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#400 - The Incredible Hulk

Another superhero game from... US Gold? I guess it shouldn't be any surprise that they felt like tossing their hat into that overcrowded ring; everyone else was doing it after all. Though I wonder what ever happened to that company... most likely they went out of business or got bought out by Acclaim, just like every other mediocre American outfit of the day. And did they ever release a great game? Ever? Without researching it I cannot think of a single one.

Anyway, The Incredible Hulk is, like usual, a side-scroller action beat-em-up sorta deal, heavy on the action and the beatings. You are the Hulk after all. And you do this with an incredibly simplified control scheme as well: jump, punch, pick up, and an uppercut which is barely differentiated from the regular punch. That's it.

...or at least that's what I thought at first. You see, there are a number of "hidden" moves that you'll need to rely upon. Hidden because every source I looked at online called them hidden. Perhaps they are in the manual, I don't know, I didn't have access to one. Anyway, without those moves this game is impossible. Literally impossible. Don't try to play it without them. But once you do realize there is more to it than meets the eye, and you figure out that you can stomp on dudes, shoulder charge bosses, or even thunderclap(?) foes, things really open up, and the game becomes much more fun.

You see, our boy Bruce is a bullet sponge by design. Most enemies are gonna be hitting you with unavoidable shots or punches, and your job is to make mincemeat of them despite the damage coming your way. But you're gradually gonna get worn down unless you can take each and every one of them out in a slightly more efficient manner. That's where the more advanced moveset comes in. Getting through one hundred peons is night-and-day different if you can stop taking half of the damage on the trip through. Hence why the advanced moveset is so important.

And then on top of that are the boss fights. Most of these guys are complete dicks, where you're gonna need to find an exploit and hammer on it repeatedly. Mostly with the shoulder charge or the "clap." That whole thing about not even bothering with the game unless you have the advanced moveset? That comes into play with the bosses because every single one is reliant on one of the moves or another. Figure out the pattern, counter with said attack, easily cheese them down without breaking a sweat, repeat. It's almost like a warped version of Mega Man. Well... that is if Mega Man were an obscure US Gold game. You know what, forget I said that. This game is nothing like Mega Man, don't make that connection.

In the end I'll give the game the slight nod over the likes of Spider-Man X-Men or Wolverine Adamantium Rage, mostly because I think it ended up being a slightly more cohesive experience as I spent more and more time with it. Both of those other games had much higher aspirations, but that just brought with it much bigger problems. TIH plays it safer, but still manages to produce mostly pleasant results.

Did I beat it?
No, it's pretty tough. And there are no passwords or continues.

#399 - Super Bases Loaded 2

Yep, for those keeping count (probably no one) this is the first of the Super Bases Loaded games that I have covered, which means I actually think this is a downgrade from the first game in the series. Will others agree with that sentiment? I don't know. Hell, has anyone else even played any of these games? Probably not.

When most people think of this series, I can only assume that the first thing that pops into their mind is "reversed perspective." Or at least it's the first thing that pops into my mind. You see, with every other game in the franchise you do not view the action from behind the batter's box as is tradition, present in basically every other baseball game that's ever been created. Instead, you're seeing the action from behind the pitcher, much like what you got inRelief Pitcher, a game I covered long ago. Why do this? To be different is my best guess. While RP was focused on pitching (natch), SBL is still very much a conventional baseball game, so this change of pace was probably made to help the games stand out in a very crowded field. Or at least that's the theory I'm sticking with.

(note to self, go back and confirm that this is actually true for all four of the NES games)
(second note, I didn't do it, fuck it)

SBL2 on the other hand, ditches the reversed view, for a more conventional setup. Why did Jaleco reverse course after five games? Again, who even knows. I'm asking myself a lot of rhetorical questions out loud in this review aren't I? Maybe Jaleco wasn't happy with their previous results, or maybe they thought things needed to be shaken up, again. In any case, just know that this is the "normie" of the series.

Not that it really matters. In fact none of that really matters, because the only thing we care about with a baseball game is how it plays. And the answer to that question is "pretty good for the most part." It's a solid baseball game, with no significant weaknesses, that I had a fun time with.

As I find is usually the case with these games, getting a grip with batting is tricky... at first. Mostly because some of the pitches you're gonna be seeing are downright nasty. And the fielding can only be described as "overpowering." Luckily, these things are at least partially counterbalanced by bats that are pretty good at making contact. Which means there's a lot of balls being put in play, and a lot going on when you do. I don't have a problem with that either, as it keeps things interesting, and fun, even if it can also be pretty difficult to get into an offensive rhythm.

Graphics, sound and animation are all rather good too. Most things are a pretty nice step up from the first game, and the entire thing is significantly better looking than another baseball title coming up at the end of this very installment. Granted, I'm not much of a graphics whore, but I can still appreciate what they did here.

So what am I saying? In short, the game is pretty fun to play. It just needs a tweak to either make it slightly easier to make good contact, or the pitching and/or fielding need to be toned down a notch or five. There's nothing here that's gonna blow people away, and it may be a more much traditional kind of game than some of the baseball titles I have coming up, but I still enjoyed my time with it. That's probably gonna be the theme of Volume VIII here: "fifty games that I enjoyed, but never loved."

Did I beat it?
I won a handful of games, but never really attempted a full season.

#398 - King of the Monsters 2

King of the Monsters 2 is a significant improvement over the first installment in this series. Remember that piece of crap? I was being generous with that Volume IV ranking if anything. Well, that and there are a ton of really horrid games on this system, and something had to bubble to the top of the pile of refuse. In any case, this game is waaaaaay better than the original. Like a billion times better. End review.

No, dammit, I can do this. I'll come up with something...

Umm, basically this is a wrestling game mixed with a beat-em-up, just like in the first KotM. Except you're gigantic monsters destroying cities instead of coked-out steroidal freaks wearing costumes with tights. And again, just like with the first game, KotM2 is really, really, really frickin' hard. I say that all the time with fighters (and wrestlers, and lots of other games in general), but man does this one take the cake. Right from the start you should expect to get your ass kicked by the very first enemy/boss thing (the game is basically a boss rush), and it never really lets up from there. You know how some games feel like they were designed and balanced around a cooperative mode? Well, this is one of those games. And the developers seemed to try and compensate for this by giving you a crap-ton of lives and continues to work with, but it's still not enough. By the time you reach the asshole on the volcano stage - assuming you managed to make it that far - you are going to get your ass beat. There's probably an argument to be made that he's the hardest boss on the system. Or at least I'm gonna make that argument, and I dare anyone to challenge me on it (unless you're good at fighting/wrestling games, which I'm not, so maybe you would be the one in the right).

Still, difficulty aside, I could like this game a lot more if it was more of a straightforward beat-em-up. It's just that wrestling mechanics severely hold it back, like usual. Pounding on the D-Pad to grapple is not fun. Constantly getting knocked down and having to repeatedly hit the A button is not fun. Getting kicked in the face over and over again while you're lying down on the ground is not fun. Wrestling is not fun. I know I've already made my case for why I think the genre is a dead end, and I know I'm in something of a minority with these things, but those statements have never been more evident than they were with KotM2. As a traditional brawler this thing would have been in the top 300, and very possibly top 200. But the wrestling stuff holds it back.

All wrestling bullshittery aside though, I still enjoy the game. It's fun to kill those kaiju bastards, and knock down buildings, and swat helicopters, and transform into your next form. Not fun enough to stick with the game for long, but it was fun while it lasted. Oh, and play it with a friend if you value your controllers.

Did I beat it?
No, I never did get past Mr. Volcano. That fight still gives me nightmares. God damn that guy...

#397 - Michael Andretti's Indy Car Challenge

Michael Andretti's Indy Car Challenge, not to be confused with Kyle Petty's Racing, or Nigel Mansell's Racing, or Newman Haas' Racing, orAl Unser's Racing, orChester Cheetah's Racing, or any of the other billions of Super Nintendo racers, is the first racing sim I've gotten to that is genuinely fun, without qualification. Which isn't to say it's anything great, and no one's gonna be calling it a hidden gem anytime soon. But it's still the sort of game where you can crank out a race or five and have a good time.

Controls are great, which is probably the single most important thing for most of these games. They're usually so damn hard that any bit of unresponsiveness is gonna spell disaster. Hell, that's what single-handedly sunk Redline F-1 Racer and F1 Pole Position. MAICC gets it right now. Everything is spot on, and any mistakes made are always on you, and not the controls. That is the difference between a spot in the 600s, and a spot in the 300s.

The graphics are also pretty nice, if somewhat unspectacular. If you handed me a still shot of this game and the two F1 games I just mentioned up above, I'd probably be unable to name which was which. That's not necessarily a bad thing, just a sign that all three games get the job done graphics-wise, in workman-like fashion. There's also a great sensation of speed to the action, with the framerate never really dropping from what I noticed. Going along with the tight controls, means this game gets its mechanics right.

Really, my only real grievance is that everything's a bit dry. Window dressing is a bit sparse in other words. For instance, there's only a few ways to customize your vehicle, mostly so that you can favor either speed or acceleration. And most of the tracks are pretty basic real world affairs. None of the craziness that some of the better racers on the system offer. There's also no real pizazz to any of the proceedings. You race, you get a status update, check your setting, and then race again. Bor-ing.

It's also, like usual, too difficult in my opinion. Granted, that difficulty is still a far cry from the sadism that was offered up by recent racers such asNewman Haas or Battle Grand Prix, but it's still the sort of thing where most players aren't gonna be seeing many (if any) first place finishes. Hell, after the first race I had to count myself luckily if I managed to bust into the top five. And I know I keep wedging this same complaint against most of the racers I've covered up to this point, but I swear it's completely true. I've beat one thousand games in my life, and I've tried to beat one thousand others. I know what a difficulty curve is and I know how to dedicate myself to overcoming tough titles, because I do it all the time. But games like MAICC are borderline unfair. The only way you're gonna have success with this game is to master the tracks and get the lines down through repeated practice. Lots and lots of repeated practice. Then you're gonna need to play the campaign enough to completely understand your opponents' AI and the lines they're gonna take. Then you're gonna need to beat your head against the wall, playing the races, and reloading your passwords, over and over again, until you manage to move up with your finishes.

Those are the only real complaints I have here, but I think they're pretty valid ones. It's a fun game, I wanted to get all the way through it, I wanted to beat it, but I couldn't justify the cost. If you're into Formula One or Indy Car (I couldn't tell you what the difference between the two is), this is definitely one of the titles that is worth checking out. It's not even one of the better ones either, but it's still a positive experience overall. Assuming you can deal with the difficulty.

Did I beat it?
Not at all.

#396 - Bubsy II

Now I like to think I'm fairly "with it" when it comes to the online SNES scene. At least the part of the scene that is focused around playing the games. As in, I may not care about things like sealed rares, or label variants, or which games came with posters, or anything like that. But when it comes to the actual SNES library I'm reasonably confident I'm in like the top 0.0001% as far as having informed opinions goes. And part of that is owed to always staying in touch with the pulse of said scene. I'm something of a regular on NintendoAge (obviously), I cruise places like GameFaqs, IGN, and NeoGaf pretty frequently, I'm all over the different subreddits, I watch almost every YouTube video I come across, and I read everything posted onto SNES Hub. If there's something out there, I'm probably familiar with it.

...and one common thing I see across all of the Super Nintendo interwebz is people saying Bubsy II is an even worse game than its already heavily-maligned predecessor. And to that I say...

You people are crazy. This is easily the superior game.

...nah, I'm just kidding. No one cares about either of these games, and the sequel is a modest improvement over the original, at best (and even that's probably debatable), while still sharing many of the same flaws. And I say that as someone who has a long history with the first Bubsy game.

First off, I will say that the developers obviously recognized some of the original game's glaring problems and tried to correct them. The most important of which being the fact that Bubsy can now take three hits before he keels over dead. That makes all the difference in the world in this series, because the insta-deaths in the original were one of the biggest things holding it back. Furthermore, the Bubsman can now recover that added health too. So instead of being a walking piece of glass, you actually stand a fighting chance against the legions of enemies that are out for your blood.

Second, there are far fewer ranged attacks constantly trying to take you out with little-to-no warning. Presumably the developers recognize this issue as well, as there are only a few enemy types that can attack from a distance, and they all work with a manageable pattern.

Next, the slippery control is slightly less slippery. I think. It's still pretty bad, but at least you almost kinda sorta feel in control most of the time now. Or I may have just gotten so used to the damn bobcat by now that I've acquired mastery over his ice-skating ass.

They've also removed a ton of the instant-death falls that were so prevalent in the first game. There's still too many of them in the Egyptian-themed levels, and it's still pretty ridiculous that you can die from falling from great heights, but it is better. Slightly. They're still present, which still boggles my mind. Can you imagine Sonic dying because he went too fast and fell too far? It makes no sense.

They've also tried to make the levels and gameplay a little more diverse. This time around you have a couple different sets of levels: Egypt, medieval, future Western (?), shmup, and floating brass instruments... but the shmup levels are kind of ass, and the others are fairly generic in practice, so I wouldn't really say they actually accomplished anything here.

The bosses are also much less annoying this time. Granted there are only three of them, and one is a repeat, but I'll take anything over the spazzy mess that was in the first game.

But the biggest thing of all, I feel, is that the game actually rewards exploration now. In the first game the best plan was to just get to the exit as fast as you could because managing your paltry supply of lives was the utmost priority. Now, you can gather up items in order to redeem them for extra lives, or even find minigames that reward you with, you guessed it, more extra lives. And because you can take extra hits you're no longer in constant fear of dying.

Slowdown is also fairly pervasive. It's not something that I recall happening nearly as much in the original.

Reading over everything I just wrote, it kind of sounds like I made this thing out to be some sort of quantum leap over the first Bubsy game. It's not. They just took a weirdly uneven little platformer, tightened up a million little things, but were still left with a slightly less uneven platformer that's just as uninspired as its forebearer, with a lot of other issues that were unaddressed. And neither one can hold a candle against the genre's best. But I do like to give them points for trying, and I will admit that this is the better experience, and that I did have something of a decent time playing through it.

Did I beat it?
Yes, on the first try actually.

#395 - SimAnt

One of the many, many "Sim" games that propagated from the success of Will Wright's landmark SimCity, SimAnt is a weirdly ambitious (but wildly uneven) title that has promise, but never seems to quite hit its mark. The SNES port also happens to be a significantly improved effort compared to the versions of SimEarth and SimCity 2000 that we got, both of which failed to succeed on the system for various reasons.

As you can maybe no doubt guess, the idea behind this game is that you are tasked with building up an ant colony. Your ultimate goals? Destroying your red ant rivals, fighting off giant spiders, and eventually invading the nearby house so you can drive out the human occupants. Good times.

Gameplay is basic enough, but with a subtle depth that can take time to come to grips with. At any given moment you will control but a single ant. With that ant you can gather food, eat food (something you will need to do exceedingly often), direct other ants to perform basic functions, and lead raiding parties against other colonies. This is all done by moving a cursor and using one single button.

The tricky part, and the real nuance to getting anywhere in this game, is balancing what's going on with your colony. Not only must you toggle the behavior of the colony as a whole, but you also need to adjust the different types of ants being born, dig tunnels to expand (or defend) the colony, help shuffle your queen and her eggs around when a rainstorm causes everything to flood, and try to avoid the occasional lawnmower that's passing by.

Combat is simple, and automated for the most part. Basically, get your soldiers to follow you and then walk into enemy territory, and hope you outnumber them. Easy peasy. It's also not very satisfying, and I found myself getting frustrated whenever things didn't go well, the reason for which was almost never apparent.

Now, the game does let you save anywhere, anytime, a rarity on the system. And that should be a godsend, because with tricky games I'm always more than willing to exploit such things and save scum my way to victory. "Did the skirmish with the reds not go so well? Well, just reload and try again." But you see,SimAnt features what must be the slowest save system in the console's entire library. And by slowest, I mean slower by at least 100,000 orders of magnitude. I'm not joking. It may be the slowest save bar I've ever seen in my life. That may seem like a minor gripe, but with a game this difficult I'd really like to be able to lean on rapid saves if necessary, and that is just not possible here. At least, not if you value your sanity.

Things also get way too repetitive. Fight the reds, fight the spider, avoid the lion ants, expand the colony, conquer the area, and then do it again. Over and over again. After a couple different "areas" I was ready for the game to throw me some curve balls, but it never happened, and at that point my willingness to soldier on with the game [is that an ant joke? - editor] started to stall out. And that's coming from a guy who played over eighty games in Pro Sport Hockey so that he could write about it. Think about that.

As I start to cover more strategy games, I can look back at this one and acknowledge it's a fun enough game, and that I really like the concept. But as a "real time" strategy game the action does seem a little too hectic and demanding to be played comfortably with a controller. And there just doesn't seem to be enough meat to its bones to want to keep with it. So tally this one up as a decent experience, but one that feels more like a tech demo than an actual game. A tech demo you should probably only play on the PC.

Did I beat it?
Nope. I'm not sure if you have to conquer every section of the map, but I have not gotten close to doing that.

#394 - Smart Ball

Introducing Smart Ball, the platformer known as "Jerry Boy" elsewhere around the world. And what exactly is a "Smart Ball" or a "Jerry Boy?" Who even knows. I suppose it's meant to be a blob of jelly that can climb walls and contort itself so that it can fit into tubes and such, and I'm also sure there was an explanatory cutscene at some point that I have long forgotten. The final boss is a witch so I'm sure a curse is involved. In any case, it's a weird ass little platformer, but that's never stopped any game from being good before.

Gameplay is pretty straightforward. You move, you jump, you hold down a button to run and jump further, etc. Standard stuff. The rub is that you don't have much of an attack. Instead, Jerry is limited to stabbing his body upwards in order to hit foes above him, or squashing himself down and out so that he can knock away enemies that are slightly in front of him. Powerful attacks they are not. Luckily for him, there are tons of flowers scattered throughout each of the levels, each of which will give up various "thingies" to help you. Some of them recover health, some are extra lives, extra powers, etc. Arguably the most important ones are projectile weapons. You'll definitely want to stock up on those before you fight any of the later bosses.

Besides that, there ain't a ton of notable things going on here. Simply navigate each level to find different items (block letters that spell out J-E-R-R-Y), and find the exit. Occasionally the stages will be a bit labyrinthine in nature, but it's never anything that's too demanding. After every two levels you do get to fight a boss battle, but none of them were really notable enough to actually remember. I think one of the early ones was a bird, and I guess I do definitely remember a witch at the end, but everything else just kind of blends in with the million other platformers I've already written about.

That's really all there is to it too. It's a solid, but super generic, action platformer. It has a decent gimmick at its core, and a decently long quest to work through, which offers a nice, but never unfair, challenge. But it's not the sort of game I'd ever go out of my way to recommend to anyone, or ever really feel a strong desire to pop the cart back in. There was even a Japan-only sequel, but I was never so much as tempted to look into it. So there you have it.

Did I beat it?
Yes, a number of years back.

#393 - Jimmy Connor's Pro Tennis Tour

For those of you keeping count (probably no one, other than resident "pro" bronzeshield), there are only two tennis games left in this project, and there just so happens to be more than a bit of a passing resemblance between the two of them. That's not a coincidence either, as it seems thatJimmy Connor's Pro Tennis Tour takes a proven formula (Super Tennis) and tries to run with it. While the results aren't anything spectacular, UbiSoft has still left us with a perfectly functional game of swingin' cat guts. Is that a nickname for tennis? Probably not.

Now I think I stated in my review of David Crane's tennis game that I am not exactly a student of the sport. Sure I played it a few times in high school gym class, and I once watched my wife's aunt and uncle rally for a while at their Houston country club while I was getting tanked on Bloody Marys, but for the most part my expertise in the area is strictly limited totabletennis: a game that is similar in concept and design, but seems to play nothing alike when you get down to it.

Thankfully, JCPTT offers something of a beginner mode for neophytes like myself. Here, your player will automatically position himself for every shot and return, sail your serves over with pinpoint accuracy, and in general, make life a whole lot easier. While that all may sound very emasculating (and maybe it is), I used this mode for several hours in order to ease myself into the meat of the game [No comment - editor]. After I was able to get comfortable with the timing of the shots, and the intricacies of the mechanics, I was much better suited towards tackling and subduing the many men that stood in front of me. [You're doing this on purpose - editor]. Something I wasn't even close to accomplishing in the three tennis games that have already been covered.

So if you're gonna play a tennis game on the Super Nintendo... play Super Tennis. Or one of those imports that I hear people raving about. But if you burn through those and are looking for more, I'd name Jimmy Connor's Pro Tennis Tour as the next game to queue up. You may not love it, but you'll probably have some fun times with it. Or at least you can take advantage of the easy mode and pretend you know what you're doing like I do.

Did I beat it?
No, I have yet to beat any of the tennis games. My brain just can't pull together working strategies against tougher opponents.

#392 - Hyper V-Ball

That other McO'River game - and one of only two volleyball games on the system -Hyper V-Ball is... surprisingly not terrible? Surprisingly... good, even? What I mean by that is, for being a no-name 2D volleyball game from some no-name publisher, that came out early in the system's lifespan to boot, this thing should have been a trainwreck. And yet I actually ended up having a pretty decent time with it across a rather extended amount of play. I'd even dare say that this is a good volleyball game. Suck it Hudson Soft.

As you can maybe see from the screenshots above, the game offers several different modes of play. Well, "different." In quotes. As in not really different at all. Because you can play male or female volleyball, which seem exactly the same to me, in addition to something else called "Hyper" mode. That's the one with robots. It's not as cool as you'd hope, and mostly just adds a few little "abilities" to mess with how and where you hit the ball.

Gameplay is simple enough. You serve the ball across the net, the other team digs, sets, and spikes, you go back and forth, on and on until someone fucks up. Volleyball in other words. And the controls are kept very streamlined. You can more or less handle most of those actions with a single button while also pressing left or right on the D-Pad to position yourself. That's it. No worrying about switching players, or convoluted button combinations for different types of shots, or even having to position yourself against a vertical axis. Very sleek.

It works rather well too. The action unfolds organically, and rallies start to ratchet up in intensity as you press harder and harder, desperate to get the point. It's good stuff, and feels close enough to the real thing. The real thing being the drunken volleyball matches I participate in every Fourth of July.

Now I will say that after 10+ hours of play I could sense the action getting a bit stale and repetitive. And while the gameplay does feel much tighter than Hudson Soft's Super Dig and Spike Volleyball (is that what that was actually called?), it's still a bit limited in its depth. There's only so many ways to try and trick or overpower your opponent, and things tend to get real protracted as you get further into the campaign.

Overall I'll say it's the best volleyball game I've ever played (though I have not played very many) and that I enjoyed my time with it. I probably won't ever come back to it, as I more than got my fill of it over the last few years, but that is still a lot more than I can say for hundreds of other games I've already covered.

Did I beat it?
No, I put in quite a bit of time working my way through it, but the opponents get brutally hard as you get further in.

#391 - Pinocchio

So awhile back (or maybe as recently as last installment), I made the observation that each and every Disney game on the Super Nintendo seems to occupy one of the two different extreme ends of a single spectrum. And what sort of spectrum would that be? Why the difficulty spectrum of course; they're all either sadistically hard or laughably easy. Almost as if no one could quite figure out who these games were intended for, or what anyone should get out of them.

Pinocchio sits on the easy side of the spectrum. The absurdly easy end at that. Similar to Aladdin, Magical Quest, or The Great Circus Mystery, it is entirely reasonable that you'd beat this in one try. I know I did, and I don't consider myself especially good at platformers. And that is due in large part to the absolutely absurd amount of punishment that our wooden friend can soak up before keeling over. Who knew ol' Pinoc' was such a tank?

Controls are okay, but a bit unresponsive. Mostly because it seems like Pinocchio has a tendency to waste a frame or two of animation before going into any of his jumps. It's the sort of thing that would be maddening in a more complex or demanding game, but ends up being more of a minor nuisance here.

The graphics are pretty outstanding. The stages and characters are all nice and colorful, and beautifully animated, possibly on the same level as another Disney Interactive's title,The Jungle Book. I don't know if that's because something was "figured out" after Shiny's work onAladdin for Genesis, but everything the studio put out after that point seemed to be rather lovely looking. This one is no exception.

So, I haven't totally been keeping track of how many Disney games I've already gone over, or how many there are left to get to, but this feels about middle of the pack. Definitely not as memorable as some of the good stuff, but not nearly as annoying or pointless as the lesser stuff.

Did I beat it?
Yes, see what I said up above.

#390 - Bazooka Blitzkrieg

[full disclosure - I played this (and every Super Scope game) on my PC with an emulator and an optical mouse. I have the cart but not the gun bazooka]

Okay, raise your hand if you had heard of this game before you got into SNES collecting (or whatever it is you do that set you down the path of googling "ranking every SNES game"). Anyone? Anyone at all?

Well if you did raise your hand you're a damn liar, because this has to be one of the least known f'ers on the system. Hell, it doesn't even have a Wikipedia page. Even Stone Protectors and Timeslip got Wikipedia pages (well, blurbs), and no one has heard of those guys either! I guess it doesn't help that this is a game designed for the Super Scope, one of the dumbest officially-released peripherals in the history of video games. And it really couldn't have helped that this was a Japanese game, despite the fact that the Super Scope barely even saw a release in Japan. Chalk up its obscurity to a perfect storm of bad ideas, clueless publishers, forgettable artwork, and an even more forgettable title.

Moving on, just what exactly is this thing? Something out of left field perhaps? Like a role-playing light gun hybrid where you need to travel the world and solve mysteries in order to advance the plot? Of course not. It's a typical vanilla-ass light gun offering, virtually identical to the many legions of Hogan's Alleys and Lethal Enforcers that once dominated the world's arcades. Only the rub this time out is that you're a ninja and you're blasting robots. Which now that I think about it kind of makes it a mix of Shien's Revenge and Metal Combat/Battleclash... only not nearly as cool as any of those other games.

Still... generic ninja bazooka'ing aside, I enjoyed it. Too much. I actually played it way more than I had any real reason to. I suppose that sometimes a simple genre like this is better off keeping things... simple. And shooting guys in the face is plain simple fun. Even in 2019 when the entire world has forgotten this thing ever existed. So if you are lugging a Super Scope around for some crazy-ass reason, and you're tired of playing all of the first party titles, you could do worse than check this guy out.

Did I beat it?
Yes... but with a mouse. So not really.

#389 - Beauty & the Beast

The token (I think) Disney game that Hudson Soft put out on the system, Beauty & the Beast shoulda been a winner. Not only is it based on one of the best Disney animated classics of all time (if not the GOAT), but it was published by the pros that brought us the likes of Bonk's Adventure and Batman. B&tB has all the pedigree necessary to compete with the likes of DuckTales or Goof Troop in the pantheon of classics brought to us from the house of the mouse. But the developers took what could easily have been a sure thing and mangled it somehow, burying interesting levels and fun mechanics behind sloppy controls and an uneven difficulty curve. The game isn't a total loss, in fact, far from it, but we are left with a final product that could have been so much more than what was given us.

Taking some liberties with the source material, the game has you taking The Beast (I'm not sure we ever got his name) and guiding him through his castle's dungeons and cavernous halls, the surrounding woods and mountains, and ends with the climactic fight atop the rooftops. All presumably in the name of stopping Gaston and the other villagers who are out to burn and maim you. Granted, I don't remember his royal beastness having to fight off giant spiders and gargoyles in the film, but obviously they had to pad the game's length out somehow. I guess we're no stranger to such liberties in video game adaptations.

The biggest problem with the game--the controls--can basically be summed up much like how I've summed up the controls in some many reviews that have come before this: unresponsive. They're just not tight enough to stand alongside the system's best, or up against most of Capcom's Disney offerings. Most maddeningly of all is how stiff the jump attack is. For whatever reason, whenever you swipe your claws in mid air your forward momentum comes to a dead stop. It's very frustrating. Can you imagine if Simon Belmont's jump stopped moving forward when he swung his whip? It would nearly ruin the game. And it does B&tB a huge disservice in these rankings. If they had tightened up the controls this would have been top 300. Possibly better.

There's also problems with the Beast's attacks. Besides being as unresponsive as everything else, the main claw swipe has an awkward hit box that makes it unwieldy to use, and the "roar" attack takes way too long to charge, making it significantly less useful than it needed to be.

Aside from all of that, it's a pretty fun platformer with challenging but fair levels, nice graphics and animation (but not on the same level as something like Pinocchio or The Jungle Book), that manages to accurately capture the "essence" of the source material. But it's hamstrung enough by the controls that I think I can safely say this is the worst Hudson Soft platformer on the system. Such a shame too.

Did I beat it?
No. Got far, but never managed to close it out.

#388 - Head-On Soccer

Head-On Soccer represents US Gold's second effort at bringing us a futbol game on the Super Nintendo, and also represents a marked improvement over their first offering. The secret to this success? MimickingFIFA International Soccer. That shouldn't be much of a surprise either, given that people have been plagiarizing EA's various franchises for decades now, with games like this doing it since the beginning. Not that I blame them, either. I mean, if you're gonna steal, why not steal from (one of) the best, right?

Just like in the game that inspired it, the controls here are rock solid, as tight as you're gonna get. Everything feels right as you run, jump, kick, pass, throw, and "header" the ball around. The animation is also smooth and the slowdown is virtually nonexistent. So I guess you could say that all the basic elements that make a successful sports game like this work are present and accounted for. And really this is the first soccer title where I can say that's all true.

The nitpicks, as they are, center around the game being just not quite as good as the series that inspired it. The gameplay tuning isn't quite as tight, for example, as shots on goal seem to rely at least partially on luck, with seemingly no concrete reason as to why some go in and others do not. Also, the speed of play could have been toned down a notch or two, so that the gameplay was a little more tactical and a little less arcadey feeling. I could also use some slightly less silly-looking player models, not that things like that dealt a huge blow to my final opinion of the game. It woulda been nice though.

So, as I said, this is the first soccer game where I genuinely had fun for nearly my entire playtime. I even put in a number of hours trying to overcome the single player campaign (I didn't, it goes on forever), which isn't something I'm usually willing to go out of my way for with soccer sims. So when one of them monopolizes my time like that you know it's doing something right.

Did I beat it?
No, I got through many, many different tournament matches, but never saw the end of it. I can only assume you have to conquer the entire world before it's over.

#387 - Power Piggs of the Dark Age

Do you remember the first time you experienced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Because I do. It was during preschool, which would mean either the end of 1989 or the beginning of 1990, and I was at my friend Greg's birthday party. I distinctly remember him receiving a VHS tape as a gift from someone or other (it wasn't us, I don't know what we gave him), and the frenzy it stirred up over the partygoers. Specifically, he got this one:

I was drawn in immediately by that artwork. I've always had a thing for big, over-the-top bad guys, and this Shredder guy had my attention. We watched the tape at some point during the party, or possibly on another visit, and I was instantly hooked by the radical characters, kick ass theme song, and the awesome action.

Well of course the Turtle phenomenon led to eleventy billion different ripoffs in the years to come, since leeches are always willing to make money off of other people's idea. Sewer Sharks, Stone Protectors, Biker Mice From Mars, the cowboys who really were literal cows; anthropomorphic ass kickers were in, big time.

One of the more memorable ripoffs were the Power Piggs of the Dark Age. What should have been just another typical soulless cash-in was instead an enthralling tale about three young pigs who encounter great tragedy during their childhood. After their mother and younger brother are slain by an evil count, they forsake their father and join a traveling group of brigands, hoping to learn the ways of the world, and the ways of the "road", in order to gain strength and eventually earn justice for their family. It's dark, but powerful stuff, and the way the pig brothers grow throughout the course of the series truly is a marvel. It was a popular enough show that we eventually saw a comic book series, board game, action figures, and this video game. Hell, there's even dedicated fan communities on the net that still follow the stuff religiously. Pretty impressive for some '90s kids show, right?

Except none of that Power Piggs stuff is true, at all. It was never a show, never a comic, never a cult phenomenon. It was nothing. Just this barebones game about one pig (forget the cover art, there is no multiplayer, no character select, not even so much as an appearance from the other two), who likes to eat donuts and beat up on wolves. In fact that's it for the plot too, which makes me question if this game was even finished. One can only assume that Titus was hoping to kickstart something with this game, and they obviously failed spectacularly. Power Piggs came and went with a whimper, relegated to whatever the lowest of low tiers were for TMNT imitations.

...and yet I kinda like this game, and completely enjoyed my entire playthrough of it. The action may be traditional hop and bop, the characters dumb, the plot nonexistent, the sword stubby, and the bosses uninspired, but it is solidly made. The controls are good, the challenge is fair, the bosses are at least satisfying to overcome, the level designs are above average, and the length of your quest is not too brief, yet never overstays its welcome. So chalk this up as a game that had no business falling out of the bottom hundred, and yet here we are hundreds of spots later. Bravo Titus.

Did I beat it?
Yes I did, and that's the truth.

#386 - Wings 2: Aces High

Wings 2: Aces High, sequel to... uh, something or other, is a World War I flight sim of sorts. One that challenges you to dogfight, bomb, and strafe your way to victory over the opposing Kraut forces. And, unlike the fiasco that was Carrier Aces, all three different level types are done well enough as to actually be fun. A novel idea. That is, they're fun as long as you're willing to put in the time to learn and understand the game's nuances, and overcome the initially frustrating difficulty curve.

Dogfighting missions - Your biplane against one or more opponents. The mechanics here are very simple; you have a large square arena, you have machine guns, and you don't want to hit the ground or collide. Easy peasy. And I rather like these levels. Dropping an enemy ace from the sky is always satisfying, and taking down the Red Baron at the end of the game was almost euphoric. Something about dogfighting is just so fitting for video games, and I think W2AH captures it well.

Bombing missions - As can be seen in the middle screenshot up above. These present a picture of your target, and task you with nailing it with an old-fashioned unguided bomb from directly above, all while avoiding enemy anti-air fire. These sections are alright, with decent controls and difficulty curves, but it can be annoying having to repeat them because you couldn't figure out where the target is since you'll only get one pass and will have to hope you just happen to spot it on the way by. That's not a dealbreaker or anything, but I still wish you were given a map or general sense of where you need to go beforehand.

Strafing missions - A mix of the dogfights and bombing missions; these take place from the behind-the-plane perspective, while giving you a single pass to gun down various targets. These are easily the weakest segment of the game, mostly because it takes the trial-and-error nature of the bombing segments, and adds squirrely controls into the mix. A fatal combination for almost any game. It's not quite fatal here, but does hold it back from being as fun as it could have been.

And that's pretty much it. Advance through a series of levels that alternate between the three gameplay types, until you reach the Red Baron at the end. And hope you don't lose your entire roster of pilots on the way there (easy enough to do with the help of passwords). There's also some light RPG mechanics at play (you increase stats after missions), but they aren't handled especially well as they don't really seem to make much of a difference in how you perform. Hell, I'm pretty sure the "endurance" stat is completely useless, as there never appears to be anything resembling a time limit, or fuel limit or anything. Or maybe I'm just remembering that wrong. Either way, I don't know what it was supposed to do. Cool idea, but lacking execution.

Overall, one of the better flight sims on the system. Yet still pretty far back here all things considered. I guess the genre really wasn't one of the system's strong points. Either way, if you were disappointed by Carrier Aces, or wanted more combat in Pilotwings, you could do worse than Wings 2.

Did I beat it?
Yes, probably making me one of the few people in the world who can claim that.

#385 - Skuljagger: Revolt of the Westicans

If I was more cleverer than I am, I would have come up with a decent Rolling Stones pun that riffed on the title ofSkuljagger: Revolt of the Westicans. Or perhaps I would have figured out something that referenced that gloriously ridiculous cover art where a gigantic Yul Brynner observes two G.I. Joe dolls battling one another. Alas, I ran out of time and had to go with whatever it is I'm going with. Observational comedy no doubt.

How does one describe this game? As a piratey Prince of Persia meets The Secret of Monkey Island? Because that's not really accurate, as there's no real PoP elements, aside from jumping over pits and swinging swords. Is it at all similar to Lester the Unlikely, or Cutthroat Island? Again, not really. While all three take place in what is presumably the Caribbean, there is not much in the way of gameplay similarities. So what exactly is Skuljagger? I guess I can only say it's a very, very conventional action platformer, that throws a few novelties out there to try and separate itself from the pack.

First off, I love the level and background art in this game, but I hate the character sprites. They look like the sort of thing I would come up with if I had to design a game's characters, and all I had was paint to do it with. The animations are also pretty shitty, and things can get real "choppy" when the action gets fast and furious. And by that I mean the shitty animations and struggling framerate come together to really make the game look like a mess in action. It's not a dealbreaker or anything, but it really didn't do the game any favors when I was taking score.

That being said, looks aside, the game is pretty good for the most part, and definitely fun to play. The massive sword chop (with optional ranged beam) is super satisfying to use, cutting down legions of pirates (and the majority of the local wildlife). That thing is like the anti-Ys/Lagoon butterknife. You can also use it to swat enemy projectiles out of the air. Every game should have that.

The controls are also kind of floaty, but not in a completely terrible way, if that makes any sense. Maybe the platforming is lenient enough, and the levels wide open enough that it doesn't really matter. But with that massive sword covering your ass, the game gets away with it.

A few other oddities to note:
- The game has a reputation for demanding you have the manual on hand in order to defeat the final boss. I haven't personally reached him (yet), so I don't know the details. Maybe it's like StarTropics where there is a literal roadblock unless you reference something within.
- One of the central gimmicks to the action is collecting different colored gems (one restores health, one upgrades your attack, etc.) and different types of bubble gum (gain access to different abilities). So if all else fails on a boss fight, and you're down to your last sliver of health, with no attack upgrades, cover yourself in bubblegum and bombard the screen with an AOE attack.
- Occasionally you will discover (by accident) different portals of sorts. Where do they take you? Underground, where you fight lizard men and collect giant gems. I have no idea what the context here is. Maybe the developers were believers in lizard men conspiracies.
- Sometimes you have to shoot cannonballs at giant ships...and sometimes it's at giant mothras...or floating Hindu gods. You heard me.
- The 1UP system. Uh, this is from my notes dating back at least three or four years. I'm not sure what I meant by that, but apparently something about it is odd!

A few complaints to note:
- Enemies just love standing over the ladder you need to climb, just outside of sword range. They're some clever bastards, or that's some shitty programming.
- Blind jumps aplenty. Gotta love 'em.
- The hit detection can be a tiny bit iffy at times. It's not much of an issue, but it did cause the occasional headache.

So yeah, it's a super fucking weird game. But I'm always down for weirdness. And anything that lets me shellack distant kaiju and floating deities, and fight pirates, giant rats, and lizard men is alright by me. Some people may be turned off by the crude graphics and framerate, and many are gonna give up before ever seeing the end of the long and challenging quest, but I think most people are gonna find a lot to enjoy here.

Did I beat it?
I've put in a number of semi-serious attempts throughout the years, but never quite managed to overcome it. The severe lack of passwords and/or checkpoints in the later parts of the game is what kills it for me.

#384 - Super Conflict

One of the few turn-based strategy games on the system that wasn't produced by Koei, Super Conflict is something of a mixed bag. While I adore the genre, and had fun with the game, I'd honestly say that I spent most of that time wishing I was playing an Advance Wars (aka Famicom Wars) game instead. They play so similarly, yet SC is so unpolished in comparison that I could never get away from the comparison.

If you have played any of the AW games, most likely on GBA or DS, then you know exactly what to expect here. Guide your legions of tanks, commandos, fighters, bombers, destroyers, and battleships, against the matching enemy forces. Take cover in forest and mountain tiles for added defensive abilities. Take enemy cities with your infantry, and build new forces from factories, ports, etc. It's almost exactly the same in many ways, which presumably means Nintendo went ahead and ripped off borrowed from this series and made it their own. The difference is their games have Nintendo Polish™, and the Conflict games don't so much.

One thing this game does have going for it, is the "Flag Tank." Or "Flag Ship" on occasion. This is basically the key unit for you and the enemy: an ultra heavy bruiser that is super hard to kill, the destruction of which means the end of the current mission. It's a cool idea, that would see expanded use in the future in games like Total Annihilation. It's not subtle, but there's something super satisfying about revelling in the destruction caused by one unit.

Another complaint - and this is important in a game like this - is that I think the game is way too slow-paced. This is a slow genre by nature, but everything here seems to move about 50% as fast as I'd like it to, which means longer missions can really start to drag. The trial and error nature of later missions also means frustration can quickly mount as you're basically making "dry runs" in order to feel out the map. Whenever this happened I found myself desperately wishing for a way to make everything move faster so I could get to the real thing.

My final complaint is that the game doesn't seem balanced tightly enough. Most engagements seem to drag on because it's way too easy to entrench in a defensive position and let enemies feebly wail on you to little effect. As opposed to a series like AW (I have to keep mentioning it, they're just too similar) where there are dozens of different unit types but they are all beautifully balanced against one another. And the difference between the two may be subtle, but it makes all the difference in the world.

I've also never played anything from the Military Madness series of games, but after studying some different screenshots I wouldn't doubt that this game was directly inspired by them. So if you are a fan of those games, or the Advance Wars games, or any old turn-based wargame, and you don't want to deal with all of the politicking, resource management, or micromanagement that are present in most Koei games, you'll probably have some fun here. That's also probably a pretty tiny percentage of people, because god knows most everyone else won't have the patience to stick with this for longer than ten minutes.

Did I beat it
No. I have a campaign that's pretty far into the game, but haven't prioritized finishing it up anytime soon.

#383 - Bill Walsh College Football

For the record, I'd like to take this moment and point out to everyone that I have Bill Walsh College Football slotted over 340 spots higher than EA's second attempt at college football on the Super Nintendo. Talk about taking major steps backwards. I'm not sure if there is a wider spread between two different installments of a single series anywhere else. I mean, other than the discrepancy between FIFA 97 and FIFA 96, the latter of which I have yet to cover. So, yeah, I guess that one's even more bewildering... Good job(s) EA.

Basically, this game is a reskinned John Madden Football '93/Madden NFL '94. It has the exact same graphical style, play selection, and overall flow to the gameplay. That's not necessarily a bad thing as I think Madden 93 and 94 are very serviceable football games that together also represented a massive leap over the very first John Madden Football game (EA really was king of wildly varying quality, even back then). And college football translates very well to the video game world, with emphasis on offense, more pageantry, more... fun? I think so. But I'm also more of an NCAA guy than an NFL guy.

Unfortunately this game takes a few steps backwards from its sister Madden games. For a number of different reasons, but mostly because things here just do not feel... I guess as tightly balanced. For example, it really seems like some teams have an impossible time trying to run the ball, while others cannot pass to save their life. Some teams can defend against the run, some can't. Of course all of that could make sense because some teams should be good or bad against those things. But nothing here seems to align with the actual in-game ratings. I dunno, maybe I'm crazy, but it really felt like most of my success was dependent on who I played against, as I had to figure out what one "dimension" of the offense to use, and hammer on it repeatedly.

There's also other weird stuff that seems omitted. Like missing plays that you'd expect to see in the playbook. Or the fact that you seemingly can't flip your playbook either, a massive pet peeve of mine. Want to sweep in the other direction? Too bad.

Oh, and guess how many of the power I-A (known today as FBS) programs are present and accounted for? Did you guess all of them? Because of course that's not true. I don't know why, maybe memory limitations.

So yeah, it's a fun Madden-lookalike, based on the better (but not best) versions of that series, with some baffling omissions, and a few other minor shortcomings. But it's still a pretty fun football game. I'd say this and NCAA Football are probably the two roughest games that still manage to be fun, and that every remaining title I have yet to get to is a good time overall.

Did I beat it?
Yes, I won a playoff with Florida State.

#382 - Krusty's Super Fun House

I was thinking of going into a lengthy diatribe on my history with The Simpsons with this entry, except that I honestly cannot remember if I already did that when I covered one of their other games. Long story short, there have been very few Simpsons games throughout history that have been worth playing. Really, the list is limited to The Movie Game, the Konami arcade game, and... I guess this one. And no, Hit and Run was not really that good, don't fool yourself. Plus, after the likes of Virtual Bart and Bart's Nightmare, being remotely decent on the Super Nintendo is extra commendable.

First off, this game has virtually nothing to do with the show it's based on. Yes, you play as Krusty, and yeah, you'll occasionally run into another character manning one of the mouse-murdering machines, or see signs advertising Moes or Kwik-E-Mart hanging on the walls, but make no mistake; it's all nothing more than (very) superficial fan service. Hell, this game could have been about anything. In fact, I want to say it was something else. Maybe Flicky on Genesis? Or some old PC/Amiga game? Definitely something from that era, because I remember playing it. So it's obvious that all Acclaim did was quickly throw a new coat of paint on some old property and try to cash in on the Simpsons fad. That probably also explains why the end product is such a competent game. It was made before The Simpsons stink could tarnish it.

Gameplay is simple to explain. Think Lemmings, except instead of trying to save all of the stupid rodents, you're trying to actively murder them. You'll generally do this by constructing a path for them via blocks and elevators and what not. Occasionally enemies will need to be cleared out by throwing pies at them, or more complicated tasks will need to be sorted out. Again, if you've played a game like Lemmings you know what to expect here.

Like is usually the case with this sort of puzzler, things start out simple, but quickly become fiendishly tricky. And it seems like a decently meaty playthrough for anyone who sticks with it. I've tried a couple times because I always have a decent time with it, but I've never loved it enough to stick with it.

So, if you are really dying for a Simpsons game on the Super Nintendo, this is the no-brainer choice. It's not excellent, and it's not gonna be for everyone, but it's at least perfectly playable.

Did I beat it?
No, I have never dedicated the time to give it a fair shot. Some day.

#381 - Super Bases Loaded

#380 - Super Bases Loaded 3: License to Steal

Okay, so I kind of laid this series out up above in my Super Bases Loaded 2 write-up. Most of the games use a "reversed" camera angle, including both of these games, it's probably the biggest thing that sets the series apart, yadda yadda yadda, on to pros and cons. We'll do Super Bases Loaded first:

Cons - There are no MLB licenses. There are no player licenses. There appears to be no licenses, whatsoever. Other than Ryne Sandberg evidently. Anyway, that's not a dealbreaker, but it's also a plus. Instead you get plain ol' bluish Seattle against reddish Cincinnati, and the made up names that make them up.

Pros - Pretty decent mechanics, that become more and more fun as you get into the swing of things. Pun not intended because puns are dumb. It's almost kind of a hard thing to describe, but an example is the unorthodox way you'll want to approach batting. You see, instead of trying to read the ball you're gonna be better off using the catcher's glove to time your swing.

"Mr. Writer, what the hell could you even possibly mean by that?"

Well, basically the graphic for the mitt will visibly move in a downwards motion, as if the catcher is actively tracking the ball as it approaches. So instead of trying to read the pitcher, or react to the ball's speed, you'll want to time everything via the mitt. Trust me when I say it makes more sense when you see it in person. Now, was this intentional? Did the developers want you to bat this way? I'd assume so; why else go to the trouble of animating the glove? But it's almost too effective, as making contact becomes a snap once you settle into a groove and use this manner of batting to your advantage.

There's also no real "season" mode or anything. Instead, you pick two teams that you want to play a game, and then proceed to try and earn a "perfect game." And by perfect game I don't mean trying to pitch nine innings without allowing a baserunner. No, you're trying to be "perfect" across thirteen different categories that measure just how well you played that particular game all around. It's not the worst idea in the world, it's just... weird. And very hard to accomplish. So I didn't call this a pro or a con. Just a weirdness.

Super Bases Loaded 3 is, for all intents and purposes, more of the same, with a number of tiny little improvements. For example, this time there are player licenses, so you can actually use your favorite players when you select "OAK" or "NYY." It's a small thing, but it always makes the experience better for me.

There's also marginally higher production values and polish to everything. By that I mean it all looks and sounds ever so slightly better, the sort of incremental upgrades that we've maybe grown used to in sports titles that have become annual franchises nowadays, but weren't seen quite so often back in the day.

I'd also stake my claim that the action moves slightly faster now. Or at least it feels that way. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, or if it's just another... thing.

Generating offense is definitely harder now. You can no longer use the catcher's mitt to track the ball, but making contact does seem a bit more forgiving now, if that makes any sense. "Good" contact on the other hand, is much harder to muster now. Something of a happy medium between the two games would probably have been for the best.

Hand-in-hand with that, pitching can now be fairly dominating. Hell, I'm not even exaggerating when I say I threw a three-hitter in my very first game.

Last major thing of note, is that this is one of the few sims on the Super Nintendo where the baserunners don't seem to be completely incompetent, which is a nice change of pace. Babysitting those assholes always drives me crazy.

And then there are a few other random oddities that I feel I should point out. Like the fact that I basically saw zero high fly balls across every one of the games I played. Or how deep shots into the gaps can be held to singles. Or how I swear the baserunners will sometimes override you and head back to the nearest base instead of taking an easy extra one (this after I just got done praising the baserunning in this game). Or how your fielders will even throw to the "better" base if you try to make a poor choice. I know that sounds like user error, but I swear to God it happens. And is that a good thing or a bad thing? I'm not sure.

So, judging by the number of times I used the word "slightly" here, the two SBL games aren't really substantially different enough to warrant different spots. Really, all I can say is that I prefer the batting in SBL, and I prefer the pitching in SBL3. I think the changes implemented for SBL2, the black sheep of the series, were probably well-intentioned, but didn't produce a radically different game, just a slightly more generic one. In any case, overall the entire series is slightly above average, and in the top half of the SNES baseball library, but never really put it all together like some of the better baseball titles manage to. And the SBL games just aren't quite as fun.

Did I beat Super Bases Loaded?
I won a couple games, but I sure as hell didn't get a "perfect" game.

Did I beat Super Bases Loaded 3?
Nope, didn't even try. Baseball games are too long.

#379 - Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday

Here we have yet another Looney Tune game, this time from Acclaim no less. And yet despite both of those things telling us this should be an all-around wretched affair, it's not actually half bad. In fact it's kinda, sorta, pretty fun. Fun enough that I've played through it multiple times for God's sakes. Who knew such a thing could be possible? I guess even one of the worst publishers saddled with one of the most cursed licenses can accidentally find success at times.

[note -technically Sunsoft is listed in the opening credits, so perhaps they were ones truly behind this thing. I didn't bother to look into it]

I can't really compare Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday to any of the Looney Tunes games I've already covered, but I guess Rabbit Rampage would be the next closest thing. Both games are sidescrollers with an emphasis on more slower-paced, deliberate platforming, with varied levels and setpieces, and nice graphics and animation. This game is also about a million times easier than Bugs' game, removing most of the cheap bullshit that plagued that title.

I don't exactly recall many of the specifics of the storyline, and I don't know if this is based around some classic cartoon episode or anything like that, but the gist of it is Porky falls asleep and wanders through a number of horror-themed levels, all while being terrorized by Daffy Duck for some reason. That's pretty much it. I guess you don't really come to these games expecting an epic story.

Gameplay is the same as it always is in these types of things. Move, jump, avoid enemies, and, uh... that's pretty much it. You can also swing the screen around in order to see what's up ahead, but the game really isn't challenging enough to warrant busting this out very often. Either way, the moveset is obviously pretty limited. But in this case I think that's a good thing. It keeps the action simple and streamlined; the polar opposite of Duck Dodger's overly convoluted control scheme, or Bugs' overcrowded set of attacks.

The boss fights are - like the rest of the game - fairly simple. Observe the patterns and jump on their head for the most part. Again like Rabbit Rampage, they take the form of large grotesqueries from various classic LT cartoons such as an oversized Yosemite Sam, the Abominable Snowman, and the like. Only this time they are far simpler and easier. And in this case I think that is a good thing.

As I get close to wrapping up the Looney Tunes video games - which I am close to doing - I have to look at them as a majorly missed opportunity overall. It's a group of games, from different publishers and developers no less, that miss the mark much more than they hit it. But Porky Pig's game represents one of the few successes. A game of limited ambition, and fleeting fun, but still something I enjoyed my time with.

Did I beat it?
Yes, several times over the years.

#378 - HyperZone

Story time again. This one based on really cloudy memories.

When I was young (let's say circa 1992) my dad took me to the county fair. And by fair I mean the area next to the high school where there would be carnival rides set up. I know that sounds pretty podunk, but it was a pretty cool experience for a little kid. Mostly I remember the rock and roll-themed house of mirrors, the gigantic slide, and towering spinny ride thing that absolutely terrified me. It was great.

At the end of that particular trip my dad and I found ourselves over on the other side of the food vendors, near where the animal areas were found. Why? I have no idea. I don't know anything about cows and sheep and shit, or what they do at fairs. But we were there anyway. And for whatever reason, someone had lined up some Super Nintendos out in the middle of the grounds. Was it some sort of Nintendo-sponsored stunt? Some local retailer trying to push the new goods? I don't know and I never tried to Google it later and find out. But I know it was a competition of sorts, and that the game of honor was HyperZone. I didn't know the title at the time, but I recognized the graphics immediately when I chanced across it decades later.

Now, as was usually the case with a small child who was smitten with any and all games because he had virtually none of his own, I became immediately hooked. Dodging and weaving across incoming enemy fire, blowing away ships, all set across a psychedelic 3D landscape... I would have played for hours if they'd allowed me to. Instead I got about two minutes.

Years later, I can revisit the game and at least appreciate what exactly it was that wowed me so much as a child. The game is fun to play, and is still fun to look at. The Mode 7 graphics are vibrant and fast, and while they may not be so technically impressive compared to some of the stuff that came out later in the system's life cycle, they're very impressive for their day. It's also pretty low on challenge, and I can't say that the gameplay is exceptionally deep, or warrants a ton of replays. Hell, if we thought of this game as a shmup, it would easily be one of the weakest on the system (notice that the only one I've covered up until this point was the absolutely dreadful D-Force). That's less an indictment of this game as it is my acknowledging that nearly all of them are better than most other SNES games. Take that as you will.

So, decent game. Probably more a tech demo for Mode 7 than a fully realized final product, but it's still pretty enjoyable for what it is.

Did I beat it?
Yes, several different times.

#377 - Star Trek: Starfleet Academy

Star Trek... Starfleet Academy... Starship Bridge Simulator...?

Ah fuck me. This is either gonna be a major drag, or it's gonna be an enjoyable experience, but only after I spend several trillion hours figuring things out. Guarantee it.

So here we go, first I need to create a new cadet from a small list of options. I'm going with cis female, Kim Carino. Presumably from San Marino. Time to show these Academy boys what's up.

Now I'm at the Academy, and the menu items are... "E=MC²" (wut), the Starfleet insignia (yeah I recognize it, big whup), a plate with fork and spoon (wut), a... umm, window sitting above a grilled cheese maker or something... and finally, the Enterprise. Which means I'm gonna have no fucking idea what I'm doing unless I track down a manual. Great.

Okay, I'm back. Turns out all these "options" are bullshit window dressing. The only thing you care about is the Enterprise button which is where you're gonna be doing your actual missions, while everything else is just trying to give the illusion of campus life. By that I mean they all basically boil down to providing useless tidbits of advice if you want to fuck around between missions.

First mission; the dreaded tutorial mission. Okay, so maybe I didn't actually need to find that manual after all.

*I play through the game in practically one sitting*

Okay. So here's the entire game in one condensed nutshell:
1 - Start a mission.
2 - Warp to a section of space on an 8x4 map.
3 - Hail other vessels.
4 - Scan for objects.
5 - Engage tractor beam to reel in various mission objectives.
6 - Engage yellow or red alert to power up weapon systems and/or engage shields.
7 - Destroy adversaries with photon missiles and phaser fire.

That's it. Flying around, shooting things, and toggling stuff on or off from your menus. And you know what? I'll be damned if it doesn't work better than you might think it would. The missions are consistently fun, the controls are solid, the fan service is present and accounted for, and the challenge curve is like a billion times more manageable than the Enterprise sections in Star Trek Future's Past, or whatever that was called. In other words, it's a pretty good game.

Now, there are a couple little quibbles I have with STSASBS. Besides the name of the game and the ludicrous acronym it just forced me to type...
1 - There are multiple missions where all you need to do is warp twice, and you win. Missions with a literal win button.
2 - It is often confusing as all hell trying to tell what is what out in space. Friends look like foes, foes look like non-foes, and everything looks like a nondescript blob.

3 -Things lean a bit too heavy on the old trial and error. You're supposed to talk to everyone before starting up a mission, mostly to get useless tips as to what you need to do, but it's almost never enough. "Oh, that ship blew up. I guess I should have done something about that" is the norm. Though missions often only take a few minutes so it's not the biggest deal having to start most of them over a time or two.

The last few tidbits I have to mention are both pretty cool. First, there is generally at least one "secret" objective in each of the missions, which is something all games should have. These help boost your overall grade, which needs to be above a certain threshold in order to pass the mission (since you're in the academy each simulation is basically an exam). Second, I feel like this is one of the few SNES games where your main focus is often trying to be peaceful with the various hideous aliens you come across. Instead of, you know, just blasting everyone in the fact and asking questions later. A novel idea that fits perfectly within the Star Trek mythos.

So as I wrap up the Star Trek games on the Super Nintendo, I have to conclude that we got one kinda bad game, one kinda okay game, and one kinda good game. None of them are great, but Starfleet Academy gets things the most right. I don't know if I would recommend it to any but the most hardcore flight sim or Star Trek nerds, but I'm confident there's something here for all of them.

Did I beat it?
I totally did. Fuck you Future's Past, you were the only ST game I didn't beat, and the only one that didn't deserve my full time and attention.

#376 -Doom Troopers: Mutant Chronicles

Here's another weird one. I guess the question is, what happens when you mix Playmates, crazy character designs, and fun gameplay? Did you answer "Earthworm Jim?" Because that's exactly what you'd get.

On the other hand, what happens when you mix Playmates, claymation, boring dumb character designs that were seemingly ripped straight from Warhammer 40K (I think Mutant Chronicles is another tabletop game, but don't hold me to that), and fleetingly-fun-but-often-mediocre-gameplay? Well, I suppose you'd get something likeDoom Troopers, a weird little title that seemed like it was trying to cash in on the success of the eponymousDoom,with cover art meant to confuse any of the old ladies that were out doing Christmas shopping for their grandchildren.

As far as the gameplay here goes, think Contra. And then forget it, because DT isn't really fit to hold that game's jock. Instead, think of something a little less inspired, a little clunkier, a little gorier, and a little sillier. And not nearly as fun. Because that's what we have here.

Now if everything I just said sounds like I'm roasting this game, know that I'm only roasting how uninspired it all is. Because this isn't actually a bad game, at all. It's not a particularly great one either, but it can be a fun time. As long as expectations are tempered going in. Mostly because running and gunning is something that's hard to get wrong, especially when your enemies' heads have a tendency to pop off or explode in a mass of blood. And the grotesque bosses are fun to exploderize.

And I don't really feel like I need to write a whole lot more, as you should know exactly what's up with this one. There were tons of Contra clones on the NES, and this is basically just the next generation of one of those.

Is Doom Troopers gonna give The Alien Wars or Super Turrican 2 a run for their money? Hell no. Is it notably derivative as Timeslip? No. Is it as 90s radical as Realm? No.

But it's okay.

Did I beat it?
Yes, however many years back.