Tetsuwan Atom (SFC)

Pub: Zamuse | Dev: Minato Giken | February 18, 1994
Pub: Zamuse | Dev: Minato Giken | February 18, 1994

25 years ago today, Zamuse released Tetsuwan Atom (AKA Astro Boy AKA Mighty Atom) on the Super Famicom. While the game itself is a mere footnote in the annals of SNES lore, there’s no denying the immense popularity and impact of the source material. Today we celebrate the titular science fiction superhero by looking at his one and only Super Famicom game.



Created by Osamu Tezuka, Astro Boy began as a manga series in 1952. Astro Boy is even older than another iconic Japanese legend: Godzilla. It is the 10th best selling manga series of all time, having sold over 100 million copies.

It began its anime run in 1963
It began its anime run in 1963
And once again in 1980
And once again in 1980
10 years ago in 2009, it even had its own movie
10 years ago in 2009, it even had its own movie
There will even be a live action movie in the future
There will even be a live action movie in the future
Astro Boy will appear in Crystal Crisis April 23, 2019
Astro Boy will appear in Crystal Crisis (April 23, 2019)
Crystal Crisis is a puzzle game akin to Puzzle Fighter
Crystal Crisis is a puzzle game akin to Puzzle Fighter
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo... a gem
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo… a gem
Welcome back Kawase!
Welcome back Kawase!

On a side note, Nicalis just announced the 20th and final character for their upcoming puzzle game, Crystal Crisis. It is none other than Kawase from the super quirky Super Famicom cult hit, Umihara Kawase.

Umihara Kawase Fresh hits the Switch April 25, 2019
Umihara Kawase Fresh hits the Switch April 25, 2019

I can’t wait to play both Crystal Crisis and Umihara Kawase Fresh on my Switch this spring. Funny that both releases will be just two days apart. So many good games and not nearly enough time!

Cant wait. The hype is real
Can’t wait. The hype is real
See you soon Astro Boy!
See you soon Astro Boy!



*cue Movie Trailer Voice Guy*

In a time of hostility and turmoil, only one hero has the courage…


… and the will of a nation’s indomitable spirit…



Based off the classic manga and anime series by Osamu Tezuka, this is an action game featuring 8 levels. Some are straight platforming romps while others have you taking to the skies. Let’s check out the first 5 stages.








Typical easy introductory level. His movement is a bit stiff and his punch lacks range so there may be an adjustment period.







Beware of giant boulders! The first boss is a piece of cake. Use the Air Dash to quickly defeat it.








Unspeakable horrors lie inside this fright-filled haunted house. But judging by the terrible lightning outside, you just MIGHT be safer inside…







Perhaps I spoke too soon! Crawl in that little space there so that the chained ball will sail safely over your head.







Luckily, you’re armed with super strength. And staying true to form, your bright eye lamps are put to use whenever in the dark. This spirit boss requires several Air Dashes before submitting to the foul night.








Showing off his flight powers, this stage curves around. Kill everything on the first floor. Don’t bother punching here as the Air Dash proves to be most effective. Once you kill everything, repeat this process on the second floor. The third floor is where you’ll face the boss. His second form is a tough little cookie!








Despite being an android, Astro Boy can brave the waters with no electrical issues. The spike sections are tricky. Occasionally, the water current flows in the other direction and the force is incredibly strong. The school of fish zooming by is a lovely visual effect when these tides occur.







Relying on your Air Dashes much? Well this stage disables that ability so you must rely instead on your swimming and flying prowess to help see you through. The boss of this level is one bad mutha! Watch out for its long limb and electric bolts. Save that energy tank power-up at the bottom there until you’re down to your last heart.








Platforming rule #11 dictates that there must be some kind of auto-scrolling stage. Many hazards attempt to put you down for the count. Later levels incorporate the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 special effects.


  • You begin with 3 hearts. Along the way extra hearts can be gained. Each heart accounts for two enemy attacks. Health refills and 1-UP’s are also scattered throughout
  • The default controls are awkward (B = jump, A = punch, X = charges the flight meter). Thankfully, it’s adjustable
  • The flight meter must be charged before you can fly, and during flight slowly decreases. Pressing A during flight executes the powerful Air Dash. This attack grants you temporary invulnerability. Press A during an Air Dash to cease abruptly. Otherwise you’ll zip across until your meter is fully depleted


A living legend through the ages
A living legend through the ages

Astro Boy has been around for nearly 70 years now. He’s often considered as sort of the Mickey Mouse or Super Man of Japan — that’s how big and influential he has been in the anime and manga fandom. His place in pop culture history has been cemented with a long and storied legacy… one that continues even to this day. Tetsuwan Atom on the Super Famicom is a decent game, if not leaning toward average. It’s nothing special, nor anything you should actively seek out. But for huge fans of Mighty Atom, it might be worth a look if nothing else than morbid curiosity. It’s certainly playable, but it’s nowhere near essential. At any rate, happy 25 years to the Super Famicom game. You may be largely forgotten, but you’re honored on this milestone day nonetheless.

Umihara Kawase (SFC)

Dora the Explorer meets Bionic Commando!
Dora the Explorer meets Bionic Commando!

Before I delved deep into the obscure world of Super Famicom in early 2006, I remember hearing rumblings about a strange Japanese game. Its biggest selling point was it played something akin to Bionic Commando. As a kid the grappling in Bionic Commando captivated my imagination, and I always wanted to play a Super Bionic Commando. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Umihara Kawase isn’t that, but it doesn’t need to be. Imagine a wacky world where you navigate through the levels with your fish grappling hook, latching onto edges and using momentum and physics to push yourself up or across, or even down. It’s a unique experience the likes of which few Super Nintendo games can claim. On top of all that, throw in a distinct minimalist visual style and all manner of ocean “enemies” and you have one weird but memorable game.







Bionic Commando was released on the 8-bit Nintendo in 1988. It became a cult classic to many and it was surprising (and sad) that Capcom never made a proper 16-bit sequel. The closest thing to this on the SNES is probably Umihara Kawase.







Although actually, in 1992 Capcom released Bionic Commando to the Game Boy. It’s a very respectable game and features a password system which the NES game did not. It can be played on your Super Nintendo via the Super Game Boy. I have a copy myself and definitely recommend it as it’s a fun game to play on the go or on your big screen TV using an actual Super Nintendo controller. I consider it a bittersweet experience though. It’s good enough to tease you and make you really ponder what a “Super Bionic Commando” might look and play like.


It's like an acid trip...
It’s like an acid trip…

Right away you’ll notice the game sports a unique look. Compared to other SNES games of the era, Umihara Kawase is not exactly what one would call “bright” or even “cheerful.” It’s sort of a drab almost dreary looking world. No one knows why this Japanese school girl is suddenly forced to navigate this bizarre world containing mutated sea life. All we know is there is an exit and you must help her reach said exit door safely.

To reach your destination, you’re going to have to master the use of your tool. Each level opens up with a short demo to give you a taste.







Right away you can see why people have long drawn comparisons to Bionic Commando. The difference is the physics of the rope allows you to manipulate the ways you can move her around. It’s less “stiff” than Bionic Commando because things here are, literally, much more flexible.

Here’s an example:



















Mastering and getting used to the physics of the rope is all part of the fun.







Level one literally gets your feet wet. Love the detail of the little splashes.







The core of the gameplay is firing your hook at various platforms and ledges, then using momentum and physics of the elastic rope to swing yourself over to the next desired platform. It sounds simple but it’s rather complex and I like how there’s more than one way to solve any given level. It makes replaying the stages a more worthwhile endeavor than your typical platformer.

Go Dora go!
Go Dora go!

The way she pulls herself up onto a ledge is rather adorable. She isn’t the most athletic girl around (her jumps don’t go very high), but she’s got a charm to her.







Enemies litter the stages. Sometimes they’re roaming about. Other times they will appear mysteriously out of nowhere — a quick swirling dust cloud is the only indicator as to where they’ll pop up. The randomness of these enemy placements go a long way to increasing the game’s longevity. Most enemies can be eliminated by firing the hook at them and then reeling them in. She puts them in her pink backpack so she doesn’t “kill” them. It’s very family friendly. It’s a nice game that anyone can play. But few will master. That’s the beauty of the game.







Sometimes reeling in an enemy causes the poor little girl to crash into a platform! I love the detail of her chin literally smashing against the ledge there. It doesn’t hurt her but it sure is a fun sight gag. Gives the game a subtle sense of (black) humor and definitely gives it some extra personality.







Don’t underestimate those little fish bouncing around in that bucket there. You can capture them for points, but be careful they don’t bounce off your head and send you spiraling to an early watery grave.







Some enemies are much tougher, like this octopus which can’t be killed. It can only be avoided. Watch out for its black inky cloud. If it touches you it causes you to be paralyzed momentarily. The worst part though is you wobble about for a few seconds. This can leave our poor heroine stumbling off a ledge to her demise.







Marine life isn’t the only hazard though. Similar to Elevator Action Returns, be careful you don’t get squished to death by the various floating platforms! There’s no blood or anything, but the way she gets squashed is still pretty gruesome looking. The first time I saw this it shocked me a bit to be honest. I just didn’t expect this from a “kid’s game.” When in reality it’s not really a kid’s game as the gameplay mechanics are rather complex!







The objective of each level is to locate the exit and reach it. Locating it isn’t so hard — reaching it may present a stiffer task. It’s so satisfying to finally reach the exit. I love the way she swings the door open. Hey, it’s the little things in life and video games, right?







Here’s a nifty trick. In order to reach that exit down there you can’t just jump down because the angle and law of physics doesn’t allow you to do so. Instead, what you can do is stand at the edge, kneel and drop your hook down. This allows you to use gravity and momentum to safely swing yourself down to the next platform until you finally reach that sweet exit. It’s little tricks like this that make it so much fun. It’s like learning the ins and outs of using a yo-yo. This is a bit like “walking the dog.” Good stuff.







This requires a bit of skill but nothing you can’t get the hang of [I see what you did there -Ed.] after a bit of practice and elbow grease. It’s these little moments that make this game such a pleasure to play.

Get the hang of it. Geddit?
Get the hang of it. Geddit?
Some stages have multiple exits
Some levels have multiple exits
It's fun working your way to the exit
Always a blast solving the puzzle
Look out for bonus items
Look out for bonus items
Pull yourself up and swing over
Pull yourself up and swing over
Close! Wait patiently there
Close! Wait patiently there
Who knows how they got so big?
This is one trippy game…
But it's loads of fun!
But it’s loads of fun!

The first boss you’ll encounter is this creepy looking thing. The way it moves and how abnormal it looks freaks me out a bit. It reminds me of Godzilla’s second form from Shin Godzilla.

It's just weird enough to be a bit creepy
It’s just weird enough to be a bit creepy







The thing lays eggs which quickly hatch. At which point little green frogs come hopping your way.

Oh, they look harmless...
Oh, they look harmless…







You actually can’t kill this boss. The secret to winning is making sure it doesn’t touch you. Eventually it just gets bored and goes away. But be careful its frog babies doesn’t knock you off.


Retro Gamer Magazine blurb
Retro Gamer placed it 10th on their top 10 SNES list


This game is weird and awesome
This game is weird and awesome

Umihara Kawase is one of the best Super Famicom games that never came out stateside. It’s a pure joy to play. Learning how to manipulate the elastic grappling hook makes it different than any of the 976 other platformers on the SNES. I can’t say enough positive things about it, and it’s best you experience it for yourself if you haven’t already. It’s got an interesting soundtrack to boot. The sound effects, music and gameplay all combine to make it one of those nice relaxing and soothing games to play. The kind of game that you can fire up for 15 minutes after a long hard day at work and be completely satisfied by. Don’t let its looks fool you — Umihara Kawase is a true gem that belongs in any SNES recommendation list.

It's unlike any other SNES game
It’s unlike any other SNES game!