1987 was a special year for me. It was the year that my childhood pretty much began. 1987 was the year my uncle bought an 8-bit Nintendo for me and my brother. It was also the year I discovered Godzilla and professional wrestling. And of course, you know where this is going, it was 30 years ago today (TO THE DAY) that the first cartoon episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aired. I still remember watching the premier and being completely blown away. The Ninja Turtles became a huge part of my childhood, and I can’t think of a better way to close out 2017 here on RVGFanatic than to honor the franchise that began (in cartoon form) 30 years ago today.
Any child who grew up in the late ’80s remembers the above all too well. It was a staple of many childhoods, and had kids glued to their television sets on Saturday mornings all across the world. Who could ever forget that classic first episode? We learned about how the turtles came to be and the challenges that lay before them. The original series ran from 1987-1996 and spawned a whopping 193 episodes.
The Turtles became a massive hit. Not only was a cartoon series flourishing but soon came the toys and video games.
The Turtles became a cultural phenomenon by the early ’90s. They were everywhere you looked. It was a great time to be a kid.
The design on Season Four was my personal favorite thanks to Raph’s gorgeous face protruding out of the cover. Not to mention the set contained a whopping 39 episodes.
About a week ago, my girlfriend took me to this arcade pub in her hometown. They had a bunch of old arcade cabs. I almost fell over when we spotted the original Ninja Turtles arcade game. I hadn’t played it in well over 25 years. Too bad they didn’t have Turtles in Time as well but this definitely brought back memories.
THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN
HEROES IN A HALF SHELL
NA: Normal Attack RA: Rush Attack ST: Special Technique D: Defense S: Speed
Konami’s faithful and awesome intro never gets old, especially when you factor in the steller Ninja Turtles theme.
Mikey was always my guy.
Konami did such a great job porting the arcade game over. They even threw in some bonus features, such as a Time Trial and Versus mode. Options were plentiful and you could customize it to your liking. It doesn’t make up for losing the four player mode (the SNES probably couldn’t handle it properly) but it’s better than nothing.
Channel 6 News is on the scene with April O’Neil. Wherever April goes, trouble usually isn’t too far behind.
Shredder does his evil laughter and the Turtles spring into action.
Silhouette of the stage’s boss is shown at the beginning of each level. I always thought that was a nice touch. The Foot Soldiers make for the perfect beat ‘em up cannon fodder.
Watch out for the wrecking ball! I love how the Foot Soldiers explode into oblivion.
Avoid Krang’s laser eye beams. What a brilliant way to incorporate Krang’s exosuit early on. I love it when games use a bit of foreshadowing. The first boss is good ol’ Baxter Stockman. Eat yer heart out, Jeff Goldblum.
Things can get sticky fast. Time to put this pest down!
Alleycat Blues, what a great friggin’ name. Can’t have a beat ‘em up without some back alley brawling, can we?
Interact with the environment and use it to your advantage. You can also deflect manhole covers back at the Foot Soldiers. Nice!
DON’T try this at home, kids.
Roadkill Rodneys may well become the bane of your existence. Foot Soldiers can fill the screen quick.
Become a tornado of destruction by touching the pizza box with the bomb symbol.
MechaGodzilla, I mean, MechaTurtle, I mean, Metalhead… damnit.
Scrapheap that ass!
Totally tubular! Sorry. But yeah, this is a nice break from the norm.
Careful or you’ll be doing the Turtle Dance.
Yellow Pizza Monsters… ah, my childhood. The Rat King gives a little speech at the end. Oh my foolish child. You had to do the whole bad guy exposition spiel, didn’t ‘cha?
Firepower game is on point, admittedly. But Donatello spots a weak point and exploits it for all it’s worth. See ya in hell, Rat King!
Technodrome! What a nostalgic sight.
Turtles leap into action like only they can. The silhouette reveals Tokka from the second TMNT movie. Nice.
Mobile Offensive Underground Search Excavation and Retrieval Sentries, or Mousers for short (thank goodness), are introduced here. They’re as annoying as Mousers.
These two were featured in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.
Tokka and Rahzar can freeze or grill you.
AWWW! How stinkin’ cute. But the level continues.
Never gets old tossing Foot Soldiers at the screen
Shredder has an obsession with turtle soup. This boss fight was not in the arcade. Konami made this exclusively for the SNES to further utilize their Mode 7 Foot Soldier tossing, which was also new to the SNES port. Bless those Konami lads.
Maybe I’m operating on a hunch here but ya know something… I think Shredder might have some anger management issues.
Traveling back in time… way back!
Dinosaurs AND TMNT? TAKE MY MONEY!
Revenge of the Foot Clan: they certainly are a lot tougher now. And to make matters even worse, the Rock Soldiers join the fray.
Break out your special move in a pinch. It’ll damage nearby enemies from both sides. Of course, this comes at the expense of some health. And hey, beat ‘em up trope #87: bad guys throwing explosives and running away.
Flattened like a pancake. Blue Foot Soldiers fly at the screen butt first.
Slash… AKA one tough son of a bitch.
Metalhead this ain’t. I can never beat him on just one life.
Finally. GAWD DAMN.
Marty McFly would be proud.
Announcer reading the title of each stage always takes me to a happy place. Ouch — I felt that one too, Mikey.
Archery lessons. Lucky me. Careful where you step!
These Rock Soldiers are giving Michelangelo one hell of a hard time. Sorry.
Rocksteady and Bebop… it just wouldn’t be a proper TMNT game without these two buffoons.
Another awesome stage name — Bury My Shell At Wounded Knee. I can’t help but smile each time I see that title. The Foot Soldiers keep learning new tricks, don’t they?
Riding horses and playing hide and seek, even!
Keeping up with the (Casey) Joneses, the Rock Soldiers reveal a few new tricks of their own.
Leaping over rolling barrels is always a good time, especially when said barrels knock over a few Foot Soldiers in the process. Leatherhead (no relation to Leatherface) is still pissed at that little kid who flushed him down the toilet…
Animations are incredibly detailed and, at times, hilarious.
2020… it’s crazy that we’re just about two years away. TWO! 2020 back in 1992 felt like it would never come. Neon Night-Riders was truly mind-blowing back in 1992.
Mousers and flying Foot Soldiers can really put a damper on your night.
Details help make a game more memorable. I love being able to see Super Krang flying in the background. It builds up the anticipation of the eventual showdown.
Bosses flash like crazy as they weaken. Classic.
Welcome to the year 2100, Where No Turtle Has Gone Before. The sliding attack works well so be sure to use it.
Flinging Foot Soldiers at the screen never gets old.
Nothing beats karate kicking a Foot Soldier upside its head. Beware of the futuristic traps that lie ahead.
Watch out for the Rock Soldiers who have some new toys to play with.
Krang is back. Time to pop his bubble!
Krang’s beautiful demise leads our heroes to the portal back home. Quick, don’t miss it!
Prepare to meet the Super Shredder. There are no Foot Soldiers, Mousers or Rock Soldiers to fight beforehand. You’re taken straight to the final boss. No boss gauntlet. Super Shredder wants you all to himself…
Somebody really wants their turtle soup. Save the Statue of Liberty!
Versus Mode pits you against a friend. Pick from any of the four Turtles. It’s not the greatest mode in the world, but at least it’s something extra. There is also a Time Trial Mode.
Select from either the classic animation look or the 1984 comic book look, which is darker and grittier. Doesn’t really make much of a difference but it’s a neat little bonus for diehard TMNT fans.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Turtles in Time was well received by the press. EGM gave it scores of 9, 9, 9 and 9. Super Play rated it 84%. Most people call this game the best beat ‘em up on the SNES. I certainly don’t disagree, although I would rank Super Double Dragon (in its Japanese form) a close second place. You know a game is special when people are still talking fondly about it more than 25 years later.
The Ninja Turtles celebrate 30 years today. Although they made their first appearance in May of 1984 through the comic book medium, they are perhaps most well known for their 1987 cartoon iteration. I know that’s how I was exposed to TMNT as well as countless other kids who grew up in the late ’80s. They’ve given us so many memories over the years. My girlfriend and I recently played Turtles in Time and it still holds up extremely well. Of course, some animations and speech samples had to be sacrificed. Not to mention the epic four player mode is nowhere to be found, but at its core still lies an awesome and fast moving beat ‘em up. The visuals are well animated and cartoony; it feels like a Saturday morning cartoon come to life. The sound and music are memorable as well and complements the onscreen mayhem nicely. Hearing the TMNT theme blare during the opening intro never gets old. Best of all, the game is fast, smooth and a joy to play alongside a friend. Many SNES beat ‘em ups capped out at three enemies simultaneously appearing on the screen, but Turtles in Time pulls off four enemies without a hitch. Sometimes there is even more. This leads to a more frenetic experience that truly feels like a slice (pardon the pun) of its arcade original.
My fondest memory with this game took place seven years ago (Christmas 2010). My cousins flew in from Texas and that night the lot of us rotated turns playing Teenage Mutant Ninjas Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. We had a blast and my cousin was drunk with nostalgia, saying how this was her favorite arcade game from her childhood. Ironically, it wasn’t just the Ninja Turtles who went back in time that night. It’s one of my fondest gaming memories. TMNT was born to be a beat ‘em up. Four heroes to pick from, a ton of Foot Soldier variants and a badass end boss in Super Shredder. It was a match made in Heaven. I had a great time playing this game 25 years ago in 1992 and it’s just as fun to play 25 years later in 2017. Along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters, Konami gave SNES owners two of the best TMNT games of all time. Speaking of time, that’s my exit cue. See y’all in 2018! I hope 2017 treated you well. Here’s to a kickass new year — “COWABUNGA!”
It’s Friday, March 3. This date is known for two things. First, Nintendo released their brand new Nintendo Switch on this day. But the even bigger thing? Today marks 3 Ninjas Day. March 3. 3/3. 3 Ninjas. Geddit? OK, all kidding aside, 3 Ninjas Kick Back has its place in Super Nintendo lore. The box and manual command a small fortune. Diehard collectors place insane bids whenever either shows up on eBay. The game itself is rarely talked about and whenever it is, people usually bash the hell out of it. Released with no fanfare, 3 Ninjas Kick Back came and went like so many other SNES games in the mid ’90s. But for once, I’d like to take a moment to highlight the game itself rather than the box and manual. Is the game really that bad? In short, no. In fact, from where I sit at least, it’s actually pretty decent. But before I get to that, I have to address the elephant in the room…
It’s no secret that SNES games these days tend to command a pretty penny. Particularly the boxes and manuals. The market has steadily climbed the past seven years or so. Sure, prices have fluctuated but I don’t think the “bubble” will burst any time soon. Take, for instance, 3 Ninjas Kick Back. If you didn’t know by now, the box and manual for this game is rather scarce. So when it does pop up, it fetches a staggering price. It’s seemed to come down a bit in recent times, though. But the cartridge itself has gone from $20 to $100+. Go figure. A few years back, a complete copy actually sold for $2,000. You read right — TWO THOUSAND FREAKING BUCKS. Holy crap. But a check on eBay reveals a complete copy recently ended at “just” $500. That’s still plenty nuts when you think about it! It makes me glad I got back into the scene when I did (January 2006). The demand for these relics from our youth is at an all-time high like never before.
When I got back into all things SNES in January 2006, I didn’t really care about owning the boxes and manuals. Aside from RPG manuals, I was fine with having just the cartridge. Once I bought the majority of the games I wanted, I bought a few boxes and manuals where I could due to how cheap they were at the time. As I saw my collection expanding, the urge to own a “complete” collection grew and grew. I took that goal seriously when I began snatching up boxes and manuals to complete my cartridges in 2007. Due to boxes and manuals typically going for peanuts (relatively speaking), I was able to cross them off my list one by one between the years 2007-2011. Only one eluded me all those years: 3 Ninjas Kick Back. I only saw the box and manual maybe three or four times in the five years I’d been hunting. Each one sold for a fair amount. I was lucky to buy the manual in late 2011 before acquiring the box in March 2012.
I consider my acquisition of the 3 Ninjas Kick Back box to be the moment I more or less retired from active SNES collecting. This month actually mark five years since I bought the box. I didn’t even realize that until just now. It’s pretty cool when these random things happen like such. Time flies!
To fund the insane amount it took to buy the box, I parted with some highly sought after SNES items of my own that I was willing to sacrifice. I sold off my copy of Incantation. It included the manual and a pretty banged up box for $200 (it’s another high end SNES collectible). I sold some doubles as well to finally amass enough to cover the charge. Nothing feels sweeter than not having to pay out of your own pocket, so to speak!
It feels damn good to be retired ^_^
INSTANT CHILDHOOD CULT CLASSIC
Movies like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Home Alone were smash hits in 1990. Someone had the brilliant idea of crossing the two and thus, in the summer of 1992, 3 Ninjas was born. My brother and I loved it. We rented and watched it dozens of times, damn near wearing out the tape. Take three young brothers trained in ninja techniques from a young age, throw in Victor Wong as the ass kicking Grandpa Mori along with some dim-witted hooligans to serve as the perfect foil, and you get an instant childhood cult classic.
If you mix Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Home Alone, you would get something very similar to 3 Ninjas. It was so successful that it spawned three sequels: 1994’s 3 Ninjas Kick Back, 1995’s 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up, and 1998’s 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (starring Hulk Hogan who at the time was leading the nWo… Ninja World Order). I’ve only seen the first two. The first film is the best. The first sequel was decent but clearly the magic was gone by then. I rather not watch the last two films based on what I’ve heard…
THE STORY GOES…
While an action platformer at heart, there is a slight beat ‘em up feel to 3 Ninjas Kick Back. This is thanks to each ninja having his own special move. It’s good for taking out a crowd of enemies but it comes at the expense of some health. This platforming / beat ‘em up hybrid style works!
You start out on a small ledge which is magically suspended in mid-air. A giant boulder rests behind you. As soon as you start moving to the right, it falls and gives chase. This can easily frustrate players right off the bat; the game doesn’t start off so hot. But press on because it does get better.
As you try to outrun the rolling rock of doom, stalactites fall on cue. You have two options here. Eat each of the three falling attacks, or stop and wait for the stalactite to drop harmlessly while the rock rolls you over. Thankfully, the rock only saps four of your six health boxes. Or you can race through the three stalactites and eat three hits of damage before leaping to safety. Either way, you can’t avoid getting hit here. I can see why this left a bad taste in people’s mouth right off the bat -_-
You can propel yourself to new heights by grabbing onto a rope, vine or tree branch. It does take a bit of working out to get the hang of things, but once you do you’ll be swinging around like a monkey. The control isn’t perfect but it’s not terrible, either. Workable describes it best.
Very nice indeed, those red crystals. They even cause unseen items high above the screen to fall down for the taking. I also like how the screen turns red as a bursting sound effect rips across the land. Good stuff, and it was little details like this early on that gave me hope this might actually turn out to be a decent little game.
I usually don’t care for collecting items in platformers. It’s something I do out of necessity rather than enjoyment. But in 3 Ninjas Kick Back I’ll actually go out of my way to collect them all. That’s because when you collect one, you hear a sweet sound effect. Plus it’s fun to see the mini stars and point bonuses popping up.
Remember when video games had health boxes? 3 Ninjas Kick Back does. There’s also a timer which adds a sense of urgency. This game elicits a bit of an old school 8-bit NES platforming feel, which is perfectly fine by me.
Destroy all eight training dummies before the timer expires. Scattered throughout the forest, you’ll be searching high and low. Some are tucked away in alcoves. Others are heavily guarded by obstacles and various dangers. And never forget: look before you leap. Dummies require several hits to break. I love the way their limbs go flying in every which direction! My personal method of preference? Why, swinging overhead until they submit to my heart’s foul desires!
Being a youthful nimble ninja certainly has its advantages. You can leap pretty high on your own, but you’ll soar like a bird when combining your techniques with your environment.
Grabbing onto a rope can be a little tricky. You have to press up while jumping. Be ready to aim for the tree branch there should you miss the rope. Any port in a storm, eh?
Mori and rival ninjas will occasionally fire a series of shurikens at you from high above. Thankfully, you can block these ninja stars with a well-timed overhead attack. I love that this offensive strike doubles as a defensive tool. And look at how the shurikens bounce harmlessly off your weapon — nice!
Don’t look scared now, Rocky. This dummy thought he was clever hiding out in this alcove but even his most deceptive and cunning strategy cannot evade your deft ninja senses. It’s time to do the honors. Give the piñata a couple stiff whacks. NEXT!
As the dummies start to dwindle down and Mori realizes your true ninja potential, he decides to employ a different strategy — good old fashioned bribery!
Bridges, ledges, alcoves. Every square inch here is teeming with danger. Wooden blocks shoot out sharp needles while bloodthirsty bats are out on the prowl. Thankfully, you’re skilled enough to attack while hanging from a ledge. Once you show that flippant bat who’s boss, use your core strength to flip up and put that block out of its misery.
I like playing as these nimble little bastards. They can hang on, flip up or flip down. Different options lead to more gameplay variety. Being able to do a number of things from this position presents you with a set of choices and really puts you in the driver’s seat. It’s details like this that help make 3 Ninjas Kick Back surprisingly decent.
This is where the game begins to pick up some steam. I suspect those that bash this game quit before getting to this level. The first couple levels are uninspiring and meh. It’s easy to stop there and declare the game worthless. But players who press on may find some actual merit.
You’re hanging precariously on the ledge as a black ninja (with an even blacker heart) maliciously heaves a barrage of shurikens. But being the nimble ninja you are, you manage to evade the attack by flipping up and snapping his neck in two. All in one fell swoop. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Really?! Another Mori Marker to start out the stage. You can’t help but laugh a little bit. Grandpa Mori straight up trolling us now!
You’ll run into Koga’s nephew, Glam, and his two bumbling lackeys, Slam and Vinnie, throughout Mori’s not so secluded cabin. This is the first stage that lets you interact with the environment. For example, you can kick a basketball at the fumbling Grungers. The amount of different ways you can dispose of them is rather humorous.
You have three options here:
1. Bash him until he sees little yellow birdies.
2. Shatter his shin with that rolling Tonka truck of doom!
3. Cranium crushing chandelier!
Whichever method you prefer, it suits the game’s goofy slapstick atmosphere extremely well.
The hi-jinx and shenanigans continue. You can either lure one of the goons and let him slip on the water, or for the truly sadistic folks out there you can knock the toaster over into the pool of water. You can imagine what happens next when one of the bumbling buffoons stumble right into your trap — ZAP! Come on, can a game with this kind of humor really be THAT bad?
Seriously, how bad can a game really be when it lets you electrocute the hell out of an enemy in such a comical fashion? You can’t help but appreciate the dash of black comedy here.
Glam just doesn’t know when to quit. But you have bigger fish to fry, such as finding the last three items. Make your way to the rooftop where things get a wee bit hairier.
These black ninjas rule the rooftop, making life more difficult than Glam, Slam and Vinnie ever could. Watch out for the sandwich attacks. When they toss their deadly shurikens from high above, swing your weapon overhead to cancel their foul plans. Few things in this game satisfy like hearing and seeing a bevy of ninja stars clank off your sword.
Up until now you may have noticed there hasn’t been any bosses. If you’re anything like me, then you get a big kick out of confronting a traditional boss at the conclusion of each stage. 3 Ninjas Kick Back actually does have a few bosses, but only a few. The first of which will come in the next stage. Typically, it annoys me when there isn’t a boss at the end of each level, but for this game, I didn’t mind it. It even seemed to fit the game, oddly enough. The few bosses that do exist are by no means memorable boss battles. A few of them are downright annoying.
Hospitals are places you’d rather avoid if you can. But this wacky hospital is a fun romp thanks in large part to its black comedy moments.
Strike this metal trash can to send it packing. The interactive environment adds to the game’s charm and is true to its source material. These hi-jinx opportunities occur in only a few levels, but I like how they’re sandwiched in-between the more serious stages.
“NOTHING STOPS THIS TRASH CAN” as the great Heisenberg would say. It doubles as a defensive and offensive prop ^_^
Rescue the hostages and free the slaves!
“Who are you talking to right now?
Who is it you think you see?
Do you know how much I have made from the 3 NINJAS movies?
I mean even if I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.
No you clearly don’t know who you’re talking to, so let me clue you in.
I am NOT in danger, Mister MUTHA-FUKKEN Grunger. I AM THE DANGER!“
“Who the hell are you?”
“You know exactly who I am. Say my name.”
“DO WHAT? Man, I don’t have a DAMN clue who the hell you are.”
“Yeah you do. I’m the kook. I’m the man who killed the box office.”
“Bullshit. The CROW got the box office. 50 million. May 11, 1994.”
“You sure?That’s right. Now… SAY MY NAME.”
“YOU’RE GOD DAMN RIGHT!”
PSST, WHAT’S THE PASSWORD?
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
3 Ninjas Kick Back received minimal press back in the day. I don’t recall one review or preview for the SNES version. Keep in mind that both EGM and GameFan Magazine covered a LOT of games. So it was pretty rare for a Super Nintendo game to miss the cut entirely. Part of that no doubt is the fact that 3 Ninjas Kick Back arrived at a tightly contested time. That holiday season of ’94 was a star studded lineup for the SNES. Being a licensed game of a movie series that wasn’t exactly hot at the time didn’t do it any favors. A 3 Ninjas game released in 1992 would have done much better. Instead, 3 Ninjas Kick Back found itself stuck between a rock and a hard place with nowhere to go but down into a spike-filled pit. This game has a negative reputation online. I wonder how many people who wrote this game off actually played it beyond the first couple levels. It’s no gem by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s really not that shabby and doesn’t deserve the hate that it seems to get.
WHAT THE BOX SAID | WHAT I SAY
1. The visuals are a little bland in some parts while decent looking in others. “Scorching hot” is classic mid ’90s hyperbole.
2. Interacting with the various items is probably the best thing about this game, but sadly it is only for a few levels.
3. A two player co-op option is definitely nice. But I’m not sure about “intense.”
4. If by “tons” they meant “some” then sure, OK.
5. Sound effects are surprisingly pretty cool, but not “awesome.”
6. Definitely not many nasty looking bosses as there are only three or so.
7. While the later levels have a bit more “meat” to them, the earlier levels are incredibly short. There’s even one level that you can polish off in about 10 seconds flat. So yeah, not exactly “huge.”
All in all, your typical exaggerated back of the box to hype the game up as much as possible. To their credit, while the hyperbole is a bit off, at least it’s a playable game. It is very faithful to the film and Malibu did the best they could with the license.
While 3 Ninjas Kick Back will never be mentioned in the same breath as the classics of the SNES library, it shouldn’t be lumped in with some of the true SNES stinkers, either. It’s a decent game that has a quirky quasi-beat ‘em up feel to it, spliced in with copious amounts of platforming action. Then pepper in a few sprinkles of dark comedy for good measure and you get a surprisingly decent effort.
One of the great things about this hobby is the ability to play these old games for the first time and form your own opinion. After playing this game thoroughly I was genuinely shocked at all the negative feedback this one received in the past. The beautiful thing about this hobby is you might like a game most people don’t. The longer I played 3 Ninjas Kick Back, the more I appeciated what the programmers did. Little details like flinging a toy truck into a bumbling lackey’s shin or deflecting a projectile attack from above with a well-timed overhead swing, 3 Ninjas Kick Back is a lot more playable than one may initially expect. Besides, what can beat throwing your old wheelchair bound Grandpa Mori into an unsuspecting punk?
With three different characters to select from, a two player mode and some quirky levels to navigate, 3 Ninjas Kick Back is a surprisingly solid licensed video game. Whether it’s rigorous skirmishes with your grandpa in the forest, or outwitting the Grungers and crew in the hospital, the game features some nice versatility. I love the levels with objects in the background that you can interact with. It’s a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously; I find the dark humor to be rather subtle and effective. The game can be a bit difficult in certain spots, but it can be vanquished with some good ole persistence and smarts. There aren’t a lot of bosses, and the few that exist aren’t particularly well executed, so in the end perhaps the lack of bosses is a blessing in disguise. It’s the level designs instead that somewhat deliver. They’re not original or overly brilliant but they’re competently structured, providing some platforming fun along the way. 3 Ninjas Kick Back is a fairly decent game that offers a somewhat enjoyable mix of the beat ‘em up and platforming genre. It was much better than I anticipated it to be, but of course, your mileage may vary. Not every game has to be a classic — there’s definitely a place for quirky decent games with a healthy dose of humor. And this game fits that bill better than expected.
Ah, Christmas. As a kid growing up, there was something truly sacred about Christmas. It was a magical time of the year where miracles happen and wonder is in the air. Every kid I knew looked forward to Christmas. Whether we were writing letters to Santa or out shopping at the local mall with our parents, Christmas was magic. And the best time of the year to be a kid. As soon as that calendar strikes October, you were in kid Heaven. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. The promise of frights, food overload and video game presents. I’ve had some great gaming-related memories of Christmas over the years. Here they are
CHRISTMAS 1989: THE GAME WAS CHANGED
In December 1989, my brother and I owned an 8-bit Nintendo. We loved it dearly. But one day we went to our family friend’s house. Denny was raving about his new game system, the Sega Genesis. I was only six years old, but I remember it as if it was yesterday. Denny showed us the cool clamshell box of Altered Beast. The art on the cover blew me away with its wild beasts and savage wolf man. Before Denny opened the box he asked me, “How big do you think the game is?” Hmmm, I figured since it was bigger than Nintendo, surely the cartridge had to be huge. Denny shook his head with a sly grin. He slowly opened the box to reveal the tiniest cartridge I had ever seen in my life. I was stupefied. The next big leap in video gaming was that small? Denny popped Altered Beast in and I sat back to watch. From the moment the game fired up and I heard the infamous voiceover “WISE FROM YOUR GRAVE!” I was hooked and sold. The graphics were jaw dropping! So too was the sound. I never looked at gaming quite the same after that fateful December day of 1989.
Over the years I remember going back to Denny’s place a lot during December. We held many family friend gatherings there. I remember watching him play games like Dynamite Duke, Thunder Force III and Gaiares. Man, what a time of innocence it was. Not only were we on the verge of a new decade, we found ourselves standing smack dab in a new generation of hi-tech gaming! And life, well, life was awesome. But just when I thought gaming couldn’t get any better, it did…
CHRISTMAS 1991: SUPER NINTENDO GENESIS
I was eight years old on vacation with my family and friends. My family forged a strong friendship with four families. Between the five families you had 10 parents and 16 kids (11 boys and five girls with birth years ranging from 1977-1987). We had some of the most legendary sleepovers in the history of such. We had monthly sleepovers and each time we would stay up until 1, 2 AM playing video games. It was a glorious time, and some of the best times of my childhood.
In December 1991, the parents wanted to go skiing at beautiful Lake Tahoe. We rented out a huge cabin where all twenty six of us stayed. It was insanity! The brothers, Tommy and Denny, packed their newly acquired Super Nintendo. This is the same Denny that first introduced me to the Sega Genesis and Altered Beast. You know how in every childhood gaming circle there was that one guy who got all the coolest newest games and systems first? Denny was that guy. Tommy and Denny also brought Super Mario World, Final Fight and F-Zero.
That Sunday morning I woke up to an empty cabin, with weird noises emanating in every which direction. A cold chill swept down the back of my neck as I tip-toed downstairs timidly. Desperately calling out the names of my family and friends, it wasn’t long until I realized I was the lone prisoner trapped inside this cabin from hell.
The only response I received for my cries was the hissing of the cabin. I felt a chill creep over once more. Some thing wasn’t right…
Once I managed to make my way to the kitchen I found a note taped to the fridge with my name on it.
Steve, The rest of us got up early to go out for breakfast. We’ll be back soon. You stayed up really late last night so I wanted you to get the extra rest. Make yourself some Honey Nut Cheerios and don’t watch too much TV. We’ll be back very soon.
Gee, thanks mom. I’ll be sure to remember this when I go to the booth next week to cast my vote in for Mom of the Year! I opened the fridge and saw an ice cold can of 7 Up. It was my favorite soda but there was no chance in hell I was going to brave it down that demonic looking hallway to make it to the restroom. No siree!
Ever feel a presence in the room with you? That someone, or something, is watching you? That’s how I felt on that cold, dreary December morning of 1991. But being eight years old and resourceful, I believed spirits would never mess with me if I had the radio or TV playing — they only attacked those who were alone. So I turned on the tube and came across a WWF show. Ah, wrestling. It’s always comforted me and did so here. But before long the show ended and I was left thinking about what evil spirits might be milling about. That’s when I spotted Tommy’s Super Nintendo lying on the floor. All the older “cool” kids were taking turns with it the night before, and the younger kids (of which I was right on the cusp of) could do nothing but peer on wishing life had dealt them a better hand. So it suddenly dawned on me that this was my chance. This was my moment.
Powering up F-Zero, I was instantly transported to Mode-7 Heaven. Every single racing track blew my mind. I couldn’t believe how fast it played, and how AMAZING the game looked. And that MUSIC… oh man. F-Zero led me from thinking about ghosts to obsessing over intergalactic racing warfare! Later I plugged in Final Fight and found myself saving the good citizens of Metro City one jaw dropping stage after another, as I smeared the streets with the blood of the hooligans from the Mad Gear Gang. I had never seen such state-of-the-art arcade-like graphics before. The characters were unbelievably HUGE and at times I found myself wondering, “WHERE THE HECK IS THE COIN SLOT?!”
I played Final Fight until my family and friends came back. Part of me was ecstatic to no longer be alone in the cabin from hell, but something funny happened during my inaugural SNES playthrough. It made me forget about malicious ghosts and evil spirits. It instead transported me to the future of video gaming, where you could snap a guy’s neck in two and soar 200 feet across a race track suspended high above a futuristic city — all in stunning graphics and sound. Even 25 years later, I still recall that Christmas with great reverence
CHRISTMAS 1992: KING OF THE KARTS
My mom and I used to go to the mall all the time. It was one of our traditions. She took me after school every Friday, rain or shine. I loved it because this was a time in life when the world was a different place. Even as young as 8, my mom allowed me to hit up my stores while she went shopping for clothes. This gave me a great sense of independence and for about 30 minutes I was on my own completely! I always visited Suncoast, Kay Bee Toys, Walden Books, Sam Goody, and of course, the classic SOFTWARE ETC.
Now rarely did she ever end up buying me anything once we reconvened, but that was never the point. It was fun enough thumbing through books, EGM magazines and drooling at the various action figures. It was the feeling that it produced. Just knowing you were on your own for half an hour made going to the mall a fun time. But the best times always came during Christmas season.
The mall Santa was there taking pictures, kissing babies and shaking little hands. At nine and a half years old now, I was too old for that stuff, but not old enough to not still believe in the magic of Christmas. So instead of sitting on Santa’s lap, I simply sat back from afar to admire what had been, and what once was.
My mom came over asking if I wanted to meet the mall Santa, but I told her I was too old. She looked at the kids rushing up to Santa just 20 feet away from us, lost in her thoughts. Somewhere in her aging face I saw her loosen up, as if she suddenly missed the days when I was that young scampering around. Perhaps it was the right kind of Christmas magic I’d need for what was about to transpire on that most magical late December evening…
There it was, plastered in big and bold blue letters. I always made it a point to hit up SOFTWARE ETC. each time we visited the mall. Of course, I could only dream of my mom complying to buy me a video game. Still, like a moth to flame, those bold blue letters always sucked me in. I stood there that evening in sheer awe of the endless shelves of SNES goodies — games in which I could only dream of owning. And then, there it was. High on the shelf I saw it, shining like a beacon of light. KING OF THE MONSTERS for the Super Nintendo! It was just one short year ago that I’d beaten the arcade and thought to myself, “Man, I can’t wait for this to come home!” And now, it finally has. Only one problem, of course. How can I convince mom to buy it? Standing there, staring at the pristine shiny King of the Monsters box, my mind desperately raced through everything I could think of in order to weigh the odds in my favor.
I didn’t have very long to think…
“C’mon honey, we gotta get back home now.”
“What is it?”
“That…” I pointed to the King of the Monsters box sitting on the top shelf. “I want that.”
OK, so much for poetic language and convincing arguments.
My mom gave me “the look.” Uh oh. In the history of “momkind” the look has never been good news. Whether it was a look of frustration, disappointment or disgust, the look has denied kids an untold number of desserts, toys and video games. This task, I could tell, was going to be about as easy as Quantum Physics.
“Honey, that’s fifty five dollars.”
“No, it’s fifty four ninety nine!” I quickly countered. HA! I thought I had her — ahh, the bliss of being nine years old…
“Well actually with tax it’s about sixty,” she corrected.
Well DAMN. Talk about backfiring!
And then, out of nowhere, it hit me. My trump card. I explained to her how it was my favorite game, how I had to have it, and how much joy it would bring Kevin and me. And that if she bought it, it would count for not only my Christmas gift but also my birthday as well.
My mom grabbed the box to examine it closer. “Hey, isn’t this the game you played all night last year at Chuck E. Cheese’s? Is this the same one?”
***FLASHBACK TO DECEMBER 1991***
December 1991. My parents took me and my brother to our favorite place, Chuck E. Cheese’s, to celebrate the end of the year. My mother was rather strict so these rare opportunities where she allowed us to binge on our desires were not taken for granted! They ordered two large pizzas and got us 50 tokens. I knew where I was going to be for the rest of that night — at the King of the Monsters cab determined to beat it! It took me some time and way too many quarters to count but at last I did it, all while my mom sat back at the table eating unwanted leftover pizza crust and watching the whole thing go down.
***BACK TO DECEMBER 1992***
I nodded furiously and watched as my mom bit her lower lip, contemplating what to do. Finally, after what seemed like forever, she took the game to the counter. I stood there in awe watching as they swiped her credit card. It was the first video game she bought for me. Outside I could hear the chattering of youngsters and the HO-HO-HOs of the mall Santa. The Christmas season was ringing in full force, and this bit of Christmas magic only punctuated the moment. My brother and I played King of the Monsters as soon as I got home. It turned out to be a ho-hum translation but at the time I remember not caring a great deal about that. I was just grateful and still buzzing with excitement at the fact that the Christmas magic was still alive and well!
A couple days after my mom bought the game, I was playing it one night with my brother when she urged us to turn it off so we could drive downtown to see the fancy Christmas lights. It was a basic tradition in my family that every Yuletide we do so. I love the lights but that year my parents had to pry me away from my Super Nintendo. I guess as my brother and I got older, the more my mom fought to keep tradition alive. Like how she wanted me to sit on Santa’s lap the night she bought me the game. I guess that’s something I’ll find out for myself one of these days… [Sitting on Santa’s lap? How kinky. I see you’re on that naughty list… -Ed.]
Christmas ’92 proved to be one for the record books. In addition to my mom buying me King of the Monsters, that same year our uncle bought us Death Duel. I remember the ad from EGM. It looked cool and all, but honestly, my brother and I were a bit disappointed. Of all the games on our wish list, Death Duel certainly wasn’t even in the top 20. We tried not to complain though as our mom always taught us to be grateful and that any gift was better than none at all. Still, Kevin and I went home that night talking about how awesome it would be if Death Duel magically transformed into Super Mario Kart instead (the game that topped our Christmas wish list). It was rare that my brother and I both wanted the same game — he was a “mainstream” guy while I was more fond of the obscure underdog titles. However, Super Mario Kart transcended all of that. It was just that kind of game.
And then, as we were talking, an epiphany struck us. We suddenly recalled the ad for Death Duel in EGM. We pulled out the latest EGM issue that we had bought weeks earlier and madly flipped through it in search of our great loophole. Ah, there it was. Not suggested for children under 14. I was only nine and my brother was 11. My brother wouldn’t be able to play Death Duel for another three years! And five for me! Not that we couldn’t break the rules but when the rules benefit you, why not follow them?
After showing the ad to our mom, just as we predicted she would, she promptly called our uncle to explain the situation and asked if he kept the receipt. Luckily, he did and since we hadn’t opened the game yet, it was ripe for a swap. So later that week my mom took me and Kevin to exchange Death Duel for Super Mario Kart. I remember thinking that it was the greatest trade in the history of mankind. I still laugh thinking about this Christmas memory. Who knew a silly ad could bring about such a dramatic turn of events?
CHRISTMAS 1993: FIGHT CLUB
Leading up to Christmas that year I was completely fascinated with Interplay’s Street Fighter II clone, Clay Fighter. Endless controversial ads filled the pages of gaming magazines and I studied the many previews drooling in sheer anticipation of this new promising fighting game. And who could forget the Clay Fighter ad campaign? I sure haven’t — it’s one of the greatest ad campaigns in 16-bit gaming history.
I still remember fondly my cousin calling me one night in early December of 1993. It was rare in those days for her to call as we usually just saw each other in person and communicated that way. But on this fateful night she called asking for my Christmas wish list. My heart was racing as I knew there was really only one thing I wanted: a copy of Clay Fighter. I remember explaining to her over the phone what Clay Fighter was, and being positive that she was going to buy it for me. Yep, it was only a matter of days now…
Of course, she bought something else for me. It ended up not being a video game at all. After that phone call and everything, I couldn’t help but feel massively disappointed. In retrospect though, I’m lucky she didn’t buy me Clay Fighter…
I would be remiss not to mention World Heroes. My best pal Nelson bought it when it first came out around September of ’93, and we played it well into the winter. Nelly even lent me the game here and there. Uncle Ben flew in that Christmas and watched me play as Kim Dragon. Uncle Ben didn’t care for video games whatsoever, but even he was drawn into World Heroes. He rooted me on, suddenly morphing into an armchair gamer! He loved Kim’s Dragon Kick and called for me to do it each time. It’s a quirky memory that has stuck with me all these years.
Christmas ’93 was simply a great time to be a robust 10 year old kid growing up in suburban America. If you had a Super Nintendo, a best friend and you loved fighting games — what a time to be alive! With choices such as Street Fighter II Turbo, TMNT: Tournament Fighters, World Heroes, Ranma ½: Hard Battle and Clay Fighter, there were plenty of fighting games to choose from. The 16-bit war was in full swing, and if you had the SNES and Genesis like I did, you were the ultimate winner.
Having hounded my parents about Clay Fighter and them knowing how disappointed I was that I didn’t get it that Christmas, my mom allowed me to buy one video game in January of ’94. Thankfully, I rented Clay Fighter just prior to this once-in-a-lifetime decree. It wasn’t a terrible fighting game, it just wasn’t very good. My parents took me to Good Guys and I bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. Ninja Turtles meets Street Fighter II? Take my money, er, my parents’ money!
CHRISTMAS 1994: KAREN KOMBAT!
Christmas ’94 was marked by the return of my cousin Karen, whom I hadn’t seen in a while. She was now eight and my Uncle Ben also had a one year old daughter, Liz. My bro and I bought Mortal Kombat II for the SNES and we were playing it well into that Christmas season, much to Karen’s chagrin as it would turn out.
When Karen and baby Liz came over that holiday season, we showed off Mortal Kombat II in all its glory. Upon seeing the first blood spewing Fatality, Baraka slicing Jax’s head clean off his shoulders, Karen imploded like a soccer mom at a backyard wrestling event. Grabbing her baby sister in a mad panic, she screamed at us, “OH MY GOD! A ONE YEAR OLD BABY CAN’T BE EXPOSED TO THIS R-RATED VIOLENCE!”The way she yelled at the top of her lungs coupled with her mannerisms made it a moment in time. To this day I still give her a hard time about it whenever we see each other.
As it would turn out, Christmas ’94 was the last great gaming-related Christmas I can remember. Well, that was until…
CHRISTMAS 2010: PARTY LIKE IT’S 1994
November 2010. I bit the proverbial bullet and purchased an SNES PowerPak. This great device allows you to play almost any SNES game ever created. It comes at a steep price but as I found out firsthand later that Christmas season, it’s worth the asking price. Guess who visited that Christmas? None other than Karen and (no longer baby) Liz. Karen was now 24 and Liz, 17. It’s funny how life comes full circle sometimes.
Saturday, Christmas afternoon. Uncle Ben, his wife, Karen and Liz were visiting from out of state and staying at their second home. Uncle Ben invited the whole fam over for a night of Christmas family fun. Normally I take the Sega Saturn with me (for Saturn Bomberman), but this time I thought I’d try the Super Nintendo instead. It was the right call.
Ah, the advantage of having a PowerPak and not having to haul 20, 25 games with you. With one cartridge you can effectively carry hundreds of SNES games. That alone makes having some kind of flash cart worth the asking price.
We enjoyed a pleasant family Christmas dinner together that night. Then my cousins Karen, Liz, David, Mia and I retreated to the living room. I unpacked the Super Nintendo to a warm nostalgic reaction. “Oh my God, I haven’t seen one of these in forever!” Karen was most eager of all being that she was old enough to really remember it. The PowerPak worked its magic. I let her browse through the endless list of games. Her eyes popped when she saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time. “I remember playing this back in the day!” Karen had turned into a wide-eyed six year old kid before my very eyes. “WE GOTTA PLAY THIS!” she declared. Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting her to pick Mortal Kombat II.
Karen and David started out on the first level. The three of us felt like we were back at the arcades in the ’90s. Liz and Mia, being young teenagers and Wii fans, didn’t get the hype so they didn’t care to join in. But Karen, David and I were having a blast. The Ninja Turtles weren’t the only ones going back in time here…
The three of us rotated turns playing the two player mode. Each new stage brought about “Oooh I remember this!” memories. When we made our way to the sewer stage, with the giant yellow pizza monsters leaping out at us, Karen said, “I TOTALLY REMEMBER THOSE PIZZA MONSTERS FROM THE CARTOON SHOW!” We made it to Super Shredder, but soon fell at his evil hands.
After Turtles in Time, we switched over to Super Bomberman 2. It brought back memories of the early-mid ’90s when my old gaming group spent countless Saturday nights blowing each other up. We ended up playing the SNES from 6:45 to 9:20. We spent the next two hours talking and hanging out. Nothing like quality family time mixed in with a little multiplayer gaming
I slept over at my parents’ house that night since they live only 15 minutes away from Uncle Ben’s second home. Arriving around midnight, I was still in a Super Nintendo state of mind. I immediately popped in the PowerPak and fired up the beta version of World Heroes 2. Although I love the finished product, the beta version is more combo friendly and therefore more accurate to the arcade original. It’s almost like playing two different games! One more reason to love the PowerPak — you can play beta versions (if available) of your favorite games and compare.
The fatal four way match is good for a quick fix. After this, I went to brush my teeth. My parents had already gone to bed. I turned off the lights and lowered the volume. I hadn’t slept over in a long time so the house making all kinds of unusual noises in the dark was a bit creepy. I decided to go from one obscure Super Famicom import to another.
One of the weirdest games on the SNES, Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban is also rather fun. I had a blast going through the whole game. It was now 2:45 AM, and the house grew eerily darker and darker. It was the perfect time to load up the scariest Super Nintendo game ever created.
There couldn’t have been a more perfect setting to play Clock Tower. Weird noises emanated from the house as heavy rain crashed against the windows with fierce velocity. I never imagined in a million years that a Super Nintendo game could actually scare me. But on that night, Clock Tower succeeded. Scissorman left a wake of terror as he pursued me relentlessly throughout the mansion. It was one of the best gaming sessions I’ve ever had.
It was now 4:30 in the morning. Whoa, I played the SNES from midnight to 4:30. I staggered over to turn off Clock Tower, then I fumbled up the stairs in the dark. I was in a bit of a daze, feeling uneasy still thinking about the grisly images. I crawled into bed and stared at the ceiling in the darkness. What an epic gaming session and what a great Christmas! I laid there for a while just reflecting on the night before drifting off to a deep, peaceful sleep…
CHRISTMAS 2012: BIRDIES AND BOMBS, BABY!
Once again the PowerPak proved its worth. My brother, his girlfriend and I went to visit David and Mia. We spent the night playing 4-player BS Out of Bounds Golf and 5-player Super Bomberman 5. Nothing screams quality family time quite like blowing up your brother, or knocking your cousin’s ball out of bounds. Both games quickly grew heated as the trash talking (and laughing) compounded. The fondest memory I have of this evening came when David miraculously nailed a miracle trick shot. He bounced his ball against a plate bumper, which then ricocheted its way into the cup. Everyone in the room jumped and shouted in stereo. It was certainly mic drop worthy! We all gave David a hi-five and he wore the fattest grin I ever saw. To see him have that one moment of glory made my Christmas that year. Fittingly enough, we even gave him a golf clap
Christmas time always brings back such fond memories of time well spent with loved ones and video games. Especially when you were a kid, there was just something special and magical about Christmas season. Whether you received a new video game system or a new video game, many of us have nostalgic memories surrounding Christmas and video games. These were mine. And they’ve stayed with me long after the snow has faded and the lights have been taken down. As tomorrow marks the beginning of winter and as we draw closer and closer to yet another Christmas, I’m reminded of all these nostalgic memories. There’s something about gaming during the winter season that can’t be beat. Those early darkening late afternoons. The whipping rain lashing outside late at night as you play childhood favorites, or unearth new ones. Wherever you are at in this stage of life, may you be blessed each day and a blessing to others, too. After all, isn’t that what life is all about?
Back in the early-mid ’90s fighting games ruled the scene. Street Fighter II launched a phenomenon that spawned clone after clone. Very few came close to the level of Street Fighter. Some were even downright ATROCIOUS. But once in a while, one came along that completely surprised you. One of those games was a Super Nintendo exclusive. It never came out in the arcades, but Konami could have fooled me. Its name… Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters.
Last night a friend and I caught the latest TMNT movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. It was far better than I expected, especially since I didn’t like the 2014 version at all. I mean, it wasn’t great or anything, but I can genuinely say I wouldn’t mind the inevitable 3rd film in this Michael Bay series. Seeing the movie made me nostalgic for the Turtles from my childhood, and so it’s a perfect time to talk about one of the best fighting games the SNES ever saw.
EXCUSE ME, SAY THAT ONE MORE TIME
Those were the haunting, earth-shattering words of my brother’s friend, Kerwin, back in December ’93. According to him, he had just played this new amazing fighting game — one that he claimed had“Fatality” like moves during combat and one that actually played better than Street Fighter II Turbo. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought Kerwin worked for Konami himself. At that time I had never conceived of anything like the idea of death moves. These were essentially SUPER special moves that dealt out a TREMENDOUS amount of damage and could only be done when your 2nd bar was full. Just the idea of two energy bars blew my 10 year old mind, let alone the idea of a screen-filling, flashy, super special attack. Maybe there was another game that had already done this at the time, but alI I knew was, Tournament Fighters was my first exposure to the wonderful wacky world of super specials. It’s one of those epic memories you always carry with you, in your gaming heart. TMNT:Tournament Fighters would have been terrific even without their Ultimate Attacks but WITH them it makes for one truly amazing fighting game.
Since late 1993, death moves have become a key staple in the genre. Everything from looks to command (i.e. how to pull off a super special move) has only gotten crazier and crazier. By comparison, these ones may seem tame today… but man, back in the day, they were something else to behold!
Tournament Fighters has two bars. One serves as your energy bar while the second fills up each time you land a blow, blocked or not. It’s a free flowing bar, meaning that if you are not on the offensive the bar swings back the other way slowly but surely. Thus, a great deal of emphasis is put on being aggressive, rather than defensive. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself compromised as your opponent unleashes his possibly two or even three times in a single round. When full, the bar ignites and you have three seconds to perform your super special. If you fail to execute your big move in that time frame, then the bar swings back the other way. Thankfully, it moves one smidgen at a time. Meaning if for whatever reason you couldn’t pull off your big move, just one or two more (blocked) attacks will see your bar refilled once more. It was a brilliant and innovative feature for its time. Back in December of 1993, none of my gaming crew nor I had ever seen anything like the Ultimate Attacks. And we loved them. It changed the dynamic of a typical fighting game match, and some of the screen-filling moves were truly awe-inspiring 20+ years ago.
However, there were some downsides to the Ultimate Attacks. Namely, since you only have about three seconds to unleash it… human opponents are very likely to block it. Though some can cause a good deal of damage even when blocked, it would be better if there was no time limit and the bar could remain full until you were ready to use it. It would have led to a bit more strategy. Instead, the game plays like a mad melee, which is not bad in its own right. Props for having these mega death moves at all.
CHRISTMAS MAGIC IN JANUARY
Having hounded both my parents about Clay Fighter and with them knowing how disappointed I was that I didn’t get it or even a video game that Christmas, my mom allowed me to buy one video game in January of ’94. I had just rented Clay Fighter and was thankful I did (boy, was it disappointing). They took me to Good Guys and I bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. I had never played it before but it was #2 on my want game list that Christmas season, trailing only Clay Fighter. I grew up on the Ninja Turtles, and it looked like a terrific Street Fighter II clone. I loved the cover and will never forget seeing it at Good Guys looking all pretty in its wrapping. It seemed to call out to me. Right away I knew it was the one. My mom and dad took the game to the counter to pay for it while I stood there nearly quaking in my shoes. What a wonderful belated Christmas gift! It was the second SNES game my mom ever bought for me, just about one year after she’d bought me my first, King of the Monsters. It was one of the longest car rides home that I can remember. It was time to see if Kerwin was right or not — was this truly Street Fighter II Turbo but with death moves??
THE STORY GOES…
Mike:Hey, who hacked our tube? This is SO NOT COOL, DUDES! Raph:SHADDUP MIKEY! I wanna hear this… Don: Amazing, I wonder what kind of device they used to hack our streaming service? Leo: Guys, there could only be one villain behind this…
I’ve always enjoyed the presentation / vibe of most Konami titles. They had a classic, basic yet sleek look to them. You could always count on Konami to deliver the goods
When I first saw this 20+ years ago, I instantly said to my brother, “It’s Martial Champion!” We liked it. It was different from most other fighting games which all seemed to have the same select screen. This one was different enough to be a bit of a stand out, however.
Martial Champion came out February 1993. It was one of a thousand Street Fighter II clones flooding the market at the time. I fell in love with it, but I was basically sleeping with every fighting game that came out during that golden age of 1992 to 1994 or so. It was colorful, outlandish and a bit different from your average SF II clone.
Titi (renamed Chaos in the US) was my favorite character. It looked like a cross between Freddy Krueger and a Chinese hopping vampire! Sold and sold! The game was unique thanks to its high jumps and how you could disarm your opponent and steal their weapon to use it against them. Looking back, it wasn’t a great fighting game or anything, but it was yet another fun entry in that epic era I fondly refer to as the ‘Fighting Game Golden Age.’
Take a look and see for yourself! Yeah, I know. I couldn’t draw for jack but man… the memories of those fun and simple times. Running in those arcade halls with my old gaming crew, going from fighting game to fighting game. It was akin to a buffet lineup. A grand time those days were, indeed.
SETTING THE STAGE
Of the many things I love about this game the one I adore the most might be the stages. Just look at this one f’rinstance. First off, the idea of a duel to the death on a rooftop is appealing, but then you add in massive billboards and a pretty backdrop of some hotels and business buildings, including a nifty flashing neon Konami sign all set to an atmospheric night time hue, and what you have is a winner. Most of the stages in this game are chock full with detail, color (admittedly at times almost TOO much color), and oh yeah, cameos. You’ll see tons of familiar faces from the TMNT universe scattered throughout, from foot soldiers to Neutrinos to Rocksteady and Bebop (though they should have been playable fighters but I digress). You’ll battle it out everywhere, from shady back alleys to ancient ruins, sunken ships, raucous rock concerts, roaring trains and cafés filled with jukeboxes, neon signs and bloodthirsty spectators. The stages captured my imagination 20+ years ago, and to this day, in my book, they’re still some of the best backgrounds I’ve ever seen in a 16-bit fighter.
What’s a fighting game without some sort of stage select screen? I’ve always liked the one here… with the Statue of Liberty front and center, and the little light that searches for the next stage. The sound effects here, as can be expected, are top-notch and firmly embedded in my mind more than 20 years later.
LEONARDO | 5’8″ | 170 lbs.
The leader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Leonardo is as straight-edge as they come. Focused and determined, his trusty katana blades often pushes him ahead of the competition. Not surprisingly, he plays like Ryu. Leo’s never been my favorite turtle, but he’s a solid all-around fighter, and an easy choice for beginning players. As expected, his swords provide him solid range. You can slice and dice to your heart’s content… something I always wanted to see in the old cartoon but never did for obvious reasons — but here you can fulfill those long forgotten childhood dreams.
Hustlers, hookers and hoodlums litter this shady looking back alley. In an attempt to shed his choir boy, straight edge image, Leo invites his opposing rivals to meet him way out in this dilapidated part of town in the middle of the day, breaking the age-old ninja code of hiding in the shadows. Leo is ready, at last, to step outta his shell.
RAPHAEL |5’8″ | 170 lbs.
Though Mike was my favorite growing up, Raph is a very close second. It’s hard not to like him. He was part of the team but it always felt like he was one small misstep from snapping [A snapping turtle? -Ed.]. Raph was easily the edgiest turtle of the lot, always exuding this aura of coolness. Maybe it’s because he’s a quasi-rebel and a hard-ass, which deep down there’s a little bit of that in all of us. He didn’t use his sai much in the old cartoon, but makes plenty good use of them here, including a M. Bison torpedo-esque move that can be a pain in the neck to deal with. Just a shame Casey Jones isn’t around as that’s one fight I’d love to see!
This was one of my most favorite fighting game backgrounds as a kid. It’s got the classic long counter you’d find at any diner worth half its salt, a jukebox, a colorful neon sign that lights up and what’s up with that strange looking cat in the middle there? He looks like an ape and for pete’s sake sir pull your shirt all the way down, son! Damn. Way to spoil one’s appetite, eh?
DONATELLO |5’8″ | 170 lbs.
Often referred to as the brains of the group, Donatello is usually busy working on his latest inventions. This time however, he’s taking a firm stand to show he can not only hold his own, but that he’s the most skilled fighter of his clan. His bo gives him good coverage and he’s just plain fun to use, especially with his Cranium Crusher that is exclusive only to him. Plus, his Ultimate Attack ranks as one of the most memorable — Donnie [Yen, apparently -Ed.] sends forth a ginormous dragon wave. It was jaw dropping back in ’93, and 20+ years later still puts a huge grin on my face whenever I see it. Donnie reminds us he’s more than just a brainiac.
In a corner tucked far away from town lies a rundown scrapyard where the dirtiest of deeds go down. Classic characters from the cartoon, like the vigilante Casey Jones and mad scientist Baxter Stockman, make cameos here in a definite tip of the cap. When Donnie isn’t busy scouring the scrapheap for random parts to tinker with, he’s busy kicking some ass.
MICHELANGELO |5’8″ | 170 lbs.
Easily my favorite Ninja Turtle growing up, every kid I knew identified themselves with Mikey at one point or another — the classic fun-loving, pizza-craving party animal of the troupe. Mikey never really used his nunchucks in the old ’80s cartoon, so it’s a fan’s dream come true to see him swinging them here like no tomorrow. He plays like a tantalizing mix of Ryu and Blanka, with a cool arcing rolling attack and a deadly rising uppercut. Mikey’s also got the best stage in the entire game. To cap it off, his Ultimate Attack is a swift and sick 10-hit barrage known as the Dance of Fury.
Hands down my favorite background of the game; hell, I’d put this up against any other fighting game stage on the SNES. The flashing Konami sign, the billboards on each side, the atmospheric city life with the bright lights — it’s a crime not to like this stage. I bet Mikey goes here after picking up a pizza and watches over the city as he munches away to his little heart’s content. Bless the lad, really.
ARMAGGON | 8’0″ | 400 lbs.
This guy had to be every kid’s dream come true back in the day. At least he was for me. Who didn’t drool at the thought of being a mutant shark? At the time I thought he was a brand new character constructed just for the game, but he actually comes from the comic book universe of Ninja Turtles fame, like quite a few of the other characters found in this game. While I was initially disappointed in the lack of familiar faces from the cartoon, I always liked Armaggon. Everything from his look to the giant octopus sitting in the middle of his stage… he’s JAWESOME[You’ve jumped the shark -Ed.].
This stage creeped me out when I was a kid. If I were really fighting, I’d find it impossible to focus on my opponent with that grotesque abomination stalking my every move. Its eyes literally track you wherever you go. Talk about unnerving. But it’s also frigging awesome.
ASKA | 5’2″ | 110 lbs.
Okay, so I have a small confession to make. When I was growing up, female fighters were never really my cup of tea. I always wanted to pick either the Ryu clone, the “cool” Guile rip-off, or the freaks (stretch fighters, monsters and other assorted weirdos). Female fighters, bless their hearts, simply never moved my meter. Back then the only one I used to any degree was Janne from the World Heroes series. Well, here’s another rare like. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but Aska’s always been cool in my book.
In 1993 there was a very popular SNK fighter by the name of Samurai Shodown. This backdrop always made me think of that game. Noh is a classic Japanese drama dance show that surged sometime in the 14th or 15th century. The mutant frog which resides in the middle of the stage always intrigued me. I remember rumors circulating within my own gaming crew that the giant frog was a secret character you could use. Of course, it was just a BS rumor my friends and I formed — it was a sign of the times. The good old days…
CHROME DOME | 5’10” | 200 lbs.
Considering how most of the roster consists of antagonists NOT from the cartoon universe, Chrome Dome was a very welcomed addition. I love how Konami gave the token “stretch fighter” the game’s biggest damage-inducing throw (outside of the bosses). It’s very cool as it’s just something you didn’t see in fighting games at all during that era. So in some ways, Chrome Dome felt like a slight mix of Dhalsim meets Zangief. He could stretch for defense and offense, and if you get too close to him, he could grab ya and take you on one SHOCKING ride.
Who knew tin head was so artsy fartsy? With a penchant for the fine arts, the culturally cognizant Chrome Dome gets his kicks off on piledrivering his competition at the local art museum. Familiar cartoon faces make a spot cameo in the form of Mousers and the Neutrinos. ‘GROOVY!’ indeed.
CYBER SHREDDER |6’6″ | 280 lbs.
This ain’t your regular Shredder you remember bumbling around in the ’80s cartoon. No, far from that. Indeed, this is THE SHREDDER ON STEROIDS. This is Cyber Shredder, a walking weapon of destruction. Part of me wishes we got the ’80s version instead, for nostalgic reasons. I was saddened to hear about the passing of one, James Avery, in December 2013. Better known as Uncle Phil, Avery was the voice of the late ’80s and early ’90s Shredder. When I found that fun little factoid in the late ’90s or so, I never looked at Shredder the same way ever again.
On the outskirts of town, there exists an iniquitous construction site that is rumored to have been taken over by the evil and nefarious Cyber Shredder and his Foot Clan. There are even whispers on the street, though apocryphal, that the police themselves dare not step foot onto the Cyber Shredder’s hot new territory. It’s considered a lost part of town and most have turned a blind eye in exchange for their own personal safety. All hail the mighty Foot!
WAR | 8’0″ | 350 lbs.
A savage bipedal triceratops? Sign me up! Those were my sentiments when I first laid eyes on him 20+ years ago. Originating from the comics, he was one of the Four Horsemen — along with Death, Famine and Pestilence. A real shame then, considering the superb look and cool name. He goes down in fighting game history as one of the most disappointing fighters ever. He’s limited to two special moves that aren’t too hot. Thankfully, his stage stands out and his Ultimate Attack is a rip-roaring attention grabber. War hurls himself around the screen like a pinball of destruction, but even that can’t save him from feeling like a largely wasted roster space.
It’s a beautiful sunny day, with only a couple clouds hanging overhead. Your breath is taken away as you look around at all the beautiful sights, until you catch sight of your old bumbling rivals, Bebop and Rocksteady. You chuckle to yourself as a savage roar erupts nearby. A giant 8 foot tall armored monster leaps within 10 feet of ya, the sunshine shimmering off his razor sharp talons. And just as quick, your smile fades.
WINGNUT | 6’0″ | 300 lbs.
I remember thinking to myself, “Why this bastard over a classic fan fave like Bebop or Rocksteady?” Wingnut appeared briefly in the ’80s cartoon series and had a much bigger role in the comics. He’s the very definition of an “unorthodox fighter.” It will take a highly skilled player to get the most out of his unusual offense. Possessing a somewhat awkward moveset, and considering how his Ultimate Attack can be a total flop, to his credit he’s got one of the cooleststages in fighting game history. What’s better than a rock concert while watching two combatants knock the stuffing out of each other?
Wingnut, the master of soundwaves, is hardly a stranger to loud noise. Whereas it distracts and even causes damage to the ear drums of most mere mortals, Wingnut relishes on such raucous and frenzied environments. From the HEAVY METALheadbanging to the strobe lights to the t-rex twins, the ringing Thunder Dome produces a mad rocking atmosphere like no other. The audience is more than happy to pay top dollar for this BARBARIC MASHUP.
In the comics, Rat King had a telepathic super power where he could communicate with rats. In the ’80s cartoon series he had to use a flute. He’s always been a cool cat [rat? -Ed.] in my book, and I wish we saw more familiar faces from the cartoon than the comics. Although I realize by late 1993 the cartoon series was not nearly as popular as it once was. Still, how lovely would it have been to see the likes of Krang, Rocksteady, Bebop and Casey Jones?
Studio 6 is where they film this game show format for Tournament Fighters. High school cheerleaders adorn the stage. A badly missed opportunity at a sewer-based stage. If you’re not going to give it to one of the turtles, then at least give it to the Rat King (AKA the King of the Sewers). This game has plenty of cool stages, but this one was rather dull. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.
A duel to the death atop a screaming metro train. Mr. Vernon Fenwick from Channel 6 News captures the chaos for all to see from the comfort of their home. Perhaps Konami knew all along just how bloodthirsty humanity is…
The endings are rather disappointing. Each character ending has only two shots with hit-or-miss artwork and a few text messages. For as difficult as the computer opponents are, this is a major letdown.
Like most fighting games of the early-mid ’90s, there lies breakable furniture in some of the stages. It’s a damn classic staple of the genre. The ones here are, admittedly, a bit ‘weak’ [I see what you did there -Ed.], but hey, they’re there.
Speaking of um, bonuses, check out probably my all-time most favorite fighting game bonus stage around. Destroying bank safes one after another? Sign me up!
I love the idea that someone was dropping these bad boys from the sky like a madman. They kept raining down, and you had to bust ‘em up until there were none left. It was extremely satisfying and I much rather play this bonus stage than any other.
Besides the concept and killer sound effects, I love this bonus round because unlike 90 to 95% of bonus rounds you come across in the genre, this one is actually quite challenging. You need a plan of attack rather than just mindlessly pound away. There were enough safes that ya barely had enough time, and it was SO cool how they can topple over (and knock you out, too).
ONLY IN JAPAN
There a few notable differences between the American and Japanese versions of the SNES game. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Warriors (to give it its Japanese namesake), among the differences include Rat King’s extra stage bit, where combatants can be knocked through the wall revealing the control room of Studio 6.
The other difference is the censorship of Aska. In the Japanese version you can see her buttocks a bit, but they covered it up in the North American version.
In what very well might be the first and ONLY time in gaming history, Konami released simultaneously three games of the same name on the NES, Genesis and SNES, but with very different game engines and rosters. While cool of them to diversify like that, it was clear SNES owners received the superior version. The Genesis version is broken and by comparison, crap. By late ’93, the Genesis was starting to look like the grandfather on the block while the SNES was just hitting its prime. With Tournament Fighters released across all three platforms, it was clear (at least in my mind) who the king of the jungle was. I was happy to own all three systems, but Super Nintendo was clearly KING in my household.
The 8-bit NES game is not even worth talking about from a gameplay standpoint; although, it does make for a fun water cooler topic as far as near final NES releases go. The NES was gasping its last breath by late ’93, so any title released was newsworthy, indeed. This was just a painful reminder though that my dear old friend couldn’t keep up with a changing of the guard. I love the 8-bit Nintendo and Sega Genesis, but I’m just calling it like I see it. When Tournament Fighters came out on all three systems, it was like a subtle declaration in my own heart which of those three systems reigned supreme.
CRACK THE CODE
I sat there completely dumbfounded, my jaw on the ground. I had to do a double take. Right there in my friend’s room, I could play as the Rat King or Karai. I ran downstairs to tell my friends about it. I still remember the skeptical looks on their faces, and how they kept saying, “Dude, this better not be a hoax. I’m about to eat some KFC!” They followed behind me as I took the stairs 2 steps at a time. I stood at the doorway and stretched my hand out as to welcome them in. One by one they filed in and I stood there still in the doorway smiling when I heard the collective HOLY SHIT! cries. I can’t tell you how red my hand got that night because of all the high fives. They asked what the code was, and sadly, I had no clue. We left the game on the entire night just so we could play as the bosses. When we finally turned it off at 12 something in the morning, we turned it right back on so I could try the code again. No such luck. Whatever I punched in randomly before was now gone.
The infamous boss code. Right there in all its glory. Looking back, it’s a fond memory for me. The thrill of cracking the code, the joys of sharing it with my friends, creating a lifetime memory. Back then, you couldn’t just log into damn GameFAQs for your hints and secrets, oh no. It was either through tip sections in gaming magazines like such, or plain discovering ‘em yourself through dumb luck. Discovering the boss code made me the man of my group for that one epic night, anyhow, and I recall with deep fondness just the sights, sounds and smells of that great night. The KFC aroma in the air, the thundering footsteps up the stairs, the tingling rush that I felt sweeping every fiber of my being when I saw Rat King and Karai on the select screen, the cries of sheer joy from my friends, as though we just collectively won the Mega Million Lottery, and the stinging high fives. Man, we must have played like 3 straight hours that night. Boss code, how I miss you and your simplicity. Boy, were things different back then. I’m very grateful I was lucky enough to have grown up when I did. When gaming with friends was all that mattered.
Look, she’s taunting me! GRR! So, I discovered the most wanted code and could have won a free game from EGM, but I couldn’t remember the code anyway, so Konami giving it to EGM first was a moot point as it would turn out. I suppose that softened the blow for not being able to remember the damn code!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Tournament Fighters was received well by the press. It garnered high scores across the board and I can’t recall anyone ever having a bad thing to say of it. From the critics to regular gamers like you and me, the game was beloved and extolled by many. It is also widely regarded as one of the better fighting games on the SNES. EGM gave it scores of 8, 9, 9 and 9. GameFan rated it 85, 92, 96 and 96%. Super Play Magazine scored it 90%. It was not only one of the BEST fighting games of 1993, but one of the best games, period, that year. One play and it’s easy to see why the game had so many diehard supporters. It succeeds where most clones fail miserably: it’s fun, fast, fluid and to boot it’s the TEENAGE MUTANT f*ckin’ NINJA TURTLES!
Tournament Fighters is a fantastic fighting game. In fact I think it’s the best SNES-exclusive fighter. In an age where crap clones were slapped together and shipped out the door like no tomorrow, Tournament Fighters was groomed for success. It’s packed full of quality from top to bottom. Those graphics are bright, bold and classic mid ’90s SNES magic. The sound and music both hit the mark, with tunes you can rock out to. The fighting game engine just feels right. Jumps aren’t floaty. Physics don’t feel off. It’s extremely well polished. What can I say, I loved it 20+ years ago, and even still to this day I’ll play it for a round or two, or 50. It’s not better than Street Fighter II Turbo but came DAMN closer than most.
But best of all, how about the wild Ultimate Attacks, eh? Whether you prefer to call them desperation moves, super specials or death moves, there’s no denying they are a game changer. They added an extra layer to the battles, encouraging the player to be offensive-minded. For balance, the weaker your health, the easier it is to fill up your extra bar. Likewise, the stronger you are, the harder it is to fill it up. Tournament Fighters did a lot of cool things, but for me the Ultimate Attacks come to mind first. Whether it was a giant ass mythical dragon or a deadly tidal wave screaming across the TV, it was jaw dropping and all part of the fun. Like fine wine, the game has aged tremendously well. Konami delivered again, crafting a finely tuned fighting game that exudes meticulous care and is bursting with quality from every seam. Sure, a bigger roster including the likes of Rocksteady, Bebop, Krang, and Casey Jones would have been perfect, but the list of negatives are short and brief.
Konami sure did hit a home run here, as they often did back in the ’90s. There aren’t many home-grown fighting games on the SNES, and the only ones giving Tournament Fighters any run for its money are: Ranma ½: Chōgi Rambu Hen and Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Duel. Some other SNES-grown fighters include Tuff Enuff, WeaponLord and Double Dragon V. Of all of them, I’d happily play this game the most. To me it’s a LEGIT Super Nintendo classic. It’s a quality fighting game with an engine that stands the test of time well. I still break it out on occasion to pass the odd evening or two. I will forever harbor fond memories of this game, from Kerwin’s unbelievable stamp of approval to my parents buying it after Christmas to the night I randomly unlocked Rat King and Karai… DAMN, the nostalgic goodness just goes on and on. Tournament Fighters, I salute thee!