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The SNES Rankings V: Man Getting Hit By FĂștbol Every game - #550-501

Sep 17, 2018 at 12:00:20 AM
Brock Landers (54)
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< Wiz's Mom >
Posts: 10813 - Joined: 05/04/2014
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Do you ever wonder if obscure crap like Time Trax is any good?  Or get curious as to how the different Super Scope games stack up against each other?  Ever wish there was a detailed list of SNES games that expanded beyond the usual top 100s? 

No?  Well, fine.  Perhaps you're just trying to kill time at work.  In any case, here I present the complete (and completely and utterly biased and subjective) rankings of every US-released licensed SNES game during the console's lifespan.  Thousands of hours and many years in the making (and one very bewildered spouse later), I have played every game enough to write-up a small capsule review of each and every one of them.

...and many of them are very, very, very, very, very, very bad.  So bad.  For awhile I'm going to do my best to avoid coming across as an Angry Video Game Nerd copycat because that trope has been way overdone and is not especially funny when in the wrong hands.  So bear with these first few hundred games as we wade through forgotten sports titles, licensed platformers, and anything with Arnold Schwarzaneggar on the cover.

What specific process do I use to rank these games?  After all, John Madden Football and Romance of the Three Kingdoms are two very different beasts. 

Well, I have a very scientific method...



Really though it's just gut feelings.  What do I have the most fun playing?  What is the most aggravating, or boring?  Which entries am I eager to revisit, and which ones will I never put in the system again?

Links
Volume I: #714-701
Volume II: #700-651
Volume III: #650-601
Volume IV: #600-551
Volume V: #550-501
Volume VI: #500-451

Games that will not be covered by this project:  SFC/PAL games, competition carts, re-skinned Latin American releases, unlicensed releases, Piko Interactive titles, homebrews, Miracle Piano, combo carts, pirates, Rom hacks, etc.

Disclaimer #1: The images are NOT MOBILE OR VINTAGE FRIENDLY
Disclaimer #2: Write-ups and/or pictures MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.  Read at your own risk.
Disclaimer #3: I may take a few liberties with dramatic license, or remembering small details.  Some of these games were beaten 25 years ago after all.
Disclaimer #4: I'm going to do my best to keep all reviews independent of other versions of each game.  I don't have time to play every port of Mortal Kombat and then try to see where the SNES version measures up.  And I don't know or care if Hurricanes is better on Genesis or Amiga.  This list is strictly SNES, and how those games measure up against each other.
Disclaimer #5: Many of the games were only played against the AI.  As much as playing co-operative Troddlers or competitive Troy Aikman Football could give me a more accurate empirical opinion, no-one I know is gonna play that shit with me in the 21st century
Disclaimer #6: Again, this is not supposed to be an objective list.  This is just one person's list with all preferences and biases apparant.  So Street Fighter II is gonna be 100 spots lower than where you have it, Mortal Kombat is gonna get bashed, I only have a superficial understanding of hockey and soccer, and Titus games are not that bad.

A special thanks to my editors bronzeshield and Splain for spotting my abuses of the English language and having the patience to slog through them with me.

-------------------------

Writing about every SNES game - Volume VI
SNES Set - 712/723 (Ghoul Patrol)
Switch: SW-6880-6470-3131


Edited: 02/20/2019 at 01:37 AM by Brock Landers

Sep 17, 2018 at 12:00:27 AM
Brock Landers (54)
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< Wiz's Mom >
Posts: 10813 - Joined: 05/04/2014
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Board game #1
550 - Monopoly



There are two types of people in the world: those who hate the game of Monopoly, and those who don't yet realize they hate the game of Monopoly.  After all, who wouldn't love an ancient, drawn-out, time sink of a slog that has never once been played to actual completion?  And every game plays out exactly the same way - initial excitement giving way to dawning horror as the game bogs down in stalemate, with endlessly drawn-out deals and negotiations that never leave both players happy, desperate attempts to sell off assets and stave off bankruptcy, and stupid arguments over whether or not the "free parking" rule is a real thing. 

So how does one go about improving this experience?  Well apparently Parker Brothers thought the answer to that question was replacing the social aspect of crowding around a table alongside your friends or family, with a virtual experience that takes an already slow game and against all odds makes everything take even longer.  And then throws in some AI opponents that were sent straight from Lucifer himself.  Or at least I'm assuming those were supposed to be improvements, because I don't know why else this thing exists.  Other than as a cash grab.

I'm not gonna explain how the actual board game itself works, because everyone on the planet has already played it a million times.  Just know that every "feature" is here, from the auctions and trading, to the bankruptcies, mortgages, railroads and terriers.  Rest assured, it's a fully faithful adaptation in every way as far as I can tell.

Anyone who has ever played the game also knows just how long every turn tends to drag out, slowly working towards that endlessly protracted finish.  Mostly because the biggest weakness with the game is that trying to issue a coup de grâce on any of your opponents is a maddeningly impossible affair, as they constantly evade their demise with lucky rolls, mortgaged properties, and ridiculous trade offers.  So when the video game adds terribly slow animations and load times(!) on top of that, you can imagine how great of a time it is.  I know we're all in a damn hurry nowadays, but there needs to be some sort of modern "revised" ruleset for Monopoly that either lets you finish players off in an easier manner, or gets rid of player elimination entirely, with everyone instead competing for a set number of turns.  Just a few ideas that I came up with in like ten seconds.  Or maybe it's an unsalvageable game with archaic designs, that will never be updated because it just can't hope to compete with the legions of newer, streamlined, and better designed games that have flooded the market in the century since its inception.  Yeah, I'm gonna go with that one.

So I guess at the end of the day the few individuals who can still enjoy Monopoly might get something out of an ancient 16-bit verson of the game.  Assuming those people actually exist in this day and age of more exciting and tightly-designed games.  And even then they should probably be playing this shit on a Wii or something.  But it's here if they want it.  And everyone else can just play Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne or any other SNES party game.

Did I beat it?
Yes.  It took roughly five million years.



Board game #2
549 - Clue



So though I am sure everyone has played Monopoly once or twice (if not dozens of times), I'm not sure the same can be said for Clue.  Or perhaps I'm just speaking for myself, because this isn't one of the games I grew up with.  Maybe that's a dumb assumption to make, I don't know.  But I will say that I don't think I was missing out - this just isn't a very fun game to play.  It's possible I've been spoiled by all the new-fangled Blood Bowls and Ticket to Rides that have taken the world by storm since, but most traditional or old-timey games just don't seem very fun anymore (assuming they ever were in the first place).  And since Clue is basically a glorified logic puzzle with dice rolling, it really doesn't stand the test of time very well.  And even if that doesn't sound like a completely horrible time because you adore logic puzzles like I do, you can be rest assured that everything about the design of this game could of been done exponentially better.

Anyways, the overall goal of each game of Clue is to identity a killer, their murderous utensil, and the location of the crime.  You do all of this by interrogating other players (in the loosest possible sense) and keeping a log of what cards they are holding, which eventually allows you to deduce the remaining cards left in an envelope on the center of the board.  That seems to be the entire extent of the game, and strategy basically boils down to, I guess, not fucking up the questions you ask.  It's as dry as it sounds, and video game adaptation adds absolutely nothing to this formula, making it pointless and unnecessary. 

Not that I can blame the developers because what exactly was the video game version supposed to be adding to that formula?  AI opponents?  Who finds board games with a computer player fun?  Nobody.  If anything the video game version actually lessens the experience by slowing down what was already a plodding pace to begin with, and requiring everyone to repeatedly look away whenever cards are about to appear onscreen.  Can you imagine playing Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros., and everyone has to look away from the screen every minute or do?  It's an anti-party game.  Like Monopoly.  You play this shit if you don't want anyone to ever come back.  And I know because I lured two suckers into playing it with me, mostly just to see how long they'd last, and then I had to make it up to them with sessions of  Super Bomberman and Street Fighter II.

If you like Clue, play the board game.  Or a different board game.  Or any other video game.  Or watch the movie.  There's no reason to ever play this.

Did I beat it?
Yes, once.



Board game #3
548 - Super Battleship




Even though I have it lumped in with the other adaptations of classic board games, Super Battleship truly is that and so much more.  And less.  Probably more "less" and less "more", but it's basically a wash.  Confused yet?  Well don't try too hard to understand my gibberish because in this instance it's not worth it.

This time around there are two different ways to play: Classic Mode and Super Mode.  Classic Mode is the original (archaic) board game, where two players sit face-to-face and try to sink each other's plastic fleets by "torpedoing" various coordinates on a square grid.  First to lose their fleet... er, loses.  You've probably all played this when you were a child, and you may or may not have enjoyed it.  I was one of the kids who enjoyed it.  But mostly because it was simple fun and gave me creative opportunities to cheat against my little sister, as the lack of any real depth means everyone basically uses the same few strategies, with luck playing the biggest role of all.

Super Mode on the other hand, is where the true meat of this game lies.  It is a bona fide turn-based strategy game, complete with a decently lengthy campaign and everything.  You get access to a number of different types of vessels, the entire thing plays out across a rather huge world map, and missions are generally of a "destroy something" or "escort something" variety.  Though really, they all basically boil down to the same thing: attack their ships with your ships and pray they sink before you do in a race to the death.

Now you may be asking "why would you have to race the opponent in anything in a turn-based game?"  And the answer to that is real-time combat.  Each one plays out with two ships furiously trying to unload their cannons and torpedoes onto one another in a frenzied volley.  That might sound awesome, but trust me...  It.  Sucks.  Balls.  Big ones.

One thing you'll notice as I get further into this project is that I have a major soft spot for strategy games.  Tons of them dominate my all-time favorite game lists.  Even the stupid ones with basic strategic elements such as Mechwarrior get something of a pass.  But what Mindscape threw together here has to be one of the worst ones I have ever played, with one of the weakest combat systems I've ever encountered.  At a high level, when you initiate combat the game switches over to a first-person view from the perspective of your ship's cannons.  Your opponent will appear somewhere in front of you, and you will need to destroy or disable him before his own cannons do the same.  It doesn't matter who initiated the combat, as you're both always on even ground.  In other words...

Problem #1 - There is no advantage to getting the jump on your foes.

What's that one thing you strive to get in every strategic game that's ever been made?  The initiative?  Yeah, that's it.  Well you can go ahead and throw that out when you're playing Super Battleship because it means absolutely jack.  Instead the combat here reminds me of old military engagements during the 19th century. You know, where two armies would line up, shoot each other point blank for awhile, until someone is completely dead.  That's this game.  So once the shells start flying, you'll just have to hope you destroy their cannons so that they cannot attack, and then destroy their engines so that they stop moving, and then try to sink them.  Before they do any of those things to you.  This is also the exact chain of events in every single combat, without exception, which means...

Problem #2 - There is no variety to the combat.

Since you only ever need to target the same three parts of the ship, there is no advantage in destroying their radar, sonar, rudder, etc.  And combat against the various ship types is all pretty much the same, they just have slightly different amounts of health.  So PT boats will go down in a couple volleys, while battleships will usually force you to deplete your entire payload before they will go under.  Which brings us to...

Problem #3 - Ammo is too scarce.

If I need to destroy x number of enemy ships, and I barely have enough ammo to do that, the game had better make sure the task is actually doable.  But with such a tiny margin of error, you often get screwed because...

Problem #4 - Too many missions rely too much on luck. 

Miss a chance-based shot?  May as well reset.  One of the enemy ships starts heading the opposite direction for some reason?  May as well reset.  Engines keep getting blown out and you have to waste turns repairing them?  That's a reset.  Which is just one issue with...

Problem #5 - Mission constraints are too tight.

Ever played an Advance Wars game?  If you have, you know that the toughest missions in that series often feel like a puzzle, where you need to move your units a certain way and you need to prioritize certain targets if you hope to succeed.  That's every mission in Super Battleship.  "Do this exact set of steps so that you can win the mission on the very last turn by the skin of your teeth."  I don't know about you, but I don't like that.  It fills me with anxiety.  It forces the mission to be an exercise in trial-and-error, with lots of restarts.  Which could be fine if the game worked better than it does.  But it doesn't because...

Problem #6 - The controls suck, the pacing sucks, the quality of life features are nonexistent, and the mechanics are dumb. 

Want to have a ship do nothing during its turn?  Good luck with that, your best bet is trying to fire off a weapon you don't have or something.  Want to check the map?  Don't bother, it's useless, unless you're playing the mission where you have to conquer the entire world, which you'll never reach.  And even then, it's still pretty useless.  Want to move your cruiser?  Press the A button five times until it registers.  Want to save mid-mission?  You can't.  Save after a mission?  You only get passwords after every two of them.  Want to see if there is a port nearby?  I don't think you can, but who the fuck knows.  And it just goes on and on.  Though I should call out one last individual complaint...

Problem #7 - Unclear objectives.

Destroy the airfield?  Okay,  I'll float around until I happen to catch sight of it.  And even then, I have ten shots and it consists of sixteen tiles.  Do I need to clear all of them?  Most of them?  Specific tiles?  Who knows.

The graphics are also really terrible, but I'm gonna give the game a pass on that one.  I feel like that's not usually a thing that is super important to this type of game, I just need to be able to tell what is going on.  It's like a puzzle game, gameplay is all that matters, so bad graphics are not usually held up as a big demerit.  Which isn't to say that I don't love when strategy/wargames have beautiful handdrawn graphics like in Panzer General II, but that's more of a bonus than an expectation.

Now I'm sure it sounds like I hate this game at this point, with what feels like a larger than normal amount of venom slung.  But I don't hate it, I just get frustrated with how it took one of my favorite genres and ruined it with a ton of really stupid things.  And there are a few things that I actually did like.  Consider them minor pleasures.  For instance, occasionally you will need to fend off enemy submarines.  It's another really poorly-handled mechanic that is again heavy on trial-and-error.  But if you manage to sneak a destroyer into range (after the sub has had multiple free shots on him *grumble*) you can target it with depth charges.  This switches over to another type of combat from a side perspective where you'll need to select the depth for your ship's charges (natch) and try to blanket the sub with explosives as you pass over it.  It's extremely simple, and once you get the hang of it, extremely easy.  But something about blowing away those subs and watching them drift down into the depths is extremely satisfying to me.  Plus it happens so infrequently during the campaign that you never get a chance to get sick of it.  Sadly you never get to control any submarines yourself, or try to play the role of the evader during the depth charge combat, but whatever.

There's also another type of combat minigame for missile attacks.  What that means is during some of the missions one of your ships will be armed with some sort of guided missile which can be used to insta-sink any ship in one shot from long range.  This is done by guiding the missile via a quick Mode-7 segement that is once again, very simple and very easy.  But this too is very satisfying to pull off.  I don't know why, but knocking out a battleship with one attack is just a great feeling.

So there you have it.  A kids' board game, adapted into a Super Nintendo game, with an insanely ambitious extra mode thrown in, that was sadly too flawed in every single way to outshine the source material.  So that wraps up the board games for the system.  They all were super disappointing, and I'm never playing any of them ever again.  Except for maybe this one because I still haven't beaten it and it is really pissing me off.  Even though I loathe the idea of giving it any more of my time.

Did I beat it?
I beat the classic mode a couple times, and I'm currently at the end of the campaign.  I may eventually push through, but it ain't looking good.



547 - Road Runner's Death Valley Rally



Oh, Sunsoft.... what the hell happened to you?  Your catalog of NES games is just chock-full of so many different classics, from the stellar Batman and stellar Mr. Gimmick, to the equally, er... stellar Journey to Silius.  But your 16-bit output seems wildly uneven in comparison.  Especially the Looney Toons series of games.  What in the holy shit was with Taz-Mania?  Whose idea of fun was that?  And Road Runner's Death Valley Rally?  I'm being very generous with slotting this thing at #547, because this game drives me freaking nuts.

So in case it couldn't already be deduced based on the screenshots above or the fact that this game is centered around the speedy Road Runner, Death Valley Rally is yet another shameless Sonic the Hedgehog clone, and easily one of the sloppiest I've ever played.  You know the drill here; you run really fast to the right, sometimes you fly up or down some ramps, and occasionally you try to anticipate (memorize) an upcoming hazard so you can avoid it.  Then at the end of each area you fight some sort of oversized mechanized Wile E. Coyote contraption. 

And none of that is done well, like they botched every part of the Sonic formula.  The levels and their layouts suck, the controls sucks, the boss fights are a huge mess, more frustrating than exciting, and the game is riddled with issues.    Either way, the game's problems are numerous,  which is about par for the course with these types of games.  Was anyone capable of pulling this formula off?  Including (unpopular opinion alert) Yuji Naka and Sonic Team?  I mean I realize that I never really thought the Sonic series was all that fun either, so I'm obviously not the best judge of this sort of thing.  Or at least I represent a minority viewpoint.  But these games just never feel right to me.  The push for speed with levels that punish you for going fast just seems like such an incompatible pairing, with everything feeling disjointed.  Do other people feel this way?  I assume not, since they keep making Sonic shit to this day, but I've always been flabbergasted.

So if I hate the game, why do I have ranked higher than so many other titles?  I guess because I don't hate it, I just don't like playing it.  And Sonic fans, assuming they still exist, might get something out of this.  And there does appear to be a number of people who grew up with the game and enjoy it to some degree.  So what do I know?  Plus, I do seem to keep coming back to it for some reason.  Maybe because some part of me really wants to see what the next Wile E. Coyote boss will look like.  Or maybe I'm a masochist.

Did I beat it?
No.  I don't think I've ever been close to doing that.



546 - Super R.B.I. Baseball



So let me preface this review with a disclaimer: I've never played any of the games in the RBI Baseball series for NES.  None of them.  And I own all of them.  Partially because I never had an NES growing up, and only acquired them all a few years ago, and partially because virtually all of my free time for retro games is spent on this project.  But I do know that people seem to love them.  Which is why I'm gonna assume they play nothing like their 16-bit brother.

I haven't covered a baseball game in awhile here, but I did have at least four of them pretty tightly bunched somewhere around the low 500s.  Each one of those games was pretty poor overall, with any number of things holding it back from being any fun to play.  And not a ton has changed here where I will be covering an additional three games, each of which offers an experience slightly better than any of those previous offerings, yet is still held back by a number of different shortcomings.  And Super RBI Baseball's flaws are easily the most apparent, or glaring, and was the game I was less willing to spend a long amount of time on, it gets first dibs.

First, the graphics are extremely cartoonish and simplistic.  That can work for some games, including baseball games like Nolan Ryan Baseball and Super Baseball Simulator 1.000, which both have artstyles that I enjoy.  But I don't care for what Time Warner has going on here.  Something about the player sprites and animations is just "off" to me, like I'm playing an ugly-looking Master System game or something.

Hitting is also extremely awkward, with an animation that never seems to match what actually happens.   Almost like I have to intentionally swing late at everything.  I hate that because I'm generally a "pull" hitter, and the game tries to take that away from me.  And while generating offense is not nearly as hard as it was in Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball or The Sporting News Baseball, I still never got to a point where I felt like I knew what I was doing when batting, or felt like I got into a rhythm.

Pitching on the other hand is... alright.  SRBIB is another one of those games that gives you direct control over the ball, even while it's midflight, which is akin to stuff like black box Baseball.  And I greatly prefer that style of design over something where you are stuck selecting from preset options, or specifying an area and hoping that's where the ball goes.  And it may not be realistic (at all), but dammit, it's usually pretty fun.

The game also has to have the world's slowest baserunners, no exaggeration.  I seriously think the ageless blob wonder Bartolo Colon runs faster than any of them do.  Which means extra base hits are virtually impossible to pull off, which further saps the ability to get an offensive rhythm going.  Oh, and I should mention how once again I cannot for the life of me figure out how to control my baserunners.  So like usual I just end up mashing all of the buttons until something good happens.  And I swear it's not just me and that something with the baserunning controls in these games has to be busted.  Though the AI is also, once again, so broken and incompetent that even when you do botch a call, you can usually outsmart the computer and get your guys to advance or score anyways.  It's a pretty pathetic sight to behold.

I also feel like the fielding is pretty underwhelming.  None of the outfielders ever exhibit anything resembling range, and I feel like just getting the ball in feels unresponsive somehow.  Like the throwing controls need to be tightened up.  Not that it matters because the slower-than-shit runners ensure everything is a single anyways.  But it still never feels right.

And I swear that the AI tries to cheat, and only hits line drives to the gaps.  That shit should be impossible to control, or at least partially left to luck, but the computer is a freakin' sniper.  So if you want to record outs you'd better master the pitching and get them all via strikeouts.

I have also never hit a home run in this game.  Not one.  That could partially be because the Oakland A's were languishing in a power vacuum at the time, or it could be a result of my general ineptitude at the plate.  Who knows.

In the end, I don't think this is a terrible game.  It's not one I really ever had a very good time playing, with too many rough edges and other, better options out there.  But I don't think it's terrible.  And the same thing goes for the next one that is coming up here shortly.  In fact it won't be until the third entry that is near the end of this installment that we'll finally reach a baseball game that I actually kind of like, and enjoy playing.  And even that one is kind of a glorious trainwreck.

Did I beat it?
No. Unless they are super short or can be easily exploited, baseball games take a special sort of patience in order to even contemplate completing.



545 - Steel Talons



What do you get when you cross the Sega arcade classic Thunder Blade with THQ's, umm... "notable" SNES port of Race Drivin'?  You get a nightmare made flesh, that's what.

But if that combination was to instead produce something slightly less wretched, you'd end up with Left Field's Steel Talons.  Like RD, it's another port of an old Atari arcade title that was messing around with early polygon graphics.  And though the results are once again downright ugly, and the game tries its hardest to make you hate it, I ended up having a decent time with it.  Maybe I have a soft spot for flight sims, or maybe it's the fact that games are more enjoyable when they try to be remotely playable.

First off, yes, the game looks and sounds like shit and a half.  Partially because these early blocky polygonal games did not age very well, with drab colors, no textures, simplistic models, bad frame rates, and terrible draw distances.  And of course this is the Super Nintendo we're talking about here, where that shit fared even worse than usual.  Since I seriously doubt this game has an FX chip inside, you do the math on what sort of horsepower the developers had to work with.

Luckily, as bad as the framerate is, the action is at least moderately responsive.  It could be because the game doesn't ask too much of you, with a pace that is far more relaxed than the likes of Air Cavalry or Spectre, as there are very little in the way of "twitch" skills needed to progress through the game.  But part of it is that this is just a much better port than RD was.  Not that that is a tall order since it's impossible to be worse, but I'm still giving Steel Talons points for it all the same.

The game's campaign is split into thirteen(ish) missions, which all take place on medium-sized square maps.  Your task is usually to destroy x number of enemies or collect y number of doo-dads.  Really you just want to blow the living hell out of everything that moves and ask questions later.  And that is easily done thanks to the simple but effective onscreen map which always displays points of interest in a straightforward map -- as opposed to Air Cavalry where the map is a nightmare to read and line up wtih the action, or the Super Battletank games where you need to switch over to another screen to see the map.  And though this game is a million times uglier than any of those titles, I find it much more playable for that reason.  You're not constantly being bombarded with unavoidable attacks, and the map is actually perfectly competent, two things that massively dragged down that other title.

I should also mention that the game features several nebulous setup options before you start playing and I have no idea what any of them do.  I think "Real-Mode" toggles the background landscape on/off, but that doesn't make any sense.  Another one is "Speed-Set", but fuck if I could figure that one out either.  Neither one seemed to make any noticeable difference anyways.

So is Steel Talons for everyone?  Absolutely not.  Is it for most people?  No.  But if you are into flight sims or the Strike series, you may find something here.  And by something I mean a tiny little one hour diversion at best, but that's still pretty good, all things relative.

Did I beat it?
Yes, on my first or second try.



544 - Hurricanes



Yet another one of "these" types of games, Hurricanes is one of three(!) games that feature a hybrid of soccer and action platformer motif, two of which saw release in the United States.  I'm also assuming that this is based on a television show, judging by that cover art, but I've never heard of it, so who knows.  And while these soccer platformer games (Marko, Hurricanes, Kid Kleets/Soccer Kid) share similar mechanics and overall playstyles, this one is easily the most annoying of the lot.

Even though the cover boasts an entire roster of soccer playing children, only the two that are front and center seem to make any sort of appearance in the actual game itself.  In fact, this game seems to only have one other character entirely: the boss dude that you fight at the end of every level.  And yes, you read that right; you fight the same guy every time.  Or at least they all appear to be the same guy.  It's kind of hard to tell when his back is turned to you most of the time, and I usually zone out when any of the cutscenes come up.  But let's go ahead and say the game features all of three characters.

I also need to point out that the controls seem broken to me, but not in the usual manner one might expect.  I don't even know how exactly to explain it (another one of those "you need to play it to understand it" sort of things), because movement and attacks seem fine for the most part.  Slipperyness is not this game's problem.  Instead it's the jumping that throws a kink in things, because it has some very poorly implemented and downright strange mechanics.  For one, you have to wait an extended amount of time after landing before you can jump again.  It's something that I can never get used to in any game, and it always makes tricky platforming very frustrating.  But the other issue is much worse, and rears its head whenever you run off of an edge.  In an absolutely bizarre design, your character does not merely fall in the direction he was moving, but instead starts into an animation where he stays suspended in air for a moment before plummeting straight down, Wile-E-Coyote style.  I have never seen another game game do something like that before, and you'll immediately know why after it happens.  It totally fucks with your ability to smoothly do anything, and gets real frustrating, real fast.  Especially once the difficulty takes off... 

Which is almost immediately.  So the game ends up being way too fucking hard to be enjoyable.  Enemies are numerous, your attacks have awkard angles which often makes hitting anything a complete chore, falling more than ten feet will hurt you, the numerous powerups seem mostly useless, and you have to beat it all in one shot.  I hate when games do that, especially when they really could have used either a password system, or an option to toggle the number of lives you start with or something.  Anyone hoping to make significant progress is instead gonna have to play the game over and over again until they have the levels memorized, or use a guide to figure out where all of the extra lives and continues are.

That all being said, and I do feel that was a pretty harsh review, it's not the worst game in the world.  While the difficulty makes me want to smash the cart, and the jumping drives me nuts, and the whole theme is really stupid, this isn't nearly as terrible as most of the platformers I've already covered.  Probably because the controls do work, for the most part, which is all I really ask from these sorts of games.  Anyone who wants to play something like this is probably better off with Kid Kleets, though why anyone would want to play a soccer platformer in the first place is beyond me.

Did I beat it?
Nope, not even close, despite a number of attempts.



543 - Super Goal! 2



I know I just covered Goal! a few games ago, and that I usually lump similar-playing series together in single installments, but I felt that its follow-up, Super Goal! 2 was different enough to warrant a separate entry.  Yet I also kind of have a similar sentiment for both titles, if that makes any sense at all.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, despite having enough differences to justify separate write-ups, I'm calling this the (barely) superior game.

Just like with its predecessor, SG!2 is a pretty barebones experience overall.  You've got the option of Super Cup, Exhibition, and a new addition in the form of Penalty Kick mode.  Presumably to practice your penalty kicks.  Or maybe that was also present in the first game and I just overlooked it.  Does it matter?  Not reallly, I only played it for two minutes.  Still, a paltry set of offerings either way.

As far as gameplay goes, the biggest change from Goal! is the change in perspective - vertical instead of horizontal, and slightly more zoomed out so that you can can actually see what is going on.  This may seem like a minor thing, but being able to actually see where I was going, or where my teammates were, or where the goal lays, makes all the difference in the world.  In the original game every action was a crapshoot, which severely impaired the ability to play with any sort of strategy.  But that has been mostly fixed with this game.

Unfortunately though, one of the game's biggest issues is still intact.  And that's the fact that passing is still a major pain in the ass, even though it appears they tried to take steps to correct it.  They failed.  The Y button is supposed to do an actual pass to a teammate now, but instead of using the D-Pad to aim it, you have to cycle through players with L and R.  It barely works, as getting the game to highlight the player you desire seems to be a total crapshoot, and half the time it won't work at all.  There's nothing more frustrating than having an uncovered teammate standing by the goal with a clear shot, and you can't get the game to target him for a pass.

The shooting is a bit better this time around though.  Before, any shot that was on target would trigger an animation, and what ended up happening during the animation seemed totally random.  Now, you can actually use some strategy to set up your shots, or even try to send a header in.  In fact, headers are a much bigger part of the game now, partially because every player seems to have a ten foot vertical jump.  Silly-looking or not, I actually enjoyed this, as it made most of the goal kicks much more interesting as players jockey for position, trying to outleap their opponents.

In the end this is definitely a step up from Jaleco's first try at the genre, but still a far, far cry from the better titles on the system.  One of the core pieces of the game is still irrevocably broken, which hamstrings the entire experience, though they did make strides everywhere else.  So, it still ends up being a pretty poor soccer experience, but they were headed in the right direction.

Did I beat it?
No.  I was too tired of sports games at that moment to press on with this one.



542 - Mecarobot Golf



The first of the system's many golf games, I'm kind of amazed that it took me this long to get to one of them.  I guess either the sport is just really hard to screw up in video game form, or I'm a total sucker for these things.  Either way, I think it speaks pretty highly of the SNES's golf offerings, especially considering that I wouldn't even call Mecarobot Golf a bad game, just a very flawed one.

Originally released as a more straightforward title in Japan with a sponsored pro on the cover, publisher Toho (of Godzilla fame) apparently felt the need to spruce it up a little, and gave the US release a science fiction theme.  And by science fiction, I mean robots.  And by robots I mean robot.  Yep, this game inexplicably features a robot pro/opponent named Eagle.  Everything else about the game is an otherwise run-of-the-mill golf game, set in the real world with real people.  I guess Toho thought he would maybe help set the game apart from the rest of the pack.  Or maybe they held little respect for us Americans and our short attention spans for anything not involving robots.  Maybe I shouldn't ever try to understand the Japanese.  We'll probably never know, but it is pretty frickin' weird.

Oh, and the reason I'm not giving you the name of the Japanese professional golfer is because I don't know it off the top of my head, and I generally avoid scurrying over to Wikipedia when I do these write-ups.  If I did, I feel like I'd start regurgitating whatever I see over there, subconsciously or not, so you get whatever my alcohol-addled brain is able to retain.  You've probably figured that out by now.

Anyways, the game offers extremely barebones options.  Though you can create your own golfer with his own save file, and get a choice of clubs which is basically your difficulty setting, the only methods of play are against Eagle (the PC) or another player.  And there is only one course, which appears to be fictional.  I'm not saying the game needed a create-a-hole mode, or ten different courses, but something else would have been nice.  Hell, let me play a casual round by myself, or give us a party mode.

As soon as the actual golfing starts you're confronted with what is far and away the game's biggest problem: it's pace of play.  It is mind-numbingly slow.  Race Drivin' slow.  Getting to your shot takes about five button presses, and once hit, every ball is slowly tracked from behind at about two frames per second while it cuts through the air.  And you cannot skip any of these steps.  Worse, you have to watch your opponent do all of it too.  So it all adds up to rounds that can take at least two hours or more to complete, which is way too long for a Super Nintendo game.  Hell, that's almost as long as it would take me to play a real round of eighteen holes, and I suck.  The whole thing is insane.

I also do not much care for the way the power meter is set up, which makes it tricky to gauge just how hard you need to hit the ball.  In most golf games you can simply estimate that three quarters of the power bar will result in a hit that will travel for about three quarters of that club's maximum distance, usually with tick marks or lines or something to help guide you.  Not so here, you just get a big empty bar where it's impossible to gauge anything.  So good luck hitting with any accuracy.

And even worse than that is the putting.  Though most of the greens are relatively flat, actually hitting the ball is very difficult because you have very little control over your shots, with the power bar again seemingly completely misleading.  I don't know how many shots I thought I hit perfectly that raced right over the hole, but I eventually had to settle for underhitting everything and just praying it happened to trigger an animation of the ball going in.

Still, in most ways I think this is a much more enjoyable experience than every other sports title I've covered up to this point, mostly because I think golf is just a natural fit for video games.  Even if some of the systems are busted, and the pace drags, and the options are limited, it's a natural fit and a relaxing experience, that rewards you for any skills you develop through prolonged play.  That doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend that you play every other golf game on the system as opposed to this one, but it's still better than all those god-forsaken basketball games I wrote about by a mile or two.

...oh, and I have to mention how the game inexplicably has a cutscene near the end of the course where you and your robot buddy both board a yacht and cruise off down the river.  Presumably heading towards the next tee, but who really knows.  Really I'm at a loss on this one.  Maybe the game is based on a famous Japanese course where that really happens.  Maybe the developers are insane.  We'll never know.

Did I beat it?
No.  Honestly I didn't even try, and the game's pacing almost demands that you play it casually.



541 - Wayne Gretzky and the NHLPA All-Stars



Stupid sports games.  I'm so sick of writing about them, and I keep getting them all mixed up in my head because it usually takes me at least several months to play one of them a substantial amount, start a writing outline, play the game some more, finish the outline, start the write-up, and then try to overcome the inevitable writer's block I deal with.  And by then I've forgotten how the game works, so I have to start the process over again.  And even then, by the time all of that happens I have a really hard time remembering enough specifics about, say, ESPN Hockey Night or either of the Brett Hull games, in order to make accurate comparisons between any of them.  Or I start mixing up the games I'm currently writing about because they share so many similarities, hence the similar rankings.

I mean I definitely know this is a better game than any of the hockey titles I already covered, because I always work hard to keep everything slotted in a roughly correct order.  How much of a better game is it?  Probably a negligible amount.  It's like splitting hairs between a C- and a D+.  Either way, it's probably something no one is gonna care about.  And rallying the energy to discuss yet another C- game gets real old.  Thank God I probably only have like.... one hundred more sports games to go.  This shit is gonna get so much easier when I bust into the 300s and I've left all these damn platformers and hockey games behind, so that I can instead focus on the million Koei titles and Final Fight-ripoffs that await me.  And I mean that in the best possible way.





Oh, right.  I forgot to actually talk about Wayne Gretzky and the NHLPA All-Stars.  Well, it's late and I just beat my head against the wall with Super RBI Baseball all night, so I'm sticking with the outline I drafted way back in May.  Fuck it, I'm allowed to be lazy every now and then:

- Wonky skating physics that don't ever seem to match up with the player animation.  The best way I can explain it is that after getting a bit of a head of steam, your players rapidly increase in speed.  But because the animation never changes it looks and feels like they are flying around out of control.  It makes the controls feel broken, even if they aren't.  Another one of those "you have to play it to get it" sort of things.  But you can adjust, and after a game or two I was usually able to settle into a groove.  It never does feel great though.

- Licensed with real players only.  That should always be obvious when "NHLPA" is a part of the title.

- The graphics are alright, and player sprites and animations are pretty good for the most part.

- There are way too many penalties called, which really causes the pacing to drag.  Is that how things go in real hockey?  I honestly have no idea because I don't think I've ever actually watched a game.

- Similar to EA's NHL series there are player fights but they are horrible.  Worse than Shaq Fu or TKO Championship Boxing.  Like, I gather it's a pretty small and throwaway part of the game, but if you're gonna bother why be so half-assed about it?  Though I will say that when someone gets hit by an uppercut the animation is pretty hilarious.

- Lots of in-game options at your disposal, like overall team strategy, or the ability to pull your goalie.  You can also toggle between "Arcade" and "Simulation" modes, though I couldn't really tell the difference between them.  Playing on Simulation did seem a bit faster, but that might have just been in my head.

- It's way too hard to score goals, and I can never tell why shots do or don't go in.  Not that mine ever go in.  I'm not exaggerating when I say I played six full games and never scored a single goal.  Part of me blames the game and part of me blames my complete lack of knowledge of hockey strategy and tactics.  Either way, I don't like struggling that bad on offense.

What else can I say?  It's no NHL '95, that's for sure.  And people always claim these things are better on the Genesis (that may or may not be true, I have no idea), so there probably isn't anything about this game that is worth looking into.  I'm just thankful that I'm one step closer to being done covering hockey games.

Did I beat it?
No.  I can't even remember if I truly tried to either.



540 - The Chessmaster



Let me be clear before I start this review, and state for the record that I like the game of chess.  It's not my favorite board game (it's considered a board game, right?), and I wouldn't say I'm any good at it, but I always enjoyed learning how to play when I was a kid.  Granted, that was mostly done with a copy of Battle Chess for DOS that I played for hours on end, partially so that I could see all of those sweet ass kill animations, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't having a blast the entire time.  And I certainly see the allure of trying to master one of history's oldest and most popular games through a lifetime of play.  So I totally get the appeal here, and I'm on board with the concept of The Chessmaster [no chess pun? - editor], which is to say it's a learning tool, similar to something like Miracle Piano Teacher.  Except that it teaches you chess, natch.  I guess what I'm saying is, no one needs to explain to me why this was a successful series that saw releases on every system under the sun.

On the other hand, just because I understand why this series sold in bunches, doesn't mean that it's something I would want to play.  And that's because TC is a learning tool, and not really a game.  No one played this as a substitute to the real thing.  They played it so they could practice against various levels of AI opponents, learning different strategies, and honing their play.  Or maybe they just had no friends.  Either way, I'm sure people bought TC in droves for those very purposes.  But that is not something I want to do.  While other people may like the idea of becoming skilled at chess, I would rather work on my coding, learn the guitar, do a house project, or write hundreds of reviews about ancient game tapes.  Getting good at chess is just not something that will ever be any sort of priority in my life, and that's coming from a person who already has way too many priorities in the first place.

So if you are a "chess person" this might be something that interests you.  Or if you need to learn how to play the game and your older brother is too much of an asshole to help you out, you... can probably find a free program on the internet to do the job.  But failing that you could pick this up.  In any case, the play modes do seem myriad, and there are plenty of configurations possible, so if you fall into one of those camps then you could probably do worse than what they've got packaged up here.

Did I beat it?
Yes, I beat the Chessmaster once I lobotomized him in the settings... All's fair in love and chess I guess.



539 - Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball



Back when I was a kid most of our family vacations were spent either hiking, skiing, or fishing.  That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone either because that's sorta what you do in the Northwest.  Unless you're in Oregon, in which case you get high and ride an ironic bike to a poetry slam.  But for the rest of us, summer and spreak breaks are chances to trudge off into the wilderness and see if we can get eaten by a bear or slam into a tree or something.  Maybe crash a four-wheeler if alcohol is involved (which it usually is).  But even we can't break our addictions to our Nintender tapes, which means I would always make sure and log lots of time on my OG Game Boy during the long drives.  I'm not sure where that thing came from (I probably stole it, I was a delinquent through most of grade school), I just know that I would play Tetris in the car for hours.  Usually until my brain started to burn blocks into my mind's eye.  And it was totally worth it.

However, once a year instead of braving the wilds, we would pack up and fly across the country to see family who lived out east.  Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Chicago, to be exact.  And though none of my fatty East Coast (or is that the Midwest?) relatives did so much as touch a treadmill once in their entire adult lives, they do their best to show us all a good time.  That meant going to baseball games.  Lots and lots of baseball games.

I still vividly remember my first experience at Comiskey Park on the South Side of Chicago.  My uncle parked us like five million miles away, so we got to make a long trek across the never-ending ghetto to get to the stadium.  Looking back, it was pretty amazing that two grown men would take an entire squad of tiny children through such an area by foot.  Maybe the city was in better shape back then.  I'm sure we'd never do it now.  In any case I will never forget that game.  It was the second professional sporting event I had ever attended (having watched Michael Jordan absolutely demolish the Sonics a few years earlier), and it was being played against my beloved Oakland A's.  I was beyond psyched.  And though many of the details of that game are starting to fade, I remember two things very clearly.  The A's won, something they have a uncanny ability to do whenever I see them in person.  And I learned about one Frank Thomas.  I was just a kid living in Montana, before the internet was really a thing, so you'll have to excuse my ignorance of the reigning AL MVP, but the impression was made almost instantly.  The Big Hurt was a hulking human being, towering over the other players, and bulging with muscle.  When he was crushing pitches out of the ballpark during batting practice I was in awe.  To this day I have still never seen someone hit like that, and I have seen a lot of different sluggers play.  I was so excited for his at-bats during the game that I actually found myself rooting for him when he was at the plate.  And as we left the stadium I even begged my dad to get me a ChiSox hat (he did not). 

Fast forward like twelve or thirteen years later.  My interest in baseball had waned over the years, thanks mostly to a heavy college load, a girlfriend who hated sports, and a number of losing seasons (go ahead and call me a fair-weather fan).  So it barely even registered in my mind when the A's signed The Big Hurt to a one year deal, for a whopping half a million dollars.  That was a massive paycut.  You see ol' Frank's production had slowly declined as he entered his thirties, and a number of ailments started hampering his ability to play, specifically with his right foot.  By the time the White Sox won their first World Series title in nearly 100 years, TBH was almost a nonfactor during their magical run.

I even remember shaking my head when I saw him on the opening day roster.  What was the f'ing point?  The dude was ancient as fuck, and if there is one type of person I absolutely never trust in any sporting event, it's the old guy.  I never draft them in fantasy football, I never ask for my team to sign them, and I never expect a full and healthy season out of them.  Call it ageism if you want, but that's usually the reality in professional sports.  This was a desperation move, done to fill a roster spot on the cheap, with a ton of incentives thrown in just in case by some miracle he managed to actually hit the ball, and make it through the entire season.  And against all odds, he did it.  All of it.  That year Thomas had one of his best seasons of his career, was voted AL Comeback Player of the Year by his peers, and finished 4th in the MVP vote.  And most importantly of all, he led Oakland to the playoffs. 

You could still tell that age was catching up to Frank a number of different ways.  For one, he played DH the entire season, because besides being older than every other living being in the baseball world, his foot had basically fallen off by that point.  That isn't unusual for aging sluggers - you want their bat, not their ability to stretch for an out.  And it was almost comical how off-balance he would be after any swinging strike, as all 250 pounds of him tried frantically to balance on one extended leg.  I'm surprised he never went down on one of those; seismologists would have noticed.  But when he got the bat on the ball it was a thing of beauty.  Some people just have just a natural swing, making things appear effortless.  Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds are both famous for this.  Frank Thomas is another.

Game one of the ALDS was one I'll never forget.  Barry Zito, the last of the Big Three, against Johan Santana, one of the greatest pitchers of our generation.  The game was on the road in Minneapolis, and the A's had blown every single playoff series they had appeared in that decade.  Usually in a rather crushing manner.  The smart money at that point was on the Twins.  And Frank killed those bastards.  I don't remember what exactly his final tally was in that first game, but I'll always remember the home runs.  And jumping up at the bar and cheering, to everyone else's annoyance.

That was also the most recent highpoint for the franchise, as of this writing.  They ended up getting crushed in the next round, and the roster was gutted over the next couple seasons since they never have the money to re-sign anyone.  And by then every other organization had already adapted their own version of Moneyball, so the Athletics' window had basically closed.  They've made some small runs since, but nothing as memorable as that season, and the miraculous turnaround The Big Hurt briefly made.  And I thank him for it.

Now, you may be asking yourself "what in the fuck was the point of all that Brock?  Are you just stalling because you don't want to write about a baseball game?"  And you would be partially correct.  This game has nothing interesting to offer anyone, and the review would have been a snoozer.  So I didn't do it.  But I also wrote about all of this because Frank Thomas meant a lot to me at two different points in my life.  And he made one pretty shitty video game.  So as far as I'm concerned I still owe him one.

Did I beat it?
I did not.



538 - Winter Olympic Games



The first of two Olympic-themed track and field style of game, Winter Olympic Games isn't as horrific as Nickelodeon Guts, or as wildly uneven as American Gladiators or California Games II, but it falls just short of being a decent game thanks to a brutal learning curve and a sparse offering of (unique) events.  Because even though there are ten of them, many of them are basically duplicates of one another that play almost exactly the same.  That's pretty lazy considering how many different Olympic events are available to choose from.  In any case, I'll be doing my usual thing and covering each one in minor detail:

Bobsleigh and Luge - Two extremely unforgiving events that are almost identical to one another, minor graphical differences aside.  The only way to succeed here is to memorize the track, which isn't easy because it is very long and reuses the same four types of turns over and over again. You'll also need to be very exact with your D-Pad movements, unless you want to repeatedly run into the sides of the chute and slow down.  If anyone is able to win the gold in either one of these events they are some sort of savant.

Downhill and Super-G - Two skiing events that are, again, nearly identical, and completely impossible.  Memorization is also once again the name of the game if you want to have any hope of getting a medal.  Both would also fare a lot better if the camera angle gave you any sort of heads up on what's coming your way, or if there were any sensation of speed whatsoever. 

Giant Slalom and Slalom - Exactly the same as the last two events, only harder.  Because if there is anything this game needed, it was events that are more unforgiving than the bobsledding or downhill segments.  If you can take first on the Slalom event, you either have a photographic memory, or you mapped the entire course on a piece of paper and taped it to your TV.  And then practiced for an hour or two.

Moguls - Probably the most creative event, and also one of the hardest to learn.  Hell, it may be the hardest overall.  I keep saying that, but it's true dammit; this game is ruthless.  Not only do you need to tap buttons to a rhythm so that your skier carves around each mound, but you'll need to execute several jumping tricks on your way down.  My scores are always wretched here, and I usually can't even make it to the end of the run.

Ski Jump - And now we have one of the two easy events, showcasing just how wildly uneven the difficulty curve is in WOG.  Once you get a hang of what it is you need to do here, you can essentailly take first every time.  Which, after getting my rear handed to me in every previous event, is super satisfying.

Biathlon - Far and away the easiest event, which is a shame because it's also my favorite.  This one starts with another rhythm section, followed by a shooting segment, both of which are admittedly fun.  The mechanics are pretty simple, but effective, and the requirements to do well aren't demanding enough to take away from the fun.  In fact, as hard to believe as it may be, I was actually wishing for more challenge in this game.

Short Track - The final event is speed skating, the sole event set in the ice rink.  This is easily my least favorite of the bunch, and has me completely baffled as far as what it takes to succeed.  I always get left in the dust, and I almost always get disqualified.  Something about what you're supposed to do here and how you're supposed to do it is beyond my dumb person brain, despite the number of attempts I put into it.

Altogether I'd say the game has two events I enjoy, one I hate, and a ton that are too frustrating to be any fun.  And though the game probably has a lot to offer to those players who are dedicated enough to put in the time needed to get good at them, that's probably a pretty small minority of the people playing Super Nintendo games.

And why is there no curling?  That would have been awesome, and would have taken almost zero effort to implement.  Intead they offer the same ski run repeatedly and call it four events.  Total waste.

Also, one last word of advice - absolutely do not bother trying to play this game without acquiring the manual one way or another first.  The game has absolutely no in-game help.

Did I beat it?
Nope.  That's despite the fact that the game must realize how hard it is, with a bar for completion that is extremely low.  And yet I still can't reach it.





537 - Radical Rex



Hmm, he's an anthropomorphic Tyranosaurus Rex, starring in a Super Nintendo game, and he's "radical."  Anyone want to guess what sort of game this is?  Or take bets on whether or not the cover art features either sunglasses, Mountain Dew, or a skateboard?  And if you had to take one guess as to what other popular game from the era this thing tries to rip off, what are the odds you'd name a certain blue rodent? [Hedgehogs aren't rodents (they're sort of their own thing) - editor]

Some people recently have called this game out as a hidden gem of sort.  I don't see it.  Radical Rex is, like so many other games, just another dumb platformer with some pretty glaring issues, and not so many great things that I can think of.  It could have easily been featured in the last installment of this project, but again, there's just too damn many of these games and I ran out of room.

The gameplay is very standard platformer fare, with a few shoehorned Sonic the Hedgehog mechanics, er, shoehorned in because, hey - why not?  Kids like skateboards and going fast and whatnot, and everyone else is doing it so, fuck it.  But even the attempts to mimic Sonic are pretty half-assed, as the skateboard doesn't really seem to do much, other than allow you to travel up some ramps, and get you killed.  So it really is shoehorned in, even worse than is usual with these types of games.  Hell, they probably already had the game finished before adding that stuff in at the 11th hour and didn't have time to fully integrate it.

Even worse though is the absolutely wretched combat.  You see Rex has two base moves; breath fire, and a jumping Jean Claude Van Damme-style kick.  For most enemies you will need to use the fire breath to stun them, with a final kick to finish them off.  The problem is most enemies take a number of hits before they are stunned, the range of the stun is quite short, and they just love to dish out a ton of hits in return while you're trying to freeze them.  So even basic fights are an exercise in frustration as you frantically try to get the enemy locked before it can drain your health.  The developers seem to have tried to counter the problem by allowing Rex to take an extreme amount of punishment before he goes down, with plentiful heals littered around each level, but that is a terrible way to balance a game.  It makes everything feel sloppy and chaotic, and makes combat feel like something to avoid at all costs.

I'd comment on the boss fights, but I only ever made it to the first one, and it was just as sloppily executed as any other part of this game.  It features the wizard big bad floating around and tossing lightning at you, while you try to fire breath him into oblivion.  It's a cheap fight with cheap hits, an unimpressively dorky enemy sprite, and little in the way of patterns to discover or strategy to master.  So even the one interesting thing these kinds of games usually bring to the table isn't very interesting here.  I watched a longplay to see if they get any better later on, and suffice to say, they do fucking not.

So, is there as little to like in this game as I seem to be leading on?  Sort of.  The graphics are decent, the controls are tight enough, there is a two player mode, and once you adapt to the horrific combat and trial-and-error level design, things get okayish.  And each attempt I put into the game was slightly less annoying then the previous one, causing me to slightly bump the game's rank up each time I was done with it.  Still, the entire experience was never what I would call "fun."  It was also never a complete nightmare on the level of something like The Flintstones or Time Warp or anything, but that's about the best sort of backhanded compliment I can give it.  Still, it was enough to get it all the way up to here.

Did I beat it?
No, this game is hard as balls.



536 - GP-1 Part II



Another motorcycle game, and another miserable experience for me.  I just can't seem to compel my brain and fingers to get on the same page with this stuff, regardless of how much I keep trying and torturing myself playing them, and thus these games suffer in the rankings because of it.  It's a shame too, because GP-1 Part II (what a stupid name) is probably a halfway decent title if you can manage to wrestle it under control.

Not to keep harping on the same points, but if you read my review of the first game in this series (in the last installment) you'll know that I a) suck at racing games, and b) really suck at motorcycle games.  Actually, you could read any number of my reviews where I hammer those points home.  Fortunately for this game however, it is a million times less difficult than the first GP-1 title.  The developers must have realized how insanely impossible that one was, and completely removed the collisions with other racers, while upping the viewing distance so that you can actually see something like a turn coming up.  And thanks to those two things, instead of getting dead last every time, I can finish with a somewhat respectable 2nd or 3rd place most of the time.

On the other hand, none of that really makes the game any more fun.  Just less frustrating.  The tracks all look and feel the same, the controls still feel kind of stiff, and AI for your opponents seems completely random.  Like, they'll all blow past you on one turn, and then slow to a crawl and let you pass them right back up on the next one.  It makes no sense, and must be a shortcoming in the programming or something.

Still, warts aside, it's easily a much more polished and playable game than the likes of Superbike Challenge or GP-1, and it is much less of a fiasco than uneven games like Full Throttle Racing or Caribbean Challenge.  But it still isn't a game I want to play.  I never even bothered to write down any of the passwords I earned because I just couldn't bring myself to keep trying any of the later races over and over again.

Also, it bears repeating what I'm sure I already said in the GP-1 review: this is what Atlus chose to publish in the states?  They're sitting on a giant pile of MegaTen games, and they go with a damn motorcycle game?  Actually, I can only assume that's Nintendo of America's fault.  If NoA had a problem with crosses and blood and Devil World, they certainly wouldn't have been thrilled about a series where you commune with Satan and Beelzebub and murder archangels.  But even if those games were neutered into oblivion with censorship it still would of been way cooler than this GP-1 series.  Blah.

Did I beat it?
No.  It's a racing game; unless the challenge is nonexistent the answer is always no.



535 - Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings



So, apparently the Olympics once had a mascot, I guess?  Or maybe they still do?  Is that a thing they do nowadays?  Maybe there was a big push in the '90s to get more children invested with the games, and the US Olympic, uh, Committee (?) figured the only way they could compete with the Michael Jordans and Ken Griffey Jr.'s of the world was through a lovable muppet thing.  I'd never heard of him, and I read the shit out of Sports Illustrated For Kids, so I doubt it worked very well.  In any case, here we have Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings, his tie-in video game.  You're tasked with helping him navigate the likes of the Greek jungle (is that a thing?), and the moon, I guess, and retrieve the five stolen Olympic rings.  Which are physical items in this universe... you know what, let's just forget about the setup and storyline because that is a losing cause and it's starting to hurt my head.  Well, that and the three double IPAs I just drank because my wife is out of town.

Like the screenshots indicate, this is a *drum roll* platformer.  Because you can just never have enough of those it seems.  And Izzy's has all of the usual platformer things going on; running, jumping, running and jumping onto enemy heads, and occasionally grabbing Olympic sport-themed powerups like a fencing saber, archery bow, or a... hanglider... ?  Man, I'm really overdoing the question marks in this entry, but it's not my fault, the game is just that befuddling in some ways.

Worse though, than the game's abundant nonsense and derivativeness, are the bad, bad controls and even worse slowdown.  I mean, it's not Chester Cheetah Wild Wild Quest-levels of bad, but it's definitely the very next tier down.  I don't even really know what is wrong with them (the controls) this time, they just feel off.  Like they're too rigid, or are just a tad unresponsive.  Again, something you have to play to fully get.  I just know that the entire time I'm playing I feel like I'm fighting the controller, which is a kiss of death for this type of game (or any game really).

And the control issues, like usual, tie directly into the next major flaw; it's too hard.  The game is very skimpy with extra lives, and you only one continue.  One.  If you're gonna be that mean why even bother at all?  Just go straight back to the title screen as soon as you run out of lives and save yourself the effort of having to code an extra screen.

So bad controls, difficult and confusing levels, and a dearth of extra 1UPs means making any real progress in this game is a pretty big chore.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I've made less progress every time I've played it.  That doesn't even make sense, unless my rising frustration makes me actually play worse the longer I go.

Now of course I wouldn't have the game in Volume V of this project if it was all bad.  Because I do kind of like the graphics and animation throughout.  It kind of reminds me of Pitfall The Mayan Adventure, but just not as good.  In any way.  Is that because these are from the same development outfit?  I wouldn't be surprised if they were.  Izzy also likes to hide its goodies behind the scenery, similar to what that game does, which are always fun to find.  Or at least it gives me an excuse to explore the levels that I'm stuck attempting over and over again.

After each area you also end up on the moon (don't ask), where you can finally retrieve one of the missing rings.  The first of these levels actually takes the form of one long rocket ride, providing a decent change of pace.  It was probably my favorite part of the game, mostly just because it was so different from the standard levels.  Unfortunately they didn't carry this over to the next area because the second moon level abandons the rocket for more straightforward platforming, which is dumb.  I never got far enough to see any more of these levels, but I kind of wish I could.  Maybe someday I'll have the patience to watch a Youtube longplay (cheat) and make some real headway in this guy.  Probably not, but maybe.

So, in the end Izzy is a pretty poor excuse for a game in many ways, with some glaring issues that really tempted me to rate it worse than I did.  But once again I have to ask myself, if I played the game as much as I did, did I truly hate it?  Probably.  But something about seeing what was next made me keep trying to press on, and again, I have to give the game credit for that.  And if it didn't cause me to yank the cart out and throw it (like some titles have) it can't be all that bad.  Or at least it means there are always others that are worse.

Did I beat it?
Obviously not.



534 - Speedy Gonzales: Los Gatos Bandidos



Once upon a time the Looney Toons lineup featured a cartoon character named Speedy Gonzales, famous for being the "fastest mouse in all of Mexico."  And though he was mostly known for kicking the ass of his rival, El Gringo PussyCato (or something like that, it was Sylvester the Cat), the show did feature some other characters that were, shall we say, relics of a less "sensitive" time in American history.  So it shouldn't be too surprising that Mr. Gonzales got the short end of the stick, and is relegated to being something of a secondary character nowadays. But not before he got his very own platformer video game on the Super Nintendo.  And presumably the Genesis.  Just like seemingly every other "Looney Toon."  This time however the offending publisher is Acclaim, which is always a great sign.  Sunsoft must have either lost the license by then, or was already dust by the time this came out.  Or maybe Acclaim bought them up since the most terrible of studios always seem to be the ones that survive.  But I dunno, I couldn't be bothered to actually google anything about it.

Anyways, Los Gatos Bandidos is the millionth generic mascot platformer that was crapped out back in the day.  And since it's about a super "speedy" mouse, and this game is post-Sonic the Hodgehog, you can take a wild guess as to how it plays.  And since I've already covered in depth how much I hate Sonic's gameplay, and why I hate it, I'll be brief this time: it was a gimmick at best with Sonic, with a formula that makes for usually-shitty gameplay in all the copycats, none of whom could figure out how to design a level around a dashing protagonist.

At least this game kind of looks alright.  And the control isn't too slippery.  In fact Speedy practically stops on a dime, which is a very nice change of pace from what I usually get with these kinds of games, so I'm just going to go ahead and call that the best part of the game.  By far.  And it's even nice enough to give you the ability to scroll the screen in any direction so that you can look for upcoming enemies or hazards.  It doesn't work perfectly in practice, but it's better than nothing.  So while the bar is very low for this type of game, Speedy does at least do a few things right.

Unfortunately, what it doesn't get right is any sort of variety, or cool levels.  Or fun for that matter.  Every single stage plays out pretty much exactly the same, the only difference is they gradually get more convoluted and maze-like.  And there are only a few bosses that I saw, all of which were horrible in every way, with bad hit detection and poor overall design.  I hate when games don't have bosses, and I hate when there are bosses but they're very lazily done.  It's always such a waste of an opportunity.

Also, the general goal of each level seems to be rescuing your fellow caged mice.  Or at least that's what the game appears to be telling you, becasuse as far as I can tell the prisoners just act as checkpoints and it doesn't actually matter how many of them you rescue in any given level.  Or maybe I just happened to have "enough" every time.  Who knows.  The only thing that does seem to end the level is reaching the finish line, something that starts out pretty simple, but eventually gets sadistically evil.  In fact, by the end I actually gave up on finishing the game because of some truly bafflingly poorly-designed final levels, which I don't even want to get into.  Suffice it to say they tanked the ranking here by at least fifty spots.  My mind just boggles when thinking about it.  Maybe the QA never made it far enough to test that crap out, or maybe I broke the game at some point and didn't even realize it.  All I know is I almost soft-locked the game in a sense, and it really pissed me off.

But beyond the maddening end to my play experience, it was a mediocre platformer that barely did much right, did a lot of things in an average sort of way, and never really did anything to make me consider going back to give it another shot.

Did I beat it?
Almost, but no.



533 - Clayfighter 2: Judgment Clay



The follow-up to the fighting flop that disappointed an entire generation, C2: Judgment Clay is, to my eye, a game that no one was asking for.  Is that based on my completely esoteric view of the franchise?  Perhaps.  The fact that the series got yet another sequel on the Nintendo 64 proves there must have been some sort of audience for these things.  I've just never met any of those people.  Maybe Interplay was trying to turn this franchise into a hit through sheer willpower.  And if that is the case, they failed.

Obviously I've already thoroughly explained the many reasons I despise fighting games a number of times at this point.  Mostly, it's because I suck at them, I don't think that they're fun, and I don't want to spend a million hours trying to master them.  C2 is no different in any of those regards, it's a game I struggle with, I don't like playing it, and I will never invest the time necessary to change either of those things. 

Strangely enough, even though this is the second game in the Clayfighter series, and third release overall, I swear this is somehow a much worse looking title than the original was.  Did Interplay scrap the stop motion animation and clay models this time out?  I'm sure they didn't, but something about it kind of looks like they did.  Or at least something is different and cheaper looking, graphics-wise.  I was not a big fan of the first game, but I will at least give it some begrudging respect for pulling off some impressive examples of early claymation.  Even if I thought it was wasted on some truly terrible character designs.  But I swear whatever is going on here is a serious downgrade.  Most of the roster is brand new, so perhaps it was a rushed release and they didn't have time to fully craft the models or put in more animation.  I don't know what the problem is, but in any case the first game's best strength takes a serious hit this time out.

The fighting engine is also definitely faster and more responsive this go around.  Perhaps that was an effect of Street Fighter II: Turbo, and everyone decided they had to start bringing the speed.  Do I have those timelines right?  Did Turbo come out after Clayfighter?  I don't know, it doesn't matter.  But everything does seem speedier this time, which I'm okay with.  Or at least it doesn't seem to hurt the gameplay. 

The single player mode is also much less infuriating than it was in the original.  Playing fighting games solo is usually a pretty horrid enough experience as it is, but the serious balancing issues in the first game almost made the game unplayable to me, and it seemed even more pronounced in the tournament edition.  The developers must have felt the same way, because the blatant cheating by the AI is no longer an issue, and winning fights now seems to rely less on exploits or cheap shots, and more on combos and actual strategy.  Not that I would ever pretend to actually know jack shit about the intricacies of any fighting game, but my uninformed ass at least felt that way.

Did I enjoy my time with C2?  Nope, absolutely not - it's a fighting game, so it never stood a chance in that regard.  But I can recognize that this is a much more playable game than its predecessor, and that some people will enjoy it.  If you had high hopes for the original, and were let down just like me, you may find some sort of satisfaction here.

Did I beat it?
Yes? The experiences with the three Clayfighters are starting to run together in my head.



532 - Chester Cheetah: Too Cool To Fool



The first of the two Chester Cheetah games released for the system, and the only one that I'd consider remotely playable in any sense.  Or I should say it is dramatically less broken than its ill-fated sequel.  And if you don't remember what I wrote about Wild Wild Quest, it basically boiled down to "high concept game completely ruined by framerate issues and cheap level designs."  Too Cool to Fool on the other hand, plays things much safer than its follow-up, so there's a lot less going on, but it also actually resembles a fully finished and tested video game.  So in other words, we've got here a competently made yet boring game, as opposed to a bona fide fiasco.  Sometimes I prefer the latter, but in this case I'm going with the former.

Is Chester Cheetah still a thing nowadays?  I'm assuming he probably is, I just don't know because I never watch television anymore, much less the Nickelodeon channel, where you would have been constantly inundated with his commercials.   And he was everywhere back in the day.  I guess once Frito-Lay saw how popular Joe Camel was with wee children they mocked up their own rip-off to lure them into begging their parents to buy the messiest snack ever known to man.  It worked on me, I still love that crap.

The plot in Too Cool To Fool revolves around Chester doing... things?  Honestly, I don't even know if there is a story, or how one would come up with one for a food mascot.  The developers must have come to the same realization, and didn't even bother.  Granted there was some text in the introduction about life in the zoo (despite there being no zoo levels in this game), but it's laid out in what I can only describe as "indecipherable beatnik speak," so I'm standing by my no story claim.  And yes, that is what I am calling this:



I'd wager '90s kids were a little more into the slang from Pauly Shore or Vanilla Ice than this, but honestly, what's the difference?  It's all dumb.

The gameplay itself is super standard mascot platformer fare.  Chester walks (he's too cool to run unless you get a power-up) and jumps, and occasionally grabs an electric guitar to rock out on, Chuck Berry-style.  Did I mention how hard this game is pushing the "cool" angle?  There's also a gratuitous crawling animation that is less Goemon-style hilarious as it is creepily suggestive.  If you don't know what I'm talking about I'll let you search for it yourself.  And I only mention it because the number of moves he has is so painfully limited that I have nothing else to talk about.

Levels are also super generic and non-descript.  Sometimes you go underground to scrounge for power-ups, but this is yet another game where most of those seem completely pointless.  So I generally didn't even bother.  And I guess the only reason I think higher of this game than I do of Adventures of Yogi Bear, the other most-boringest platformer on the planet, is because at least this thing has some variety.  I mean, it barely does, like a short segment where you need to get a monkey to help you out, or a mine cart section that plays exactly like you'd think it does, but at least it's trying.  A little bit.

Honestly, I'm losing steam here.  I played through this several years ago, and I already barely remember anything from the refresher session I held several months ago.  It's a platformer.  You do platformer things.  It's based on a damn snack food.  Moving on.

Did I beat it?
Yes.  In one try.  One.



531 - Super Soccer



Nintendo tosses its hat into the soccer ring, and just like with Super Play Action Football and NCAA Basketball, prove to us that they're better off sticking with their Mario/Zelda/Metroid day job.  Or at least that they shouldn't make sports games unless Mario is involved.

The best comparison to Super Soccer is the (recently covered) Super Goal! 2.  As in both games play almost exactly the same.  Exactly.  I guess after realizing how broken Goal! was, Jaleco decided to rip off the mighty Nintendo with their next title.  And I can't blame them for assuming that would be a good idea.  But the game they chose to mimic is nearly as bad as their own. 

In fact, the games are so similar that I don't even want to write another synopsis of the same talking points.  So I'm just gonna quickly write-up SS in the laziest possible way, and briefly go over a few things, including what is (slightly) different than what SG!2 offered:

Viewing perspective - It's exactly the same as SG!2, and happens to be the first thing that tipped me off as to how familiar this whole thing felt.

Controls - Work almost exactly the same.  Well, that's not true.  You can actually pass your to teammates now (novel fucking idea), though it still doesn't work as great as it does in most other soccer games.  But that is still basically the entire reason this is fifteen spots higher than SG!2 is.

Spin - It's easier to put it on the ball here.  You'd think that would lead to more scoring, but you'd be wrong.

Difficulty - It's harder.  Too hard for a wuss like me in fact.  Games against the worst opponents show how fun the game could have been with a few tweaks, but I don't really like playing Holland over and over again.

Ummm... so yeah, that's about it.  It's the same game otherwise.  I'm sure some super fan could come in here and correct me, and point out fifty things wrong with the assertions I made, but fuck it.  It's soccer and I don't care enough to spend more time on these games proofing things.  Not that I didn't play both games for way longer than any sane person would.

Did I beat it?
No, I can only beat the weakest of opponents.



530 - Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls



Remember back in the day when beat 'em ups ruled the land?  It was glorious.  You couldn't find a video game collection that didn't include Double Dragon or Final Fight or Streets of Rage 2, all of which provided heaps of mindless fun.  Who doesn't enjoy kicking people in the face a dozen times before delivering a roundhouse that sends them flying off the edge of a cliff?  Or grabbing some goon and piledriving his face into some asphalt?  Nobody, that's who.  But then that stupid Street Fighter game had to come out and ruin it for everyone.  Before you knew it all of the Double Dragons and Ninja Turtles and Golden Axes had had lost their collective minds and morphed into fighting games.  And anyone who knows anything about me (or has read at least a few of my reviews) knows how much I despise fighting games.  Not that I can blame any of those developers, they were just following the money and what all the kids were playing.  And for most people it's probably a natural evolution of the beat 'em up genre.  And even I can admit that there is only so much you can add to such an old gameplay formula before its limitations start becoming more apparant.  So in many ways it was only natural that games like Double Dragon V arose as a result.

Still, this move into the realm of one-on-one fighting games ended up being a massive step backwards for every one of those franchises I just named, and basically killed most of them off for decades, if not permanently.  While the brawling originals are all considered stone cold classics, that are still fondly remembered to this day, their ill-advised brethren have mostly become punchlines.  Shoddy knockoffs trying to regain some of their previous glory.  DDV is one of those games.

The gameplay plays just like any fighter -- kicks, punches, specials, etc -- nothing that wasn't done by every single other game in the genre.  Things are responsive enough to rise above garbage like Street Combat or Doomsday Warrior, but otherwise everything about it is completely and utterly unremarkable. 

The animation is also pretty spotty, and at times almost feels "spazzy" to me.  Like things are moving quicker than they should, or it's as if I'm stuck playing on a "turbo" mode.  That may be a good thing for some people, especially those who prefer their fighting games fast and furious, but all it did was throw me off and make me wish I could turn the speed of play down.

The game is also way too slowly-paced.  And yes, I just called the game too fast and too slow.  What I mean by that is every fight feels like it takes an eternity to complete, with combatants who soak up an absurd amount of punishment before they die.  So instead of rewarding the players who can pull off nicely timed combos that will tear into a character's health bar, you're instead just fighting a war of attrition, hoping to string together enough hits to wear your opponent down before the timer runs out.  That sucks, and is a pretty big reason I have the game as low as I do. 

Plus, there is actually pretty copious slowdown, which just further drags things out.  If I actually cared about being good at fighting games, or playing them competitvely, that would probably be an even bigger detriment, but since I don't I'm barely penalizing the game for it.

For those of you who may be keeping score, my main complaints right now are that the game is too fast, too slow, and too slow.  That would make a great box quote.

The art style is also just awful.  Like, I don't know if this was based on an American TV show or something, but long gone are the Kunio-style graphics of the 8-bit games, instead replaced with some of the ugliest mugs ever to grace a Super Nintendo game.  It looks like one of those failed '80s cartoons that tried to steal some of Hanna Barbera's thunder.  And the final boss, the Shadow Master (first seen in Double Dragon II and Battletoads Double Dragon), now has long grey hair spilling out of his mask.  He looks like a friggin' doofus.

Now I will say that this game does at least try to give you plentiful options, including both "Quest" and "Tournament" modes.  It's actually very similar to what Turtles Tournament Fighters offered, though I'm not sure if that's a coincidence or if this was a common thing for fighting games at the time.  Either way, it doesn't really add anything to the game, other than giving you two very slightly different paths through the game with separate cutscenes.  Assuming anyone cares about cutscenes or storylines in a fighting game.  I'm not really sure why they bothered, to be honest.

In the end, this has to be the worst Double Dragon game that was ever made, and that includes the old arcade game that contained some of the world's first instances of micro transactions.  I guess I'd rather play a beat 'em up that steals your money than some also-ran Street Fighter II knockoff.

Did I beat it?
Yes, several times.  Maybe three.  It was way too many whatever it was.



529 - BreakThru!



Is this the first traditional puzzle game on the list?  It must be, because I feel like this is usually a genre that is very hard to mess up in any significant way.  All you really need is a central hook or gimmick, with some colorful graphics thrown in, and a moderately balanced difficulty curve.  It's a simple formula, that doesn't require a fancy presentation, elaborate setpieces and sequences, or complicated controls.  Just basic gameplay.  And I feel like most of the genre's offerings on the SNES were able to get that part right.  But BreaktThru! (not to be confused with the NES game) is the weakest of that bunch, with a central gimmick that just doesn't seem very well implemented or balanced, or thought out in general.  And it isn't really very fun to play, which is about the only thing that truly matters with a game like this.

The best way I can explain the gameplay is as follows:

- You start each level with a grid of blocks that are red/yellow/blue/green.  Above the grid is a constantly moving "conveyor belt" of new blocks that will occasionally drop down onto the playing field.
- Items (or at least that's what I call them) include dynamite that will destroy a section of blocks, arrows that will wipe out part of a row or column, and wild cards that let you erase an entire color from the current stacks.
- The simple controls let you switch the direction the belt is scrolling, drop pieces, use any items on the field of play, or toggle some vertical lines on/off so that you can see where things align.  I would heartily recommend you turn that last one on.

One of the major issues is that I can never get things to consistently happen.  Like, sometimes clicking on dynamite will cause it to explode.  Most of the time it will do nothing.  Why?  I have absolutely zero idea.  And this is a game that I played through to completion, and then played a significant amount of a second time for the sake of this review.

Another problem, is that there is no balance to the "endgame" of each round.  You'll need to remove every single block in order to move on, yet a lot of the time you won't get the drops needed to make that happen.  Anyone who has ever played Yoshi's Cookie should have an idea of what I'm talking about.  For example, if you only have yellow blocks left, but the drops are nothing but green, blue, and red, your piles will start to build back up, undoing all of your hard work.  All because of bad luck.  And unlike YC, there is a time limit to each round, which makes each failure even more infuriating.  There is nothing more frustrating than having to start an entire round over because you just happened to get the wrong colors at the wrong time, over and over again.

It's hard to make a puzzle game that isn't fun - even flawed games like Wario's Woods and Pac-Attack managed to do it.  But BreakThru! seems over-designed or something.  Or maybe it's just missing a core mechanic, or some sort of polish that could have helped get it over the hump.  Like maybe a special attack you can earn that lets you blow away troublesome pieces or something.  Or a smarter algorithm that will actually generate the pieces you need once in a while.  And yet even if those flaws were corrected, you'd still be left with a game whose core "gimmick" just isn't very clever or fun.  So at the end of the day the result is the least interesting game the genre produced on the SNES.  And it's one that couldn't set itself apart in any single way, outdone by over a dozen other contemporaries.

Did I beat it?
Yes.  It took the patience of a saint but I did it dammit.  And then I almost did it again just for this review.



528 - Super Putty



Here we have another baffling Amiga port.  Baffling in that it raises the question, "who was this meant for?"  The cutesy graphics imply it was aimed at small children, yet this game is way too hard for any kid to enjoy.  At the same time I can't imagine any adults being super enthused about playing something called Super Putty.  I'm also guessing that this game was not a massive success in the US, which could explain why we never saw the sequel over here.  Or maybe there were a ton of sequels since I swear I still see "Putty" games popping up to this day.

Someone on NA once compared this game to Contra.  I remember being taken aback by the audacity of that statement, racking my brain as to how such a thing could be possible.  Could this Amiga platformer secretly feature fast and furious gunplay?  Epic boss fights?  Sublime cooperative play?  A gigantic H.R. Giger alien?  I didn't know, but said poster had caught my attention with such an bold and intriguing proposition.  It even got me to fast track a purchase of the cart...

And let me tell you, that analogy couldn't be any more off base or insane.  On what planet is this a remotely comparable experience?  Am I completely missing something?  Is there a hidden part of Super Putty that I've yet to discover?  Does it completely switch gears halfway through?  Is there a "fire gun" button that I somehow never discovered?  These thoughts still hum through my brain to this day.

But as far as I can tell, no, this is an just another Amiga game, nothing more.  And I know "Amiga game" isn't generally considered a genre unto itself, but to me it almost is.  They just have a certain look and feel that is always present, and immediately apparent.  This game has that feel, in spades.

As seems to be common with these games, the gameplay revoles around depositing thingies into an end goal of sorts, which unlocks an exit door.  In order to accomplish this task you'll need to use your (putty?) ball's ability to stretch and bounce in order reach far and high platforms.  The pic above kind of shows in detail how this works and what he's capable of.  The game also has a pretty unique main attack, in that you melt into the ground and wait for your prey to wander into range so you can consume it.  Like some sort of (super lame) Sarlacc or something.

Now just because the game offers unique methods of locomotion and attack, and make no mistake, they are unique, does that make any of that any fun?  Not really.  Every other game on the planet lets you jump, or use a grappling hook or something, because those things work.  And while the thought of digesting your foes like some sort of acid pool or liquid venus flytrap fills me with a kind of macabre glee, it's not actually very satisfying in practice.  This game would have been way better with some graphic gore and violence.

I definitely cannot say Super Putty is a terrible game, or even a bad game.  It's just not a game that I find to be very fun.  I can always tell that's the case when I barely make any progress into a game, and have a very hard time forcing myself to keep at it for the sake of these reviews.  Or when I have to keep taking whacks at the review itself because I can never think of anything to write about.

Did I beat it?
No.  I probably only made it a fraction of the way through the game.



527 - Space Invaders



Man what a lackluster effort.  While a number of classic arcade titles from the early 1980s were ported over to the Super Nintendo, they were either done as compilations (such as the Midway and Williams collections), or boast gameplay that has arguably withstood the test of time (Mr. Do!, Ms. Pac-Man, Frogger).  The late release of Space Invaders on the other hand, is a barebones repackaging of a title that came out all the way back in 1978, with graphics and gameplay that look and feel it.  And this was a first-party release.  I guess the big N was too busy with their newfangled 64-bit console to care about some SNES game they crapped out as little more than an afterthought.

Without looking into it, I'm gonna say Space Invaders was the world's first shoot 'em up (or shmup).  Or at least the first mega popular one, not counting Asteroids.  So I understand this is an important video game in the history of the medium, that made a huge impact back in its time.  And I understand that it was immensely popular, responsible for a national quarter shortage in the US (or maybe that was Japan).  I get it, shmups are fun, and options were limited back then.  But anyone would be hard pressed to argue that the game doesn't play poorly today.  The pacing is slow, the action is repetitive, and depth is almost nonexistent.  All you do is shoot a couple waves of enemies, maybe go for a bonus UFO or two if the opportunity presents itself, or duck under the cover that's provided if you're bored enough to mix things up.  Then after a few minutes you repeat the process, over and over again.  What you see in the first thirty seconds is what you get for the rest of the game.

Now, it wouldn't have been hard to enhance the game for this 16-bit reissue.  All Nintendo needed to do was add better graphics, or extra levels, or boss fights, or anything at all.  Instead, they opted for a very rudimentary versus mode where you and another player compete for high score, and some graphic overlays you can pick between that mimic the marquees on the various different arcade cabinets.  That.  Is.  It.  A versus mode that doesn't play very well, and some fake marquees.  Talk about phoning it in.

A part of me wanted to really punish this game in the rankings for being such a piss-poor effort, and there were several times I came very close to retroactively throwing it into Volume IV.  I mean it has to be one of the laziest games on the platform, and easily one of Nintendo's weakest moments on its best console.  The whole thing is an insult to players.  But at the same time I can't seem to bring myself to call this a worse game than all of those trainwrecks I already tore into.  Aged or not, you can't say Space Invaders is as bad as something like The Adventures of Mighty Max.  It would just feel wrong.  And lazy or not, at least the game actually works on some level, unlike crap such as Championship Pool or Virtual Bart.  So I settled with this spot, still a relatively poor rank, yet not completely insulting to a classic game.  I feel good about it.

Did I beat it?
I beat a couple of the boards on a few occasions.  So... yes?



526 - The Itchy & Scratchy Game



For those of you readers that may not know, The Itchy & Scratchy Show is a cartoon within a cartoon (The Simpsons) that can basically be summarized as an R-Rated and very violent Tom and Jerry.  And I don't doubt that any under the age of thirty wouldn't be familiar with the cat and mouse duo because The Simpsons hasn't been really worth watching for at least twenty years.  And also because the title and cover art of this game make no mention of its parent show, at all, strangely enough.  Kind of a weird marketing strategy when you're a tie-in to one of the biggest cultural phenomena of the day...

In Volume IV of this project I covered Bart's Nightmare, one of the two Simpsons minigame collections released on the SNES.  And one of the games in BN tasked you with navigating the Simpson home, repeatedly murdering the cat and mouse that have invaded it.  I've always though it was the strongest part of that game, finding it immensely satisfying to hit them with a frying pan or spray them with bazooka fire.  The Itchy & Scratchy game takes that minigame and tries to flesh it out into a entire video game that can stand on its own.  And I can't fault Acclaim for going for it because, honestly, that is a pretty great idea, and makes way more sense than any of the other Simpsons titles on the system.

Instead of using Bart to kill both Itchy and Scratchy, this time around you control just Itchy the mouse, and engage Scratchy in mortal combat across a collection of levels, with themes such as pirates, prehistoria, etc.  Like its predecessor the action is fast and furious, and there are assorted hammers, guns, and various other implements of destruction scattered around to do the job.  But instead of one-shot kills, now you'll both be trying to whittle each other's health bars down, which will then trigger a follow-up boss fight.  And you know what?  I love every single one of those ideas.  It's exactly what an I&S game should be about, and the "deathmatch" style of design was way ahead of its time.  If only they had had the foresight (or time) to implement some sort of two player competitive mode, we could have had a potential sleeper hit on our hands.

But obviously I wouldn't be writing about this game right now if it was truly any good.  And it isn't.  The ideas are there, but the implementation is not, and it doesn't even come close to fully realizing any of them.  The combat, while great on paper, is super clunky in practice.  The levels are also super boring, and the low resolution (damn you Super Nintendo!) turns one of their battles into chaos and button mashing, or worse, a reliance on exploits, instead of strategy and tactics.  And the boss fights that every level builds to are a complete and unmitigated disaster, ladden with frustration and cheap design.  Especially the first one.  And the pirate one.  What am I saying, they all suck.

In the end I think I&S can still be a moderately fun game at times, despite itself, held back by some pretty glaring flaws.  And it really is a shame they didn't add in a multiplayer mode, which I think could have held a lot of promise.  But it's still certainly more tolerable than either of the other two Simpsons games I already covered, by a large margin, and it certainly could have been worse.  But if I was to recommend one Simpsons game on the SNES, I wouldn't hesitate in going with the one title that is left, which I will be covering several installments from now.

Did I beat it?
Yes, and then almost a second time when I was writing this up.

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Writing about every SNES game - Volume VI
SNES Set - 712/723 (Ghoul Patrol)
Switch: SW-6880-6470-3131


Edited: 01/19/2019 at 02:12 AM by Brock Landers

Sep 17, 2018 at 12:00:33 AM
Brock Landers (54)
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525 - Family Dog



Yet another licensed platformer?  We'll run out of them eventually (I hope).  The offender this time is Family Dog, based on a syndicated prime-time television show that no one remembers, adapted into a Super Nintendo game that even fewer people remember.  I don't know how that's possible, it just is. 

The gist of the television series is that the family dog (I don't know if he has a name) encounters a number of "wacky" adventures while being abused by the horrible suburban family that took him in.  I only know this because I forced myself to watch a few episodes on Youtube in the name of research for this review.  And while I found the animation to be rather good, especially for the era, the plotlines are extremely slow-paced, and the humor almost nonexistent.  As in, I'm not even sure if it was supposed to be a sitcom or a drama, and I'm not joking.  I'm not sure if they were going for a tone of dark comedy, melancholy, or an unflattering commentary of the (then) current state of suburban America.  For instance, episode one begins as an extended dog abuse gag.  Except no one on the writing staff remembered to write any actual jokes into the script.  Things only get worse as the plot transitions into a nonsensical dog show number.  Episode two is so bad that I'm not even going to try and explain it.

Now to be fair most shows take at least a season to hit any sort of a stride, and FD was cancelled well before that mark.  But everything about it was so pointless and nihilistic, with characters so deeply unlikable, that I don't know where they even could have taken things.  And remember that this was the era where everyone was trying to cash in on the success of The Simpsons, so concepts as horrible as this were not uncommon (ie Fish Police).  The only truly interesting, and bewildering, thing about the whole project was the list of huge names attached to the production credits; Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, and Brad Bird, among others.  Don't try to process any of that, or your brain will melt.

Anyways, the Family Dog video game for Super Nintendo can basically be summarized as an episode of the show where the dog is harassed by the son for awhile, then gets sent to the pound for it, immediately escapes, and then runs home.  Cue credits.  It's no exaggeration to say this is a ten minute game once you know what you're doing, and maybe 45 minutes before then.

The controls take some extreme getting used to because they initially seem completely unresponsive, if not downright broken.  Getting the dog to jump, attack, or do anything, is a mess, as different animations seem to trigger for no discernible reason.  The level layouts are also horrible for the most part, with the same objects and scenery reused ad nauseum.  It even got to the point where I couldn't tell if I was starting a new level or being forced to replay an old one.  I'm still not sure.  And you know the sort of game that loves to tuck items and bonuses into every nook and cranny of the level, but the high risk of going after any of them, coupled with the complete lack of any reward to actually getting any of them, means you're better off ignoring all of them?  This is one of those games.  Trust me, you're better off just bypassing everything that isn't directly in front of you.

Now if I've made the game sounds pretty bad up until this point, that's because it is pretty bad.  And I was having a miserable time with it.  Until I realized that I was playing it wrong.  Because you can't treat FD like a real game.  You have to treat it like a speed runner, and just try to cruise through it as fast as possible.  Was the game intended to be played that way?  Hell no.  But that's the direction I took things, and once I did, I actually had a decent time with it.  The game is so short, and everything is pre-scripted, so, fuck it, why not?  And if you don't believe me, try it.  You'll probably still hate it, but I guarantee you'll have more fun trying to clear the game in ten minutes then you will trying to play it as it was meant to be played.

Did I beat it?
Yes I did.  The initial attempts had me wanting to rage quit, but I eventually came to grips with the game's strange mechanics and rolled through it.  A couple times.



524 - Elite Soccer



One of the many (hard to find) soccer games on the system, and the third one in this installment alone.  I know because I've been playing all three of them for like four straight nights.  The things I do for this project...

Anyways, like most of Gametek's offerings, Elite Soccer is pretty rough and unpolished.  The graphics are also butt ass ugly, the sound sucks, and the pace of play could best be described as "frantic."  As in, this has to be the most ridiculously fast sports game I've ever played.  More so than NBA Jam, NFL Blitz, Tecmo Super Bowl, all of them.  I even had to go through the options menus just to make sure it was set on some sort of hyper mode or something.  Nope, turns out it's just a super spazzy game.

And a part of me likes that.  It helps keep things entertaining.  Unlike so many of the titles I've already covered where every march down the field is a slog, with defenders constantly hounding you, possession constantly changing, and shots on goal a rarity, ES keeps the action fast and furious.  And the ballcarriers...dribblers?  I don't know soccer terminology.  Whoever they are, they're very good at cutting through defenses and lining up shots, and teammates are always ready for a follow-up attempt in case of a deflection.  Even with the game length at the minimum you can expect dozens of shots on goals between the two teams, with few breaks in the action.

That doesn't mean the game isn't broken of course, because it totally is.  For example, while defenders can easily be beaten, the goalies are super tough.  Most of my scoring only happened once I figured out a couple different exploits, which isn't exactly great game design.  And the speed of play is so fast that it can be pretty hard to stop some of the higher-powered offenses, especially when the AI decides it needs to catch up.

The game is also loaded with options.  You can create and edit your own teams, including player name and appearance, choose from a number of different types of tournaments, and even configure many parts of the gameplay.  Want an incompetent ref?  That's a thing in this game.  Power down the goalies?  Also a thing.  Make Brazil and the United States stand on equal footing?  You got it.

In the end, is this a better-made game than Super Goal! 2 or Super Soccer?  Probably not.  Is it uglier?  Definitely.  But it's also way more fun to play than those other games, especially if you just like your soccer fast and brainless.  I'm also pretty sure this is the last soccer game on the list that is a subpar game overall, as everything left is probably going to be on the right side of the bell curve.  Which also means I should get some relief from having to come up with things to write about them, thank God.

Did I beat it?
Yes, I won the World Cup with Germany.



523 - Jack Nicklaus Golf



Poor Jack.  First he signs a deal to sponsor a game for mighty Konami, but it ends up being a total piece of shit.  Then he gets a second chance with Jack Nicklaus Golf on Super Nintendo, and it's almost as bad as the first game.  If there is one type of video game that old dudes will play, it's golf games, and this dude probably couldn't stomach the thought of playing his own games.

Okay, let me backtrack a little.  This game isn't that bad.  I just didn't know what to write for an introduction, so I came up with that stupid little number.  But this definitely isn't a good game, mostly thanks to how lazy of a release it is.  Perhaps not quite as lazy as Mecarobot Golf, but still pretty damn half-hearted.

Now there isn't much here that isn't standard golf game fare.  Swings are done with the vanilla three-click system that was used by every golf game for decades, and for all I know is still the standard to this day.  I get that, if it's not broke don't fix it.  But it's still pretty unoriginal.  The courses are very unmemorable too, with nothing exciting enough to really make mention of.  There's no floating greens, or crazy hard par fives, or robot opponents or anything.  And everything about the presentation is straight and to the point.  Even the menus barely try.

The other parts of the game play things pretty safe too.  Controls are intuitive, the load times when you change your orientation (yes, that's a thing in golf games) are about par for the system, and the pace of play is decent.  Way better than in MG which was crippled by pacing issues, as you may recall.

But much like with Mecarobot Golf, the biggest problem here is the lack of content.  The game offers a meager two courses, and two modes of play; strokes and skins.  That may not sound terrible, especially compared to MG, but trust me, it's sparse.  After blowing through both courses in thirty minutes each, and easily winning every skins game, you'll be looking for a little more meat on the bone, and the game can't deliver.  You'll experience everything this game has to offer within an hour of starting it.

I should also mention that the graphics are hideously ugly, but since this is a golf game I'm not really holding that against it too much.  I mean, who cares?  All that really matters is if you can see where the pin is, and where the sand bunkers and shit are; everything else is just window dressing.  Is that a real term?  Did I just make that up?  It doesn't sound right, but it's late and I'm tired so I'm going with it.  Anyways, you could almost say bad graphics are a boon to a golf game, because it usually means faster load times whenever the game has to render a new shot.  Some of the golf games I'll be covering later on are extremely slow in this regard, which is not the sort of tradeoff I'd choose to take.

One truly bizarre (or maybe just lazy) feature is the lack of any real depth to the "greens."  By that I mean, they all appear to be completely flat and uniform, which makes putting completely trivialized once you figure out how they work.  That effectively removes nearly 50% of the skill required to master this game, which is a large reason why it is so easy to shoot great scores.  In fact, everything about the game is easy.  Drives and layups are accurate, hazards are easily overcome or avoided, and birdies are plentiful.

So yeah, laziest golf game on the system, but still much better than MR because of the much faster pace of play.  Still, it barely has enough content to hold anyone's interest, and there are many much better options we'll be getting to later.

Did I beat it?
Yeah, I've blown through everything this game has to offer a couple of times.



522 - Ranma 1/2 Hard Battle



I'm probably sounding like a broken record by saying this, but just like with hockey, soccer, professional wrestling, NASCAR, My Little Pony and so many other things, I know next to nothing about anime/manga.  I mean, I loved Akira as a child (video store employees never seemed to enforce the R rating back then), and I once read all of the Robotech novelizations, and I may have even watched an episode or two of Dragon Ball Z back in middle school, but overall it's a pretty big blind spot in my knowledge of all things nerd.  That isn't to say I haven't at least heard of many of the heavy hitters like Evangelion or Cowboy Bebop and whatnot, but it's otherwise all foreign to me. Ranma 1/2 is just one of many, many shows that I have some passing awareness of, but never watched or looked into.  Mostly because I honestly have no interest in the stuff.  For whatever reason it just doesn't resonate with me, and that most likely will never change.  So I'm going into this only knowing that the series was the basis for a couple of SNES games, including what became Street Combat, and is seemingly set in a Chinese martial arts dojo.  And there are giant anthropomorphic panda bears, I guess.

I will say that this is probably the first fighting game I've covered so far that is completely playable.  Unless I already said that in a previous review, in which case I was being a dirty liar, because this is truly the first one I can stomach playing for extended periods of time.  Not to say that it isn't still a far cry from the likes of Street Fighter II or Samurai Shodown, but we're still in the 500s, so what would you expect?

The gameplay is standard fighting fare.  Jump, punch, throw, yadda yadda yadda.  You know exactly what you're getting here.  I'm not sure when exactly this came out in relation to SFII, but suffice it to say it plays like a lesser imitation, which is not unusual for these games.  The controls aren't bad, but they're not as tight as SFII.  The characters and stages look pretty good, but not as good as SFII.  The music is decent, but well below SFII.  You get the picture.  And, for better or worse, I'm going to be comparing almost every fighter going forward with that landmark title.  Partially because it really did set the bar so high, and partially because I'm not knowledgeable enough about the genre to really be able to compare against anything that wasn't on the Super Nintendo, console or otherwise.

I also previously mentioned that this is the sequel to a R1/2 game that we got localized as Street Combat.  That game was horrid, and fell all the way into the bottom fifty of the rankings.  This game, while it cannot stand up against mighty SFII, does at least blow its predecessor out of the water.  The gameplay is much smoother, and way more varied, and the characters have way more charm than the ugly grotesques that SC spit out.  Kudos to the publisher for not defacing another title before delivering it to us poor Americans.

Fighting game fans might enjoy this.  Ranma 1/2 fans will probably enjoy it.  For anyone else, it's not really something that can really stand up alongside the genre's best offerings on the system, and doesn't really bring anything unique to the table that can set it apart in any way. I dunno, I'm the last person to ask for fighter recommendations.

Did I beat it?
Yes, which means the AI must have been stupid enough to let me scrape through the single player mode.



521 - Olympic Summer Games



The second of the two Olympic "track and field" games (this one being literal track and field), I'm giving Olympic Summer Games the slight nod over Winter Olympic Games thanks to a teensily better difficulty curve (though it's still pretty uneven), and minigames that seem to make just a little more sense to me in general.  OSG is still a pretty weak collection overall, especially when compared with the likes of Tiny Toons Adventures Wacky Sports Challenge or any of the better NES titles that were so prolific on that system, but it at least offers some fun and challenge here and there. 

The different types of events are:

100m and 110m Hurdles - The sprinting events, these play exactly like this sort of thing always does in TnF games - lots of button mashing.  I know I'm generally not very good at this type of thing (long fingers?) but it seems especially hard here.  And that always annoys me because I don't really feel like it's a skill you can develop much; you either have it or you don't.  I don't have it, I'll never have it, so I never win these events.  And then on top of that the hurdles add an additional cruel element into the mix, making an already hard event nigh impossible.  I've basically resigned myself to never winning any of these.

Pole Vault - One of my favorite events, this one combines the button mashing of sprinting with timing of the D-Pad needed to plant your pole so you can launch over the crossbar.  Much like with the hurdles, this sort of multitasking should seem completely impossible, yet this one is forgiving enough with the sprinting that you can focus on the timing required to clear the bar and see success.  After a couple rounds I was vaulting like a champ.

Triple Jump and Long Jump - Similar to pole vault, button mashing and D-Pad timing.  I enjoy these too, but they seem a bit on the easy side.  Still, something about pulling off a good jump is immensely satisfying.

High Jump - Exactly the same as the previous jumping events, just set from a different perspective.  I don't like this one quite as much, but it is still fun, and still satisfying.

Javelin - Again, button mashing, and timing the D-Pad.  This is another one that seems extremely hard, and I can only assume there is some nuance to the mechanics that escapes me.  I think it would be a lot of fun if I could ever figure it out, but that has yet to happen.

Discus - Like javelin, but even more bewildering.  I can never get my dude to stay in the ring.  I'm sure the answer is as simple as pressing the D-Pad in a certain direction at a certain time, but I can never pull it off.

Archery - You know in Metal Gear Solid when you try to use the sniper rifle, but without taking any pentazemin to steady your aim?  This minigame is that experience.  That's a good thing.

Skeet - Similar to Duck Hunt, sans the Zapper.  It plays alright, but it's pretty limited, and a bit too easy.  Anyone should be able to master this after a couple attempts, at which point there isn't really much more to get out of it.

As is usually the case with this type of game, I would not recommend trying to play it without a manual or FAQ up and ready.  Trying to jump into any of these games blind is going to be a futile exercise and a waste of time.  And even when I did have those things it still didn't help me figure out any of the throwing events.  But I'd still heavily recommend them anyways.  And while I wouldn't necessarily say I love the game, I at least had fun with some of the events, and I was willing to put enough time into it to see it through to the end.  Without getting overly annoyed at any point, I might add.  Some of the events could use some tuning, and the difficulty is all over the place, but overall I think it's the best the genre has offered so far.

Did I beat it?
Yes, I got gold medals in triple jump, high jump, pole vault, and skeet shooting, which was enough for first place.



520 - Home Alone 2: Lost in New York



A THQ game all the way up (down?) at #520?  That's bucking a trend, as it were.  Hell, I'd say it's practically cause for celebration, considering how putrid their output has been up until this point.  So regardless of all of the mean and unflattering things I end up saying in this review, know that this game is virtually divine compared to the likes of Road Riot, or Time Warp, or Race Drivin' or really almost anything they put out on the system...  Or any system for that matter.

I've long considered the first Home Alone film to be a modern classic (assuming 1991 is still thought of as "modern").  I'd even say anyone who was a kid when it came out not only saw it in theaters, but has watched it on a dozen Christmases since.  I know my family always watches it at least once each December, sometimes twice.  It's the perfect holiday movie, with killer performances from a stellar cast, some great setpieces and gags, and a lovable moppet who achieved peak precociousness with this performance, before heroin and Richie Rich doomed him to a life of weird Youtube videos and Skeletor impersonations.  Did I make that joke in another review already?  I think I might have.

On the other hand, the sequel, Lost in New York, was completely unnecessary then, and forgotten to history now.  I guess the "plot" this time is that an older (and less adorable) Kevin McCallister is somehow separated from his family for yet another Christmas, goes to New York City where he does more big people things, breaks the fourth wall a bunch, and crosses paths with the Wet Bandits once more.  And excuse me for digressing here, but the odds of that happening have to be like a trillion to one.  They should have just called this movie Home Alone 2: Alone Harder and cracked the same joke about the same shit happening to the same guy twice... 

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Brock: Am I making too many pop culture references?  People aren't gonna know what the fuck I'm talking about.
Editor: Probably.
Brock:  Screw it, I'm already way behind on getting this thread posted.  If I haven't driven my readership away by now, nothing will do it.

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There's even a crazy pigeon lady to play the part of the creepy old snow-shovelling character.  In other words, the sequel tries to retread the exact same ground and hit the exact same notes from the original, which is never a good idea for a movie.  It's the primary reason why comedy sequels are horrible like 99.99% of the time.

Anyways I haven't seen the film since it came out, but based on my experience playing this game it presumably also features:

- Hijinks in a fancy Ritz-like hotel, where Tim Curry plays the consierge.
- Hijinks in Central Park where the bird lady will play an important role in the finale.
- A trap-infested "Uncle's house".  How goddamn convienent.
- The Wet Bandits' ultimate defeat at the hands of a flock of birds.  Or at least one can only hope it's the last we'll see of them, as I don't think I could have handled a third Home Al-



French Stewart?  Really?  Is there any classic kids movie that the studios won't murder, sodomize, and piss on the corpse of?

Anyways, I'll talk about the damn game now, I promise, but I had to do all of that because an entire playthrough is only twenty minutes long.  And no, I don't mean a speedrun, that would be ten minutes.  Which barely gives me any material to write about.  So when in doubt and you have nothing to talk about, cover each individual level:

Level 1 - Kevin is running around the hallways of the hotel, jumping over vacuums gone amuck and sentient luggage, while avoiding bellhops and some sort of detective type of guy.  Eventually you find a service elevator down to the kitchen where you murder some dishwashers and fight the head chef.  Why?  Because video game logic.

Level 2 - Kevin speeds through Central Park, eventually falling into the sewer where he has to avoid birds for thirty seconds.  There's some shitty platforming you can attempt to pull off to get some weapons and items, but why bother when you can otherwise speed through the entire area in two minutes?  In fact that is the ticket to playing this game - going as fast as you possibly can all the time, every time.

Level 3 - The longest stage by far, with a maze-like layout and the game's only real puzzles.  Here Kevin must navigate his Uncle's four story house, defeating Harry and Marv in order to gather keys and unlock new rooms, usually through the use of one of Kevin's patented traps.  This is probably the most enjoyable part of the game, which isn't saying a ton, but it's a hell of a lot more inspired than the other levels.  And it makes way more sense than any part of the first Home Alone game as far as keeping to the spirit of the source material.

Level 4 - The game wraps up with Kevin leading a quick chase through the NYC streets, ending at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, where you'll need to bounce from limb to limb while avoiding your two arch nemeses, and trying to get the pigeon woman to spray them with bird seed.  Everything about this part is complete shit, with a poorly-implemented "bouncy" tree limb mechanic, mass confusion as to what you are supposed to do, and some frustratingly terrible hitboxes on your enemies.

So yeah, it's a mediocre platformer, with one slightly better than mediocre level.  The controls are nothing special, but do the job.  And the graphics and animation are passable, but plain.  Thankfully the game is mercifully short and the challenge moderate.  This is not the sort of game that needs to overstay its welcome or be overly frustrating.  Overall I'd give it the slight nod over the first game mostly because the levels are reasonably diverse, and it actually tries to follow the plot of the movie.  And again, for a THQ game, this thing is practically a hidden fucking gem compared to the games I've already covered.

Did I beat it?
Yes, after a dozen or so tries.



519 - Shanghai II: Dragon's Eye



So, I'm gonna confess that I don't know exactly what mahjong is.  That isn't to say that I haven't played it a number of times in my life, I just don't know how to describe it.  Chinese solitaire?  An Americanized version of Chinese solitaire?  Or is the solitaire play just a variation of a larger game?  I ask because the stereotype is of a group of old women, huddled around a table playing together, whereas all of my experience has been played solo.  In any case, Shanghai II: Dragon's Eye is the Super Nintendo sequel to some game that probably came out on PC or Amiga or something, that I only played in single player mode.  So I'll be reviewing it from that perspective, which may or may not be the best way to experience mahjong.

When I was a little kid my dad had a old home computer with a fancy 5.25" floppy drive, back when such a thing was reasonably uncommon.  And while the bulk of our software library were Apogee titles like Commander Keen or Major Stryker, we did have a number of random other programs that my grandfather would occasionally send us.  A few of those programs managed to capture the attention of my little sister, with a simple mahjong game being one of them.  She could never be bothered to play most of the games I owned, but she would sit and match tiles for hours upon hours. Even in high school she became readdicted to the game when I bought her one of those budget compilations packs at her request.  Something about it reached her I guess, for I seldomly played that type of game, never really understanding the allure.  I guess it was hard to get excited about a tile game when I could be playing Duke Nukem or Super Mario World instead.  So you can understand that I didn't exactly rush out to buy Shanghai II when I found out about its existence.

Playing mahjong today, my thoughts haven't really changed much.  It plays like a solitaire card game, relying on lots of luck, with a little bit of strategy, and a pace of play more suited to my grandmother.  For those who may not know, a typical game generates a pile consisting of a couple dozen different types of tiles, and anything with an exposed "side" can be cleared by matching it with another exposed tile.  If you clear everything you win.  Simple as that.  There are slight variations to the shape the blocks are arranged in, but that seems to be about the extent of it.  And much like with solitaire, I grow bored after a round or two.

I should mention that there is another mode included in here called "Dragon's Eye," to, I guess, try and give the game a little more heft.  This mode is played against an opponent, AI or human, and shakes up the formula by tasking you with outscoring your opponent while trying to empty your "hand" of tiles.  I can unequivocally state that I did not understand this mode whatsoever.  Even after reading an explanation and playing it a number of times.  I guess the idea is that there are tiles that are upside down on the board, tiles that are upside down that aren't on the board, and several piles of tiles that you need to put on the board.  It seems like you can clear two matching tiles if they are face-up on the board, but beyond that I never could understand the rules of the game, and had no idea what I was doing.  Suffice to say I got smoked by the AI every time I played it, and at this point I really can't even be bothered to try and figure it out again.  Now that may be a pretty lazy excuse for writing off a major portion of a game, because if I can figure out Koei games and Metal Marines then I should be able to handle a simple tile game.  But I swear I tried my best and still came up short every time, so I can only assume my brain isn't wired for this sort of thing.

So overall, if you like solitaire, or you're an elderly woman, you'll probably like this.  Or if you grew up watching your parents or grandparents playing this, you might get a nice dose of nostalgia when booting it up.  I doubt anyone else need apply.

[BTW Shanghai isn't a form of mahjong, it just uses mahjong tiles. It's like how chess and checkers both use an 8x8 grid for their board. - editor]

Did I beat it?
Umm, yes...  maybe.  I don't know, I cleared some of the modes and got my ass kicked at Dragon's Eye.



518 - Aero the Acro-Bat



When Sunsoft got in on the mascot platformer craze, they chose one of the few remaining rodents left unclaimed; the bat.  And since that is part of another word, and kids love puns, he's an "acro-bat."  Apparently, once upon a time that is all you needed to get the greenlight for a game.  The name of an animal and another word that shares that same name.

Now to be fair Aero the Acro-Bat does have a number of things going for it, which is good enough to prop it up above the lowest tiers of furry platformers.  For one, his moveset is reasonably varied, giving you a number of different attacks and ways to move around, which is even further expanded upon by a decent number of different powerups you can grab.  Both of these things also really help to open up the levels, giving you the freedom to explore off the beaten path instead of just pushing toward the level's end.  The controls are also pretty okay, which at this point is way ahead of the curve for the genre.  If I can reliably land on small platforms, or not skid into enemy spears, half the battle with this type of game has already been won.  And finally, the fairly wide open levels are imaginative, with a lot of different ideas thrown around, and varied objectives to complete.  Again, way ahead of the platformer curve at this point.

But alas, since this game is ranked at #518 it cannot be that good, so of course that means there has to be a number of things dragging it down.  First, the resolution is just too damn low (stop me if you've heard me say that a time or twenty), which really makes anticipating upcoming enemies and hazards a giant pain in the ass.  So I imagine that this has to be a port of what was originally a Genesis title, because there are just so many sections where you are expected to jump or dive or launch into an area totally blind, turning many parts of the game into marathons of memorization.  People love to harp on the SNES for its lack of "blast processing," but truly it is the shortcomings in viewing distance that represent the system's Achilles' heel.

Which, like usual, directly ties into the even bigger issue: the game is too damn hard, with a continue system that sucks ass.  There are no passwords or saves, you only get three continues, and the continues send you back to the beginning of your current world.  That isn't completely atypical for the genre, but when a game has as many instadeaths and things that hit you with no warning as Aero does, then the frustration factor starts to ratchet up to 11.  Which then completely kills my drive to play this game.  Every time I start it up I begin to get into a groove, before an inevitable game over immediately brings me back down to Earth and ruins the fun.

So, as average(ish) as the game ended up being, it did at least do some things pretty well, and it actually led to some really good things later on.  By that I mean a direct sequel and a late spinoff both followed in Aero's wake, and both of them are rather large improvements over the original game.  Perhaps the developers needed more experience, or perhaps they took all the criticism it received to heart and used it to fix most of the problems presented here, while also expanding upon all of the ideas that showed promise yet didn't quite meet their potential.  But we'll get to those titles in the future. 

Did I beat it?
Not so much.



517 - Pro Sport Hockey



Jaleco, purveyor of a million games in the Goal! and Bases Loaded franchises, apparently tried their hand at hockey at one point.  And though the NES game is better known (thanks to its rarity) Pro Sport Hockey indeed got a release on the Super Nintendo as well.

Firstly, and most importantly, this is the only hockey I've covered so far where where I don't feel like the controls are completely busted.  Even though you're controlling guys that are sliding around on ice skates, nothing feels "slippery" in the slightest.  I know that must be a tough thing to wrap one's head around, and I can't necessarily blame any developer for having trouble with getting things just right, because it seems like a very hard tightrope to walk.  But PSH gets it right.  I don't know why, I just know it feels right.  Something I couldn't say about Wayne Gretzky or Hockey Night or any of the others.

The game also features what I like to call "Tecmo Super Bowl cutscenes."  You know the ones - big flashy cartoon cut-aways.  It's such a simple thing and it doesn't really add anything to the game, but I dig it, and they're reasonably well done here.  Though that isn't to say that anything else in the game is very arcade-like, so the TSB similarities pretty much end here.

Some of the things that do end up costing the game mostly relate to tuning issues.  The penalties seem way out of whack and cause every game to come to a screeching halt every twenty seconds or so.  That drives me nuts, because there is nothing worse than a sports game that tries to overstay its welcome.  Luckily you can turn most of them off, which really helps the game's pacing.  There are also some pretty big issues with how good the goalies are.  Basically, they can't be scored upon until their fatigue rating starts to climb and they get worn out.  Which almost makes the early part of every game pointless, or at least boring, as the only thing to do is wait for them to get tired enough to finally allow the puck into the net.  I don't find that very fun, and it usually meant I spent the first half of a game zoned out, watching Netflix or cruising the internet, just to alleviate boredom.  I may have even multi-tasked with one of bimmy's NES contest games, no joke.  And just to add further insult to injury, the game actually lets you turn off goalie fatigue if you want.  Good luck with that one.

However, I should also mention that I discovered a scoring exploit that gives you a free goal if you can pull it off.  Eventually I relied completely upon this trick just to make the games go faster, which was a godsend considering how many of them I ended up playing.  This doesn't really affect my opinion of the game a ton, other than I probably would have grown to detest it more if I hadn't been able to loophole my way through most of the hours I threw at it.

Finally, the game has some pretty bad slowdown.  I'm not usually the biggest critic of that weakness; sometimes I just want a breather and will welcome it.  But it gets pretty annoying here at times.  Especially when, again, you end up playing it for a very long time and just want things to end in a timely manner.  So, not a huge deal, but still a demerit.

Everything else is pretty meh for the most part.  Hits feel pretty good, the presentation is okay, sound and graphics are about average.  I wasn't super thrilled that the game doesn't let you skip straight into a postseason mode, but that's mostly because I'm sick sort of person that wants to beat all the games I play, regardless of the cost. 

In summary, I think it's a pretty mediocre hockey game, on a system flush with mediocre hockey games.  And I still have a few more of them to go in the next few installments, each getting better in the most granular amounts possible.  So I'll probably start thinking up some really stupid ways to write these reviews, just to change some things up.  Be prepared for some rampant stupidity and painfully unfunny segments in the near future.

Did I beat it?
Yes, and it required an entire 82 game season and playoffs.  The things I do for this project...



516 - Home Improvement



Yes, I truly do have Home Improvement all the way down here at #516.  Shocking, right?  Or at least unexpected I assume.  I guess that's because despite this game's reputation for being terrible (a result of its many, many faults), it's still a more enjoyable experience than the nearly two hundred games I've already covered.  Which is kind of a sad indictment of the lowest tiers of the Super Nintendo library - they're all less fun to to play than a game about Tim "The Toolman" Taylor shooting dinosaurs with a magic chainsaw.

Well, okay, let me be clear about another thing: this game isn't that bad.  Hell, basically every game I've covered in this volume is more "meh" than anything.  It's just that people love to harp on a game with a stupid concept, which is why you usually see games like this and Shaq Fu and Bebe's Kids dominating the worst SNES games lists.

I'm not going to recap what the show was about, because you either already know, or you really don't care.  And I'm not gonna make some cracks about Tim Allen's penchant for ladies of the night because, again, who cares?  I'm not even gonna touch the flimsy pretext for the game making you fight dinosaurs and monsters (Tim wanders into the studio's neighboring sets.  Okay, I lied and ever so briefly touched upon it).  Instead I'm just going to strictly talk about the gameplay because that's all I really give a shit about with this sort of game.

After the intro screen the game takes you directly into the game itself.  No menu, no options, nothing.  Just a message that pops up telling you to collect five crates that are scattered around for some reason.  And though the levels aren't terribly large in size, they are labyrinthine, with crates usually buried behind walls of dirt or tucked up high on a platform, or hiding just out of reach.  So to aid you in finding and grabbing them, Tim is armed with an array of tools that give him the ability to grapple up onto platforms, sledgehammer his way through walls, and bulldoze his way through floors.  It's a nifty way to open things up beyond the usual left/right and jump that these games typically offer. 

For weaponry you collect even more power tools, from nail guns and chainsaws, to flamethrowers (?) and lightning guns (????).  And though I like that there is a nice variety to them, each with different strengths and weaknesses, I never could figure out if you can carry more than one of them at once.  That's pretty damn stupid when they offer various situational advantages and you'd want to switch between them in order to best tackle an obstacle or enemy.  Or maybe I just couldn't figure it out.  The manual I downloaded certainly wasn't any help either:



The game's biggest fault though, is just how unforgiving it is.  I know I say that a lot, but goddamn if SNES platformers don't just love to be some merciless bastards.  For instance, instead of health, Tim collects screws that are scattered liberally around each level.  Getting hit by an enemy or hazard will drop all of your screws, and taking damage while screwless will kill you.  So anytime you take a hit you'll need to quickly grab one of the bouncing screws lest they all get away and leave you exposed.  Now, do those mechanics sound at all familiar to you?  Yep, even this game rips off that damn rodent.  There's just no escaping him, even on a rival console.

Anyways, while the "health" system sounds fairly forgiving on paper, especially since you could theoretically take infinite hits, it's countered by enemies that have a nasty penchant for soaking up tons of damage, and delivering hard-to-avoid ranged attacks.  Especially since, once again, the game's low resolution makes it very hard to anticipate upcoming threats.  Yep, the resolution strikes yet again.  So combat can be a major headache unless you find ways to exploit the enemy AI or the range of your attacks in some way, which is never super fun.  And again, you can't switch weapons.  I think.

An even bigger issue with the difficulty though, is the lack of lives the game doles out, and the complete lack of any sort of passwords or continues.  Or at least I'm assuming there are no continues because I never made it out of the first world and there is no password entry (or menu of any sorts) at the title screen.  Unless I just couldn't find it, because again, NO MANUAL.  That is unforgivable.

So, is Home Improvement as bad as people say it is?  I don't think so.  I'd even say it's almost an okayish game, that just needed to be a little more forgiving.  And I certainly don't think it's amongst the system's worst games, like so many others want to peg it.  Then again, how can you fault people for hating Tim Allen and anything with his face on it?

Did I beat it?
No, this has been one of the harder games to beat up until this point.



515 - Relief Pitcher



I remember when I first found out about this game.  I stumbled across a short review on one of the many SNES-oriented sites out there (I'm not sure which one, I've tried to find it again to no avail), which detailed a bizarre-sounding baseball game that centered around one of the more underappreciated parts of the game: the bullpen.  And let's just say I was thrilled, to put it mildly.  You see, my favorite ballplayers have always been closers.  For the uninitiated, they are the badass pitchers who come out at the end of the game in order to squash any chance of a rally.  Usually through unhittable pitches that are just nasty.  From Eckersley, Taylor, Isringhausen and Koch, to Street, Balfour, Doolittle, and Blake "Mother Fucking" Treinen, they always are, and will always be, my favorite players on my favorite team.  Nothing beats that moment when the bullpen door swings open, the theme music starts up, and the deadliest of deadly pitchers trots out while the stadium goes wild.  Tiny ERAs, massive strikeout totals, and occasional flaming meltdowns in tow, it's the best part of baseball and I love it.  So you can understand how incredulous I was when I found a game way back in the early '90s actually tried to capture this part of America's pastime.

So first off, this game has absolutely no licensed players, teams, ballparks, or anything.  In fact there are only four teams total.  And the options are incredibly limited.  You can either play through a single full game, or you can attempt the "Relief Pitcher" mode, which tasks you with closing out 12 different games, all posing different challenges and scenarios.  For instance, coming in to the bottom of the 9th with a man on third and two outs.  It's far more fun than the single game mode.

The actual pitching in Relief Pitcher seems surprisingly limited, at least at first.  You simply press one of the different buttons to select your pitch type --slider, change, fastball, curve, and so forth -- and then aim where you want it to go with the D-Pad.  Nothing too unusual there.  But the more I played the game the more I discovered you could do subtle little things to influence how successful you were.  Mostly just positioning, and timing, but I grew to like and appreciate it the more I played.

The batting is just plain bad though.  Mostly because the options truly are limited here, with one basic swing animation, and results that honestly seem random most of the time.  You see, making contact isn't much of an issue, but getting good contact is extremely difficult.  I could swear there is something wonky going on, like maybe hitting the ball triggers a preset animation, instead of calculating any sort of more advanced trajectory.  And that's because I always hit the ball into the exact same half a dozen spots.  I'm not entirely sure that this is truly what is going on, but it certainly feels that way.  And I've also only hit one career home run in RP, and even then I'm not 100% confident I'm thinking of the right game.  I may have hit zero.  Either way, batting was clearly not the emphasis when they coded this.

The game also offers a number of "small ball" options.  By that I mean you can actually tell your baserunners to attempt a suicide squeeze, control how big their leads are, and even specify if you want to attempt single or double steals.  And the players even launch into a great headfirst slide animation when coming into home.  And I have to say I had a lot of fun with all of these things.  Normally I just like to try and string hits together, and let my bats do my scoring, but in RP I actually found myself relying heavily on the small ball, which is a nice change of pace.

Now as positive as this review has mostly been to this point, it shouldn't be a surprise that I have to list a few more pain points.  For one, the graphics are nothing special, and the player models and animations are pretty goofy looking, especially when you're on offense.  The AI can also pull off some rather cheap bullshit too, and just loves to crush every ball into the gaps.  There's also no way to continue the season mode, since the game never provides you with a password.  It's not a huge deal since you can play through the entire thing in 90-120 minutes, but it would have been nice to have the option.

Overall, I have to say that I rather like this game.  It isn't quite what I expected, or as good as I had hoped, and most people probably won't care for it, but even with the large number of blemishes I still had a pretty good time playing it.  It's just so unique, and unafraid of taking chances, which is one thing I can admire in a sports game.

Did I beat it?
Yes, I went 8-4 with one of the teams (whichever one was good at fielding, for whatever good that did me) before the game sent me straight back to the main menu.  No credits, or victory screen, or anything.



514 - Power Moves



So, it may not be super apparent from the screenshots above (or the box art, or the game's title), but Power Moves is actually a pretty unique entry in the SNES library.  And by that I mean it's still a pretty typical fighting game in many ways, but you also have the ability to train against your foes in order to build up your stats and better prepare yourself for the harder opponents, while also being given a very limited amount of free movement on a vertical axis.  Had anyone else done something like this back then?  Has anyone else done it since?  In any case, talk about being ahead of its time.

The story here is... well, I don't know.  You're some guy and you have to beat up a bunch of other guys (and girls) from around the globe, and then you're the champion, probably.  That basically sums up the story in most all fighting games, and I can only assume it's the same case here.  And like many of the genre's earliest entries, PM does not give you a choice of character for the single player mode, instead sticking you with Joe.  He's a Ryu-like kung fu guy that has absolutely zero charm or attraction and is easily the game's least interesting character.  Not to say the rest of the cast is particularly impressive, because lined up against Joe are some typical shirtless dudes, ninja girls, and a tall and handsome American guy, to name but a few.  Cast and storyline are not strong suits here.

As I mentioned, the only two things that really separate this game from any other fighter are the ability to fight rematchs against conquered opponents so that you can raise your stats, and a limited amount of freedom that you are given with movement.  But aside from that, the actual fighting is also very by the book for the most part.  I know I've been using that phrase a lot lately, but that really is the best way to describe most of the 500s - an extreme lack of imagination.  As is always the case, you're looking at best-of-three matches, jumps, kicks, punches, throws, specials, and all the other usual stuff.  Nothing that hasn't been done to death many times before and afterwards.  And I'm even gonna assume that the vertical movement was cribbed from Fatal Fury.  Or maybe FF stole that from Power Moves.  Or maybe they both stole it from someone else, as I have to admit my knowledge of the genre's history is lacking.  In any case, FF did it better, so I should barely call it a positive here.

So even though I don't think this game is much of a fighter, and do not care for fighters in the first place, I do think it is kind of interesting as a curiosity piece.  And I'm always a sucker for RPG elements, as much as it may be a stretch to call a few stats gains anything remotely connected to role-playing.  But I love seeing numbers go up, simple pleasure or not.  And the game never infuriated me enough to shut the system off in a rage.  Fighters bring that sort of thing out of me pretty frequently, so that sort of praise shouldn't be understated.

Also, what is with the similar title and cover art to Power Instinct?  There's no relation as far as I know, other than perhaps the same American outfitter was sourced to whip up the ugly-ass SNES box art.  Comparing it against what the Japanese got showcases just how pitiful it is...



Did I beat it?
Yes, several times.



513 - Packy & Marlon



Finally, we have come to the last entry in Raya System's series of edutainment titles.  And I dare say this one actually resembles a fully functioning video game, with real controls, real levels, and real gameplay.  Color me shocked.  In fact, Packy & Marlon is not only playable, but offers cooperative play, a moderately long quest (this may or may not be considered a good thing), and controls and play mechanics that aren't terrible for once.  So, knowing how low the bar has been for this type of game, P&M is almost a breath of fresh air.

Just like with how progression worked in Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus, and similar to what you needed to do in Captain Novolin, P&M asks you manage your elephant's insulin levels in addition to trying to find each level's exit.  This is done by carefully restricting which types of food you pick up, and how many of each you grab.  That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone - you can't have edutainment game without trying to educate.  This time however, Raya seems to have learned from many of their previous mistakes, and have included an onscreen indicator that lets you know what you still need to grab.  It's such a simple fix, yet it makes a big difference as far as making the game more enjoyable.

The controls are also shockingly competent.  Jumping and attacking work far better than in any of previous Raya titles, and you even have the option to flap your elephant's large ears in order to slow your descent when falling, effectively removing the blind jumps that often plague this style of game.  Perhaps Raya assembled a more capable team of programmers this time around, or perhaps the existing guys were getting better at their jobs with each game they completed, or perhaps this thing was handled by an entirely differently development studio.  All I know is that everything works so much better this time around, providing a dramatic improvement over the lows of Bronkie, and offering a much more refined experience than Captain Novolin or Rex Ronan.

Like I said earlier there is also cooperative for once.  It's pretty simple, and doesn't really add much to the game, but it is still surprisingly fun, and helps to push this game past its brethren.  No one will ever mistake it for any of the truly great two-player games on the system, but I appreciate that they included it.

Now none of this praise necessarily means that this is a great game of course, and improvements aside it is still a rough experience in many ways.  Most of the levels are fairly boring, going on for way too long, and often being a chore to navigate.  Especially the underwater levels, which are gigantic samey-looking mazes.  And the boss fights alternate between being too annoying and too easy.  That's one thing Raya absolutely struggled with, even to the end.  And because the game is so long, the action can start to get very repetitive by the end, as the same environmental assets get reused again and again. 

Still, it is easily the most enjoyable of Raya's games, and is one of the better children's games on the system.  Your kids might actually have some fun here, especially in the two player mode, which is not something that can be said for any of their three other titles.

Did I beat it?
Yes I did.  Immediately after receiving the game I played through the entire thing in one go.



512 - The Lawnmower Man



Oh man, where to even begin with this one...  I guess I'll start with "why is this a game?"  Like, what possible series of boardroom meetings led to this being a product available to purchase in stores?  I know I already alluded to this way back in my Toys review, but I seriously cannot even begin to imagine how we got here.  How does one start with a Stephen King short story about demonic naked men chowing down on freshly cut grass, adapt it into a movie about a mentally handicapped groundskeeper who uses the powers of virtual reality to become some sort of telekinetic supergenius, and finally result in a video game that is a cooperative run-and-gun Contra-clone where Pierce Brosnan and Jeff Lahey team up to destroy legions of soldiers, midgets, and fire... guys...?  Because none of what I just wrote is distorting the truth; that is the exact progression of The Lawnmower Man property.  Someone help me connect those dots.  Any of those dots.

And I somehow never noticed until this very moment that TLM is a THQ game.  Which almost explains everything in a way.  Only people completely detached from reality, like our good friends from Toy Head Quarters, could have gotten this game to see the light of day.  Gigantic warning flags would have been raised anywhere else.

But enough about what a batshit insane property it is, let's talk about the important thing - how does it play?  Well, like I said before, it's something of a poor man's Contra.  You run, you shoot, you die a lot, and then you enter pseudo-3D stages and die some more.  You can't make this stuff up.

Okay, to be fair, the 3D stages are completely different than what its NES forefather offered.  You can see both of them up above.  How it works is, whenever you reach the end of a major area there will be a portal that will take you to one of those two types of levels (after you shoot it enough).  The first is something of a first-person flight sim, where you'll need to guide your virtual reality body through a series of tunnels and pillars, avoiding obstacles and seeking an exit.  The second is a Mode 7 shooter of sorts, with enemies to destroy on top of obstacles that need to be avoided.  I'd point out that these don't really seem to represent anything that happens in the movie, but that's a pretty redundant statement at this point.  Both of these stages ramp up in difficulty big time, with the later shooter levels making me want to throw my controller.  Memorization is once again the name of the game.

But as rudimentary looking as the VR segments are, that is nothing compared to the standard levels.  They look like an NES game, and a bad one at that.  I can only assume that virtually all of the development went into the 3D, with the sidescrolling bits thrown together at the very end.  Or maybe some unfinished (and unrelated) game was absorbed into this one to pad the game's length.  Something originally made many years earlier, no doubt.  In fact I'm just going to assume that is what happened and go edit the Wikipedia page right now.

Yet despite all of that I will say that The Lawnmower Man is surprisingly competent for a THQ game.  Not that it's really that good, but it's at least playable.  This and Home Alone 2 might mean there's hope for the company after all.  And it is definitely better than it has any right to be.  The controls are simple, but work well enough, and are fairly tight across all three gameplay modes.  And I can never fault a game for offering cooperative play, regardless of how much it does or doesn't add to the game.  Plus blasting shit is usually fun, derivative and disjointed or not.  Even if I wanted to dislike the game, it found a way to endear itself to me regardless.

...not to say that game isn't cheap as all hell.  Enemies one-shot you before you have time to react, forcing you to constantly focus-fire on the edge of the screen while moving at a crawl.  And the difficulty curve for the bosses is absolutely ridiculous.  Some of them are completely impotent and merely criss-cross the screen waiting for you to explode them, while others are brutal exercises in memorization, extended focus, and rely on gobs of luck.  And good luck ever beating this game with the number of lives and continues it gives you.  Finally, the 3D segments rely just a bit too much on memorization, which gradually lessened my enjoyment of them each time I played it.

So overall, an okay game despite itself, but as forgettable as its source material.

Did I beat it?
No, and I'm sure I wasn't even close either.



511 - Mickey's Ultimate Challenge



Mickey's Ultimate Challenge is another one of those kids learning/educational games that were so prevalent on the SNES, this time featuring Mickey and Minnie solving a few different short (and relatively easy) puzzles that test memory, logic, dexterity, spelling, and problem solving.  Not bad eh?  In fact, unlike the all those boredom-inducing titles I covered awhile back, this one isn't a bad little game at all, and you could do a lot worse for your kids.

Right off the bat the game scores points by offering multiple difficulty levels.  That may not seem like such a big thing, but in this instance it is great for adding replay value to the experience. A typical playthrough should only last thirty minutes, but when you can make all of the puzzles tricker and more elaborate with a higher difficulty, you're looking at a lot more bang for your buck.  Which means your kids will last way longer here than they would with something like Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends.

After selecting the difficulty the game opens up in a central hub area of sorts.  Judging by the medieval theme, and the... er, beanstalk you eventually grow, I'm gonna "guess" it's based on the classic Mickey and the Beanstalk short.  From this starting point you can then access each of the game's puzzles in any order by entering various doors and talking to the characters within:

Potion Sliding - The world's easiest Soukoban game.  It's probably a perfect amount of challenge for small children though.  None of the puzzles are really that clever and the mechanics are very, very simple, but I think kids will enjoy solving them.

Picture Matching - A basic memory game.  It has a pretty large number of tiles, with unlimited attempts and a forgiving time limit, which makes it perfect for kids.  My own son loved doing this part with me.

Playing the Pipes - Repeat the sequences (think Simon Says).  I think this one definitely could have been done better as the slow animations that play out between each input means you have to remember the sequence for that much longer, but overall I've always enjoyed this sort of thing, even as a kid.

Sorting Books - Okay, so this one sucks (they can't all be winners).  It's kind of a hybrid platformer and spelling challenge, where you need to hop across a series of floating books while also trying to fill in the letters of a word Wheel of Fortune-style. The problem is it is way too demanding for a kid's game, and the "spelling" portion is actually pretty worthless.  Since you need to slowly work your way to the right after getting all letters anyways (due to a dumb mechanic where the books eventually stop showing up) there is nothing to gain by trying to solve the puzzle, you're better off trying to hit every letter in sequence.  Overall it's a majorly missed opportunity, because all they needed to do was blunt the challenge and do something to reward spelling ability.

Guess the Tools - A logic puzzle of sorts, you have seven attempts to figure out which symbols belong in each of several slots, with each guess getting you warmer or colder to the solution.  This one is actually rather clever, and probably represents the hardest game of the lot, but in a completely fair way.  I also think the difficulty ramps up rather nicely from round to round.  This one is probably gonna be pretty tough for most kids, but the toughest puzzles are always the most satisfying to crack.

At the end, after completing each one of those subgames, you are tasked with completing a simple fetch quest of sorts that sends you running back and forth between all of the characters you just met.  It's pretty pointless.  After completing that you get to climb that aforementioned beanstalk and face a final challenge; a picture scramble.  I'm not the biggest fan of these things (I despise their every appearance in the Professor Layton series) and usually just try to brute force a solution.  Something about having to think three steps ahead is beyond me.  But if your kids enjoy that sort of thing it's a nice cherry on top of everything else, and a perfect way to wrap the game up.

So in case it isn't obvious by now, I think this game is great for kids.  In fact I think there are only a few other games on the system that do the job better.  Are most adults gonna enjoy it?  Probably not.  And if they do it's gonna be short-lived thanks to how brief the whole experience is.  In any case, I think the game more than accomplishes what it set out to do.

Did I beat it?
Yes, a couple different times on the different difficulty levels.



510 - Side Pocket



I know I said it before with Championship Pool, but it bears repeating: I don't like pool, I don't like pool games, and I really don't like very old and very hard pool games.  Which isn't to say that Side Pocket is nearly as bad a game as CP is.  In fact I'd almost say it's a halfway decent title, and one that I assume many people will enjoy.  Hell, I can almost enjoy it.  Except at the end of the day it's still pool so I don't.

Anyone familiar with the NES version of this game will be immediately comfortable here because as far as I can tell the two versions are exactly the same.  In either one you play the role of a pool shark who is traveling from city to city, attempting to bilk everyone out of their money and leave town before getting murdered.  Or at least that's what I like to pretend is happening, because truthfully all you're doing is trying to score high enough through nailing consecutive shots, or pocketing balls in the correct order, so that you are allowed to advance to the next area.  It's pretty dry.

After each table you'll also have opportunities to attempt trick shots in-between or around various shot glasses.  Maybe this is a thing people do, I have no idea.  All I know is they are either impossible, or require very exact shots in order to pull them off, whcih I've never successfully done.  Sometimes it even appears like you need to jump the ball over the glasses, but I never managed to do that either.

Now I know I complained about this in CP, and I'm terrible at the sport in real life, but SP seems exceptionally hard.  Not as hard as CP, which is impossible, but still pretty stupid-hard.  I have never made it past the third level, despite a pretty good number of attempts across both the NES and SNES versions over the last couple years, and I never seem to get any better.  Something about calculating the geometry needed to succeed is just beyond me.  Or I don't have the patience for it.  Either way, pool is never gonna be something I'm any good at, in real or virtual form.

The only other mode is one that lets you practice the various trick shots, which is actually a great idea since being able to nail them will make your life way easier in the main mode.  And anyone who enjoys the game will probably spend quite a bit of time here getting good at them.  But I'm sure it's no surprise to hear that I played this mode for about two total minutes before moving on.

So overall it is easily the superior option of the two pool games released for the Super Nintendo.  And it is a game that is pretty well done, and is one that many (maybe most) people do enjoy.  But I just can't do it.  Every missed shot infuriates me.  None of the physics ever make sense to me.  And I don't have the patience to cheat and try to hold a T-square up to my television screen so that I can hit shots with precision.  So I have no doubts that I'll never play it again.

Did I beat it?
Not even close.  Unless there are only three cities.



509 - Kyle Petty's No Fear Racing



One of the billion racing games on the system that is headlined by one of the (presumably) famous racers of the era, Kyle Petty's No Fear Racing is a competent game, that is also surprisingly impressive looking, while also boasting a fair amount of content.  However, it's also pretty repetitive, and way too easy, depriving the game of the excitement necessary to separate itself from the rest of the mediocre to poor racers.  So while this is by far the best one I have covered so far (and by a decent margin I might add) it still isn't something you're gonna fall in love with.

First off, I want to commend this game's graphics and sense of speed.  This was a late release, so I assume Williams (or whoever made this) were able to take advantage of a number of new graphic rendering techniques that seemed to be so prolific around that time, and gave this game the illusion of a much more modern arcade racer.  By that I mean the pre-rendered background only comes in three flavors (straightaways, left turns, right turns), and your car is basically floating over what looks like a green screen, so there is a lot of trickery going on to pull these graphics off.  And yet I think it actually works really well.  The scenery that is constantly flying by, coupled with a pretty decent framerate, both give a really great sense of immersion in the race.  I honestly want to compare it to early 32-bit racers.  And it is about as far removed from the ugly and plodding ESPN Speed World (the other NASCAR game on the system) as it can possibly get.  Again, it's merely a few simple techniques, and mileage may vary between players, but I applaud what they were able to pull off.

Now the bad things.  The game is way too long for how repetitive it is.  There are 28 frickin' tracks, but because they all recycle the same sparse track assets over and over again, they all feel exactly the same.  I don't know if real NASCAR has that many tracks or something, but they could have done themselves a huge favor by cutting half of them, and figuring out ways to make what they had left more interesting.

The difficulty curve is also super out of whack.  This is one of those games that lets you earn money after every race in order to fund various upgrades.  The better you do, the more money you get.  But just a few races in had me pulling away from the pack, and once I was fully upgraded (which happened somewhere in the middle of the season) I was basically unbeatable, regardless of how poorly I played, or how little effort I put in.  So the second half of a game that's already too long and too repetitive becomes a massive drag as you merely go through the motions, anxious for things to be over with.

There's also very limited interaction with the other racers.  That's partially because none of them are ever anywhere near you, mostly thanks to the impotent challenge they provide.  And it's partially because very little can slow you down or get in your way.  Even when you crash and and go tumbling end over end, it only ends up being a minor nuisance with a small temporary dip in speed.  So there's no reason to try and handle any opponents with any sort of finesse.  You just blow by them, collisions be damned, because it doesn't matter.

I will end with another positive though - a track editor, of all things.  Did any other game on the system have one of these?  I guess if anyone should know the answer to that, it's me, but I'm pretty loaded right now, and I haven't played some of these games in like three years now (one of the pitfalls of trying to rank everything).  But I don't think there is, so kudos to KPNFR.  Of course what they have here is not especially robust, as it lets you lay down (a short) track and modify the music, scenery, and weather.  And none of the courses I came up with really played any differently from one another since all you can do is turn left or turn right.  But still, it's a great idea, and I killed some time with it.  It definitely needed to give the player a little more freedom, and it needed a game attached to it that has a little more meat on its bones, but at least they tried.

So, yeah.  I like the game, and I'm glad I played through it, repetitive bore or not.  Most people probably won't care for it, but this is my list, not theirs.  I think a sequel that tried to address its various shortcomings could have been one of the best racers on the system.  Oh well.

...I also just realized at this very moment that this is sponsored by the No Fear apparel line that was all the rage with twelve year olds back in 1995.

Did I beat it?
Yes I did.



508 - Time Trax



An extremely obscure game based on a possibly more obscure (and short-lived) '90s Australian TV show.  How the hell did this get a US release?

Judging by the artwork, I'm going to guess the source material was some sort of combination of Time Cop and Quantum Leap, starring a guy I'm gonna call "Chest Rockwell."  Now I'm no television show expert, but I am extremely well-versed in pop culture from the 1990s, so the fact that I have absolutely never heard of this show before I played the SNES game means we can only assume it barely made an impact in the US.  It would also explain the tiny print run for the game as well.

Like most cop shows or movies that are made into video games, this is a run and gun affair.  You know the deal - you run, you jump, you shoot.  Or if you're near an enemy you'll kick or punch instead.  It's a simple and well-trodden formula because it works.  Or at least it works when it's done well, and what we have here is pretty mediocre.  The levels are relatively linear affairs, and enemies are the usual types - "guys with guns" or "robot things with guns."  What is unique, is what's-his-face's control over time.  Specifically, with the press of X you can temporarily slow everything down.  Which means this is probably the video game world's first instance of "bullet time," nearly a decade before Max Payne did it.  It works reasonably well too, as using the skill will deplete a bar in the corner of the screen that will then slowly regenerates itself over time.  So the power can be used liberally, making it a key component of your play, while also forcing you to be strategic with it.  It's a tight line to walk, yet the game pulls it off.  Which is good because mastering the skill makes a very tricky game somewhat more manageable.

Unfortunately "manageable" isn't enough here because, make no mistake, this is a hard game.  And often for very bad reasons.  For instance, while the controls and mechanics are pretty tight for the most part, many of the enemies are some cheap motherfuckers.  The game even tries to counter this by providing plenty of health to work with, but it's not enough because you suffer so many hard-to-avoid hits, run into so many instances of trial-and-error, and get mowed over by some truly brutal boss fights.  Seriously, the bosses are just... blah.  They come in two different flavors: annoying as shit, and boringly drawn-out as shit.  So what should be one of the game's highlights is instead a low point.  Bad bosses are also a major mood killer for me.

Later on in this project I have reserved a special section that I'm calling the *spoiler alert* "guilty pleasures" of the SNES library.  Kind of like a hidden gems list, except with gems that try to stab you every time you pick them up.  Did I mention any of that in a previous write-up?  If I did it was probably ABC Monday Night Football, because that is another game I was at one point considering as a candidate for inclusion.  But after extended play I had to drop it.  Time Trax is no different.  It's the guilty pleasure that wasn't to be.  The game has potential, and some good ideas, but it just ends up being too frustrating to be much fun.

(yes I'm aware that's Dale Midkiff)

Did I beat it?
No, it's too hard.



507 - Snow White in Happily Ever After



If you are completely blind like I seem to be, you may be unaware that this game isn't based on the classic Disney film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.  After all that is so clearly the Snow White we all know and love on the cover art, and that clearly says Disney and not "Filmation," right?  Nevermind the monsters and troglodytes that appear to be trying to murder the poor girl.  Of course after actually playing the game the synapses in my brain started firing and I realized what I had on my hands.  This is Snow White in Happily Ever After, an adaptation of a failed animated movie from the early '90s that I had never heard of.  And it wasn't Don Bluth's doing either, but instead these Filmation guys.  I have no idea who they are, but a quick glimpse at the one sheet poster did not exactly fill me with confidence:



That looks to me like one of those horrible Italian cash-grabs that flooded home video in the 1980s, or maybe even one of the Disney-wannabes that got released on the PS2 in Europe.  Or maybe even a ridiculous Chinese bootleg.  In any case, anything other than an American film that got a theatrical release with a stacked roster of celebrated actors doing the voicework.  Which is exactly what is is.  Somehow.

In any case, the fact I had never heard of the film shouldn't be shocking because it appears to be the last film Filmation ever did.  Which can only mean the thing was a massive bomb which sunk the company.  Which isn't surprisingly considered Disney was going full beast-mode at the time, with films like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin fully ushering in a new renaissance in American Animation.  This film never stood a chance.

The game on the other hand is surprisingly playable.  I feel like that is a running theme with volume five of this project.  Games that have no business being moderately enjoyable, yet pulling it off anyways.  And this is the perfect title to capture that phenomenon, because nothing about this game should work.  The graphics look like an NES game, the sound and music are horrible, the controls very simplistic, the gameplay very two dimensional, and the level design is pretty uninspired.

And yet, despite all that I seem to enjoy playing it.  Maybe it's because it is such a leisurely experience.  The game is ridiculously generous with lives, and "ammo" for your weapons (you throw apples).  And none of the enemies are particularly vicious.  Which means you can romp through the levels at your own pace, overcoming all obstacles through persistence.  I guess some part of me needed that after playing so many platformers where every single thing made it feel like I was fighting the game, or just trying to survive.  And Snow White is just a nice way to let down from all of that.

Oh, one last thing I almost forgot to mention.  The game offers a choice of two different playable characters (Snow White and some guy), but they play exactly the same.  Even their endings may of have identical, I can't recall for sure.  Either way, I'm not sure why they bothered.

Did I beat it?
Yes, several times.



506 - Tom and Jerry



As I get close to the end of this batch of reviews, I'm struck by just how many times one of the games I cover ends up being far more enjoyable than it had any right to be.  By that I mean, with all of these licensed titles, nondescript sports titles, and anything put out by THQ or Hi-Tech Expressions, I'm always going to automatically assume the worst.  The legions of similar and terrible games I already covered have drilled that pessimism into me.  And yet time and time again I'm surprised with how playable a game ends up being.  Tom and Jerry is a perfect example of this, a licensed platformer from Hi-Tech Expressions that is actually pretty okay.  That trifecta of terribleness should be a kiss of death, but the game is alright despite those stacked odds. 

Tom and Jerry was a cartoon duo from the golden age of animation, blah blah blah, you already know or you don't care.  Their hijinks were pretty simple: cat wants to eat/kill mouse, the end.  This game doesn't mess with that formula, and merely serves up a number of levels for Jerry to traverse, culminating in battles against his arch nemesis.  It's an effective design, often feeling like a throwback to the NES days.

That also means there isn't really anything super special at work here.  The graphics are decent, the levels pretty unmemorable, the power-ups nonexistent, the enemies mostly being garden-variety walking things and flying things, the controls simplistic, and the boss battles all have very simple patterns to memorize.  On the other hand, the game doesn't really do anything badly either.  The controls are solid, the challenge fair, the frustration is always kept to a minimum, and the boss fights, while simple, are still fun.  There are some occasional blind leaps that only trial-and-error will solve, but it's a minor blemish.

Now another running trend lately is that despite many of the games being much better than I had first anticipated, that still doesn't mean they're all that great, and most people won't care much for them.  Tom and Jerry is no exception.  It's good for a no-frills playthrough, but that's about it.  Amazingly, that's also enough to make T&J one of the better games HTE ever put out.

A minor side note - this is the one game I ever rented as a child that I completely forgot about. (as far as I remember...).  And this fact didn't even dawn upon me until I reached the third level where Jerry is surfing over popcorn, and I realized that I had experienced it all once before.  I guess that speaks to the harmless yet forgettable nature of the game.

Did I beat it?
Yes, after two or three tries.



505 - Tecmo Super NBA Basketball



Ok, here we go.  Tecmo Super Basketball is the very first basketball game on the Super Nintendo that is even remotely fun in any way.  It still suffers from many of the problems that I've already gone over ad nauseum with the likes of NCAA Basketball and Super Slam Dunk, but it least offers some of the trademarked Tecmo charm and ridiculousness to give it little bit of an edge over similar such titles.

Obviously the first thing most people are going to compare this game to is Tecmo Super Bowl.  And they should.  It stands as one of the best retro sports games ever, with an absolutely sublime NES entry, a wonderful SNES follow-up, and gameplay that still plays just as well over 25 years later.  It's no coincidence that Kia even recently dragged Bo Jackson and Brian Bosworth out of oblivion for a series of TSB-themed commercials.  It's a great series of games, that are still tons of fun to play, and are done in a way that no one else has ever really been able to successfully replicate.

Tecmo Super Basketball on the other hand, can't really compete with its much more successful football brethren.  There seems to be a similar intent here, with super fast-paced gameplay and tons of arcade tendencies, but it just never comes together as well.  In fact it has more in common with EA's playoff series (Bulls vs. Blazers) than it does with the other Tecmo games.  Namely the sticky defenders, lack of offense, and stiff animations.  And honestly, there isn't really a ton to cover here that didn't already apply to the dozen basketball games I've already gone over, because for most part it still feels like the same rough gameplay that hasn't aged very well.  And though this one takes things in a more arcade-like direction, it just can't hold a candle to the insanity of NBA Jam.  In fact, that is probably the game this should have been.

I will say that I'm kind of torn by the ranking I ended up giving TSB.  On one hand, it's a Tecmo sports game, with some ridiculous gameplay and an over-the-top presentation that oozes charm.  You can't help but like the goofy bastard.  But on the other hand it just doesn't play as well as it should have.  Or at least I haven't figured out how to have as much fun with it as I had initially hoped.  And I can have fun with it, but I never really want to play it for more than a game's worth.  So, call this a missed opportunity, and the last of the "meh" basketball games.  Unless there is another one coming up shortly that I've already forgotten about.  In which case forget I said that.

I should also mention that TSB is fully licensed, and even includes Michael Jordan, which was almost unheard of at the time.  Without looking into it, I'm gonna say this is only the second Nintendo game (after Jordan vs. Bird) that he had made an appearance in up until that point.  It doesn't really change anything, but it is pretty cool.

Did I beat it?
No, not that I really tried.



504 - Dirt Trax FX



A late release title, Dirt Trax FX boasts an impressive racing engine, a decent framerate, and gameplay that more closely resembles Excitebike on NES than it does any other motorcycle title on the SNES.  If you said those all sound like the makings of a promising title, then you'd be right.  And the game seems to boast a number of fans for those very reasons.  But by now we all know I have a hard time with racing games, especially when I find them deeply frustrating, and this game can be maddening.

As you can see from the screenshots above, the biggest thing going for DTFX (I assume) were the polygonal courses, no doubt powered by an FX chip, judging by the game's name.  There's also some gratuitous 3D headshots for each of the racers, but that doesn't really accomplish much, other than looking uglier than shit.  All of the courses end up being very short and compact, probably to ensure the game runs smoothly, but I think that is always the best way to go.  A slow framerate here would have doomed this game because the last thing you need in a dirt bike racer is laggy controls.  And though the result of all of this is courses that can feel a bit claustrophic, and some tightly packed areas where I did get turned around a number of times, I think it all works well enough.

Because the frame rate is so solid, the controls end up feeling really good as a result.  Like most racers they are very simple (basically steer, brake, and gas), but there are some more nuances to the action than may be apparent at first.  For one, using your rider's body to pull up or push down on your bike lets you try and take the jumps faster.  It's pretty tricky to master, but feels very satisfying when you pull it off.  There's also an ability to hop onto the walls that line the course and try to "cheat" a bit with better lines.  I'm not sure if that was really an intentional design, but it's in there, and I spent a good amount of time trying to see how much I could exploit it.

It's not all great though (obviously, it wouldn't be in this installment if it were), and though I always have fun when I start this game up, I inevitably end up too frustrated to see things through to the end and turn it off.  On "Easy" difficulty there isn't much of a challenge, with AI opponents that barely even try to put up a fight.  Bump it up to "Normal" though, and they become merciless.  Or I should say, one individual racer does.  I can never beat that bastard.

There is also a bonus mode of sorts, called "Rad Tag."  It is exactly what it sounds like - tag with motorcyles.  These are one-on-one affairs, and are obviously geared towards playing with another human.  I'm assuming the inspiration was Super Mario Kart, because they all take place in rectangular arenas with plenty of obstacles to try and dart behind.  And while I appreciate that they tried something like this, it's pretty damn sorry in practice.  Trying to stay on your opponent's tail is virtually impossible most of the time, which quickly makes the entire experience devolve into an exercise in frustration.  I tried playing this with two different people, and they both were ready to move on within minutes.  Acclaim should have just ripped of SMK entirely and added weapons or something, because tag with vehicles is no fun.  Can you imagine if SMK asked players to "ram away" each other's balloons?  No, because that would be horrible.  So again, good idea, very bad execution.

I will have to say that I enjoyed some of my time with DTFX.  I didn't love it, and the fact that I had any fun whatsoever should be high praise considering how many racers on the system I don't care for.  But I don't really want to play it anymore.  And the thought of trying to beat it on medium again makes my blood boil.  But I'm also super aware that I'm a giant wuss with most racers, so that may be more my fault than the game's.

Did I beat it?
Yes, on easy.  I consistently get second place on normal.



503 - The Adventures of Kid Kleets



Another game about kicking people in the face with soccer balls.  Why was that a genre?  Was there ever such a frothing demand for the sport that it spilled over into other genres?  Are they all European products, and someone figured they may as well dump them into the US?  I'm just going to assume the British are to blame since that is where Ocean is (was?) from.  And to be fair, America was responsible for Shaq Fu, Space Jam, RapJam, Jammit, KaZaam, Air Bud, and the basketball scene from 3 Ninjas...  So maybe the Brits weren't so crazy after all.  I guess it's all relative.

The Adventures of Kid Kleets aka Soccer Kid is a platformer whose primary gimmick revolves around the use of a soccer ball for all of your attacks.  One button sends it flying out in front of you, another flips it up into the air so you can juggle it until you're ready to launch it skywards, and another lets you jump onto the ball and roll around like a trick-doing... seal... or something.  You can also press a button to retrieve the ball by instantly spawning it at your feet, something I was unaware for quite awhile, leaving me to chase it every time I attacked.  Suffice to say I was not having a good time back then.

The level structure here is pretty standard for the most part.  Each "area," representing a different country, has several levels, each of which is capped off with a boss.  Dying sends you back to the beginning of the level whereas a continue sends you back to the area's start.  There are also numerous hidden collectables that can be discovered if you search high and low.  I'd say some of them must be pretty tricky to locate because I have never successfully found them all.  Which is important, because this is another one of those games where the final boss and "good ending" can only be accessed by collecting most or all of those collectables.  I'm unsure which, I just know that what I've come up with has never been good enough.

Combat for the most part isn't too great.  Probably because I hate the soccer ball gimmick.  But most enemies can be taken out in a single shot, so as long as you move slowly (or memorize the level) everything should be manageable.  The seaside levels definitely start to tip things over into the realm of frustrating, with speedy enemies and erratic movement patterns, but nothing that ever becomes too unwieldy.

The boss fights are pretty well done though, with the standout being some sort of Elvis impersonator that is belting out notes from a stage.  He does feel a little out of place since everyone else has some sort of sports theme, so perhaps he represents the halftime entertainment or something.  Who knows.  I never did get to see the final boss either.

In the end it's an alright game, that does some things well, and some others not so well.  I like the idea of the soccer ball combat system, but not so much the execution.  It's just not fun to use, and adds a layer of complication that only serves to hurt the game.  And finding the collectables is fun, but I wish they merely affected the ending you receive as opposed to cutting you off from the final battle when you fail to get enough of them.  Otherwise it makes the game's final levels feel very anticlimactic with an abrupt end that didn't even make it clear there could be more.  Still, complaints aside Kid Kleets is easily a better option than Hurricanes, and overall it has to be in the top half of the Ocean library.  And it is a fun enough experience for what it is.  So if you don't hate soccer like I do, consider this bumped up another hundred spots or so.

Did I beat it?
Yes, but just the bad ending a couple different times, before I even realized there was a true final boss to unlock by collecting every doo-dad in the game.  Some day I'll return to it.



502 - Air Strike Patrol



This is another game that fascinated me as a child.  I never actually played it, but I used to study the box every time I was at my local video store.  I was a huge fan of EA's Strike series and similar stuff like Mechwarrior 3050, and figured Air Strike Patrol would be right up my alley.  And yet for whatever reason I never did end up taking it home.  I guess when you have limited rental opportunities it's often better to go with a safer, proven choice.

Flash forward to 2016 (or whenever it was).  That's when I finally picked this bad boy up and answered 20+ years worth of unanswered questions.

"Is this game as good as Urban Strike?"

"Do I get to play as both the F-15 AND the A-10?"

"Do I get to play with a friend in a cooperative mode?"

"Is this game going to be as amazing as I think the box art implies it is?"

Well the answers are: no, sort of, no, and no...  Talk about a f'ing letdown, at least initially.

Besides the obvious similarity to the Strike series as far as the isometric overhead view goes, the games are otherwise absolutely nothing alike.  So we'll go ahead and forget about that franchise for the rest of the review.  Instead, what we have here is more a combination of quasi-flight sim and quasi-strategy game, organized into brief sorties, where you need to juggle several different bureaucratic approval ratings, memorize your play areas, and balance a number of logistics.  I don't mean to be too misleading with that description, because this game is hardly Nobunaga's Ambition mixed with Pilotwings (that would be amazing though).  But it almost has more in common with either of those games then it does with any of the overhead action games I had previously mentioned.

Each of the game's eight missions are spread across 1-2 maps, and each one allots the player x number of hours in order to accomplish your mission objective, which ranges from "destroy all the SCUD missile launchers" to "destroy all of some other type of vehicle."  Sometimes it's buildings, or fuel depots.  In other words, mission variety is not one of this game's strong suits.  However, the game does have a very cool feature where any installations or enemies that are destroyed during one mission, stay destroyed for the rest of the campaign.  So if you were to soften up some of the AA or heavy armor early on, you don't have to deal with it later in the game.  Very cool.

The game also has an interesting dynamic where you can choose between a couple different loadouts for either the A-10 or the F-15.  For those who don't really follow that sort of thing, the F-15 was the poster child air superiority fighter, while the A-10 is something of a "tank buster" that's great for mowing down ground forces.  Which is what every mission asks you to do.  So why would you bother with the F-15?  To clear the skies of enemy MIGs.  Remember how I mentioned each mission allows you a set number of hours to accomplish your tasks?  Well that means you will be able to launch a number of sorties for each mission, which gives you some leeway in how you want to go about destroying your targets.  You can start by clearing the skies with the F-15 and its powerful air-to-air missiles, then launch the A-10 to clear out vehicles and armor, and then mop up at the end.  It's another cool idea.

Unfortunately, everything else about the game is kind of weak.  The missions are very repetitive, like I had mentioned.  Everything looks the same, the same enemies and structures are copy-and-pasted into every region, and the difficulty curve is basically nonexistent.  Your first sortie is for all intents and purposes identical to your twentieth.

The presentation is pretty dry and poorly implemented, which isn't particularly unusual for this style of game, but it does add a learning curve to navigating the menus, reading your radar, and understanding what exactly it is you're supposed to be doing.  This effectively ended my first attempt at playing the game within thirty minutes, and it's only because of this project that I gave it a second chance.

The controls are also a bit clumsy.  Despite three different configurations possible, I never could get the turning completely down.  The targeting is also pretty wonky, as your reticle is in a fixed position below your plane.  Increasing or decreasing your speed will adjust it, but you never have complete freedom over where you are firing, and actually hitting anything usually requires slowing to a crawl so you can rain down lead/missiles from directly above.  Which means most engagements are slow, drawn-out affairs as you line up targets one by one below your plane.

Which brings us to another issue: fuel management.  I HATE fuel management.  It's annoying in every game it's ever implemented in.  I understand why they did it here, as the game would be way too short and easy without it, and it honestly should be a minor inconvenience at worst since you'd have to go out of your way to run out of gas before successfully exiting the map.  But I still find myself constantly staring at the gauge, gradually getting stressed out.  I do the same thing with my own car in real life when I'm low on gas so perhaps that's just a personal quirk of mine.  But at the end of the day here I found it lessening my enjoyment of the game.

A couple other minor things of note:

- The game features a number of endings based on how well your entire war effort went.  Did you destroy too many civilian buildings?  Bad ending.  Did you crash like fifty planes?  Bad ending.  Did you destroy an entire platoon of Abrams tanks?  Bad ending.  So how do you know what buildings and tanks are which?  I have no idea.  Things seem to be mostly color-coded (green = good guys, tan = bad guys, anything else = neither), except when they're not.  Like the enemy camps that are entirely green and tan.  I fuck those missions up every time because I have absolutely no idea what I'm supposed to do.

- Going hand-in-hand with the last one, is trying to make sense of the progress reports.  It's a bunch of numbers, and I can't make heads or tails of any of it.  Presumably the negative numbers are bad, but why are they going negative when I executed that last sortie flawlessly?

- The game inexplicably introduces aliens at the end.  Yes, the wannabe-military simulation that features fictionalized versions of everything from Saddam and the Republican Guard, to CNN itself reporting on the war, throws you a massive curve ball at the end by casually mentioning that's it's all because of:

Make no mistake, I can get behind bizarre-ass shit.  If the final level of Contra III revealed that the entire series was merely the figment of an autistic child's imagination, I'd be okay with it.  I can roll with almost anything.  But this game drops the aliens bomb... and then does nothing with it.  No alien enemies, no spaceships, no mention in the ending cutscene.  Nothing.  What was the goddamn point?  Did the English translator just throw it in to see if QA was doing their jobs?  Did the American release get a bunch of content cut out?  Who knows.

In the end I would never call this a bad game.  It's a very flawed game, for sure, and I was rather disappointed with it overall, but once you understand the game's mechanics, and what it is asking of you, it's easy enough to get in a rhythm and have fun with it.  And I really do like some of the ideas they came up with.  It never really does end up coming together completely, but I can appreciate what it was going for.

Did I beat it?
Yes, though the ending seemed to imply everyone was dead.



501 - Bram Stoker's Dracula



Bram Stoker's classic novel Dracula, once faithfully adapted to the big screen by Francis Ford Coppola, and then, er... not so faithfully adapted for the Super Nintendo (and seemingly every other system under the sun).  And though the majority of movie games on the SNES have been dire so far, to put it lightly, and the video game too is littered with rough edges and bad first impressions, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have something resembling fun every time I pop it in.  Plus it's like a million times better than the Mary Shelley's Frankenstein game.

The best way I can describe the gameplay is as a love letter to a number of Japanese action platformers, mostly of the 8-bit variety.  And though the game comes well short of those lofty heights, you have to at least appreciate the effort here.  Whereas games like Frankenstein and Last Action Hero are rotten to the core, with no fun ever in sight, BSD has the makings of a great game in here somewhere, partially because I think the developers knew what a great game was.  You see the action is fast and furious, the controls are tight, the enemies varied, and every area ends against a gigantic boss.  That is exactly the same way you would describe a number of games Capcom and Konami (or Tecmo) put out on the NES.  And each level also has what you would call an optional objective that will reward you with upgrades or sub weapons if you choose to carry it out.  There was obviously a lot of love put into the development of this thing.

Unfortunately, love is not enough, because the game's shortcomings are myriad and severe.  For one, the game is littered with cheap deaths and traps, some of them quite maddening.  A dozen attempts in and I still have no idea how you avoid most of the game's hidden spear traps.  And the hidden pits later in the game are complete and utter bullshit, impossible to predict, and still hard to avoid even when you know (roughly) where they are.  And the game's starting weapon?  Ys and Lagoon come to mind.

Also, those same bosses fights that I already rang the praises of, are mostly a disaster in execution.  They look great, and I love that there are so many of them, but they only come in two varieties: pathetically easy, or cheap-ass bullshit artists, reducing each battle into a button-mashing race to kill them before you die.  Neither type is remotely satisfying.

The game also lacks any sort of password or save functionality, forcing you to beat it in one sitting.  While the game can be very forgiving with lives and continues, and levels can be completed in just several minutes each once you know what your'e doing, you're still gonna need to put in an attempt or five just to learn what you need to do.  And this is not a short game.

In the end, I have to say that I like this game, and that I have something of a major soft spot for it, warts and all.  I can't quite bring myself to call it a hidden gem or anything, and most people are gonna immediately hate it, but it does just enough right that it's probably worth giving it a shot regardless.  I know I keep going back to it.

Did I beat it?
Yes, several different times on several different difficulty settings.

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Writing about every SNES game - Volume VI
SNES Set - 712/723 (Ghoul Patrol)
Switch: SW-6880-6470-3131


Edited: 01/22/2019 at 02:32 AM by Brock Landers

Sep 17, 2018 at 12:00:45 AM
Brock Landers (54)
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Writing about every SNES game - Volume VI
SNES Set - 712/723 (Ghoul Patrol)
Switch: SW-6880-6470-3131


Edited: 09/17/2018 at 12:05 AM by Brock Landers

Sep 17, 2018 at 1:32:34 PM
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Daniel_Doyce (0)
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Well done again, Brock. So many bad sports game, but at least they're not fatally flawed like ones in the 700s and 600s.

I have to stand up for Monopoly (the game), though. It's an exceptionally well-thought out and balanced game. The reason most games drag on forever is that people insist on using house rules that artificially introduce more money into the game. The genius of Monopoly's design is that it creates a scenario with limited resources that requires making tough choices on where to allocate your money. A game should last an hour at most, especially if the players are reasonable enough to declare a winner when one person has gained a decisive advantage. If people are dicks and refuse to trade then they're just not playing intelligently.

The reason why SNES Monopoly sucks is that it's incredibly slow in all aspects of play. NES Monopoly would be the pinnacle of computer adaptations if the AI were just a little smarter.

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Koeinalia: A Compendium of Koei Knowledge - NES and SNES

Sep 17, 2018 at 1:32:45 PM
KrakenSoup (48)
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A good read as always! Always look forward to one these. Good write-up! So it seems that Aero the Acro-Bat is the worst game I own by your standards. I really enjoy the game but agree about the lack of password/save system and its difficulty. It's one of those games I only managed to beat by leaving the system on and taking breaks every so often. Anyway, can't wait for the next one even if it is several months away!

Sep 17, 2018 at 1:52:41 PM
guillavoie (125)
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Awesome as always Brock, I like the title of the thread as well, LOL!

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Sep 17, 2018 at 2:22:52 PM
mbd39 (1)
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An interesting fact is that Speedy Gonzalez and Air Strike Patrol don't work properly on most SNES emulators. For example, the shadow under your plane in A.S.P. is done using "mid-scanline raster effects" which are very slow to emulate, and only BSNES/Higan can do it. And there's some sort of game breaking bug in Speedy Gonzalez when played on most or all emulators that aren't BSNES/Higan.

http://helmet.kafuka.org/accuracy...

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Edited: 09/17/2018 at 02:23 PM by mbd39

Sep 17, 2018 at 3:31:22 PM
G-Type (1)
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I will at least give space invaders credit for doing a somewhat faithful recreation of the background art. Its a lot cooler to see it in the arcade cabinet, where they used a Pepper's ghost technique to make the graphics appear floating in front of the backlit plastic landscape panel. And because Taito used a monochrome monitor, they were able to color the the bunkers green and the saucer purple with colored celophane (but this wasn't noticeable when seeing the reflection of it on the playfield glass.)

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Check out my comic, The Scientists. It's like a "Genius-centric 'Goonies' that can turn thriller at any moment". 

Sep 17, 2018 at 4:04:36 PM
barrelsAndRivets (137)
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Thanks for making my morning with another great writeup.

Sep 17, 2018 at 10:55:21 PM
Space Jockey (141)
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I would love to spend a few hours reading this right now, but my only time when I have ample free time to read it is at work. So I'll have to be saving it for Saturday or Sunday. Man this is going to be a long week now.

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Switch Friend Code: SW-7855-4097-7884

Originally posted by: Space Jockey
Originally posted by: Guntz
On a more serious note, I've played EarthBound today for so long, I feel all tense and mentally worn out.
Then you called your mother and felt better?

 


Sep 17, 2018 at 11:36:08 PM
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Fixed some errors in Big Hurt Baseball and BreakThru

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Writing about every SNES game - Volume VI
SNES Set - 712/723 (Ghoul Patrol)
Switch: SW-6880-6470-3131

Sep 18, 2018 at 9:36:35 AM
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the tall guy (130)
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Fantastic!

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Sep 18, 2018 at 10:04:38 AM
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I remember when Family Dog was on TV. It only lasted a month, apparently. Pretty crazy that they made a game for such a short-lived show.

Tecmo NBA was decent on the NES. In fact, I'd say it's probably the best basketball game on the system. At least not counting the Kunio game that was Famicom only.

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Sep 18, 2018 at 10:13:14 AM
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Excellent work!

Sep 18, 2018 at 10:58:22 AM
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When you mentioned Hurricanes being a cartoon, I vaguely remembered it. Double Dragon V is based on a cartoon show from the 90s. I believe it was on Fox and I watched it regularly as a kid. And I hate Sonic games as well.

Sep 18, 2018 at 1:20:55 PM
Splain (25)
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It's time for me to stick up for Breakthru! First of all, how dare you?

Just kidding. But I like puzzle games and discussion. No, it's not a top 100 game or anything, but I think if you knew how to play it, it would have jumped up at least 100 slots. I'd definitely prefer it to any of the other games in this list. A couple things:

Dynamite explodes when it touches another stick of dynamite, or you can explode it manually if it's on the bottom row. Simple, consistent rules. This is stated in the manual and on GameFaqs. Very useful for each round's endgame.

On the first set of 24 levels, (on the default difficulty of Easy) eliminating a color from the board means you don't get any more blocks of that color for the rest of the level. Hey, you cleared all of the yellows, and there's no yellows in the "conveyor belt?" You don't get any more yellows. Now work on getting another color eliminated, until you finish the level. Once you finish the first loop on Easy, the difficulty goes up. The one and only difference is that eliminating a color doesn't keep that color from falling anymore. So the "imbalance" you mentioned is not only nonexistent for the first 24 levels, but it's the exact thing you have to learn to deal with to play at a higher difficulty. You have to learn to strategically shift the "gravity" of the tiles, intentionally drop the conveyor belt tiles where you need them, and use the items in a way that doesn't leave you stuck with a sticky endgame.

You mentioned Yoshi's Cookie, and how you sometimes find yourself stuck waiting for a perfect combination of tiles/cookies to be able to clear the level. Well, just like in YC, you have to plan what your endgame looks like while there are still lots of tiles on the screen. In YC, it's a matter of making sure you don't clear a row of cookies that leaves an orphan without one or two matches. Many if not all (base game) levels are clearable without having to add any cookies. It's silly to complain about the endgame when the player is the one who serves it to themself. But that's planning out a couple dozen cookies at most. In Breakthru!, there are literally hundreds of tiles that you chip away to set yourself up for an easy endgame. If you're haphazardly deleting tiles just to get your numbers down, then no, you can't complain that the endgame is hard. Maybe if there were a puzzle mode or something, it could have taught some of those advanced principles, like you see in Yoshi's Cookie or Tetris Attack.

To be fair, yes, even meticulously planning your endgame can get completely upended when the conveyor decides to drop some garbage on you. Being proactive about managing those drops is annoying. Even a well-played round can end in boringly waiting for the conveyor to offer the color you need, and you can still lose a life because of bad luck. It's not a perfect puzzle game, but I shudder to think of some of the games that will receive a better rank than Breakthru.

Just bustin' your chops.  

Sep 18, 2018 at 1:37:03 PM
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Bea_Iank (4)
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Ah, we are getting to the good Football games and been through some of the good SNES fighting games on this part of the list, like Ranma 1/2 and Power Moves.
Good read for my lunch break.

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A paragon of purity, chastity and innocence.
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Sometimes I don't know where in the world I am.

Sep 18, 2018 at 1:57:58 PM
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There's gonna be more and more of these rebuttals as I get to games people actually like lol

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Writing about every SNES game - Volume VI
SNES Set - 712/723 (Ghoul Patrol)
Switch: SW-6880-6470-3131

Sep 18, 2018 at 6:00:16 PM
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The biggest problem w/The Chessmaster is that the SNES version has basically nothing to offer over the NES version, and the NES game is cleaner-looking and sounding. It's like the quintessential lazy "let's make this 16-bit" faux-upgrade.

I loathe the SNES version of Itchy & Scratchy. The Genesis prototype -- at least, the version that doesn't softlock halfway through the game -- is much more playable thanks to the higher horizontal resolution: you can actually see Scratchy coming before he hits you. The game still stinks, though; I'd rank it somewhat lower, myself.

Sep 19, 2018 at 6:18:34 AM
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Originally posted by: Brock Landers

There's gonna be more and more of these rebuttals as I get to games people actually like lol
I'll have you know that I'm still working on my multipage manifesto on why the Lawnmower Man is the greatest movie of all time. How dare you sully its name!
 

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Koeinalia: A Compendium of Koei Knowledge - NES and SNES

Sep 19, 2018 at 7:30:22 AM
bronzeshield (44)
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There's a player on AtariAge who's put at least 200 hours into Lawnmower Man and has become an expert at speedrunning it.

That may strike some of us as strange, but for me it's nice to know that every dog has its day, so to speak -- that every game has someone out there who's willing to put the time in to learn every little thing about it. (I guess for a few games, that someone has been me.)

Sep 22, 2018 at 7:32:14 PM
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( Xenomorph ) < King Solomon >
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I finally got to read it, what a great thing you have created here. I love reading it, I love that I can read it for hours while on the clock at work getting paid to read it. I love the story about Frank Thomas and how that was basically your review. It opens up another part of you, showing just how much of yourself you are putting into these writings. I appreciate all your hard work.

One question though, I'm just curious what aspect of Wario's Woods you find to be flawed? I have only played the NES version myself so maybe the SNES version doesn't work out as well, just curious is all. Also I'm not sure what you will rate it so I don't know how long it will be until the answer comes up in your reviews.

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Switch Friend Code: SW-7855-4097-7884

Originally posted by: Space Jockey
Originally posted by: Guntz
On a more serious note, I've played EarthBound today for so long, I feel all tense and mentally worn out.
Then you called your mother and felt better?

 


Sep 22, 2018 at 8:35:24 PM
Brock Landers (54)
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Thank you. That was the very last one I wrote.

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Writing about every SNES game - Volume VI
SNES Set - 712/723 (Ghoul Patrol)
Switch: SW-6880-6470-3131

Sep 22, 2018 at 8:39:01 PM
quest4nes (147)
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(jeff -) < Bonk >
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none of these broke my heart.

i would say super rbi is way better than this ranking though.

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NES  639 (330 Manuals 319 Boxes)
Wii U 158/163(incl. Starfox Guard & Bayonetta 1)
SNES 308
N64  167
Original Gameboy 48