Note: This article was originally written on my original site (RVGFanatic.com) two years ago on September 1, 2014. It was the weekend I *finally* organized my SNES collection. Being that today is Labor Day (September 5, 2016), I’d like to honor the memory of that epic weekend two years ago by re-posting this story
The lost weekend is a phrase used to describe an epic drunk weekend that begins Friday night and ends early Monday morning. As much as I love what I do for a living, there’s nothing like Friday when you’ve checked off your last to-do item on the list. An uncaged animal, you now have the next 50 or so hours to return to the comforts of your esteemed sanctuary, game cave or even make a random trip out of town. There are few things I relish more in this world than the feeling I get every single Friday evening when I make the drive home from a long, grueling work week. Rolling down the windows, undoing your tie, blasting the radio and taking in a good whiff of that sweet Friday night air. You know the weekend is here, and you know good times lie ahead. Whatever happened earlier that week is washed away as the weekend promises a respite. Punching out on a Friday is simply priceless!
City light painted girl. In the day nothing matters. It’s the night time that flatters.
Some Friday nights I like to hit the town and check out what’s going on. Other times I simply like cruising around with no destination in mind… letting the road take me wherever it shall. I’ve always been a night owl. My energy kicks in right when many prefer to sleep. I’m not as outgoing in my old age as I once used to be, but I do still like to get out there every once in a while to sample a bit of the night life. Lately though, after an exhausting work week, I’ve found driving straight home to relax and unwind to be slightly more appealing. Being a night owl, there’s something magical about those 11 PM to 2 AM hours on a late Friday night/early Saturday morning. Sometimes I’ll throw in a movie. Or play the next SNES game on my queue. Other times I’m working on a review or just hanging out with some pals. Whatever I end up doing, there’s something precious about those late hours. A nice calm and quiet serenity to it all.
Then Saturday morning comes. I just love to hang around town, or even stay in and take care of some projects around the house. More often than not, I’m usually chilling at home. No shame. I love those quiet early Saturday mornings… where it feels like the world is standing still for a brief moment or two. It’s even better during the fall season where you get weather like you see here. It’s so atmospheric — sometimes it’s great to hang out around the house chilling like a bum with no plans whatsoever.
Sometimes I’ll stay in and play the next game on my queue. It’s a joy to explore my SNES library. I acquired most of these games in early 2006, yet still there remains hundreds I have yet to play. It’s the system that keeps on giving. Once in a special while, you have a weekend you will never forget. This past Labor Day weekend (2014) was one such time for me. I decided it was time to finally set up and display my complete in box SNES collection. A project LONG overdue!
For over 8 years I’ve kept my Super Nintendo stuff tucked away in bins and boxes. Until recently I was inspired to finally set it up. I was inspired by a video on YouTube that showed movie critic Chris Stuckmann’s N64 games in badass box protectors. They looked über shiny and glossy. I knew right away that I had to do the same for my SNES collection. I contacted Dan of retroprotection.com and purchased 200 box protectors for $142. That may seem like a lot, but at 71 cents a pop, I believe it’s more than worth the investment, especially given how flimsy SNES boxes are. And like I said, it adds a nice classy sleek look.
I bought 200 tray inserts off eBay. Most of my SNES boxes didn’t come with an insert. They help prevent the cartridges from rattling and are a must for your boxed games.
The lost weekend began Friday night as I dug out my boxes and manuals in preparation for Saturday’s one man assembly line. Seeing the goods out in full force reminded me of how lucky I was that the nostalgia bug bit me back in January 2006, and not years later as the market would then explode. The prices these babies now command are insane. I was fortunate enough to beat the crowd. 2006 was a golden time to be a diehard SNES buyer as many items were cheap still.
Saturday morning, 9:15 AM. A beautiful morning, the floor was littered with cartridges, manuals and boxes. One at a time I began to put the pieces together. My goal was to get the first 200 games boxed. As I assembled it, I listened to quite a few wrestling podcasts. It was fun listening to Jim Ross shooting the breeze with Stone Cold Steve Austin. Also listened to Drax the Destroyer Dave Bautista talking to Chris Jericho about a variety of topics and learned a thing or two sitting under the learning tree of one, Paul Heyman. It help made the tedious one man assembly line a lot more fun, plus flipping through the various manuals and reading the back of boxes kept me entertained. It ended up being a lot more enjoyable and memorable than I imagined it would be. I felt like a kid all over again seeing my childhood resurrected, coming back to life one game, one box and one manual at a time ^_^
Wow. My jaw dropped as I stood back to admire my collection in half its glory. With another 200 or so games to piece together and display, this is ‘only’ 204 boxed SNES games. Wiping the sweat off my brow, I stood there for what felt like 30 minutes to admire the beauty of it all. I should have done this years ago! I love the SNES boxes. They’re flimsy but there’s something cool about them. They are, essentially, fragments of memories from my childhood!
One guy put it best when he said years ago, “I feel like I’m fulfilling my childhood dreams.” There’s something to be said about walking into a room only to be met by hundreds and hundreds of boxed video games. As a child I remember gawking at the endless Super Nintendo titles on hand at the local SOFTWARE ETC. or Toys R Us. I could only dream of one day owning even a small fraction of all those games. Yet as of today, my collection rivals the stores I saw in my youth. Even surpassing them. It’s a trip. That’s one Labor Day weekend I’ll never forget. Finally I’d put together a bulk of my SNES collection. As I did, a flood of memories came roaring back, ranging from how I acquired a game to my childhood memories of playing a certain game to death. It was a weekend for the ages. Indeed, I have fulfilled my childhood dreams
I love the small pleasures in life. And one of them is definitely coming home to your game room. Gazing at those gorgeous boxes and knowing you can pick to play any one of them at any time is an incrediblefeeling. On lazy weekends, I enjoy playing games I’ve yet to play and have been curious about for years on end. Now that my collection is displayed, I feel all the more fortunate to own all the games that I do. The offering of choices is endless and playing the rest of the games still left on my to-beat queue is a lifetime project. You know what I absolutely love? You know how sometimes you’ll get the strangest, most random urge to play a certain game? Like it just hits you between the eyes out of the blue. The feeling I get from going through my work day and then you head home with that game still on your mind. You can’t shake it. You enter your game room, find it on the shelf, take it down and pop it in. Good stuff. It’s part of what makes gaming so much fun. I love movies, but to me there’s nothing like retro gaming. They’re bundles of nostalgia and wonder.
Hey, is it Friday night yet?
I apologize in advance for the low quality of the video. My camera two years ago was quite crap
The Super Nintendo celebrates its 25th birthday here in the US! Released in late August of 1991, it’s hard to believe it’s been a quarter century since the SNES has dazzled and delighted an entire generation of gamers. In honor of this grand milestone, I figure now’s as good a time as any to share my first experience with the SNES nearly 25 years ago. The following story was published originally in Rob Strangman’s Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman (2014).
MY SUPER NINTENDO GENESIS
IT’S BEEN SAID that every gamer, regardless of the generation they were born in, recollects back fondly on their gaming childhood. There’s a certain sense of wonder, awe and magic when you combine quality video gaming and the pure innocence of a child. While I love gaming now as an adult, there are pros and cons to gaming as a kid, and gaming as an adult. Although I feel I’ve matured in my gaming tastes over the years, nothing can ever recapture the pure adulation of video game discovery through the impressionable eyes of youth. There was also the fact of perusing through glorious 400 page video game magazines, renting games every weekend and having excess time to game that today is no longer viable, for the most part. So, while every gamer will claim their generation had it best… for me, I can’t think of a better year I’d rather be born in than good ol’ 1983.
Being born in ’83 meant that I grew up, literally, with the classic 8-bit Nintendo. Living with my game loving uncle growing up, he bought a Nintendo for my brother (Kevin) and me circa 1987. I was four years old at the time, and the NES was just beginning to hit its stride and complete domination of the video game market. There was a mom and pop rental shop down the road called Evergreen Video that my dad would take Kevin and me every Saturday afternoon. It was thanks to Evergreen Video (and our local neighborhood friends) that we got to experience such classics like Contra, Mega Man 2, Battletoads, Double Dragon II, TMNT II: The Arcade Game, and Beetlejuice. Wait, no, scratch that last one. Point being, it was a glorious time to be a carefree kid, living in suburban America, enjoying the prime of the 8-bit NES with my brother, our friends and our crazy Uncle Jimmy.
But, like all good things in life, it had to come to an end at some point. Even at 7 years old, back in 1990 I could see the writing on the wall for my dear old friend when my uncle bought a Sega Genesis. Sega’s 16-bit monster absolutely blew me away. I remember before Uncle Jimmy bought it I saw it in action for the first time at my friend’s house. Denny showed me the box to Altered Beast, and it was love at first sight. As a staunch lover of all things monster-related, Altered Beast’s sleek box art displaying a savage wolf man amidst a barren wasteland instantly won me over.
“How big do you think the cartridge is?” Denny asked me, with a big grin on his kisser.
“Um, bigger than Nintendo?” I figured since Genesis was clearly a leap in technology that the cartridge needed more room to fit it all in.
Imagine my shock when Denny opened the clamshell to reveal a tiny little cartridge. He plugged the game in. Not 30 seconds later, I had to scrape my jaw off the floor. What I saw that day blew my mind; I knew the future of video gaming had arrived. It’s always hard to see a dear old friend slowly fading away. While my brother and I kept the NES alongside the Genesis, the 8-bit NES went from being my virtual best friend to something of a semi-dust collector. 1990 was definitely the year of the Sega Genesis.
But then, 1991 came. My friends began whispering around late summer of that year about a new Nintendo system coming out. They were touting how it would be the NES on steroids. Hence the name SUPER Nintendo, and that it was going to battle the Sega Genesis for video game supremacy. There seemed to be, in those days and at least in my young 8 year old eyes, a shroud of mystery and mystique surrounding the impending arrival of the SNES. If it truly was going to be the NES to the 10th power, then heads were going to roll. They say you never forget your first time. I can certainly agree with that.
December 1991. For Christmas vacation my family drove Kevin and me to Lake Tahoe. Along with four other families, we were going to sleep over together in a gigantic cabin that the parents rented out. Now there’s something you need to understand. This was my gaming crew back in the day. Between the five families you had 16 kids ranging from 5 to 13 years old, and we all shared a love for one another and video gaming. You had the brothers, Tommy and Denny. Denny was the one who first introduced me to the Genesis and Altered Beast. These were the cats that owned all the latest gaming shit you could only dream of having, too. All our parents got along like best friends, and it just so happened that the kids liked each other a lot, too. I could go on and on about those cats that I ran with back in the late ‘80s to late ‘90s. It had to be some of the most legendary sleepovers in the history of mankind. Imagine 10 parents and 16 kids thick as thieves. The parents would talk, reminisce about their glory days, laugh, karaoke and dance up a storm downstairs while the kids would be upstairs gaming or making random silly home videos past the witching hour. I remember times where we even stayed up until 2 AM. Whenever I think of my childhood, I can’t help but think of those gaming brothers and the countless epic memories we forged.
But I digress. Back to that fateful day of late December 1991. We all checked in, put away our things and began scoping out the humongous 3-story cabin. I remember it was freezing. My best friend in the group, Zack, and I were going to share a room with the brothers, Brian and Bryce. I was closest to these three. Within the whole group you had three different sub-groups. I was sort of the “leader” of my sub-group, due to age. My group was the 1983-1986 kids. The other group composed of the kids born from 1978-1981. And then you had the girls in one entirely separate sub-group. I was unpacking my clothes when Zack’s older brother walked in.
I have to pause here and provide a little context on Zack’s older brother. In the years to come following this weekend get away, pretty much everyone in our group affectionately referred to him as Sushi-X. It was due to his fervent love for EGM. Also, he was the best damn Street Fighter II player we ever saw.
So enter Sushi-X. He started telling us how our room was haunted. Now, mind you, I was 8 years old at the time and very impressionable. While I loved ghost stories and all that, I never wanted to experience one for real! Sushi-X, you have to understand, was sort of the unspoken ring leader of the group. Everyone respected him; at 13 he was the oldest at that point in time. I always sort of looked up to him as a gaming sensei and a life expert, just because, well, he was 13 and like I said, I was a very impressionable 8 year old child. Sushi-X began telling us this tale of an old lady who once lived in this cabin, and how she slept in the very room that I was going to sleep in that night. He said she committed suicide right here, right where we stood unpacking our clothes. I remember all four of us – myself, Brian, Bryce and Zack – staring at each other in wide-eyed terror. Sushi-X spoke in such a matter-of-fact tone that I think we actually bought his BS lies. Again, the pure innocence of being that young!
Thankfully, Tommy was also sort of an alpha male, and he always matched Sushi-X in stature within the group. Tommy ended the ghost story madness when he rushed into our room and cryptically declared, “Hey guys, if you’re ready to be blown away, come to the living room.”
I remember Sushi-X looking at me like, “Whoa, this gotta be good. Forget this ghost crap, deuces y’all!”
Good old Tommy. He saved the little guys as Sushi-X was the first one to bolt for the door. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief as Zack asked me, “Do you think my brother is telling the truth about that ghost lady?” It was all I could think about as the four of us followed behind Tommy and Sushi-X to the living room. As exciting as Tommy’s tease was, I was too preoccupied thinking about whether or not the room I would be sleeping in later that night was, indeed, truly haunted.
Once in the living room, I saw everyone sitting there. In front of us all was a TV and a black zipped bag. All eyes were fixed on Tommy and that bag which conspicuously sat beside him. Like a good brother, Denny was right next to Tommy, with the same big fat grin on his kisser that I had seen the year before when he revealed to me the cartridge size of Altered Beast. Suddenly, I forgot all about the ghost lady as a sensational feeling of excitement raged through every fiber of my being. I knew whatever this announcement might be that it was going to be monumental. Indeed, it would be a historic moment in time for this gaming group and a classic tale to be retold in the generations to come (wink).
“Well, now that everyone is here,” Tommy began, scanning the room and pausing for dramatic effect. He was always such a pro at being a showman. “Denny and I are proud to share with the group what we have brought. It’s inside this bag right here.” Tommy looked down and pointed to the black bag. He was surely milking this moment for all it was worth.
“While we’re still young!” interjected Nathan, the group’s token comedian. Everyone laughed. You could feel the palpable buzz and energy in the room as the moment of truth neared.
“Everyone’s a critic,” Tommy responded. I always admired him for his quick wit and repartee. Plus he certainly was always a straight shooter, never making up scary ghost stories just to rib on others. I’m looking at you, Sushi-X! “Alright, alright,” he continued. “Denny, if you would, bro.”
All 30 eyeballs in the room now shifted to Denny, who leaned over to unzip the bag. He looked at all of us, smiling, as he reached in. “What is it, what is it?!” he joked, as he held his hands in the bag for a solid 10 seconds. Like his brother, Denny knew how to milk a moment! Finally, after all the hoop-la he pulled out the brand new 16-bit Super Nintendo. Gasps erupted from the group along with shouts of joy and shock. No one in our group had yet to own the SNES, and now we just found out that Tommy not only owned one, but it was RIGHT HERE in the flesh ready to be played! The girls rolled their eyes as if to say, “That’s the big deal? Yuck.” They left while the rest of us crowded around the machine, as though we were fawning over a new born baby. We all wanted to be first to hold this new bundle of joy. It was an instant classic. A grand slam. The SNES completely, pardon the pun, changed the game.
What followed were hours and hours of F-Zero and Final Fight being played to death. Since I was in that second sub-group, and as these were single player games (prolonging the wait even further), there was an unspoken pecking order. Classic group dynamite, you understand. Thus, I never got to play either game that night, as the alpha males in the first sub-group (1978-1981) rotated turns. Even my brother got his licks in, and I remember thinking to myself what a miscarriage of justice it all was. Finally, nightfall came. After dinner we did some channel surfing. We came across Godzilla vs. Mothra. I’m a HUGE Godzilla fan, but our token comedian Nathan was doing his best Mystery Science 3000 Theatre impersonation that night, making all of us, including me, laugh our butts off. We had another late night as the group was infamous for, before finally crashing early in the wee morning hours.
The cabin groaned as I opened my eyes. I sat up and noticed my roommates Zack, Brian and Bryce were nowhere to be found. I chuckled to myself, figuring that they probably woke up early in order to make a beeline for Tommy’s Super Nintendo. I would have done the same if only I hadn’t slept like a hibernating bear. Opening the door, a cold chill instantly swept over me sending shivers up and down my spine. It felt like someone took electrical wires and brushed it across my back. I looked down the hallway, which was cloaked in an eerie darkness. It suddenly resembled a demonic hallway from a horror movie. I called out to my family and friends. No response. I had a Home Alone flashback. Was I, for the first time in my life, home alone? I shouted out again. Silence, except for the odd noises the old cabin was emitting. I began tip-toeing downstairs, making my way to the kitchen. Maybe everyone was at the breakfast table. Somehow, before I even reached the bottom step, I knew it was a false sense of hope. Sure enough, in the kitchen all I found was a note taped to the refrigerator.
Everyone left for brunch. We will be back soon. Sorry, I didn’t want to wake you up. You had a late night and I wanted you to get the extra rest. Make some Honey Nut Cheerios, and don’t watch too much TV.
Fantastic. Now I was trapped all by myself in this… this… THIS CABIN FROM HELL! I opened the fridge to take out the milk and spotted a cold can of 7 Up. Being my favorite soda, I wanted nothing more than to down that sucker right then and there, but I realized if I did I might have to use the restroom, and there was no way I was heading down that demonic looking hallway! Ah, the dilemma of my youth. I relinquished my grip of the can and closed the fridge with milk in hand. The cabin continued hissing, making all manner of strange noises. Boy, it’s so much more amplified when you’re all alone. I suddenly thought of the ghost lady Sushi-X told me about the day before. Damn you, Sushi-X. But, even at 8 years old, I was a fairly resourceful kid. See, I had this theory. Ghosts and spirits would never mess with you if you had the radio or TV on. Any kind of noise would repel them. Hey, I was 8, OK? I made my way over to the living room and immediately turned the TV on. I came across one of my favorite wrestlers, Hulk Hogan, on a WWF show. I always had an affinity for pro wrestling. I loved the larger than life characters and the in-ring artistry and mayhem. Seeing the Hulkster ramble on in one of his classic pre-taped backstage interviews, talking about praying, training and eating your vitamins was more than enough to make me forget about my current quandary: I was the lone prisoner stuck inside the cabin from hell.
But then, without warning, the show came to a close. I immediately felt unnerved by the dreadful atmosphere of the cabin. Have you ever felt a PRESENCE in the room with you? That someone, or SOMETHING, was watching you from the shadows? That’s exactly how I felt on that cold and dreary December morning of 1991. And then, it happened. My eyes spotted Tommy’s Super Nintendo lying on the floor. Of course! I was shaking but this time, it wasn’t because of the freezing temperature or my fear of what might have lurked in the shadowy cabin corridors. I was shaking because this was a historic moment, a monumental moment of firsts: first time being home alone, and first time experiencing the almighty Super Nintendo for myself in ALL its glory. Hey, it’s true what they say… you never forget your first time.
Powering up F-Zero, I was instantly transported to Mode-7 Heaven. Every single racing track blew my mind. I couldn’t believe how fast it played, and how AMAZING the game looked. And that MUSIC… oh man, it would haunt me forever in a way that would make any spirit of that cabin, if there were any at all, extremely jealous. F-Zero led me from thinking about ghosts to obsessing over intergalactic racing warfare! Later I plugged in Final Fight and found myself saving the good citizens of Metro City one jaw-dropping stage after another, as I smeared the streets with the blood of the hooligans from the Mad Gear Gang. I had never seen such state-of-the-art arcade-like graphics before. The characters were unbelievably HUGE and at times I found myself wondering, “WHERE THE HECK IS THE COIN SLOT?!”
I played both F-Zero and Final Fight with a grand deal of euphoria until my family and friends came back. Yes, part of me was ecstatic to no longer be alone in the cabin from hell, but something funny happened during my inaugural play through with the Super Nintendo. It made me forget about malicious ghosts and evil spirits. Instead, it transported me to the future of video gaming, where you could snap a bastard’s neck in two and soar 200 feet across a race track suspended high above a futuristic city – all in stunning graphics and sound. The new generation of gaming had officially arrived, and it was nothing short of awesome. I never looked back.
Now, nearly 25 years later since that epic and infamous family-friend weekend to Lake Tahoe, I still remember certain aspects of the trip as if it happened only yesterday. I remember the big snowball fight we waged against one another. And how Zack, Brian, Bryce and I got a SMALL measure of revenge on Sushi-X when we caught him off guard and pelted him with four lumpy snowballs in stereo. I remember trying to ski and falling on my ass, making me look like that which I fell on. I recall how freezing and creepy the cabin was, especially during the night time and how you would get chills up and down your spine whenever crossing one of its various “cold spots.” Hell, I remember being ditched for breakfast! But most of all, I will always remember, with great affection, a real deep fondness of the first time I ever experienced the Super Nintendo. It’s a precious memory that will remain embedded in my gaming heart even decades from now, long after the Tahoe snow has faded.
I still keep in touch with the old gaming crew, but like many things in life, it’ll never be like how it was once upon a time. I guess that’s why many fondly refer to those halcyon days as the good old days. But, rather than weeping over times that have long passed, I rejoice that I was fortunate enough to be there when it happened. As I said at the beginning, most folks like to claim their generation as the best because each person’s childhood is unique and precious to them. Likewise, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that the years 1987 to 1995 was a special time growing up in suburban America. I basically grew up alongside the 8-bit Nintendo, the 16-bit Sega Genesis AND the Super Nintendo. It was a spectacular period in gaming’s history, and there’s a reason many fondly refer to that time as the “Golden Age of Gaming.” All in all, I considered myself pretty dang lucky.
Happy 25th birthday, SNES. Thank you for supplying us with an epic quarter century of awesome games and even better memories. Here’s to another gawd damn 25 years!
The Super Nintendo in the early-mid ’90s was where all your old 8-bit favorites went on to become immortalized. Taking everything that made the 8-bit classics so great and adding some 16-bit horsepower to the mix often times made for an even better game. Sadly though, not all 16-bit sequels lived up to the hype. And in some cases, they even fell way short. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind the clock back to the summer of 1991…
LEAN, MEAN AND GREEN
When the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon hit airwaves back in 1987, it sparked a revolution. It wasn’t long before we saw other similar mutant animal factions sprout up overnight like a bad pimple [I see what you did there -Ed.] on prom night. The first time I laid eyes on the Battletoads box at Evergeeen Video one hot June afternoon in 1991, I was hooked. Instead of beating up foot soldiers, you took on mutant rats. Instead of playing as turtles, you played as some badass toads. The game immediately grabbed my attention. No sooner then did I take it to the counter for the old man to rent.
Double Dragon II was our jam. My uncle bought us a copy and we played it to death. Back then there was nothing like kicking in skulls and cleaning up the streets with a buddy in tow. As far as my 7-year-old self was concerned, nothing could top that. A jump kick here. An uppercut there. I was a pig in mud.
Double Dragon II was the pinnacle of NES beat ‘em ups. So my brother and I were excited to try out Battletoads especially coming off the heels of the very disappointing Double Dragon III sequel (February 1991).
It didn’t match the sheer awesomeness of Double Dragon II, but we definitely had our fair share of fun with Battletoads. One has to give it some credit for being different. At its heart you have another beat ‘em up, but it did a few quirky things here and there that has stood out in my mind even 25 years later. Whoa, speaking of which, I just realized NES Battletoads turned 25 two months ago. Cue the obligatory “Damn do I feel old now” comment.
Just look at this enemy. Very unconventional looking. Not only that but you can break its legs, take one and beat bad guys with said leg. It’s utterly ridiculous, but all part of that weird, unique Battletoads charm.
Unfortunately, Battletoads is also known for its gross difficulty, particularly that infamous air bike section. You know the one I’m talking about. Even to this day, it’s still referred to as one of the hardest sections a video game has ever seen. But hey, maybe in the 16-bit sequel they’ll reduce the difficulty, or get rid of it altogether, right? Right…
Things start out well enough. Unfortunately you can’t pick the toad you want to use. Player 1 always uses Pimple while Player 2 uses Rash. Zitz was captured in the game intro. Kind of a downer you couldn’t just select from any three, but whatever. It’s fun seeing Pimple transform his fist into a stone hammer the very first time.
As well as this. It starts out being quite comical, and satisfying. That is until more than one enemy shows up, and the time it takes to produce such exaggerated animations begin to cost you. Enemies can easily score cheap hits because of these overblown moves, and they’re no longer as fun to watch the 10th time. Which proves to me sometimes you just can’t beat good old fashioned efficiency and practicality. These are fun gimmicks, indeed, but not very effective ones in the long run.
I do like though how the run option requires no double tapping. Just hold left or right for a little bit and your toad starts sprinting. Very handy for sections such as these.
I love the exploding volcanoes in the backdrop of this stage. And all the excessive lava flowing around everywhere. It sets a pretty nice tone.
Ah, here’s something more practical for ya. Surrounded by enemies? Smash both of them away at the same time. Very efficient, and satisfying.
Shades of Golden Axe if you ask me! Try to knock these bozos off that little cliff there. Always a great feeling when you manage to pull it off.
Not a big fan of level design like this. You know, where certain sections of the landscape give way and you have to be in the clear or else lose a life. Always felt cheap to me and particularly unnecessary in a beat ‘em up. There’s just no place for it.
Love Pimple’s reaction there. The game definitely has a sense of humor to it, and I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more if the game was more sensible rather than annoyingly cheap and difficult, which later on it does become.
Speaking of annoying, be careful not to be squashed. If you are, you turn into a quivering pancake, and your sprite will wobble around the screen. Thankfully you can control it but you do run the risk of waddling right off the cliff and thus lose a life if you’re not careful. It just adds another point to the annoyance meter for me.
The final blow ends in a Michael Bay slow motion explosion. Quite dramatic and lovely. It’s a shame this first level is really the only true “beat ‘em up” level in the entire game. Yes, sad but true. This caught me off guard the first time. Stages 2-6 are all gimmicky bullshit that involves rides of one kind or another, and really take away from the enjoyment of the game. Honestly felt like I was duped. A classic case of bait and switch if I ever saw one before.
And so it begins. Your descent into gimmicky rides galore. At first it was like “OK, cool, they’re switching it up for stage 2 for some needed variety.” But then you realize these gimmicky scrolling stages never stop, much to the detriment of the overall game enjoyment.
Another glaring flaw is when playing with two players, should any one of the players die, the game resets to the beginning of the stage. How is that fair? How is that a good idea? Answer: it’s not fair, and it’s not a good idea. It practically makes it unplayable with two because of that. Sigh, there’s just so much that they got wrong with this one.
This part was just BS, too. At first it’s manageable, but soon the screen speeds up and you essentially have no chance in hell but to experience a completely cheap death that relies mostly on luck. The screen scrolls way too fast and your sprite is way too big, leaving you little room to react as well as little wiggle room. A terrible combination that isn’t fun but rather incompetently designed. Stuff like this really detracts from the game.
The bonus stages are OK, though. I like riding across the reflective surface there. It’s got a cool look to it. And it’s fun trying to collect as many of the good pins as you can while avoiding the bad ones. I just wish there were more regular beat ‘em up levels.
The infamous air bike section is back. And it’s as hard as ever. I’m sorry but this just isn’t fun. It’s way too hard for its own good. I don’t mind a legitimately stiff challenge as long as it’s reasonably fair and well thought out. This is not. It’s just borderline over the top ridiculous.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Battletoads in Battlemaniacs received some amazing reviews when it came out over 23 years ago. EGM gave it scores of 9, 8, 8and 8. GameFan rated it 94, 96, 99and 99%. Wow. GameFan was notorious for handing out high scores like free condiments, and this is a pretty prime example of such. Two 99 scores for a game with its fair share of flaws — who knows what they were smoking back in the summer of ’93? Finally, Super Play Magazine scored it 80%.
Earlier this summer I finally sat down to play Battletoads in Battlemaniacs for really the first time. Sure, I’m certain I had played it here and there for five minutes back in the early-mid ’90s, but I don’t recall ever thoroughly playing it. Needless to say, being a fan of the NES original, I came into this with lofty expectations. Imagine my shock when this turned out to be one of the most disappointing Super Nintendo games I have ever played. It’s not the worst game. But in terms of disappointing? Sadly I have to say it ranks up there. After a decent first stage of good ol’ beat ‘em up action, the game decides for some absurd reason to turn into a scrolling gimmicky ride. I just want to move from left to right and punch anything that comes in my way.
I can appreciate a game with a tough challenge. But when it crosses the line like it does here, it just feels wrong. This game simply didn’t sit well with me outside of its visuals and music. Honestly, this game reminds me of a sleazy bait and switch. I came in expecting NES Battletoads on steroids. And it starts out decently enough. But as soon as that bloody second level hits, the game takes off its mask and says, “HA! TRICKED YA! THANKS FOR THE FIFTY BUCKS, BITCHES!” I’ve played a ton of SNES games in the past quarter century. There are some bad games in that lot, for sure, but Battletoads in Battlemaniacs was the last game I expected to be this disappointing. Not sure if I would have liked it more back in 1993 (perhaps it’s aged very poorly), but this game is frustrating and broken. Not my idea of a good time or a game anywhere near deserving of a 99% or a 9 out of 10 score. If you like it, more power to ya. But this goes down as one of the most botched NES to SNES efforts I have ever seen. Oh well. Can’t win ‘em all. At least Battletoads & Double Dragon was somewhat playable and enjoyable…
It’s almost been 22 years since Jim Carrey’s The Mask hit theaters. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. So many people remember the movie, but how many people remember the video game? Coming out toward the back end of the Super Nintendo’s life span, it came and went with little to zero fanfare. Is it a classic case of a game that has been wrongly overlooked, or is it an exhibit of a licensed effort that just isn’t very good? Let’s take a look and unmaskthe mystery [You’re fired -Ed.]
“SOMEBODY STOP ME!”
In 1994, Michael Jordan went to play baseball, Bill Clinton was accused of sexual harassment, and OJ Simpson killed his ex-wife and Ronald Goldman before taking off in a white Bronco down 91 Freeway [So not going there -Ed.]. And nobody could stop Jim Carrey. It was in ’94 that Carrey became a star with films such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber, and THE MASK. He was Hollywood’s NEW golden boy, and the world was his oyster. Carrey’s 3 films grossed more than a total of 700 million worldwide. Most actors could only dream of half that success over an entire career, let alone one year! Of those films, The Mask is my favorite. Its wacky, over-the-top hero was perfectly portrayed and produced. And no one else could have brought the Mask character to life quite like Jim Carrey. My old gaming crew and I went to see the film in theaters on Saturday, July 30, 1994. I remember that fateful Saturday afternoon well. After all, when you’re 10, there’s nothing quite like seeing summer blockbusters with your best pals. It’s a childhood necessity as sure as riding roller coasters and navigating haunted houses.
When you were a kid, the words movie magic really meant something. There was a certain aura about going to the movies as a young child that can’t be replicated. You got swept up in the whole process. Of hopping into the old family van, staring at the movie titles gleaming on the marquee, gawking at the larger-than-life movie posters as you sidle over to the popcorn and candy section. Finally, entering the theater and seeing that humongous silver screen (remember how big it seemed when you were a kid?), and red plush seats that seemed to stretch on for miles and miles. It was all part of the magic of going to the movies.
A bit of interesting trivia: in the original comics, the Mask was created by an African tribe. But in the movie, it was made by Loki, the Norse God of mischief.
Stanley turns into the Haunted Mask. Wait, no, sorry, that was Carly Beth. But true story, when I first saw the previews for the Mask, I thought it was a rip-off of R.L. Stine’s Haunted Mask. Little did I know then that the Mask started out as a comic book originally. If anything, Mr. Stine drew inspiration from the comic. Nevertheless, I LOVED me some Goosebumps back in the day!
LEVEL 1: STANLEY’S APARTMENT
And it’s been recreated perfectly here. Smash weak floors to open up new areas.
OK… soooo… that didn’t work out too well. Hmm, let’s try a different strategy…
The Mask has many special abilities. He can morph into a raging tornado, leap 20 feet in the air, or bust out his collection of firearms. The downside being that all of these special moves will quickly drain your Morph points. You’d do well to save them only for sticky situations. When faced against the regular bad guys throughout the game’s stages, you’ll most likely be punching them to oblivion. It doesn’t eat away at your Morph points, and it’s serviceable enough on the lower tier enemies. I wouldn’t dare suggest punching against the bosses though! The enemies as you can see here look a bit strange, and the animation is awkward.
Now to get around, besides breaking certain sections of the floor to create new playing space, you also move about through the usage of elevators and various teleport warps, like vents. The type of teleport depends on the stage’s theme. In the forest for example, you can teleport through the hollows in the trees.
I like the warping aspect. It puts a twist on things; this is definitely not your typical hop ‘n bop licensed platformer. Teleport points give the levels a decent maze-like feel. If nothing else, bonus points for attempting to be different.
You have 500 points for your health and Morph magic. Collect hearts to regain vitality. Collect M’s scattered throughout to boost back up your Morph points. Different special moves eat up a certain amount of points. Guns cost you 100, f’rinstance. Once you hit 0, it slowly replenishes to 50, similar to Earthworm Jim (Jim’s ammo crawls back to 100 after hitting 0). Nice of them to throw us a bone.
LEVEL 2: THE MEAN STREETS OF EDGE CITY
LEVEL 3: THE MEAN STREETS IN ANOTHER PART OF TOWN
LEVEL 4: PARK PLACE
Controversy reared its ugly head when Jim Carrey chose not to promote his role in the film Kick-Ass 2. With the recent Sandy Hook tragedy, Carrey felt the film was TOO violent and refused to promote it. It stirred some rumblings among his fellow cast members who had varying opinions on Carrey’s sudden change of heart. The movie certainly wasn’t too violent when he was getting paid big bucks for his role in the film. Needless to say, Carrey isn’t remembered for this particular masked role…
LEVEL 5: JAILHOUSE ROCK
Electric grids must first be turned off by hitting a switch. Some of the switches are readily visible next to a grid while others are placed a ways away. In such cases, you have to hightail it. The switch is effective only for a short time. This requires precision and no wasted movement on your part.
LEVEL 6: SUCKY SEWERS
This level is not very fun. In fact, it’s kind of a pain. Multiple warp points during the long free falls will drive you mad, for instance. You know it’s bad when the game developers didn’t include a boss on this level — they knew just finding the exit was hard enough in and of itself. That’s really all you need to know…
LEVEL 7: CLUB COCO BONGO
“STANLEY! I knew you would come save me!”
“Yeah, alright, I know. Now quick, untie me!”
“I’m getting some funky ideas here, Tina…”
“WE CAN DO THAT LATER! But if Dorian –“
Game a little too hard for your liking? Wished you had infinite lives, health or morphing powers? Desire to skip stages? With this simple cheat, you can do all of that. SMOKIN’!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
The video game flew under the radar. EGMgave it scores of 6.5, 6.5, 6.5 and 7.5. The movie, however, was very well received. In 1994, The Mask became the second highest grossing superhero movie since BATMAN. Although it’s been outdone since ’94, The Mask remains a fan favorite among movie goers both young and old alike. Made on a budget of 23 million, it went on to gross more than 350 million worldwide. Siskel and Ebert gave it two thumbs up and listed it on their “Best of 1994″ list. That was a big year for Jim Carrey, as he starred in 3 films: Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, and The Mask. But it was the latter that did the best both commercially and critically. The Mask launched Jim Carrey into superstardom, sending him through the stratosphere as a major Hollywood player. Along the way he collected a lot of big bucks. The Mask also launched previously unknown Cameron Diaz into a leading lady of the silver screen. She went on to have a huge film career for the next 20 years. Not bad, eh?
The Mask does a nice job of replicating the feel of the film. Some licensed titles take a lot of liberty, but that isn’t the case here. Because of this, the video game has a silly comic book like feel. It comes off very authentic, and you feel like you’re really“being” the Mask character, with all of his unique reality bending abilities. This is a major plus. However, on the downside, you have the visuals, which for a game released in late ’95, isn’t even up to 1992 SNES standards. THE MASK looks great and animates well, but the enemies are fugly and animate with the grace of a cardboard. I wish they spent more time on these characters as they clearly did with the Mask. The sound captures that cartoon-ish aspect of the Mask’s world nicely. The music is not anything to write home about.
The game plays decently enough, with some levels being executed better than others. It’s nice they tried something different other than the standard hop and bop that so many licensed games seemingly turn to. The Mask comes off as a weird hybrid of a beat ‘em up and an action platformer. The boss battles are limited, though, due to the IMMENSE size of the characters in the game. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for actual gameplay skills. It’s truly then just a matter of standing back and firing off all your special attacks until your Morph points hit 0. Using his boxing gloves is tough since he’s such a big target, plus the bosses have long ranged attacks. Thus, the boss battles are largely unsatisfying, and that’s a shame because some of the levels themselves can provide for a mindless hour of mild entertainment, with various warp points and being able to live out the Mask’s larger than life, over-the-top shenanigans. He’s a fun and charismatic creature to control. You could do far worse than The Mask as far as games on the Super Nintendo go, but there’splenty better out there. All in all, this game is pretty much middle of the road. I wouldn’t go out of my way to actively look for a copy but if you come across it for 5 bucks or less, it’s not a bad add to your SNES collection… especially if you liked the film 20+ years ago.
I WISH YOU WOULD STEP BACK…
I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend.
You could cut ties with all the lies that you’ve been living in
And if you do not want to SEE ME AGAIN,
I would understand.
The angry boy, a bit TOO insane.
Icin’ over a secret pain.
You know you don’t belong.
You’re the first to fight; you’re way too loud.
You’re the flash of light on a burial shroud.
I know something’s wrong.
Well everyone I know has got a reason… to say, PUT THE PAST AWAY.
I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend…
You could… cut ties with all the lies that you’ve been living in.
And if you do not want to SEE ME AGAIN…
[Wait just a damn second here. I saw this scenein a game before… -Ed.]
I fell in love with EarthBound after playing it for the first time back in November 2012. It was one of the best RPGs that I ever played. Wanting more, I searched online for similar titles. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered there was one on the SNES called TheAdventures of Hourai High. It’s an obscure Japanese only RPG that can best be described as a mix of EarthBound and Final Fantasy V. Say no more. Take my money! Thankfully, the game’s dialogue has long since been fan translated from Japanese to English. Thanks to the effort of these good men, Westerners can now enjoy a visit to the wacky and nutty Hourai High School…
20 YEAR REUNION
Just yesterday the Nintendo 64 and Mario 64 celebrated 20 years since both were first released in Japan. Dude, that just blows my mind. Where does the time go? Speaking of 20th Anniversaries, a couple months ago The Adventures of Hourai High turned 20 years old itself. I guess them crazy cats had their 20 year class reunion somewhere in Japan. Thinking about that makes me reminisce about my high school years. I just crossed the 15 year mark myself. Damn I’m getting old…
MEMORIES OF SENIOR YEAR
Who doesn’t remember high school? From getting your driver’s license, your first job, or perhaps even your first girlfriend [or boyfriend -Ed.], those were the days of our youth. We formed friendships and learned life lessons. We also learned a little bit more about who we were going to be. Senior Prom, Grad Night, crappy group projects, the Senior Prank, cliques, clubs, crushes, awful school lunches, crappy teachers, cool teachers, and a whole lot of posturing to be cool and hip, especially with the “in-crowd.” High school now feels like ancient history to me, and while I feel college was a lot more important, it’s impossible to deny that high school has its place too. I was sort of a regular kid in high school. I wasn’t part of the “cool kids” group, but I wasn’t one of the dweebs that got bullied, either. I was good old Steve, the nice guy the girls liked (as their friend only, of course) and I hung out with other regular Joes who were right in the middle of the pecking order, so to speak. We had a good time, forged some good memories but when all was said and done, we sailed out into the sunset, never looking back sans the odd nostalgic moment here and there.
In terms of pecking order, I hit my peak during senior year. I started branching out from my friends, taking classes that interested me (such as creative writing and acting) which helped to develop my confidence. I also landed my first job at the local Blockbuster, and my employee perk of being able to get 5 free movies a week suddenly made little ole me a man in demand. Many nights I would see a lot of my cute senior classmates stroll in and I would take advantage of the opportunity by chatting with them as I rung them up. My biggest crush was easily Judy. She was the prom queen of our school. The girl was smoking hot. I always felt like we shared a great rapport. Somehow Lady Luck had it that we sat next to each other in a couple classes. I’d call Judy many nights to exchange class notes before talking about random topics for a little bit. This was back in the day when cell phones had yet to explode in popularity, so I had Judy’s house number. I wanted her email so I could directly connect with her — sometimes it felt a little awkward to have to talk to her mom or dad first. Unfortunately she was dating a jock at the time and so I was left daydreaming.
Yearbooks were passed out the week of our Graduation. I remember that last week of my senior year fondly. Passing yearbooks around, signing them for your buddies and everyone feeling excited about the future. Many felt as though we had the world at the tip of our fingers. That youthful optimism that only comes when you’re 17 almost ready to graduate and head off to college. I had never told Judy how much I enjoyed our friendship. I decided to tell her in my yearbook signing. We exchanged yearbooks at lunch and I went to work. I hoped she’d somehow include her email in my yearbook. Finally, we exchanged again and I walked home anxious to read what she had wrote. I’ll never forget the feeling of butterflies soaring in the pit of my stomach when I cracked my yearbook open to read what Judy had written. Was she going to pour out her soul to me as well?
I never felt so high and light in my life before. My biggest high school crush read my mind. She not only gave me her email address but asked me to hang out with her as well. Life was good. Thanks for the memories, Judy.
Timewalk was a famous little fan company within the retro gaming community. They once sold beautiful repro games and some of them even had gorgeous boxes and manuals. Before they closed shop in early 2014 I was fortunate enough to buy the boxes and manuals of Gunman’s Proof and The Adventures of Hourai High. Man I’m glad I did. I always meant to buy more of their SNES box/manual sets but sadly never got around to it before they unexpectedly closed. Timewalk boxes nowadays go for a pretty penny as they’re now officially a limited quantity.
Timewalk’s products are amazing but the manual to Adventures of Hourai High deserves a special shout-out. Designed by member JM, this 44-page booklet was written in composition notebook form. It’s written from the perspective of the female protagonist. Recall that you can play as either a male or female. It makes sense that they chose to write the manual from a female perspective since high school girls are more prone to journaling. There are no how-to instructions in this diary. Instead, it’s a full-blown account of her times at Hourai High from the moment she arrives, April 1st, to nearly a year later on March 25th. The entries are written from a 16 year old female’s point of view — all of the dairy entries are downright emo. It totally fits and I commend JM for the incredible effort. Even more impressive, JM used actual facts from the game that players will quickly pick up on. It sort of adds another layer to the whole experience.
THE WACKY STORY GOES…
The jungle is probably my favorite chapter in the game. I love how Hourai High uses a modern backdrop, but throws in more exotic locales such as this wild jungle. It’s similar to what EarthBound did to keep the journey fresh as well as exciting. Here in the jungle you’ll encounter all sorts of untamed savages ready to devour your party whole. I enjoyed all chapters of Hourai High but I like the jungle one most because it captures what the FIELD TRIP FROM HELL would be like. Good times. Or rather, bad times? Ah you get my drift.
SIDEWAY STORIES AT HOURAI HIGH
One of the best things about elementary school was receiving the latest book order. Remember circling all the book titles you wanted and getting your parents to buy most of them? It was a much easier sales pitch than a video game on account of being far cheaper and educational. Best of all, that magical morning you come into the classroom and find a stack of brand new books sitting atop your desk! Sure, it might not have been as wondrous as getting a video game on Christmas morning, but then again, as a kid what was? Seeing new books on your desk was still pretty damn cool. And while my love for the Goosebumps series has been well documented, one of my absolute favorites was easily Sideway Stories From Wayside School. It told the wacky tales of a zany school that was constructed 30 stories high! Featuring an evil teacher, Mrs. Gorf, each chapter highlighted a different student. The stories were beyond bizarre. My favorite was the chapter “Stephen.” Because it had my name (well, close enough) AND it was based on my favorite holiday as a kid: Halloween. Stephen also gets the best of Mrs. Gorf. I remember living vicariously through him. It was a reminder that even a little brave kid could stand up to a big mean adult.
There’s no denying the game’s humor and charm. However, a few key flaws keep it from being great. The biggest flaw? Equipping better armor and weapons seem to make NO difference at all. How Dynamite missed this is baffling, but this was the only game they ever developed, so take that for what it’s worth. So then this game is super hard right? Wrong. It’s actually very easy, even with this flaw. Your characters do level up, so their strength does increase, and that helps. You just can’t increase your strength by equipping a stronger weapon, so it makes armor and weapon buying useless, which is a shame as that’s part of the fun. So even though you can earn a variety of cool skills from all the various clubs you’ll join, it really doesn’t make a dent in the gameplay much in the end, as battles are so easy the only strategy consists of spamming the attack button (or use auto battle). The next major flaw: there are some game crashing bugs. I’ll highlight some below. Fortunately, on my playthrough, I avoided the bugs and thus was able to see the game through. Finally, the enemy encounter rate is ridiculously high. Sometimes you can’t take 4 steps it seems without a random battle occurring. Thus, it can drag the game down a bit. Thank God for that auto battle option.
Like I said, there are some flaws that one just cannot overlook. Having said that, now let’s talk about the positives. Visually, it’s got a very clean and unique look. The characters look great. Enemies and the various locales have a good deal of detail. The music is surprisingly well donefor a company who only made one game. Lots of catchy tunes that range from frenetic and upbeat to soothing and relaxing, like a cool summertime breeze. There are many friends to make, many playable characters to try and many different clubs you can join to earn a myriad of offensive and defensive skills. You can partake in up to 3 clubs at once and you are free to switch out whenever you like.
You also earn Friend Points after a fight. Distribute it as you wish. After maxing out one’s Friend Points, that character becomes your best bud. You then unlock certain special skills and moves. Pretty cool stuff.
FAST TIMES AT HOURAI HIGH
It took me 30 hours to beat this game. I will definitely play through it a second time at some point down the road, and use the female protagonist next time. I’d like to thank the translating crew over at Aeon Genesis, who made this fan translation possible. A job well done, AG!
Adventures of Hourai High will take you back to high school in some ways, but it’s also far beyond anything anyone ever experienced in high school. Yes, you’ll make buddies (even to varying degrees), join clubs and learn different skills, and even forge a few enemies but if it stopped there it’d be boring. Here, you’ll go on the adventure of a lifetime. Everywhere from rancid sewers to wild jungles to spooky demonic temples. Along the journey there’s plenty of charm thanks in large part to its amusing dialogue and all the wacky characters who inhabit its kooky world. It’s like high school, only taken to the very extreme, with a very peculiar Japanese touch that ONLY the Japanese can offer. If that sounds like a good time to you then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it — warts and all — like I have!
Adventures of Hourai High exudes charm and humor in spades. And that’s the best quality it has going for it. Where it falls short in execution, it excels in charming the pants off ya. All the strange characters that you meet, the diverse locales you’ll travel to and all the weird enemies you battle, not to mention the amusing dialogue, makes you press on in spite of its flaws. It’s one of the most endearing video games I’ve ever experienced. If you’re willing to look beyond the rough edges (high enemy encounter rate and broken weapon system), there’s a wonderful adventure lying underneath. This game made me smile constantly. It’s loaded with personality and heart. It’s too bad Dynamite didn’t iron out the kinks because this could have been a real gem. Still, it’s one of those rare games where in spite of its glaring flaws there’s something about it compels you forward. Who knew an RPG based around high school teenage life could be so addicting? If you can bear its missteps, this is one high school definitely worth visiting.
One of the most notorious games from the vast Super Nintendo library is without a doubt EarthBound. Released 21 years ago, it stood out in the crowd of RPGs by having a contemporary setting, a zany sense of humor, and a very unique style. And as the years passed, the game grew in demand, popularity and reverence. So much that some people would even tell you that the game has been overhyped beyond belief. In 2012, I finally got to play through EarthBound. It was an adventure the likes of which I’ll remember FOREVER.
WHEN PRICES WERE DOWN TO EARTH
When I got back into the Super Nintendo scene 10 years ago in early 2006, the games were still quite cheap. I picked up titles like Ninja Gaiden Trilogy, Castlevania: Dracula X, Aero Fighters, Mega Man X³, andEarthBoundeach for $40 or less. No such luck doing that today! It bogglesthe mind how crazy expensive these old games are now. Back in 2006, EarthBound didn’t carry the mainstream reputation it would later gain in recent years. It was just another game I’d never played back in the day but was now interested in doing so. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that the game would become the monster that it is today. It makes me wonder how much these games will command 5 to 10 years from now. All I know for sure — I’m glad I got in when I did and got out before the market went sky high. Life is truly about timing, and a little lady luck never hurts too!
ALIENS FROM ANOTHER PLANET
As a kid UFOs fascinated me. Alien beings that lived far above us in the outer reaches of space. The idea that intelligent (and possibly menacing) creatures living above us is mystifying. Growing up, I would scan the skies late at night with my binoculars hoping to see something, yet at the same time dreading the possibility that something mightsee me back. My best friend Nelson and I became obsessed; we even had the odd “sky stakeout” here and there. While it may sound a bit sad, there are worse ways to spend an evening than to hang out with your best friend shooting the breeze and scanning the skies while sharing a pepperoni pizza. We never saw anything, not even once, but I think Nelson and I both silently understood that we used it as an excuse to veg out on a Friday night after a long school week. About once a month we’d bust out the lawn chairs, set our piping hot Totino’s pizza on the little table outside, kick back and talk about our crushes on Jenny and Elaine, video games and anything monster-related while staring out at the beautiful early evening sky. Munching on cheesy carbs and sipping on fizzy soda, Nelly and I would gaze up at the sky talking the night away. We’d stay outside so late that his mom would flip the back porch light on. Those “stakeout” Friday evenings have stuck with me all these years later. Time marches on, but I still recall those lazy nights vividly.
The best thing about UFOs for me was the idea that they could be anywhere. The Loch Ness Monster was confined to Scotland, Bigfoot could only lurk in the woods, but aliens could be anywhere. The idea that they could be watching you at any time was all part of the fun of believing in them as a kid. And the fact that aliens could be whatever you wanted them to be. Maybe friendly and precocious like E.T., or deadly and malicious, or just advanced and neutral. They were whatever you made them out to be. EarthBound is awesome for a myriad of reasons. One being they took a lot of my childhood interests and crammed them into one epic RPG. Nessie, Bigfoot, aliens, dinosaurs, zombies — EarthBound strikes a certain childhood chord with me no other video game ever has.
An all-American kid living in an all-American town, Ness is proof that there lies a hero deep inside each one of us. He’s the kid next door, with a loving mom, a plucky sister and a workaholic but extremely generous dad. One minute Ness is living a basic ordinary life, but when the meteorite crashes, everything changes. An alien believes Ness to be the chosen one with the power to alter cosmic events. A nice all-around character with a good balance of speed, IQ, offensive power and psychic ability. His weapon of choice is a baseball bat. This journey will drain and test Ness at every step of the way. He enters it as a kid, but one way or another, he’s going to leave it a man.
Remember your Winnie Cooper growing up? You know, your biggest childhood crush? That’s kinda the role one might initially think Paula plays, but there’s so much more to her. Try incredible psychic powers and one mean frying pan. Paula loves to scramble eggs, if you get my drift. She doesn’t mind rolling up her sleeves and getting her hands dirty. Hailing from Twoson, her mother runs the Polestar Preschool. Paula’s the first one to join you on your epic quest, and you must rescue her from the clutches of an evil cult called the Happy Happy Village, led by Mr. Carpainter. Being one in touch with her spiritual side, Paula can pray in a pinch. I renamed her as Jenny, based on my own Winnie Cooper growing up.
No healthy childhood would be complete without the aid and presence of a best friend. While Jeff is not touted as Ness’ best pal, I like to think of him as such. The mechanical genius of the team, Jeff is son to a famous scientist. It shows, as he can use machines and gadgets that no one else on the team can. He also has a knack for repairing broken devices, which proves to be invaluable. While he doesn’t possess any psychic ability, Jeff makes up for it with his tremendous knowledge of being able to fashion great weapons out of broken items. He might be a little weak offensively, but his IQ is critical to the group’s success. I renamed him Nelly, in honor of my childhood best friend, Nelson.
The mysterious prince from the East (Dalaam to be precise) is the third and final friend to join you in your quest. Being the oldest member of the group, plus possessing that ever so mysterious charm of being from somewhere far, far away, Poo has great physical, mental and spiritual strength. One of his best talents is the magic ability to assume the shape of an enemy attacker (known as Mirror). Trained in ancient martial arts, this mystical fighter is a much welcomed addition when he finally enters the fray a decent way into the game. He is a bit of a ladies’ man, too, which gives his character an interesting layer to say the least. I renamed Poo to be Sushi-X, in honor of a family friend growing up who, much like Poo, was older than I was and had sort of a mythical aura about him. Everyone in my gaming group called him Sushi-X because he loved EGM and Street Fighter II.
THE REAL HERO
THE STORY GOES…
It’s another idyllic sunny day in the small, sleepy town of Onett. Turning off your Super Nintendo, you grab your bike and head off for your weekly paper route. You’ve been working hard to save up enough to buy that new Super Nintendo RPG EarthBound. Hell, you’re so ambitious you even ride out as far as Twoson. You certainly don’t mind it, as there’s nothing like riding your 10 speed bicycle, the wind whipping against your face, that open road ahead. For that small window of time, you’re a free man. Riding out to Twoson was always a bit of an adventure. You could almost feel the whiskers kicking in. Times have changed now. Kids aren’t allowed to go out alone anymore… but back then… this was our life. Besides, it was in Twoson where your crush, Jenny, resides. You’ve stalked, uhhh, I mean, seen her working around the preschool whenever you passed by. You never had any houses on that block of town, but that never did stop you from willingly and happily taking the scenic route.
Having hand-delivered the odd paper or two to Orange Kid, you’ve developed a bit of a relationship with him. He is Twoson’s infamous inventor, well, one of the two. The other is Apple Kid but no one likes him. Orange Kid on the other hand is a chick magnet. After all, ya can’t compare apples to oranges… [har har -Ed.]. Being that you’re Steve, and NOT such a ladies’ man, you decide to stop by today for a bit of advice on how to win hearts and be more than just another sappy shoulder to cry on. Normally busy, Orange Kid is in a very giving mood today — he spends the better part of an hour divulging some insider tips that’s sure to make even Steve a certified G and a bonafide stud. Rejuvenated, you spend the next couple hours over at the flea market in Burglin Park and Twoson’s pride, MACH PIZZA. Sure, Onett’s Burger Barn is 5-star quality according to their 275 Yelp reviews and counting, but Onett’s not exactly known for its pizza. It’s just another reason why you never complain when it’s time to ride over to Twoson. But you never share this with Orange Kid, fearing that he just might laugh at you if he ever knew the real reason.
BLINK BLINK. Your eyes open slowly as you realize you fell asleep in Burglin Park. The once inviting sunshine has withered, giving way to a cold, bleak darkness. Mom’s probably worried but this is the mid ’90s when kids could get away with such things. Your bicycle still safely beside you, you hop on and bound homeward.
Good old home. It’s your haven. Even though your dad isn’t around, you have almost everything you could want. Sure, you got annoying neighbors, but hey nothing’s perfect. As you head out of Twoson and back to Onett, you beam ear to ear having learned some of Orange Kid’s secrets of the trade. There’s no way Jenny can resist you now.
By now the sleepy town of Onett has been entirely devoured by darkness. An eerie stillness settles over the suburb, sending a chill up your spine. What once stood as an assuring sight during the day has turned into something sinister in the night. But crime has always been so low that no one really pays mind to anything bad happening in this quaint quiet town. Of course, we all know that’s how it usually starts out…
Being an invincible kid ripe off acquiring the fortified knowledge of the players’ handbook, you’ve got not a single care in the world as you come bounding down the all too familiar sight of the suburbs. Closing your eyes and dreaming of your beloved crush, Jenny, you have no idea that a terrible terror is about to overtake your quiet, sleepy town. And thrust you toward a hellacious voyage that will see you ultimately fulfilling your God-given destiny…
Meanwhile, somewhere in Onett, a woman wakes up in a pool of her own sweat. A loud bang outside her bedroom sends shivers down her spine. It’s coming from the den. Frightened, she clutches the blanket to her chest while listening in the darkness… silence. Then suddenly, RAP RAP RAP. Someone or SOMETHING wants in. Cautiously tip-toeing her way to the bedroom door, a dark, shadowy and twisty figure appears from behind her…
After “going home pronto” (AKA sneaking about), you find your annoying neighbor, Pokey, poking around in police business. Whatever’s happening here tonight has to be huge, and you’re not gonna miss it for the world.
“Officer, sir, if you don’t mind just letting me slip through here. I have a friend I need to check up on.”
“Sorry kiddo, no can do. I’ve been given strict orders from the chief not to let anyone pass through, and that especially includes punk kids such as yourself.”
“Okaaaay… how about this nice glazed donut, then?”
“GAH! Alright kid, you’ve got five minutes but ONLY five, you hear?!”
“Hey, who let this punk kid through?”
“Steve! Boy am I glad to see you. Something strange is going on…”
“Alright, enough! You bastards get on out of here!”
Atop the hill, as the police drag you away like a rag doll, you catch a glimpse of a fallen meteor. Rubbing your eyes in disbelief, you wonder if it’s just a dream.
Mom knows best. One look at your kisser and nothing else needs to be said. Still shaking, you saunter to your bedroom. But before you can replay the night’s events in your mind, your head hits the soft, cool pillow and you fall into a deep sleep…
“There’s my bro, Picky! Quick, Steve, save him! Or else my parents are gonna let me have it!”
“Wait, why am I helping you again?”
“Because you’re Steve, an all around good guy!”
“Oh, of course. Damn, it’s a curse to be this kindhearted and good looking.”
Buddy: Master, I don’t think Pokey said good looking but whatever…
Upon arriving at the top they come within 15 feet of the meteor. The air is hot and humid; you can still see steam coming from its core…
“Umm, you go on ahead and grab him, Steve.”
“What! He’s your brother. You go fetch him.”
“No, I think I’m good. I’m with Buddy. Right here is good for me.”
“Fine. You pansy.”
On their trek home, the boys are stopped dead in their tracks when Star Man Jr., one of Giygas’ nefarious henchmen, appears out of nowhere to confront the 3 boys. Luckily, Buzz Buzz, the source of the voice, is by your side. Protecting the crew with his psychic shield, our hero is able to defeat Star Man Jr. After which, Buzz Buzz warns them the worst is yet to come but he has faith. Legend has it 3 boys and a girl are destined to save the universe. Buzz Buzz believes you are one of those 3 brave, young warriors.
In his dying breath, Buzz Buzz gives our hero the Sound Stone. “To defeat Giygas, your own power must unite with that of earth.” Our hero sets off to visit 8 sanctuaries to record the sound of each with the Sacred Stone. First stop? The infamous Giant Step!
It truly is. Combining a modern setting with your typical suburban town in Anytown USA, any kid who ever grew up in a sleepy suburb in America can instantly relate. From the moment the game began, I knew right away I was in for one magical, epic journey.
There’s been some major hate dumped on the crude visuals of the game… but I personally love the look. They are INTENTIONALLY retro-fied. I like to think of it as 12-bit… it’s not quite 8-bit NES yet it’s not quite 16-bit. It’s just EarthBound.
By the time I grab my books, And I give myself a look, I’m at the corner just in time to see the bus fly by! It’s alright ’cause I’m saved by the bell! If the teacher pops a test, I know I’m in a mess, And my dog ate all my homework last night, Ridin’ low in my chair, She won’t know that I’m there, If I can hand it in tomorrow, it’ll be all right! It’s alright, ’cause I’m saved by the bell!
[MY OFFICE — RIGHT NOW -Ed.]
When we were kids, my parents used to drive me and my bro to the Gaming Crew’s neck of the woods. About an hour into the drive we would pass by these sewers covered by giant “cat masks.” It was big enough that my bro and I could spot it clearly even from the freeway hundreds of feet away. I’d always wondered what the hell they were doing there. The cats became a trademark sight that my bro and I would always point to anytime our parents drove us by. This part of EarthBound brought back buried memories of those bizarre giant sewer cat masks…
You are introduced to the 4th and final player of your party, Poo, or in this case, Mr. X. He’s a smooth cat prince living in the palatial mountain village of Dalaam. Take X on a life-altering quest to gain the power of wisdom, valor and patience as you karate chop and decimate all obstacles blocking you from enlightenment. After all, you simply can’t beat a hideous alien force without the pivotal aid of a badass martial artist who hails from a far away land, can you? Well, maybe, but it sure as hell wouldn’t be nearly as fun.
Sushi-X was a cat that ran in my gaming group back in the day. He was older than most of us and he always walked around with this certain aura of mystique. In many ways I looked up to him as a kid growing up. We affectionately nicknamed him Sushi-X for his affection of EGM and Street Fighter II, just like the infamous Sushi-X persona on the old EGM review crew. Unfortunately the game didn’t allow me to fit in “Sushi-X” so I went for the next best thing: “Mr. X.”
JENNIFER — MY CHILDHOOD WINNIE COOPER
Jennifer and Elaine were the two hottest girls in the 5th grade. Nothing could beat being in the same class with your best friend as well as the two cutest girls in school. Nelson favored Elaine while I preferred Jennifer. Sadly, my family moved in the middle of 7th grade and that was the last I saw of Jennifer… until 7 years later. One day during my sophomore year in college I was walking down this long hallway when a young beautiful lady walked right by. Instantly I got a huge whiff of 1994 and was suddenly transported back to my childhood. Could it be, was it — yes, it was Jennifer. Too paralyzed to say anything, I could only watch in silence as we went in opposite directions until she disappeared around the corner. I kicked myself for not saying hi, hoping that we’d bump into each other again. As fate would have it, not long after that, we did. I asked her if she remembered me from elementary school. She smiled warmly and said “Of course. I remember you suddenly left one day in junior high and that was that.” I nodded, the both of us soaking in the moment. Life was different back in the ’90s. We didn’t have Facebook or email to stay in touch. 7 years is a long time not to see or speak to someone but she remembered me. It meant a lot.
A long time ago I used to wonder what might have happened between me and Jennifer had I never moved. My imagination wandered to an alternate future where we’re happily married with two kids, a dog and a white picket fence. She’s now married with a kid. The last time I saw her was about five years ago. I was acting in a musical and she came out to support me. We exchanged pleasantries and hugs after the show in the lobby. And that was the last I ever saw of Jennifer — my childhood Winnie Cooper.
KNOW YOUR MOTHER. TREAT HER RIGHT
As many of you know by now, EarthBound is the 16-bit sequel to the 8-bit Famicom game Mother. Mother was released in Japan July 1989, and was set to come out in the US September 1990. But with the impending launch of the SNES, Mother was never released. There’s a pretty fascinating history behind this, and you can find out all the sordid details by way of a quick Google search. There are also some great YouTube history videos on this subject matter. The game has since been fan translated, and is known now as EarthBound Zero. EarthBound on the SNES is known as Mother 2 over in Japan. There was also a Mother 3 released in 2006 for the GBA, but it never left the land of the rising sun. EarthBound is the only Mother game ever to see an official US release. A crime if you think about it.
Mother 3 has since been fan translated. To date, this has been the final game in the beloved Mother series. It’s sad that two of the games never left Japan. It’s a bit sad also that many gamers know of Ness via Super Smash Bros and not EarthBound, although his Smash outings have definitely stirred interest from people who came in knowing nothing about the Mother series. I guess that’s not a bad thing at least.
FUN EARTHBOUND CLONES
There are 2 SNES games I would highly recommend to EarthBound fanatics. Both of them are Super Famicom exclusives with English fan translations available. The first title is called Gunman’s Proof which is actually an action RPG along the lines of a Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It’s got tons of charm and quirkiness and is simply a load of fun. Think Zelda meets the wild wild west with a dash of EarthBound thrown in for good measure. It’s one of the most criminally underrated SNES games out there. It’s on the short side but I can’t recommend it enough. The second is Adventures of Hourai High. Wacky and zany describes it best. It is like EarthBound meets Final Fantasy V. Taking place in a Japanese high school setting, you can join a wide variety of clubs — this is how you gain different skills. Its sense of offbeat humor is extremely reminiscent of EarthBound, and while it has its fair share of flaws, Hourai High is worth a visit.
Gunman’s Proof is one of my personal favorites. I love the game’s humor, style, atmosphere and fun fast-paced gun slinging action. It’s too damn short (similar to The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang) but it’s a blast, pardon the pun, while it lasts. If you haven’t played it before, I highly suggest rectifying that.
Adventures of Hourai High is a unique RPG. You can play as a boy or girl. The dialogue is hilarious and almost as entertaining as EarthBound. Sadly, a few key flaws hamper Hourai High from being a notably nice game. The encounter rate is way too high, and there was a major screw-up: weapons and armor equipped do not change your stats. Somehow, the programmers botched this and so you only increase in stats by leveling up. In essence, you never have to buy new weapons or armor.I still recommend it to diehard EarthBound fans however, despite its glaring flaws.
WHAT THE CRITICS (AND YOU) SAID
EarthBound is one of those interesting and fascinating cases of a game that got its fair share of love when it came out originally. But really it wasn’t until years later that it exploded in popularity. Curiously, EGMnever did review it. GameFan did, however. They gave it scores of 85, 90 and 92%. Super Play Magazine scored it 88%. In a recent poll I asked the public to rate EarthBound on a scale of 1-10. One voter gave it a 1. Another gave it a 7. A few rated it an 8, but the majority of readers voted 9. Of course, there was a healthy smattering of fans who gave it the perfect 10 out of 10 score. Pretty much what I expected — lots of 9s and 10s with one vocal minority who gave it the lowest rating possible. Oh Earthbound, truly the polarizing RPG of our time.
I didn’t play EarthBound back in the day. When I started it up in November of 2012 it was an entirely fresh experience. Therefore, zero nostalgia goggles here. Two weeks and 30 hours later, I knew I’d just played one of themost engrossing and captivating games ever. From the refreshing and comforting sights of suburbia in the early stages of the game to the more exotic locales found later on, it took me on an incredible journey of youth, bravery, loyalty and adventure. I felt like I was playing an RPG that combined Goonies, The Wonder Years, Peanuts and Dragon Quest. Not a bad little recipe! If you love RPGs and you still haven’t played this, STOP whatever you’re doing. And go rectify this matter. Now.
EarthBound perfectly captures the sheer awe of childhood, combined with a longing desire to push one’s suburban limits to the very brink. Playing the game made me feel like a kid again. Like I was back in my old hometown haunts hanging out at the arcade, going around town to the local pizza joint and flipping through the latest Goosebumps book at the library. And that’s just the beginning of the game. Soon it all transforms into something much more, as you meet new friends and unlikely allies all in the name of stopping an implacable force known only as Giygas. The game opens with our hero in bed in his striped pajamas. It seems like any other ordinary night in the ol’ neighborhood of suburbia. You are then awoken — it’s great subtle symbolism because for the first time in your young prepubescent life, you’re truly awake. The many wacky, perilous and funny events to unfold all shape this tremendous coming-of-age adventure. You leave home and like any other epic story ever told, you embark on a journey that changes you from a boy to a young man. You’ll conquer many obstacles — both externaland internal. Playing EarthBound was like being in a never-ending state of reverie, and I loved every damn second of it.
There’s a certain timeless, nostalgic quality about this game. It stirs the feeling of being a kid in Anytown USA who leaves home to voyage on the adventure of a lifetime. From your local 3-story mall to far away lands exotic, mysterious and menacing, EarthBound tugs on all the right notes to create an experience like no other. The music’s an eclectic mix that’s among the best you’ll hear on the SNES. The gameplay is fairly standard, but there are some nice ideas here like instant wins and a rolling health meter. But EarthBound is so much more than this. EarthBound is, quite simply, a quintessential tale of growing up and overcoming trials in a not so perfect world. It’s light-hearted yet serious when it needs to be. The many diverse locales are great and I find the visuals to be a bit underrated. Many like to dismiss it, but I love the style and can’t imagine the game any other way. There’s a reason why EarthBound has so many fervent fans. It was a work of art that resonated with our inner child, leaving us with a lasting and memorable impression. Indeed, the tale of Ness and his friends is one that has stood the test of time. And one that I believe will continue to do so for generations to come.
This is a story of how a best friend, one groovy dad and some enticing imports made the summer of 1994 one for the ages. As a kid, I’d always dreamt of having one perfect summer. And 22 years ago…I found it.Some summers stay with you forever. Some more than others. On any given hot, lazy June Saturday afternoon, I still can’t help but think back to that fateful day. It was a summer of discovery… a summer of magic… THE SUMMER OF IMPORTS. There’s something about summer and gaming that goes together; especially though, when we were kids. There was a magic to it.
Nothing completes a healthy childhood quite like sharing it with a best friend. While I had my legendary out-of-town gaming crew, I was fortunate enough to have a best friend outside of that group, Nelson, who lived within walking distance. We grew up together being best friends since Kindergarten. He and I were often in the same class together and we shared the same interest in just about everything. We spent a bulk of our weekends hanging out and playing games. Whenever I think back to my childhood or to the glory days of gaming, inevitably, Nelson always comes to mind.
I’d like to take a moment to pay my respects to the memory of renting games back in the ‘90s. Every weekend my dad would take me to the local rental store(s) and I would pluck out one title to bring back home. My brother, Kevin, was too shy or embarrassed (or both) to go rent games, so he always made me his little grunt to carry out the deed. Though I was renting the games he wanted (well, at least most of the time…) there was always something magical to those pseudo-adventures my dad and I shared. It was a weekly tradition, rain or shine. Sometimes, even Nelly would join me on those renting excursions. And there was one such instance that happened 22 years ago that left an indelible mark on us, making that summer one he and I would never forget.
The year was 1994, and as the final piercing school bell of that year rang, the euphoric cries of 800 kids rang out even louder. We all knew what stood ahead: 2 and a ½ relentless months of splendid carefree summer days: no teachers, no homework, and no school to interfere with our final days of childhood. As much as I love the fall and winter seasons for Halloween and Christmas, there is nothing… and I mean NOTHING… like summer time, especially when you had a best friend like Nelson to share it with. He and I had just finished the 5th grade together. It was the best year of my childhood. My best friend was in my class; we had Mr. G, the best teacher ever; we had the two hottest girls in our class, Elaine and Jennifer, and Nelson and I were simply at the top of our game. We were 10 years old, going on 11 that summer. We had come of age, and that summer was one for the ages.
Nelson rode his bike over the very first Saturday morning of that summer and my dad drove us to Game Hunter. Game Hunter was a legendary privately owned video game rental store. It was renowned in my neck of the woods for catering to the diehard gamer. Game Hunter didn’t bother to waste time with movies. It had every video gaming system library under the sun from the 8-bit Nintendo to the Neo Geo. Being able to actually touch and pick up those classic bulky Neo Geo boxes was incredible. Game Hunter even housed an arcade machine or two, plus they had a small anime section. How many stores could claim that?! Simply put, Game Hunter was a little slice of gaming paradise.
But, what made them stand out was their unforgettable import selection. Back then, imports symbolized a whole lot more than merely just the Japanese version of a game. Indeed, back then, imports held a certain aura of mystique to them, especially when you read all the little blurbs on those games in Electronic Gaming Monthly and DieHard GameFan on a monthly basis, realizing that they were an ocean away and that you would never even so much as sniff one. Seeing a wall covered by hundreds of Super Famicom boxes never failed to amaze my little ten year old eyes. They sat on the very top shelf, purposely out of reach. It was symbolic, even. They would cover the entire upper wall from left to right. You were completely mesmerized as your eyeballs darted from one treasure to another. It was a never-ending parade of divine, exotic esctasy. These were games that were either Japanese exclusives, or Japanese versions of games that were set to hit American soil a month or two later. It was nothing short of magical, and a time in my life that I’ll always cherish.
*** FLASH BACK TO LATE 1992 ***
Game Hunter’s origins began innocently enough on what appeared to be just another ordinary Saturday morning. But as fate would have it, this particular Saturday morning was anything but. My dad and I were set to embark on our latest renting escapade together. But first we had to stop by my cousin’s house which was a good 15 minutes away. After that my dad needed to run an errand at the local drug store a block from my cousin’s house. I didn’t mind as I always enjoyed being out with my dad, especially after a long school week. Little did I know that fateful morning I would stumble upon GAME HUNTER. The store was decked out from top to bottom with video games from every system imaginable. You had the 8-bit Nintendo, Neo Geo, handheld games and everything else under the sun. I wasn’t a religious kid but I’m pretty sure I thanked God right then and there.
I made my way over to the SNES section looking for my brother’s requested title of choice. When I happened to gaze up, I discovered the upper shelf teeming with hypnotic Super Famicom imports. At that point, all bets were off as I had officially gone rogue. Sorry, Kevin. Power Athlete caught my eye. My dad lifted it off the top shelf and I examined the back of the box. It was a Street Fighter II clone. Sold! My dad obliged and that day I came home with the Japanese version of Power Moves. My brother flipped out because A). I disobeyed him and B). we found out that it didn’t even play on our Super Nintendo; it refused to fit inside the cartridge slot. I had never seen my brother so damn angry before. I promptly called Game Hunter to let them know of my plight, and they explained how I had to rent the device that allows one to play import games on an American SNES. Yeah thanks guy, you could have warned me about that before I left. Yeah, let’s just say Game Hunter was never known for their stellar customer service. But, much like how one goes to Five Guys for greasy goodness, we went to Game Hunter for their legendary and vast gaming library. After all, nobody goes to a concert for meditation.
Luckily, they still had one in stock and said they would hold it for me. So, being the great father that my old man was, we traveled back to Game Hunter to pick it up. This time, even my brother came along as he himself wanted to come see this new store that I’d hyped to the moon. Once there, our pops rented the special converter adapter for a dollar while Kevin and I stood there gawking at the import selection. The very next week, he and I went back and we picked up our 2nd import game, The Combatribes. We had fun terminating Martha Splatterhead and her sleazy gangs. Game Hunter became our new favorite store. It was revered within my gaming circle for damn good reason.
*** BACK TO JUNE 1994 ***
There Nelson and I stood, eyes popping, drool coming down the side of our mouths. On the very top shelf sat the Super Famicom ports of Fighter’s History, King of the Monsters 2 and Saturday Night Slam Masters (Japanese name Muscle Bomber). These were 3 arcade-to-SNES conversions that Nelson and I were dying to play! And on that idyllic June Saturday morning there they stood right before our very eyes. Their US counterparts were still weeks, even months away! After a brief moment of dead silence, Nelson and I looked at each other in astonishment. And just like how it was over a year ago when I first saw Power Athlete, at that precise moment in time I’d forgotten whatever game my brother wanted me to rent. Once more, I had gone rogue.
The only “dilemma” was picking which one of those three games to rent. The indispensable thing about having your best friend along with you meant he could rent one and you could rent one. Nelson was adamant on choosing Fighter’s History, the infamous Street Fighter II clone that Capcom even attempted to sue. I was plenty happy about that as I loved Fighter’s History in the arcades and was long anticipating the SNES port. I always felt the game was a bit underrated. Good pick Nelly! Now it was my turn. King of the Monsters 2 or Muscle Bomber?
I had played Saturday Night Slam Masters a good bit in the arcades. I adored Capcom’s representation of the zany pro wrestling world cranked to the 10th degree, thanks to Slam Masters’ comic book-like violence and über-wacky wrestlers that were even MORE outrageous than those found in the WWF. After all, few things can rival spewing venomous mist into someone’s eyes, or piledrivering bastards into oblivion all over the globe with Metro City’s mayor! It was a tough call at first, but then I remembered something…
King of the Monsters 2 and I were like two SHIPS PASSING IN THE NIGHT. Somehow, we always missed one another. I never played the arcade once. As a staunch supporter of the original, I was dying to FINALLY play the sequel. From 1992 to 1994, finding a King of the Monsters 2 arcade became my white whale, so to speak. None of the local arcades had it for whatever reason. And the one time that I did find it, it was at an arcade hall 2 hours away from home, but of course the machine was broken. That sums it up perfectly. It was that one game that somehow always managed to elude me. Standing there with a choice between Saturday Night Slam Masters or my great white whale, King of the Monsters 2, it dawned on me suddenly which one I was going to pick.
As Nelson and I rode home in the backseat talking excitedly about our import finds, it dawned on me that I soon had to face the music. The last time I went rogue and rebelled against my brother he did everything but tear up the house. But I figured with Nelson by my side, maybe Kevin would be less demonstrative. After all, in public or whenever there were guests, Kevin had no choice but to uphold a certain degree of decorum. Nelson knew this even without my having to ask him for backup. That’s how close we were. Like I said at the beginning, nothing completes a healthy childhood quite like having a best friend support you through thick and thin. He gave me a nod as my dad pulled into the driveway; I knew he had my back. The moment of truth had arrived. My dad went inside the house as Nelly and I stood there on the driveway — import games in hand.
We were delaying the inevitable. But there’s a reason they call it the inevitable.
“Did you get it??” my brother asked excitedly as he came to the door a minute later.
“Uhhh, no. But I got this,” I stammered, handing the game over to him as if it were an adequate consolation prize. It wasn’t.
“King of the Monsters 2?!” A mixture of shock and disgust filled his voice. “Was my game there for rent or not?” His eyes, which had turned into burning coal, burrowed its way deep in my soul.
I could easily have lied, “No, your game was rented out.” But I was a straight shooter. In hindsight… maybe I was being foolish. But I had made my choice to disobey my brother. The least I could do was be honest about it. When I told him I forgot to look for his title once Nelson and I caught sight of the imports, my brother lost control. The scary thing was all this happened even in front of Nelson. I can only imagine how much crazier it would have been without Nelson there next to me. My brother flipped out, stomping and screaming expletives like a drunken sailor. Then he ran to my room, sprinted back and threw my Crash Dummy break-apart plush buddy, Spin, out the door. It smacked me in the face with such velocity that the head flew off its shoulders. Thank goodness it was just plush! Nelly retrieved the head which had rolled onto my front lawn and placed it back on Spin’s headless Velcro neck. You would have thought that I killed my brother’s puppy or something. He stormed off, leaving the door open. You know those parts in action movies where the guy says, “Don’t you think this is a trap?” Yeah. I took one glance inside and then back at Nelson. Once again, without even having to say a word, he knew. Just to confirm, he said, “Um… let’s go back to my place for a while…”
Shoot, you don’t gotta tell me twice! I fled the crime scene faster than OJ Simpson.
And so it was. On the first Saturday afternoon of my last carefree childhood summer, I found myself walking with Nelly to his house. He clutched his copy of Fighter’s History while I held King of the Monsters 2, along with my Crash Dummy action buddy, Spin. I’m sure we were a sight for sore eyes. As soon as we got out of viewing distance, Nelson started trash talking my bro. One might think I would happily join in to pile on, but no. Like a battered victim of Stockholm syndrome, I actually defended my brother a little bit. Hey, blood is blood, no? Sure my bro could be a little rough around the edges, and there were plenty of times where I wished he could have been more quixtoic and slow to anger, but you don’t get to choose family. I mean, sure, he could snap every once in a while, but he wasn’t a bad guy, or a psycho or anything. Nelson couldn’t believe I was defending Kevin. Finally the matter was dropped as his house came into view. Suddenly, the excitement of our import snags revived us. We were about to play two arcade conversions not anyone else in the entire town had, so that made us, as far as we were concerned, thetwo luckiest sumbitchesthat weekend ^_^
We wasted no time firing up Nelly’s Super Nintendo. We threw in Fighter’s History first and took turns wasting the computer opponents. We were both impressed by how faithful it was to the arcade original. There was a simplicity to the game that Nelson and I found to be charming. To this day I can’t play Fighter’s History without remembering that fateful Saturday afternoon at Nelly’s. It was so hot that we propped open the living room windows and left the front door wide open. Lee’s stage is SEARED into my retina. That peaceful and calm lake, the family of ducks nibbling away, a fisherman enjoying the great outdoors with his line dipped lazily in the water, and those picture-esque moss-covered hills in the background. Finally, a formation of clouds move their way through the sky in a very haunting and majestic manner. This bucolic stage SCREAMS June 1994 to me. It’s an incredibly nostalgic sight and anytime I see it, I’m transported right back to Nelson’s living room 22 years ago. This stage perfectly captures that whole time frame for me. One look and it feels like I’m 10 hanging out with my best friend on a hot June Saturday afternoon all over again.
Then we swapped it out for King of the Monsters 2. He chose Cyber Woo (the King Kong doppelgänger) and I picked Super Geon (the Godzilla lookalike). We waded our way through the various cities demolishing everything in sight. Beating all the bosses 2-on-1 handicap style made for mindless monster mash ‘em up fun. Finally, after several hours of switching between the two games, late afternoon descended upon us and we agreed that maybe Kevin had cool down by now. Nelson headed back with me. We couldn’t hide out at Nelly’s forever. The only question left… was Kevin still pissed?
I found out that day that miracles exist when Kevin no longer wanted to kill me. Instead, he wanted to kill giant alien monsters from outer space. It’s funny how we each had our own pet favorite. Nelson liked Cyber Woo, I dug Super Geon and my brother was all about Atomic Guy. The three of us rotated turns and passed off the controller whenever one of us died. On some stages it was Kevin and me. At other times it was Nelly and me. There was even Kevin and Nelson. Seeing them laughing together as they trashed the Grand Canyon was pretty cool. A few hours ago no one could have predicted this outcome. Now watching the two of them working together as one cohesive unit, you never would have thought there was any kind of beef there. It was poetic, even. And of all the gaming memories I harbor, that one remains, still to this day, one of the sweetest ones. It’s a reminder of how gaming has a strange way of bringing people together.
The three of us played King of the Monsters 2 and Fighter’s History to death that unforgettable weekend, before returning them both late on Sunday evening. I told my brother we also saw Saturday Night Slam Masters. He grew pale at the mention, being a Slam Masters fanatic. We’d played it tons in the arcade. He ordered me to go rent it the next weekend. This time in particular, I was more than happy to carry out his command. No fat chance of me going rogue, as Slam Masters was also right up my alley with its outlandishly wacky wrestlers and frenetic 4-player mayhem. Giant foam fingers, flashing cameras, comic book moves come to life, and Mike F’NHaggar, made Saturday Night Slam Masters or in this case, Muscle Bomber, one fantastic brawl-for-all.
A SPECIAL GAME HUNTER EULOGY
Game Hunter eventually closed shop in the late ’90s as rental stores started to become more and more a thing of the past — they were fast going the way of the dinosaur. While their service wasn’t always top-notch, I’ll always remember them fondly for their import selection. Game Hunter arrived during a precious period of my childhood, and at a special timein gaming when renting games blindly and taking weekend trips with your old man was all part of the magic and wonder of the hobby. Sometimes the game you wanted was rented out at the first two or three rental stores, so you had to go to your 4th or 5th option around town to find it.. It just meant more hunting and more quality time spent with your old man. I’ll never forget those days when my dad and I would hit up all the rental stores every Saturday afternoon, rain or shine. They symbolized a simpler time in my life. A time where bills, junk emails and clogged six-lane highways didn’t yet exist. The renting relics of my youth were more than just brick and mortar. They are deeply embedded in what made gaming as a child so magical and wondrous. I’m so thankful I was able to enjoy it with a best pal like Nelson.
The summer of 1994 was memorable for many reasons. It’s hard to believe those halcyon days are over twenty years old now. I credit Game Hunter, the Super Nintendo and Nelson for helping to create so many fond memories. It was in large part thanks to those three that made summer of ’94, the last carefree summer of my childhood, bar none, the best one I had as a kid.
In the early-mid ’90s, few games matched the fun that Super Bomberman and Super Mario Kart provided. Ever wonder if someone was keen enough to sort of combine the two? A-Max did, at least, to some degree. Battle Cross is a 6-player single screen racer. It does an admirable job of cramming bits and pieces of Bomberman and Mario Kart. The air-bike is easy to control. Once you get in the zone, you’ll be screaming past tight corners, blowing up the competition, and scorching toward the finish line with dazzling flamboyance unseen since the glory days of Babylon.
Naturally, there are weapons and power-ups randomly strewn across the course at any given time. Nothing beats dropping a land mine under a hidden overpass… *evil grin*
Speaking of which, let’s take a look.
WEAPONS AND POWER-UPS (HOW TO EMPLOY)
Laser (press R to shoot)
Unlimited. You could be on one side of the track and still hit someone on the other. It’s weak though… only stunning the victim for a split second (but enough to tick the tar outta ‘em, which is half the fun really).
Speed Up (automatic)
Increases your speed for that entire race. Collect a couple and you’ll blaze right through the competition.
Zipping at break-neck speed, anyone caught in your path will flip out. It’s just like the Star from Super Mario Kart.
Land Mine (Y)
My favorite. The more land mine icons you collect the more you can lay at a time. If you collect three or four as I once did, you’ll OWN that race!
Speed burst. If you’re on a track with steep hills, activate it at the bottom and watch your guy FLY!
A one shot deal that, when released, darts around the track until it finds someone or burns out.
Like the missile, a one time deal that sends a blue skeleton disc around the track until it finds someone or passes out. This causes the infected driver to go considerably slower.
Turn Over (R)
Evil in its purest form. Bolts a yellow skeleton disc around the track — if it finds a target, that driver will temporarily have his control REVERSED. On basic tracks the transition is usually no biggie. But on those with lots of turns, it’s a true you-know-what. Luckily, when infected, a fairy (!) appears carrying a first-aid kit. Touch her and instantly be healed. Love it. Odd and rather weird, but very cool!
The reason for different buttons? So you can drop a land mine WHILE shooting your lasers. As NBA Hall-of-Famer turned commentator Bill Walton would say: “Now HOW cool is THAT?”
Three game modes: Battle, Grand Prix and Practice.
In Battle you pick from 1-30 laps to win a course. 15 is the default; I like playing on 10 just to keep things moving. Pick from 1-5 match wins. You can even select a new track after each round! In Bomberman, you’re restricted to the SAME field until one player can win the designated amount. But here, say it’s 3 wins to the trophy; well, you can play on tracks 1, 2 and 8 if you wish. Brilliant!
Up to 5 human players can play, with a total of 6 maximum bikers. Any combo is possible: 1-on-1 race, or 4 bikers instead of 6. Go 7 laps, or 27. Adjust the AI from 1-5. It’s very user-friendly, just like Bomberman.
The Grand Prix follows a storyline, but like Bomberman the meat of Battle Cross is playing the Battle mode (and preferably with some buddies to truly enhance the experience).
Nine initial courses are available, with one being unlockable. Let’s check ‘em out.
Just your basic first stage that helps you ease into things. The course itself has no special features. A volcano rests peacefully in the middle and a friendly chap in the ocean enjoys fishing while observing the race. Oh and um… a Godzilla-like creature plays in the sand pit there… those wacky Japanese. They’re at it again…
A couple puddles atop and a grumpy pirate who doesn’t like trespassers highlight this track. He launches a cannonball across the screen every five seconds or so. If you find yourself in the line of fire, don’t be a chump, jump!
The orange arrows operate as a speed burst. This is the first track to implement high and low drops. I really like the curve before the finish line — it’s the perfect opportunity to smoothly turn the corner and accelerate on through. And for some reason, I really dig the way the grass looks. It’s so lush. It’s the little things!
This course rocks. Leap over the wooden spikes and watch out for the rocket that comes screaming out of the hole. A little gate near the totem pole swings open periodically, allowing the precious possibility of a short cut. But if the gate closes as you go for it, the AGONY! The shrubbery at the bottom left obstructs the playing view. It’s ripe for mine-dropping. Overall this course has a good deal of strategy, making it one of my favorite courses in the game.
See that wolf peering over the cliff there? Nice!It’s the little things that make video games cool I always say. Here the slopes get very steep and if you got Nitro, use it at that bottom hill. Your momentum can propel you straight through the finish line! It’s similar to using a mushroom right before the jump bit on the very first iconic Ghost Valley track from Super Mario Kart.
Twice the hidden overpasses equals twice the potential danger of land mines. I love the corner where my red guy is at — making a smooth turn and having that long raceway to steam forward is pretty cool stuff.
Love this devious track. It’s wide open… til you get to the two red pillars. To make matters worse, they move randomly! It’s a short stage but very fun because of the chaos the red pillars can cause. Blue and yellow there did OK — green and purple not so much! As for me, red, oh you know.. you know… uh… overlapping them. *cough* Nothing beats cutting through those pillars unscathed. Not only will you probably be in the lead but you’ll look real cool too, oh yeah.
Those are some big animals! O_o Course gets a bit bumpy in the middle there. This is one of my least favorite tracks to be honest. It doesn’t seem as appealing as some of the others. Be sure to drop mines under that overpass, though…
Pinball-mania. Madness I tells ya. The 3 yellow bumpers move and are hard to avoid. Hit the bumpers as I did here, and you’ll be bouncing back and forth for a few. He who minimizes mistakes, will win.
-Graphics are nothing to write home about but as you can see are quite serviceable and for this type of game works
-Sound is OK, but I love the catchy course tunes
-Like Bomberman, it’s still decent enough fun to play alone, but the real treat is getting 4 other people to play… one of those games that’s perfect to play after a late night out
-Even your little brother or sister can play — there’s an option in Battle mode for “human-CPU” mode. Think of it like… auto-defense in baseball video games
-You won’t need to understand Japanese to enjoy this game, though the storyline in Grand Prix will fly over your head… but no biggie, ya know?
-Never a hint of slowdown
-The back cover of the manual has the best Engrish ever:
Battle Cross is a fun party game. It possesses a unique charm and little things like the wolf and revolving gate, for example, add a sense of life to the game. The more I played Battle Cross the more I liked it. It’s well worth owning, especially if you have like-minded retro gaming friends. It’s a shame this game never came out in the US, but thankfully we can import it without any hassles as everything in the game is pretty much self-explanatory. Now, I do have to say this. I liked this game a lot more when I first played it in 2006, nearly 10 years ago. Similar to The Firemen, another Super Famicom title, I was really impressed a decade ago when this was a fresh novelty. In revisiting it years later, while I still like and recommend it, it’s not quite as awesome as I remembered it being. The gameplay is not as ‘meaty’ as Super Bomberman or Super Mario Kart. Don’t get me wrong, I still like Battle Cross, but perhaps temper your expectations at the door before diving in. Obviously it doesn’t hold a candle to either of those iconic Super Nintendo games, but hey, few games can. Battle Cross is a funky example of a game that’s both “worthy” yet somehow “somewhat disappointing, considering.”
Back in the early-mid ’90s fighting games ruled the scene. Street Fighter II launched a phenomenon that spawned clone after clone. Very few came close to the level of Street Fighter. Some were even downright ATROCIOUS. But once in a while, one came along that completely surprised you. One of those games was a Super Nintendo exclusive. It never came out in the arcades, but Konami could have fooled me. Its name… Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters.
Last night a friend and I caught the latest TMNT movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. It was far better than I expected, especially since I didn’t like the 2014 version at all. I mean, it wasn’t great or anything, but I can genuinely say I wouldn’t mind the inevitable 3rd film in this Michael Bay series. Seeing the movie made me nostalgic for the Turtles from my childhood, and so it’s a perfect time to talk about one of the best fighting games the SNES ever saw.
EXCUSE ME, SAY THAT ONE MORE TIME
Those were the haunting, earth-shattering words of my brother’s friend, Kerwin, back in December ’93. According to him, he had just played this new amazing fighting game — one that he claimed had“Fatality” like moves during combat and one that actually played better than Street Fighter II Turbo. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought Kerwin worked for Konami himself. At that time I had never conceived of anything like the idea of death moves. These were essentially SUPER special moves that dealt out a TREMENDOUS amount of damage and could only be done when your 2nd bar was full. Just the idea of two energy bars blew my 10 year old mind, let alone the idea of a screen-filling, flashy, super special attack. Maybe there was another game that had already done this at the time, but alI I knew was, Tournament Fighters was my first exposure to the wonderful wacky world of super specials. It’s one of those epic memories you always carry with you, in your gaming heart. TMNT:Tournament Fighters would have been terrific even without their Ultimate Attacks but WITH them it makes for one truly amazing fighting game.
Since late 1993, death moves have become a key staple in the genre. Everything from looks to command (i.e. how to pull off a super special move) has only gotten crazier and crazier. By comparison, these ones may seem tame today… but man, back in the day, they were something else to behold!
Tournament Fighters has two bars. One serves as your energy bar while the second fills up each time you land a blow, blocked or not. It’s a free flowing bar, meaning that if you are not on the offensive the bar swings back the other way slowly but surely. Thus, a great deal of emphasis is put on being aggressive, rather than defensive. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself compromised as your opponent unleashes his possibly two or even three times in a single round. When full, the bar ignites and you have three seconds to perform your super special. If you fail to execute your big move in that time frame, then the bar swings back the other way. Thankfully, it moves one smidgen at a time. Meaning if for whatever reason you couldn’t pull off your big move, just one or two more (blocked) attacks will see your bar refilled once more. It was a brilliant and innovative feature for its time. Back in December of 1993, none of my gaming crew nor I had ever seen anything like the Ultimate Attacks. And we loved them. It changed the dynamic of a typical fighting game match, and some of the screen-filling moves were truly awe-inspiring 20+ years ago.
However, there were some downsides to the Ultimate Attacks. Namely, since you only have about three seconds to unleash it… human opponents are very likely to block it. Though some can cause a good deal of damage even when blocked, it would be better if there was no time limit and the bar could remain full until you were ready to use it. It would have led to a bit more strategy. Instead, the game plays like a mad melee, which is not bad in its own right. Props for having these mega death moves at all.
CHRISTMAS MAGIC IN JANUARY
Having hounded both my parents about Clay Fighter and with them knowing how disappointed I was that I didn’t get it or even a video game that Christmas, my mom allowed me to buy one video game in January of ’94. I had just rented Clay Fighter and was thankful I did (boy, was it disappointing). They took me to Good Guys and I bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. I had never played it before but it was #2 on my want game list that Christmas season, trailing only Clay Fighter. I grew up on the Ninja Turtles, and it looked like a terrific Street Fighter II clone. I loved the cover and will never forget seeing it at Good Guys looking all pretty in its wrapping. It seemed to call out to me. Right away I knew it was the one. My mom and dad took the game to the counter to pay for it while I stood there nearly quaking in my shoes. What a wonderful belated Christmas gift! It was the second SNES game my mom ever bought for me, just about one year after she’d bought me my first, King of the Monsters. It was one of the longest car rides home that I can remember. It was time to see if Kerwin was right or not — was this truly Street Fighter II Turbo but with death moves??
THE STORY GOES…
Mike:Hey, who hacked our tube? This is SO NOT COOL, DUDES! Raph:SHADDUP MIKEY! I wanna hear this… Don: Amazing, I wonder what kind of device they used to hack our streaming service? Leo: Guys, there could only be one villain behind this…
I’ve always enjoyed the presentation / vibe of most Konami titles. They had a classic, basic yet sleek look to them. You could always count on Konami to deliver the goods
When I first saw this 20+ years ago, I instantly said to my brother, “It’s Martial Champion!” We liked it. It was different from most other fighting games which all seemed to have the same select screen. This one was different enough to be a bit of a stand out, however.
Martial Champion came out February 1993. It was one of a thousand Street Fighter II clones flooding the market at the time. I fell in love with it, but I was basically sleeping with every fighting game that came out during that golden age of 1992 to 1994 or so. It was colorful, outlandish and a bit different from your average SF II clone.
Titi (renamed Chaos in the US) was my favorite character. It looked like a cross between Freddy Krueger and a Chinese hopping vampire! Sold and sold! The game was unique thanks to its high jumps and how you could disarm your opponent and steal their weapon to use it against them. Looking back, it wasn’t a great fighting game or anything, but it was yet another fun entry in that epic era I fondly refer to as the ‘Fighting Game Golden Age.’
Take a look and see for yourself! Yeah, I know. I couldn’t draw for jack but man… the memories of those fun and simple times. Running in those arcade halls with my old gaming crew, going from fighting game to fighting game. It was akin to a buffet lineup. A grand time those days were, indeed.
SETTING THE STAGE
Of the many things I love about this game the one I adore the most might be the stages. Just look at this one f’rinstance. First off, the idea of a duel to the death on a rooftop is appealing, but then you add in massive billboards and a pretty backdrop of some hotels and business buildings, including a nifty flashing neon Konami sign all set to an atmospheric night time hue, and what you have is a winner. Most of the stages in this game are chock full with detail, color (admittedly at times almost TOO much color), and oh yeah, cameos. You’ll see tons of familiar faces from the TMNT universe scattered throughout, from foot soldiers to Neutrinos to Rocksteady and Bebop (though they should have been playable fighters but I digress). You’ll battle it out everywhere, from shady back alleys to ancient ruins, sunken ships, raucous rock concerts, roaring trains and cafés filled with jukeboxes, neon signs and bloodthirsty spectators. The stages captured my imagination 20+ years ago, and to this day, in my book, they’re still some of the best backgrounds I’ve ever seen in a 16-bit fighter.
What’s a fighting game without some sort of stage select screen? I’ve always liked the one here… with the Statue of Liberty front and center, and the little light that searches for the next stage. The sound effects here, as can be expected, are top-notch and firmly embedded in my mind more than 20 years later.
LEONARDO | 5’8″ | 170 lbs.
The leader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Leonardo is as straight-edge as they come. Focused and determined, his trusty katana blades often pushes him ahead of the competition. Not surprisingly, he plays like Ryu. Leo’s never been my favorite turtle, but he’s a solid all-around fighter, and an easy choice for beginning players. As expected, his swords provide him solid range. You can slice and dice to your heart’s content… something I always wanted to see in the old cartoon but never did for obvious reasons — but here you can fulfill those long forgotten childhood dreams.
Hustlers, hookers and hoodlums litter this shady looking back alley. In an attempt to shed his choir boy, straight edge image, Leo invites his opposing rivals to meet him way out in this dilapidated part of town in the middle of the day, breaking the age-old ninja code of hiding in the shadows. Leo is ready, at last, to step outta his shell.
RAPHAEL |5’8″ | 170 lbs.
Though Mike was my favorite growing up, Raph is a very close second. It’s hard not to like him. He was part of the team but it always felt like he was one small misstep from snapping [A snapping turtle? -Ed.]. Raph was easily the edgiest turtle of the lot, always exuding this aura of coolness. Maybe it’s because he’s a quasi-rebel and a hard-ass, which deep down there’s a little bit of that in all of us. He didn’t use his sai much in the old cartoon, but makes plenty good use of them here, including a M. Bison torpedo-esque move that can be a pain in the neck to deal with. Just a shame Casey Jones isn’t around as that’s one fight I’d love to see!
This was one of my most favorite fighting game backgrounds as a kid. It’s got the classic long counter you’d find at any diner worth half its salt, a jukebox, a colorful neon sign that lights up and what’s up with that strange looking cat in the middle there? He looks like an ape and for pete’s sake sir pull your shirt all the way down, son! Damn. Way to spoil one’s appetite, eh?
DONATELLO |5’8″ | 170 lbs.
Often referred to as the brains of the group, Donatello is usually busy working on his latest inventions. This time however, he’s taking a firm stand to show he can not only hold his own, but that he’s the most skilled fighter of his clan. His bo gives him good coverage and he’s just plain fun to use, especially with his Cranium Crusher that is exclusive only to him. Plus, his Ultimate Attack ranks as one of the most memorable — Donnie [Yen, apparently -Ed.] sends forth a ginormous dragon wave. It was jaw dropping back in ’93, and 20+ years later still puts a huge grin on my face whenever I see it. Donnie reminds us he’s more than just a brainiac.
In a corner tucked far away from town lies a rundown scrapyard where the dirtiest of deeds go down. Classic characters from the cartoon, like the vigilante Casey Jones and mad scientist Baxter Stockman, make cameos here in a definite tip of the cap. When Donnie isn’t busy scouring the scrapheap for random parts to tinker with, he’s busy kicking some ass.
MICHELANGELO |5’8″ | 170 lbs.
Easily my favorite Ninja Turtle growing up, every kid I knew identified themselves with Mikey at one point or another — the classic fun-loving, pizza-craving party animal of the troupe. Mikey never really used his nunchucks in the old ’80s cartoon, so it’s a fan’s dream come true to see him swinging them here like no tomorrow. He plays like a tantalizing mix of Ryu and Blanka, with a cool arcing rolling attack and a deadly rising uppercut. Mikey’s also got the best stage in the entire game. To cap it off, his Ultimate Attack is a swift and sick 10-hit barrage known as the Dance of Fury.
Hands down my favorite background of the game; hell, I’d put this up against any other fighting game stage on the SNES. The flashing Konami sign, the billboards on each side, the atmospheric city life with the bright lights — it’s a crime not to like this stage. I bet Mikey goes here after picking up a pizza and watches over the city as he munches away to his little heart’s content. Bless the lad, really.
ARMAGGON | 8’0″ | 400 lbs.
This guy had to be every kid’s dream come true back in the day. At least he was for me. Who didn’t drool at the thought of being a mutant shark? At the time I thought he was a brand new character constructed just for the game, but he actually comes from the comic book universe of Ninja Turtles fame, like quite a few of the other characters found in this game. While I was initially disappointed in the lack of familiar faces from the cartoon, I always liked Armaggon. Everything from his look to the giant octopus sitting in the middle of his stage… he’s JAWESOME[You’ve jumped the shark -Ed.].
This stage creeped me out when I was a kid. If I were really fighting, I’d find it impossible to focus on my opponent with that grotesque abomination stalking my every move. Its eyes literally track you wherever you go. Talk about unnerving. But it’s also frigging awesome.
ASKA | 5’2″ | 110 lbs.
Okay, so I have a small confession to make. When I was growing up, female fighters were never really my cup of tea. I always wanted to pick either the Ryu clone, the “cool” Guile rip-off, or the freaks (stretch fighters, monsters and other assorted weirdos). Female fighters, bless their hearts, simply never moved my meter. Back then the only one I used to any degree was Janne from the World Heroes series. Well, here’s another rare like. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but Aska’s always been cool in my book.
In 1993 there was a very popular SNK fighter by the name of Samurai Shodown. This backdrop always made me think of that game. Noh is a classic Japanese drama dance show that surged sometime in the 14th or 15th century. The mutant frog which resides in the middle of the stage always intrigued me. I remember rumors circulating within my own gaming crew that the giant frog was a secret character you could use. Of course, it was just a BS rumor my friends and I formed — it was a sign of the times. The good old days…
CHROME DOME | 5’10” | 200 lbs.
Considering how most of the roster consists of antagonists NOT from the cartoon universe, Chrome Dome was a very welcomed addition. I love how Konami gave the token “stretch fighter” the game’s biggest damage-inducing throw (outside of the bosses). It’s very cool as it’s just something you didn’t see in fighting games at all during that era. So in some ways, Chrome Dome felt like a slight mix of Dhalsim meets Zangief. He could stretch for defense and offense, and if you get too close to him, he could grab ya and take you on one SHOCKING ride.
Who knew tin head was so artsy fartsy? With a penchant for the fine arts, the culturally cognizant Chrome Dome gets his kicks off on piledrivering his competition at the local art museum. Familiar cartoon faces make a spot cameo in the form of Mousers and the Neutrinos. ‘GROOVY!’ indeed.
CYBER SHREDDER |6’6″ | 280 lbs.
This ain’t your regular Shredder you remember bumbling around in the ’80s cartoon. No, far from that. Indeed, this is THE SHREDDER ON STEROIDS. This is Cyber Shredder, a walking weapon of destruction. Part of me wishes we got the ’80s version instead, for nostalgic reasons. I was saddened to hear about the passing of one, James Avery, in December 2013. Better known as Uncle Phil, Avery was the voice of the late ’80s and early ’90s Shredder. When I found that fun little factoid in the late ’90s or so, I never looked at Shredder the same way ever again.
On the outskirts of town, there exists an iniquitous construction site that is rumored to have been taken over by the evil and nefarious Cyber Shredder and his Foot Clan. There are even whispers on the street, though apocryphal, that the police themselves dare not step foot onto the Cyber Shredder’s hot new territory. It’s considered a lost part of town and most have turned a blind eye in exchange for their own personal safety. All hail the mighty Foot!
WAR | 8’0″ | 350 lbs.
A savage bipedal triceratops? Sign me up! Those were my sentiments when I first laid eyes on him 20+ years ago. Originating from the comics, he was one of the Four Horsemen — along with Death, Famine and Pestilence. A real shame then, considering the superb look and cool name. He goes down in fighting game history as one of the most disappointing fighters ever. He’s limited to two special moves that aren’t too hot. Thankfully, his stage stands out and his Ultimate Attack is a rip-roaring attention grabber. War hurls himself around the screen like a pinball of destruction, but even that can’t save him from feeling like a largely wasted roster space.
It’s a beautiful sunny day, with only a couple clouds hanging overhead. Your breath is taken away as you look around at all the beautiful sights, until you catch sight of your old bumbling rivals, Bebop and Rocksteady. You chuckle to yourself as a savage roar erupts nearby. A giant 8 foot tall armored monster leaps within 10 feet of ya, the sunshine shimmering off his razor sharp talons. And just as quick, your smile fades.
WINGNUT | 6’0″ | 300 lbs.
I remember thinking to myself, “Why this bastard over a classic fan fave like Bebop or Rocksteady?” Wingnut appeared briefly in the ’80s cartoon series and had a much bigger role in the comics. He’s the very definition of an “unorthodox fighter.” It will take a highly skilled player to get the most out of his unusual offense. Possessing a somewhat awkward moveset, and considering how his Ultimate Attack can be a total flop, to his credit he’s got one of the cooleststages in fighting game history. What’s better than a rock concert while watching two combatants knock the stuffing out of each other?
Wingnut, the master of soundwaves, is hardly a stranger to loud noise. Whereas it distracts and even causes damage to the ear drums of most mere mortals, Wingnut relishes on such raucous and frenzied environments. From the HEAVY METALheadbanging to the strobe lights to the t-rex twins, the ringing Thunder Dome produces a mad rocking atmosphere like no other. The audience is more than happy to pay top dollar for this BARBARIC MASHUP.
In the comics, Rat King had a telepathic super power where he could communicate with rats. In the ’80s cartoon series he had to use a flute. He’s always been a cool cat [rat? -Ed.] in my book, and I wish we saw more familiar faces from the cartoon than the comics. Although I realize by late 1993 the cartoon series was not nearly as popular as it once was. Still, how lovely would it have been to see the likes of Krang, Rocksteady, Bebop and Casey Jones?
Studio 6 is where they film this game show format for Tournament Fighters. High school cheerleaders adorn the stage. A badly missed opportunity at a sewer-based stage. If you’re not going to give it to one of the turtles, then at least give it to the Rat King (AKA the King of the Sewers). This game has plenty of cool stages, but this one was rather dull. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.
A duel to the death atop a screaming metro train. Mr. Vernon Fenwick from Channel 6 News captures the chaos for all to see from the comfort of their home. Perhaps Konami knew all along just how bloodthirsty humanity is…
The endings are rather disappointing. Each character ending has only two shots with hit-or-miss artwork and a few text messages. For as difficult as the computer opponents are, this is a major letdown.
Like most fighting games of the early-mid ’90s, there lies breakable furniture in some of the stages. It’s a damn classic staple of the genre. The ones here are, admittedly, a bit ‘weak’ [I see what you did there -Ed.], but hey, they’re there.
Speaking of um, bonuses, check out probably my all-time most favorite fighting game bonus stage around. Destroying bank safes one after another? Sign me up!
I love the idea that someone was dropping these bad boys from the sky like a madman. They kept raining down, and you had to bust ‘em up until there were none left. It was extremely satisfying and I much rather play this bonus stage than any other.
Besides the concept and killer sound effects, I love this bonus round because unlike 90 to 95% of bonus rounds you come across in the genre, this one is actually quite challenging. You need a plan of attack rather than just mindlessly pound away. There were enough safes that ya barely had enough time, and it was SO cool how they can topple over (and knock you out, too).
ONLY IN JAPAN
There a few notable differences between the American and Japanese versions of the SNES game. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Warriors (to give it its Japanese namesake), among the differences include Rat King’s extra stage bit, where combatants can be knocked through the wall revealing the control room of Studio 6.
The other difference is the censorship of Aska. In the Japanese version you can see her buttocks a bit, but they covered it up in the North American version.
In what very well might be the first and ONLY time in gaming history, Konami released simultaneously three games of the same name on the NES, Genesis and SNES, but with very different game engines and rosters. While cool of them to diversify like that, it was clear SNES owners received the superior version. The Genesis version is broken and by comparison, crap. By late ’93, the Genesis was starting to look like the grandfather on the block while the SNES was just hitting its prime. With Tournament Fighters released across all three platforms, it was clear (at least in my mind) who the king of the jungle was. I was happy to own all three systems, but Super Nintendo was clearly KING in my household.
The 8-bit NES game is not even worth talking about from a gameplay standpoint; although, it does make for a fun water cooler topic as far as near final NES releases go. The NES was gasping its last breath by late ’93, so any title released was newsworthy, indeed. This was just a painful reminder though that my dear old friend couldn’t keep up with a changing of the guard. I love the 8-bit Nintendo and Sega Genesis, but I’m just calling it like I see it. When Tournament Fighters came out on all three systems, it was like a subtle declaration in my own heart which of those three systems reigned supreme.
CRACK THE CODE
I sat there completely dumbfounded, my jaw on the ground. I had to do a double take. Right there in my friend’s room, I could play as the Rat King or Karai. I ran downstairs to tell my friends about it. I still remember the skeptical looks on their faces, and how they kept saying, “Dude, this better not be a hoax. I’m about to eat some KFC!” They followed behind me as I took the stairs 2 steps at a time. I stood at the doorway and stretched my hand out as to welcome them in. One by one they filed in and I stood there still in the doorway smiling when I heard the collective HOLY SHIT! cries. I can’t tell you how red my hand got that night because of all the high fives. They asked what the code was, and sadly, I had no clue. We left the game on the entire night just so we could play as the bosses. When we finally turned it off at 12 something in the morning, we turned it right back on so I could try the code again. No such luck. Whatever I punched in randomly before was now gone.
The infamous boss code. Right there in all its glory. Looking back, it’s a fond memory for me. The thrill of cracking the code, the joys of sharing it with my friends, creating a lifetime memory. Back then, you couldn’t just log into damn GameFAQs for your hints and secrets, oh no. It was either through tip sections in gaming magazines like such, or plain discovering ‘em yourself through dumb luck. Discovering the boss code made me the man of my group for that one epic night, anyhow, and I recall with deep fondness just the sights, sounds and smells of that great night. The KFC aroma in the air, the thundering footsteps up the stairs, the tingling rush that I felt sweeping every fiber of my being when I saw Rat King and Karai on the select screen, the cries of sheer joy from my friends, as though we just collectively won the Mega Million Lottery, and the stinging high fives. Man, we must have played like 3 straight hours that night. Boss code, how I miss you and your simplicity. Boy, were things different back then. I’m very grateful I was lucky enough to have grown up when I did. When gaming with friends was all that mattered.
Look, she’s taunting me! GRR! So, I discovered the most wanted code and could have won a free game from EGM, but I couldn’t remember the code anyway, so Konami giving it to EGM first was a moot point as it would turn out. I suppose that softened the blow for not being able to remember the damn code!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Tournament Fighters was received well by the press. It garnered high scores across the board and I can’t recall anyone ever having a bad thing to say of it. From the critics to regular gamers like you and me, the game was beloved and extolled by many. It is also widely regarded as one of the better fighting games on the SNES. EGM gave it scores of 8, 9, 9 and 9. GameFan rated it 85, 92, 96 and 96%. Super Play Magazine scored it 90%. It was not only one of the BEST fighting games of 1993, but one of the best games, period, that year. One play and it’s easy to see why the game had so many diehard supporters. It succeeds where most clones fail miserably: it’s fun, fast, fluid and to boot it’s the TEENAGE MUTANT f*ckin’ NINJA TURTLES!
Tournament Fighters is a fantastic fighting game. In fact I think it’s the best SNES-exclusive fighter. In an age where crap clones were slapped together and shipped out the door like no tomorrow, Tournament Fighters was groomed for success. It’s packed full of quality from top to bottom. Those graphics are bright, bold and classic mid ’90s SNES magic. The sound and music both hit the mark, with tunes you can rock out to. The fighting game engine just feels right. Jumps aren’t floaty. Physics don’t feel off. It’s extremely well polished. What can I say, I loved it 20+ years ago, and even still to this day I’ll play it for a round or two, or 50. It’s not better than Street Fighter II Turbo but came DAMN closer than most.
But best of all, how about the wild Ultimate Attacks, eh? Whether you prefer to call them desperation moves, super specials or death moves, there’s no denying they are a game changer. They added an extra layer to the battles, encouraging the player to be offensive-minded. For balance, the weaker your health, the easier it is to fill up your extra bar. Likewise, the stronger you are, the harder it is to fill it up. Tournament Fighters did a lot of cool things, but for me the Ultimate Attacks come to mind first. Whether it was a giant ass mythical dragon or a deadly tidal wave screaming across the TV, it was jaw dropping and all part of the fun. Like fine wine, the game has aged tremendously well. Konami delivered again, crafting a finely tuned fighting game that exudes meticulous care and is bursting with quality from every seam. Sure, a bigger roster including the likes of Rocksteady, Bebop, Krang, and Casey Jones would have been perfect, but the list of negatives are short and brief.
Konami sure did hit a home run here, as they often did back in the ’90s. There aren’t many home-grown fighting games on the SNES, and the only ones giving Tournament Fighters any run for its money are: Ranma ½: Chōgi Rambu Hen and Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Duel. Some other SNES-grown fighters include Tuff Enuff, WeaponLord and Double Dragon V. Of all of them, I’d happily play this game the most. To me it’s a LEGIT Super Nintendo classic. It’s a quality fighting game with an engine that stands the test of time well. I still break it out on occasion to pass the odd evening or two. I will forever harbor fond memories of this game, from Kerwin’s unbelievable stamp of approval to my parents buying it after Christmas to the night I randomly unlocked Rat King and Karai… DAMN, the nostalgic goodness just goes on and on. Tournament Fighters, I salute thee!
One of the thrills of growing up during the mid ’90s were all the awesome arcade games just waiting for you to plop a quarter in. And the longing hopes and dreams that one day soon the spirit and essence of your favorite arcade title would receive a respectable enough translation on your 16-bit console of choice. They never captured the arcade original perfectly, but the best ports brought home a piece of the arcade. Sometimes you didn’t have to wait very long. Other times, it would be years later. Such was the case for NBA Give ‘N Go. Was it worth the wait? Strap on your squeaky sneakers and let’s take a look.
BEFORE THERE WAS NBA JAM…
… there was Run ‘N Gun. It was loud, in your face and full of that early-mid ’90s arcade wonder. Walk into any arcade hall more than 20 years ago and you would be bombarded by dazzling lights and ear-crunching sound effects all vying for your quarter’s attention. Right in the thick of the Golden Fighting Game era, Konami released a basketball game that emphasized action and fun over strategy and simulation (although it certainly had some of that too, especially when compared to NBA Jam). My brother, friends and I immediately fell in love with it. And we were counting down the days until it would be ported over for either the Sega Genesis or the Super Nintendo. Our wish came true but unfortunately, no sooner than two plus years later.
My brother was a huge basketball nut back in 1993. Me? The sport was OK. I liked it reasonably well enough, but I didn’t go out of my way to catch the games when it came across the ol’ telly. To be honest, at 10 years old I was far more interested in playing video games or watching WWF wrestling. But my perspective on the game of basketball all took a turn on one particularly fateful day…
MEMORIAL DAY MIRACLE
Monday, May 29, 1995 is a day I’ll never forget. Hard to believe the other day marked 21 years since that fateful day…
It was Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals which pitted the young uprising Orlando Magic vs. the Indiana Pacers. I was at the local mall walking past Radio Shack when I saw they had the game playing on 10 TV screens. There were 3 people standing there, watching in angst and talking in-between plays. I joined, making it a crowd of 4. The game was in the final 3 minutes, and as the drama unfolded, the crowd steadily grew from 4 to 8 to 12. Even the employees stopped what they were doing and joined our huddle.
These are the moments you live for as a sports fan (as I would come to find out), and to boot it was one of the greatest finishes EVER in NBA playoff history.
With under 15 seconds to go, this improbable sequence took place:
Brian Shaw’s 3 pointer gave the Magic the 1 point lead
Reggie Miller answered with one of his own, putting the Pacers back up by 2 causing the Indiana crowd to erupt in a frenzy
Mere seconds later the player many then believed would carry Jordan’s torch as well as the NBA into the new millennium, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, nailed a dramatic heart breaking 3, giving the Magic a 1 point lead with 1.3 seconds to go. It left the sold out capacity crowd in stunned silence
As the game went to its final commercial break there was a deafening buzz within Radio Shack’s small confines. I was right in the middle of it and the raw adrenaline was indescribable. I felt like I was at the game myself!
To this day I still can hear that classic NBA on NBC theme, being played on no less than TEN television monitors, in full blast stereo reverberating throughout the store and the entire mall itself. It’s one of those vivid childhood memories that haunts me to the core… even 21 years later.
Suddenly we were no longer just a bunch of strangers, no. This playoff basketball game magically banded us together. We were basketball fans, enjoying and living up the moment.
I saw basketball in a new light — the likes of which I hadn’t seen before. There was strategy, there were tactics. Beyond that, I started appreciating the concept of teamwork and five different people of varying size and skills working as one well oiled machine.
That day I developed a much deeper appreciation for basketball. It’s the moment I became a fan for life.
Down 1 with 1.3 seconds left, the ball made its way to the dunking Dutchman, Rik Smits. He faked, shot and the ball ripped nothing but net as the buzzer sounded off. The place became unglued and the roof blew off. Radio Shack’s walls were shaking as we all screamed, jumping up and down in pure disbelief at what we had just witnessed on the 10 TV monitors that stood before us.
I was only 11 years old while everyone else around me in the store was probably 20 or older. Those 15 minutes or so catching the 4th quarter and cheering and booing madly at the TV screen with a bunch of folks I never met before… PRICELESS. I remember on the car ride home in the backseat I kept replaying the events in my head… thinking to myself that that was the coolest thing that ever happened to me so far in my young life. Ha! But the moment was nothing short of magic.
I think back 21 years ago… part of me can’t believe it, you know. It was the best NBA Playoff game I ever saw, and to this day, I have not seen a game better or more dramatic than the one that occurred on May 29, 1995 — the Memorial Day Miracle.
Yesterday brought back some goosebumps and fond memories for me… as the Golden State Warriors battled the Oklahoma City Thunder in a decisive Game 7… also on Memorial Day. 21 years later ALMOST TO THE DAY… it was a miracle that the Warriors were able to storm back and push the series to a 7th and final game, as they were down 3-1 but not only down — they looked completely out of it. Somehow, they dug deep and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson knocked down some ridiculous 3 point shots. It was a nice dramatic game but the Warriors eventually won 96-88. It’s hard to compare it to the Pacers-Magic game 21 years ago, but it certainly was special in its own unique way.
I just wish they would bring back that classic NBA theme regardless of which station the games emanate from. There’s nothing comparable to John Tesh’s amazing Roundball Rock score!
HOOP IT UP
All NBA teams and players are here, including that year’s All-Star selections. The Shooting Stars and Supreme Team are five player teams that consist of the best five players from each conference. Think of it as a Dream Team. You can also edit it to form your own fantasy team. More on this later.
Give ‘N Go has an interesting quirk where players are rated per stars. Three max. This changes from game to game randomly. It basically indicates how the player is “feeling” that game. The more stars, the higher chance he’ll have at making baskets. It’s a unique feature that factors in the “human” element of players’ feelings on a game by game basis. You can still have a good game with a guy who has zero stars, but it’s tougher. Hey, maybe his wife cheated on him that day, who knows! Like a box of chocolate, ya never know what you might get.
I can’t think of any other 16-bit basketball game that gauges how a player is feeling on a game-to-game basis. It’s fun firing the game up and hoping to see many stars across the board. As it was randomly generated game by game, it added an extra element of spice.
Sometimes it would spur me to sit a starter for a bench player — say if the starter had zero stars and the capable bench player was feeling particularly spry with three stars. Good stuff.
You gotta love how big the players are. There’s a nice ‘thickness’ to them [That’s what she said -Ed.] and they really do look like the actual stars themselves. Can you tell that’s Reggie Miller there? Quite easily, I’d wager. Look at the defensive stance of that bloke over there — very realistic eh? One hand guards the ball, the other guards the passing lane. Hey, I aced Beginning and Intermediate Basketball in my day, ya know? Picked up a few tricks along the way
“JUMP, YA BUM!”
Miller soars up with the greatest of ease as Nick Anderson is caught with sand in his shoes. Great visuals, eh? Now this is basketball! Player mechanics are accurately mimicked.
“And after one it’s a real tight ball game we have here today, Bob.”
“Indeed. If this is a sign of things to come, fans I hope you’re all strapped in — it’s gonna be one heck of a ride!”
“What a great first quarter of action, Bob.”
“Can’t ask for much more on this beautiful Memorial Day, 1995!”
“It just may come down to a buzzer beating last second shot for one of these teams…”
Life is like a hurricane
HERE IN… Duckburg
Race cars, lasers, airplanes
It’s a… DUCK BLUR
Might solve a mystery…
Or rewrite history!
Ahem, sorry… [You’re fired -Ed.]
Nothing humbles the opposition quite like a big time block. I love how that one Magic player is running back up the other side of the court… thinking his teammate has got the basket. Uh, I’ve got something to say about that…
Thankfully, NBA Give ‘N Go gives players an option. When going for a slam dunk, you can press the shoot button to change the dunk animation into a layup midway through!
It keeps the opposition honest, and because the game is so block friendly, this scoring alternative is a God send, especially in two player games with a buddy.
As I said earlier, players look like the real players. Here you see Dennis Rodman in all his crazy madness. Unfortunately though, the game does not account for the size differences. John Stockton is just as tall as Patrick Ewing. Shame about that, but oh well, what can ya do? [Play NBA Jam -Ed.]
One of the really neat things about Give ‘N Go is seeing all the different NBA arenas. Though they’re not as unique as, say, baseball parks, some of them definitely have their own sense of history and atmosphere. It’s one thing this game definitely has over any other SNES basketball title, such as the NBA Live and NBA Jam series.
But my absolute favorite is easily the All-Star court. With its brightly colored court, it just makes it fun to shoot at all odd corners of the floor. I don’t know what it is about that, but on this court, I just love pulling up for 17, 18 foot jump shots. Something about shooting on that solid purple floor is mighty addicting…
SOME NOT SO NEAT STUFF
Don’t know why but the Japanese version of this game is battery-backed, while the US version received a super crappy password feature to save the regular season games. Talk about absurd — look how long the password is!
HUH! Yep, sometimes players will shrink for a very brief period of time. It doesn’t affect gameplay — at least so far that I’ve been able to witness — it’s more of a sight gag if anything. I guess it’s just the SNES straining from the odd time to time. Give ‘N Go is no Killer Instinct or DOOM in terms of pushing the system to the limits, but it also wasn’t Super Tennis.
It’s easy hitting 3 point shots in the 1st quarter. After that, oddly enough, it becomes hard even if you’re a 3 point specialist like Reggie Miller. Not saying it’s impossible to nail 3 point shots past the 1st quarter — it just becomes much harder. Why this is, I have no idea. But it does put a bit of a damper on the game. See, the Magic hit 1 out of 2, but I kept chucking threes into the 2nd half of the game, and I kept missing them (even with a dead-eye shooter such as Reggie). Not cool.
- Rim physics aren’t realistic (then again, it IS an arcade game)
- Whoever is running down court has a disadvantage. The rim on the bottom half of the court isn’t visible at all times
- Stat tracking leaves something to be desired. No assists — what?
- Guards are as tall as centers. Those who can’t dunk in real life can dunk in the game
- Alley oop system can be abused
- Gameplay is not as quick as NBA Jam or NBA Live. It may feel too slow for some folks. Personally, I think it still plays fine in spite of the less-than-stellar speed
+ I gotta give PROPS to the announcer. He’s pretty wacky. “REBOUND AND JAAAM!” (adds to the early-mid ’90s arcade feel of the game)
+ Speaking of the sound, unlike many basketball games, Give ‘N Go actually incorporates music during the game. I found the upbeat melodies to be pleasant
+ Visually, the game’s quite ace. Players are huge and easy to make out. Amazing little details like Dennis Rodman’s wild hair and Horace Grant’s goggles give the game a sense of “life” and personality. Plus the NBA courts are nicely detailed
+ Another praise for the 0 to 3 star rank system. On any given night, any player can be a capable threat. Some nights your star players will feel like superstars. But on other nights however, perhaps your 10th man on the bench is feeling particularly spry. It’s all randomly generated and you never know who’s feeling hot (or not) on any given night. Cool feature if you ask me! It’s nice too that 0 star players can STILL have a big game for you… 3 stars only mean he’s THAT much more capable
+ Rarely slows down. Impressive considering the size of ten big players running around
+ Can edit your own Dream Team of stars and scrubs however you like
+ Menus and game presentation is absolutely top-notch and crisp
+ It’s RUN ‘N GUN on your SNES! Or at least, halfway close enough. 4-player games rock
+ GameFan gave it scores of 84and 86%. Super Play rated it 85%
I still remember fondly the day I rented this game in late ’95 for me and my brother. Back in the day he always had me rent the games he wanted, but for a change, we both couldn’t wait to play this. We loved it. It was a long wait, but Give ‘N Go did not disappoint. It brought home the large colorful graphics, the squeaky sneakers, massive slam dunks, monster block shots and thrilling games that came right down to the final second. It’s not without flaws though: the game plays slower than other SNES basketball titles. It’s hard to make 3 point shots after the 1st quarter, the alley oop feature can be abused (though easily fixed by agreeing to have a “1 per quarter” limit or so), player sizes are all the same so Stockton can dunk (yeah right!) just as well as Shawn Kemp, and so on. But you know what, this was never the perfect basketball game to begin with. What it was — and as I found out recently — what it *IS*… is a damn fun basketball game with an impeccable arcade-like feel. In many ways I liken it to Super Baseball 2020. Taken for what it was intended to be, it does its job well. I have as much fun with NBA Give ‘N Go today as I did over 20 years ago. Anytime I can say that, that game’s all right by me. It’s not the first basketball title I pull off my shelf to play, but it’s a nice alternative to the NBA Lives and Jams of the world, for sure. Give ‘N Go does an admirable job of bringing the zany arcade experience home.
Hard for me to believe it’s been 21 years now since that epic Memorial Day playoff game between the Pacers and Magic. It was the game that cemented me as a basketball fan for life. What a mad finish! And what a shot by Rik Smits! From the classic NBA on NBC tune to the countless strangers huddled around that Radio Shack monitor cheering and booing, it was one hell of a way to kick off the final summer of my preadolescence. Some images, some sounds and some smells stay with you for a lifetime. May 29, 1995 was such a day for me
NBA Give ‘N Go is a fond reminder of the good old days. When times and things were a bit simpler. When you could walk into an arcade hall not five blocks from your house, smell the piping hot cheese and have your ears tickled by the innocent laughter of children. Not only is it a nostalgic blast, I find Give ‘N Go still holds up to this day. It plays on the slower side but it’s also presented in a light that makes it stand out compared to any other SNES basketball game. Better late than never? Yes. Or perhaps I should say, “YES SIR!” [Pack yer things -Ed.]