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#150 - SOS

Here is the other game called SOS, this time a cinematic survival action adventure platformer from Human Entertainment, the bad boys behind the Clock Tower series. And what exactly does "cinematic survival action adventure platformer" mean? I donít know, I just made it up. But it seems fitting.

The gist of the premise here is that you select one of four passengers aboard the SS Von GonnaSink. Before too long, disaster strikes, and you have one hour to get their ass to safety. Which means lots of running and jumping across the multitude of rooms and decks of the doomed ship. Kind of like a cross between Prince of Persia and The Poseidon Adventure.

Of course, if you are feeling particularly bold (or youíre not a completely self-centered asshole), you can also try to help other passengers escape in the process. This can be done by letting them tag along, and assisting them with the various ledges youíll need to climb, almost turning the entire game into an extended escort mission.

So, a really cool premise in my opinion. I canít say Iíve played too many games like this, which really made it feel like a breath of fresh air. Iím not at all familiar with the Disaster Report franchise, but I wouldnít doubt that games like that owe at least some inspiration to this game.

Now for the bad stuff. First, the controls areÖ frustrating, to put it mildly. There is nothing worse than a ticking clock, and controls that are apt to send you flying into a chasm. And this is gonna happen a lot.

Worse, the companion AI is completely braindead. Like, throw-your-controller-and-scream-at-the-TV stupid. Possibly the dumbest companions in the history of video games. That might be a slight overstatement, but I donít care to think otherwise. It was more than enough to get my blood boiling.

The game is also rather short once you know what youíre doing. Playthroughs can last as little as 20-30 minutes once you have the proper paths down, so after you have ďcompletedĒ the game with all four characters, there isnít a whole lot of replay value. Unless you savor the idea of getting incrementally better endings by tacking on ever more braindead followers. Oh, right, the multiple characters...

Since you do have a choice of characters, you get to see four different storylines. Each character also has their own basic ďscenarioĒ too. So, for example, the doctor has to track down his wife, the businessman needs to find his estranged sister, etc. Other characters have their own side stories (and questlines in order to get them to follow you), but they are basically the same across the different scenarios.

I should also mention that the angle of the ship is constantly changing (signaling it slowly capsizing over the span of the hour). This is a super cool idea, but it also makes the platforming super unpredictable. And it makes the final boiler room one long exercise in pain. But still, I love the idea!

And thatís basically SOS in a nutshell. It's one of the coolest concepts in the entire SNES library, with super questionable execution. Hell, botched execution. But I love high concept games, and Iím almost always willing to look past frustration and pain for the sake of a unique gaming experience. So I recommend that everyone check this game out. Everyone. Most people will undoubtedly find it too frustrating to be anything more than a curiosity, but it is an experience that needs to be had.

Did I beat it?
Yes, though I didn't get all of the best endings.


#149 - Street Racer

Remember a time before kart racers flooded every video game console known to man? Is it hard to imagine such a thing? Hard to imagine that there was ever relief from their incessant deluge? Well, amazingly, there are actually very few of them on the system where it all started. Thereís just the OG Super Mario Kart, that Power Rangers Battle Racers game, and this guy. Street Racer fromÖ *squints at cover art* Ubisoft. One of their few offerings on the Super Nintendo. And while that Power Ranger game started off great, and had a lot of promise, a few big flaws held it back from being anything super memorable. With Street Racer, there is nothing holding it back. Well, almost. Itís a fun, if derivative and unimaginative, little racer.

When first starting up the game, the parallels to Super Mario Kart are almost immediately painfully obvious. Everything is cribbed wholesale. Right off the bat you have a choice between the main GP mode or several different battle modes (more on those later), which should all seem familiar. Then, you select one of eight goofy-looking characters, all with their own individual strengths and weaknesses. More shades of SMK. And then, you select one of four ďcupsĒ which all represent different difficulties. SMK all the way.

When the actual racing action begins, the parallels are somehow even more obvious: this thing looks and plays almost identically to the eponymous Nintendo racer.

But, the key word here is ďalmost.Ē You see, the subtle differences start to reveal themselves the more you dig into it. For one, there are no powerups to acquire scattered across the track. Instead, each character has their own unique ability, and a melee attack with unlimited usage. This leads to a much more combat-oriented type of gameplay.

There is also no ďpower slidingĒ to get you zipping around corners (something which arguably gives SMK most of its depth). So again, combat is the name of the game, since the best way to get an edge is by repeatedly attacking opponents in order to slow them down. Itís not an even trade off, but it does help the game build a bit of its own identity that way, so Iíll take it.

One area in which Street Racer does fall short, is with the track selection. While there are a decent number of them (24), and some of them do have some rather nice background sprites, I wouldnít say the tracks themselves are anything special. Pretty much a collection of Mario Kart B-sides, to put it nicely. Everyone knows Rainbow Road, the Koopa Beaches, and those damn Thwomps. I couldnít remember any of the Street Racer tracks to save my life.

Oh, and those battle modes I mentioned before? Worth trying out, but probably not that great. One is some sort of king of the hill type of deal, and the other is a riff on soccer. But since I never successfully found anyone who wanted to play this with me, I never took either one for any sort of real spin. Oh well.

So yeah, Super Mario Kartís bastard cousin. That no one ever talks about. Itís pretty good. Check it out.

Did I beat it?
Indeed.


#148 - Earth Defense Force

Earth Defense Force (aka Super Earth Defense Force) is another game that has jumped all over the place in my preliminary rankings throughout the years. When I first sought out the cartridge, I didnít expect much of it. The admittedly dumb title, lifeless cover art, cheap cartridge price, and relative anonymity, all contributed to an overall sense that it probably wasnít gonna be anything super amazing. Just another second-rate title that Iíd quickly try to play through, and then shelve it and let it gather dust.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I popped it in for a test drive and found a solid shmup at work. It wasnít anything mindblowing, or revolutionary, but I could immediately tell it was gonna be worth playing. So I did a quick few attempts, gave it a temporary spot in the 200s in my rankings spreadsheet, and moved on.

Several years later, I took the cart back out, and gave it some serious attention. And what I discovered was a game that was even better than my early estimations had proven. This is not something you want to sleep on. It looks great, it controls great, it plays great, and it has a perfect difficulty curve. Seriously. While everything starts out relatively easy, the difficulty really starts to crank up in the second half of the game. But in a good way. Youíll have to earn your victory, but you should never feel frustrated.

When I did finally manage to clear it, I promoted it all the way into the top 100. I knew that was a lofty position, and I knew that I sometimes tend to ďoverswing the pendulumĒ a bit, but I had such a good time with it that I felt it was justified.

Cut to 2021 where Iíve finally cracked the top 200, and had to revisit a bunch of my favorite games in order to finalize their positions. So I gave EDF one more serious play session, in order to settle on a final ranking. To do that I also generally have to take all of the ďalikeĒ games that I have sitting within spitting distance of one another (in this case, Earth Defense Force, Super Nova, Aerofighters, Firepower 2000, Darius Twin, Phalanx, and a few others) and then quickly play through all of them back-to-back. Almost like one last sanity check. Because if I have grossly misplaced a game, especially compared to its peers, that is going to be the easiest way to discover that fact. Hopefully before itís too late.

And, admittedly, Earth Defense Force did drop a bit after that final interrogation. But not by a ton. It's still a great game, and still one of my favorite shmups on the platform. It didnít end up being good enough to crack the top 100 (obviously), but I did still consider it. It wasnít a foregone conclusion or anything. And the fact that it was even up for consideration is a pretty positive testimony.

Did I beat it?
After many, many, many tries.


#147 - Battle Clash

Battle Clash is one of the three remaining Super Scope games I have left to cover, and the title I assume most people are familiar with. Assuming theyíre familiar with any of them... I know I wasnít. But I imagine people with more money than my family had were able to afford Super Scopes. And this would have been one of the early games to get.

Let me preface this positive review with a really big disclaimer: this game is super short and super simple. Maybe 20 minutes long. And you have one goal: shoot the bosses before they shoot you. Thatís it. Thatís the entire game. Itís a boss rush, and thereís not a lot of nuance to it. Kill or be killed.

And thatís fine, because it works. Every single fight is fun, and every single one is rewarding to clear. Or, at least it was for me. Using my optical mouse like the cheater that I am. But, I tried to make it a fair fight by handicapping myself. With alcohol. As in I had a number of beers before I played through it, in order to purposely make the game a more challenging experience. Absolutely true story.

And it was a blast. Blowing off robot arms and rocket turrets is fun. Learning their patterns is fun. Capping off a tense fight with a hard-earned victory is fun. Would I have been disappointed if I had spent $60 on this back in 1992 and ended up finishing it the same day? Probably. But that doesnít matter now.

So, if youíre a poor soul that owns a Super Scope, try this bad boy out. If you donít, grab a mouse and figure out other ways to play it. It may not hold your attention for long, and the sequel is much improved, but itís worth a playthrough or two.

Did I beat it?
Yes, but with a mouse.


#146 - Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Fighting Edition

Wait, what? A fighting game? In the top 150? Thatís not Street Fighter II? Whatís going on here? I mean, Iíve made it so very clear to this point that I am not much of a fan of the genre, and I already covered the eternally popular Killer Instinct. So how is this possible? How could I have let this happen?

And to top it off, how could it be a frickiní Power Rangers game? Iíve already explained about how I didnít grow up with the franchise, and that I donít hold any nostalgia for it. So what in the world is it doing so high up in the rankings?

Well, Iím as shocked as anyone, but when I booted this game up to rank it, I accidentally had a great time with it. Like, legitimately 100% enjoyed all of my time with it. Enough to play through it multiple times. It looks great, it plays great. Itís one of the few fighters on the system where I will ever use that word.

Probably because it's a great idea. I donít know anything about Power Rangers, but having them suit up in their giant Voltron-esque robot suit thing, and having them square off in mortal combat against the menagerie of giant rubber monsters/robots is a great idea.

Now, I have to admit that I have not played any of its multiplayer modes, much less put it through any sort of ďcompetitive playĒ wringer or anything. So if someone wants to carefully explain to me why this is a far inferior tournament game to Killer Instinct, Fatal Fury Special, or Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, or go over its lack of ďdepthĒ or ďoriginalityĒ or whatever the case may be, then so be it. Don't let me stop you, as I have never professed to be the final word on fighting games.

But I do know that it's a hell of a lot of fun to play, even for my untrained fighting neophyte brain. And my understanding is that this game is something of a reskin of (or prequel to?) Gundam Wing Endless Duel. Better known as one of those Super Famicom games that was left in Japan, but is commonly praised as an essential import. So if that speaks to you, or means anything to you, then itís all you need to know. Grab this bad boy and have a blast.

Did I beat it?
Totally.


#145 - X-Men Mutant Apocalypse

Man, look at all of these Capcom brawlers I have crowding up the 200-100 ranks. It has to be the majority of titles they put out, right? And thereís a reason for that: theyíre all very good, some of them are bordering on great. Capcom just really had the formula down, and (for better or worse) milked the hell out of it over and over again. Lucky for us, that strategy had satisfactory results.

Now, is that exceedingly lazy? Maybe. But Iím not ranking laziness. Just the end result. And much like the umpteen Mega Man sequels, whatís not broken doesnít necessarily need to be fixed.

When I covered War of the Gems not too long ago, I mentioned that it was the sequel to X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse. Both games take the Capcom beat em up template, and add a few nifty little wrinkles to the formula. Namely, a number of different selectable characters, nonlinear progression, some light platforming elements, and - most importantly - some fighting mechanics stolen straight from the Street Fighter II games. Specifically, special moves executed by some simple combinations.

And it works. The platforming, the brawling, and the combo-ingÖ they all go well together. Itís a fun game with a fun formula. And it looks great too. The sprites are large and detailed, theyíre animated well, and the levels all look great. This thing has production value and pedigree up the wazoo.

Of course, the balance is all over the place. Many of the levels and bosses are a cakewalk. Some are frustratingly nebulous. And it is very easy to find yourself far into the game with not enough lives left to really be able to make a go at the final boss.

Oh right, I should mention that. See, instead of just playing through this in 45 minutes like you would any other brawler, this one is a bit longer, and comes with passwords. But those passwords are rather useless late in the game if you donít do so well. Especially if you reach the final boss Magneto. I wonít spoil much, but suffice it to say, you have to wear him down with your entire team if you want to have much luck. Or at least, thatís what Iíve had to do every time Iíve fought him.

The important thing though, is that the game is fun to play, and a far cry from previous Marvel SNES games such as Spider-Man X-Men or Captain America. In fact, itís the polar opposite of both of them. Play this if you were disappointed by either of those.

So yeah, definitely one of the SNES brawlers I like to come back to again and again, though probably still in the bottom half of the Capcom brawling library. I guess thatís a testament to its strength.

Did I beat it?
A number of times.


#144 - The Brainies

Not too long ago (from the point at which I started writing this), I chose The Brainies as the ďGame of the MonthĒ for the Super Nintendo subreddit. It seemed like a good opportunity to not only shine the spotlight on an unheralded game that few people have heard of and even fewer people have played, but also to give people incentive toward working at a full playthrough of the game, which is the only way to see the devious puzzles hiding within.

It was a bust. Few people paid it any attention, fewer played it, and no one played through it. And can you blame them? Itís a game from Titus (whom everyone aside from myself seems to loathe), and features a bunch of grotesque fuzzballs on the cover. The effort was doomed from the start.

And thatís really too bad because I genuinely dig this game. It has such a simple concept and formula, which perfectly ramps up in difficulty and complexity, ending in some of the trickiest puzzles on the platform. Figuring them out is so satisfying too.

The gameplay is super straightforward: you have some color-coded furballs that need to be laid down on specific color-matching titles. You do this by sliding them vertically or horizontally. Thatís it. Thatís the entirety of the controls and/or mechanics that you have to worry about.

Things donít stay that simple, because wrinkles are slowly introduced in the form of various obstacles and power-ups strewn across the playing area that affect your creaturesí movement. For example, arrows will redirect them off in other directions, barriers stop you dead in your tracks, alarm clocks give you added time, and so forth.

And thatís all the game needs, because it works. Every puzzle can be solved with enough time and ingenuity.

Of course, all is not perfect. This is one of those puzzle games that only gives you a new password every few levels, potentially forcing you to solve some of them over and over again. Itís a giant pain-in-the-ass, and one of the few instances that had me seriously contemplating playing with save states in order to preserve my sanity.

I also wish that you didnít have to use a free-roaming cursor. Why not just let you swap back and forth between the different ďBrainiesĒ to save time? Oftentimes youíll need every precious second you can get, so it feels frustrating trying to slowly scroll around. They should have at least given both options.

Annoyances aside, Iíve put a lot of time into this game, and I don't regret a minute of it. I still havenít managed to clear it yet, mostly thanks to having to replay the later levels over and over again. But Iím still working on it. And even if I donít ever manage to do it, I have a blast trying.

Did I beat it?
Well, almost. And I may or may not have looked up some of the puzzle solutions in a moment(s) of weakness.


#143 - Rise of the Phoenix

Here we have the last of the ďEasternĒ Koei strategy games. Which games does that encompass? The two Nobunagaís Ambition games, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms trilogy, Genghis Khan II, Inindo (sort of), and thisÖ Rise of the Phoenix, my pick for the best (most fun) of the bunch.

Is that gonna be a popular opinion? Probably not. Most Koei nerds adore the Romance series, and I have no doubt that 99% of them are gonna tab one of those games for their own personal top spots. And Nobunaga is the series that started it all, and commands some amount of respect just for that fact alone.

But RotP is the one that spoke to me the most. Itís the game that had the mechanics that fit my preferences the best. Mostly, the larger emphasis on a tactical map where youíre free to move your units, and the interesting dynamic of there only being two sides (with various allies or neutral parties on the sideline). These, among other things, created a more compelling experience for me.

Combat isÖ unusual. I guess thatís one way to put it. Itís definitely different from all of the other Koei games, for better or worse. At a high level, it comes in two different forms: units chasing each other around a grid-based field, and castle sieges, where the attacker is harassing the defender with battering rams, catapults, and archers. Are either of them a better system than we saw in all of those other aforementioned Koei titles? Probably not. The more typical turn-based army vs army setup that was featured in the other games is a tried-and-true way of doing things thatís worked for eons.

Donít fix what ainít broke.

But I can also appreciate what they were going for here. And being different helps when there are so many games that share so many similarities. Sometimes you just want to play something that mixes things up.

As far as drawbacks go, I would say the chief one is that the difficulty is rather lacking. Or, at least it was with the scenarios I completed with the sides that I chose. But this isnít really uncommon for the Koei series either. Most of their games can be cheesed once you find a gap in the AI and thereís never really anything preventing you from exploiting it to the end. RotP is no exception in that regard, as your opponents never really seem to make any compelling movements across the map, leaving themselves wide open for your own pushes.

So yeah, definitely one of the better Koei titles on the Super Nintendo. Better than Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV? Probably not, but I enjoyed it more. Better than Gemfire/? Depends on what youíre into, I suppose. Either way, itís one to check out.

Did I beat it?
I have.


#142 - Magic Sword

You may know this game from the infamous Cinemassacre video about the ďTop Ten Obscure SNES Gems.Ē Itís the same video that started the rumors about Hagane being a Blockbuster exclusive.

So, you might be wondering, is it true? Is this a hidden gem? One of the top ten hidden gems in the Super Nintendo library? Should you race out and buy it right now before it rockets up in value because you have a fear of missing out?

And the answer is ďsort of, no, and noĒ. This is a good game. A very good game. And itís one few people seem to know about or have any personal history with, despite it being brought to us by powerhouse Capcom. But it is absolutely not one of the very best or most obscure games on the platform.

And how the hell should I know if you should buy it? If youíre a collector, grab it. If youíre a gamer, get a flash cart.

Anyway, the game has a very simple progression: work your way through 50+ levels by slaughtering enemies, finding keys, and fighting the occasional boss. Combat is simple: swing your sword, and use any magic attacks you have. Thatís it. Jump, swing sword, use special, avoid damage. Arcade gameplay to its very core.

What does set this game apart from its peers is a rather cool ďallyĒ system. How this works is, throughout your journey you will come across dozens upon dozens of prisoner cells waiting in the background. Unlocking these cells will award you with a brand new buddy who will follow you around and add his/her attacks to your own. Unlock a new cell and a new buddy replaces your existing one. They range from large sword-bearing knights, to magicians or flying monsters, each with their own strengths and utility. Itís a great system that lets you personalize your play style to a degree, and never gets old.

But beyond that, it is a very simple game, one that can be blown through in under an hour after a handful of attempts. The only real replay value is in trying out different helper characters. Thereís no cooperative play, no real secrets, or hidden endings or anything. Still, for as short and simple a ride as it is, I had a blast with it every time I played it.

Did I beat it?
Yep. I had 3-4 attempts that ended on the final boss, but I eventually got him.


#141 - Spanky's Quest

Here comes yet another story about my childhood. My apologies if youíre sick of them by this point. I wouldnít blame you.

Way back in, letís say, 1992, someone I know rented this. Or, I should say, his dad did. His father was my motherís neighbor. I know I mentioned this person at some point in my hundreds of reviews, but I have absolutely no idea where or when that was. Anyway, one day I went over to his apartment, and he was playing this game. And, like usual, I didnít get to play it myself. But I watched, entranced. Like usual. At that point in my life I was so deprived of video games that Iíd have happily watched someone play freakiní Othello if I had to. So I watched and watched, riveted. I didnít know what was going on, but the weird monkey game certainly seemed like it was a lot of fun to play.

Flash forward several decades, and Iíve started piecing together my (near) complete SNES collection. When I acquired my copy of Spankyís Quest, I was immediately reminiscent of that weekend rental long, long ago. I couldnít remember much about the gameplay, but I figured it probably wasnít very good. I mean, some game about a monkey wearing a backpack? Doing something with fruit? From the early days of the system? The sort of thing a 5-year old would rent?

I knew it would be crap.

Well, long story short I was dead wrong. This game is great. Way better than it has any right to be. I guess at that point I hadnít yet learned to assume the name Natsume is (usually) associated with greatness.

Describing the gameplay is going to be, like it has been so many times already with this project, a bit trying. Umm... I guess the gist of it is that you play as our friendly neighborhood monkey, Spanky, and you need to kill a bunch of enemies in a series of smallish arenas, and gather any keys they may drop. And also collect a bunch of fruit. I... or waitÖ are the fruit and the enemies the same thing?...

Oh my god, I have no idea. *thinks* Even though Iíve played through this numerous times, itís now been at least 5 years since the most recent completion, so I guess thatís a sign to revisit it for the good of this review. I swear my memories from 30 years ago are better than my memories from the 2010s.

*later that same night*

Okay, yes, the fruit is the enemy. Are the enemy? Are the enemies? [I give up - editor]. So, the formula is even simpler than I thought. Kill fruit. Get keys. The end. Simple enough, right?

Well the rub(s) comes in several forms. One, is the unorthodox way in which you attack them. You ready for this? For you see, in order to attack them, you must throw a pitiful little softball at them. Not a metaphorical softball - a literal one. Itís pretty weak sauce. But if you bounce said softball off your own monkey head it turns into a volleyball, or something. And if you do it again it becomes like a series of basketballs. Finish it off one last time and it explodes as a group of even larger balls. Obviously I forget the specifics, but the point is your attack is upgraded with each bounce of your head. Why sporting balls? Who knows.

Now, as much as what I just said didnít make any sense, the only thing you really need to understand is that this mechanic, which is extremely unique and implemented in an unorthodox way, completely and utterly works. Full stop. Itís a great system, which perfectly complements the rest of the game.

The second rub lies in the puzzle-like nature of the levels. I wonít spoil anything, but they constantly bring new ideas to the table, and theyíre all very satisfying to complete. If only there were more of them.

The last thing that really should be noted is the boss fight that caps off each world. Theyíre great. Very well done, very fun to figure out, and very satisfying to master. The final boss fight in particular is one of my favorites.

And thatís really everything I feel I need to say about Spankyís Quest. Master the attack system, figure out the puzzles, and overcome the bosses. It might only last you an hour or two, but all three of those things are executed so perfectly that youíll have a blast the entire time.

Did I beat it?
Yes, several times throughout the last decade.


#140 - Saturday Night Slam Masters

So, itís no secret that Iím not exactly the worldís biggest fan of wrestling games (or professional wrestling in general). Never have been, never will be. Itís just not my thing. Which kinda makes me the odd man out in gaming circles because my reviews of those beloved WWF games have been by far my most unpopular rankings to this point. Seemingly, everyone else loves them.

Donít get me wrong either, because I totally get the appeal of the core product. Hell, Iím into all sorts of silly things with soap-opera-ish storylines and/or foppish pretty boys. Iíve watched all fifteen damn seasons of Supernatural after all. So watching a bunch of tight-wearing dudes on steroids dropping other men on their heads? There are worse hobbies to have.

But the wrestling video gamesÖ my god the video games! They have to be one of the dumbest genres of game to have ever existed! It's like if you took a brawler, mixed it with a fighting game, and then removed every single element of fun. Youíd be left with a wrestling game.

...Iím probably making lots of enemies right now, but thatís okay. You should feel bad for liking those games!

Just kidding! Mostly. Because there is one game out there that makes me eat my words. One game that bucks the trend and proves my assertion wrong. It turns out wrestling games can be fun. They can be fun if they have graphics that arenít terrible. They can be fun if the controls make sense. They can be fun if there isnít a complete reliance on god-forsaken button mashing.

And they can be fun if Capcom makes them and not some incompetent developer like LJN/Acclaim.

I am, of course, talking about Saturday Night Slam Masters. The Final Fight of the wrestling genre. Seriously, Mayor Mike Haggar is on the roster.

This game is an absolute pleasure to play, with a fantastic party mode, and even a pair of fulfilling single player modes. Because thatís what happens when you have core gameplay that works. NCW from Natsume? Doesnít work. Hammerlock Wrestling? Doesnít work. WCW Super Brawl? Doesnít work. All of those WWF games? Obviously I canít stand them (except The Arcade Game, but mostly because itís so silly). All of those Fire Pro Wrestling games? Dunno, never played them. The N64 wrestling games? Never played them either.

But this game? I come back to it all the time.

And before anyone takes this review too seriously, or gets their whitey-tighties in too much of a twist over my wrestling hot takes, keep in mind that some part of me adores Drakkhen, a game which every sane person in the world absolutely hates.

Did I beat it?
Yep, but only solo. I've never completed the co-op mode.


#139 - The Jetsons: Invasion of the Planet Pirates

Oh Taito, you crazy bastards. You really did have some outside-the-box ideas for the Super Nintendo, didnít you?

First there was Sonic Blast Man. The one-note brawler adapted from the arcade punching bag game where you fight giant crabs.

Then there was The Flintstones: Treasure of Sierra Madrock, which is a board game about disobeying your wife.

Now we have The Jetsons: Invasion of the Planet Pirates. The first (and as far as I know, only) vacuum cleaner platformer. Yes, you read that right. And no, I donít know why it exists either.

I forget the storyline, but itís something about a robotic ďsuckingĒ gizmo that some intergalactic superhero gives you (for absolutely no real reason whatsoever), and a space crime syndicate led by an evil space witch, andÖ yeah, you know what, it doesnít matter. None of it has anything to do with The Jetsons, or anything else, so feel free to pay no mind to the story at all.

The first thing youíll immediately notice with the gameplay is the way everything centers around that aforementioned vacuuming device. Youíll need to use it to ďplatformĒ your way up walls and across ceilings, youíll use it to attack enemies or suck up objects that can be launched their way, and you use it to solve very basic puzzles. Itís a hop-and-bop-and-suck. Excuse me for whatever dirty image that may have conjured in your brain.

The graphics are also super sharp, and animate well. Taito never seems to let us down in that department. I was never a super big fan of the 60s-70s Hanna Barbera cartoons, or the way they were animated, but the Taito game adaptations always look great.

Thereís also a pretty nice spread of level themes that never really repeat themselves. I mean, theyíre all pretty ďJetson-yĒ with a generalized futuristic theme, and lots of moving gears and conveyor belts and whatnot. But within that theme is a pretty nice set of ideas. From the ďvehicleĒ level, to the various rotating sections, to the underwater areas and even the frantic design of the final stage. I feel like the game is really good at staying fresh from level to level.

Invasion of the Planet Pirates also has excellent boss fights. Truly one of the better corps of bad guys found in any of the platformers on the system. Granted, most of them are fairly easy once you get the patterns down, but they all have a unique identity, and some of them are rather tricky, albeit always in very fair ways.

And I simply dig the vacuuming mechanics. Theyíre different and they work. I mean, no one's ever gonna mistake this game for something like Umihara Kuwase, but it does still manage to stick out in the Super Nintendo library.

So yeah, this gets the nod from me for being one of the best platformers on the system, or at least as one of the better platformers that wasnít released by Nintendo, Capcom, or Konami. Granted, thatís a pretty sizable number of titles. But itís not too shabby of an accolade.

Did I beat it?
Many, many times. I'm really on a roll here!


#138 - Tin Star

Hereís another odd one. Tin Star, a first-party (second-party?) light gun/Super Scope shooter where you play as a goofy robotic cowboy type, who has been recently hired as the Sheriff of a stereotypical Old Western town. Minutes into the job, he is beset by the local villains for crushing their beloved potted plant, and then spends a solid week cleaning out the townís riff raff. Roll credits.

I donít know where the idea for this game came from, or where Nintendo found it, but we certainly never heard from it again. Either way, this little oddity is a pretty decent little game.

Gameplay is broken up into seven different levels, each representing a day of the week. Within each of those levels are four different stages.

The first stage tasks you with blasting foes from a third person perspective, while our hero scrambles around the screen. I suppose the idea is you need to protect him.

The second stage is always a shooting gallery, where the screen pans right and left, and you need to blast any enemies that run onscreen, or pop up from behind different objects. Various background objects can also be shot for bonus points.

The third stage repeats the style of gameplay from the first stage.

The fourth and final stage is a boss fight that takes the form of a duel. What that means is, you have to draw your pistol (read: shoot the picture of your gunís chamber that appears somewhere on screen) and then shoot the boss, before he plugs you.

Hereís the thing though: all of those segments play roughly the same. Shoot things quickly before they shoot you. The end. Variety is not this game's strong suit, especially considering there are a whopping 28 levels (plus bonus stages) to get through.

Thatís okay though, because variety is generally never this genreís strong suit. Would it have been nice to see a wider variety of enemies, or some different setpieces, or maybe another kind of boss fight? Yes. But what they have here does work, so Iím not complaining too loudly.

The controls areÖ well, I have no idea. I donít own a Super Scope so I just used my controller to scroll the cursor around the screen. Is that optimal? Obviously not. Did I ever feel like it was holding my play back? Not really. Itís not a very hard game, so it never felt like I was being punished for my lack of a light gun.

There is also an abundance of secret goals you can try to accomplish, assuming you can find them. What does this do? Award more money at the end of the stage. What does money do? Give you a better ending. So thatís pretty cool, and definitely helps give the game a boost in the replay value department.

Either way, itís a super short experience, and probably not one people will keep going back to. But I still had a great time with it during both of my playthroughs. And my boys were enthralled by it, so thatís gotta be worth something.

Did I beat it?
Yep, once back when I got it, and once just before writing this.


#137 - Cacoma Knight in Bizyland

Let me make this crystal clear right up front: I have never played Qix. I meanÖ Iím pretty sure Iíve never played it. Probably. Maybe I did for a few minutes once upon a time with one of those arcade compilations, but if that was the case, it didnít make enough of an impression on me to create any sort of lasting memory.

Either way, itís my understanding that Cacoma Knight is Qix Just with someÖ uh, ďflavorĒ added to it.

The storyline is something along the lines of a princess becoming trapped in a painting or another dimension or whatever. So you, as the titular Knight, must rescue her. By (I guess) drawing lines across black and white landscapes. With your magic pencil (I assume). Once an area is completely contained within your lines, it ďcolorizes," spawns a bunch of goodies, and increases your completion % for that map. Colorize enough of the playing area, and you win.

To complicate things, various enemies are let loose in the playing area. Some of them travel across the lines you create. Some move in set patterns across the screen. Some book it after your ass. And some move completely erratically, just to fuck with you.

Now, here is the trick to it all. Enemies will kill you if they come in contact with you. Other enemies can kill you by moving across the line you are currently constructing. Which means you have to always be balancing your risk versus reward.

Do you try to quickly engulf most of the level in one move, a dangerously risky move in later levels, but also one that can quickly turn the tide to your advantage? Or do you make quick little strikes, making the playing area smaller and smaller with a series of safer moves?

That risk versus reward dynamic is super addictive, because this is a very short game, but also a very difficult one. An entire playthrough is probably only 20 minutes, but it will take the average gamer dozens of tries to get there. So it creates one of those ďjust one more tryĒ sort of experiences, which I absolutely love.

Is it perfect? No. I wish it were longer, I wish it had more boss fights, and trying to earn the best ending isnít implemented in an entirely satisfying way. But overall, I have a blast every time I play this game. Is it better than Qix? I have no idea. Will Qix fans love it? Also, no idea. But I bet they will.

Did I beat it?
Yes, but I've never gotten the best ending.


#136 - Total Carnage

Remember Smash TV? Of course you do. Everyone does, because it kicks so much ass. One of the most iconic twin-stick shooters of all time, with sublime gameplay, and a pitch-black sense of humor ripped straight from The Running Man and RoboCop. Whatís not to love?

Most of you are also probably aware that STV was ported to the Super Nintendo with a slapped on ďSuperĒ added to the front of the moniker. Iíll share my detailed thoughts on that version in the future, but - spoiler alert - I will say that I love it quite a bit.

But how many of you knew it had a sequel? Anybody? Because I feel like itís a very low percentage of people. Hell, back in the days of NintendoAge I actually threw together a Total Carnage contest at one point, and Iím fairly sure nobody was familiar with it. But they all seemed pleasantly surprised by it.

And thatís because this is also a good game. The rock-solid twin-stick shooting gameplay is very much intact, and as frantic as ever. Enemies relentlessly storm the field of play, gargantuan bosses swallow up all of the real estate, and the rockets and spread guns and everything else are present and accounted for. All the boxes are checked.

But itís not as good. Something has been lost. Or I should say, some things have been lost.

For one, the theme. Instead of ďgonzo game show of deathĒ, itís just generic ďmilitary guys go crash some fictional countryís parade and shoot everyone, Rambo-style.Ē Not that thatís a bad thing, but itís a step down for sure.

Also, everything in-game is bigger now, so the field of play seems smaller, and more cramped. A poor move.

Thereís also only two bosses this time around, and one of them can be experienced 2 minutes into the game. I donít know what the hell they were thinking there, because the bosses of Smash TV are one of that game's highlights. Granted, there were only 3 of them back then, but 2 is still quite the reduction!

Also, the pacing and balance just donít seem as tight now. Instead of clearly seeing where your end goal is, and occasionally getting a momentís relief, youíre just constantly plowing forward until the level abruptly ends. Again, why change what wasnít broken?

Complaints aside, itís a hell of a fun time. This sort of gameplay never gets old to me, and it is absolutely wonderful to play cooperatively. If you and your buddy have exhausted Smash TV, get this. Right now. And spend all night playing it.

Did I beat it?
Yep, and it was a hard-earned one.


#135 - Rock N' Roll Racing

A couple years ago, I forced myself to play through the entire campaign for RPM Racing. For those who donít know, itís the lesser-known predecessor to the beloved Rock ní Roll Racing, both from Blizzard. The former is a dirt cheap cartridge that no one cares about, no one loves, and few people (if any) even like. The latter is a renowned cult classic. And yet, on the surface the two games are very similar to one another.

So that got me thinking. Why does there exist such a massive gulf between the two games? Why is one so highly regarded, and the other completely ignored?

Were the refinements in the sequel such a difference maker that it lifted the formula out of mediocrity? Does the introduction of a licensed soundtrack consisting of classic rock staples make a massive difference in the ability to enjoy the extremely repetitive action? Are we all so biased and influenced by nostalgia that we are unable to call a spade a spade?

I think itís all of those things. I think I enjoy Rock ní Roll Racing more than I should. I think I was more abrasive towards RPM Racing than it deserved. And I think the one hundred incremental improvements throughout the game do make a huge difference in the enjoyment factor. There are fewer races to get through this time around, which is huge. Granted, there are still way too many, but it's a slightly more reasonable amount.

And the soundtrack does make a big difference. Having to do the same(ish) tracks again and again is a lot more tolerable when youíre rocking out to Highway Star while you do it.

The graphics and controls are also incrementally better. Not a ton. But it is the sort of thing you notice after 300+ total races. Which is how many I invested into the duoÖ

Anyway, you get the gist of it. If you want RC Pro Am-style racing on the Super Nintendo, this is one of the games to get. I slightly prefer one other one, which Iíll be getting to shortly, but you canít go wrong either way.

Did I beat it?
I did.


#134 - Ardy Lightfoot

Let me walk you through the entire Ardy Lightfoot experience, from beginning to end. Spoilers incomingÖ

The game begins with Ardy - an anthropomorphic something or other - and his sidekick Pec (I have no idea what Pec is) exploring the dark caves found in the large gaping hole in the ground just behind Ardyís home. Before long, the duo have discovered some sort of magical doohickey being watched over by several fearsome dragon statues. After a brief celebration, Ardy quickly rushes the McGuffin to the town elder, who regales him with a legend about ďany wish being grantedĒ to the person/thing who can discover seven pieces of the ďgreat power.Ē One piece is in the bottom of the ocean, one in a deserted town, and so forth.

The story is interrupted by a commotion outside. Ardy discovers that the nearby town is under attack, with many buildings already ablaze. Ardy quickly rushes through the town and chases the culprits down a nearby mine shaft. Inside there, he gives chase across a series of conveyor belts, wooden elevators, and rickety platforms, before jumping into a minecart where he is then bombarded with bombs and falling rubble, before ending in a spectacular crash. There, the townís arsonist, an overgrown mole, attacks him with more falling rocks, and a large spiked helmet, before finally succumbing to Ardyís deadly pogo stick tail. The prize? The nearby piece of power, which was conveniently hanging out.

Meanwhile, Squirrel Indiana Jones (???) begins his own pursuit of the pieces of power.

While thatís happening, Ardy wriggles out of the underground cavern, and comes across a man in the middle of the woods. The man regales him with a story about a ninja lady fox (???) who stole another piece of the great power (from a family of bears?). So Ardy gives chase (again) and follows the fox to a towering tree on the outskirts of the forest. Inside, he avoids the legions of the birds manning cannons (???) and corners the fox at the top of three. There they engage in a battle via mounted boxing gloves (???). Upon defeat, the fox makes a daring leap from the top of the tree, using her flying squirrel wings (???) to sail away. Ardy follows by, uh, also leaping from the treeÖ most likely to fall to his death.

...or at least thatís what youíd think would happen, because before either one of them can land, they are snapped out of the air by a gigantic sandworm (???????), which swallows them whole.

Inside the wormís digestive system, Ardy works his way through the dripping innards until he comes across the foxís corpse unconscious body, which he promptly robs. Then he makes his way towards the wormís anusÖ presumably to escape.

Suddenly, Squirrel Indiana Jones (???) slices the tip of the worm off with a giant sword or something (???), allowing Ardy to escape. Following SIJ into a nearby ancient pyramid (???), he navigates the twisting trap-filled maze until finally coming across a djinn. After robbing the djinn of his piece of power, Ardy narrowly escapes from the collapsing pyramid passage by nobly allowing Squirrel Indiana Jones to sacrifice himself in order to save Ardy. Once outside, Ardy finds a wooden raft, and takes it across the sea.

Meanwhile, a noble male fox regales a shadowy figure with tales about some miscreant rodent who is collecting all of the pieces of power.

Back out at sea, Ardy is waylaid en route by a humongous pirate ship, which he promptly boards, and then thrashes the hook-handed owl captain (???), sparing his life in exchange for another piece of power.

Meanwhile (again), the noble fox returns to Ardyís village, where he brutally beats the town elder in exchange for information, while the elderís daughter can only hide and sob, terrorized for her life.

Back at sea, the pirate ship drops Ardy off at a nearby island full of ruins. He works his way through the traps within, before facing off with the noble fox who has piloted some sort of magic stone robot golem (???). After emerging victorious once again, Ardy falls through the crumbling ground, only to once again be bailed out by the resurrected (???) Squirrel Indiana Jones. Making his way through subterranean caverns, Ardy finally emerges into daylight once again, this time to find himself on a dark island with a mysterious castle at its center. The pirate ship (???) then pulls up and lays siege to the castle, blowing open the front gate. Ardy heads inside.

Once within, he moves through a labyrinthine series of rooms that puts to shame anything Bowser ever laid claim to, before finally facing off against the mastermind behind the whole evil plot (whatever that may have been): a gigantic crowned toad, who boasts an air chariot (???). An epic battle commences, with Squirrel Indiana Jones once again intervening at the cost of his own life.

When Ardy finally trounces his arch nemesis he comes across the dead body of the village elderís daughter (???). Using the power of love the pieces of power, he manages to bring her back to life. Roll credits.

...also, during the epilogue, Ardy returns all of the pieces of power to their rightful homes. What a swell guy.

So, yeah. Thatís Ardy Lightfoot. One hell of a strange game.

Did I beat it?
Half a dozen times.


#133 - Urban Strike: The Sequel to Jungle Strike

Urban Strike! I feel like Iíve already talked about this game at length in a number of other reviews. Well, mostly in my Desert Strike and Jungle Strike reviews (and maybe a few others). Either way, Iíll try to keep this thing brief.

The short version of my thoughts? I adore this game. Always have. The Strike series always held great appeal to me, mostly because Iím a huge sucker for overhead action and strategy games, and they have the perfect mix of both. And while various problems held back the first two games in the series - namely their ridiculous difficulty levels - Urban Strike gets everything right. Whether itís the perfect balance of difficulty and challenge, the wider scope of the missions and maps, or even the addition of ďon footĒ missions. Itís all a win.

Actually, I shouldnít say everything is perfect, because I have to point out the rather glaring slowdown that pops up quite a bit. Itís, by far, the most pronounced in the series. Luckily, I can generally look past it; unless itís Gradius III-levels of lurching, I can deal with it. If anything, I welcome the relief from the frantic action. But not everyone feels that way about that sorta thing. Simply put, people who have major hangups with slowdown will have big issues with this game. You probably know if that applies to you.

And really, thatís all I have to say. The core gameplay from the prequels is perfectly intact, so if you have played those, you know exactly what to expect here. Itís just bigger and better. In all the right ways.

Did I beat it?
Many times throughout the decades.


#132 - Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel

So, if you can remember, I covered the original Aero the Acrobat quite a while ago. It was one of the ubiquitous furry mascot platformers that flooded consoles back in the early Ď90s, and it was a subpar one at that. How in the world it managed to spawn a franchise, I will never know. Sunsoft must have marketed the holy hell out of it.

Aero the Acrobat 2 was a marked improvement, but still a mediocre game overall. Some tightened-up controls and better level designs did their part to make the game much more playable, but the total package still brought questionable mechanics, rampant frustration, and a whole lot of poor execution to the table. A step in the right direction, but still not a game Iíd be comfortable recommending to anyone.

Finally, we have this inexplicable spinoff, based on one of the supporting characters you probably barely even remember: Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel. Who knows how or why this game exists. And yet, against all odds, this game is great. Just a total blast to play.

I really donít know how to explain the gameplay. If I say itís like Sparkster or Rocket Knight Adventures, Iím kind of doing both games a disservice, because the similarities are merely superficial, if not completely nonexistent. I mean, both of the franchises do feature a rodent that likes to fly around in the air at high speeds. There is that. But most of the level designs and the moveset are otherwise completely different. So I guess I donít know what to compare this game against. Itís kind of just its own thing.

In fact, I really donít know how to describe any of the things that go on in this game. It starts out with Zero in hisÖ uh, Japanese Zero, when he gets shot down by enemy anti-air fire. After crash landing on the nearest beach, he works his way across a tropical island, shuriken-ing and ninja kicking everything he comes across. I mean that in the best of ways.

Now, before I get any further, I have to point out that this game is hard as balls. No exaggeration. Some areas will kick your ass, and theyíll kick it hard. Again and again.

The second thing I need to point out is that the difficulty is stiff, but fair. Well, mostly fair. There are some sections that are majorly bullshit (the toxic ďTurbo TunnelĒ and some of the hazards in the final area come to mind). And some areas youíll need to practice in order to know what you need to do. But overall, itís a game that keeps the challenge high, and the frustration low. Thatís always a very good thing.

I also need to point out that this game has unlimited continues. Which is always super helpful for learning a game like this. Or, itís helpful in allowing you to slowly brute force your way through everything. Some may cry foul at such underhanded tactics, but Iím never shy about indulging in them. After all, Iím on a time budget.

The controls are definitely another step up from Aero 2 but still not as tight as they could have been. Sunsoft still canít touch Konami in that realm, unfortunately. But for most of the game they get the job done. Things get shaky in the final level, where the hazards are stepped up a notch, and the moveset is unfortunately not 100% where it needs to be. But itís not a huge deal. A few minutes of pain canít derail the whole game.

I also adore the boss fights in this game. Again, not quite up to par with something like Sparkster, but still a very commendable effort indeed. Some of the earlier ones especially, I found notable. And the final boss is a bit of a pushover, but still a lot of fun.

So yeah, if you want a Konami-style action platformer, and you've already played everything from Konami themselves, take this bad boy out for a spin. Or if you just want to wash the taste of Aero the Acrobat out of your mouth, grab this game and forget that one forever.

Did I beat it?
Yep, with the help of a lot of continues.


#131 - F1 ROC II: Race of Champions

So, forget the title of this game. And forget the box art. And forget whatever impression immediately formed in your head when you saw either of those things. Because this game is not what it appears to be.

...I probably already said all of this in my review of the first F-1 ROC didnít I?

Long story short, F1 ROC II is nothing like any of the other Formula One racing sims on the Super Nintendo. Not at all. In fact, the closest comparison on the system is probably Nintendoís own F-Zero. Yes, you read that right.

Like with the previous two Formula 1 games SETA gave us (the first ROC and F1 Built to Win) the action here is highly arcade-like, with a big emphasis on performing races over and over again until you find success. By that I mean, as long as you eventually do well in each one of them, you will be able to move on.

To assist with that task, you have a number of different upgrades you can research with your cash winnings. Everything from new engines and tires, to new ďwings'' to attach to the front and back of your racecar. All to give incremental boosts to your racing performances.

Of course none of those things are particularly unusual for the genre. But what sets this game apart is the gameplay. As I said, the closest parallel is F-Zero, and I meant it. Not to imply that youíre going to be seeing any futuristic cityscapes here, or turbo boosts that propel you over deadly energy pits. But they are similar in subtle ways, such as the way your car handles, and the way you have to take your turns. Really, itís a thing thatís kinda hard to explain. You just gotta experience it for yourself to understand it.

And thatís all a good thing, because F-Zero is awesome. If there is any one racing game on the Super Nintendo that you want to elicit comparison to, it may just be F-Zero.

Most important of all though, is that this game is just plain fun to play. The gameplay loop of race, race, upgrade, research, race, and race some more is an addictive one. And the controls are so smooth that even when you suffer defeat, youíre always eager to jump back in. Thatís the highest compliment I can pay a game like that. And itís the reason why Iíve played through this entire thing (which consists of two loops) on three different occasions. Three. There are very few racing games that I have ever played through multiple times, and even fewer on the Super Nintendo. This is one of them.

If thereís any drawback to the game, itís that itís so forgiving. So much so that the second half of the game can barely muster much of a challenge. And by second half, I mean that second loop. Which means you need to burn through a lot of races that donít offer much in the way of pushback. So anyone thirsting for a game thatís anywhere close to as difficult as F-Zero is not gonna find that here. At all.

Still, I recommend it all to racing fans. I hate to use the phrase ďhidden gem,Ē but this is absolutely one of my favorite hidden gems on the Super Nintendo.

Did I beat it?
Yes.


#130 - Gemfire

Somebody out there is gonna freak when they see that I have this game higher than the Romance of the Three Kingdoms trio. What can I say? Iím a sucker for bugbears.

Gemfire, coming to the Super Nintendo by way of the NES (and God knows what else) can basically be summed up as Nobunagaís Fantasy Ambition. Er... wait, does that sound dirty? Fantasy as in Tolkien and Orcs and wizards. Not erotic fantasyÖ you know what, forget it. Letís move on.

Like every other Koei strategy game, there are several different scenarios to choose from here, and several different ďfamiliesĒ within each of those that you can choose from. Whatís the difference between any of them? Your starting location, and the initial layout of the kingdoms, basically. Otherwise, they all seem to be practically the same.

Gameplay can basically be summarized as follows. The world map is made up of 30 territories, each of which gets one turn per month. During that turn, the leader of that territory - who may be the Prince himself, one of the lords below him, or one of dozens of different vassals - may perform one of the following actions:
  • Cultivate the land (costs gold).
  • Make the people happy (costs bread).
  • Recruit soldiers.
  • Transfer soldiers.
  • Recruit monsters.
  • Transfer resources.
  • Ally with other nations (must be performed from the Capital).
  • Sabotage neighboring territories.
  • Pilfer neighboring territories.
  • Search for treasure.
In addition to several other actions which can be performed indefinitely:
  • Changing the leadership of loyal territories (must be performed from the Capital).
  • Buying/selling bread.
  • Checking on the status of the empire.
While that may seem complicated at first glance (and there is a bit of a learning curve), once you get into a groove, the gameplay mostly falls into the same basic pattern:
  • Develop the land so that you gain resources faster.
  • Use the resources to build up your troops.
  • Crush your enemies.
  • Transfer all resources to the frontlines in order to replenish troops, while keeping them well fed, and the coffers stocked.
  • Repeat.
Itís more-or-less exactly the same as Nobunagaís Ambition. But the fantasy theme at least throws us a few new wrinkles.

First off, armies are always configured in the same way: 25% of your forces will be cavalry (extra movement), 25% will be archers (ranged attack), and the remaining 50% will comprise two stacks of basic knight infantry. But a 5th unit can be added to the battles in the form of hired monsters (everything from gargoyles and orcs to bugbears and something resembling the Loch Ness monster). And even better, you can send various heroes to occupy that final spot. These mages and warriors are by far the most powerful units in the game, and are capable of wrecking any small or medium sized unit stacks.

The battles themselves play out like a mix of Nobunagaís and Genghis Khan II, but faster-paced, and much more straightforward. Attacking a unitís flank gives you an attack bonus, and attacking their rear gives a massive bonus. Fences can be constructed by the knights in order to protect your base while also forcing the enemy into choke points. Protect your base and take theirs. Easy peasy.

And thatís really it. Balance your two resources, build up your troops, and outmaneuver the enemy on the battlefield. Itís a good time. Unfortunately, there are problems. There always are, right?

First, the enemy AI is wretched. Truly bad. This might be the easiest Koei game on the system, and Iím not sure that itís even close.

Second, which kinda ties into the first problem, is that there is limited replay value. Once youíve played one scenario, youíve played them all.

Third, itís not the deepest Koei game in the world. Pretty much the polar opposite of something like Operation Europe. If you are looking for stats upon stats upon stats, this is not your game.

But it doesnít matter, because I had a great time with it. Iíve made it clear that I dig the Nobunaga formula, and Iím a huge sucker for any and all things fantasy. And I dig the battle system. So Gemfire gets one of the top Koei spots from me.

Did I beat it?
I have.


#129 - Nosferatu

Okay, conjure up images of the beloved classic, Prince of Persia. Except, instead of jumping over pits, hanging off of ledges, and sword fighting against skeletons, your hero is jumping over pits, hanging off of ledges, and jumpkicking werewolves in the face.

That sound you hear is your own ears perking up.

Of course, before I do you dirty by getting your expectations all sorts of riled up with my hyperbolic descriptions, I have to throw a ton of caveats into that statement:

First off, most of the game doesnít consist of beating up the undead and supernatural. Instead, youíll spend almost all of that time dying and dying and dying, and dying some more.

Second, as was the case with Prince of Persia, half of the battle is figuring out what youíre supposed to do and where youíre supposed to go. Actually, itís more like 90% of the battle. Prepare to hit your head against the nearest wall a time or twenty.

Third, the combat, as fun and unorthodox as it is, could rightfully be called ďclunky.Ē Or worse. Bayonetta 2 this ainít.

A lot of caveats, no? Thatís probably why, in my experience, this game is very polarizing. While some people swear by it (okay, like me and two other guys), and it could be called something of a cult classic, most gamers arenít gonna be interested in sticking with it for long. Youíre most likely in that latter group. Iím in the former group, but I also seem to have a superhuman constitution when dealing with creaky old video games. Or Iím a glutton for punishment. Either way, if youíre into this sort of thing, and you want to literally kick Draculaís ass, track this bad boy down.

Did I beat it?
Once.


#128 - Super Nova

Not long ago I covered Darius Twin, where I professed my love for the long-running fish franchise. Well, sort of. Most of my love actually lies with the games that came after the Super Nintendoís heyday. Specifically, everything from Darius Gaiden on. Classic after classic after classic. Which I guess doesnít come off as very flattering for this duo.

But thatís okay, because as much as I think Super Nova was improved upon in every conceivable way with its successors, this is still very much a fun game. And itís also much more challenging than Darius Twin, the lack of which being one of that gameís main shortcomings.

In case you arenít aware (or didnít read that aforementioned DT review), the Darius franchise deals with invading hordes of robotic aquatic life. Why? Who knows. As is usually the case with the genre, the solution to this little problem is to strap into a lone space fighter and blast the living shit out of everything you see.

The upgrade system is simple, but very satisfying: grab shields when they're low, continuously upgrade your main firepower, and donít die. Definitely donít die. I wouldnít say this game has severe Gradius syndrome, but itís definitely present and accounted for. In spades, in some instances.

The levels themselves arenít especially memorable, even compared to other games in the franchise, but they always have strength in numbers. Thatís because every Darius game has branching paths. And by paths, I mean branching levels. On any given playthrough, you only see a fraction of them, which lends the game extraordinary replay value. You could easily do three separate playthroughs, and barely overlap any of them.

The graphics and animation are also great. Some of my favorites for any shmup on the system. The music on the other hand is merely decent, and not nearly as memorable as what later games in the franchise would command (though that could just be nostalgia talking).

Beyond that, itís usual shmup stuff. Tight controls, an emphasis on twitch reflexes, and heaps of challenge. In a good way. So if youíre a fan of this sort of thing, you owe it to yourself to at least check this one out. Itís not one of the very best shmups on the system, or even one of the better games in its own franchise, but itís still a very good game that is worth playing.

Did I beat it?
Yes, though I haven't done every path or anything.


#127 - Brain Lord

Disclaimer time again.

I played through Brain Lord back inÖ oh, I want to say around 2011 or 2012. Not a super long time ago. But long for the purposes of this project. An eternity in some ways. You see, the only SNES RPGs that I havenít played through again (or for the first time) in that time span are Breath of Fire, and possibly Mystic Quest. Iím not even joking. Every single other game. Which means everything else is fresher in my mind. But Iím jumping into this write-up headfirst anyways. So forgive me if what I say is incorrect. I mean, more incorrect than usual that is.

Brain Lord is, as the title kinda suggests, a puzzle game. Well, sort of. Itís an action RPG, with a heavy emphasis on puzzles. Like, really heavy. Picture the dungeons in Lufia II, and then crank that dial up to 11, and youíre about halfway there.

And thatís a good thing. Puzzles are awesome. Action RPGs are awesome. Games from Enix areÖ uh, usually pretty goodÖ a few titles notwithstanding. And all of those awesome things go together well here.

Now, I have to admit up front that I couldnít really follow the storyline back when I was playing through it. Something aboutÖ dragonsÖ and your missing father... I dunno, but what I do remember is pretty stereotypical stuff. As in, Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy III hardly need to feel threatened here.

But that doesnít matter, because I feel like the emphasis is rarely on storytelling with action RPGs, so I kind of give it a pass. Besides, youíll be too busy wandering around dungeons and killing everything in sight to care about why youíre doing those things.

Combat is solid for the most part. Not really up to par with some of the other games on the system - namely the Quintet trilogy and A Link to the Past - but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. Then again, I usually do with action RPGs. Plus thereís no wimpy little butter knife attack like we saw with Lagoon and Ys III.

And thatís fine. The lack of storytelling is fine. The okayish combat mechanics are fine. No, what makes this game shine are those puzzles. Theyíre some of the trickiest on the system, while (in my opinion) always remaining completely fair. Thatís a hard medium to find, and this game navigates it perfectly.

Of course, if youíre the sort who doesnít have the patience for that kind of thing, or youíre going into Brain Lord looking for an epic storyline or razor sharp combat, youíre gonna be disappointed. And if you have a tendency to run to GameFaqs every time you get stuck, youíd be doing yourself a major disservice with this game. Itís the type of game that you have to take your time with, that you should overcome with your own wits. If you can do that, thereís a lot to enjoy here.

Did I beat it?
Once, awhile ago.


#126 - Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball

I have another admission to make: I did not grow up with this game. Hell, I had never even played this game until I was an adult. So I hold no nostalgia for it, Iíve played better baseball games that were released long after it was (MVP Baseball 2005 chief among them), and I went into the experience with no great expectations.

I feel like I have to say all of that, because people LOVE this game. This is the baseball game that everybody grew up with, this is the game they all played endless seasons of, this is the GOAT as far as most of them are concerned.

And thatís fine. It is a very fun baseball game, a very great addition to the Super Nintendo library, and definitely among the best sports games on the system. Do I absolutely love it? No. Do I have a great time playing it? Yes.

I also don't want to try and describe the gameplay, because itís exactly like how it always is with baseball games: throw your pitches, time your swings, position your fielders, and make your throws. You know the deal. You know how baseball games work. So Iím cutting straight to the chase:

Batting - Easy to learn, hard to master. Of all the baseball games on the Super Nintendo, this is the game that probably gets it the most right. I have zero complaints.

Pitching - Again, very good. A decent amount of depth, and - unlike Jrís follow-up game - you donít get shellacked by the computer in every game.

Fielding - Good. Solid. No complaints again. Nintendo polished the hell out of every single little part of this game, and playing defense is no exception.

The presentation is also 100% top notch, across the board. That really shouldnít be a surprise as this is a first-party title, but itís worth calling out anyway. I will note that those same (awesome) production values are all eclipsed by the stunning-looking Ken Griffey Jr.ís Winning Run, but being second best ainít too shabby. And by that I mean second prettiest of ALL the sports games on the system.

And yes, the graphics and animation definitely have a much more cartoony vibe than its sequel, which is fine by me. It helps give both games different unique identities. Some people might prefer one or the other; Iím easy either way.

All that praise aside, I genuinely like playing Super Baseball 2020 more, which is why I have that game slightly higher in my rankings... is that sacrilege? Is that game considered a subpar port of a Neo Geo arcade classic? I donít know, on either count. And I donít care. Itís honestly how I feel. And Iíve put enough time into both titles to know that feeling isnít gonna change. But still, theyíre both great games, and two of the very best sports games on the system.

Did I beat it?
I have not.