Yesterday saw the release of the latest X-Men movie: X-Men Apocalypse. As I sat in my seat waiting for the lights to dim and the first trailer to play, I couldn’t help but think back 20+ years to the time Capcom released X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse on the SNES. All in all, I enjoyed the movie but felt it was a bit disappointing. Is that foreshadowing for the game itself? But as always, I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. Let’s rewind the clock back some shall we…
THE MARVEL SUBCULTURE OF THE ’90S
If you were a child of the early ’90s, chances were you somehow got mixed up in the superhero subculture. It was simply a sign of the times. From trading cards to cartoons to toys to video games, superheroes and super villains dominated the scene. My brother, our friends and I used to hang out at this card shop, Triple Play. It was right next to the local library and a mom and pop rental shop. What a great time to be a kid! We spent hours of our childhood down at the card shop, buying the newest Marvel ’91 series and trading them. When we weren’t trading or buying them, we played the Street Fighter II arcade cab right in the store. It was just an amazing time to be a young kid.
My favorite thing about the Marvel ’91 cards? Hands down the enticing stats on the back of the cards. This is where my obsession with numbers and ratings probably first developed, and a large reason (EGM is another factor) as to why I personally like to rate video games. To me numbers have always been a fun snapshot at things. I remember Fin Fang Foom’s stats were off the charts. He had something nuts like three 7’s. Fun times.
As a kid I remember thinking to myself how badly I wanted to play a really good superhero game, particularly at home. Uncanny X-Men (NES) definitely failed to deliver on that front.
NES Wolverine? Better than Uncanny X-Men, but nope.
NES Silver Surfer? Heavens no.
NES Captain America and the Avengers? Try again.
My wish for a good superhero game came true in 1991 with the arcade quarter muncher, Captain America and the Avengers. I was counting down until the inevitable Super Nintendo port. Unfortunately…
When the port arrived, I nearly cried tears of sadness. It was such a watered down attempt and easily one of the most disappointing arcade ports to ever hit the SNES. My dreams were crushed. But a year later…
The X-Men arcade game is one of the most iconic multiplayer arcade games ever created. When it hit the scene in 1992, it took everyone by storm, pardon the pun. I was eagerly anticipating the SNES translation but alas, it was never meant to be.
Just look at that hulking beast. Six player cabinet. It was truly worthy of the superhero name. My friends and I loved dumping quarters into this machine and we pumped hours into this one like none other. I always used Colossus. That was my guy!
That same year, Halloween 1992 to be precise, the X-Men cartoon hit television screens the world over. And our Saturday mornings would never be the same again. There was only one thing missing: a proper Super Nintendo representation of the X-Men. Finally, two years later, X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse was announced for the SNES. Better yet, it was developed by ever reliable firm, Capcom. Surely the Big C wouldn’t let us superhero fanboys down, would they? Surely console owners would finally get a good superhero game? Well, for the most part anyway. Let us delve in, then…
MUTANTS ON A MISSION
Right off the bat you have the choice of using one of five different members from the X-Men force. Each mutant has his or her own unique mission to complete. Each level is designed with that mutant’s abilities well in mind. After you finish off the first five stages, the game allows you to select any mutant to use on the final handful of levels. I like that each mutant has his or her own unique mission to begin with, and I like how Capcom allows you to select them in whichever order you please. It’s very Mega Man-esque. Let’s begin with my favorite of the group…
Wolverine always knew how to make one hell of a dramatic entrance, didn’t he? Things start off hot as the savage mutant comes bursting out of a elevated window. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
Each character has a few special moves that are executed via Street Fighter II-esque motions. As expected from a firm such as Capcom, the controls are tight and responsive. Pulling off special moves left and right is as easy as 1-2-3. I particularly love Wolverine’s Dragon Punch. I always thought to myself as a kid that it blows the real Dragon Punch out of the water on account of the flesh-cutting adamantium claws. Sorry Ken, not even your Burning Dragon Punch stands a chance.
This is a recurring mid-boss that you’ll encounter throughout the game. I was intimidated as hell when I first saw it as a kid, but it’s more bark than bite.
Wolverine can interact with his environment in the way of scaling tall walls. It’s not implemented as much as I would have liked, but the few bits you get to do it it’s undoubtedly satisfying.
Not only does that enemy get the worst of Wolverine’s claws, but he also got knocked into the razor-sharp robotic fingers for extra damage. Small moments like this delight — it’s a shame then that they’re too few and far between.
A giant pissed off Sentinel guards the end of Wolverine’s stage. Goons and cronies will come at you from both sides, so dispatch them quickly. The laser beams create a somewhat spooky look for the Sentinel. A nice, creepy touch.
Cyclops, not surprisingly, is slower to control than Wolverine. He’s also a bigger target which makes avoiding hits a bit more difficult. But he has one thing on Wolverine: long distance attacks. His optic blast is basic, but effective.
Somehow, this never gets old
Gambit’s long legs allow him to take out the opposition within a very generous radius. The coolest part is seeing two bad guys approaching you, from both sides, and knocking them out in stereo with the Scissors Kick.
Even cooler is when you deliver death from below. You just can’t beat it.
What makes Beast unique from the others is his ability to hang from ledges. It sort of makes the game feel a bit like Metal Storm, at least, for a few minutes anyhow. An interesting gimmick that isn’t fully fleshed out due to the shortness of this level (in fact, all the levels are criminally short).
Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned screen-filling boss? We all have our own form of video game fetishes. For me it’s definitely towering end-level bosses and…
I know. I need to seek professional help [Please, take all the time off you need… -Ed.]
You also get to use whichever character you want for the game’s remaining stages. Of course, different characters are more effective in certain stages. It’s fun to explore but I just wish the levels were longer.
No seriously, it really is. Walk about 20 feet over and then it’s boss time. What the flipping heck, Capcom? Makes you wonder if development on this game was rushed for it to hit store shelves in time for the Christmas season push…
Some of the choices boggles the mind, but on the bright size, the Tusk sprite looks pretty damn awesome. Look at how he towers over Wolverine. Heck, you can even see his bulging muscles. Great attention to detail for an otherwise forgettable boss.
Speaking of bright sides, at least there are a few fun little gimmicks thrown in here. You can knock Tusk into the lava BUT do watch out for that falling lift!
Just for fun, I like scaling the wall and making the bastard try to reach me. It’s oddly entertaining but then, the little things tend to be that way, don’t they?
The next level forces you to move swiftly as a lava gives chase. This is where the game sure could have used a dash option. Thankfully each of the characters have some sort of dashing special move you can pull off as a substitute for a lack of a dash button, except for Cyclops (who I definitely don’t recommend you selecting here).
Get stuck in front of a pillar though and you’ll have to smash your way through. This can cause for some intense moments to say the least!
For a big bad boss whose name is featured in the game title itself, the encounter with Apocalypse is a bit underwhelming to say the least. His special moves all sort of look weird and as it turns out, he’s not even the final boss. After defeating him you’re transported back to the Danger Room for more training. It’s a bit jarring… almost like Capcom said, “Oh crap, we need to throw in a little more shit because this game is way too short!”
After this it’s off to face the final bad guy of the game: Magneto. Good luck.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
I have fond memories of EGM issue number 65. It came right in time for the holiday season of 1994 (what I consider to be an epic year both personally and in terms of gaming) and clocked in at over a massive 400 pages! I always said EGM sold their souls to the devil… for EGM in my humble estimation was never the same again after producing this tree-killing monster of an issue. I remember the joke that this issue was bigger than some small towns’ phone books! And I believe that. It had a badass cover featuring X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse. The critics were not too kind to this game. EGM gave it ratings of 8, 8, 8 and 7. But GameFan, who was notorious for handing out high scores like free condiments, gave it shockingly “low” scores of 78, 75and 70%. Super Play Magazine, who were much harder graders in general (not to mention they weren’t huge fans of the beat ‘em up genre) rated this game 52%. Public fan reception has been a little more positive though. Most gamers would agree that this is a pretty good game, especially by X-Men standards at that time.
I enjoyed playing this game back in 1994, and revisiting it again this past week leading up to the new X-Men movie has been, for the most part, an enjoyable experience. It’s definitely not Capcom’s best effort and certainly feels rushed at times, but it’s still quite fun to play through the game using the various characters and utilizing their unique special moves. The graphics are big, bright and bold — it has that classic SNES look to it where you just know at a glance that it was made in the year 1994 (if that makes sense). It has a pretty rockin’ soundtrack to boot. Not in the same league as say a Mega Man X or a Donkey Kong Country but I dare say it more than holds its own. Control is tight and crisp, but the levels are way too short. Just as you’re about to sink your teeth into a stage, it ends. It leaves you with sort of an empty feeling. It’s fun while it lasts, but it never lasts long enough to kick the game playing experience into that extra gear that very good or great games have. Had Capcom spent a little more time fine tuning this aspect, this game could truly have been one of their many SNES classics. Instead, it’s simultaneously disappointing yet fairly solid in spite of its flaws.
I don’t mind single-plane beat ‘em ups, although I prefer more traditional “free roaming” ones such as Final Fight or Streets of Rage, but it works here. The inclusion of special moves done via Street Fighter II motions is pretty neat, and there’s a little more platforming here than seen in most typical beat ‘em ups. Instead of each mutant having a “clear all” attack that takes a little health off their health, each one has special mutant powers that can be executed without penalty or limit. I thought that was a pretty cool twist on the whole beat ‘em up trope. X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse feels like a bit of an amalgam of three classic genres: beat ‘em up, action platformer and in some cases, hints of a 2D one on one fighter. There were certainly instances (like the fight with Juggernaut) where I started daydreaming about this game actually being a legit Street Fighter II clone. Man, too bad Capcom didn’t incorporate a bonus mode where you can pick any of the superheroes and villains to duke it out, Street Fighter II style. Sure, it wouldn’t be terribly polished, but we got such bonus modes in NES Double Dragon and SNES Combatribes. Mutant Apocalypse would have done it better. Anyway, it’s not fair to criticize a game for not including a mode that thinks outside the box, but it is an indication that the game could have been more (generally speaking) and that Capcom didn’t let this one “cook to perfection” for one reason or another. Still, it’s a rock solid title that’s worthy of a spot in any Super Nintendo collection. It’s just a shame it wasn’t even better but hey, it’s hard to complain much when you see all the gems Capcom gave us during the vaunted SNES era.
On this day I was considering getting back into the SNES scene after having been gone since the mid-late ’90s. I was making my daily gaming board rounds when I saw an intriguing topic over at the DigitPress forum.
“Super Play Magazine! Who read it? Who misses it?”
I love awesome retro gaming magazines. When I found out about SEGA SATURN MAGAZINE in 2001, I went on a long hunt before striking gold in late 2003. This Super Play topic, created by DP member theMot, couldn’t have been posted at a better time! I was still on the fence about buying a Super Nintendo, but the topic made me think “OK, if I DO come back, I’ll definitely look for that magazine.”
And of course, I did come back. January 17, 2006 is the official comeback date for yours truly. And so I began actively pursuing a complete Super Play set from that day forth.
The following is a chronicle of my nine month odyssey. It’s a journey that’s simply unbelievable. I always had confidence I would one day own Super Play, but I had no idea it’d be anything like what it turned out to be…
HAVE CONTACTS, WILL TRAVEL
In my history of online gaming-related activities I learned one very important thing as a collector/gamer, the more you network the better off you are. If people know what you’re looking for, you can find it easier. I’m not saying go post an ad so the whole world can see what you want, but you need to do some legwork if you want to attain something that is valuable and hard to come by. Having great contacts can help a lot.
And I had that in a guy located in the UK named James. He was always my go-to bloke. My brother from another mother. I could always count on King James.
James and I had traded several times over the years from 2001-2004, during my Saturn days. Back in the day he helped me get five Sega Saturn Magazines, after I had won a set of 29 off eBay. In addition to hooking me up with random PAL-only Saturn games over the years
He didn’t post often at this one Sega board, but I sent him a Private Message. It began an extremely LONG PM discussion between us…
DANGLING PSYCHIC ASSASSIN TAROMARU
-FEBRUARY 23, 2006-
I sent James the first PM on this day.
I told him if he knew any collectors who had a complete set of SUPER PLAY that I would be willing to trade that person my TAROMARU copy. Psychic Assassin Taromaru is one of the rarest and most expensive Sega Saturn imports. Enjoyed it as I did, I was willing to part with it for a (near) full set of Super Play Magazine. I also asked him if the magazine was like the Sega Saturn Magazine equivalent for the Super Nintendo.
You are correct – Super Play was indeed pretty much the equivalent of SSM but for SNES. Loads of good import coverage, lots of technical features, amazing artwork on every issue (provided by Wil Overton). Hard to find but a great mag. Will see what I can do on that front if you like. Would appreciate Issue 200 of EGM if you can get it for me.
So while James scoured the UK for Super Play, I scoured the States for EGM #200.
-MARCH 1, 2006-
Less than a week later, he had already found a potential match! I recall thinking to myself, “JAMES IS DA MAN!”
I may have a lead for you for the Super Play mags. I’ll need about a week but I know a guy that I think has a complete collection of Super Play mags and I know he is into his Saturn stuff so I may be able to work something out for you guys. I’m not entirely sure how many Super Play mags there were – I think it was around 37 or 38, maybe 40. I’m certain he has at least 1 to 35 and maybe some of the last issues too.
Once again, James had come through for me. Right?
WHEELS SET IN MOTION
-MARCH 18, 2006-
It had been close to 3 weeks since James and I last communicated. I was busy buying US SNES games left and right, continually looking for issue #200 and I knew I was in good hands because of our track record. There was nothing to worry about…
On this day James PM’ed me he’ll be meeting his collector friend over brunch to discuss Taromaru for the Super Play magazines, and find out exactly what condition and issue numbers they were.
His message made my day. The wheels were set in motion. Knowing James, I figured it was only a matter of time…
-APRIL 24, 2006-
More than a month passed since I last heard from him. Finally I received the following message.
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Been unbelievably busy and had some problems with my PC. I’ve met the collector guy. He has the following issues:
Let me know your thoughts. I will continue to ask around for the few missing issues. All issues are in good condition.
I didn’t mind the month-plus delay after reading the good news. YES! That’s exactly what I was hoping to hear — that the collector guy had a large majority of the issues, and not something like 1, 5-7, 11-14, 17, 19, 25-28, 31, 33-35. You know, large gaps. It’s always nice to get nearly all of a set in one fell swoop.
“Let me know your thoughts” ??? My thoughts were HELL YEAH!
NOT SO FAST…
-MAY 2, 2006-
About a week later, James emailed me pictures of the collector’s set as I had requested. I was more than satisfied with how everything looked. I replied to James, “LET’S DO THIS.” Note: if it were years later and say 2013 I would probably have said “TAKE MY MONEY” or rather, “TAKE MY TAROMARU” but you get the point.
I was good to go, right? Not so fast…
25 DAYS OF SILENCE
-MAY 27, 2006-
This was unlike James. In the past he was always so quick on replies. But hey, he had great news when he finally broke the silence on this day.
Sorry for the delay but I can also get Issues 39, 40, 41, 43 and 44 of Super Play for you in addition to the ones listed before.
Everything looks good to go. The trade was Taromaru+EGM #200 (which I found) in exchange for the massive Super Play lot.
The long ongoing PM discussion, which started over three months ago on February 23, was going to finally conclude.
But as with most things in life… things don’t always go as you plan…
-JULY 31, 2006-
For over two months, James mysteriously vanished. He didn’t answer my PMs or emails. I was worried. I DIDN’T SEND TAROMARU YET. Let me tell you the kind of guy James is. He always shipped first in the past with me and said he would ship first in this transaction as well. That’s the kind of guy he was — he always wanted me to get the item first to see if I was satisfied with it.
So when he disappeared without a trace for two months, I was worried not just for our trade, but for his well-being in general. I mean, it was completely unlike him to go off the radar like that for so long and without a heads up.
In late July, I made a topic at the Sega board asking if anyone there had talked to him since late May.
I didn’t want to “air the laundry” like that, but he left me no other choice.
48 to 72 hours after I made the topic, James PM’ed me for the first time in over two months.
I’m really sorry mate I’ve had some things going on over the last couple of months and the whole trade thing was sadly at the bottom of a huge pile of other things.
I have always had fantastic trades with you and am very happy to continue with this trade.
I was just glad to hear from him and know that he was OK. The fact that the trade was officially back on was only the cherry atop the cake! I PM’ed him back joking “WISE FROM YOUR GRAVE!”
24 hours later he replied.
Haha, nice reference! Have packaged up the mags and will get them posted asap. Will confirm when they are on the way to you and provide a Tracking Number etc if I get given one (depends on the postal method I guess).
Apologies once again for the ridiculous delay – will be good to see this trade through.
NOW I WAS OFFICIALLY IN, RIGHT?
… Keep reading…
ONLY A MATTER OF TIME…
-AUGUST 6, 2006-
Not one week later, I received an update.
Just to keep you updated. The magazines are all packed up (currently in two separate boxes) and ready for posting. However after going to the Post Office to send them via the usual method is going to be way expensive and also means they won’t be insured. So I’m going to look at Courier options which means they should be delivered in around 3-4 days after they are sent, and they will be insured and it should work out cheaper to send. The thing is that I am away with work until next weekend so it will likely be next weekend that I actually send them.
Just letting you know that I am working on this and you will get the mags (eventually).
Just got to work out the details with the Couriers.
I was disappointed, since I figured they were already on the way. No matter, I’ve been waiting over six months now… what’s one more gonna hurt??
I told myself I needed to keep my eyes peeled, keep my options open. So I started searching for Super Play on eBay… hoping I’d find a complete set on offer which I could snipe. JUUUUUUST in case James somehow doesn’t come through…
FIVE DAYS LATER — GOLD
-AUGUST 11, 2006-
In an amazing stroke of luck, I punched in SUPER PLAY MAGAZINE on eBay and expected yet another empty search.
However, on this day there it was!
Super Play Issues 1-45 (missing # 9) plus 3 official Super Play Binders. Also includes Super Play Gold 1993 SNES Guide. HOLY CRAP! What were the odds, and what is happening here?! It sounds corny but it really, truly did feel like fate.
It was ALMOST the entire set, only missing issues number 9, 46 and 47 — WOW.
I put it on my watch list. It would end in six days… August 17, 2006. Even back in 2006, I had developed a special eBay bidding tactic that I was using since 2002. Tired of multiple bids only to be sniped at the end, I knew what I was going to do. One bid, maximum bid, punched in with about 3 seconds to go. Only way to do it on eBay, playa!
Alas, there was one tiny problem…
The auction was ending at 9:57 AM.
What was the problem? At the time I had to resort to use the library for my online duties. You see, my brother temporarily took our computer to his work place to get it fixed. And smart phones didn’t exist back in August 2006. Nor did I have a laptop at that time.
The library doesn’t open until 10 AM. On the surface, a bad stroke of luck, for sure.
But… when all else fails, AuctionStealer prevails! Note: AuctionStealer is a free site that automatically inputs your max bid without you having to manually do it. The catch, however, is that it inputs that bid with about 11 seconds to go… giving the competition plenty of time to outdo your bid. Therefore, it’s a nice bonus but only a last resort kind of tool.
So I entered my max on AuctionStealer, and prayed for the best…
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH ARRIVES
-AUGUST 17, 2006-
I was in no rush to get to the library and see if I had won or not. Oddly, I kind of put the whole thing to the back of my mind. One part of me felt “My max was so high, there’s no doubt I won” while another part felt “Don’t get your hopes up, some crazier fanatic came by in the last four seconds…”
When I got to the library that day it was roughly 5 PM. I went to my email. Here we go…
GOD BLESS AUCTIONSTEALER –I won! No one placed a bid in the last minute. UNBELIEVABLE!
Best of all, I won it for real cheap too! My bid didn’t reach the seller’s reserve, but she decided to sell it to me for a bit more than my winning bid. The whole ordeal was nothing short of incredible. Something I can genuinely call “once in a lifetime.”
Thursday, August 17, 2006 — within seven months, I procured my HOLY GRAIL. Not bad, considering it took me over two YEARS to get my hands on Sega Saturn Magazine.
Here are some auction stats.
I was the 13th bid of the auction
The guy I beat out, his maximum was GBP 48.79
My winning bid did not meet her reserve, but she sold it to me for GBP 55
GBP 55 equated, at the time, to roughly US $104.32
My max was GBP 88.88 …. or US $168.11
The 3rd highest bidder had a ridiculously low GBP 24.50 max
Why is the last one important? Had the GBP 48.79 guy NOT come along, I would have won at around GBP 25.50. If that were the case, would the seller have agreed to sell it for GBP 30? Doubt it. Maybe when she saw I won at 50 GBP, instead of relisting it she said “What the hell”and gave it to me for55.
In other words, if it weren’t for the 2nd highest bidder, who knows what would have happen with the reserve thing and all? She might have relisted it and I’d have to play the whole game again! Then maybe the bidders I outbidded would re-adjust their bidding strategy, etc. Lots of crazy scenarios that I’m glad is a moot point!
MORE AUCTION TID-BITS
There were four different bidders in all, me included
13 total bids
Auction went into the last day with zero bids
The 3 guys bidded multiple times in the last 15 hours or so, each outbidding the other
Lucky for me, they didn’t understand the power of smart sniping
12 bids between 3 guys before AuctionStealer input my bid — the 13th bid of the auction
AuctionStealer helped me snipe it with 11 seconds to go, my 1st and only bid
It’s ruthless, but that’s eBay for ya.
I paid Rachel $183.19 the very next day. Shipping surprisingly didn’t come out to cost an arm and leg — she only charged me 40 GBP. 183 dollars for 45 issues, including the hard-to-find 1993 GOLD issue? Not bad at all! Considering I paid $225 for 29 Sega Saturn Magazine issues in late 2003, this was a real bargain. It came out to be only about four dollars an issue (!)
FINAL AUCTION CRAZINESS
Probably the most important thing why the auction ended so cheaply… her auction title was:
SUPER PLAY MAGAZINES ISSUE 1-45 (MISSING ISSUE 9)
I owe lots of thanks to issue 9. Had she own that issue, maybe her title would have been:
SUPER PLAY MAGAZINES ISSUE 1-45 SNES
The “SNES” part would definitely would have led to more auction views and “Hmmm, wow, I didn’t know such a thing existed! I’ll bid and try to win it!” type of mentality. Instead, it was left only to those who were actively typing in “Super Play Magazine” on eBay. Back in 2006, Super Play wasn’t nearly as popular as it would become years later within diehard SNES circles. So, thank you issue number nine
Last but not least… after I shared this story on a message board, one guy actually told me the following…
WOW! Believe it or not, I actually had that auction on my watch list, and I was going to bid an INSANE amount of money on it. It could have gotten UGLY. However, I simply forgot what time it was ending, and I missed out! Though, after reading your incredible tale, I must say I’m glad you won ‘em
Wow! I got so incredibly lucky with this whole shebang that I can’t believe it. It only drives the point home that there are certain “scores” in one’s collecting life that truly stand out, and stand the test of time. For me, the Super Play snag is definitely it.
48 HOURS AFTER THE AUCTION WIN
-AUGUST 19, 2006-
Ironically, James informed me some “bad news” on this day. Reading his message, I was smiling, knowing my willingness to think outside the box made his bad news a moot point.
I’ve got some bad news buddy. I’ve been talking to various couriers (4 different ones up until now) and it is just too expensive to ship these mags to you. The cheapest I can get quoted is £150 which is over $280 dollars and that doesn’t even include insurance!
Even shipping the slowest method (6 to 8 weeks without insurance) is $250.
I just don’t have that sort of money spare at the moment and it is just too much. I’ve tried every combination of normal shipping: by sea, air, specialist courier. I’ve even tried breaking it down to 5 magazine bundles but no joy.
I’m not sure what to do though as I feel bad about this (especially with your patience over this prolonged trade).
Let me know your thoughts. I’m really sorry about this.
Imagine had I lost the auction. Imagine if I was complacent and never bothered to look for them on eBay. Let this be a lesson to all: BE PROACTIVE! Take matters into your own hands rather than sitting idly by.
I excitedly replied to James telling him about my win. This also cancelled our trade… I now had Taromaru to auction! I made $147 off it (the manual was missing the cover thus why it went for so “cheap”). $90 of that went to fund the incredibly rare and expensive Super Famicom import, Rendering Render: R2.
Yet I still wanted to do a trade with James. After all, I had EGM #200 and he had Super Play #9 (the auction was 1-45, but #9 missing). How nicely did that work out! Super Play 9 arrived in late August. It was my first experience of the magazine, and it blew me away. Itwasthe Sega Saturn Magazine equivalent for the SNES. And I could hardly wait to read the rest.
MEANWHILE… TROUBLE BACK ON THE FARM
I hadn’t heard back from Rachel yet… eventually she emailed me, “Sorry I didn’t ship the mags til September 2nd.”
I was a bit peeved. I paid 8/18, she didn’t send til 9/2 and didn’t tell me earlier!? It’ll be here sooner or later, I thought. While her feedback was 100%… the number was only 19. Not exactly the most comforting number in the world. Gotta think positive, though, I kept telling myself.
ONE MONTH LATER — NOTHING TO SHOW FOR
-SEPTEMBER 19, 2006-
Sent her an email. Never got a reply. Another unanswered email, and another, and another. I was starting to fear the worst. Maybe this whole thing was simply too good to be true.
-SEPTEMBER 24, 2006-
I emailed telling her in advance I’d file a dispute with Paypal on 9/30… the last day for me to do so (45-day window from August 17). I told her it was nothing personal, but only wise for anyone in my shoes to do so.
-SEPTEMBER 26, 2006-
She emailed back and understood my position. Said she’ll check with her post office to confirm when the package was shipped. It had been only her 2nd email, and I felt better after this. All I ask for is keeping an open line of communication.
-SEPTEMBER 30, 2006-
No Super Play yet, so I filed the dispute. By October 20 if they do not arrive, I’d be forced to escalate the dispute to a claim, due to the 20 day window period. Silence on Rachel’s end.
ALMOST TWO MONTHS AND NOTHING
-OCTOBER 13, 2006-
I finally hear back from her on this day.
Hi, I have been to the post office and had them look at the records. They say because of an admin issue the mags did not leave there post office until the 19th of sept.
I have gone mad at them and have asked what can be done. They say that nothing can be done because I did not have it tracked.
I have asked them what sort of time are we looking at and they have said 4 to 5 weeks from the sent date which is now the 19th of sept.
So we are looking at the 16th/17th of October which I am very sorry about, as I said I did have a right go at them for this but all they could do was say sorry.
Once again I am so sorry about the delay.
Please let me know on the 16th/17th if you have had the mags.
Thanks in advance.
I was very upset. No tracking number, admin issue, etc. It all spelled doom to me.
Being proactive again I PM’ed James to update him, asking if he’d be willing to send me his friend’s issues, provided I pay the insane $300 something shipping. He said he’d look into it. At this point, I was so desperate to get my hands on a SUPER PLAY set that I didn’t care HOW!
DISPUTE ESCALATED TO A CLAIM
-OCTOBER 20, 2006-
Still no Super Play. On this day I was forced to escalate the dispute into a claim so PayPal could look into it and hopefully refund me $183.
At this point I wasn’t surprised, just frustrated. Though I wanted my money back if worst came to worst — I rammed the fact home with Rachel that I rather have the magazines. “Should they arrive in November or later this month I’d gladly refund you whatever PayPal decides to give me back” I’ve always told her.
KEEPING HOPE ALIVE — WINNING ISSUES 46 AND 47
Also on this day I won off eBay the final two issues of Super Play. Number 46 and 47 — keeping hope alive that Rachel would come through and that I would have a complete set numbers 1-47 including the spinoff Super Play Gold 1993 SNES Guide issue.
What took place four days later… was one for the ages…
-TUESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2006-
I was filling out an application to graduate studies when I heard the mail truck rumbling. I peered out the window. The mail lady got out and went to the back of the truck. I wasn’t expecting ANY OTHER PACKAGE, so I knew THIS HAD TO BE IT!
She rung the door bell. I opened the door faster than a 5-year-old ripping into a present on Christmas morning.
“Can you help me carry this big box? It’s too heavy and I have a bad back,” she said.
It was then and there I knew that the moment… which I waited about nine months for, with so many twists, turns and heartbreaks… had finally come.
Of course, there still had to be a little drama.
It’d only be fitting, you see.
“RECEIVED IN DAMAGED CONDITION”
… was stamped on the box. My heart stopped.
“Wait, it came in damaged condition?”
“I’m sorry, it did. The box was split open. They had to tape it back up, as you can see.”
“Everything is intact, though, right?”
“Oh sure. We can’t take anything…”Her voice trailed off.
And here I’m thinking, “Oh right, sure lady! I’ve heard the horror stories; you don’t gotta play me for a fool!”
But I kept my cool, signed the pink slip and brought the box inside for inspection. How bad was it? I was almost too scared to find out…
Amazingly, everything was intact and in better condition than I thought. The magazines were MINT! No missing pages, no cut-outs; that’s probably the hardest thing to find with old magazines since so many people take such bad care of them. I was lucky, much like with Sega Saturn Magazine, that the previous owner kept them in immaculate condition.
I went to Paypal and happily cancelled the claim. Rachel was honest after all. The box stated it was shipped September 19, as she stated earlier, and not the 2nd.
The nine-plus months of agony had a very happy ending.
Super Play is an awesome magazine. I love retro magazines — I dig the whole archive thing. It’s truly a diehard SNES fan’s companion. Not only is it well written but it focused a ton on the Japanese side of things. They highlighted plenty of Japanese-only games and reviewed even the obscure ones like Syonen Ashibe. At that time (October 2006) I recently started an “Obscure Super Famicom Impressions” thread that was quickly picking up steam and growing in popularity. I thought I was doing something not many before me did — shining the spotlight on all these lesser known Super Famicom imports. So it blew my mind to see Super Play had done it 13 years before (1993).
LIFE IS ALL ABOUT TIMING…
After sharing my story on a gaming forum, one guy posted he was watching the same auction. He was going to bid an astronomical amount but he simply forgot what time it ended! Had he remembered, this “Holy Grail” might not even be in my collection today, or at the very least, I would have paid a LOT more. It made me appreciate my Super Play win even more. So much of life is being in the right place at the right time!
ON THE HOUSE???
The funny thing is, people ask me when the box arrived what did the postage state. The reason they asked was they didn’t understand how Rachel charged 40 GBP when James claimed it would be far too expensive to ship, at around US $280… so a few folks mentioned, “It doesn’t quite add up.”
She charged me only 40 GBP for shipping, so 55 (winning bid) plus 40 (S&H on her terms) was 95 GBP total, or about $183.19 US at the time. Well… I checked the box after people asked me what the shipping really was… it was….
So I guess she only made 9 GBP profit? Wow. She never asked me to repay her or even brought it up. I guess after all the drama I went through, it was on the house.
I’m a proud owner of the complete SUPER PLAY legacy. I consider this a personal Holy Grail in many ways. I can’t believe what this blasted publication made me endure, but honestly, in the end it was all worth it. It’s an incredible magazine I’m lucky enough to have acquired for so cheap and in such mint condition. Being a diehard SNES fan, this is easily the crowned jewel of my collection. I love my game collection, sure, but man, there’s nothing quite like SUPER PLAY. One of my favorite things to do is to pick a game off my shelf, play it for the very first time, form my own impressions and THEN check out what the ole Super Play boys thought of said game. I love comparing my thoughts to that of theirs — it’s all part of the fun.
As for James, we haven’t spoke since late October 2006. In 2007, the Sega board we used to post at went under some changes and I don’t think he even re-registered. He was slipping away toward the end of the old board anyway. The last word he had with me, he congratulated me on finally receiving the magazines. Wherever he is out there, I hope he’s doing well.
As for Rachel, after I cancelled the claim I left her positive feedback. Likewise. She apologized and told me the magazines belonged to her husband of many years. He obviously took very excellent care of them which I greatly appreciate.
It blows my mind that I’m coming up on the 10 year anniversary since these issues arrived — October 24, 2016. I look back with a real deep fondness. I remember reading all 48 Super Play issues cover to cover from Halloween through Christmas that year of 2006. It was a truly glorious time and I’m very nostalgic looking back at that time. It also coincided with my ongoing Obscure Super Famicom Impressions topic that I posted at several gaming boards, which led to the birth or RVGFanatic.com in January of 2007. It’s nuts to think it’s almost been 10 bloody years. Super Play Magazine has obviously grown in popularity and stature since 2006. It’s no longer obscure like it once was, and as time goes on, it becomes harder and harder to find these vintage issues for a relatively good price and in solid condition. It makes me all the more grateful for such an epic eBay win nearly 10 years ago.
10 years later and I still occasionally read Super Play from time to time. I especially like to read them in the late Fall and early Winter seasons, as it takes me right back to late 2006 each and every single time. Shoot, all this talk of Super Play makes me want to delve right back in. Excuse me — I’ve got some reading to do now…
By September 1995, the SNES was quickly entering the final stages of its life. Although game quality was at an all-time high in terms of what companies could now do with the system, it’s a given that every 4-5 years the new wave of next gen gaming takes over, and the older models quietly fade out in the background. This however did not stop the unlikely conversion of PC smash hit, DOOM. And on the first of September 1995, SNES owners had their own version of Doomsday.
MY MEMORIES OF DOOM 1993-PRESENT
I consider the early-mid 1990s as a very special time. Not only was I in the thick of my childhood, but those years cranked out some of the most iconic and groundbreaking video games around. While the whole Street Fighter II craze was sweeping the nation, in December 1993 a little violent game by the name of DOOM came out and took the nation by storm. Playing as a marine battling a horde of zombie soldiers and demons, Doom was the most intense action game of its day. It made your heart beat a little faster. Palms perspired. Those growls you hear around the corner… that ammo count dipping dangerously low… Doom produced an adrenaline kick like no other. Who could ever forget the first time you experienced Doom? It’s one of those things that you carry with you for life. Kind of like the first time you came across a Playboy Magazine. Doom was a transcendent gaming experience that turned boys into men and soiled more than a few underwears over 20 years ago. It is revered fondly for a good reason.
December 1994. One year after the epic release of Doom, we were given the sequel, Doom II. It was only a matter of time. While the clones rushed in and out the door (and backdoor, for that matter), the original king stood mighty, proud and tall and victorious over all comers. But now it was time for round two. A game with more weapons, monsters and mayhem. It did not disappoint! Doom II was a worthy sequel indeed and although my brother and I didn’t own it, we definitely found ways to experience it. Because it was simply something you just had to. No ifs, ands or buts here. Doom II was the SHIT.
How badass was Doom II? So badass that I put it on my 7th grade “All About Me” poster. I somehow found this pic here on a computer store ad, mighta been Comp USA (damn there goes a name from the past) or Fry’s Electronic. Cut it out and pasted it on my poster to show the whole 7th grade world. At that time gaming wasn’t considered cool, much. But not Doom II. Doom II broke barriers. You were proud to declare to the entire universe of its greatness. Keep in mind gaming in 1995 was a lot less mainstream and “accepted” than it is in today’s society.
A few weeks before Doom II came out, my world changed forever. It was mid-November 1994. It was a cold and dreary, foggy Monday morning. I remember the fog being so thick I could barely see past my first neighbor’s house. I was walking to school with my good old best friend Nelson, and it was another week in the ol’ neighborhood. Little did I know, leaving my house that morning, that when I would return later that day, my innocence would be lost, ripped and shattered.
2:25 PM. The school bell rang and Nelson and I rushed out. We walked home laughing and talking up a storm, crunching the autumn leaves on the gavel beneath our shoes. We got to the fork where he went left and I went right. We bid farewell and I vividly remember to this very day how much I couldn’t wait to get home from school just so I could play Doom for the 1,000th time. Shoot, I was already daydreaming about firing the rocket launcher on the two Barons of Hell on the Phobos Anomaly map. Nothing was better than coming home from a long school day, tossing your backpack off, and wading over to the computer room where your most favorite video games resided. And I was deep in the middle of my daydreaming when I turned the corner and had the wind knocked out of me. There my house lied in the distance, with a police car parked in the driveway, and two policemen conversing with my mom. I ran over and my mom quickly embraced me, hugging me harder than she ever had in years, with tears streaming down her face. My eyes widened in terror when I looked straight ahead from the driveway, saw the front door wide open, and realized the mess that laid before us. We were robbed. They took nearly everything, including the computer and Doom. That day I didn’t just lose material things. That day I lost a large chunk of my innocence
September 1995. As some readers may recall from my Memories of Renting article, back in the day I did 90-95% of the game renting, and most of those times that I did, I was forced by my older brother to rent the titles HE liked. Well, in September of ’95 my bro surprised me one weekend when he left the house and came back with SNES Doom. He thought I would be happy but I was actually pissed. Seeing it, although it did have a cool red shell case, only reminded me of that fateful day where I lost my innocence. After playing it I was DISGUSTED with it. I couldn’t help but constantly compare it to its PC original. And under those given circumstances, I hated the SNES version with a burning passion. So much that I vehemently refused to play it for the rest of the weekend that we had the rental copy. My bro never mentioned it, but I think he was a little hurt by it. He made a nice gesture, but instead of gratitude I showed him contempt and annoyance. And that was the last game I can ever recall him renting for me…
December 14, 1996. Two full years after the initial release of Doom II, my dad took me to Staples one night. Yeah, some dads take their kids to Disneyland. Other parents take their kids to Universal Studios. Mine took me to friggin’ Staples. Hey, I’ll give the old man credit. Because on this night I saw a deal that blew my mind. There it was, Doom II, for only $4.97. I rubbed my eyes not once, not twice but trice. I thought maybe there was a 2 in front, or at least, surely a 1. But just $4.97?!?! I grabbed the box, flipped it over and read front and back 10 times over. Was this shareware? Was this April Fools? No, you fool, I thought to myself. It’s December 14, damnit. Holy shit. It was the real deal AND for a real deal. I snatched it up quicker than OJ Simpson driving away in his Bronco, and of course, at less than the cost of a #1 Big Mac combo meal, there was no way my pops could deny me this one. Maybe the old man knew. My brother and I always wanted Doom II two years ago, but we never got it. Now we were vindicated. When I got home and my bro saw the receipt, he just about fell over. I have kept the receipt all these years later. Thing of beauty when an awesome deal drops unexpectedly into your lap. Look at that up there. “YOU SAVED $25.02″ — damn sick! $5.36 for Doom II in 1996? Hey, it happened. Moral of the story… screw Disneyland. Next time I’m taking my kids to motherfukken STAPLES, bitch.
In 1999, after being out of the gaming scene for a year or two, I came back STRONG with the Sega Saturn (check out the previous blog post if you don’t believe me). But it wasn’t until 2001 that I became a diehard Saturn fanatic. I amassed a huge collection, and by 2005 was pretty much done with my collecting. Then I took a chance on the Japanese version of Saturn Doom, seeing as how it was released months AFTER the US reject. I was hoping that maybe, just maybe, the frame rate on the Japanese version would be improved. And it was! I recall fondly making usenet posts way back in the day (late ’90s to mid 2000s) on the old rec.video.sega newsgroup, spreading the news that the Japanese version was superior. Hell, I even created a YouTube account way back in December 2005 (yeah, when YouTube was just in its infancy) just to show off how improved the Japanese version’s frame rate was, compared to the lame version we received in the US. It was a discovery that no one had spoken of on the internet yet, and it felt like I was breaking some news there. I love the feeling of spreading obscure gaming knowledge. Man, those were the days… it’s amazing how different the internet has become in the last 10 years, but I digress.
On January 17, 2006, I returned to the SNES scene. I was a man on a mission. I was now a young adult longing for my childhood and to discover “new” gems I missed out on. I bought most of my wanted games in 2006; Doom was never on the original want list. I had some… ahem… sour memories of it you understand, and so never wanted to give it another shot. But finally, in 2010, I said what the hell. It’s time to face old demons [Well played for once -Ed.] and see what’s what. So I bought Doom, replayed it and did so this time with a clear open mind. And I was surprised to find out that I actually enjoyed it a good bit. I had a few four hour marathons with it where I tried my damndest to beat all of the 22 levels in one sitting (because they gave you no other choice). I’ll be damned. My opinion of SNES Doom did a complete 180. Taking it for what it is, I can’t help but marvel a bit at the fact that it’s even up and running on my Super Nintendo. It captures the essence and spirit of the original Doom pretty damn nicely, and that’s the bottom line. In many ways, I felt like I had come full circle with not only the SNES but with Doom as well.
Thankfully, by late 1995 the SNES’ kid friendly mantra of no blood had shifted. Games like Mortal Kombat II, released about one year prior, broke the mold. Doom without its grisly gore just wouldn’t be the same. The SNES port keeps the bloody mayhem intact at the very least. Because when you think of Doom, you instantly think of the carnage. Oh and…
FORMER SOLDIER: At one time you swapped war stories with this guy. Now he’s nothing more than a rotting, pistol-toting maggot. So waste this sucker without remorse. He stopped being your buddy a long time ago…
FORMER SERGEANT: Similar to above, but with more piss and vinegar. Packing a heavy duty shotgun, you best take these bald baddies out fast or they’ll do more than pelt you. Aim carefully, because if you miss that means you’re likely eating some damage. You need every last health point!
IMP: When you think of imps, you might think of a small hideously cute thing that is sneaky and mischievous. Think again! This bastard heaves fireballs down your throat and will claw the hell out of you up close. It’s time to find a shotgun.
DEMON: Yes, finally, an enemy with no long range weapon. That’s the good news. The bad news? It moves faster than you might think, and if it bites you, it’s gonna HURT. A LOT. The chainsaw works well on these bad boy, and saves the ammo.
CACODEMON: This big red bastard takes a lot of bullets to go down. It’s time to upgrade from the shotgun if you haven’t already. Cacodemons make a loud, nasty screech when they first see you or hear of your presence. They launch fireballs that pack a more potent punch than the imp’s. A chaingun works well since the rapid firing bullets prevent this vile creature from sprouting fireballs off at your head.
LOST SOUL: Maybe the Doom makers were fans of Ghost Rider? It flies around. It screams. It scorches. And it dies with a few well-placed shotgun shells.
BARON OF HELL: Ah, here’s the man. Er, demon, rather, I suppose. Deman? Sorry. I can write and reminisce about this goat-legged horned menace all day long. His debut at the end of Episode 1 has got to rank in the top 10 of all time as far as boss entrances go. It’s an image that has been burned into my retina for over 20 years now. There was nothing like staring at the two pods knowing hell is coming.
CYBERDEMON: Remember the first time you ever laid eyes on this bastard? You thought the Barons of Hell were bad news. This guy is basically death on two legs. From his heavy stomps to his lightning-quick rockets coming straight for your head, the Cyberdemon is the stuff nightmares are made of. Before Resident Evil had the Tyrant, Doom had the Cyberdemon. He was a hulking weapon of mass destruction. ProTip: Shoot ’til it dies.
THE SPIDER MASTERMIND: Ever since I was a kid, I hated spiders. Just hate the buggers. They make my skin crawl. So when I first came across the Spider Mastermind, I probably screamed like a little girl [I have no doubt you did -Ed.]. Thank goodness for small favors — at least ol’ Spidey wields a chaingun and not the plasma gun. That’s one big motherfukken spider, indeed.
With such deadly demons and maniacal monsters milling about the hellhole, you’re going to need more than quick feet and wit to survive this apocalypse. You’re gonna need top-of-the-line artillery to give you even a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning. Which brings us to…
You start the game out with your fist and a standard military-issue pistol. You better find some upgrades quickly or you’ll become dinner even quicker!
CHAINSAW: Anyone who has ever seen the Texas Chainsaw Massacre will smile at the inclusion of this death instrument. Perfect for confined areas, the chainsaw will bring out the Leatherface in you. The only bad thing is it doesn’t actually slice demons in two. Guess you can’t have it all.
SHOTGUN: One of the most iconic and memorable weapons in video gaming history. Blowing away zombie soldiers and imps with the shotgun was immensely satisfying. From the sound effect to the reloading animation, the shotgun delivers the good.
CHAINGUN: Take your pistol’s puny bullets, and pump them out rapid fire, and suddenly you’ve got a formidable weapon of choice. Pull the trigger and watch the monsters of Hell do one hell of a dance number.
ROCKET LAUNCHER: Pure destruction. A specialty weapon in every respect of the word, this can either make your day, or make your grave. Few things rival the sheer joy of watching demons explode into a quivering bloody mess. Just make sure you’re not standing nearby!
PLASMA GUN: The “perfect” weapon. The plasma gun has it all: speed, strength and style. As an added bonus, it’s just strong enough to potentially blow the weaker enemies into tiny bloody bits — making this the preferred weapon of Doom 90% of the time.
THE BFG 9000: Here is the mother of all shooting game guns.. the BIG FUCKIN’ GUN. Excuse my language, but with a weapon this destructive, it simply cannot be censored or contained. It eats up a lot of ammo, but fire this baby and admire how it can take out an entire room of demons. Besides, any gun that can kill a Baron of Hell in one shot is definitely badass.
KNEE-DEEP IN THE DEAD
THE SHORES OF HELL
“I THINK I’M TURNING JAPANESE, I REALLY THINK SO!”
Years ago I happened to wonder whether the Japanese version of SNES Doom was any different than its US counterpart. The reasons being twofold. Number one: I recall fondly discovering that the Japanese version of Sega Saturn Doom was released later than its US version and had an improved frame rate. What really hampers SNES Doom in my opinion is the complete lack of a password or save system. At least Wolfenstein 3D gave us passwords level to level. That increases the likelihood that I’ll tinker with a game long after I’ve finished it. It’s always fun to go back to a random level and muck around, after all. Well, SNES Doom afforded you no such luxury. You had to beat the game in one sitting. All 22 levels. That’s a 3-5 hour task for most. It’s just too much. So when I found out the Japanese version of SNES Doom was released in March 1996, a full six months after the US release, I became real curious. Scouring the net for information, I read that the Japanese version does indeed have some noteworthy differences compared to the American version — making the Japanese version superior. Unfortunately, the frame rate remains much the same, but there were still some pretty cool differences. Here, let’s take a closer look at the two versions.
In a nutshell, the main difference between the Japanese and North American version is that the NA port restricts which episode you can start off in. Sure, you can start off in The Shores of Hell or Inferno on the NA port, but the game punishes you by forcing you to select Ultra Violence or Nightmare. And since you start off an episode with only your bare hands and a pistol, it’s essentially a suicide mission. You might as well forget about even trying.
The Japanese version, on the other hand, allows you to start on the last episode even on the easiest difficulty level (I’m Too Young To Die). Although it’s still lacking a save or password system, at least it helps to SOMEWHAT mitigate this glaring flaw of having to beat all 22 levels in one sitting. For this fact alone, the Japanese version is the one to get for diehard SNES fans who simply must have Doom in their 16-bit game library.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
PC Doom needs no backing. Its place in gaming history has long been cemented, and it’ll be fondly remembered long after all of us are gone. But how did the Super Nintendo port fare? For the most part, people either backed it or they hated it. Gamers either cited the port as an incredible 16-bit effort and a small miracle, or bashed it, questioning the reasoning behind even bringing this over to the SNES as late in its lifespan as it did. EGM was in the latter camp, as they gave it mediocre scores of 5, 5, 5.5, and 6. GameFan was plenty more generous and impressed, rating it 89, 92 and 95%. Super Play Magazine scored it 92%and ranked it as the 17th best SNES game in their Top 100 Best SNES Games list. SNES Doom was one of those love or hate affairs. You either get it for what it is, or hate it for what it isn’t.
As I sit here thinking of the times I’ve had with DOOM over the years, both good and bad, I can’t help but just smile. Doomblazed an amazing trail. It was the first game that really made me feel like I was the character himself. It was an intense, gripping and unrivaled experience. Doom always had me on the edge of my seat. The SNES version is one that I have grown to appreciate and genuinely like as time has gone on. When I first played it in ’95 I thought it was a steaming pile of horse crap. But when I revisited it years later as a young adult, I realized it’s no small programming feat, and when viewed entirely on its own, it’s actually quite good. It captures the spirit and essence of Doom nicely, and that’s what ultimately matters. Graphics took a hit, naturally, but are still serviceable. On the bright side, the music is stellar! It really adds to the tense atmosphere of the game.
Other than the annoying few instances where you creep along a wall and get “stuck” to it, the game plays surprisingly well. It’s by no means the definitive version of Doom, but for the SNES it’s impressive. There seems to be two camps: those who enjoy SNES Doom, and those who hate it. It depends on whether you look at it for what it is, or if you look at it for what it isn’t. When I first played the SNES version in 1995, I was looking at everything it wasn’t, compared to the original PC king. But when I replayed it some 15 years later, I did so consciously from a posture of “Let’s see what it does do well rather than what it doesn’t.” And I found myself pleasantly surprised when approaching it from that angle. While I still prefer the SNES port of Wolfenstein 3D (it plays a bit more smoothly), I genuinely feel that this port of Doom doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Although I understand where the critics are coming from, I like to view it from this perspective: is Doom a quality Super Nintendo game or not? My answer to that is a resounding yes. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go blast some demon ass to Kingdom Come!
There’s something special about the earliest SNES titles. That first wave of first generation games… games in which developers dipped their toes into 16-bit water for the very first time. Looking back at those early games is very nostalgic for me, as I remember the time well. The 8-bit NES was still alive and kicking in late 1991, and the SNES was just beginning its run here in the US. It was an interesting time of playing your dear old favorite NES while slowly exploring what the SNES could do. One of the earliest titles on the SNES was an action RPG by the name of Lagoon. Developed by Zoom and published by Kemco, Lagoon hit the 16-bit market in December of 1991. Now the last SNES game I reviewed was the epochal Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Gamers in America didn’t get that one until April 1992. So, we had to make do with Lagoon, which was the first ARPG on the SNES North American market. And it came with mostly negative reviews, although there is a small camp of Lagoon backers. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind to the beginning…
THE YEAR WAS 1991
At this point in time I wasn’t one for ARPGs or RPGs in general. Those genres were never my thing. My older brother enjoyed them, but I wanted more “immediate gratification.” I didn’t stray far from my platformers and beat ‘em ups. But upon seeing this ad in late 1991 in a GamePro Magazine, I actually wanted to play an action RPG for the first time in my life. I remember being drawn in by the various grotesque looking creatures and demons. The two in-game shots blew my eight-year-old mind. The green orbs seemed to bounce around in my mind and the ghoulish boss on the right was the stuff nightmares are made of. I was instantly intrigued. But of course, Lagoon became like about 300 other SNES games from my youth. As many titles as I played from 1991-1995 or so, there were so many more I always wanted to try out but never did.
One of the best things about this hobby is the ability to finally play all those games you were curious about from your youth. Even though Lagoon has a less than stellar reputation within the retro gaming community, I was still curious to check it out for myself. After all, you never know for sure how you feel about a game until you’ve played it yourself.
THE STORY GOES…
Players start out in Atland. Gather some clues from the locals to figure out what’s next on the agenda. It’s very simple stuff, and an ideal ARPG for novices.
An interesting aspect of Lagoon is how unlike many other games of the genre, when you enter a building here you don’t necessarily enter it. In most cases, there is no interior. You just get this type of scene. At first it was a little jarring, and I felt like I was getting robbed. This element gives off a vibe of low budget, but after a while I came to appreciate it. One could view this low budget move as a time saver and the game getting down to the nitty gritty. I came to actually not mind it, which isn’t a great compliment, but for this game and its world, it somehow works.
The shop system is very straight forward and things never get too cluttered.
Equipping weapons and armor is as easy as 1-2-3.
Eventually you find your way to the Mayor’s house where he sheds some light to you. Which is ironic considering you’re the Champion of LIGHT, but I digress. Hey, we all need help on the journey of life (and saving kingdoms, of course). After a bit of chit-chat you realize that Giles is in trouble. His parents named him Giles after having nine months to think about it.
I know, they had nine months to think of a name and…
What’s up with demons and caves, anyway? Well, it’s a good thing we’re armed with a sword that would make Link and the Master Sword proud…
Wait a second! Er, what the HELL is that? Yes, one of the biggest complaints about Lagoon is the incredibly pathetic butter knife you wield. Some sword, huh?
Expect to see this a lot early on. You’ll try to swipe at the enemy, but instead it’ll miss and you’ll end up eating damage. It’s easy to stop here and say, “Man this game blows!” But stick with it a while and realize the trick is not to go on the offensive but rather, wait back and let them come to you.
Once you do that, Lagoon becomes playable and actually somewhat enjoyable. Sure it’s a gameplay flaw, but nobody ever said this game was perfect. It’s just a different type of combat than what most folks are used to.
If you can put up with the short length of Nasir’s “sword,” then Lagoon isn’t a bad game. The dungeons never get too big and confusing, and the game is a pretty simple straight forward ARPG.
One of the best aspects about Lagoon is the ability to save the game anywhere. This makes it an ideal game to play for 15, 20 minutes right before bed. Before you know it, you will have beaten it. Not like it’s a long adventure to begin with, either.
It’s fun to keep an eye on your status. Leveling up increases all of your stats, and there’s a certain satisfaction in watching your character grow stronger by the step. In addition, if you’ve taken damage, simply stand still and Nasir will automatically recover. It’s a pretty cool feature that makes Lagoon that much easier to beat. His magic points will also recover in a resting state. Give it a chance and pretty soon you’ll be hitting a sweet little rhythm of waiting for enemies to run into your sword, resting if need be, checking your status on occasion and repeat. I found it oddly addicting.
Tougher enemies soon appear, giving you more experience points when killed. There’s a definite simplicity to Lagoon that I appreciate.
The best part of Lagoon is hands down the music. It’s the one aspect of this game that is almost always universally praised. It’s funny… in that sense it reminds me a lot of Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest. Both games have a poor reputation but it’s generally agreed upon that the soundtrack rocks. Although Mystic Quest has a slightly better reputation than Lagoon and is the better, more redeeming game.
While the game is far from great, there IS a certain sense of satisfaction roaming the dungeons, killing the monsters, and rocking out to the awesome soundtrack.
Ah, it’s nice to see the sky and smell the air again after being in that dank, decrepit dungeon. Go on to find Giles.
I hope you found the Healing Pot prior. Otherwise you’ll have to do some backtracking and that’s never too fun.
After rescuing Giles, you’re not done yet. You have to guide him back to Atland. This son of a bitch moves like a grandma. If you go too fast he might get confused and lost, so always keep him in the line of sight.
Ah! Move it, you bastard! Thankfully, Giles can’t be hurt even if the enemies touch him. Weird. You would think then that he wouldn’t need you to save him. Shoot, if I were invincible too, the things I could do! Freaking Giles. This must be a rib or something.
Yes, I’m interested in acquiring Little Samson for the NES. And yes, I know it’s a DEMON of a game on the ol’ wallet. Thanks for nothing, old lady!
Now you can open the gateway to access Samson, the game’s first boss.
Shoot, I’m not surprised. With all the crazy dollars that collectors are throwing at Samson these days, one would think he got a little too big-headed for his own good!
Oh shit. You mean, you’re notLittle Samson, as in the NES game? Heh, my bad. I’ll just head back out and close the door. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, big red scary guy…
Yeah, that’s just not a fair fight. God damn it… this is all messed up.
Samson sheds his helmet once he’s weakened up some. And it’s not a pretty sight, folks. In fact, I dare call it an eyesore…
Once conquered, Samson screams like an elephant, oddly enough. You get some fancy little explosion pixels going off all over him.
For your troubles you get your very first magic spell: the Fire Crystal.
This allows you to shoot fireballs, giving you a much welcomed long range attack. It eats up magic points but as I stated earlier, your MP recovers in a resting state. It definitely helps to flesh out the gameplay of Lagoon, making the pathetic short sword less annoying.
Hey wait a damn second here… where have I seen you before…
So you’re telling me there is a Princess, and she was kidnapped. Riiiight…
After Atland you head to the town of Voloh. Here you’ll meet a strange cat by the name of Thor. He’ll enlist your help to find the tablets.
As you progress in the game it’s fun to see the length of your energy bar increase as you continually level up.
There are your typical fire and ice dungeons to navigate and work through. The graphics aren’t anything to write home about, even back in late 1991 when it came out, but they’re alright and serviceable enough.
One thing I’ve always been a sucker for in video games are the mini-bosses, or the regular bad guys that are bigger and tougher than the rest of the regular bad guys. They look intimidating, but aren’t TOO hard to defeat. And yet they’re always satisfying to kill every single time. Lagoon does a decent job of throwing small, medium and even big monsters your way.
The bosses were intimidating due to a combination of their size, their menacing sprite work, your puny sword and their massively long health bar. They might be tough at first, but nothing you can’t work around with a little persistence. It’s just a matter of finding their sweet spots. Although it should be noted that during boss battles you can’t heal or use your magic. This could lead to some frustrating moments.
By the end of the game your health bar should be as long as theirs. Speaking of which, it took me 11 hours to beat Lagoon on my first attempt. It’s a game one could probably beat in under 10 hours (I like to grind here and there). So it’s definitely on the shorter side, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The game moves along at a brisk pace, much like Mystic Quest. In that way it never wears out its welcome. It’s an easy title to pick up and play. Saving anywhere is a big bonus, as you can always pace yourself rather than being at the mercy of having to go to an inn to save.
There are plenty of weird locales to hit up, and some entertaining NPC’s to interact with when you’re not bashing baddies and blowing through dungeons.
As an aside, I also remember Lagoon for being the first game I played following the Teacher’s Fair in March of 2012. At the time I was teaching part time and acting in a Broadway-esque play. My goal was to become a full time teacher. I gathered my portfolio earlier that morning, put on my best suit and shook hands all day long following a two hour morning rehearsal. It was a memorable time in my life as I was living out my passion (acting) while pursuing my real life goal of becoming a full time teacher. Later that night, with over 500 SNES games from which to choose, I picked Lagoon. The urge to finally quell this longstanding childhood curiosity overcame me at long last. So anytime I think of Lagoon, I’m instantly transported back to that exciting time in my life. And yes, I got a full time position thanks to attending that Teacher’s Fair. I’m still teaching at the same school, going on five years. Man, where does the time go?
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Lagoon was not well received by the public. Most panned it, calling it a frustrating and boring Zelda clone. Super Play Magazine gave Lagoon a score of 56%when it hit the UK mindbogglingly late in May of 1993. On Youtube there are two excellent video reviews of this game which I highly recommend viewing. One is from The CG Dudes and the other is from Stop Skeletons From Fighting (formerly known as The Happy Video Game Nerd). Both video reviews pretty much sum up my feelings toward this game.
Lagoon is far from a hidden gem, but far from a dud as well. A lot of people dislike it, and they’re well within their bounds to do so. However, I feel a lot of the hatred toward this game is due to a lack of understanding rather than anything else, as the game itself is fairly manageable once you get the nuances down and operate within that world. Such qualifiers are signs of a flawed game, sure, but not an entirely wasteful effort. I’ve played plenty worse on the Super Nintendo. Once I understood the mechanics of the game and employed the best strategies, I had a pretty good time making my way through this early first generation SNES title.
The magic spells really open the game up, and make killing the monsters much easier. I didn’t have to worry about the puny butter knife so much, and shooting various projectiles at enemies across the screen became rather addicting. If you’re looking for something new on your SNES and you’ve already beaten the rest, give Lagoon a chance. It’s a quick action RPG that can hold you over for a week or two. It’s rather flawed, but not without some “first generation charm.”
The flea market has given me some wonderful collecting memories. In the early to mid part of 2006, when I was just beginning my SNES resurrection, I acquired many SNES games thanks to the good ol’ flea market. Before I get into that though, here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite books, The Kite Runner. It romanticizes the flea market like none other.
Almost two years had passed since we had arrived in the U.S., and I was still marveling at the size of this country, its vastness. Beyond every freeway lay another freeway, beyond every city another city, hills beyond mountains and mountains beyond hills, and, beyond those, more cities and more people.
Long before the Roussi army marched into Afghanistan, long before villages were burned and schools destroyed, long before mines were planted like seeds of death and children buried in rock-piled graves, Kabul had become a city of ghosts for me. A city of harelipped ghosts.
America was different.America was a river, roaring along, unmindful of its past. I could wade into this river, let my sins drown to the bottom, let the waters carry me someplace far. Someplace with no ghosts, no memories, and no sins.
And for that, I embraced America.
I would get up early some Saturday mornings and drive south on Highway 17, push the Ford up the winding road through the mountains to Santa Cruz. I would park by the old lighthouse and wait for sunrise, sit in my car and watch the fog rolling in from the sea. Back in Afghanistan, I had only seen the ocean at the cinema. Sitting in the dark next to Hassan, I had always wondered if it was true what I’d read, that sea air smelled like salt. I used to tell Hassan that someday we’d walk on a strip of seaweed-strewn beach, sink our feet in the sand and watch the water recede from our toes. The first time I saw the Pacific, I almost cried. It was as vast and blue as the oceans on the movie screens of my childhood.
Sometimes in the early evening, I parked the car and walked up a freeway overpass. With my face pressed against the fence, I’d try to count the blinking red taillights inching along, stretching as far as my eyes could see. BMWs. Saabs. Porsches. Cars I’d never seen in Kabul, where most people drove Russian Volgas, Opels, or Iranian Paikans.
On Saturdays, Baba woke me up at dawn. As he dressed, I scanned the classifieds in the local papers and circled garage sale ads. We mapped our route — Fremont, Union City, Newark, and Hayward first, then San Jose, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, and Campbell if time permitted. Baba drove the bus, sipping hot tea from the blue thermos, and I navigated. We stopped at garage sales and bought knickknacks that people no longer wanted. We haggled over old sewing machines, one-eyed Barbie dolls, wooden tennis rackets, guitars with missing strings, and old Electrolux vacuum cleaners. By mid-afternoon, we’d fill the back of the VW bus with used goods. Then early Sunday mornings, we drove to the San Jose flea market off Berryessa, rented a spot, and sold the junk for a small profit.
By that summer of 1984, Afghan families were working an entire section of the San Jose flea market. Afghan music played in the aisles of the Used Goods section. There was an unspoken code of behavior among Afghans at the flea market: You greeted the guy across the aisle, you invited him for a bite of potato bolani or a little qabuli, and you chatted. You offered tassali, condolences, for the death of a parent, congratulated the birth of children, and shook your head mournfully when the conversation turned to Afghanistan and the Roussis — which it inevitably did. But you avoided the topic of Saturday. Because it might turn out that the fellow across the isle was the guy you’d nearly blindsided at the freeway exit yesterday in order to beat him to a promising garage sale.
One early Sunday morning in July 1984, while Baba set up, I bought two cups of coffee from the concession stand and returned to find Baba talking to an older, distinguished-looking man. I put the cups on the rear bumper of the bus, next to the REAGAN/BUSH FOR ’84 sticker.
“Amir,” Baba said, motioning me over. “This is General Sahib, Mr. Iqbal Taheri. He was a decorated general in Kabul. He worked for the Ministry of Defense.”
Taheri. Why did the name sound familiar?
The general laughed like a man used to attending formal parties where he’d laughed on cue at the minor jokes of important people.
“Amir is going to be a great writer,” Baba said. I did a double take at this. “He finished his first year of college and earned A’s in all of his courses.”
“Junior college,” I corrected him.
“Mashallah,” General Taheri said.
“I write fiction.”
“Ah, a storyteller,” the general said. “Well, people need stories to divert them at a difficult time like this.”
She was standing behind us, a slim-hipped beauty with velvety coal black hair, an open thermos and Styrofoam cup in her hand. I blinked, my heart quickening. She had thick black eyebrows like the arched wings of a flying bird, and the gracefully hooked nose of a princess from old Persia — maybe that of Tahmineh, Rostam’s wife and Sohrab’s mother from the Shahnamah. Her eyes, walnut brown and shaded by fanned lashes, met mine. Held for a moment. Flew away.
“You are so kind, my dear,” General Taheri said. He took the cup from her. Before she turned to go, I saw she had a brown, sickle-shaped birthmark on the smooth skin just above her left jawline. She walked to a dull gray van two aisles away and put the thermos inside.
“My daughter, Soraya jan,” General Taheri said. He took a deep breath like a man eager to change the subject. “Well, time to go and set up.”
Lying awake in bed that night, I thought of Soraya Taheri’s sickle-shaped birthmark, her gently hooked nose, and the way her luminous eyes had fleetingly held mine. My heart stuttered at the thought of her.
The Kite Runner is one of my favorite books and comes highly recommended. When I read the flea market scene in the book, in a way, it made me think of my own flea market adventures, and the crazy things one can see and do at a flea market. And so, I present to you, my flea market memoirs.
1. A ‘MEGA’ COMEBACK
-Saturday, February 4, 2006-
*BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!*
Staggering out of bed like Otis Campbell on a Saturday night, I shifted my way through the darkness to put an end to the madness. The thought of crawling back in bed was nearly as tempting as Jessica Alba herself. The idea, however, went quickly as it came.
After brushing my teeth and helping myself to a bowl of cereal, I found the dawn just breaking between two white buildings. The sky was mostly gray but a streak of white stretched itself from the end of a flagpole. By the time I finished breakfast, the sky was lighter than it had been when I woke up — the streak of gray broadening into a patch of brilliant day.
I was a man on a mission. Three weeks into my SNES rebirth (1.17.06), I was gearing to embark on my first flea market voyage since 2002. With a wish list the size of Rosie’s waistline and a wallet jammed full of dead presidents, I headed off into that cool early morning, the light February breeze brushing against my face. As I pulled into the parking lot something told me today was going to be a good day. Maybe even a great one. I gazed at the box office where I saw the growing crowd purchasing their tickets. Just think, I thought to myself… beyond that building there…lies a part of my childhood.
I remember the morning rather well; the smell of apricot in the air, the bustling crowds all jabbering for bargains, and at long last — the lady with the game stand parked over at the far end. I dove head first into the SNES bin like Rickey Henderson stealing third base. All her games were wrapped. I eagerly waded through each one, picking out Final Fight, Dino City, Battletoads in Battlemaniacs, Flashback and Tetris Attack.
Each of those games ran me $5 except for Tetris Attack. Some of these games I hadn’t played in 12, 15 years! There’s nothing quite like the rush of rediscovering games from your youth on a brisk, early Saturday morning. There’s just something awesome about it. It’s hard to look back on one’s early collecting days and not break out a nostalgic smile. It was the rush and the feeling of getting back into the fandom after so many years, acquiring games left and right… those are some sacred memories right there!
I could smell colors, I could feel sounds. I have NEVER had such a great experience in my life before. Trying to figure out where I was, LOOKING AROUND, enjoying the life that I was living. I mean it was UN-BOWL-LEE-ABLE! [/Bill Walton]
Ironically, on my way to the flea market that morning I was actually hoping to find the somewhat scarce Dino City, and then lo and behold! What can I say, it was just one of those mornings, ya know?
The vendor was a nice elderly lady in her 50’s. I showed her each game that I wanted as she sprouted off, “Five dollas, five dollas,” but she paused when Tetris Attack came up. Somehow, I knew she would.
There was no way in HELL I was getting Tetris Attack for a measly five bucks…
She grabbed the game from me and squinted long and hard at it. Oh boy, I thought to myself, here it comes. $20, maybe $25. Yup, Steve-O, you can kiss this bargain goodbye. She burned a hole through Tetris Attack before finally saying…
I wanted to jump in the air and pump my fist. But I kept my cool and told the lady in a calm voice, “Sounds good.” All in all, it was $27 well spent
Heading back to my car sensing that this was a lucky day, I decided to head on over to Game Crazy. Now, this was before their retro game selection went down the crapper. Imagine the sheer joy I felt when I spotted Mega Man X2 in mint condition for $9.99! I claimed it faster than John Madden could say “BOOM!”
I couldn’t believe such a “big time” title was sitting right there for all to see, and it happened to be lucky ole me who finally snatched it up for a measly ten bucks!
As Tony the cashier rung me up, he looked at the game semi-perplexed. “10 bucks for this? Hmm, it must be one of the more rare SNES games…” Not surprisingly, the next time I came back to visit, all the interesting SNES games they once had, were gone…
To cap off the successful, splendid early morning voyage, on the way home I purchased a birthday card for my college buddy, Shanice, which I later had all us theatre kids sign. I finally got home around 12:30. It was one of those idyllic, peaceful mornings you wish would never end. The kind that makes you feel as if the whole world is right at your fingertips. The kind of morning that makes you feel like writing that novel you had always wanted to, or starting that RPG you had long vowed to begin, or finally calling that old best friend you’d been meaning to catch up with, but never did. It was indeed one of those perfect Saturday mornings… the ones that stay with you for a lifetime.
Waking up that morning I didn’t know whether I’d find any games of worth that day at the flea market or not. In the end, was I ever glad I went. I also knew… I would return…
2. NICE GUYS, MEAN GUYS, AND EASTER ISLAND HEADS
-Saturday, February 25, 2006-
Today saw the venture into a new flea market, bigger and better than the one I hit 3 weeks ago. There were hundreds of SNES titles on hand! The first vendor had a small selection but I managed to pluck one game off my vast want list: Rocko’s Modern Life, bartered from $8 down to $5, due to the label being a bit dirty.
Speaking of which, yes, even though it’s been a little over 10 years since I bought most of my collection, I have easily over one hundred games that I still haven’t played. What can I say, the queue is long and some games are #125 on the to-play list. However, one day I hope to play each of them. That’s a large part of the fun, knowing that they’re there waiting for me. I no longer have to hunt them down, but they’re there whenever the urge strikes.
The second vendor saw a nice kid giving me a top deal. Boogerman and Lemmings 2 were listed at $8 each, but for no apparent reason he gave them to me both for $10. His father was busy tending to another customer. I suspect I wouldn’t have gotten the bargain from him that his son gave me. Funny thing is, I was going to pay $16 for the two games but before I could pull out my wallet, the kid said, “Ten dollars is fine.”
Shoot, I won’t argue with that! That kid made life easy. I had forgotten Lemmings 2 saw a Super Nintendo release, and Interplay’s Boogerman was a game I always wanted to play back in the mid ’90s, but never did. But now I had the means.
Third vendor… man. Let’s just say, he’s going to be a main character from here on out. Let us call him… “Mr. Mean.” He had hundreds of SNES games, BUT… and there’s always a but isn’t there… well, you’ll see.
So there I was, at Mr. Mean’s large stand happily sifting through his endless SNES cart bundles. I found a ton of games I wanted, but none had a price tag, y’see. Based off my two previous vendor experiences just a couple minutes ago, I thought, “Hey, five bucks a piece, sweet! What a killing I’m gonna make here!”
I called Mr. Mean over to the glass case. I had a dozen games lined out, one I recall being Arkanoid: Doh It Again! As he walked over, I kept thinking JACKPOT CITY, BABY!
He didn’t even greet me, the bastard. Like a robot he picked the first game up, shouted “Twelve dollars!” and proceeded to slam it hard on the glass case. He lifted the next game and slammed it hard on the glass once more. “Twenty dollars,” he said with an ugly tone. He went through the other ten titles in similar fashion. It left me thinking “What the f*ck?” (in more ways than one). What kind of shady operation was this guy trying to run? I told him “Nevermind” and walked away. Bastard.
The most dirt-common cheap games went for at least $12! Contra III cart only for $38?! Who the hell was this guy kidding?!
Still, I kept my head up and continued happily exploring the rest of the flea market. 4th vendor I spotted Pac-Attack and also… Arkanoid: Doh It Again. Funny how life can work in mysterious ways. I was denied of Arkanoid just five minutes ago by Mr. Mean, yet here I was with the next vendor who happened to have a copy of the game as well.
However, he was hesitant to sell Arkanoid off the bat.
“I don’t know… isn’t this game rare?” he asked, scratching his head. Keep in mind this was in early 2006 and iPhones weren’t a thing yet.
“Nope,” I answered him honestly.
“Yeah. I actually just saw it at the very last vendor. It’s not a rare game.”
He examined the glossy game label long and hard, squinting even. He studied the “Easter Island” statue with a burning intensity. Finally he looked back up.” Alright, I trust you… $5 it is then. With the Pac-Man game it comes to be $10.”
In yer face Mr. Mean! Ahhh, ARKANOID. I have some fond memories of playing the game on my computer in the late ’90s when my bro and I first discovered emulation. Kevin and I had already donated our SNES to our cousin David by the time my brother found out about roms and such. I remember it well; I was a sophomore in high school at the tail end of the ’90s, walking home from school one day talking with a buddy about my brother’s discovery the night before. Although I missed my SNES, hey, it was better than nothing. Arkanoid: DIA was one of the few games my brother got. He refused to teach me how to download games by myself as we shared the computer and he was ULTRA paranoid of me doing anything malignant to his precious PC. Anywho, I often fired up Arkanoid and was taken aback by its simple effectiveness. Some 7-8 years later, I finally got the real thing.
VINDICATION NEVER TASTED SO DAMN SWEET!
What an epic little trip this was turning out to be. What a RUSH. And I wasn’t just buying great Super NES games you see, oh no… it was more than that.I was reclaiming my childhood. Buying titles I could ONLY dream of buying back in the early-mid ’90s. I made my way to the next vendor full of hope and optimism. All the vendors so far were awesome sans one Mr. Mean.
This next guy was the final stop of the tour. Like Mr. Mean, he had hundreds of SNES games. But this guy was the complete opposite — Mr. Nice, if you will. He took a liking to me from the get-go, greeting me as though I were like his long lost nephew. Although every SNES game on display was priced at $10 or $12, he showed me a box of SNES games he kept in storage that he’d sell at $5 a piece. The funny thing is, some of those $5 games were in the $10 pile as well. Some in better shape too! What a goofy old coot
I walked away with Super Smash TV, King of the Monsters, The Addams Family and Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems. It was a sweet mix of childhood favorites and games I simply never got around to play but had always wanted to. In many ways it was very symbolic of my SNES resurrection.
Driving home on the freeway that day, windows rolled down, the radio blasting, y’kno, the good stuff, I glance at the nine new SNES games added to my rapidly growing collection. I found myself grinning like a Cheshire cat, knowing full well that, once again, I would be back for more…
3. PUTTING THE SWAP IN ‘SWAP MEET’
-Saturday, March 4, 2006-
A quiet day but I made my first trade (of many to come) with Mr. Nice. Spotted Prince of Persia 2 in the $10 bin, geez I totally forgot a part 2 ever came out, and traded Mr. Nice my extra copy of Hook plus $5 for PoP 2. Fair deal, for sure. Maybe even good. I don’t see Prince of Persia 2 for sale often, and I’d once read it saw a limited release as it came out toward the tail end of SNES’ lifespan.
To cap the day off I nabbed Kablooey in the $5 bin. Though, the cart was in less than stellar condition… but more on this in a bit… in fact, just TWO short days later…
3A. THE CRAZY GAME CRAZY ‘HEIST’
-Monday, March 6, 2006-
This wheeling and dealing business was getting madly addicting! Not since my Saturn hey day did I have this much fun with video games. After class I drove to Game Crazy and bought Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Eek! the Cat and Kablooey (clean and mint). I got Kablooey free as part of Game Crazy’s Buy 2 Get 1 Free deal. 3 games for $10.80. I was rather surprised walking in to find ZAMN, a game in which my old best friend Nelly and I used to play together up the wazoo. Great memories, great game. Zombies Ate My Neighbors is certainly one of a kind on the ole SNES. As for Eek! I always had a weird urge to play this one when I first saw it previewed in EGM back in ’94, but of course, I never got around to do so.
I went home and switched the Game Crazy sticker on the newly acquired mint Kablooey with the so-so Kablooey flea market copy I’d bought just two short days ago. I returned to the same Game Crazy store later that afternoon only to find that the cashier working was the same dude who sold me the mint Kablooey just two hours ago. And it wasn’t just “some dude” rather but it was the store manager! But since I didn’t want to go home empty-handed, I decided to take the risk… sometimes, ya gotta live life on the edge
Asking if I could exchange Kablooey, which I bought just two hours ago, for another SNES game, I handed him the receipt along with the so-so flea market copy of Kablooey. He held the cartridge and paused as he examined it.
Oh shit… I’m BUSTED, I thought to myself.
You know those twinges you get in those moments where you realize you shouldn’t have done what you just did? As I saw his beady eyes glaring at the cartridge casing, I knew I was having one of those moments.
After what seemed like three weeks, but in reality was a second or two at the most, he glanced back up at me and said:
I was eye-balling the Robocop vs. Terminator copy before I left Game Crazy earlier that morning. I looked it up briefly on the internet at home, and decided it was worth adding to the ole library. And just like that not only did I pick up a new game I wanted, but I also switched my so-so copy of Kablooey for a mint one. Only in America A bit underhanded, yes, but with Game Crazy being the corporate beast they were, I had no regrets.
The store manager took my receipt, wrote in Robocop and faintly made a check mark on Kablooey as to signify the exchange. That spring semester of 2006 was a sweet one. It was my last undergrad college semester and on Mondays and Wednesdays I got out at 10:15 in the morning. I miss those days.
Yup, I had a lot of fun hitting up local malls, stores, Game Crazies, etc. on Mondays and Wednesdays. 10:30 was way too early to head home, so I usually went game hunting or out to lunch with a buddy nearly every week on those days. Now that I’ve been working full time, a small part of me pines for those innocent, relatively still carefree days of being in my early 20’s. I look back on those early collecting days of 2006 with a real deep fondness.
4. SWAP ‘TIL YOU DROP!
-Saturday, March 18, 2006-
I had an extra copy of Street Fighter II that I offered to tradefor Mr. Mean’s copy of Peace Keepers. “OK… but gimme two dollars,” he urged. I obliged. Fair enough.
Seeing The Peace Keepers (what a cheesy but lovable name) in the wild made my day. Fond memories of playing it with my brother and our friends way back in the summer of 1994. God that makes me feel old.
Next, I went to see Mr. Nice. We exchanged pleasantries. By now we had developed a great rapport; he probably saw me as the SNES fanatic with large sums of cash from the city, and I saw him as my meal ticket. Beyond that we saw each other as weekend acquaintances; some company to help fill out the drudges of everyday life. He often asked me about college life, how the ladies were, and I would ask him about how business was going or even about his sons back home. Making connections with your fellow man is something eBay or online shopping will never be able to replicate. It’s part of the charm of going to the flea market!
I traded him Doom, Battle Blaze, Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (double) and Captain Americaand the Avengers for Cacoma Knight in Bizyland, Prince of Persia and Adventures of Yogi Bear. A good trade for me seeing as how Cacoma and Yogi were somewhat uncommon and on the want list for a couple months now, combined with the fact that I hated Battle Blaze and the Captain America port.
As I was about to walk away, Mr. Nice reminded me to check his $5 bin. Ah yes of course. There I found Young Merlin and pounced. Yet another game I have childhood connections with. Funny thing is, I saw three copies of Young Merlin in his $10 bin, and the one copy I found in the $5 bin was actually in the best condition of all! Classic. I’ll say it again, what a nutty old coot
Feeling good off another classic trade with Mr. Nice, I decided I couldn’t go home now. I drove to the other flea market (where I bought Tetris Attack and friends a month ago). I figured it was worth the drive.
Didn’t find much but I did walk away with BlaZeon ($5). The label was sun faded but I didn’t mind. The way I see it, if I could erase any SNES game off the want list in real life for $5, I would. Can’t get a much better deal online than $5 shipped after all. All in all, not a shabby day of game hunting. In fact, a pretty damn good one.
5. “WISE FROM YOUR GRAVE!”
-Saturday, April 8, 2006-
Sold an extra copy of Mega Man X to Mr. Mean for $8 cash. Then headed off to see Mr. Nice. By now it was common practice for me to bring any games I wanted to trade (usually doubles I landed in lots off eBay and such). Mr. Nice was a simple guy. He pretty much traded ANY game so long as he got the extra game in the trade (i.e. 2 for 1, 3 for 2 and so on). He understood quantity. Quality? Not so much
I bought a Super Game Boy 2 for $10 (later sold for $20+). Then I traded him my extra copies of F-Zero, Bubsy and Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow for Adventures of Kid Kleets and a MINT copy of Super Castlevania IV! Mr. Nice also asked me to throw in $2, which I happily handed over. At the time I couldn’t find a copy of Castlevania IV for under $12 shipped.
Sad but true: I never actually played this back in the day. Indeed. Shame. And so, later that night I spent the entire evening slaying hordes of the undead…
And it was freaking awesome.
6. MR. MEAN’S EPIC FAIL FTW
-Saturday, May 27, 2006-
For weeks now I’d been trying to sell off four fighting game VHSes online, but to no avail. Even at $12 shipped no one wanted Mortal Kombat, Samurai Shodown the Movie, Toshinden and Street Fighter the Animated Movie. So naturally, I decided to take them with me to the flea market. Hey, couldn’t hurt, right?
As usual, the first stop was Mr. Mean. I offered to sell him the four tapes I was carrying in my University book bag.
“Let me see what they are,” he demanded hastily, as if he suspected I had gold and didn’t have a clue that I did. I slipped the tapes out of my University book bag and placed them on the glass case. He made a nonchalant circular hand motion over the four tapes.
“Mmmm… five dollars”
“You mean five dollars for ALL of them?”
I put the videos back in the bag and started to walk away in disgust when I spotted it…
I already had a copy, but I wasn’t about to pass this opportunity up. I asked Mr. Mean how much for Aero Fighters. I expected to hear some absurd figure like $85 (note: at the time it was going for about $50-$60).
Surprisingly, I overestimated him…
“$7 plus the tapes,” he announced nonchalantly, as though he were trying to pull the wool over MY eyes.
!!!! I couldn’t believe it. But I played dumb as to not show my hand; a universal rule known by diehard flea market game shoppers the world over.
“What??” I asked, with a semi-perplexed look on my face, as if the offer were an insult.
“$5 and the tapes for the game,” he rephrased. Notice the price change!
“… OK, but I keep the bag.”
“Yes yes,” he grinned, as if he had pulled the wool over my eyes. When in reality it was the other way around
Note: I later auctioned off that Aero Fighters copy, a double, for $50. That was about the going rate for that game, cart only, at that time. Nowadays, it’s a triple figure heavy hitter.
7. HOTTEST DAY OF THE SUMMER, AND BEST TRIP EVER? -Saturday, July 1, 2006-
Met a new vendor today. Extra Innings was bartered from $5 to $3, my argument being it was a common “cheap” sports game. As I was getting ready to leave I spotted Super Alfred Chicken, another game I had always wanted to play back in the day but never did.
Oddly, it was priced at $6 but the dude said “Give me $3 for this one.” Shoot, I won’t argue with that! I handed him a $5 bill, and he handed me back two bills. I naturally assumed that they were two $1 bills, so I shoved ‘em in my pocket without checking. More on this in a bit…
Next, I made my way to Mr. Mean. I had another double of Street Fighter II and asked his nephew if I could exchange it straight up for Lemmings, which looked to be in mint condition (aside from the initials marking), all neatly wrapped and everything.
“Street Fighter II plus four dollars for Lemmings,” the 16-year-old countered.
Ah, hardball, a?
I stuck to my guns and reiterated my straight up offer. Take it or leave it, pal. The nephew examined the contacts and then he called Mr. Mean to come over, who had just finished wrapping up a transaction on the other side. Mr. Mean turned around, saw me, and his expression was absolutely priceless.
He sauntered on over to where his nephew and I were negotiating.
“What’s going on here?” he asked, in a gruff manner.
“I offered him Lemmings for his Street Fighter II plus four dollars.”
“And I offered your nephew a straight up trade. Take it or leave it.”
Mr. Mean took my SF II copy, turning the sumbitch sideways to study the contacts. Clean. He nodded reluctantly. “Very well. You got yourself a deal.”
By sticking to my guns I saved four bucks. Sometimes, it’s about more than just the money. This was one of those times.
Mr. Nice was next. It was the same old tradition as always. Stop by Mr. Mean’s stand first, just in case anything of intrigue pops up, then head on over to Mr. Nice’s stand where I knew, AT THE VERY LEAST, I could share a friendly and affable conversation. I also brought my spare SNES copies or games I couldn’t stand to serve as possible trade chips with Mr. Nice, who gave the greatest trades in the history of mankind. On this particular trip I traded him Fatal Fury (boo) and Ms. Pac-Man (double) plus, ironically, the $4 I saved by not caving in to Mr. Mean’s nephew not ten minutes ago, for Gemfire and wow, Metal Warriors! Told ya, he knows quantity. Quality? Not so much
I actually already had a copy of Metal Warriors, but it was going for about $30-$40 at the time, and so I couldn’t pass up on it. I don’t advocate hunting for games you already have, but when it’s right there in your face and you have a chance to get it for a bargain, it’s hard to pass up.
As I called it a day and walked back to my car, parked significantly far away, I arrived to find my Honda had been KO’ed by the branding iron of the scorching summer sun. It was way too hot inside so I opened all four doors and the 7-11 store, with its cold beverages, not fifty feet away suddenly seemed very inviting. I pulled out my wallet to see how much cash I had left. Inside I found a $10 bill. Wait-a-sec… I KNOW I didn’t bring no stinkin’ ten dollar bill, sowhat the hell? Then it hit me. The vendor who gave me $2 change when I paid a fiver for Super Alfred Chicken — his change was one bill as $1, and the other bill… yup, $10. I glanced at my car which was right in front of me in the parking lot a couple blocks away from the flea market, and then I glanced back, looking at that long stretch of road I would have to traverse in order to return the $10 bill. And on what had to be one of the hottest days of the summer, I decided I wasn’t about to walk all the way back. In essence, I ended up getting Super Alfred Chicken for free, and then some. A part of me felt bad about it, you bet your ass I did, but on the real, another part of me didn’t [… the dark side! -Ed.]
8. RUMBLE IN HYRULE
-Saturday, July 29, 2006-
Went to the first flea market from this list and met up with that woman in her 50’s again who sold me Tetris Attack and company some odd five months ago. Traded her my extra WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game (somehow I had three bloody copies at the time) plus $2 for WWF Royal Rumble. Bit ironic, eh? She actually asked for $3 but I bartered that down to $2. My convincing argument? I needed the dollar for Wendy’s super value menu — lunch. She gave me a good-natured chuckle and nodded her little old head. “OK OK I know, you’re a college student. I know.” Hey, whatever it takes
Then I drove to the other flea market and traded Mr. Nice my copies of Home Alone 2 (ugh) and Out To Lunch (extra) for Addams Family: Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt.
Each time I headed to his stand I couldn’t wait to chat with him and see what new SNES games he might have acquired since we last saw each other. He always greeted me with a warm smile and a hearty hello. It saddened me just a little bit knowing that my SNES want list was quickly drying up — I really didn’t have that many wants left. As it turns out, I kinda knew that day what was inevitable, this would be my final transaction ever with Mr. Nice. Hell, it would be the last time I see him…
Next stand I hit up was a new one. I bought just the Zelda: Link to the Pastmap for $3. The game was complete but I asked the vendor if I could buy just the map. He was nice enough to accommodate me. At that time I had yet to play Link to the Past and knew the map would come in handy when I eventually do. Plus I love the simple classic artwork of the Zelda SNES game.
And the last stand I visited today, another new one, proved to be an absolute gold mine. He had a crate of sealed games. I ended up trading Relief Pitcher, Alien 3, Michael Jordan: Chaos in Windy City, Super Tennis and Tecmo Super NBA Basketball (mostly doubles, others unwanted) plus $9 for SEALEDLegend ofZelda: Link to the Past (million seller edition). That’s like trading Michael Jordan in 1992 for David Wood! Who? Exactly! I saw two sealed copies of Donkey Kong Country 2, Super Mario Kart (all million sellers), Earthworm Jim, Super Godzilla and more. But I decided the sealed Zelda copy was enough. For now, anyhow…
9. FLEA MARKET MADNESS FINALE -Saturday, August 5, 2006-
A week later I returned to the same stand with the sealed games. Took the two sealed copies of Donkey Kong Country 2 to the vendor, as well as the sealed Super Mario Kart. He wanted $45 for all of them ($15 each). The funny thing is, before I could whip out my wallet, he tried to convince me that this was a fair price offer (!)
“You uh, would be getting a great deal, sir. Really.”
I faintly smiled. I couldn’t help it. A great deal? Was it ever. “OK, I’ll take them.”
All four sealed copies went to eBay. They cost me a total of $54, and they sold for roughly $215. That’s a $161 profit
Note: I rarely use games intentionally to turn a profit… never really been into that whole thing, but this was one of those rare exceptions. I happened to be at the right place at the right time. I would have been an absolute fool not to capitalize.
I went out with a bang. That’s how I like to end things. On a high note
FLEA MARKETING 101
Note: These tips were originally written back in June of 2008. Times have changed since then with smart phones and retro games being bigger than ever. A lot of deals like the ones I had are much harder these days, so these tips may vary in terms of effectiveness in the year 2016. Nonetheless, here they are anyway…
Carry lots of small denominations. Bring lots of 1’s and 5’s. Keep the 1’s in one pocket and the rest elsewhere, that way the vendors won’t spot you fishing through 5’s and 10’s and suddenly get greedy
You don’t necessarily have to play dumb so to speak, or be Daniel Day-Lewis, but some acting at the right moments can work to your favor. For example, when I repeated the vendor’s offer in an aloof manner, he immediately lowered his demand. Gee, that was easy! Merci beaucoup, Mr. Mean
Try to establish some kind of rapport with the vendors. Especially the ones that are nice. It never hurts to have a good relationship, they might give you deals or trades they might not give someone else. Although not mentioned here, I once bought a Genesis game off Mr. Nice that he let me have for $3. To quote him, “3 dollars just for you, nobody else”
Rather than diving right into what you want most, casually ease your way into it. Want that Super Metroid copy really bad? First casually thumb through some Genesis games, then work your way over. Also, call it “Nintendo game” rather than by the real name, in order to make it sound more generic and common
Don’t be afraid to barter. If a game has a cosmetic flaw for example, you can knock off a dollar or two in many cases (if it isn’t already going for, say, $2). Try not to be TOO cheap, however. Nobody likes a tightwad, but there certainly is a right time and place for bartering
Bring any gaming-related items you no longer wish to own, or any doubles, hey you never know when Vendor X is open to a trade. It doesn’t hurt to bring a bag of your unwanted gaming items, as you’ve seen here in my stories
You don’t have to give in to any vendor’s demands — if you feel a game is just too rich for your blood, just walk away. There will always be another copy to be had (if not in the wild then definitely online). And sometimes, when you walk away they’ll stop you and suddenly be in a more compromising mood [Yeah that’s what I thought, bitch! -Ed.]
Emotional objectivity. Kinda goes back to the acting bit. It’s worth repeating. Try not to show much emotion when asking a vendor how much for this Nintendo (or Sega) game
Get there early. Best deals then. Also, sometimes when they’re about to drive their stuff home, they might be desperate and let you in on a good deal to add some $ to their day count, but usually the good stuff is gone by the afternoon
Don’t be discouraged if your flea market has no good finds. It’s not the end of the world. Enjoy the sunny day. Walk around. Take in the atmosphere. Have fun!
Always think positive. Never hurts, plus it’s free
[There are no swap meet princesses -Ed.]
By August 2006, my SNES want list evaporated by and large for the most part. With no reason to return, August 5, 2006 saw the last time I ever raided a flea market. I’ll always remember those days quite fondly. For some strange reason it feels as though they were from another lifetime. Those wild scavenger hunts… sticking it to Mr. Mean… the goofy old coot Mr. Nice, who always treated me as though I were his long lost nephew and dealt me the best trades in the history of mankind. Those early Saturday morning flea market runs, rummaging through countless game bins. For every lame duck common game occasionally laid the diamond in the rough and the big payoff. It was a glorious time in many aspects, but I’m also glad in retrospect that it’s all over with — the hunt, that is.
Still have wants on your video game list? Then be sure to check out your local flea markets. In addition to Craigslist, it’s another avenue you may want to consider when searching for your next video game purchase. There’s something about the flea market, and there’s certainly something about buying or trading for games RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU in real life. You never know what great deals you too may unearth. Or bloody hell, you might find your very own… SWAP MEET PRINCESS! Well, let’s be honest here. Probably not, but you might find a good game deal or two, and that certainly makes paying a visit to your local flea market worth a shot.
Tomorrow is yet another gorgeous Saturday morning. Thousands of people will be trekking to their local flea market then, in hopes of finding the latest and greatest bargain. Myself, I’ve paid my dues, and am happily long retired. Back at the ol’ ranch, I’ll be sleeping in. Either that or maybe I’ll finally play one of these games I bought over 10 years ago. It would be about damn time, eh?
Today, April 13, 2016, marks 24 years since The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past graced the North American gaming world. Widely regarded as one of the best SNES titles around (if not THE best in many circles), it’s also considered one of the best video games of all time, period. When I got back into all things Super Nintendo over 10 years ago, I did so with two main goals in mind. The first was to relive my childhood. And the second? To right the wrongs from my past. In many ways it was the closest thing to having a time machine. There were so many SNES games I wanted to play back in the day but never did.Along with Super Metroid, A Link To The Past was atop my list of games to play and beat. I finally played through Super Metroid and finished it on February 10, 2007. It was ah-mazin’. Looking at my collection for the next game to play, I knew it had to be A Link To The Past. So it was. On February 20, 2007, I began my trek to Hyrule, and what a trek it was…
LEGEND HAS IT…
It’s a calm and cool night in Kakariko Village. Just like any other night. On the surface, at least. But dig a little deeper… put your head to the ground… stand entirely still and listen to the howling of the wind… the leaves dancing on the twisted tree branches… something is happening. Something is coming. Nightfall quickly approaches and the stars are out tonight in full force. Suddenly the wind whips the weathercock viciously, the elders cease work on their farms and quickly rush inside to take cover. A loud rumbling can be heard from the far distance, getting closer and closer with each passing second. An ominous banshee-like scream cuts through the night sky like piercing sirens.
Link arrives but oh woe is he, for the young lad is too late! The moon completes its destiny, shedding tears of pain all over Hyrule, transforming the landscape of the peaceful villages. People turn into monsters. Crops die. Dogs turn into ducks. And so forth.
And the prophecy is coming true…
WAIT A SECOND!
[You got it all wrong, ya git! -Ed.]
Right. Let’s start at the very beginning… the first Zelda on the NES, then…
[NO, NO, NO!Let’s try this one more time -Ed.]
Alright, I’m sober now. Let’s do this for real…
Although The Legend of Zelda appeared first in the series of Zelda adventures, it actually takes place many years after the third game. In this time, Hyrule had declined, becoming a rustic land with only a few remaining signs of its earlier glory. The land was overrun, and Ganon was to blame. At the heart of the conflict lay a missing piece of the Triforce and Princess Zelda.
When Princess Zelda discovered that Ganon had acquired a piece of the Triforce, she broke the Triforce of Wisdom into eight pieces and hid them. She knew a hero was needed to challenge Ganon, so she sent her nurse, Impa, to search the land, even as Zelda herself was captured. During her quest, Impa long evaded Ganon’s reach, but in a forest glade she too fell into his clutches and would have been killed if not for the heroic actions of a passing youth named Link. Once the villains had been driven away, Impa told the young man about Zelda’s secret. Then, unable to hold back her tears, she told him how the Princess had been taken captive.
Link’s heart burned with passion, and he pledged to defeat Ganon and rescue the Princess. He set off at once, knowing only that he had to collect the eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom. At every turn in the path he met waves of monsters from Ganon’s unholy army. They challenged him in battle.
Link’s first task was to find the hidden dungeons where Zelda had secretly hidden the divided Triforce. Many of the entrances were disguised, and only by using all of his wits and the scraps of hints that he picked up along the way was he able to succeed. Inside each dungeon he met countless enemies, for Ganon’s minions had taken hold of even the most remote chambers.
In the end Link was able to gather all eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom, then he scaled Death Mountain and gained entrance to Spectacle Rock. Ganon’s great maze dwarfed any that Link had previously encountered. In a hidden chamber, he discovered a magical Silver Arrow and, taking the prize, he came face-to-face with Ganon himself. The battle between youthful hero and villainous miscreant raged across the chamber, unaffected by the cuts of Link’s sword. As Link began to tire, he tried a last desperate strategy, putting the Silver Arrow to the test. The bowstring sang and the arrow flew straight. Ganon was destroyed!
With the defeat of Ganon, Link’s mind turned to the purpose that had driven him here — the rescue of Princess Zelda. One final chamber stood before him. Link pushed ahead. Here Zelda greeted him and the pieces of the Triforces of Power and Wisdom were reunited.
With the destruction of Ganon and the power of the Triforce restored, peace reigned once more in Hyrule. Princess Zelda now ruled the land, and the country prospered. It seemed as if the shadow of Ganon had been destroyed forever. But Link remained ever vigilant. Wherever Link roamed, he looked for signs of Ganon’s return, for he could not believe that he had truly banished evil from the land.
THE LEGEND CONTINUES
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link takes place several years after The Legend of Zelda. An older, taller and perhaps wiser Link has seen the country prosper. But peace is a fragile commodity in Hyrule and history has a way of repeating itself.
Marked by the sign on his hand, Link was destined to become a hero. But in the peaceful days following his first quest, he became restless. He combed through the forests, crossed the deserts and delved into the caverns of Hyrule, looking for clues to explain his feelings of unease. In time he became aware of a whisper that passed between the birds, beasts, and even the blades of grass: there was a new magic in the land… a new magic nameless and terrifying.
Lying as still as a marble, Princess Zelda slept the dreamless sleep of enchantment. When Link found her in the North Palace, he saw at once that she was spellbound. His greatest fear had come to pass. By refusing to reveal the secret power of the Triforce to a wizard, Zelda had brought on her own downfall. But not all was lost. If Link could somehow unlock the mystery of the Great Palace, then he could save Zelda and the Triforce of Courage to boot.
Again Link took to the fields and forests, but these places had become wild and dangerous, inhabited by enemies of old. Link found himself relying on his wits and swordplay at every step. Creatures he had never before seen also waylaid him: spiders called Deelers that dropped from the trees, tall Geldarms that rose from the sands of the Tantari Desert, and of course the Moblins, armed with spears and hatred.
Link’s mission? Enter each of the six palaces and restore a missing crystal to a statue. Together the statues created a magical lock on the Great Palace. Only by replacing the six crystals could Link open the final door. In each palace, however, he had to battle a Statue Guardian of great strength: Barba the Dragon, Ironknuckle the Knight, Carock the Wizard and many other nasty surprises awaited our youthful hero.
Link came across many strange looking statues and structures. Some had switches that only the brave, OR the foolish, would pull.
As he closed the palaces off one by one, Link crossed the whole of Hyrule, from Ruto in the northwest to Death Mountain in the south, from the Island Palace in the Stormy Straights to Maze Island in the Far Eastern Sea. He helped villagers whenever he could, but he never lost sight of his ultimate goal. Finally, after uncovering the secrets of Old Kasuto, Link pushed on to the Great Palace where he met the Thunderbird.
Once the Thunderbird was vanquished, Link thought that Zelda and Hyrule would be saved, but it was not to be… not yet. Exhausted from his journey, Link had one more enemy to defeat — an enemy so unexpected that he did not know what to do, for the enemy was his own shadow.
THE LEGEND GROWS
Back in the mists of time, before the era of The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link, Hyrule was a land of fabulous palaces and magic. It was also a troubled land, and the divisions of Light and Dark were tearing it apart. The origins of this conflict lay even deeper in the shadows of time, with the coming of the Triforce and the greed of Ganondorf, King of Thieves.
To comprehend Hyrule and Link’s desperate quest, one must first know the ancient legend of the Triforce. In the Golden Land, where it was placed by the creators of the world, the Triforce beckoned to people. Ganon and his band of thieves long searched for the secret entrance to the Golden Land, eventually stumbling upon it. Then Ganon defeated his fellows for possession of the Triforce.
In a period known as the Imprisoning War, the King of Hyrule brought seven wise men together to seal the door to the Golden Land, for Ganon’s evil power had been spilling forth, causing corruption and darkness. The once peaceful land became a place of dreadful rumors of the coming of a magical enemy. At this time the Master Sword was forged, but there was no hero valiant enough to wield it.
Before the wise men could seal off the Golden Land and the Triforce, Ganon’s army surged into Hyrule and besieged the castle. The knights of Hyrule fought heroically, but the power of the Triforce controlled their enemies, giving them inhuman strength. The battle raged back and forth. Many foes fell in the tide of battle, but too many knights perished as well. It seemed that they were beyond hope.
Then, at the end of the day, the wise men finally succeeded in blocking the door to Ganon’s Realm. With the power of their master removed, the enemies fled or threw themselves into the moat. Hyrule was saved and over the years the Golden Land, which then became known as the Dark World, faded from collective memory.
While the people of Hyrule forgot about the Dark World, the master of that evil land had not. Ganon brooded in his prison, surrounded by reminders of his fall. He grew ever more bitter as the dark years passed like the wailing of cold wind on a winter’s night. Ambition burned in his eyes. He vowed to one day return to power.
Many centuries passed with Ganon and the Triforce safely locked away. Then the disasters began: plague, drought, quakes and fire. The King sought sage advice and a wizard named Agahnim stepped forth, ending the strange disasters. He became a powerful advisor to the King, but he kept his true plans to himself…
It seemed like a Golden Age, but it wouldn’t last.
Once Agahnim had consolidated his power, he began to abuse it. First to fall victim were the ancestors of the seven wise men. The wizard imprisoned six maidens in crystal cocoons, never to be seen again. Then Princess Zelda herself was captured as she sent a telepathic plea into the night. The Hylian gift that enabled Zelda to send her message also allowed Link to hear her.
Having received Zelda’s message, Link felt compelled to save her, but his uncle forbade him to leave the house. Link’s uncle thought that the lad’s courage outweighed his common sense, yet he knew that something had to be done to save the princess. Turning away from Link, he gripped his sword. He knew a secret entrance into the castle, although he didn’t know the way out.
Link couldn’t tell how much time had passed since his Uncle had left — a minute? An hour? The only thing he knew was that Zelda had spoken to him. He could bear sitting around no longer. Taking a lamp to light his way, Link stepped out into the lashing rain and headed toward the castle.
As Link floundered about in the storm, he heard a second telepathic message from Zelda telling of a secret route into the castle. When he found the entrance, he also found his uncle inside, wounded and unable to carry on. Link took his Uncle’s sword and promised to return…
KEY ITEMS AND ABILITIES
Here are some of the cool things Link can do. You’ll be doing lots of this, and as you’d expect from Nintendo, the control is crisp and feels spot on. So far, so good!
And here are some of the items you must find in order to complete your quest. Some have multiple uses, some are one and done, while others act as teleporting devices! Nice.
The Magic Bottle is an awesome item. You can carry up to four and these babies can hold magic potions (recovering health, magic power or both), fairies (which if you have activated when you die, the fairy will escape the bottle and revive you there on the spot), etc. Can you find all four? Here’s my favorite of the four. A hobo trying to just see the light of tomorrow. I love how totally atmospheric this is and it gives Hyrule a real pulse.
Like I said earlier, many items serve multiple purposes, which speaks to Nintendo’s ability to make such playable games. The hookshot also acts as a potent offensive weapon!
Here, Link shows off the powers of the almighty Firerod.
The Goriya can be a tricky foe at first, but his pattern is actually simple, particularly in large open spaces. The green ones are a push over but the red ones are defiant with their scorching fireballs. Be sure you have a set of arrows on you and be prepare to move your feet.
Hmmm, I wonder what happens when you drop a bomb by damaged walls? Oh look this is just too hard. Back to my Rampage games, then.
Use your net to capture bees and store them in a bottle. They can be unleashed to help you battle Ganon’s minions. Did I mention how awesome the bottle is? And recall how items can serve multiple purposes. Did you know, in addition to the sword deflecting the magic of Agahnim, that the net ALSO works? Try it!
Hyrule is filled with cool legends and urban myths. Is the Tale of the Good Bee for real? Only weary travelers know for sure.
That little swirly spot is the mark of the Magic Mirror which allows you to go from the Light to Dark World. I love this shot. Just look at the billow of smoke blowing from the chimney, the little swords adorning the exterior, and hey, what would happen if you smash the stake down with the magic hammer?, Could you drop off the ledge into that opening down there… where would it lead? Hmmmm…
RAIN OVER ME
The opening scene, with the rain lashing down on Hyrule, is considered one of the most awe-inspiring gaming moments in 1992. It was simple, but it has stuck with many SNES players.
Your first goal is to head to Hyrule Castle, but you’ll need to find an alternative route…
One of the many great things about this game was that it wasn’t just a pure action game. You had to use your wits to progress throughout the game, making it all the more rewarding when you finally do conquer it.
Rescuing Princess Zelda is no easy job. First you must come to blows with the Ball and Chain Trooper. His demise comes with the prize of a big key. Congratulations, you’ve saved the damsel in distress and the game is over! Of course, wouldn’t be much of a game, so the silly lass gets kidnapped again. That wacky Miyamoto…
After you retrieve the three pendants (and solve a host of puzzles while killing tons of enemies), make your way to the Lost Woods and see if you can’t find the mythical Master Sword. Be careful, the Lost Woods is home to weird creatures, thieves hiding behind bushes, and to make matters worse it’s filled with fog and lots of false swords. Can you find the Real McCoy?
The mist clears and the surrounding thieves quickly scramble for cover. No normal being can so easily extract the Master Sword like that. Whoever this Link was, they knew better than to mess with him. And with that, the adventure is only beginning…
THINGS TO FIND AND DO
In each dungeon a Big Key must be collected in addition to a host of other keys. I love how the Big Keys are kept in these large treasure chests. Therefore, it’s rather satisfying whenever you locate these bad boys.
Other treasure chests hold not keys, but valuable goodies. Link like, oh yes, Link like a lot.
You gain an extra heart for each boss defeated, but 24 hearts are scattered throughout Hyrule in the Light and Dark World. Collecting four gives you one full heart. Some are hidden underground, others high above ground. Be creative! Push and pull any weird looking tombstones, trees, etc. Can you find all 24 hearts?
There’s one! Random games can be played, at the price of some Rupees, and you just might find a piece of a heart in the process.
This is one of my favorite mini-games. It took me like 100 tries before I found the piece of heart! Worth it? YOU DAMN RIGHT!
Along the Swamp Ruins, Hyrule historians surmised that the civilization must have cultivated crops and practiced an early form of irrigation.
[They what? -Ed.]
Oh look, in layman terms this is another underground dungeon, but rather than being just another level, they lavished some feeling of history behind it to create its own unique world; such is the love that Miyamoto devoted into the game.
Before you arrive here you must get by the intricate stonework and maze-like garden of the Dark Palace, which features a unique monkey motif. Due to the passage of time the garden has become unpredictable and thus can prove to be difficult to navigate…
The only way to enter this dark catacomb was to flip a switch up top. But how can Link get up there? Hmmm. Talk about monkey business…
The very ominous looking Eastern Palace, with twin gargoyle heads adorning the courtyard, is even more frightening inside. Link entered the stark domain where he soon encountered materializing skeletons and slumbering giants. Here lies the almighty Bow, but it’ll awaken the deadly Armos Knights…
Nowhere in Hyrule was it safe. Agahnim’s guards patrolled the castle walls and even on the Sanctuary grounds.
Many strange places call Hyrule home. Few adventurers dare make the trek in some of the more suspicious looking entrances. Thieves carved out this opening in a huge, old redwood stump, then tunneled into the earth to create a cave. Rumor has it, no one who has entered has come out alive. Children are advised to stay far away. It’s even said that a man-eating goblin lives deep underground…
Speaking of ghouls and goblins, the Hyrulian Cemetery was full of legends and rumors. One of which was that the tombstones didn’t always hide bodies, but treasures. Will you go tramping around and risk the chance of disrupting the slumber of the dead? Who knows what spirits you might unleash… or what treasures you might find!
The lightning laser guards Agahnim’s Tower. Man, if only I could find something to break that pesky magical seal…
Link can see all over the land of Hyrule atop the pyramid, but an odd sense of clot overcame the young warrior. So he did not linger around for very long. But he also sensed, somehow, that he’d return to the pyramid sooner rather than later…
A tricky section, this. Rather than floors you have intricate catwalks. Torches could be lit via the Lamp or Firerod, and then Link would have to make haste to the next position where he could relight the flame before it flickers out. You could also use the Magic of Ether to briefly light the way or push a block created by the Cane of Somaria. Or, you could just study this picture.
Across the land of Hyrule there are several fortune tellers. Villagers whisper that these mysterious cloaked figures are not human, and that to enter their shops is to take your own life by the throat. In a quaint cottage near one entrance to the Lost Woods you can find one of them. For a price, she would stare into a magical crystal ball and tell what fate lies in your future. Some people took the predictions seriously and visited often, while others felt it was a waste of money and claimed their crops never grew again after the visit. Link did not believe in such silly superstitions, and knew that with each fortune telling he also had his health fully restored. So, how bad could the fortune teller really be?
Many trees litter the landscape of Hyrule. In the Light World they don’t present any sort of threat. But in the Dark World some timbers are rumored to speak. Explorers claim they’ve heard weird chants and believe these trees to be Golden Land sentries who were petrified by Ganon’s magic. Link came across hostile trees and could feel the power of Ganon growing by the step.
This mischievous monkey, known as KiKi, has strange powers and is in love with rupees. In exchange for a set amount, he promises to do a huge favor that will right your quest. But can he be trusted? Will he steal your money and scamper off high in the trees? If you say no, will he summon his primate pals in a revolt? It’s your call…
Life in the Mire is a nasty place. The Swamolas, believed to be the cousins of the Lanmolas, hid below the muck and slime, surfacing only to snatch a meal [Sounds a lot like my ex-wife… -Ed.]
The chickens are innocent harmless creatures, that is, until you attack one repeatedly. Then, it calls upon its buddies to revolt against you. Useless? Perhaps. Fun to mess around with? You betcha!
In the Dark World the Ghostly Garden was filled with evil, from the bomb chucking Hinox to the squirming blobs.
Don’t be fooled by the Hinox’s grin, he is one of the tougher regular baddies in the game. Thank goodness then that they only patrol the Dark World!
The electro-blobs can cause havoc in packs, especially in close quarters.
Can you find the blacksmith’s partner? Without him your sword cannot be tempered.
Finding the partner will require some wit and cunning skill. Nicely done.
Sahasrahla the village elder proves to be very helpful throughout your journey.
Zelda can communicate telepathically with Link through various panels found on the walls of the various dungeons. She offers handy tips to further your progress.
Fairy Fountains are a Godsend, re-energizing weary travelers to full strength.
Can you rescue all six trapped maidens?
Steve, the handsome hero, once again [Yeah, ONLY in video games -Ed.]
YOU AIN’T THE BOSS OF ME
Many boss battles take place throughout the adventure and I won’t spoil all of them, but here are some to feast your eyes on.
The Armos Knights look intimidating, but they’re a cakewalk. Three well-placed arrows will dispatch of each one, but the last one is double tough. Defeating them earns you the Pendant of Courage.
Moldorm guards the Mountain Palace and can be very tricky. If you fall over you must start over. I suffered this such fate several times before I got the best of old Moldy. Once you upset him, he starts slithering really fast. It’s almost disturbing in a “It shouldn’t LOOK LIKE THAT!” sort of way.
Blind the Thief is very sneaky. Finding him is half the battle. Good luck with that, friend.
Agahnim guards Hyrule Castle and has captured Zelda, the swine.
[Zelda or Agahnim? -Ed.]
Hmmm, both, really, come to think of it.
Hint: He can only be hurt by deflecting his magic. Why not try out the bug-catching net?
Oh Lord… this doesn’t look too good…
Vitreousguards the Misery Mire. It sees all, har har har. Watch out for the lightning this vile creature emits, and once the giant eye comes after you like such, hack away. Like most of the boss battles, it’s easy but nonetheless very satisfying to kill.
The fall of Vitreous sees you rescuing the sixth and final maiden. Finally, the location of Princess Zelda will then be disclosed.
Ooooh, that’s one nasty looking bugger.
The Helmasaur King is a big bad boy all right, and guards the double tough Dark Palace. He starts the battle out wearing a gigantic mask. The first step is to remove it, somehow…
Can you destroy the evil Ganon and save all of Hyrule? The quest awaits.
MY FAVORITE LEGEND
Link to the Past has plenty of legends, rumors and urban myths. It gives Hyrule a real heart beat, a real pulse. It’s the magic that only Nintendo and Miyamoto seem able to craft. I love almost all of them, but I have to share this one… the good ole LEGEND OF THE FLUTE PLAYER.
Witnesses have seen animals gather around a fading flute player in a grove in central Hyrule. Others claim they can hear the faint playing of a flute hauntingly swirling from the grove north of the Swamp. They would run in the direction of the sound and then find absolutely nothing. Silence fell over as they approached the stump. Suddenly the music would play again and they ran for their lives, convinced that the grove was haunted by an evil, restless spirit. And ever since, everyone knows of the location simply as THE HAUNTED GROVE.
One day, Link ran into the Haunted Grove to escape some of Agahnim’s soldiers. There he found one of the strangest sights he had ever seen in all of Hyrule. A ghost-like boy sat on a stump playing a flute. Surrounding the boy was a host of animals. When Link approached, the animals ran away and the boy vanished. Try as he might, he could not catch the animals or the boy. Link later discovered they were ghosts…
Later in his journey Link came across villagers who indulged the youth on the legend of the Flute Boy.
In the Dark World, the mystery of the Flute Boy was slowly but surely unraveling…
The Flute Boy gave Link his shovel. Now if Link could only find the lost flute…
Link got to work, in hopes he would find the Flute and discover its magical powers…
I won’t say how the tale of the Flute Boy plays out exactly, but it’s pretty sad. I grew quite fond of the bloke. Blast it to all heck.
THE TRUE STORY OF ZELDA — FINALLY UNCENSORED!
Stop the presses! I’ve got the scoop to end all, er, scoops! Hidden in the vaults of Nintendo Headquarters I have managed, through my adventurous and plucky spirit, to secure the DIRECTOR’S CUT of how the story REALLY plays out!
Take a look below.
Yoinks! Looks like when the pressure was on, his Master Sword broke… [Oh dear -Ed.]
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
EGM: 8, 9, 9, 9
Super Play: 93%
In their 100th issue, November 1997, EGM listed Link to the Past as the 3rd best game of all time.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE SHIGSTER
[Don’t call me that ever again -Mr. Miyamoto]
Credit Super Play Magazine (a UK Super Nintendo publication that ran from 1992-1996) and Onn Lee of Electric Brain fanzine for their conversation below with Zelda mastermind Shigeru Miyamoto! Circa November ’92.
Shigeru Miyamoto has the golden touch. He’s directly responsible for both the Zelda and Mario series of games developed at Nintendo’s ‘Entertainment Analysis And Development’ department in Japan, making him perhaps the most important games creator at work in the world today. When a piece of software sells 10,000 copies in Japan it is considered a hit, but many Mr. Miyamoto has been involved with have shifted millions, as well as become household names worldwide. It all puts him rather in the super-league. Here’s a conversation recorded with Mr. Miyamoto earlier this year.
What exact role do you take in the games development process?
SM: I don’t actually do any of the programming, but I am involved in organizing the programming teams. Instead of imposing deadlines, I find that constant encouragement of your staff is the best way to keep them going. Perhaps it’s one of the reasons for our success.
Are the Super Famicom and SNES versions of Zelda III the same?
SM: Because the SFC version completely used up all 8 megabits of memory, we originally estimated that we’d need another megabit to cope with the text being translated into English for the American game. That being the case we’d need a 9 megabit cartridge for America, but wouldn’t be using up all the space on it, so we toyed with squeezing in a few of the spare ideas left out of Zelda 1 to fill up the space. In the event, though, we managed to fit the English version onto 8 megabits anyway, so any ideas like that went out the window. So yes, both versions should be exactly the same.
When was Zelda III originally meant to be released?
SM: We were hoping to release it at the time the Super Famicom itself first came out, back in November 1990 alongside Super Mario World. We couldn’t make that, so after that a March ’91 release was planned, but the project dragged on beyond that, too. Eventually it became a Super Famicom first anniversary release instead.
How many people actually worked on the game?
SM: We started with just a handful for about a year, but then added more as things progressed. Basically the small team works out a rough draft plan, and the large team refines this into a game.
What kinds of things did you have in mind when planning the new game?
SM: We wanted to improve on all the shortcomings of the 8-bit games that had been imposed on us by the technical limitations of the Famicom. In the 8-bit Zelda the player had to imagine a lot of effects that the graphics couldn’t simulate. Also, back in 1987 Zelda had introduced lots of new features to games, like the ability to save your game and buy items, but in the meantime these had become the bog-standard components of any RPG. We knew that to keep ahead of the pack, Zelda III needed more.
How difficult did you want to make Zelda III?
SM: On average it takes about 40 hours to complete, but the fastest recorded time at Nintendo is five hours! We’ve actually tried to make it as easy as possible. The way the game is structured you can’t take alternative routes to finish the game, so we’ve made it that, for example, if you come across a blocked passage you will be able to progress further, even if you have forgotten a certain item. If mainstream gamers could cope with less linear adventures, though, we might have made it a lot harder.
Is it true that loads of brilliant ideas had to be dropped because of a shortage of memory space?
SM: No, we dropped the average ideas and picked the best!
And finally, how about the future?
SM: I can’t discuss new games at the moment, but we’ve got lots of plans, at least one of which is along the same lines as Pilotwings[And that, as one might guess, became most likely….Star Fox -Ed.]
Thanks once again to Super Play Magazine and Onn Lee!
Interesting that Shigs [Oh forget it -Mr. Miyamoto] mentioned the average of 40 hours. Here’s how I fared on my first go ever…
As you can see, Turtle Rock and Dark Palace gave me the most fits. Most Zelda III players complain about Turtle Rock and Ice Palace. Ice Palace wasn’t too bad for me. I had a night class at 7 PM and had an hour to kill. I decided to tackle Ice Palace and ended up beating it just in time before class started. Nothing beats that I tells ya! Ah, good times.
On Sunday evening, March 11, 2007, 19 days after I started Link to the Past, I dethroned Ganon and finally liberated Hyrule.It was bittersweet in some respect. Sure it was nice seeing the land blossom again and what have you, but a part of me wanted just one more dungeon to work through, one more boss to decimate, one more item to procure, one more heart piece to discover, one more mini-game to play and one more urban legend to solve. It was 30 hours of bliss, and the more I progressed the more the game grew on me, until it nearly consumed me, making me even all the more shameful I waited 15 years to finally play through this. Ah, to live and learn eh?
Every little touch in this game is just great. The hobo taking cover under the bridge, the tale of the quarreling brothers, the bedridden boy, the legend of the Flute Player, the witch, all the dungeons and bosses… there is so much to do and take in. And take it in you will. Not nearly enough games reach the level that Link to the Past did. And what a shame that is. This is more than a game — it’s an EXPERIENCE. Corny and cliche, but true. Take it from a converted fan of this genre, I am just beginning to discover the joy this type of game can generate. It’s not immediately satisfying perhaps, but it doesn’t take long before the quest takes over your every waking moment. After I beat the Ice Palace I ran to my night class. As my professor lectured on and on about BICS and CALP, I could only find myself thinking about what horrors the Misery Mire would bring, and counting down the hours until class would end. Is this the sign of a truly captivating game, or a truly sick man? Probably both.
Further proof of the latter… something disturbed me deeply regarding the theme of the Dark World. Play through that again and TRY TO TELL ME that the theme doesn’t sound like the infamous Saturday Night Live music skit DICK IN A BOX!
[Uh yeah, reminder to self: edit that out…. -Ed.]
Any complaints? Well, there is a hint of slowdown here and there, like the boss fight with Mothula f’rinstance. And while it’s relatively clear what you need to do next, a few of the puzzles are slightly, in my opinion, obscure and can be tough to figure out if playing guide-free. The incessant beep that plays when you’re on your last heart is annoying. These are minor quips though, quite frankly. Other than that, it’s hard to find a real flaw in the armor.
Zelda III was released in Japan on November 21, 1991, exactly one year after the Super Famicom made its debut. The American release was held back for six months. When it finally did appear it sold 250,000 copies in the first six weeks — faster than any other Nintendo game in history! If by some crazy chance you’ve yet to play Link to the Past, then I hope you make it a priority to do so. I still have a lot of classics I need to go through, and I can only hope they’re half as good as this.
Yes, Link to the Past is worth all the hype. You cannot call yourself a Super Nintendo fan, hell, forget that, you can’t call yourself a VIDEO GAME fan until you’ve played through this fine masterpiece. One of the best games on the Super Nintendo, heck, on any system ever. Magic, mystery, action, loads of multi-purpose items, puzzles, giant guardians, huge sprawling mazes, it’s got the lot! An epic hall of fame adventure you simply must go through at least once, if not twice, before you die.
While it boosts one of the greatest gaming libraries in the history of mankind, the SNES will never be mistaken as a system home to a wide plethora of darker, more mature games. One of the few that truly fit this class though is Majyuuou (AKA King of Demons) exclusively released on the Super Famicom. Just look at that box art. You’d think it’s gotta be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Sadly, it never quite lives up to the lofty expectations built inside of my head nearly 10 years ago when I first played it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. It just means I was hoping for a little more.
At first glance, “Resident Evil meets Castlevania” crossed my mind. A most enticing combination indeed. Well, when viewed from such, I guess it was doomed to fail. But I’m getting ahead of myself, as per usual, so let’s rewind it back a little bit…
WILLING AND ABEL
You are Abel. Your wife (Maria) and daughter (Iria) have been captured by your former friend Bayer who sold his soul to the devil. With them Bayer intends to revive the KING OF DEMONS. You’ll do anything to save your family, even taking on various demonic forms yourself. This gives it a bit of an Altered Beast feel.
You start the game out in human form. Here you can do the following:
Do a downward kick in mid-air
Fire his 9MM gun
Fire a power shot (hold attack until the power bar flashes)
Transform into different types of demons
Majyuuou opens with you battling Bayer on the bridge to hell. It’s basically a mere scrimmage, with Bayer eventually retreating. The door on the far right swings open, and your foray into the darkness begins…
A DESCENT INTO MADNESS
Things start out easy. Low entry winged demons are one and done. A fairy helper acts much like how an “option” does in SHMUPS.
Just when you think “This is TOO easy,” the earth rumbles and the ugliest, biggest grub you’ve ever seen quickly slithers your way!
The parasitic creature traps you into a dead end. Fortunately, or so you think, the ground collapses, sending you even deeper into the rotting depths of hell.
Mutant frogs, gun toting she-devils and hordes of zombies greet you with open, decaying arms. One shot cleans the zombies’ heads right off while two seals the deal. Out of the corner of your eye you can see victims pinned up against the perfidious walls like grand prizes, but there’s no time for sentimentality — you know you could very well be next! With hell’s army hot on your tail, you come to a decrepit elevator. There’s no choice but to enter the dank, rotting interior…
Exiting the elevator, you’re visited by an old friend. I do love the attention to detail in this game. Look at those nasty veins. It’s a fight to the finish.
March forward and meet the Barons of Hell. These big bastards are tough, requiring 12 shots to kill.
WHEW! That’s only the first stage. It’s all very short though, but you gotta love the assortment of mini-bosses and demonic enemies. On a system sorely lacking these such things, it’s a very much welcomed sight! But can Mayjuuou keep up the pace? Sadly, although every fiber of my being at this point wishes it were so, I’d be lying if I said I thought it did.
Stage 2 is a plant themed world with buildings in complete ruin. Green pods releases little red fairies. Kill ‘em, then you can eat their fallen carcasses to regain health. Brutally creative, and you know you love it.
Everything’s going smoothly until you cross an old abandoned building. You hear a trembling and know it’s not JUST the racing of your heart, but that something BIG and BAD comes your way…
If it catches you with its iron mandible it’ll drag you up and down the screen like a rag doll.
Defeat the insect mini-boss and then find yourself eye to eye (no pun intended) with yet another mid-boss!
The Plant Queen guards the exit of stage two. Put this wannabe Empress out of her misery and then get ready to enter the ride of your life, literally. A spook-filled speeding train rolling past a cemetery. Something afoul is in the air…
Within 10 seconds this mini-boss appears. It only has 1 attack: throwing its two scythes at you, which will spin in place for a few seconds. Just leave some room on the left and you’ll be OK. Battle the rest of the minions on the train and soon you’ll meet a pair of twins unlike any you’ve met before…
[Can’t be better than the Synch twins I met during the summer of ’89 -Ed.]
You are completely helpless as you watch the two monsters kill this innocent lass. Her banshee-like scream as she perishes is actually somewhat eerie and unsettling. After these two you immediately face the end boss of stage 3.
Once the disgusting bubbly mass is blown to bits, the Ghost Train is rendered helpless and crashes through the castle walls.
Level 4 begins and from here on out, I’ll let you discover what horrors await. Will you be able to stop Bayer? Will the King of Demons arise? Can Abel save his family?
There are 3 different demon transformations, with stronger versions for each. Each has a unique regular / super shot. One demon form can flip, another teleports, etc. Find out which form works best for which stages
To get the good ending, you must use all 3 forms at some point before the final level. Doing so unlocks the 4th and ultimate transformation…
You are human only for stage 1, unless you opt to not touch an orb after defeating the end level bosses, which would make the game more challenging
The beginning plot is in Japanese, but throughout the levels there is no text. There is an English fan translation for those who want to experience it in full
Press select at the title screen to activate the options menu. As a side note, try pressing select 15 times. Done correctly, you’ll access a level select cheat in the options menu. Very handy…
The helper is very useful. If you die it’ll revive you for a 2nd go and you won’t waste a life. Some levels contain a green aura symbolizing the helper — touch it to gain its powers
There are health refills here and there. Stand over and press down
The health bar increases as your point total goes up. You can continue forever, but you’ll start at level 1 health and for the later levels, it’s simply not enough
On a system lacking in these sort of darker, more mature titles, it’s nice to see a game such as this exist. It certainly helps to fill a void, but part of me, even nearly 10 years later, can’t help but still view this game as somewhat of a letdown. Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy this game enough, but it pains me to think WHAT IF. It’s a perfect example of a game being “solid” yet “disappointing” all at once.
That said, this is a quality game. It’s just not the epic gem I was hoping for. Looking for a ghoulish action platforming shoot ‘em up sort of good time? With macabre visuals up the wazoo and some demonic transformations thrown in for good measure? Then check out Majyuuou. Just make sure you leave the lofty expectations at the door.
Renting video games every Saturday afternoon was a big part of my childhood. It’s a bygone era that I hold near and dear to my heart. As a kid growing up in the late ’80s and early ’90s, few things could match the sheer joy of watching Saturday morning cartoons before heading out to town with your old man to rent the latest video game. I have so many fond memories of this childhood weekend ritual. Sure, streaming and online content has made things faster and more accessible than they were 25, 30 years ago. But it comes at a price. Part of the fun of renting games and movies 20+ years ago was the actual time you spent riding around with your dad, being in awe of seeing all the games you wanted to rent, and eagerly anticipating the drive home to play the game of the week you had chosen after careful consideration. In my generation this sort of experience was, quite frankly, priceless.
So if you’re like me and fondly recall those halcyon days, well then my friend you’ve come to the right place. Kick your feet up, crack open a cold one, and join me for a sentimental stroll down memory lane. It’s a look back at a more innocent time in our lives. Agolden time.
IT’S TIME TO (BE KIND AND) REWIND
My brother Kevin and I rented a TON of games in our day. Actually, I rented them. Kevin made me do his dirty work, as he was too lazy (and shy) to go rent games on his own accord. 90% of the time he had a specific game for me to get. If it was rented out, then I had freedom to choose. Sadly for me at least, most of the time his choice title was there. If not at the first store, then surely the fifth.
However, I secretly enjoyed doing the dirty work for him. I have very fond memories of renting. I loved all the little (and semi-lengthy) trips that my dad and I shared. Each Saturday afternoon we made the trek together. He was a busy man, but he always awarded me and Kevin with one rental each Saturday. Looking back, I think it was more than just simply renting video games but alas, I digress. I always looked forward to our weekend ritual, rain or shine.
From roughly 1987 to 1995, we must have rented 200 games between the Nintendo, Genesis and Super Nintendo. Years later, I rented some PS1 games for Kevin, but it was few and far. The renting bug eventually faded as my bro entered high school and gradually lost interest in gaming. It wasn’t much long before the renting bug died completely sometime circa 1998 or 1999.
From the mom and pops to the big boys, here are some memories and tales of my favorite childhood video stores.
I didn’t rent a ton from Blockbuster, as I found the alternatives much better, but my dad and I occasionally stopped by. They were a bit on the expensive side, $4 or $5 to rent a Super Nintendo game, but the plus side was you could keep your rentals for up to 5 days. That was their main selling point; it was rather enticing to think you could keep a game throughout an entire school week. But my mom didn’t like the idea of us gaming throughout a school week, so Blockbuster was seldom utilized in my renting rotation.
My best memory involving Blockbuster Video: it was my first job! A new one was being constructed just a 5 minute walk away from my house. I was a ripe 17 years old. It was October of 2000. I told my friends we should all apply and work there. My friend Eddie got the job one night. The next night I headed over while the store was still being worked on. The manager interviewed me on the spot and next thing I know he goes, “See you next Friday, kid.”
Working at Blockbuster was mostly a great experience. I was there for ten months before quitting in August of 2001. I was starting college later that month and I wanted to focus on that. Yup, just mere weeks before the 9/11 tragedy.
Eddie stayed on board until November 2001. He often told me it just wasn’t the same without me. We had a competition to see who could rack up more free rentals. We were able to get 5 free rentals a week, and we always had to max it out, even if we didn’t have time to watch the movies. In the end, the computer displayed a whopping 172 free rentals under my name! That’s roughly $775 in value.
I remember when Nikita and Judy joined the team. Oh man. I’ll never forget those two. They were from our same high school and let’s just say they had a reputation. And as I would find out, for DAMN good reason! Judy was very friendly, especially. The first day we worked together, I was putting a DVD on the top shelf. As I was doing this, she squeezed in to put a DVD on the bottom shelf, and… and…
*Cue NBA Jam announcer*
[What happened? -Ed.]
They say you never forget your first time, er, job. I believe that.
My first love. I can blame Evergreen Video and its owner, Tom, just a common man, working hard for the American dream, as the source that corrupted me. One day in the late 1980’s my dad was driving me and my brother Kevin around. We spotted Evergreen Video by chance. It began the whole renting craze for us.
I can still hear that little bell that rung each time the door opened. It was a small store with lots of family videos. Up front there was a wooden case full of NES goodness. The smell of the oak wood shelves permeates to this day. If there was ever a quintessential mom ‘n pop rental store, Evergreen Video was surely it.
Tom was a cool guy, and he became sort of like an uncle to me and Kevin. He owned the store and worked there every Saturday afternoon when we would visit. Back then, I even rented my fair share of games that I wanted. I basically picked the games with cool covers. I still remember some of my choice titles.
Tom was so good to us — he even held games for me and Kevin. My brother would call to ask for a game and Tom would hold it for us up to 24 hours. I remember him telling us once, with a big smile, “Only for you guys.”
One time we came in to pick up TMNT II: The Arcade Game. We met Tom’s son that day, and he was playing the game on the small TV they had. I still recall vividly to this day feeling bad that he had to turn off the game so we could rent it. He was on level 4 battling the wolf boss. Funny the little details you remember.
My brother and I were huge Double Dragon fans. We owned and played Double Dragon II to death. So when we found out part III was out, we figured it would be the Holy Grail. Besides, just look at that epic box art. We rented it from Evergreen Video, but it was disappointing for a number of reasons. One, the actual game itself wasn’t as good as we were hoping for. Two, after the first level the game crashed. We received a faulty copy. My dad drove us back to Evergreen, he explained the situation to Tom and Tom was more than happy to give us a no frills exchange.
But here’s the really cool thing. 3 weeks later, Tom told us he received a new copy of Double Dragon III, AND he was holding it, just for Kevin and me! Even though I was a little kid, I remember being blown away by his love and generosity. He really was like another uncle to us. This epitomized the kind of cat that Tom was.
When the Super Nintendo came to the US in late 1991, Tom bought some SNES games to keep up with the changing of the guard. I rented Ultraman: Towards The Future, and sadly, that would be the last game I ever rented from Evergreen Video.
In early 1992, my dad, Kevin and I made our usual Saturday afternoon trek to Evergreen Video. Two reasons we always left the house around noon:
We couldn’t miss our Saturday morning cartoons
The store didn’t open until noon
[Good reason -Ed.]
Unfortunately, that trip would prove to be our last. Tom told us he and the family were moving on. And of course, with my being so young at the time, I didn’t quite get it. I just assumed he would still be there next weekend, and the weekend after that, because it’s Tom. And that’s what Tom does. Your friendly neighborhood mom ‘n pop video store owner.
I didn’t understand the magnitude of his words until a short month or two later when my mom took me shopping. As we passed Evergreen Video, what was once a simple but lovely store, with so many good memories, I stole a glance inside. A part of me expected to still see the wooden shelves, and Tom’s friendly mug situated behind the register counter. Instead, I saw an empty store, torn down in shambles, the floor littered with debris. I felt like crying as I peered in. I lost a little bit of my innocence that day. From that moment on I forever realized that things don’t last forever, no matter how much you want them to.
The stuff dreams are made of. That describes the essence of Game Hunter in a nutshell. They exploded on the scene in 1992 and not before long, developed a cult-like following in my town. They catered to the diehard: NES, Genesis, Neo Geo, SNES, portables and every other system in-between.
Not only did Game Hunter have every system under the sun, they also carried a few arcade cabinets. It was here that I cut my teeth on World Heroes (my all-time favorite franchise from strictly a sentimental value). There was nothing better than scouring through the hundreds of games they carried, then plopping a quarter into one of their cabs while your dad went to check out. Gotta love the simple pleasures of life.
On top of all this, they also carried anime. I’ll never forget when my old best friend, Nelson, rented “Devil Hunter.” We watched it that evening in his room with our friends and Nelly’s little brother, Johnny. I was shocked at the amount of nudity! We tried our best to kick out Johnny, at least Nelson and I did, but we were outmatched by the fierce curiosity of a seven year old. We tried shielding his innocent eyes with Nelson’s pillows, but to no avail. It was sheer chaos as the other guys hooted and hollered at every nipple shot. Ah, to be 10 years old again.
However, the greatest thing about them were the import games they carried. It gave Game Hunter a truly special mystique. Seeing a wall covered with exotic Super Famicom boxes NEVER failed to amaze my little 10 year old eyes. Keep in mind this was back in the early ’90s when none of us had the internet, or a disposable income, or instant access to these titles that we enjoy today. It was truly mind-blowing to see so many imports in front of your face back in 1992.
The first import I ever played and rented was a little Kaneko fighting game by the name of Power Athlete (Power Moves).I rented quite a few imports courtesy of the almighty Game Hunter over the years. It was always a treat to see the Japanese version of a highly anticipated SNES game on the shelf MONTHS before the US version was due. I’ll never forget that fateful day in the summer of ’94 that Nelson and I saw the import versions of Fighter’s History, King of the Monsters 2 and Muscle Bomber (Saturday Night Slam Masters). But, that’s a story for another time. Game Hunter’s import selection was definitely what made them so legendary. Recall that back then, import did not mean just another version of a game but rather, they carried a strong mythical aura.
They also saved games by request. Unfortunately their service was questionable at times. Once I had them hold Fatal Fury for the Genesis. I rounded up my dad and when we got there, the worker said,“I thought you meant the Super Nintendo version. We don’t have the Genesis one.” He didn’t seem very apologetic, either.
My dad absolutely flipped out. And he rarely ever did. If anything he treated everyone with TOO MUCH respect (if that’s possible). But in this instance, the old man truly lost it. Game Hunter was a decent 20 minute drive away, so my dad went to town on the poor dude for wasting our time and gas. I think the term kids use today is, “Owned.”
Game Hunter ended up closing its doors in the late ’90s.
All in all though, I’ll always harbor very fond memories of Game Hunter. The buzz it created and generated within my gaming group was unmatched, and truly a sign of the times. Times that have long passed on…
A couple years ago I was browsing through a topic called “Stores That Don’t Exist Anymore.” When I saw this picture, I had to do a double take. Was it, could it be? Yes! It’s the actual Hollywood Video I frequented as a kid. Man, this picture brings back so many memories. The mountains in the back. How TARGET was right across the street and just to the right of the Target sign was a classic mom and pop rental shop VIDEO MART (which I’ll get to later below). One time my mom was shopping at Target and I decided to sit on the little lawn right there by the Target sign, reading Goosebumps book #26 “My Hairiest Adventure.” Man for some reason that’s a memory that vividly sticks out in my mind. The feeling of being free. Out on the lawn reading my favorite book on a crisp late afternoon in January. Cars zipping by with Hollywood Video as a pleasant backdrop to my reading. A cool little breeze in the air. My own slice of Heaven.
The Hollywood Video in my town opened in 1994 and was only a 5 minute walk away from my house. I made a beeline after school one day. It was the third rental store in a HALF MILE radius. It was the golden age of video stores. A big purple sign draped over the window proudly declared:
FREE MEMBERSHIP! GRAND OPENING!
Like a miner rushing for gold, I made a beeline for the door. The SNES selection was enormous! I spotted Double Dragon V andFighter’s History. I grabbed the former and bolted to the front of the line.
I had $5 cash on me, and Hollywood Video used the same type of renting procedure as did Blockbuster: 5 days roughly $5.
The lady looked at me with her eyebrow raised. It was my first trip to a rental store all by myself and I must have been a sight for sore eyes, standing there all giddy like I had just consumed a gallon of sugar.
“Um, does someone in your family have a membership?”
I replied innocently, “Naw, but your sign says I can get one for free.”
“You would need a driver’s license and credit card for that, though.”
Oh man, I felt like such a damn fool
I have so many fond memories of all those late school nights strolling up and down the horror section and perusing through their 16-bit titles while my dad bought groceries across the street. Of special note was how humongous this place was. At 8,500 glorious square feet, it was the damn biggest rental store I had ever seen.
I captured this shot of my childhood Hollywood Video on a rainy Monday night back in 2006. This location eventually folded in 2010. It was the last renting relic of my youth standing.
Much like Street Fighter II and Doom did, once a phenomenon sweeps a nation, out come the clones. It was no different for video rental stores in the early ’90s. Ultimate Video was perhaps the quintessential example of such. Opening in 1993, they had a mom ‘n pop feel but with the size to match any Blockbuster or Hollywood Video. I really loved the aesthetic of this store. It was also near my cousin’s house. Ultimate Video’s neon green sign lit up the night sky, dazzling you with its flash and glitz. It was the first thing you saw coming off the freeway, and it always drew me in like a moth to flame.
One vivid memory I have in particular of Ultimate Video was renting Halloween 4. As a kid that movie really creeped me out. It really nailed down the atmosphere of Halloween.
Ultimate Video quietly faded away in the late ’90s.
This mom ‘n pop was much larger than the average mom ‘n pop. It had a huge selection of movies, and a small, but memorable game section.
To this day, I remember the funky Sega Master System boxes, like Alex Kidd in Miracle World. U.S. Video was right next to the library, so it was quite convenient. Since my mom took me to the library weekly, I was always able to convince her to let me go to U.S. Video right across the street. Funny thing was, for as much as I frequented this store, rarely did I rent from them. Mostly, I walked the aisles staring at the horror movie boxes and thumbing through their tiny game selection.
OK, confession time. As a kid one of my favorite Genesis games was Fighting Masters. I played it years later in 2006. It was one of those experiences that leave you scratching your head. “Man, what was I thinking all those years ago?!”
The best thing about U.S. Video though were the two arcade cabs they had at opposite ends of their store. On one side you had the mega popular (and always crowded) Street Fighter II cab. On the other end you had a Neo Geo MVS that featured Fatal Fury, Sengoku, King of the Monsters and World Heroes. While I was first exposed to World Heroes at Game Hunter, it was U.S. Video where I played that game the most. The MVS cab was usually open as everyone was busy playing SF II at the other end of the store. Perfectly fine by me! I was content playing World Heroes hassle-free.
I remember fondly the times my mom would go grocery shopping, and luckily enough for me, U.S. Video was just across the street. As my mom bought apples, oranges and pears, I snapped bones and set human bodies on fire. Being on my own as a 9 year old kid, even if it was just for 20 minutes, gave me an incredible sense of freedom and adventure. It’s amazing what kids got away with 25 years ago compared to today. How times have changed.
One evening there was a tough shot 20 something year old playing World Heroes. He was using Janne. I challenged him, using Hanzo. There was a young female employee standing behind the counter, watching with great interest as this little 9 year old kid challenged this 20 something year old punk. He was extremely cocky. Two rounds later, I left him in a bloody and twisted heap. He quietly walked away with one massively bruised ego. I looked over my shoulder and saw that the girl watching had the fattest smile on her face. I still recall that vividly ^_^
And when I wasn’t playing World Heroes or checking out the back of game boxes, I wandered around the many towering wooden shelves of videos. Their horror section sticks out in memory, with the cover of Child’s Play 2 leaving a lasting impression[Gee, I can’t imagine why -Ed.]
U.S. Video shut down in the mid ’90s.
Perhaps the smallest video store I have ever seen. Like Evergreen, it was a family-owned gig, lots of wooden shelves and they would hold games and movies for you. Throughout the early-mid ’90s they held countless WWF new releases for me. SummerSlam ’92, Survivor Series ’93 and so on. Sometimes the waiting list was quite lengthy. Looking back, it was quite a unique system. They made house calls when your movie came in. I still remember the owner calling me one night. “Steve, Leprechaun 2 is back, waiting for you.”
Their small SNES section was not impressive, but it was cheap to rent and the store scored major gas points with my dad — it was only half a mile away from home.
The year was 1989. One night my crazy Uncle Jimmy took me to Video Mart to rent a movie. I saw the cover of Halloween and in my naive 6 year old mind, I thought “Halloween? Cool, I love trick-or-treating!” I begged my uncle to rent it, and he obliged. I spent most of the movie watching it from behind the sofa, and later that night I had a nightmare that Michael Myers was stalking me around the house. And I’ve been a fan ever since. Go figure.
After my family moved in early 1996, I returned to Video Mart one night in late 1996 to rent The Combatribes. Surprisingly, the owner remembered me, and he asked where I had been. You get that kind of connection at these mom and pops that you don’t quite get at the chains like Blockbuster and Hollywood. At any rate, I came back that night because I was homesick. My dad drove me back to my childhood town because he was awesome like that. The Combatribes was the second import game I ever rented and it was a game I rented like 7 times during a 6 year span at 5 different stores. My brother and I beat The Combatribes a couple times before my dad returned it the following night. It was just the nostalgic kick I needed to help me get over my new town blues, at least for one weekend, anyhow.
Video Mart ceased to exist, to my sorrow, for sentimental reasons y’see, in the late ’90s.
Back in the day it was a pretty happening place, and I rented a lot of games there. They had all the SNES games in thick transparent cases. Movies were encased in plastic cases where you had to squeeze and shake for the VHS to slide out.
If you recall from the beginning of this article, I did most of the renting for my brother. He was too shy and lazy to go rent games on his own accord, so he shipped his little bro.
And after years of doing anything constantly, you get to be a bit of a pro at it. A master, even. Kevin told me once, and I never forgot this: “Steve, you sure know how to rent the hell out of games.” It became a badge of honor. Although there were so many times where I saw games that I wanted to rent, I almost always came home with the title my brother requested. I had a 98% kill rate, and I know it sounds silly, but it was something I took pride in.
The summer of ’94 saw my greatest challenge: Super Street Fighter II. I raced to the SNES section madly thumbing through the thick glass display cases. There were a few other guys huddled around, and I knew they were after the same Holy Grail. Instinct took over and I sprinted to the counter. A pimple-faced male employee, who looked like he was 3 weeks fresh out of his senior prom, glanced down at me. Panting, I asked him if he had a copy of Super Street Fighter II safely tucked away back there. I figured it was so rare that maybe they keep it behind the counter in order to avoid the inevitable bloodshed that would occur in the aisle if not. His expression suddenly changed. Flashing me a clandestine smile, as if I’d just shared the secret password he was waiting desperately all day to hear, he reached down behind the counter in dramatic fashion. “Kid, it’s your lucky day. This here is the last one we have.” And right there, in that moment, my childhood was made.
I was absolutely blown away. Time froze. It was the longest 5 minute drive home ever. When Kevin opened the door, you could tell that he was expecting the worst. Even if I was the master of renting, renting Super Street Fighter IIsuccessfully on launch daywas right next to building a rocketship in your garage. Knowing that, I had to mess with him a little bit, so I told him some BS story about how I was too late, etc. He nodded compliantly. “Well, you took your best shot,” he chirped. “YOU BET YOUR ASS I DID!” I eagerly revealed the prized trophy I had kept hidden behind my back.
The Wherehouse, sadly, died off along with the ’90s. But I’ll always have the memories.
Renting was just part of an innocent era that’s sadly gone by the wayside in today’s digital age. Technology has taken over, and simple innocent pleasures like video rental stores have long gone the way of the dinosaur. A relic of the past, I feel sad thinking about how my children will never get to experience this basic childhood joy. Wandering up and down countless aisles surrounded by hundreds of movies and games was blissful. It was like a museum of pure entertainment overload. Good innocent times from a bygone era. It’s really a shame kids these days only know of Redbox and NetFlix. I like those modern conveniences too, but damn if it’ll ever match the pure joy and wonder of visiting the local rental store on a Saturday afternoon. If you were a kid growing up in the early-mid 1990’s, it was a ritual and a way of life. There’s something incredibly sacred about those old video stores and memories.
The joy of renting, whether it was “OH MY GOD! IMPORT!”, connecting with your fellow man, watching your dad stick up for your pride and honor, or snagging the final copy of a popular new release –those were some badass, bitchin’ times.
Today marks 20 years since the release of one of the finest platformers you could play on your SNES: DoReMi Fantasy. I originally wrote about this game nearly 10 years ago when it wasn’t as well known as it is today. When I first got back into all things Super Nintendo (January 2006), I did so in large part because I wanted to get back to my platforming roots. I scoured the net and looked at the entire SNES library. I saw pictures of a Japanese game called “DoReMi Fantasy” and instantly fell in love. Ever see a picture of a game and knew right away that you had to play it? DoReMi Fantasy had me instantly charmed. The Super Famicom has some amazing games that we Westerners sadly never received. DoReMi Fantasy is one of the best. 10 years ago it was actually obscure. It’s a lot more well known these days due to positive word of mouth over the years. Plus, a Wii Virtual Console release in March 2008 certainly didn’t hurt. It isn’t uncommon to find this game on hidden gem and must have SNES lists. It couldn’t happen to a nicer game, as the old saying goes [I’m pretty sure it doesn’t go like that but ok… -Ed.]
DoReMi Fantasy is a highly polished side-scrolling platformer. There are 8 worlds each with their own theme. In each world there’s a minimum of 6 levels followed by a boss. An overhead map allows you to backtrack. The levels aren’t particularly long but they possess plenty of detail, quirky enemies, excellent backdrops, ace set pieces and ultra smooth gameplay. The game’s sound is also noteworthy — it occasionally foregoes music for ambient sound effects instead. It all helps to create a unique world well worth exploring and spending a weekend or two with.
Milon is a great character, full of charm and animated brilliantly. Graphics are outstanding. The game has a real sense of life to it. You really have to see it in motion to fully appreciate it. Milon can take up to 3 hits. His suit starts out green, then turns blue when hit and finally red. Jumping on an enemy’s head will only stun them. To kill them, you have to first encase them in a bubble and then pop them. It’s a slight twist on the ole hop ‘n bop routine that works well. Although it’s nothing groundbreaking by any means, this slight deviation from the norm is welcomed.
From world 2 on, each level contains a Musical Star you must find and grab (usually not that hard, but later on becomes trickier). Therefore, you’re forced to explore the beautiful layouts (if you finish a stage without getting the star, you can’t battle the boss). Speaking of worlds, let’s take a look at them.
1. THE WOODS
It’s the ole standard forest theme world. Although basic, it manages to pull you into its charming world. Something about SNES visuals that just does it for me. Sure, there might be better out there (i.e. Neo Geo) but visuals like this get me every single time. As with any platformer, the first world is simple and will get you acquainted to the game’s mechanics and control. You may feel a bit uninspired initially but it gets much better. Highlights of this world include a log ride, falling leaves over a pit where you must time your leap from one leaf to the next, and a neat little haunted cabin featuring Pinocchio-esque dolls.
2. FOOD CONSTELLATION TYPE WORLD?
If the first world seemed a bit ho-hum to you, then the second world is a lot more likely to catch your eye. It’s not often that you find a themed world consisting of food and drink items combined with a very atmosphere celestial backdrop. It’s almost like some weird acid trip. Lots of neat graphical touches, a surreal and ambient soundtrack and some bizarre-o enemies make these levels particularly memorable.
Launching posts propel Milon high through the air and usually sends the little guy bursting through blocks in the process. And it feels as awesome as it looks.
Another impressive set piece, if you leave Milon idle for a while, he’ll pull his pointy wizard’s hat over his head as the wine comes pouring down over him. It’s a cute, charming moment that brought a smile to my face the very first time I saw it. Moments like this bring DoReMi Fantasy to life.
Some creepy music here! It’s not what you expect, and caught me off guard when I first heard it. It gives this stage a rather eerie, empty feel. Highlights of this world include a bell hopping stage and a unique level where on/off switches litter the floor. Touch any off switch and darkness devours the scene, except for the color of the switches and Milon’s white pupils.
Though much of this level is on land, there are plenty of underwater sequences. I quickly developed a burning hatred for those annoying spear throwing frogmen. And I suspect you will too.
I love this world. It features some of the game’s best looking visuals and stages. It’s incredibly fun to play through. Stage 5-3 is a sled stage that particularly rocks.
Blow a bubble. It’ll freeze, forming a block for Milon to hop on. Brilliant. And yes, as you’d expect those icy blocks are more slippery than a used car salesman. Overall, a really fun world and easily my favorite in the game. So incredibly atmospheric. Those Northern Lights never fail to bring a smile to my heart. You can almost feel the chill. Be sure to play this one by the fireplace if you can
C’mon you knew this was coming! No 16-bit platformer is complete without the ole mandatory fiery-themed level. I don’t mind tropes so long as they’re done well. And Hudson doesn’t fail to deliver here.
Two fairly difficult force-scrolling levels are spread across this blazing world. OK, so DoReMi Fantasy fulfills all the platforming tropes. When it’s this well done though, who cares? Certainly not me.
7. TOYS R US
The toy stages are stunning. The richness of colors immediately jumps out, radiating off your TV screen. It’s a reminder that 16-bit visuals, when done right, has an undeniable charm that hits all the right notes [I see what you did there… DoReMi Fantasy… notes… har har… -Ed.]. In addition to some gnarly visuals, there are plenty of dangerous little gadgets in this toy world from hell. Black Friday ain’t got nothing on this.
There’s also a haunted house-inspired world. But I’ll save some for you to imagine, or better yet, experience it yourself! If you haven’t played this yet and you consider yourself a fan of the 16-bit era platformer, this is a must play. It’s one of the best Super Famicom-only games ever released, and I wouldn’t hesitate to say it could be the best non-Mario platformer on the entire system. Yes, I believe it’s that damn good.
Slowdown does occur but it’s not often nor does it affect gameplay really
When you lose (whether to a boss or anywhere on a level), you start with 1 hit (red suit). So you’ll find yourself backtracking often to restore your health to 3 hits (green suit) before re-facing the boss. Hard love it is, indeed. Yes, you can backtrack because this game incorporates a map
4 character password system (too bad it wasn’t battery-backed). Passwords put you on the 1st stage of that world, so you have to do all the work again if, say, you quit at a boss battle
Hold attack until Milon flashes to unleash his super attack. Some situations require his super attack to advance, so be sure to make a mental note of this
Different power-ups are available and hidden inside breakable items. Power-ups include floating shoes, double bubble, bubble gum (very handy should you fall in a bottomless pit), and so forth.
The storyline unfolds in pictures and text. While the text is in Japanese, there isn’t a whole lot. The pictures are self-explanatory when it comes to these cutscenes introducing new gameplay elements in each world
Milon is a selectable character in Hudson’s Saturn Bomberman (1997)
A fan translation (as seen above) was released in August of 2007. Like I said earlier, you can enjoy the game without the translation as there isn’t much text, but it’s sure nice to get the whole package.
DoReMi Fantasy is an excellent platformer every serious SNES fan should own. It’s a shame it didn’t receive a domestic release. But seeing as how it came out March 1996 (the SNES was practically dead in the US by then), it’s hard to harp on that much. Personally, I think DoReMi Fantasy ranks right up there as one of Super Nintendo’s finest platformers. It’s terrific from top to bottom, and as a friend of mine once put it perfectly: “It’s about as charming as a video game can be.” I couldn’t agree more. Happy 20th anniversary, DoReMi Fantasy!