Home Previous Next About



#175 - SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron

Remember the SWAT Kats cartoon? I never caught it in syndication, but I did watch quite a few episodes that were rerun on Cartoon Network. It was a pretty basic concept (two heavily armed humanoid cats), but the execution was top notch. Or at least, it was top notch to a 12-year-old kid. I havenít watched it since, so those memories may be a little rose-tinted.

Well, evidently there was also a video game tie-in. One that I had never heard of. But it was brought to us by my good friends over at Hudson Soft, so my expectations were rather lofty when I first popped the cart into my system.

And you know what? I wasnít let down. Itís a dang fun game, and dare I say, something of a hidden gem. I donít know what it is about Hudson platformers, but I swear they just seem to click with me.

Now, I have to point out that the game looks rather underwhelming. The sprites are small, the levels are dark, and overall the graphics are not its strong point. In addition, many of the play mechanics are very basic. So - as Iíve said about so many games already - this looks and plays very much like an NES title.

But I also donít want you to get me wrong, because I also donít necessarily say that like itís a bad thing. Hell, some might even say that the NES is where action platformers peaked in some ways. After all, thereís a reason that many modern games like Shovel Knight and The Messenger are throwbacks to that era. So even though I call SWAT Kats basic, and similar to an NES game, take it in the best possible way.

Anyway, after starting up a new game, you are given the freedom to choose the level order, which is always nice. Stage themes include a dark carnival, the cityís dirty back alleys, and what appear to be the depths of hell. Definitely going for a grittier atmosphere.

Youíll also occasionally need to pilot the SWAT Katsí fighter jet, in some Mode-7-shooty-sorta deals. These stages are pretty impressive looking, and a nice change of pace, but Iíd be lying if I said they were as fun as they look. A decent diversion though, if nothing else.

Something I must mention, are the lite-RPG elements sprinkled throughout the game. And by that I mean the extra lite elements. Really, you just farm experience by defeating enemies, which in turn lets you level up and therefore do more damage and have a larger health bar. But dammit, Iím totally a sucker for that sorta thing. Iím gonna go ahead and issue the blanket statement that RPG elements make everything better, with no exceptions. Probably because I canít think of the hundreds of exceptions right now. But I stand by that statement!

What elseÖ the game has unlimited continues, so itís fairly easy to get through, especially if you start farming levels. Some might see that as a bad thing, cheapening the experience by blunting the challenge. I like it. Skilled players can get through with a lower level, whereas people who suck (like me) can see the end through sheer persistence. I generally prefer that over banging my head against a wall over and over again.

So, yeah. If youíre into old school action platformers, or you remember the show, or you just want to try out something that some random idiot on the web recommended to you, check out this game.

Did I beat it?
Twice.


#174 - Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow

Finally, weíve reached the last of the ďnon-CapcomĒ Disney titles. IÖ wait, or is it? It is, right? Christ, this is what happens when youíve been working on a project for as long as I have. You canít trust what your own mind is telling you.

Iím gonna say it is. And itís a darn good game at that. Even if it has one of the most unwieldy titles (and concepts) that I can remember across all of gaming. Donald Duck is Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow? Who the hell over at Virgin dreamt this one up? I mean, I know Disney was going hog wild at the time with placing their properties into various exotic settings: there was Tailspin featuring the cast of The Jungle Book fighting off tropical sky pirates (which is an amazing idea, now that I think about it), DuckTales, which had Donald Duckís extended family being extremely wealthy andÖ uh, I guess thatís it, and Rescue Rangers with Chip and Dale beingÖ well, rescue rangers.

But this one might take the cake. Donald Duck playing the part of a Hawaiian-shirt-wearing reporter who travels to a South Pacific island where he unleashes a ninja alter ego named Cold Shadow? Someone at Disney must have gotten loaded up on cough syrup while listening to Jimmy Buffett records one night, and had this whole idea come to him in a fever dream. I wonít hear otherwise.

The gameplay is kind of similar to another game Iíll be getting to shortly, Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure. By that I mean, lots of jungle-themed levels, and hidden paths and secrets to be discovered within them. No vine-swinging or anything, but later on in Maui Mallard you encounter a series of levels based on vine bungee jumping. Think Earthworm Jim, but not as fun, and far more frustrating, unfortunately.

You start the game as Donald, whose levels/sections are pretty straightforward. Really he just has to run, jump, and shoot things. Not far into your adventure youíll unlock Cold Shadow, who has a much greater learning curve. You see, he has a bo staff, which can be used to whack foes, shimmy up tight corridors, and even swing across pits Earthworm Jim 2 style. Further on, you are able to freely switch between the two.

Also, maybe itís more accurate to say that Maui Mallard plays like the Earthworm Jim seriesÖ or maybe itís a mix of EWJ, Pitfall, and The Lion King? Regardless, clearly the developers were playing a lot of other games at the time.

Oh, I just thought of another one. Near the end of the game, youíll even have to navigate some really tricky lava levels where you have to squeeze through a series of narrow crevasses, almost like something out of a Gradius title. Some people might balk at that comparison, but I swear thatís how I felt.

The graphics and animation are also quite wonderful too. The best work that Virgin did on the Super Nintendo, and up there with anything Capcom put out. I guess thatís one of the perks of being a late release in the systemís life cycle.

Also, my primary grievance with most other non-Capcom Disney titles is their generally wicked difficulty curves. The Lion King is one long exercise in sadism, and the less said about The Jungle Book the better. But Maui Mallard? It gets it just right, challenge-wise. I mean, make no mistake, the game is still plenty hard. But itís not ďthrow your cartridge against the wallĒ hard. Just normal, bearable hard.

Of course, for all the kind things Iíve said about Maui Mallard, it managed to land just inside the top 200. And thatís because my complaints are numerous.

First, when starting the game, players will notice that the camera seems a bitÖ spazzy, to put it kindly. I donít know what exactly is wrong with it, but youíll notice the problem almost immediately. Luckily, itís the sort of thing you can adjust to pretty quickly. Or at least, I did.

Remember those bungee-cord levels I mentioned earlier? Janky as hell. Youíre supposed to be killing guys and rescuing guys andÖ none of it is made clear, at all.

Another issue, Cold Shadowís staff attack is way less effective in most situations than Mauiís gun. It seriously could have used some tuning. I donít know how many cheap hits I took when trying to kill someone with the staff, but it felt like a ton.

Also, while I praised the difficulty curve for being much more tolerable than it was with other Virgin Disney titles, itís still pretty wack at times. Like how the first boss is probably the hardest in the game. Or how much harder the lava levels are than pretty much everything else. Again, severe lack of tuning.

Still, the good outweighs the bad (or annoying), and if youíre gonna check out any of the lesser-known Disney SNES games, this would be one of my primary recommendations. It still has some warts, and itís not gonna be for everyone, but I think people who stick with it will find a game thatís worth their time.

Did I beat it?
I did, not long before I wrote this.


#173 - Sonic Blast Man 2

Remember Sonic Blast Man? I covered it a while ago. Back in the...320s, I think? Itís a solid beat-em-up, held back by some rather major problems. One of those being some boss fights that are truly controller-throwingly annoying.

It was also super weird. It was based on this arcade game that had you physically punching things, and featured minigames where you fought giant crabs. Strange stuff.

The sequel, Sonic Blast Man 2, ditches the weirdness, and goes for a much more generic, boring flavor. I have no idea why. I also have no idea how the original game mustered enough interest to get a sequel, but here we are.

So now you have doofus Sonic Blast Man, some sort of Sonic Blast Lady (I donít know what her actual name is), and Fat Blast Man (donít know his real name either). Once again, theyíre taking on space bad guys for whatever reason, and need to punch and kick their way through half a dozen pretty generic levels.

Youíll make use of a typical brawling moveset: jump, attack, special (which drains your health), and super special (which are limited in number).

Youíll fight the same half dozen enemy types again and again, color-coded by their inherent toughness.

And youíll fight a boss at the end of each level. Those same bosses will then be recycled as regular enemies in later levels.

Pretty by-the-book, right?

Of course, I wouldnít have this ranked at #173 if I didnít think it was a good game, so what am I not saying here? Why am I laying out this whole story about some nameless sequel to another mediocre forgotten title with no identity?

Because itís fun.

Thatís the theme lately, right? Why do I have all of these games ranked where I do? Because theyíre fun to play. Here, the action is tight, the controls are great, the bosses are challenging while never feeling unfair, and the three characters all play differently from one another, which makes it rewarding to ďgit gudĒ with each of them.

Also, I love playing as the lady. Sheís one of my favorite characters to use in a SNES beat Ďem up. Not only is she fast, and super agile, but her moveset turns her into a one-woman wrecking crew. Flying around the screen, laying waste to the enemy while remaining unscathed yourself; itís a great feeling. Her character is single-handedly the reason I keep coming back to the game as much as I do.

So, yeah. Very generic sequel to another very strange game. But a good one, and a fun one. And one that is definitely worth checking out with a friend.

Did I beat it?
Yeah, I'm fairly sure I got through it on the first attempt.


#172 - Thunder Spirits

Thunder Spirits, or as itís usually referred to, ďthat crappy port of Thunder Force III

Now, is that true? Is it a crappy port? I honestly donít know, but Iím sure it is. Because, while I havenít played TF3 in quite a long while, and thus cannot compare it againstThunder Spirits in minute detail, I do have rather fond memories of playing it on my Genesis.

Whereas, Thunder Spirits? Itís merely pretty good. Hell, good. But nothing spectacular.

Anyway, since Iím talking about the Thunder Force series, I just want to say that if thereís one thing this series is known for, itísÖ well, I guess itís not really known for any one particular thing. But I feel like they do all of the little things right. With Thunder Spirits, it checks all of the fundamental boxes:
  • Sharp sound and graphics? Check.
  • Tight gameplay and controls? Check.
  • Cool weapons and upgrade system? Check.
  • Thrilling boss fights? Check. Mostly.
  • Fun? Yes.
Could it be better? For sure. The difficulty curve is all over the place, especially in the middle levels. Iíd go so far as to say that with some sections your only hope for success is to memorize everything. And I wish there was a little bit more viewing distance on the screen. And I wish the experience lasted a bit longer. Shmups are not exactly a genre that ever needs to overstay its welcome, but I could have used an additional level or two. As it is, this must be one of the shorter shooters on the system.

But the important thing is that itís fun to play. Itís not one of the very best shooters on the system, and itís probably the worst game in the Thunder Force franchise, but that doesnít stop it from being a good game. Itís a fun game to learn, itís a fun game to get through, and itís a fun game to finally conquer. Thatís why itís in the top 200.

Did I beat it?
Only after about a thousand attempts.


#171 - NHL 95

#170 - NHL 96

#169 - NHL 97

#168 - NHL 98

Ok, so going back to that game night I mentioned back in my NHLPA Ď93 write-up (the one where I played every single NHL game on the system), I wrote how I had specifically invited a few of my hockey-loving friends. The idea was that they were the guys who had grown up with the likes of NHL Ď94 and Mutant League Hockey, and these were the same guys who are actively playing in adult leagues to this day. They were gonna be my key into the mind of the hockey aficionado.

The universal consensus going into that night was that í94 was the GOAT. That was the one everyone owned, the one everyone remembered, and the one they all had fond memories of. Most of them had experience with the later games as well, but the opinions and memories of those were a lot more muddled.

ďYeah, I owned Ď95 as wellÖ or maybe it was Ď96. I donít remember for sure.Ē

ďOh, yeah, I rented all of these back when I was a kid. I think I remember renting Ď95 and Ď96. Not sure if I ever played Ď97ÖI get them mixed up.Ē

And so on. The point was, Ď94 was on a pedestal, and the rest were playing runner-up.

So we sent forth to see how valid those 20+ year old memories were, and played the whole series deep into the night. And drank a lot of beer.

I came out of it in a blur, having a lot of fun, but also getting schooled in basically every game I played. While I was trying to figure out how to pull off a one-timer, or win a fistfight, these guys are treating these games like riding a bike: something you never forget how to do.

We also came out of it in universal agreement: í94 IS the best game in the series. For many reasons, that Iíll get into later with that separate write-up.

The rest are damn close though. The tiny refinements they made each year werenít necessarily for the better, but the core hockey experience was always damn good, and damn fun. And while Ď97 and Ď98 mostly seem to consist of lazy roster updates, I donít penalize laziness in this project.

The first thing fans of Ď93 and Ď94 are gonna notice is the new engine at play. Or at least, I think itís new. Truth be told, there are numerous changes including the angle of the viewing perspective, the player sprites, and the speed of play, but all of those things are rather subtle, and might only be obvious to people who are playing all of the games back-to-back like we did, or people who have put a lot of time into the series. So, different in many ways, but still very similar.

There are also tons of options and features that blah blah blah, it doesnít matter. The only thing that matters is the NHL series is fun in all of its incarnations. í93 is pretty fun, Ď94 is very fun, and all of these games are somewhere in-between. No other hockey games on the system can really compare. In fact, it wasnít even a close race. Most of them were rather subpar and finished in the bottom half of the rankings. The only game that was really within sniffing distance was Hit the Ice, though thatís barely even a hockey game. More of an arcade game with a hockey theme.

So, if you want to play hockey on the system, go with NHL '94. If you tire of that, these are fine choices too. You really canít go wrong with any installment of the franchise.

Did I beat NHL 95?
I suck at hockey.
Did I beat NHL 96?
I suck at hockey.
Did I beat NHL 97?
I suck at hockey.
Did I beat NHL 98?
I suck at hockey.


#167 - Marvel Super Heroes in War of the Gems

Over the course of this project, Iíve several times regaled us with stories about how little money my family had growing up, and how I often had to rely on borrowing games from friends (and family friends) in order to have something new to play. I also explained how I was so starved for new stuff to play that it didnít even matter if those games were any good, Iíd put dozens of hours into them until they were mastered. It didnít matter if it was Yoshiís Island or Bubsy. I mastered all of them.

Except for one. There is one game that I borrowed that left me totally and completely confounded. One game where I was unable to get anywhere, or do anything.

War of the Gems was that game. And it did not leave a good impression on me for that reason.

Nowadays, Iím genuinely curious as to why I struggled so much with it. Granted, itís not an easy game; few brawlers are. But it is definitely not that hard. Especially since there is a generous password/continue system.

Can I blame that failure on being inexperienced with the genre? Probably. I owned Battletoads Double Dragon, and had played a decent amount of Final Fight over at my buddyís house, but that was really the extent of my brawling.

Perhaps I was trying to approach it like a fighting game, mashing away and hoping for the best. That never works for me either.

In contrast, by the time I picked up my own copy of War of the Gems back in 2015 or so, I had played through almost every beat em up on the system. So the difference in skillset was probably night and day.

In any case, the second time around I was easily able to blow through the entire thing, and therefore had to completely reassess my original take of the game. My new thoughts? Itís a damn fun little package. It takes the genre mashup of ďbrawlerĒ and ďStreet Fighter IIĒ that Capcom originated with X-Men Mutant Apocalypse, and tries to make it even bigger and better.

Of course, you may notice that I havenít covered X-Men Mutant Apocalypse yet, which means I think this is the inferior game. And it is. Barely. Theyíre both good, but for whatever reason the entire experience just doesnít feel asÖ cohesive this time around. The levels are a bit less memorable. The boss fights are a bit less fun. And the difficulty curve seems just a bitÖ flatter? I dunno. It was nearly perfect in the first game, whereas things stay relatively easy throughout here.

Anyway, I do appreciate some of the new things that are introduced. Like how you can equip Infinity Gems in order to increase certain stats. And I like the broader range of characters and foes this time around. I may not be a huge comic nerd, but I did like Blackheart as a kid.

So, good game. Good follow-up to another good game. Good fun for both brawler and Marvel fans. But also far from the best Capcom beat-em-up (I still have plenty of those left to cover), and any hardcore fighting fans will probably scoff at the mechanics here. Regardless, I recommend most people check it out.

Did I beat it?
When I was a kid? Never. Nowadays? Easily.


#166 - F1 ROC

If there is one genre that I havenít been especially kind to (or maybe itís the other way around), it's racing games. Well, fighting games and racing games. But especially racing games. I must have covered two dozen already, and most of those were in the bottom half of the library.

And those rankings were well deserved. Games like Cannondale Cup and Road Riot 4WD are complete trainwrecks. Games like Cyber Spin and NO FEAR Racing showed promise, but are undone by too many missteps. Games like Super Off-Road: The Baha and Road to the Top just arenít that good. Hell, even some of the first party stuff such as Stunt Race FX canít really make a claim for being anything too special.

The Formula One racing games specifically were a collective disappointment. The worst offender was Redline Racer, a game that is borderline unplayable. In addition, you have the Formula One Pole Position reboot, which featured horrendous controls, Newman Haas Racing, which might be the hardest racing game Iíve ever played, and Nigel Mansell, which is actually quite fun, but still only a mid-300s game. Pretty average with respect to the entire SNES library.

The F-1 ROC games are the two big exceptions to this rule. Theyíre both great. And better yet, they play absolutely nothing like any of the above titles. They are much more accessible and arcade-like in nature, and that is a great thing.

Now, if you are one of the five people who have played Formula One Built to Win for NES you should have some idea of what to expect here, because ROC is the spiritual sequel to that game. Well, barely, because they donít actually play much alike. But the spirit of that game is alive here. Fast gameplay, lots of upgrades to earn, and a long quest to complete.

The controls are also dead-on. I cannot think of anything that ruins a racing game faster than spotty handling. It seems like such a simple thing to get right, but so many of them struggle in that regard on the system.

I also hate when racing games seem to have insurmountable challenges. Maybe thatís just me, and my own sucktitude at the genre, but I swear that many of them are nearly impossible to complete. That is not the case with this franchise because they are so forgiving in regards to giving you second chances. Unlimited chances, really, depending on how much patience you have. Some people may not like that, or think it nerfs the challenge, but itís how I prefer things.

Most important of all, the game is pure fun to play. The courses are challenging, but not annoying, the AI puts up a fight, but never feels cheap, and the racing is fast and satisfying.

Of course, it still cannot hope to compete with the systemís absolutely elite racers. And I think the sequel, ROC II, improves upon basically everything. And itís probably one of the easiest racers on the system, partially due to its forgiving nature, no doubt. But itís still a game I heartily recommend to racing fans.

Did I beat it?
100%


#165 - Super Adventure Island II

I guess somebody over at Hudson Soft took a look at their long-running Adventure Island series, and thought to themselves: ďHey, you know what these games could use? Lots of backtracking and a few light RPG elements.Ē

OrÖ wait, now that I think about it, the Adventure Island games are some sort of bastardized versions of the Monster Boy series, right? Or did I just make that up? No, I'm pretty sure thatís true. And Iíve never played a Monster Boy game, but theyíre RPGs, right?

Wait, shit, Iím mixing up Monster Boy with Wonder Boy. Are the Wonder Boy games RPGs? Oh god...

Screw it, it doesnít matter. No one is reading this for a history lesson. Especially not one that Iím making up on the fly.

Super Adventure Island II takes the rock-solid gameplay the series is known for, and throws it right out the window. Its replacement? A Metroidvania (in the loosest sense of the word) that ditches the ďendless runnerĒ formula from previous titles, in lieu of a long (well, medium) quest that has you crisscrossing a small world map, earning upgrades, and taking down large bosses. Which is fine by me, because you know what I like more than endless runners? Games where you crisscross small maps, earn upgrades, and take down bosses.

ďActually, guy, the Adventure Island games arenít technically endless runners. And this isnít technically a Metroidvania. For one-"

Donít care. These are my reviews, and my opinions. I get to say make up whatever I want!

Anyway, I truly do think this is a welcome switch. Not that the original AI/SAI formula is bad or anything, but it was wearing a bit thin after 4+ games. Taking things in a completely different direction was the right call.

And they pulled it off too. Itís a fun game that is constantly rewarding, and never frustrating. The controls are sharp, the sprites as charming as ever, and thereís a decent-sized quest that will occupy you for a few evenings. Granted, this thing cannot ever hope to touch a masterpiece like Super Metroid. Night-and-day difference there. But I did find it quite a bit more enjoyable than Phantom 2040 or Addams Family. And I rather liked both of those games as well.

Also, my dear friend D. Glover just pointed out to me that Adventure Island IV was a thing, which I had totally forgotten about. Apparently it has some of the same RPG elements present in Super Adventure Island II. I never played it.

Did I beat it?
Yep.


#164 - Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure

Finally, we reach the last platformer in this bunch of write-ups. For whatever reason, there were quite a few this time around. Funny how that works, right? I mean, itís not like I planned for that (consciously). They just sorta seemed to... congregate together.

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure is the much-belated sequel (reboot?) of Atariís old ancient vine-swinging property. You know exactly what Iím talking about. And if you donít, go check out Pitfall on Youtube, or play one of the billion Atari anthologies that are floating around.

I actually owned an Atari 2600 (or, an ďAtariĒ as it was known) at one point when I was a child, and Pitfall was one of the few carts included with it that I could get to work. And I was pretty enthralled with itÖ at least, briefly. The adventure elements at play were rather exciting for a small kid. I mean, scorpions and crocodiles? Who doesnít like those things? And the platforming was just exciting enough to tickle that Super Mario Bros. itch that had been left neglected. Plus, even though I knew that the primitive gameplay was a far cry from the NES (I was a pretty astute little kid), beggars couldnít be choosers.

In any case, when my mom suddenly gave that console away for some reason, I was momentarily shocked, and then moved on with my life. Atari was fun, but not a lifeís passion.

Decades later, I have not actually played Pitfall since then. And I probably never will. I just donít have much capability for enjoyment of games that are as rudimentary as it is. Call me biased, or prejudiced, or just plain wrong if you want. But that experience was in the forefront of my mind when I popped in this sequel. After all, I was long overdue to play it.

For you see, The Mayan Adventure was another game that some friends of mine got to rent, and one that I never actually got to play. I was stuck on the sidelines, relegated to being an observer. But it certainly looked fun. I was well aware of the many platformers that had already burned me with previous rentals (everything from Veediots to Tom & Jerry), but I figured PTMA had all the makings of a good time.

Cut to the current day, and my initial estimates were on point; itís a damn solid platformer. The tie-ins to the original are almost nonexistent (youíre swinging on vines over jungle creatures, but thatís about it), but it doesnít matter. No one is playing this thing because theyíre hoping it taps into nostalgia for the Atari. Or at least, Iím not. And I hope youíre not.

The graphics and animation are also super sharp. They may even have a claim for being some of the best on the platform. And the ingenious way the secrets and hidden paths are scattered around the levels waiting to be discovered, is very well done. Better than what Maui Mallard and either Earthworm Jim accomplished in the same area, if I may be so bold.

PTMA can also lay claim to a consistently solid difficulty curve throughout! That's another pet peeve of mine, that held back dozens of other platformers on the SNES. Seriously, how hard is it to tune the challenge? Isnít that what QA is for?

Of course itís not all perfect. The boss fights arenít the greatest, some having particularly sloppy mechanics. And the controls and hit detection could have been tightened up just the slightest amount. Neither is terrible, but no one would ever mistake this for something as airtight as a Mario game.

Oh, and this is one of those games where you need to collect hidden doo-dads in order to see the true ending. Good luck with that oneÖ

So yeah, that wraps up the platformers for-

Oh, wait. I still have Hook coming upÖ

Like I said, lots of platformers lately.

Did I beat it?
Yes, I rescued Pitfall Harry. Though I didn't get the best ending.


#163 - King Arthur's World

Okay, take everything I just said about the pair of Lemmings titles, and apply it here. Except, instead of a legion of brain-dead rodents, you have control over a legion of quasi-brain-dead knights, archers, mages, and slow-poke King Arthur himself. Itís a great time.

Actually, I take that back. Theyíre not totally the same. See, instead of trying to guide a bunch of idiots towards an exit youíreÖ well, guiding them to an exit. But itís usually on the other side of a HUGE map, separated by towns, castle walls, mine cart trolleys, or even magical platforms suspended in the sky.

And instead of battling the forces of gravity and lava, youíre usually battling the forces of evil. Evil in the form of goblins, giant dark knights, demons, and all other kinds of horror.

The game is actually full of really cool ideas.

So yeah, the gist is that you guide Arthur to the end of the map without letting him die. In order to accomplish that, you have a limited number of troops that can be spawned, which you will need to clear the way. Almost like a mixture of Lemmings and a real-time strategy game. In fact, thatís exactly what King Arthurís World is.

Of course, anyone who has played any of the really early RTS games knows just how clunky their mechanics are. And this one is no exception. Bad AI, finicky mechanics, unforgiving levels, heaps of trial-and-errorÖ this has it all. And the teleporting assholes that will assassinate Arthur later in the game? *sigh*

Itís also very, very slow (later missions take hours), and the AI is very easy to (slowly) exploit. This is a game meant for the most patient (or crazy) of gamers. Anyone looking for a quick fix need not apply.

But on the bright side, each area also ends with an epic boss fight. Seriously, theyíre all awesome and badass as hell. Unfortunately, they each barely put up much of a fight. Iíd even go so far as to call them the easiest levels in the game. Hell, even the final boss - who, upon first impression, seems like a cheap-ass bastard - can be cheesed pretty easily once you get your bearings.

Quite the picture I just painted, right? For some people this thing is gonna be an impenetrable nightmare. For people like me, it was a joy. I spent a lot of time playing through it, and I enjoyed every single minute of it. Well, almost every minute. Watching the idiot soldiers cast themselves into the abyss for the 50th time was super lame! But I stuck with it anyway.

Did I beat it?
Yes, and it took me a long time to do it.


#162 - Hook

Story time. When I was a kid my parents divorced young. Afterwards my mother lived in student housing. It sucked for the most part, but it did bring one key perk: tons and tons of close neighbors. Which isn't really a perk at all in many ways. But for a kid, it meant lots of other nearby kids and families, which meant many opportunities to play their games and watch their movies. I guess my mind was rather mercenary in that regard.

One of those neighbors (I cannot for the life of me recall her name or her face) had a grand total of three VHS tapes. Three. The first two were staples for any bachelorette of the era: Ghost and Backdraft. The third one was the Spielberg-helmed high adventure, Hook. We must have watched each one of them a dozen times each. Beggars canít be choosers, right?

I wasnít high on Ghost, and could take it or leave it with Backdraft. But Hook? My God was it great. Pirates, Lost Boys, a giant alligator, the crazy-colored food banquet, RufioÖ man, did that film bring a lot of things to the table. The kids' table.

Of course, I learned later in life that the film is more-or-less reviled in many circles. Iíve revisited it myself and found it to be merely okay. Not as good as I remembered, but surely not something worth hating.

The game, on the other hand, is one that I avoided like the plague back in the day (I was smart enough to know movie adaptations were usually a waste of time). Only later in life did I learn that it is actually considered to be rather good. So when I started building up my collection, I sought it out right away.

Gameplay-wise, the closest parallel I can draw here is with fellow Sony title Skyblazer. Not that I can really explain why. The games donít really play that similarlyÖ Skyblazer feels much looser and plays much more fast-paced. And while I think Skyblazer plays very much like a 16-bit title, Hook feels very 8-bit in nature.

Donít get me wrong either, because thatís not a bad thing; 8-bit games are great. Especially action platformer sorts. But they certainly do have a different feel to them.

So perhaps that begs the question of why even bring Skyblazer up? I donít know. As I said, theyíre both Sony games, and they kinda look similar to one another. Perhaps they use the same engine. Perhaps they were made by the same team. Perhaps I read something at some point about the two games being linked somehow, and it subconsciously stuck in my brain.

In any case, with Hook we have a very solid action platformer, in the style of 8-bit games of old, that checks almost every one of the boxes that weíd expect from such titles:
  • Tight controls? Check.
  • Fair difficulty? Check.
  • Cool boss fights? Check.
  • Graphics? Not too shabby, with well-done sprites.
  • Music? Above average.
Really, I have no major complaints about anything. I guess the closest thing to a negative is that itís not a great game in any way. The controls are great, but itís not an especially elaborate moveset. The boss fights look great, but none of them are truly epic in nature, or rival the systemís best. And It doesnít have the sort of crazy setpieces that you see in games like Demonís Crest or Super Turrican 2.

And thatís alright. Good is still good. And for a movie game, thatís way above the bar.

Did I beat it?
Several times, including the night I wrote this.


#161 - Firestriker

Did someone say action RPG meets Arkanoid?

Seriously, did someone? Because Iím trying to fathom why this game exists. Who was playing Breakout and thought to themselves, ďthis game needs more Legend of Zelda elements!Ē

Well, I donít know the answer to that, and it doesnít matter anyway, because the end result actually defies the odds and works. Firestriker is fun to play, itís very unique (Devilish for Genesis is probably the closest comparison I can think of), and it offers a short but satisfying playthrough. Satisfying enough that Iíve completed this thing at least a dozen times over the years. And Iíll probably do another dozen playthroughs when allís said and done.

And yes, I know Iíve been getting away from doing detailed write-ups that dive into specific game mechanics with my reviews lately, which was a conscious decision. But with this game I feel like I owe it to everyone to at least try and explain things. So here goes.

You (and a friend if youíre playing cooperatively) control a hero type that is seeking to rid the world of evil (isnít that always the case?). That entails conquering a series of non-linear levels that are accessed from a world map. Each level consists of a vertical series of screens, each of which gives you the ability to roam freely. Your goal? To destroy any and all enemies that spawn by ďbattingĒ a glowing energy ball into them, without letting said ball fall through the gap in the bottom of the screen. So, itís basically Arkanoid/Breakout, except the paddle is a dude swinging a sword, and he can swing it in any direction.

In single-player you also have access to the ďmagicianĒ that stalks the bottom of the screen, who can be controlled with the L and R buttons. Heís invincible and can be used to defend the gaps from the energy ball. Think of him as your last resort defense.

Each level also culminates in a boss battle, all of which are rather impressive looking, and require some intricate strategies in order to beat. A few of them are also a tad frustrating, but itís never anything a little perseverance canít overcome.

Also, as you progress through the game you will unlock additional characters which will allow you into new areas. For example, a mermaid that gives you access to the water area, or a stone man that gets you into the fire area. But if I remember correctly, they barely play any different from one another, so it doesnít really add anything to the game.

Itís also a super short playthrough. Well under an hour if you know what you are doing. But thatís fine. This isnít the sort of game that should wear out its welcome. And itís a marvelous time in co-op. I know because I conned my wife into beating it with me. And it also has a four-player mode! I havenít tried that one out yet.

So if you want a unique little ďhidden gem,Ē get ahold of this game. It may be strange, and it may not be super polished, but itís a very good time.

Did I beat it?
A bunch of times, including once with the wife.


#160 - Super Off Road

Story time. Again.

One of my childhood friends had a pretty tiny collection for his Super Nintendo, and Super Off-Road was one of the games in it. Iím fairly sure Iíve mentioned him a time or two in these write-ups already.

Anyway, when he wasnít kicking my ass at Tecmo Super Bowl, he was begging me to play SOR with him. And I usually begrudgingly accepted. I mean, not too begrudgingly, because I was just happy to be playing a video game. But I also knew exactly how the play session would go:
  • Heíd beat my ass a few times.
  • Iíd occasionally beat him.
  • Weíd turn the game off after a dozen or so races because weíd have already seen all of the tracks and purchased all of the upgrades, so anything after that would just be more of the same.
Thatís how it went, every single time. Race until you ďget all the things,Ē race a few more times, and then move on.

Decades later, not much has changed. Super Off-Road is as painfully simple as it always was, and it canít hold my attention for more than a dozen races.

But I also realized something. Or maybe just admitted it to myself: I have a lot of fun playing it.

So there you have it. An arcade classic, ported to every system known to man, that I think still holds up to this day.

ďBut guy, you didnít even say anything about the gameplay!Ē

And thatís because thereís nothing to say. Steer and turbo. Thatís all there is and thatís all it needs. Because anything else would be subtraction by addition. Just turn it on, hop into a race, win a few times, and turn it off.

Or maybe I just assume that everyone is already familiar with Off-Road. But if there are some holdouts among us, just picture Super Sprint, or Indy Heat, or whatever else. Or better yet, just go play it right now.

Did I beat it?
I'm not sure. I know it eventually ends in some manner, but I don't know when that is.


#159 - Super Tennis

Holy cow, a tennis game. Itís been a while, eh? Like, hundreds upon hundreds of games, if memory serves. And Iím honestly kind of drawing a blank as to which one I covered last. It wasnít International Tennis Tour, because I know for a fact that I have that one bringing up the rear. Andre Agassi Tennis wasnít far behind it either. So where did I have David Crane and Jimmy Connor? Shit, I honestly cannot remember! Which means I have now been working on this whole project long enough that I have forgotten where I previously ranked some games. Thatís a first. I think...

It doesnít matter anyway, because as far as the sport goes, Super Tennis is the clear winner. By a mile. (I know that some people swear by some of the tennis titles that were only released in other regions, but Iím not covering those, and Iíve never played them.)

And thereís a reason for that huge separation: this game is tons of fun to play, whereas the rest of them were all iffy at best. Normally Iíd say thatís due to the obvious fact that first-party sports games have all of the usual Nintendo charm and polish, but honestly, most of their sports titles up to this point have been extremely underwhelming. This has been one of their first sports games to buck that trend.

Now, if there is one thing I have to immediately tackle with a tennis game, it's the controls. Granted, those should be super easy to get right, as all you really need to be able to do are move and swing. But some of those lesser titles I mentioned earlier couldnít even get that right. Luckily, there are no issues here. Everything is perfectly responsive, the hit detection is totally on point, and the animation is smooth. I dare say the controls are flawless: if you do not make a play, itís your fault, not the gameís.

The other thing it nails is the difficulty curve; itís perfect. The early opponents are plenty challenging, but super beatable once you hone a few skills. Later opponents will push you hard. But you can always beat them with skill. Youíre never forced to rely on cheap tactics or exploits. Not that Iím saying those things donít exist (for all I know they do), but I had never had to look into that sort of last resort.

I like the look of the game too. Itís simple, but in a genre like this, simple is good. The last thing you want is a busy court where itís hard to tell what is going on or where the ball is. There are no such issues here.

AndÖ really thatís all I need to say about it. I mean, I wish there were a four player mode, as that would be awesome, and a perfect excuse to bust this out at game night. But thatís my only real complaint.

So yeah, itís the only (non-Mario) tennis game that Iíve ever played and would whole-heartedly recommend. Not that Iíve played many, or would know anything about recommending tennis games. But thatís my questionable endorsement!

...seriously though, play it.

Did I beat it?
Almost. Stupid Don J!


#158 - ActRaiser 2

The original Actraiser from Enix is a Super Nintendo classic. Itís one of those games that everyone seems to love, that all the critics rave about, and thatís held on a SNES pedestal. So Iím probably not spoiling much when I say I adore everything about it, and that you can expect to see it much higher in these rankings.

Iím probably also not spoiling much when I say that the sequel took that winning formula, and went ahead and threw it out the window.

Actually, I should take a step back here, because while I assume most Super Nintendo aficionados are familiar with the first game, not everyone who is reading this will be. So hereís the short version:

In that game you played as a cherubic angel sent down to Earth by God (or the ďMasterĒ or whatever Nintendo forced Enix to censor it with). Your task? Saving the world from Satan. I mean, some guy who is definitely not Satan, because Nintendo. But itís totally Satan.

To do this you would fly around the skies of Earth, building settlements, rallying followers, and destroying monsters. Almost like a Populous-lite or something.

Then, after purging the area of monsters, youíd dive down into the source of the evil, where you would possess a muscular statue, which would serve as your avatar in some hot 2D action platformer stages. Picture something like what youíd see in a Valis game. Each of those stages would then culminate in an epic boss fight.

At the end of the game, after destroying each and every one of the bastions of evil, you would take on all of the bosses again in a sadistic boss rush, before facing off against Satan Not-Satan.

ActRaiser 2 is the exact same thing. Except remove all of the simulation parts. And make the action stages about fifty million times harder. And make the controls about a hundred zillion times more convoluted, with this whole skidding mechanic that makes my blood boil just thinking about it.

Overall, it still works, but something has been lost in the process. I donít know why the original game felt so perfect, with its mix of the two genres, but it just did. Like a peanut butter and chocolate sorta thing. Whereas with the sequel, it feels like the peanut butter has been left all alone, without its good buddy chocolate. Sure, the peanut butter has added some extra refinement, and has better color, and more smoothness and all that. But it really needs that chocolate to really shine its best.

You know what, this is coming out really poorly and might be my worst analogy yetÖ Iíll just go ahead and stop now right now and put us all out of our misery.

Anyway, ActRaiser 2 is a good game. And action platformer junkies who are looking for a challenge are gonna discover a whole lot to dive into here. But it gets exhausting dying over and over and over again. And I do not like the controls. I didnít like them the first time I sat down with it, and I still donít like them years later after finally managing to get through the whole thing. Which took me a long-ass fíing time, by the way. But if you can live with both of those things, and you have the patience of a god, there is a lot of game to enjoy here.

Did I beat it?
Just on Easy (which cuts things a bit short). I haven't been able to crack Normal yet.


#157 - Breath of Fire II

Now here is another one that I struggled with a bit. Struggled both in playing through it, and knowing where to rank it. I guess those things kinda go hand-in-hand. I mean, can you respect a game, and (periodically) have fun playing it, while also dreading the very idea of spending time with it? Does that even make sense? Probably not. But Iíll do my best to explain.

When I look at the vast array of JRPGs on the Super Nintendo, they seem to fall into three different camps:

First, youíve got the games that are okay, but suffer from dated mechanics, bland stories, a lack of compelling characters, janky difficulty curves, and so forth. These are your Paladinís Quests and your 7th Sagas. ĎOkayí might even be a generous description for some of them.

Then youíve got the good ones. These are the games that tick all the right boxes, and maybe offer great sprite work and stunning music, or perhaps have super fun battle systems, or nuanced stories. This is where most of the RPGs in the top 200 will land.

Then youíve got the handful of masterpieces. The games that define the genre, and stand as titans that will always be remembered.

Breath of Fire II is a game that, on paper, has every aspiration to be in the third group. This is the game where Capcom was gonna go all out, and do their damndest to outshine Square, and out-Dragon-Quest the Dragon Quest series.

But there are so many problems with the game - weíre talking the sorta stuff that belongs in the first group of RPGs - thatís itís amazing that the entire thing doesnít just collapse upon itself. Itís almost hard to even reconcile. How can one game have so much that is so good, and so much that is so disastrous? Itís a very Jekyll-and-Hyde sorta deal.

A Coherent Storyline and Characters with Depth
Oh boyÖ ummm... Iím gonna give it a pass. Itís very, very trope-heavy (village burned down, long lost father, slumbering evil, time travel, etc.), and not always coherent, but it does succeed in telling a compelling tale. And the cast of characters is great, each of which is full of personality. That is one problem this series has never had: lack of character. And it doesnít hurt when you have such great character sprites and art design.

Thereís also some notable setpieces that stuck with me. The monkey usurper, the toad imposter, and the imprisoned father, just to name a few. I already explained back in my Lufia review why I think setpieces are such an important thing to have in a JRPG, and this game at least makes some commendable efforts in that regard. Nothing that can touch the moments in certain other games, but not, like, totally far off either.

A Fun Battle System That Stays Engaging
Another pass. This is yet another conventional system, but there are enough wrinkles to keep you on your toes. The characters are all different enough from one another that you can assemble parties that favor certain playstyles, and I like the decision-making you have to make for Ryu specifically as far as busting certain ďultraĒ abilities.

Challenging Yet Fair Gameplay


First and foremost, the game is brutally grind-and-random-battle heavy. I mean, itís up there with The 7th Saga. It might even be worse. And this is not a short game either, clocking in at over 40 hours. A significant portion of that will be spent battling.

The game also forces you into using certain party members at many points throughout the game, and they do NOT level up when not in use. I hate that sorta crap in games. Donít make me babysit the weaklings just to get through a story point.

Worse, some characters need to be in your party just so you can traverse the map. And since you can only change party members at save spots, that can mean all sorts of extraneous trips just to constantly change out your party. Itís the sorta thing that really is a relic of the past.

Even worse, is that there is a segment of the game where you can effectively soft lock your save file if one of your characters is under-leveled. Thatís just crappy game design, and poor testing.

Still, all those problems aside, I still like the game. Enough so that I was willing to start it from the beginning THREE times in order to finally finish it. Thatís right, I had two different playthroughs of this game flame out because I got exhausted with the bullshit and the grinding, and let it get away from me. But I was still willing to come back and finish the job, even though I knew it had defeated me in the past.

I meanÖ this whole ďrank all the SNES gamesĒ project also gave me some incentive to finally get through it, but I have had no problem writing off completing some of the games if they proved to not be worth the time investment they would take. So the fact that I continuously stuck with this one has to be worth something.

What elseÖ yeah, I guess the game has some fun extra stuff in it. You can fish for stuff, for example. You can also hunt down NPCS and convince them to populate the town you are responsible for developing. You can also search for elusive ďshamansĒ that will bind to your characters, giving them increased powers (and possibly bizarre new appearances). Plus a veritable bounty of side quests.

Of course none of those things are actually as awesome as they sound.

Overall, Breath of Fire II is absolutely a good RPG, and a good game. Itís not as good as some people seem to think it is (although, to each their own), and the initial grind is absolutely brutal and will drive most players away. But if you stick with it (and stick with it and stick with it), thereís a rewarding experience buried in here. Youíll have to fight for it, and you might have to be the same sort of crazy person as I am in order to persevere and find it, but I swear itís in there.

Did I beat it?
I did, in 2020. My first attempt started in 2003.


#156 - Lamborghini American Challenge

Much like the Top Gear series, Lamborghini American Challenge is a game that reminds me of old-school racers. I mean, really old racers. Weíre talking, hard-as-balls, endlessly racing into the horizon, desperately trying to stay on the track on the turns, constantly crashing into the backs of other cars, racers. Know what I mean?

No? Well, then I guess I donít know how to properly verbalize the experience. Itís sorta like ďhey, you know how racing games used to play like Pole Position and Rad Racer?Ē That sorta deal.

And just like with the Top Gear games, LAC is another game that I rented several times as a child. Not that Iím totally sure why; the cover art makes it look like any of the other legions of generic racing games. I can only assume I was on a Top Gear high and the screenshots on the back looked kinda similar.

The similarities end there though. LAC is a different beast with different challenges. You see, your primary opponent isnít the opposing cars, or the dozens of challenging tracks, or even the police that are trying to run you off the road. No, the difficulty is in figuring out the very specific way in which you need to play through the game. It's almost like a puzzle. Iím sure that doesnít make much sense, but Iíll explain it here in a second.

When you start the game you are presented with a map of America. Spread across it are various races. Each one of those has a number of variables that you need to pay attention to:
  • The fee to enter the race.
  • The prize money for winning the race.
  • The difficulty of the race.
  • The road conditions of the race.
  • The amount of police presence in the race.
  • Between one and three opponents with whom you can make cash bets before the race.
From there you are taken to the race itself, where you must travel from point A to point B, against a field of ten other racers. And this is one of those games where you start in the rear and have to slowly work your way up into first place.

Now, herein lies the rub. You see, the game starts simple enough. You enter races, bet cash, place first, and increase your own funds. Those funds can then be used to purchase upgrades for your car. These upgrades include better engines, single-use boosts, and so forth. As long as you keep winning, things will go smoothly. Except, as the difficulty starts to rise (most noticeable when you enter the second tier of races), the margin for error goes dramatically down.

As in, if you do not upgrade your car in the ďcorrectĒ ways at the ďcorrectĒ times, you will leave yourself in an unwinnable position. Meaning, your car will not be fast enough to place first in any race, and you will not have any way to raise cash in order to rectify that. So your current game becomes a dead end, and you basically have to start the game over from scratch.

Itís super obnoxious, and something I have run into every single time Iíve jumped back into LAC. Presenting a game that appears open-ended, and then forcing the gamer into a single approach in order to succeed, feels like sloppy design. Like the developers just didnít have the time to tune the difficulty or balance out the prices of upgrades, or anything else.

Speaking of obnoxious, the soundtrack is truly horrid. Maybe the worst of any racing game on the system. You will want to turn it down - if not outright mute it - right away. Which is a shame because the Top Gear series is so great in that department.

Still, problems aside, I really like this game. I like how it controls, I like the general ďflowĒ of the gameplay, and the feel of the racing. I think itís one of the better things Titus ever released. And itís telling that I keep failing at it, yet I keep coming back to it. And thatís always the sign of a good game. You always come crawling back.

Did I beat it?
Once, when I was young. I have struggled to reproduce that win since.


#155 - Phalanx

That box art, right? Thatís what everyone talks about, thatís what everyone knows this game for. It certainly has its place in gaming lore.

But what about the actual video game behind the banjo? Did you know itís a shmup? A pretty good one at that?

As far as I know this is the only installment in this particular franchise. I donít know why, these things are usually milked for everything theyíre worth. Perhaps Kemco had no faith in it (hence the bizarro cover). Perhaps itís just too generic to even truly deserve a sequel. That never stopped anyone else of course...

And I donít mean that in a mean-spirited way. Most shmups are generic. Many of them share the same basic, dystopian theme. Many of them have the same types of upgrades. Many of them have the same large metallic monstrosity bosses. And many of them feature the same kind of ďbehemoth battleshipĒ that comprises an entire level. Well, Phalanx has all of those things.

What Phalanx also has are tight controls, fun setpieces, a fair (but still challenging) difficulty curve, a decently rockiní soundtrack, and solid gameplay. Seriously, it may not have the name brand recognition of an R-Type or a Thunder Force II or a Gradius, but itís not far off from any of them in the gameplay department either.

The whole art design of the game does seem kind of dark and drab, but it almost seems to fit the game. And the level backgrounds are usually pretty nice though, especially the cityspace in level one.

Some demerits I do have to call out include the rather annoying sound effects that are present throughout the game. I can usually drown that sort of thing out, but others might not be so lucky. Thereís also that ever-present SNES slowdown which rears its head every time more than a handful of ships are onscreen. I usually relish the break in the action, but for some people that can be a dealbreaker. Thereís also a relatively large amount of sprite ďflicker,Ē which can make things tricky when the screen gets busy. Iíve actually lost track of my ship a number of times thanks to that.

I also wish the enemies bullets were a little larger, or had a brighter design so that you werenít at risk of losing them in the action. Itís not a huge deal, but Iíve definitely suffered some frustrating deaths because of it.

Overall though itís a really good time, and one of the more underappreciated shmups on the system. It canít compete with the very best, but it can still stand toe-to-toe with other good titles, and it definitely deserves to be known for more than just its box art.

Did I beat it?
Yes, after a million tries.


#154 - Captain Commando

What happens if you take Final Fight and add a newborn baby riding a mech suit as one of the playable characters, but somehow make the gameplay even more generic in the process?

Did that paradox just melt your brain? After all, such a thing shouldnít be possible. How in the world can brawler mech babies be generic, in any shape or form?

Oh, and did I mention the ďradicalĒ street-wise alien mummy guy? Because thatís a thing here, too.

Or how about the fact that the Captain himself is THIS doofus from those old Capcom NES manuals:



And yes, you read that right. That makes this basically Capcom Mascot: The Game. Starring a baby and a mummy that looks like he escaped from Rival Turf. Try not to think about it too much.

Insane ideas aside, Captain Commando is a Capcom brawler through and through. Punch guys, kick guys, throw guys, use special moves against guys, pick up stuff and swing or throw it at guys, and then fight the boss guys who are all either ridiculously easy, or throw-your-controller-against-the-wall frustrating. Itís a typical beat Ďem up, in other words.

The graphics are totally solid, with nice spritework and animation. That was always something you could count on Capcom for.

The controls are perfectly responsive as well. Nothing really anything worth complaining about, or out of the ordinary there.

Really, if there is anything worth complaining about - aside from how by-the-book the entire experience is - itís that the game is actually a tad too easy. As in, I was able to beat it in one try, without breaking much of a sweat. To this day I still donít think Iíve ever seen the game over screen.

In fact, that seems to be a theme for Capcom. You have the stuff that seems ridiculously hard to me, namely the first Final Fight and Knights of the Round. And then you have the games that anyone should be able to clear in a single try or two. Stuff like Final Fight 2, Final Fight 3, King of Dragons, and of course, this guy. They really did struggle to hit that middle ground, now that I think about it.

I guess, pick your poison, too hard or too easy. Either way, youíll have a ball.

Did I beat it?
Yeah, on the first try.


#153 - Killer Instinct

I played this game a ton as a kid. Not because I liked it all that much, and not because I owned it, but because it was there.

Okay, let me step back a bit. This is one of the many games I borrowed from a friend. This is also a game I gave to said friend. You see, it was 7th Grade and I had already started spending every spare cent I had at the video store. Not on rentals though, but on used games. Super Nintendo games were either $9.95 or $14.95, figures that were almost unheard of at the time. Or at least, unheard of in my neck of the woods.

When my friendís birthday approached, I bragged to him about how I had managed to round up rental copies of everything from A Link to the Past and Super Mario RPG, to Secret of Mana and Illusion of Gaia. I promised Iíd get him something equally as wonderful.

Of course when the day of the party approached, I was at the mercy of what was actually available at the store. And it was all crap. I donít remember the specific titles, I just remember that Killer Instinct was the only one that looked remotely playable. And keep in mind that I have long held biases against fighting games, so the other games must have truly been forgettable trash if that looked like the cream of the crop.

So I reluctantly grabbed KI, wrapped it, and gave it to him. And was completely unsurprised that he seemed rather unimpressed with it. Of course it didnít help that his parents had also given him a brand new copy of Tetris Attack, so his mind was elsewhere.

What did surprise me, was how excited over that Killer Instinct cart a couple of the other partygoers were. They practically demanded they be allowed to play KI immediately after the first couple sessions of Tetris Attack went down. So he obliged them.

And I had to admit, I was impressed. Not with the gameplay necessarily, but with the sharp, rendered graphics, and the over-the-top combos. Iím sure I didnít bother to try and play it myself, but I at least watched, curious.

Sometime later, I borrowed Earthbound and Super Ghouls n Ghosts from that same friend. Iím not sure why I didnít borrow Tetris Attack; perhaps he didnít offer. But he did offer Killer Instinct. And I accepted. I mean, why not?

So I played it, and I played it and I played it and I played it. I beat it with every character. I convinced my sister to fight me in hundreds of matches. I ran that cart into the ground.

But I never thought it was anything other than okay. I was just going through the motions because I was a kid with a single console (at least, until that Christmas, when I got my N64) who owned but a handful of games. I had nothing better to do with my time.

Nowadays, I can go back and play Killer Instinct, while reminiscing about that year. And I can appreciate what the game does well - the tight controls, the (still) sharp graphics, and the killer soundtrack. If there are just a handful of fighting games that I will put on the top of the SNES pile, this is one of them.

Iím sure itís been surpassed by its sequel (which I never played), or the N64 game (which I never played), or other similar fighting games (which Iíll never play) But as a late-release SNES game, it was one of the best. Not enough to sway me into putting it in the top 100 or anything, but I feel this is a more than respectable position.

Did I beat it?
Millions of times as a kid. Not so much lately.


#152 - Push-Over

Warning: this is another game that I really dig, whereas mileage is gonna vary wildly with everyone else.

Push-Over is another one of those Amiga puzzle ports that people seem to love orÖ well, not care for. You know what Iím talking about: games that have dozens (if not hundreds) of levels, full of tiny little sprites that you can barely even see, and puzzle solutions that often seem impossible. Games in this style on the Super Nintendo include the likes of Troddlers, Lemmings and Lemmings 2, Sink or Swim, and The Brainies. Push-Over has the honor of being one of the few of those titles that had me engaged enough to see it through to the end. More accurately, I was completely addicted to it for my entire playthrough.

And this ranking is reflecting that. Back when I initially demoed the game years ago, I was thinking it was gonna land somewhere in the high 200s or low 300s. The ranks where games are okay, but not great.

But a funny thing happened. As I continued to play through it, it continued to jump up in prospective rank. By the middle of my playthrough, I had started thinking it could go as high as the low 200s. By the end of the game I was thinking high 100s. And when I finally sat down and started sorting everything for this current batch of writing, it ended up falling all the way down here to #151. Pretty impressive.

Trying to explain the gameplay is gonna be a bit tricky. Itís another one of those ďyou gotta play it to understand itĒ sorta deals. But Iíll try my best anyways.

You play as theÖ uh, ant, I think, thatís featured on the cover art. His goal is to open up an exit door in every level, and in order to accomplish that he needs to ďpush overĒ every single yellow/red block in the stage.

Sounds simple, right?

The rub lies in the way you are not only limited in how many times you can ďpush,Ē but also with how the different patterns on the blocks affect their behavior upon pushing them.

Long story short, you have to carefully study every map (there are no time limitsÖ for the most part), carefully move or adjust the placement of the blocks, and then start initiating the pushes. Kind of like a convoluted game of dominos.

And it works. The challenge curve is perfect. Every level can be solved with your brain, as long as you think through every possibility. And some of the levels do require some tricky dexterity (in the form of making you quickly perform further actions while the blocks are toppling), or some real outside-of-the-box thinking. I wonít spoil anything, but you really have to be thorough when thinking about what is possible with these blocks.

And thatís it. Thatís the whole game. Itís a simple concept, with deep strategy, that I thoroughly enjoyed. Most people wonít have the patience for it, and almost nobody will stick with it long enough to see the end. But for people that do, youíre in for a treat.

Did I beat it?
I did! Pretty proud of that one.


#151 - SOS

This 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 pick one of four passengers aboard the SS Von GonnaSink. Before too long, disaster strikes, and you have one hour to get your 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.