final Fantasy II (AKA Final Fantasy IV)… was Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest. It was a sidestep in the beloved franchise, being an entry level based RPG aimed toward a younger crowd (and those new to the genre). It has been deemed by some as the black sheep of the Final Fantasy family; some go as far as to call it an albatross and a waste of cartridge space. But surely, being from Square during their hey day, it can’t be THAT bad, can it?
Of course, as it often is the case, with one extreme you have the flip side. There are many Mystic Quest defenders who not only proclaim that this game isn’t bad but rather it’s actually pretty good. As it is with many things in life, there’s only one way you can find out for certain: by experiencing it yourself. And way back 12 years ago, during the Christmas season of 2007, I set out to do just that.
RPG: REAL POOR GAMES?
Growing up I was a huge fan of any game that granted instant explicit gratification from the moment I pressed start. Fighting and action games were my main go-to genres when it came to video games back in the ’90s. My brother, on the other hand, was obsessed with RPGs. I never could understand why as a kid. Why would anyone want to spend all day conversing with boring townsfolk, or engage in slow, plodding turn-based combat? What the heck is SO appealing about that, my 10 year old brain at the time wondered. I couldn’t figure it out. As far as I was concerned 25 years ago, the acronym “RPG” might as well stand for “Real Poor Games.” But in late 2003, SEGA SATURN MAGAZINE’s constant championing of RPGs slowly but surely opened up my eyes. Suddenly, and for the first time in my life, I began to see RPGs in a new light. It didn’t take me long to procure all the Sega Saturn RPGs, from Albert Odyssey to Panzer Dragoon Saga. Sadly, I never got around to playing any of them thoroughly. Flash forward to January 2006. Upon rediscovering my childhood love, the Super Nintendo, I was determined to finally beat my first RPG. Super Mario RPG perhaps? EarthBound? Chrono Trigger? None of those, actually. I knew in my heart my first RPG could only be… FINAL FANTASY: MYSTIC QUEST.
Sure I had read some negative opinions on it and heard through the grapevine it wasn’t worth playing, but that didn’t sway me one bit. Ever since I first laid eyes on the Mystic Quest blurb in EGM issue #43 (February 1993), part of me was always a bit curious about it, despite my disdain of RPGs even back then. There was just something about Mystic Quest that appealed to me and stood out from other RPGs. I guess part of it was the whole training wheels approach. I’d decided that if I were to ever play RPGs, Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest would be the very first. Besides, it’s not a bad idea to start at the “bottom” and work your way up. This whole SNES resurgence of mine was another chance at gaming redemption and fulfilling the wavering fantasies of my youth. In December of 2007, I decided it was time to finally quell a near 15 year curiosity. Having experienced the likes of Brandish, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Soul Blazer (and enjoying those adventures immensely), the time had come to ‘level up’ and conquer my very first RPG. All things considered, I can’t think of a more “perfect” RPG to begin with.
THE STORY GOES…
For centuries the Focus Tower stood at the very heart of the World. It had been a center for trade and knowledge, and the people of the World met there to peacefully settle their differences. But on one warm summer day, the Tower was suddenly transformed into a symbol of the purest evil. For on that day, vile monsters battled their way into the Tower, stole the four Crystals of the Earth, and took off with the magical Coins that had kept the Tower’s doors unlocked.
With the Tower doors sealed behind them, the monsters relaxed their guard and turned their attention to the Crystals. As they basked in the radiant glow of the Crystals, the monsters grew stronger and even more wicked than they already were. The more light the monsters consumed, the more the World was drained of its warmth and color. Tremors soon shook the land. The sky grew cloudy and dark. The seasons went berserk. Monsters then appeared everywhere and terrorized the people. The World was thrown into total chaos. Something had to be done. A hero was much needed…
Enter Benjamin, the most normal youngster you could imagine. Like most responsible villagers his age, he arose at the crack of dawn to lead his family’s livestock to the upper meadow to graze. Other kids teased him because he read while tending his herd, and because a village Elder had taken him in as a promising student. Although he seemed mature beyond his years, he still dreamed of being more than he was: faster, stronger and more daring.
USE YOUR HEAD, SON
In battle mode you can attack with your weapon or by conjuring a variety of magic spells. Spells are usually stronger but eat up magic points. Also, some enemies are immune to certain spells, further adding to the strategy. Gotta use your noggin’ a little bit!
Starting out at the Focus Tower, before all is said and done you’ll travel to 29 regions, ranging from ice pyramids to volcano mines. Unoriginal but hey, all the classic themes are represented.
Having the novice RPG player in mind, your movement on the overworld map has been simplified. You’re quite restricted but at least you’ll never get lost.
Your party can only contain two members at any one time, and not by your choice. Along the journey various characters will join you for different reasons. Discover many items, weapons, magic spells and armor. It’s nowhere as extensive as other RPGs, but again, this was made with the novice in mind. Let the journey begin!
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
Follow the old geezer and leap safely to the other mountain before the one you’re on crumbles. Unlike many other RPGs, you can jump in Mystic Quest. Jumping serves a very handy purpose.
“Look over there. That’s the Focus Tower, once the heart of the World. An old Prophecy says, “The vile four will steal the Power, and divide the World behind four doors. At that time the Knight will appear!” The Prophecy has now come true. Four monsters have locked the doors of the Focus Tower and escaped with the keys. They’re draining the light from the 4 Crystals of the Earth, and the World is in chaos. The people are in extreme desperate need of help. STEVE, only you can save the Crystals and the World, AND ONLY YOU.”
But before the Old Man and Steve can chat some more, BEHEMOTH shows up! The screen shakes and roars. It’s time for Steve to prove his worth…
You have the option to attack, use an item or spell, or defend yourself.
After your choice of command is selected, a big yellow square appears on-screen. Place it over any enemy, yourself or your traveling companion, in case of using the Cure spell, f’rinstance.
Occasionally, a critical hit occurs, accompanied by a flash. Triple damage!
Ah, the infamous heroic shrug of our main chap! It adds an enjoyable and quirky touch to the festivities. Any time that Steve is confused [Oh boy -Ed.], he’ll look at you and give a stumped shrug of the shoulders.
“That depends. What do I get out of it, gramps?”
“… Something more valuable than your eyes will ever believe!”
“Precisely. No! I mean uhhh… something beyond your wildest dreams!”
“I’m just fuckin’ with ya. My pleasure! Step aside.”
“A withered piece of wood… gee… thanks…”
“Silly kid. Open your eyes, and open your heart. Then find the young girl in Foresta. The rest is up to you, son…”
“Okaaaaay. That was not creepy at all.”
Treasure chests are littered across the land. Items actually regenerate, so you can abuse the system if you so desire. Cures are invaluable [You don’t say -Ed.]
Speaking of cures, there’s a certain bed in a certain town that won’t cost you a dime and will fully recuperate our hero. Judging by the look of ecstasy on his face, I think he did more than take a nap, if ya know what I mean.
Well, you heard the old fart — off to Foresta with the Tree Wither in hand.
Some folks give you a valuable clue to progress the story while others simply add to the atmosphere of the town, and ultimately, the game itself.
“KAELI! Don’t you dare storm off with this stranger! You DO remember what happened last time, don’t you?”
“Awww, mom. Look, I have to do this. I hope you’ll understand some day.”
“Yes yes, down a little more, Steve. You’re doing very well my son!”
“No, up some more now. Up up, THERE ya go.”
“On second thought, it’d look real nice to the right…”
One thing I hated about RPGs as a kid whenever I watched my brother play were the insane amount of random enemy encounters. Sometimes it seems like you can’t take 3 steps without the screen flashing into battle. In Mystic Quest however, there are no surprises since all enemies are shown on-screen. In the words of Borat, “IZZ NICE!!”
Speaking of cool touches, here’s another one. This is a typical enemy screen in any RPG, no? Sure but…
Wait, what’s that? Yep, enemies show wear and tear as the battle progresses. Some of the weakened states are rather amusing to behold, such as the band-aid this goof sports. What a git!
Unfortunately for our diplomatic hero and lovely heroine, their moment is shattered by the appearance of a most vile creature.
Scattered across the land are battlefields. These regions host monsters dwelling deep below the surface. Not only do you gain experience points from killing the monsters, but you may win key items as well. You don’t have to fight them all at once, so make sure you heal up when your health runs low before reengaging in battle.
See the importance of clearing out the battlefields? Here you’ve won the Charm Necklace, which protects you against *drum roll* charm attacks. Don’t be a sorry wimp, kill ‘em all — courage and bravado pays off!
“I just wish I knew what was inside that temple…”
“YOU ARE INSIDE IT! IT IS THE PLACE OF LOST SOULS. ALL NEW SPIRITS MUST PASS THROUGH THERE…”
“But we’re not dead!”
“OOPS. WELL, NOBODY’S PERFECT YA KNOW. OH, AND BY THE WAY, NO ONE STILL ALIVE HAS EVER COME OUTTA THERE IN ONE PIECE!”
Ah, Ghostbusters. What a big fun part of my childhood you were.
TRISTAM TEAMS UP!
As Steve is confused and perplexed [what else is new -Ed.], a strange fella appears seemingly out of nowhere. Who is he, and what are his motives?
Personally, I enjoy taking my time and not rushing to the exit or end of a game. Taking side trips to stock up on items and such makes the game easier not to mention more enjoyable for me. I like taking my time and exploring the game’s world!
This ugly Sand Worm (Beetlejuice, anybody?) is basic yet effective at conveying the kind of nasties you’ll be up against. Just wait until you see some of the boss characters. The graphics won’t blow anyone away, but they get the job done.
Loading up on Tristam’s ninja stars is your reward for taking this little road trip. I find it most gratifying to take your time and really feel the ‘pulse’ of a game rather than rushing for the exit.
You’ll come to an entrance blocked by a ton of rocks. Never fear, for Tristam shows off his handy bomb attack. He will then offer to sell you 50 bombs for 30 GP. Buy it!
Aw bummer, I thought you meant the first person shooter.
At the far northern region of the Bone Dungeon lies the final skull cage. What horrible creatures lurk beyond these realms?
The best thing about ol’ Rex is seeing his sorry sack of bones deteriorate bit by bit. Mystic Quest is no visual tour de force, but this is a great touch you don’t see in many other RPGs.
“I’LL NEVER DIE!”
“Well, I hate to break it to ya bud but you’re breaking up.”
“WE SHALL SEE ABOUT THAT!”
Rex battles to his grave. You gotta admire that about him.
Slaying my first RPG boss. I know it sounds corny but you never forget your first time.
“WHOA, take a look at this, kid!”
“NOW THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT!”
“Now this Dragon Claw on the other hand… now THIS is something to gawk at! Check out the reach on this baby!”
“Yeah, that’s pretty good.”
“Oh yeah kid, don’t forget our deal now ya hear.”
“I know I know. I keep everything. Well thanks… for everything!”
“HA HA HA, nice try, kid!”
“Here ya go. Your very own bottle of Elixir. But the Dragon Claw, I KEEP.”
“Aw gee, THANKS. I’m overwhelmed by your generosity, really I am.”
Before you go charging into battle, be sure to switch out the Cat Claw to your bombs — bombs are far more effective. Don’t take my word for it, just look at the difference in the ATTACK ratings above. Also, because you can see enemies on the map, you’ll know when to switch. You can also switch on the main screen without having to flip to this menu.
I get up in the evening, and I ain’t got nothing to say.
I come home in the morning.
I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain’t nothing but tired.
Man I’m just tired and bored with myself.
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help.
You can’t start a fire.
You can’t start a fire without a spark.
This gun’s for hire.
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark. Even if we’re just dancing in the dark. DAAAAANCIN —
[Ahem. THIS boss says you’re fired, again -Ed.]
Actually, the Centaur is on fire, hahaha…. ahem, I’ll go pack my bags now.
An eyeful of arrows is not a fun way to spend a Tuesday night, or any other night for that matter. Quite a strong mini boss this one is. Well, looks like squid soup for dinner!
You gotta use your head a little bit, knowing when to attack and when to heal.
“Well STEVE-O, let’s see what we win for slaying that stupid squid, shall we?”
“I wonder what’s inside that chest?”
“Only one way to find out…”
“Uhhh, you first, Phoebe. After all, ladies first!”
“Alright, just stay behind me….. !! STEVE!”
“That better be a flashlight!”
But before traveling to the Ice Pyramid you must pass Falls Basin. Push ice pillars to solve puzzles and slay the evildoers that stand in your way.
The enemies get bigger, badder and a whole lot uglier!
“Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, THE BEST OF YOU?”
Jinn is actually nothing to make fun of. Jinn refers to a form of demon. Back during my college days, I met a pretty interesting friend who knew a lot about the supernatural. He emailed me about the Jinn once. Here’s what he wrote:
So who are the jinns?
The jinns have long accompanied the fantasy and magical world of the human imagination for centuries. They compromise the world of fairies, genies, wish masters, aliens, ghosts, demons, and other supernatural beings. Humanity has long been interested with the jinn and has placed them into films, stories, legends, and even beliefs. We have all seen Aladdin with his genie that would spring out of the lamp, we have all seen Alice and her dreamy “wonderland,” and other such tales. In Christianity, when they warn against doing salvation or having trust in SPIRITS besides THE HOLY SPIRIT, they are talking about these dudes.
Ultimately, the jinns are mortal, carnal, lower spirits that dwell in the lower heavens and on earth amongst mankind. Rather than regarding them solely as demons, Islam regards them as a race or life form that dwells in a world parallel or maybe even perpendicular to that of mankind. This world called “The World of the Jinn” is also referred to as the SUPERNATURAL WORLD.
The word jinn in Arabic means “the unseen.” Therefore, we cannot see the jinn. The light that illuminates off their forms have different wavelengths from visible light (they’re either infrared or ultraviolet).
When a jinn possesses the living, it can make them ill both physically and mentally. That’s why possessed people act crazy. They can also tempt or convince them to do things to other people or themselves that may be bad for them.
Because they are mortal, jinns like humans copulate, consume and drink. They need to survive just like human beings.
They have their own customs, languages, rules, and beliefs. Their ways are different, however they can learn and follow our customs, languages, rules, and beliefs. They can follow our ways because they can see, hear and sense our presences, but we can’t do the same to them. HOWEVER, they can make their presences known to us by taking on the forms, voices and smells of things familiar to us. Never do they ever show their true faces; nevertheless, so forever they remain the UNSEEN [I see, or not, rather -Ed.]
Because they can hear, they can learn and speak our languages and religions. Jinns that dwell in England can speak English, those that live in China can speak Chinese, etc. There are jinn families, boyfriend and girlfriend jinn, young and old fart jinn, nerd and jock jinn, etc.
These spirits are also associated with curses. They dwell in places that are filthy, old, dark and abandoned (public baths, public bathrooms, caverns, deserts, historic ruins, sewers, garbage disposals, shit tanks, etc.). People should avoid entering such places where they dwell for it can harm their well being. In fact, most jinns don’t like it when humans enter their dwellings and can hurt or even kill those folks who trespass into their lairs! People in the past especially archeologists have died soon after picking up cursed ancient artifacts.
[Who is this guy?! Your friend huh? ‘SPLAINS A LOT! -Ed.]
At any rate, when I fought Jinn in Mystic Quest I immediately thought back to that email my college buddy sent me so many years ago. Pretty cool to see folklore make its way into the enemy roster.
This is a good time to stock up, refill, take a leak, do whatever you gotta do. Being able to see where enemies and bosses are on the map is extremely helpful to RPG virgins who detest random battles. So before tackling Medusa or any other (sub)boss, make sure you’re at maximum power.
Sure, she doesn’t look too hideous here, but wait ’til you see her second and third forms — ugh!
“So Steve, you want my magic potion do ya?”
“Well… you can’t have it.”
“What? Why not?”
“My tree friends, you’ve chopped them down!”
“Oh THAAAAT… haha… yeah my bad.”
The Dark King is easily the strongest foe in Mystic Quest and it’ll take much healing to get through this one. Oh and fair warning… if you hate spiders, you’ll love his later forms…
Who could forget these strange Mystic Quest ads back in late 1992? It caught my eye back then and has stuck with me ever since!
USA VS. JAPAN
FINAL FANTASY: LINK TO THE MYSTIC PAST?
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Mystic Quest fared well with the critics. EGM gave it scores of 8, 7, 7 and 7while Super Play rated it 79%.
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is one of those divisive games that has as many supporters as it does detractors. Myself, I quite enjoyed it. I’ll always remember it my first official RPG playthrough. And as an RPG starter kit sort of game, it does its job rather well. Enemies can be seen on screen. There aren’t a load of characters or items to tinker with. It’s about as bare bones as a 16-bit RPG can be, and for me at least there’s a certain amount of charm to that. Mystic Quest isn’t your typical epic RPG… if you want something along those lines then try Final Fantasy III, Chrono Trigger or EarthBound. But for those seeking a basic beginner’s RPG, look no further. Mystic Quest is a good “gateway” game for those new or unfamiliar to the genre.
Graphically, it won’t blow anyone away. Yet the visuals get the job done. Our protagonists are small but adequately detailed, and things such as the !!bubble and shrug add a nice touch. The monsters are well detailed, particularly the giant bosses. I was in awe the first time I laid eyes on the first boss, Flamerus Rex. Speaking of bad guys, you can see the physical deterioration on them as battles progress. Some bosses display as many as four different health status stances, and some of them are very cool. A perfect example being the Ice Golem, who almost melts but hangs on by a feeble grasp of what remains of his once giant hand. It’s a superb touch that adds to the fun of dismantling all the nasties found within. The game’s music is flat out terrific. Battle themes are appropriately intense while towns have a more subdued theme, adding to the adventurous atmosphere of the game.
In terms of difficulty, Mystic Quest is a cake walk. The plot is simple and moves along at a brisk pace. Sure, it doesn’t have the most elaborate plot in the world and granted, the character development isn’t as in-depth as what’s found in other RPGs, but I ask you this… what other 16-bit RPG allows you to see all your enemies on screen, jump, move pillars, or chop down trees as you’re walking about town? Don’t forget about the ability to hook on to platforms high above with the grappling hook either. There’s plenty to do in the short time the game lasts, which is roughly 8-12 hours depending on your play style. If you can ignore the lofty Final Fantasy label and take the game for what it intended to be, you just might enjoy it as well.
As a kid growing up in the early ’90s I can remember dreaming about the Genesis games that I wanted to see “souped-up” on my SNES. Thunder Force III was one of them. I would have given an arm and leg for a Super Nintendo version of Thunder Force III, figuratively speaking of course. I was blown away when I first played Thunder Force III on the Genesis in 1990. It was totally badass. SNES owners received Thunder Spirits in the summer of ’92. It was more or less Thunder Force III. Sadly, less… but I digress. First, let us take a trip down memory lane.
RAINING GHOULS ‘N GHOSTS
In early 2006 the SNES bug bit me hard and I began reclaiming bits and pieces of my childhood. It started out innocently enough with a mighty comeback to the SNES on January 17, 2006. Not before long I found myself repurchasing all things 8-bit NES and Sega Genesis as well. On March 31, 2006, I met up with a stranger outside a local grocery store. I remember it well. It was 3 PM on a Friday afternoon, and it was raining cats and dogs (or ghouls and ghosts, if you will). I met Kevin in the parking lot, a guy I had been communicating with off Craigslist. He waved over to me sitting in his red Toyota pick-up. I suppose he could tell who I was based on my nostalgic (and searching) eyes. Standing outside, umbrella in hand, I watched as he spoke fondly of the games he was selling to me, mentioning how they had been sitting up in his attic for years and years now, and how they were all purchased brand new back in the day. A small cute beagle stood on the passenger seat, its head tilted as it looked at me quizzically. I got all five games for $20. Thunder Force III was a game I used to watch and play all the time back at Tommy and Denny’s, way back in good old 1990. The game was mind-blowing and really brought home the arcade experience that a home system had yet to deliver at that point in time. I had always wanted to play the SNES version that went by the name of Thunder Spirits, but never did back in the ’90s. Less than a month then into my SNES resurrection, I picked up a copy.
The cybernetic computer that controls the planet Orn has long held a disdain for humans. It has surrounded itself with a formidable automated defense system consisting of four planets: Hydra, Gorgon, Saline, and Ellis. Motivated by its fear of the Commonwealth of Humanoid Planets, the computer has initiated a systematic plan to destroy the Commonwealth and enslave its members. The only hope for the Commonwealth is to intervene quickly and destroy the cybernetic computer at the Orn-Core!
The Commonwealth has pooled its resources to develop its most technologically advanced fighter, the Vrax. This ship’s diminutive size coupled with advanced stealth technology make it difficult to detect. Equipped with some of the most powerful weaponry ever to be deployed, it is easily the equal of ships many times its size.
Be sure to blast these red ships. They carry new weapons, shields and the CLAW, a special and extremely valuable weapon. It attaches two orbiting drones to your ship which can intercept enemy attack. In addition, these drones will fire the same weapons as your ship, increasing the effectiveness of any gun you use. Sweet! As for the rest of your weaponry, discover them on your own
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
For a Thunder Force game hitting the SNES, Thunder Spirits shockingly received very little fanfare. EGM gave it lackluster ratings of 5, 5and 4. Super Play scored it 73%. On the internet, everyone highly prefers Thunder Force III. Though to be fair and more accurate, Thunder Spirits is technically a port of Thunder Force AC rather than Thunder Force III. Thunder Force AC was released in the arcades after Thunder Force III, and is largely based upon said game. Therefore, players expecting a magical carbon copy of Thunder Force III with SNES trimmings are likely to be quite disappointed.
Here’s a handy cheat to help maximize enjoyment of Thunder Spirits: during the game pause and press select 10 times followed by L, R, R, select. Now you can press Y to add a shield, X to add a Claw, and A to add and upgrade weapons. Try beating the game on Maniac mode with these cheats to help even up the odds!
For nearly 20 years I wondered if this was *THE* ultimate Thunder Force game… a dream game which would combine one of my favorite Genesis titles with the souped-up capabilities of the almighty SNES. So much for that dream. When I finally played Thunder Spirits in the fall of 2011, I was sorely disappointed. The graphics and sound fail to meet SNES standards, and it pales in comparison to Thunder Force III which came out two years earlier. Then again, keep in mind that Toshiba Emi programmed the SNES version, not TechnoSoft (who did the Genesis game). Maybe the quality would have been vastly different in their hands. At any rate, the bosses here don’t look nearly as impressive or intimidating as they did in the Genesis version. The music is actually somewhat solid, but slightly tarnished by the weak sound effects that accompany it. I really like the first three stages, but the rest leave something to be desired… with too many similar space stages.
Still, at its core, it is Thunder Force. That alone is enough to carry some merit. The game does suffer from the sporadic spot of slowdown here and there, but it’s certainly playable and has its moments. It’s pretty cool being able to switch weapons and ship speed with the shoulder buttons (as well as during the pause screen). It also presents a fairly stiff challenge, especially on the Maniac difficulty level. Unfortunately, you can’t help but feel this was a rushed programming job, and certainly one that was handled with a lack of expertise and knowledge of the Super Nintendo’s inner workings. Thunder Spirits should have been an awesome shooter. Instead, it’s rarely mentioned whenever folks talk about the best SNES shooting games. It doesn’t do anything special. Even worse, you know the game didn’t live up to its potential. There are too many moments where you just fly around waiting for enemies to show up. It’s not the frenetic in-your-face shooter that, say, Space Megaforce is. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy Thunder Spirits. It’s just difficult to hide my disappointment that this game didn’t knock it out of the park. But hey, can’t win ‘em all!
Last week my girlfriend and I caught the live movie adaptation of Aladdin in theaters. We enjoyed it, although both of us prefer the animated film. Seeing Aladdin on the big screen instantly brought to mind the time when Capcom, over 25 years ago, released Aladdin on the Super Nintendo. “Oh no, not another licensed video game!” Some might think from the outset. And really, history would have your back as many licensed games were seemingly more miss than hit more than a quarter of a century ago. Thankfully, Capcom incubated Aladdin with nearly as much maternal care as Disney bestowed upon their animated film. That means top notch animation, plenty of humor to keep things lighthearted and entertaining, and backed it all up with an incredibly authentic Middle Eastern atmosphere. Thus, what you have here is a strong example of the platforming genre based off 1992’s most successful film.
NEVER HAD A FRIEND LIKE ME
Aladdin roared into theaters the day before Thanksgiving ’92 (November 25, 1992 for those keeping score at home) and grossed over 500 million worldwide! It was met with undying fanfare. The song “A Whole New World” won an Oscar at the 1993 Academy Awards. The end credits boast a whopping 513 people! It was the first Disney film to show a belly button. Aladdin was based, believe it or not, on a cross between Michael J. Fox and Tom Cruise. Also, did you know that Aladdin once killed 40 thieves? [That was Ali Baba, you fool -Ed.]
Aladdin was such a smash hit that he had his own animated series as part of the classic Disney Afternoon lineup back during the early mid ’90s. I was a pretty big fan of the TV series. If you don’t remember the Disney Afternoon, it was essentially the cartoon version of TGIF. The Disney Afternoon aired Mondays through Fridays from 3 to 5 PM. Perfect for veggin’ out right after school for a couple blissful hours. Oh they don’t make them like how they used to, that’s fer damn sure! Needless to say, Capcom had a lot to live up to when they set their sights on adapting Aladdin to the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. But if anyone could pull it off back in those days, it was the Big C.
THE ADVENTURES OF ABU
THE STORY GOES…
Sprinting across the tops — high above the heads of enemies — looks great, but Aladdin’s movement has a certain herky jerkiness. It’s not a big issue but it does take a second to adjust to.
Aimed properly, you can bounce off a bad guy’s head and in one seamless motion stick the landing on a nearby platform. Pretty satisfying it is.
Press down to fall on the villain’s head and vanquish him. There is a sort of Prince of Persia feel to this game.
THE CAVE OF WONDERS
I rather like this stage quite a bit. Use your athletic acrobatics to maneuver your way across spiky pits and such. Good stuff.
Use apples to send pesky bats away. And what the hell is a delectable piece of meat such as that doing out in the wide open? It’ll spoil! Guess you better gobble it up then before it does!
Leaping off enemies and platforms doesn’t always go as you intend it to. Thankfully, it’s mostly a case of something you did that went awry, as opposed to flat out poor controls.
If you manage to survive this, you’ll run into a rather magical friend.
Carpet, in theory, could whisk you to safety, but where’s the fun in that? Nope, you must brave through this auto scrolling stage on your own.
After a couple head scratching stages where you’re forced to travel over murky waters and skin scorching lava without the aid of Magic Carpet, it finally decides to lend a hand, er, corner? Hey, better late than never!
Arguably the game’s most adrenaline-fueled level, nothing quickens the pulse quite like riding on Magic Carpet with your girl while doing your best to evade the sizzling molten lava that’s right on your tail!
INSIDE THE GENIE’S LAMP
Genie’s stage takes you to a cloud-filled universe that’s well out of this world. How befitting of a genie! You suddenly find yourself doing pull ups on cloudy wisps in a strange land that’s NOT AT ALL egotistical…
In classic Capcom fashion, landing on those Genie platforms will make the Big G frown for as long as you’re on it. Otherwise, the blue bastard’s full of cheesy grins.
BONUS LEVEL: MAGIC CARPET RIDE
For my money, this is by far and away the greatest moment in the entire game. The sights and sounds — perfection personified. Based on the classic scene from the movie, it even replicates the “A Whole New World” song! Sans lyrics of course, but it’s a near perfect rendition otherwise. The whole damn thing is almost enough to make even the most hardened warrior feel all warm and tingly inside. Don’t take my word for it, watch it and listen to it here!
On the whole, Aladdin is a pretty easy game. It’s got a few tough spots, but with a password system in place and plenty of extra lives to be had, it’s something that the average gamer should be able to polish off without too much hardship.
Capcom’s classic continue screens, er, continue with Aladdin. Pull the yes one and Genie will flash you a satisfied grin.
But yank on the no one and watch the poor sap sulk and frown.
For ages now, even to this day more than 25 years later, there has been a debate amongst gamers on which version is superior: the Genesis or Super Nintendo rendition of Aladdin. Both games are significantly different from one another, as Capcom developed the SNES one while Virgin Interactive did the Genesis one. The Genesis version emphasizes more action than platforming. Both games were highly praised in their own right, but consensus seems to favor the Genesis game slightly. Regardless of which version you think is better, you can’t go wrong with either one.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Aladdin was well received by the critics. EGM gave it scores of 9, 8, 8and 8. EGM’s sister publication, Super NES Buyer’s Guide, scored it 89, 86 and 85%. GameFan gave it ratings of 90, 90, 89 and 87%. Super Play rated it 81%. Most agreed on it being a fun and colorful platforming game by the ever trustworthy Capcom, who infused Aladdin with an admirable amount of care and respect to the source material. It’s not the most outstanding example of the genre on the SNES, but it’s certainly one of the better ones in the catalog.
Aladdin is a quality platformer, but its two biggest flaws are that it’s too short and it teeters a bit too much on the easy side. Similar to Skyblazer, the levels are over right as I’m ready to sink my teeth into ‘em. The lack of enemies, not to mention the lack of enemy diversity, was also something of a disappointment. You can easily finish this game before you finish watching the animated movie! However, with a busy schedule that may include juggling relationships, kids and work, those two “flaws” aren’t the biggest indictments in the gaming world. I suppose that’s one way to look at it.
The graphics are splendid; they’re filled to the brim with detail, colors and parallax scrolling that seems to stretch on forever. The sound is pretty good, especially the renditions of the movie’s various themes. The SNES version of A Whole New World is my personal favorite and hits me in the feels every single time I hear its lovely jingle. Gameplay consists of your classic basics, sprinkled with a little Prince of Persia feel to it, complete with hanging from ledges with your pinkie fingers.
The control is generally solid but I do have a few gripes. Whenever you press left or right Aladdin will take a step (or two) in that direction. On small platforms this could cause him to slip every now and then, so be thankful for that hanging-on-the-ledge-with-your-pinkie business! Some handspring bounces off obstacles and enemies are also a bit tough to implement properly, particularly when it comes to needing several bounces in succession. Thankfully, such parts are few and far between. Mostly you’re just bouncing off one enemy or object at a time so it doesn’t adversely impact gameplay as much as one might fear. The control is definitely far from perfect but nothing you won’t quickly adjust to and manage. Those few niggles, however, are worth noting.
All in all, Aladdin is a fine platformer that deserves a spot in any SNES library. It does its source material a great deal of respect and is plain fun to play. It won’t last you long, or challenge you terribly much, but depending on one’s schedule and tolerance level, those things may be blessings or curses. Capcom could almost do no wrong back in the early-mid ’90s, and Aladdin is another solid example of such. Definitely and easily one of the better license games from the vaunted 16-bit era!
As a kid I had almost zero interest in RPGs. My brother loved them but I had the ignorant opinion that they were slow and boring. Now opinions are opinions and I would never call someone who dislikes the genre “ignorant.” However, I say ignorant for myself only because I judged an entire genre without giving it a chance. Ironically, I now love RPGs as much as any other gaming genre. My first foray into the RPG realm came courtesy of Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (December 2007). Although certainly a flawed game, I had one hell of a good time. Naturally, it made too much sense to have my second RPG experience be Final Fantasy II. In some ways you could say that Final Fantasy II marked my first “real” RPG (if you don’t count Mystic Quest as a legit RPG which some folks do not). Final Fantasy II was a sweeping and grand adventure; what follows below will be some thoughts and memories. Fair warning: some spoilers lie ahead so play it first before you continue on! Besides, if you haven’t already played it, you probably should.
THE STORY GOES…
Crew: Captain Cecil! We’re about to land.
Cecil: At long last!
Crew Guy 1: Pray tell, Cap, why are we stealing the crystals from innocent folk?
Crew Guy 2: That’s what we’ve been summoned to do. And that’s that.
Crew Guy 1: Do we really have to keep doing this? Captain?
Crew Guy 3: Prepare for landing!
Elder: Take the crystal if you must.
Cecil: Could have saved yourself the trouble by saying that earlier.
Elder: But consider this. Why would the King of Baron do this? Why do you pursue the crystals so eagerly?
Crew Guy 2: SHUT UP old man, or I’ll shut you up myself!
Crew Guy 1: Captain, I don’t know if we can keep doing this.
Cecil: Possessing the crystal is essential to our prosperity. More importantly, His Majesty has deemed that the Mysidians know too much about the crystal’s secrets. We are the Red Wings, the air force of the Kingdom Baron! The Royal Command is absolute.
Crew Guy 3: You sure?
Baigan: About time, Cecil! I see you have the Crystal of Water. Well done.
Cecil: Indeed. But… the Mysidians were so helpless.
Baigan: What are you trying to say?
Cecil: Well… it’s just…
Baigan: Don’t get soft on me now. You did what you had to do. Don’t overthink it, for your own sake.
Baigan: Follow me…
Baigan: Your Majesty, I’m afraid Cecil has developed a conscience and a rebellious air. I don’t think we can trust him going forward.
King: I have no room for backstabbers. I’ll take care of him swiftly.
Cecil: You called, Sir?
King: Yes! Good job, Cecil. Hand me the crystal.
Cecil: Sir, are we doing the right thing?
King: You dare question me, YOUR KING?!?
Cecil: I just want to know what’s going on.
King: Let’s cut the bullshit. I know of your discontent, Cecil. Since you no longer trust me, you cannot be commander of the Red Wings. You are dismissed from your post!
King: Take this package, and venture to Village Mist. Just remember this one thing. A man digs his own grave. Guards, get this maggot outta my sight!
Rosa: Cecil! What’s wrong? You haven’t been yourself lately.
Cecil: We had to rob the innocent folks in Mysidia.
Rosa: Oh dear…
Cecil: I’m just a Dark Knight with no courage to disobey His Majesty.
Rosa: Hmph! The real Cecil I know would never whimper like this!
Cecil: Rosa, about tomorrow…
Rosa: I know. I know. Get some rest, for tomorrow is a big day… for all of us…
In typical RPG fashion, you trek through the land in an overhead view. It’s simplistic but therein lies the beauty.
Enemies randomly crop up, taking you to this battle screen. Growing up I thought RPGs were lame and boring, but now I can’t get enough of it. Go figure!
Early on in the game, Cecil fulfills a life long dream when he legally changes his name to Steve. Hey, can you blame him? [Shush you -Ed.]
The twins, Palom and Porom, are comic relief characters to the nth degree.
This part cracks me up because we all know a nostalgic person like this in our lives who can’t shut up about their old war stories or the “good old days” [Pot, kettle, black -Ed.]
Final Fantasy II featured an intricate plot full of twists and turns that will tug at your heartstrings. You latched onto the characters; you connected with them and believed in them. There’s a certain synergy about this game that makes playing it akin to reading a really good book.
JACKPOT! Finding a bevy of treasure chests just lying around is always exciting. Your eyes just light up as you make your way around each box. Classic RPG gaming at its best.
An epic battle wages between Golbez and Tellah. Tellah has a devastating magic spell up his sleeve known simply as Meteo. It inflicts a shit ton of damage — 9,999 HP reduction to be precise. But at what cost?
In life sometimes we have to learn how to forgive those who have harmed us. We’re only hurting ourselves if we don’t. It’s more about what it does for you than it does to the person you’re forgiving. A good lesson I’ve learned over the years!
One of the many things I love about RPGs is the relationship dynamic between the group members. I particularly like it when there’s some degree of inner turmoil among the party members. It just makes things more interesting when there’s little moments of in-house bickering. They add charm to the game and are always a hoot to read. Nothing like a little good old fashioned tension among the ranks to break up the monotony of the trip.
In the end, a grand celebration is held and many old faces rejoin the fray for one big reunion bash.
I love how stupid high the numbers get in this game. HP of 5611? Why not! My final stats:
Steve L55 3699 HP 222 MP Rydia L51 1704 HP 449 MP Edge L52 2614 HP 168 MP Rosa L53 2654 HP 440 MP Kain L54 3373 HP
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Final Fantasy II was very well received by the critics. EGM gave it the Game of the Month honors, earning scores of 7, 8, 8 and 9. Super Play Magazine rated it 90%. You can’t go wrong with this game, and there’s even a small spattering of fans who prefer it to the almighty Final Fantasy III. Final Fantasy II is a well paced, story driven RPG no SNES fan can afford to miss. If you’ve somehow missed it all these years, be sure to bump it up to the top of your queue.
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest eased me into the genre, which I blindly disliked as a kid, but it was Final Fantasy II that cemented me as an RPG fan for life. I discovered, in my mid 20s, just how satisfying RPGs can be. The action may not come at you fast and furious, but the great storytelling and character dynamics make for a hell of a ride no other genre can provide. From romantic subplots to betrayal to even death, Final Fantasy II is a breathing and organic piece of art that sucks you in and doesn’t let go until the very last magic spell. You can’t ask for much more from a video game than that.
The effectiveness of its characters can often times either make or break an RPG. Thankfully, Final Fantasy II is graced from top to bottom with plenty of memorable characters. Yang, the wacky twins, Cid and Edge — just to name some — are the sort you’ll grow attached to as you go about the journey. Although Cecil is the main star here, it’s more akin to an assemble cast. Sure, the formula’s a bit simple and basic, but that’s also part of its charm. You traverse from town to town, talking with the locals, picking up clues, buying supplies, leveling up in the nearby forests and caves, and then battle a boss before moving onto the next region. It’s the storytelling aspect of these games that I admire so much. When an RPG is done right, like this one is, it sweeps you away to a far away land full of wonder and danger. It’s video game escapism at its best. Long day at work? Long holiday weekend? Nothing like popping in a quality RPG to get away from it all for a few moments. Although Final Fantasy II may be linear, doesn’t have many side quests and may even seem rather basic to more seasoned veterans of the genre, there’s an undeniable charm to the game. The story moves along at a brisk pace, the characters are endearing and it’s backed by a stellar soundtrack. If you haven’t played this game yet, you’re missing out on one of the best SNES RPGs.
In April of 1994 — 25 years ago in fact — Takara released the SNES port of Fatal Fury 2. Being one of the Neo Geo’s most popular fighting games, the original version made its debut in the arcade in 1992 and weighed in at a hefty 106 megs. The Super Nintendo conversion clocked in at 20 robust megs, arriving (arguably) right around the peak of the golden age of both fighting games and 16-bit gaming. Fatal Fury 2 proved to be a prime example of how to nail down a sequel properly, featuring more playable fighters, more special moves and enhancing virtually everything that the first Fatal Fury had to offer.
FATAL FURY ORIGINS
March 1991. A one on one fighting game revolutionized the gaming world. STREET FIGHTER II became nothing short of a phenomenon and a household name. At the time I was only 7 years old, but I can still remember it so vividly. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing the Street Fighter II arcade cab. Whether it was 7-11, video rental stores, Pizza Huts or trading card shops, people lined up in droves to play it. Fatal Fury came out roughly 8 months later in November of 1991. I remember encountering Fatal Fury for the first time on a Neo Geo MVS cab. These powerhouse machines could hold up to four games, giving players the ultimate choice. The cab stood out in a crowd with its bright red exterior and four mini game posters up top. It immediately caught your eye and it was always fun to look up and see which four games were featured. Occasionally, old games got filtered out and were replaced by newer ones. There was always an element of Russian Roulette with Neo Geo MVS cabs that I loved. If you were in the arcade scene back in the early ’90s, then I know you know damn full well what I mean.
In retrospect, that time period was truly special. There was a certain magic to it. Just standing in front of an MVS cab gazing up at the four titles and watching the game demos switch on the screen before you, each game making a convincing bid for your precious quarter, was epic beyond words. Maybe part of it had to do with being young… but I really believe in my heart of hearts that that was simply a magical time in gaming that will never be duplicated ever again, period.
Fatal Fury was often wrongly accused of being a Street Fighter II clone as it came out 8 months later. Back in the day it was easy to claim that. But years later I discovered a shocking fact. The sort that debunks the gaming theories of one’s youth. The creator of Fatal Fury, Takashi Nishiyama, also created the very first Street Fighter (1987). After gaining recognition for his talents following Street Fighter, he was sought out by SNK. Nishiyama, along with many members of the development crew for the first Street Fighter, made the jump to SNK. Fatal Fury was the follow-up title in November 1991. In an interview conducted by 1UP, Nishiyama was quoted, “Fatal Fury was my Street Fighter II.” Wow. As it turns out, Fatal Fury was never a Street Fighter II wannabe. In Nishiyama’s mind, Fatal FuryWASStreet Fighter II. My bad, Mr. Nishiyama. Forgive me for the sins of my youth.
So much for Fatal Fury being a Street Fighter II clone, eh? Fatal Fury was actually in development at the same time as Street Fighter II. Fatal Fury has a special place in my gaming heart. I fondly remember it best for its 2 player co-op mode, where you and a friend can team up to fight the thugs at the same time. This gave it a unique atmosphere, almost as if it were an old kung fu flick. I have so many memories of my brother and me battling South Town’s most corrupt and dangerous villains. From the ageless Tung Fu Rue, who could morph into a muscular monster, to the enigmatic dancing Duck King. With incredibly lush and vibrant visuals, it made for a damn fine alternative whenever the Street Fighter II line went past the entrance. In some ways I even liked Fatal Fury more than Street Fighter II as a kid.
It was so cool how the levels you fought on would change from round to round. At first it’s sunny but then evening would befall the battle tested warriors. Tung Fu Rue’s stage haunts me to this day, even nearly 30 years later. The second my brother and I saw those heavy raindrops falling from the sky, complete with ominous thunder and lightning, we didn’t know whether to wind our watches or crap our pants. I remember standing there at Safeway completely frozen in awe. To this day it remains one of my fondest gaming memories. Another night I recall fondly occurred either in late ’91 or early ’92. Fatal Fury just came out and my uncle took us to a mom and pop rental shop. We rented WWF Survivor Series 1991. My brother and I were so hyped to see the championship match pitting the Immortal Hulk Hogan against the impervious Undertaker. But instead of rushing home as we normally would following a WWF tape rental, we found ourselves fixated on tag teaming against Tung Fu Rue as the arcade screen rained cats and dogs.
Our uncle, being the awesome uncle that he was, stood by the arcade cab cheering us on. Not many games could put Hulkamania on hold, but there was something special about Fatal Fury that resonated with me. Those colorful backgrounds and their wondrous transitions haunt me to this very day!
While flawed, Fatal Fury was a fun game in its own right. While Street Fighter II featured smoother gameplay and placed an emphasis on combos, Fatal Fury (from Nishiyama’s own words) “focused more on storytelling and special moves.” Although Fatal Fury lacked a combo system, it did feature some amazing special moves. Since there were no combos, you had to rely on pulling off your special moves at just the right time in order to gain the upper hand. Special moves are the lifeblood of Fatal Fury. Fatal Fury also had a pretty good story. You play as one of the Bogard brothers (Terry and Andy) or Joe Higashi. Your goal: avenge your father’s death. The man responsible: South Town’s crime lord, Geese Howard! Sure it sounds simple, but there is much beauty in simplicity.
As was the case back in those days, one could only dream of owning the mega expensive Neo Geo system. Therefore, most of us mere mortals had to rely on sized down 16-bit conversions that were either hit or miss (often times seemingly more miss than hit). Sadly, Fatal Fury was a massive miss. My brother and I were ecstatic seeing it previewed in the vaunted pages of EGM in early 1993, but a small part of our childhood died when we finally played it months later. I won’t even bother to review it. It’s a super disappointing conversion, eliminating the 2-on-1 game mode that made the original so damn fun and appealing.
At first glance, it looks promising. Although obviously scaled down visually, it looks pretty damn good for a 1993 Super Nintendo game. It captures the lush and vibrant colors of the arcade. F’rinstance, Andy’s massive energy wave looks fairly on point. But beyond excluding the 2-on-1 mode, the gameplay suffered due to its terrible control. The sound quality was poor as well. It was a far cry from the arcade original and that made me very sad as a kid.
ROUND 2… FIGHT!!
Following the “death” of Geese Howard at the end of the first tournament, a new leader stepped in. And not just any Average Joe [Higashi -Ed.], it was actually Geese’s half-brother, the vile Wolfgang Krauser! Talk about keeping it in the family…
HIDING IN PLANE SIGHT
The first Fatal Fury didn’t allow you to manually switch planes. But here you can, and it’s much better this way. It added in a wrinkle and made battles more strategic.
The six buttons on the SNES controller was fully utilized. Instead of pressing two buttons to switch planes like in the arcade, all you had to do here was push R. Nice! So while the arcade original is obviously superior, little tweaks like this made the SNES port easier to play in some ways.
Projectiles are much easier to avoid, and thus a bit devalued as a result.
A few stages have their own unique gimmick. On one stage you can shatter paper screens or “hide” behind them, making you feel like you’re in a Bruce Lee film. There are other stages where you can even send your rival into various hazards in the background, causing extra harm. More on that later…
Everyone can jump back to avoid attacks. Also, anyone can crouch while moving forward at the same time. Not just for the more agile fighters but everyone, including Big Bear. There are also counterattacks. All of this made Fatal Fury 2 a much deeper game than its predecessor.
Although home ports could never match the faithfulness of its arcade original, home bonuses such as the Elimination Mode was always a welcome sight.
LET THE TOURNAMENT BEGIN
THE KING OF FIGHTERS
It’s nowhere near as iconic as Ryu’s dojo rooftop but it’s memorable in its own right. Battling on a roaring railroad train, the passing scenery is majestic but the action is brutal and barbaric. Few landmarks scream AMERICANA more than Mount Rushmore, which you can catch a glimpse of in all its sweet glory.
Overlooking the exquisite sights of Italy, combatants wage war on a boat that’s anything but the Love Boat. As stated earlier, Andy’s always been my guy [Who are you, Woody? -Ed.] when it comes to the Fatal Fury franchise. He’s got the coolest special moves in (South) town…
Set in a quaint Thailand village, the hardworking women look on as they cheer their local champ who is anything but an ordinary Joe [You just had to, didn’t you? -Ed.]
Japan is well known for its bustling night life but Mai prefers to whup your ass on this private wooden raft. Gorgeous waterfalls and exotic statues grace the background.
Proud of his Korean roots, Kim shows off his skills in a busy part of town that showcases Korea’s rich sense of culture and tradition while also embracing modern sensibilities. Best of all, this stage is home to a hilarious sight gag. Timed precisely, you can knock the elderly off their bikes! Talk about some dark humor…
I love how Jubei kicks off his wooden clogs right before each fight, and how big they appear as they fly into the screen. Speaking of screen, his stage is one of my favorites because of all the paper screens. They’re irresistibly fun to mess around with, whether you’re “hiding” behind one or busting through one!
Hong Kong makes for a gorgeous backdrop. The skyline is absolutely breathtaking, and it’s awesome to see it transition from early evening to late evening between rounds.
The big Aussie, proud of his digs, wrestles all foolish challengers in the Australian outback. Having earned a large following, a small legion of his most fervent fans cheer on the big man as he attempts to rip apart his latest victim. All about branding, Big Bear even has his own personal big rig on full display. Raiden who?
DESPERATION SUPER SPECIAL MOVES
Fatal Fury 2 introduced desperation moves. These super moves, often featuring a complicated command, can only be performed once your energy bar is low and flashing. They are powerful and hard to pull off.
“YOU AIN’T THE BOSS OF ME!” [OH YES I AM, ACTUALLY -ED.]
For fighting games back in the early to mid ’90s, the inherent thrill of a home port was undoubtedly the strong possibility of a boss code. The very idea of playing as the boss characters at home — you know, the same ones that kicked your ass in the arcade — was titillating. Sure, home ports back then could never dream to approach the lofty standards set by their arcade original, but the really good ports were able to capture the spirit of the arcade while providing you with some awesome home bonuses. Look no further than Fatal Fury 2 which has a handy code allowing players to use any of the 4 bosses, expanding the roster from 8 to 12. Talk about a fantastic Easter egg!
An ominous fog permeates in the background. Watch out for those massive cogwheels — Billy Kane can smack you into them causing extra damage. Of course, this means you can do the same to him…
Balrog, you say? Never! At any rate, Axel Hawk (what a name) is a mean sucker who uses his environment to his advantage. He can pound you into the electric ropes, zapping you of whatever will remains in your bruised and battered body. But similar to Billy Kane, you can do the same…
Those stampeding bulls don’t discriminate. In the words of Richard Vernon (played by Paul Gleason), “Don’t mess with the bull — you’ll get the horns.”
Wolfgang’s elegance and refined taste is on full display here. This is the only boss stage without a background hazard. It’s actually quite fitting and symbolic. Just like Heisenberg, Wolfgang Krauseris the danger and the one who knocks.
When you finally dethrone the bastard, he goes out in dramatic fashion á la The Nature Boy, Ric Flair!
ADDING INSULT TO INJURY
Besides the boss code, what was a guaranteed staple of fighting games from the early ’90s? If you said the obligatory bonus stage, bingo! Fatal Fury 2 has two. The first appears after Round 4 and the second after Round 8.
GHOST STORIES, DEBAUCHERY AND MORE
I love a good ghost story. When I was a kid my uncle would regale us with his tales of terror and all things that go bump in the night. He spoke in a way that evoked haunting images in my soul, sending a wave of shivers up and down my spine. You’ve probably heard various stories about the Boogeyman or the Wendigo, but have you ever heard the story of The Lady With No Feet?
In Korea there is an infamous legend of a ghost woman and her two young ghost children wandering the streets in desperate search of the woman’s husband. Thousands of eye witnesses over the years have claimed to see them passing by on dark cold nights. The legend goes, the mom has walked so much that her feet fell off!
One anonymous man had this to say, “One night I was walking home per usual. Suddenly I felt a blast of cold air devouring me. I gazed up and there she was. I asked if she needed help but then I looked down and saw she had no feet. Frozen in terror, I watched in horror as she proceeded to float right through me. As she passed by I heard the awful wailing of “WHERE ARE YOU, MY LOVE?” Her two children skipped around me singing a lullaby, emotionless. By the time I turned around they were all gone. Vanished. Without a trace. And ever since that night I have never walked that path again… the Lady With No Feet is still out there… somewhere in the darkness. She’s watching… waiting… right behind you…”
Instead of your standard gaming advertisement to promote Fatal Fury 2, Takara ran a rather clever promo. They offered free miniature one inch Fatal Fury 2 action figures. It was a brilliant piece of business. Or maybe it was just Takara’s little way of saying sorry for the first Fatal Fury port. At any rate, I absolutely ate this up as a 10 year old kid at the time. I waited 2-4 weeks for my random action figure to arrive. In the meantime I was even more hyped for the pending arrival of Fatal Fury 2. So it worked like gangbusters. Genius marketing by Takara!
You didn’t know which of the 12 fighters you were going to get so that added to the excitement. To this day I wonder how many of these little bastards were made and how many are in homes today — relics kept from one’s childhood. I’m curious to see what the rest of the figures look like. From the four I’ve seen, the detail on these small figures were actually quite phenomenal especially considering they were free (more or less, not counting the two 29 cent stamps required).
I wanted Andy Bogard of course. My brother said if I got Terry that it would be his to keep. What a punk. It turned out to be a moot point in the end as a blue Wolfgang Krauser greeted me in my mailbox roughly a month later. I had the little guy for the next 7 years until I traded him away in a package deal along with Golden Axe: The Duel for the rights to Street Fighter Collection (Sega Saturn) via GameTZ on December 31, 2001. Damn, that was eons ago. I kind of wish now that I had kept the little blue guy. Oh well.
GREAT JOB WIL OVERTON!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Fatal Fury 2 did well with the critics. It earned EGM’s Game of the Month honor in issue #58 (May 1994). EGM gave it scores of 9, 8, 8 and 8. Super Play rated it a respectable 79%. It was arguably the first Neo Geo port on the SNES that garnered praise and recognition for being a faithful and solid translation.
After seeing Fatal Fury 2 earn EGM Game of the Month honors, my brother gave me the go ahead to rent it as soon as possible. As my brother and I booted it up, I could feel a certain unspoken level of trepidation between the both of us. I think part of us, despite the rave review from EGM, still expected the worst. That’s how bad the first Fatal Fury port was — we were scarred. But I’m very happy to say the sequel passed with flying colors. SNES owners finally had a Fatal Fury worth playing on their Super Nintendo.
25 years ago I viewed Fatal Fury 2 highly. 25 years later I still think it holds its own quite well. Graphically it captured the essence of its arcade brethren. Visuals are lush, vibrant and colorful. Some desperation moves, such as Joe Higashi’s towering tornado which goes from top to bottom, are a sight to behold. Control wise, while it doesn’t have the perfect control of Street Fighter II, it’s fairly precise. Sure, the music and sound could be a bit better but it plays well, thus making combat easy and fun to play. The boss code is the icing on an already well made cake. Adding 4 new fighters to the fray made Fatal Fury 2 a serious contender and one that fighting game fans could truly sink their teeth into.
With 12 fighters to pick from, a unique two plane battle system, memorable backgrounds, and plenty of cool special moves and devastating super specials, Fatal Fury 2 is quite the package. I liked it a lot back then and I still like it now. Although long gone are the days where one had to rely on the Super Nintendo for their Neo Geo fix, it doesn’t change the fact that this was a very competent port for its time. Fatal Fury 2 proved that not all hope was lost when these arcade monsters were ported over to the SNES, and that the possibility of capturing the essence and spirit of the arcade original was feasible.
I still throw Fatal Fury 2 in my SNES for a few rounds every now and again. The SNES controller’s six button layout allows me to experience the game in a way different from the arcade, which earns the SNES port major cookie points with me. You also had some awesome home bonuses like the Elimination Mode, handicap levels and of course the boss code, which made it feel more like Fatal Fury 2½. It’s just a great effort all around, and one that made me forgive TAKARA for the atrocity that was the first Fatal Fury port. And that’s saying a lot!
Over the years you might have noticed that I always list the meg count of every SNES game I review. There’s a good reason for that. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated by MEG count. The Neo Geo had some ridiculous 100+ meg games, and as a kid it was always fun to see how big a certain SNES game was. The meg count varied on the Super Nintendo from 2, 4, 8, 10, 12, 16, 20, 24, 32 and 48. For sure, the size of a game does NOT indicate how good it is. Some of the best SNES games are only 4 megs. Some still look great for their lack of megs while others boast a much higher meg count but look far worse. It was just part of the fun back in those days.
20 megs was my favorite of the lot. 20 is a nice round number, and there weren’t many SNES games that were 20 megs. Less than 10. Speaking of 10, 10 MEG games are a close second favorite. There were only a small handful of them. I remember when Final Fight 2 first came out, my friends and I wondered to ourselves, “How many megs? 8 or 16?” Then you read in EGM or GameFan only to find out it was neither. Instead it was 10 MEGS. You couldn’t help but chuckle as 10 was a very uncommon meg count. In homage of those good old days, I make it a point to cite the meg count of each game off the bat! It’s just something I love to do, and I feel it’s all part of preserving the history of the Super Nintendo.
This month Claymates celebrates 25 years. Sadly, it never turned into the big hit that the people behind it a quarter of a century ago were hoping for. And even to this day, for the most part, it flies under the SNES radar. But the question is, does it deserve to? In this gamer’s humble estimation, the answer is a resounding NO. Claymates is quite a fun and unique game that rises above the average SNES platformer. Right off the bat you can’t help but notice its claymation look. But most notable of all is the ability to morph into one of five different animals — all with varying abilities — and levels brilliantly crafted with those creatures in mind. By the way, I interviewed the programmer of Claymates, Brian Greenstone, and that Q&A can be found toward the end of this review. Many thanks, Brian! Happy 25th anniversary
CLAY… HERE TO STAY?
THE STORY GOES…
Mudville, USA. Clayton is zapped into a blue clay ball by the vicious Jobo. The witch doctor then kidnaps Clayton’s father Professor Putty. Clayton’s day just went from bad to worse, and it’s up to him to save his dad, himself and Mudville by gaining back possession of the magical serum.
Citizen Kane this ain’t, but this is a 25 year old Super Nintendo video game we’re talking about here
PLAYING WITH CLAY
Finding yourself in Clayton’s yard, the game thankfully doesn’t look like that for long. It’s more or less an overhead map screen with some puzzles thrown in, but more on that in a bit. By the way, does Clayton live by an amusement park or something? O_o
Starting out as Clayton, your life is brittle and bleak. Your only form of offense is a giant fist. Luckily, there’s a gray ball nearby that turns you into Oozy the frenetic mouse. Leap through random tree holes collecting red gems, complete with a lovely mini explosion of sparks once procured, and jump on bouncers to send our plucky field mouse sky high.
Sandwiched between two bouncers, the poor rodent’s fragile body is deflected back and forth like a scorching pinball. You can almost feel his bones rattling, his tiny teeth chattering as he is flung from one bouncer to the next. When you come across a new animal form, it’s a hint that you should probably take the bait as the next section is sure to have terrain most suitable to your latest transformation.
Muckster climbs trees to reach otherwise unreachable goodies. Later on, you can switch back to the mouse if you wish. His bark is actually stronger than his bite.
Successfully bounce off all the squares one at a time to win. Sounds easy, right? Until you factor in that with each bounce it gets faster and faster.
Following the conclusion of each stage, there’s a brief puzzle that must be solved before you can enter the next level. A pair of mindless robots wander around aimlessly. You’re tasked with manipulating the environment in order to steer them toward the weapons required to clear the path. I have mixed feelings about this gimmick. I liked it initially, but it grew a bit old after a while and I just wanted to jump into the action. Still, I give them credit for trying something slightly different.
Sunday morning strolls are the best… that is until two weasels crash the party.
Smiling clouds abound as though it were a Nintendo game. Throughout the history of civilization, cats and dogs have struggled to get along. Claymates doesn’t attempt to change that.
Continue markers and collapsing bridges… hey, you can’t always be original.
Overhead power lines are a dangerous place for an itty bitty mouse to be. Unless of course, that mouse happens to be Oozy and his powerful bark.
Electrical charges zipping along the exposed wires will keep Muckster on his toes, er, paws. After traveling high above ground, make your way underground.
Muckster’s casual stroll, complete with his head held high, captures your typical feline attitude to a tee. You revert back to Clayton (the blue bouncing ball) if damaged in animal form, where you’re then just one hit away from death. I love the pinball effect that those bouncers induce. So damn satisfying.
Enemies ramp up, so be sure to grab that second Muckster power-up. Since you’re already Muckster, you don’t transform. Instead, you can now throw a clay ball a short distance that boomerangs back. It also gives you an extra hit to play with. Good stuff.
Linger around these shady underground tunnels long enough and you just might run into doppelgängers decked out in red carrying scissors. Shout out to Jordan Peele! Multiple passageways await as you ricochet off the bouncers to make your way back up to the surface.
*shakes fist* “These here tunnels be big enough for only one of US!“ A waterspout sends you to your first boss encounter…
Thankfully you can morph into Globmeister before the battle with Big Ben, a floppy-eared clay hound of hulking proportions! The chipmunk hurls acorns aplenty, making short work of the colossal canine.
Following the victory over Big Ben, Clayton clambers into a cannon and is shot across the globe where he lands in the great Pacific. Hmm, I smell salty water…
Although it looks like you can, Muckster sadly took ducking lessons from Mega Man…
Ricocheting off bouncers like a pinball never gets old. The Pacific introduces us to a new animal friend, Goopy. He spits air bubbles and can stay on dry land for only 10 seconds.
Surrounded by deadly piranhas and razor sharp spikes, you best better catch that ride and catch it fast!
Whew… just made it! Piranhas aren’t shy to jump so keep an eye out. Later on, you find yourself swinging precariously over a bed of spikes.
Clayton is slow moving and offers very little defense in his clay ball form. Find the next animal morph ASAP. Good news: you’ve found Goopy. Bad news: just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water…
Claymates has two different bonus stages. This is the second type. Is it just me or does the first shot there remind anyone else of Uniracers? (Although Uniracers came out about six months later). I much prefer the first bonus stage shown earlier. This one can go on for too long, wearing out its welcome, and the physics feel slightly off.
Mallards are cranky and testy. Punch them out of their misery.
Where’s Martin Brody when you need him, eh? Enter those small wooden doors for a nice little surprise.
Leader of the Pacific, Corky the Clam is a tough customer to crack. Keep your distance and shoot from afar whenever possible.
Corky’s giant eyes are taken out one at a time. I’m a huge sucker for video games that feature deterioration damage on its bosses, which not nearly enough games do.
Clayton never once imagined in his wildest dreams that he would ever end up in the Land of the Rising Sun, yet here he is. Adventure beckons!
Samurais litter the Ooze Garden. [I wonder if one of them is Oroku Saki -Ed.]. They’re fast suckers and the katana’s long reach makes them a lethal foe. You can morph into Doh-Doh, a bird that can fly for a brief bit provided you get a running start.
Mighty winds give life to paper lanterns, allowing you just enough time to use them to reach the top. Morph into Mucky and get ready for a ride so wet and wild that even Schlitterbahn would envy.
Muckster shows off his great leaping ability, but haste makes waste. Having the clay ball power-up is huge, especially in areas of play where there’s very little room for error.
Temporary invincibility is always appreciated. A bevy of irascible samurais guard the stage exit. If your clay ball doesn’t get the job done, just keep swiping. It’s a numbers game and sooner or later you’ll get a hit [Are we still talking about Claymates, or online dating here? -Ed.]
Globmeister is the only one who can dig, which allows you to explore new playing areas below the surface.
Platformer Rule #72: The collectibles in your game MUST, at some point, be placed in the form of an arrow. Rule #89: Falling objects must be present. In this case, lanterns filled with explosives apparently, since they explode upon impact.
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE! We’ve got fun and games. We got everything you want honey. We know the names! We are the people that can find whatever you may need. If you got the money, honey we got your disease!
Clayton finds himself in Africa. That giant rotating coin there evokes memories of Sonic the Hedgehog.
Things get a lot tougher in Africa. Obstacles and projectiles come flying at you from every which direction.
Globmeister’s life must be flashing before his very eyes. Muckster too, for that matter. Jobo is the boss of Africa, but the game isn’t over after defeating him. There’s one more place you must traverse…
Claymates turns into a horizontal space shooter!
INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN GREENSTONE
The programmer of Claymates, Brian Greenstone, was nice enough to participate in an extensive Q&A. The following interview was conducted on August 4, 2015. Enjoy.
Me: How did Claymates come to be?
BG: This was my very first Super Nintendo game that I was hired to do straight out of college. I had already made a lot of games for the Apple II and Apple IIGS, but this was a whole different ball game for me, so I had a lot to learn from day one. The idea was originally my boss’, and he wanted to do a claymation game. I forget how he got hooked up with this claymation firm, but the people we hired were really good, and they helped a lot in the design.
Me: How long was development?
BG: I believe this was a 9 or 10 month project. That was fairly typical of SNES games at the time.
Me: What were some pros and cons working on a game that relied purely on claymation?
BG: The main issue was memory space and color palettes. Both were very limited on the SNES. The company that did the actual claymation for us supplied us with each frame of animation, and then it was up to our artists to reduce those frames to something usable with the 256 color palette that we had available. One other issue was that if anything went wrong it was very hard to fix, and adding new animations required going back to the claymation company and waiting for them to do it. In a normal game the artist would simply sit down and draw a few new frames of animation by lunchtime, but not so for claymation.
Me: There’s some confusion online about the North American release date. Wikipedia has it listed as April 1993 and some folks swear by that. [Note: As of March 2019, it’s since been changed to April 26, 1994]. Others claim first quarter of 1994. GameFAQs has it as March 1994. Please clear the air: when exactly did Claymates first hit store shelves in the US?
BG: My memory is a little foggy on the exact date, but what happened was that the game was shown at CES and was a big hit. The game was supposed to be released shortly thereafter, but around the same time Visual Concepts began work on Clay Fighter, another claymation game. At the time fighting games were huge, so Interplay, the publisher, wanted to hold off releasing Claymates and wait for Clay Fighter to be completed instead. This took a very long time — in the meantime Claymates sat on the shelf. Additionally, the original name of the game was “Animal Exchange” — at least that was the working title. Interplay wanted to call it Claymates, and we objected strongly. That name was absolutely horrible, so when it finally did get released (probably in 1993) it didn’t do well. Interplay gave all the attention to Clay Fighter even though Animal Exchange had won awards at various trade shows, and the name change to Claymates scared off any self-respecting kid over 8 years old.
Me: How many copies were sold?
BG: I’m not sure. I know the game was a bit of a disappointment due to Interplay’s mismanaging of the marketing.
Me: You mentioned in our Harley’s Humongous Adventure interview that you wanted Claymates to have a different name. What was that name, and was there a reason given about why EA changed it to Claymates? And, how did EA (Electronic Arts) get involved? There is no mention of EA being attached to Claymates anywhere that I know of. Did you mean to say Interplay instead?
BG: For some reason I thought it was EA, but actually the publisher was Interplay. As mentioned above, the game’s working title was Animal Exchange, and we never really thought that would be the shipping title. But then we never thought Claymates would be either. We had a whole bunch of other titles that we suggested to Interplay and they were all better than Claymates, but for some unknown reason Interplay insisted on that name, and it destroyed the game’s chances of success.
Me: The box was incredibly unique. As a kid back in the ’90s it totally stood out in a crowd! How did you feel about the box?
BG: Yeah, the box was really cool! We thought that was going to make up for the horrible title, but it didn’t. It definitely got people’s attention but it was also a very expensive thing to do for the manufacturing. The lenticular lens — the original faux 3D technology — made the box look very neat.
Me: Speaking of the box, it proudly touted BLAZE PROCESSING (obviously inspired by Sega’s Blast Processing campaign years prior). Is there a story behind this?
BG: I vaguely remember that. If I remember correctly it was all marketing BS. It didn’t actually mean anything, and I’m sure it was another Interplay marketing idea since it made no sense [Ouch -Ed.].
Me:Claymates is pretty long by genre standards. Why wasn’t there a password (or save) option? Thankfully, the three warps included throughout the game do help somewhat to mitigate that.
BG: Could you save games on SNES? Wow, it’s been so long I can’t even remember. I guess there were passwords, right? Seems we should have had that.
Me: Do you recall the ads and if so, what’s your opinion of how the game was advertised? I remember they had the fish Goopy doing a Playboy-esque spread! Clever with the “Claymate of the Month” tagline too!
BG: Despite the horrible title, the ads looked pretty good. Very colorful, and well designed. Probably the only bit of marketing that Interplay did correctly with this game.
Me: There are five animals that Clayton can morph into. Which one is your favorite and was there a rhyme or reason for the five that were chosen?
BG: The fish was my favorite simply because the actual clay model for him looked so cool! I don’t remember if there was really much rhyme or reason to the different animals other than we needed variety. The claymation guys did a bunch for us and we picked the ones we liked the most.
Me: After each stage there’s a puzzle to solve before advancing to the next stage. You had to move carts and other objects in order to manipulate the mindless robots to reach the exit. I didn’t really like it personally just because I feel it disrupts the flow of the game. What’s your opinion of those gimmick puzzles?
BG: Yeah, I don’t think I was a fan of those either. They were probably put in there to try and differentiate the game and give it some sort of bonus round type feel. From what I remember we struggled a bit with them because they used up valuable memory space that we needed for the main game.
Me: The Milky Way, the last level of the game, transforms Claymates (I suppose that is rather ironic / poetic if you think about it…) from a platformer to a space shooter. Talk about that.
BG: I think that’s the level that used the infamous “Mode 7″ on the SNES. That was the primitive pseudo-3D mode, and there wasn’t much you could do with it. Making it a space shooter was probably the only thing we could come up with that worked with the very limited resources we had. Plus, we thought it looked cool.
Me: Do you have a favorite stage or world?
BG: I’m sure I did, but after 22 years I couldn’t remember it enough to say. I just know that I enjoyed making that game, and since it was my first “professional” game out of college I was proud of every bit of it.
Me: Was a sequel ever planned?
BG: Oh, yes. We thought the game was going to be a big hit since it played so well at CES, but when Interplay destroyed it with poor marketing decisions, it ruined any chance of that sequel ever happening. They just wanted to do Clay Fighter sequels instead.
Me: It seemed like Visual Concepts and Interplay enjoyed a successful relationship with titles such as Claymates, Clay Fighter and Clay Fighter 2 AKA C2: Judgment Clay. What was working with Interplay like?
BG: It was actually very good other than the fact they ruined the game by holding off on its release, giving it a horrible title, and then completely ignoring it over Clay Fighter. They gave us everything we needed to develop the game, and they were a good company. I later worked with their Mac subsidiary MacPlay on Power Pete.
Me: Looking back on Claymates, what are you most proud of? What disappointed you? If you could magically go back to tweak some aspect of it, what might that be?
BG: Hehe, well, I’d change the horrible title. Other than that, I think for my first console game it was really good, and considering we had 128K of memory to work with we got a lot in there.
Me: In closing, any funny or memorable stories you’d like to share?
BG: I wish I could remember the name of the claymation company that did all that work [instruction manual states A-OK Animation, Angie Glocka and Owen Klatte -Ed.]. They were really great guys to work with, and it sure would be fun to do a claymation game like that nowadays. It would be such a nice break from the CG world we live in now.
Thank you Brian Greenstone for answering my questions and thanks for programming this underrated SNES platformer
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Claymates received solid reviews from the gaming magazines of its day. EGM gave it scores of 6, 7, 7, 7 and 8. EGM’s sister publication, Super NES Buyer’s Guide, rated it 80, 81 and 84%. Super Play, typically more difficult to impress, gave Claymates a very respectable 79%.
Sadly, despite pretty good reviews and a robust advertising campaign full of ’90s charm and cheese, Claymates more or less got lost in the SNES shuffle. Even to this day it doesn’t get as much recognition as it probably deserves. It has way more substance than Clay Fighter, that’s for damn sure!
Claymates, though far from perfect, has quite a bit going for it. The levels are long enough to sink your teeth into and the level design is fairly well crafted. The gimmick of morphing into five different animals all with varying abilities makes it a blast to play, even if the control isn’t super crisp. The claymation look definitely sets it apart from the rest of the pack. Although it may lack intricate details, there is a certain charm to the visuals that can’t be understated. Each animal, including Clayton himself in blue putty ball form, has its own unique attack. It’s just more satisfying to peck critters to death — or viciously hurl acorns at them until they’re vanquished — than the standard hop ‘n bop formula that so many of these games employ. So any slight deviation earns extra points in my book, especially when you essentially have six different playable characters. Variety is the spice of life!
The music in the first world sounds a bit annoying but it gets better as the game progresses. Some of the later melodies are rather catchy; there were times where I found myself humming! There is a lively and whimsical beat to the soundtrack that makes playing Claymates even more enjoyable (once you get past that first world at least). I really dig how the levels are designed around the different animals. When a new color clay ball appears, you can bet that the next stretch of that level will be based around the abilities of the new animal. This helps tremendously to keep the long levels feeling fresh and your gameplay style switches on a dime depending on the animal you are using.
Above all else, Claymates has heart. You can tell that the people involved had a lot of fun making it and weren’t afraid to take risks. Look no further than the last level which all of a sudden boldly morphs into a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up! There’s something charming about Clayton’s adventure — he goes from his small hometown of Mudville, USA, to the Pacific, Africa and even the Land of the Rising Sun. Along with his animal friends, you’ll have to guide him even to the far reaches of outer space to save the world from certain doom. It’s not the best platformer ever made but it’s fun and delightfully eccentric. I recommend Claymates if you’re looking for something quirky and under the radar!
Graphics: 8 Sound: 7 Gameplay: 7.5 Longevity: 6
Overall: 7.5 Bronze Award
SAD BUT TRUE: July 11, 2015. Saturday night. At 6:40 PM I fired up Claymates. When I finally beat the game straight through (due to a sad lack of a password or save option), I looked at the clock and it was 1:40 AM. I sat and played through Claymates for 7 long hours. Wow. That goes down in history as my single longest game playing session, beating my previous high by probably a good 3 hours or so. Insane. Of all games, Claymates! For some wacky reason, on that particular night, I was locked in. I managed to beat it although the last level took me several dozen tries it felt. I’ll probably never do that again but man was it a crazy fun night