Home Page Go to #475-451 #450 - Jeopardy! #449 - Jeopardy! Sports Edition #448 - Jeopardy! Deluxe Edition #447 - Wheel of Fortune #446 - Wheel of Fortune Deluxe Edition #445 - Family Feud #444 - Newman/Haas IndyCar Racing featuring Nigel Mansell #443 - Star Trek: The Next Generation - Future's Past #442 - Turn and Burn: No-Fly Zone #441 - John Madden Football #440 - Bugs Bunny Rabbit Rampage #439 - David Crane's Amazing Tennis #438 - Wolverine Adamantium Rage #437 - SeaQuest DSV #436 - Dig & Spike Volleyball #435 - Battle Grand Prix #434 - Tuff E Nuff #433 - Alien vs. Predator #432 - Lethal Enforcers #431 - Pac-Attack #430 - Tecmo Secret of the Stars #429 - Spider-Man/X-Men: Arcade's Revenge! #428 - The Jungle Book #427 - Super Batter Up #426 - Oscar Go to #425-401



Game Show game #1
#450 - Jeopardy!



Game Show game #2
#449 - Jeopardy! Sports Edition



Game Show game #3
#448 - Jeopardy! Deluxe Edition



Yeah, that's right, I grouped all of the "game show" games together.  Don't tell me you didn't see that coming.  Is it a lazy way to judge games that I deem too different from the rest of the libary to be separated from one another?  Maybe.  Just know that after this there will only be one last batch of games (much later on) that will get a similar treatment.

I will also admit that I am a huge trivia nerd.  I don't know why exactly that is, just that anytime someone mentions a name I don't know, a band I don't recognize, a world event that has slipped my memory, or a piece of lore that has escaped my notice, I usually head straight over to Wikipedia so I can begin correcting that.  Something about knowing all of the "things" must be in my blood because I compulsively do it all the time.  So it goes without saying that I love to do pub trivia so that I can show off my useless knowledge of Heisman Trophy winners or Spaghetti Western directors.  It's in my DNA or something.

Jeopardy! is basically the same idea as pub trivia, right?  And though I almost never watch the show (mostly because I never watch anything on broadcast television outside of sports in a bar), I love the formula: answer questions, get money, bet that money on getting other questions correct, and lose it all in a blaze of glory.  The show's also been around for a million years because there's an elegance in its simplicity.  Don't fix what ain't broken.

So how do the three Super Nintendo video game adaptations of the show stack up?  Well enough, I guess.  If nothing else they are faithful renditions, that capture much of that fun of providing the questions for Alex Trebek's answers.

On the other hand, are these games as fun as, say... actual pub trivia?  Absolutely not.  No one in the 21st century wants to sit around with their friends and pass a controller around while slowly entering letters into a system.  So while I completely understand why these games were made, and why people would have enjoyed them back in 1994, their time has passed.  There is absolutely no reason to ever play any of these as the whole experience is just completely obsolete nowadays.

...I mean, I guess unless you are underage, or want to play this with your kids or something, and you're expecting them to be able to answer 25-year-old questions. Because let's be real, you'd buy it for Switch or PS4 if you planned on doing any such thing.

Did I beat Jeopardy?
Yes, I certainly did.

Did I beat Jeopardy Sports Edition?
Yes, I certainly did.

Did I beat Jeopardy Deluxe Edition?
Yes, I certainly did.


Game Show game #4
#447 - Wheel of Fortune



Game Show game #5
#446 - Wheel of Fortune Deluxe Edition



So while I think that Jeopardy! is the superior game show, I'll give the Wheel of Fortune titles the slight edge as far as video game adaptations go.  Why?  I'm not really sure - I guess choosing a single letter is more fitting for a video game than laboriously trying to key in an entire word, hoping that you spell it right.  Which might just tell me I'm one lazy son of a bitch.  Or maybe I like trying to figure out the puzzles.  In any case, it's another series of admittedly fun games from GameTek that are, nonetheless, virtually obsolete nowadays.

I'm sure I don't need to explain the setup of WoF either, but here it is anyway: spin a wheel, guess a consonant or "buy" a vowel, laugh at Pat's dumb jokes, and ogle Vanna White.  Eventually roll bankruptcy on the spinner and lose your shit in front of a live studio audience.  Something along those lines in any case.

I'm not even gonna bother going over things like graphics and sound for this cluster of games either.  No one is gonna be playing something like WoF and worrying about how good the spritework is, or how faithful the theme song sounds.  Just know that for all six titles everything is executed competently enough to not be a detriment to the experience.

So, yeah... I dunno.  What else is there to say?  If you want to play a party game with friends... get a Switch.  Or play Super Bomberman.  Or get out of the house.  You don't want to play this.  But if you're really into Wheel of Fortune, or you're a sick enough person to play the entire Super Nintendo library, then I guess you could certainly do worse than play any of these games.

...is this the shortest review I've written yet?  It might be.  Everything in volumes one and two were pretty short in hindsight, but I think this may be the new champion.

Did I beat Wheel of Fortune?
Yes, I won some monies.

Did I beat Wheel of Fortune Deluxe Edition?
Yes, I won some more monies.


Game Show game #6
#445 - Family Feud



Yep, the same things I said up above still apply here.  I like trivia, I like trivia games, yes I enjoyed my time with this title, no there isn't any real reason to play it in 2019, etc.

I did technically rank Family Feud the highest though, mostly because of the element of teamwork.  For anyone not familiar with the show (probably no one), you are supposed to compete with your "family" against another "family."  Members take turns guessing the results of various surveys with topics along the lines of "Name something that you find in the bathroom."  And then you guess "soap," and find out that 48 people out of 100 surveyed answered the same way.  Or you panic and say something you can't unsay.



I don't know why I'm explaining this, because again, everyone already knows.  But that's the gist of it.

Overall it makes for an entertaining television show, and a fun party experience.  Or at least I would assume it does because when my wife invites people over for party games, we do not bust out the Super Nintendo and play Family Feud.

[This is a shorter review than 446 :P - editor]

Did I beat it?
Yes, I won money until I got the ending.


#444 - Newman/Haas IndyCar Racing featuring Nigel Mansell



Our good buddies Acclaim present Newman/Haas IndyCar Racing featuring Nigel Mansell, sequel (I think) to Nigel Mansell Championship Racing on NES/SNES.  No relation to Mario Andretti IndyCar Racing, Al Unser Jr. Road to the Top Racing, or Kyle Petty No FEAR Racing.  It's also a game that I'd call a bit better than KPNFR, a tad worse than MAICR, way better than AUJRttTR, but a pretty big drop down from NMCR. 

Got all that?

The first Nigel Mansell game, which I will be covering in a future installment, bundles great controls and a good sensation of speed, with a solid challenge, fair difficulty curve, and an experience I'd describe overall as "fun."  As far as racing sims on the Super Nintendo go, it's one of the better games the system offered.  And though not quite good enough to be called a hidden gem, it's still definitely a title that any racing enthusiasts should check out.

Newman/Haas on the other hand, does its best to ruin all of the goodwill the first game built up, and I don't know why exactly that is.  Both games were handled by the same development house, it was produced several years after NMCR, and by all accounts should have been an improvement, building upon an already good thing.  But it failed to do that.

Now upon first impression both N/H and NM appear to use the same racing engine (or at least they are very similar looking).  Everything takes place from a first-person perspective, with a very good sensation of speed, solid controls, and good graphics.  It's a good setup, and it worked out great the first time.  The problem is, everything is harder this time around.  Much harder.  And I think that's due to a couple of missteps on the game's part:

- You are given way less heads-up on incoming turns, which makes staying on the road a thousand times more difficult.
- Catching up to the pack is now nearly impossible most of the time.  Make a single mistake and you are most likely F'ed in the A.
- Even when staying on the road and maintaining a good line, you still need to perform near flawlessly if you are to have any hopes of placing.

And that's enough to nearly sink the game.  They took one of the better racers on the system and tried to run it into the ground with some terrible design choices.  I can only assume that someone over at Acclaim thought that NMCR was too easy, and overcompensated on the correction.  Which just further proves that Acclaim was great at ruining everything they could get their hands on.

Now, I think there is still a good game in here somewhere.  Buried very, very deep.  And people who are much better at racers than I am may have the patience to find it.  But I couldn't stomach doing it.  It pains me to rank this game as low as I am, especially after how much fun I had with NMCR.  But another part of me almost feels like I'm being generous with this spot, if anything.  They took such a solid game, and just did their best to ruin it with such an unrelentingly cruel difficulty.  I'm not saying racing games shouldn't be challenging, or demanding on the player, but it's too much here.  Not since Kawasaki Superbike Challenge have I been as demoralized by a racer as I was with Newman/Haas, and it really is a shame.

Did I beat it?
No.  This game is impossible.


#443 - Star Trek: The Next Generation - Future's Past



...or as I like to call it, Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Game of Mass Confusion and Space Battles From Hell.

This is the first Star Trek game I've covered, and the one I had the highest hopes for initially.  I mean, how could it not be great?  Pilot the Enterprise across the galaxy, unravelling a massive conspiracy, blowing apart other ships in heated dogfights, dropping off away teams to solve puzzles and battle across sprawling 3D maps?  While getting to play as bald dreamboat Jean-Luc?  Yes, please.

It shoulda been a classic.  Shoulda woulda coulda, because it's not.  At all.  Hell, it's barely even a cohesive experience, and easily could have fallen much further in the rankings.  I guess I was feeling generous, because even though I've steadily dropped it a hundred and fifty spots in the rankings over the last couple years, it could have fared much worse.  And I know Star Trek games have generally held a reputation for being pretty piss-poor for the most part, and I probably should have known better up front, but it still hurt to have to repeatedly drop it like that.

The game begins on the bridge of the Enterprise.  Here you can hail other ships, consult with your crew, acquire passwords and information on various systems and bases, head into warp, and review various other types of intel.  The majority of the game, however, is played in two different other phases:

Away team missions - Overhead levels where you control a squad of 1-4 members of the Enterprise comprising everyone from Deanna Troi to Geordi.  Think something like Zombies Ate My Neighbors or Soldiers of Fortune, but not nearly as good... in any way.  These missions are generally puzzle-filled or mazelike in nature, requiring you to repair a ship, rescue miners, track down an NPC, and so forth.  The gameplay is simple and fun, but there is little in the way of in-game help.  Miss one of those miners?  Guess you'd better retrace all of your steps (good luck with that).  Can't figure out what items to use where?  Beat your head against the wall until it's solved.  Either way, I still enjoyed every single one of them.  Who doesn't want to bust caps into giant alien worm asses?

Ship-to-ship combat - These segments on the other hand, are godawfulFor comparison, in the future I will be covering another SNES title called Star Trek: Starfleet Academy.  It's a decent little game, with a decent combat engine.  Future's Past takes the basic idea that was present there, and drives it into the ground.  And then takes a shit on it.  Combat between the Enterprise and an enemy ship always, always devolves into an endless game of circle strafing, with both ships pelting one another with phaser and photon torpedo fire until someone blows up.  Usually the Enterprise.  The only way to survive is to figure out a pattern that forces most of the enemy's fire to miss, so that you can survive long enough to take them down.  Which will take awhile.  And involves nothing but frantic button mashing.  And even if you are victorious, a second ship will often enter the fray, and fuck you in the ass.  Good times.  I'd say it's second only to Carrier Aces as far as being the worst dogfighting I'ver ever experienced in a video game.  And it might actually be worse.

Oh, and the truly brilliant part?  After completing one of the away team missions (which can take hours), you'll more likely than not run into a dogfight as you're returning to base.  Guess what happens if you lose?  Yep, you get to redo all of it.  Because the game does not deem it necessary to give you your password until after you successfully warp back to that friendly starbase.  Brilliant...fucking...design.

It was after the third occasion where I lost all of my mission progress thanks to another defeat in ship-to-ship combat that I had to throw in the towel with Future's Past.  I was enjoying the game despite its warts, and really wanted to see where the gameplay and storyline were going, but the pain of having to repeat the missions yet again was just too much for me to overcome.

Did I beat it?
Nope.  This is the one Star Trek title on Super Nintendo that defeated me.


#442 - Turn and Burn: No-Fly Zone



Chalk this up to being my vote for the stupidest name of any game in the Super Nintendo library.  Turn And Burn: No-Fly Zone?  That should be a video game trivia question; what two franchises were named after Top Gun quotes, and which one only lasted a single game because its title was so dumb?

...wait, I forgot about Hey Punk! Are You Tuff E Nuff? Master the Moves to Master Me!  That's way worse...  I mean, Jesus H. Christ, what were they thinking with that one?

Anyway, stupid name aside this is probably the closest thing to an actual flight sim on the system.  TnB tries to implement things like carrier takeoffs and landings, realistic HUDs and views, and dogfighting a little more akin to reality.  That doesn't mean this isn't still an arcade game at its core, but the sim trappings actually work pretty well. 

This is also basically the aerial combat version of Super Battletank, which means I can only presume this came from the same developer.  Why do I say that?  Because the way you cruise around the map at high speeds, trying to chase down your next bogey, and the ensuing games of high speed tag that result from it, play out almost exactly the same in many ways.  Though I do much prefer this game over the two tank titles, mostly because of the much lower frustration factor, and a few other little fun bits that are sprinkled throughout. 

In fact TnB is rather easy overall, as most of the enemies don't put up too much of a fight and you can always retreat back to your carrier to repair and resupply if need be.  Does that potentially rob the game of much of its challenge?  Yes.  But sometimes I don't want a challenge, I just want to shoot shit and not worry about it.  This game more than had me covered in that regard.

You start off every mission with a takeoff from a carrier, which is basically automated, just like in Microprose's Super Strike Eagle.  Landing back on the carrier tasks you with at least lining up your aircraft, but still automates the actual landing.  Once you're in the air you check your map for bogeys, and then zip towards them at high speed.  Once they're in range you down them with a missile or your vulcan cannon, and move on to the next target.  Rinse and repeat until you win the mission. It's that simple.

Occasionally though, you'll have to take out a land target.  When that happens the game switches over to a new "area" where an island sprite will appear in front of you via Mode 7.  You'll need to dodge incoming enemy fire while gunning down whatever structures make up your target, until it's destroyed or you're shot down.  Also very simple.  But still fun in a simple mindless way.

And that's really all there is to the game.  Splashing bogeys and blowing up island fortifications.  Something about it works better than it should, because I enjoyed my entire playthrough.  Mostly because I think there isn't much that the game does wrong.  It boasts really nice (albeit limited) visuals, everything on the HUD looks great, the frame rate is smooth, controls are solid, sound is nice, destroying enemies is satisfying, and so forth.  Yes the challenge is extremely limited, especially when compared to the likes of Carrier Aces, Wings 2, or Lock On, but that isn't always necessarily a bad thing.  Sometimes it's nice to have a breather.

Did I beat it?
Yes, a couple different times.


#441 - John Madden Football



Oh man, talk about humble beginnings.  Well, technically John Madden Football for Super Nintendo (and Genesis) isn't actually the first game in the series, but it is the first one that saw release on console.  And it's a far cry from the juggernaut franchise it would eventually become, arguably one of the biggest in the history of video games.  Hell, it's a far cry from the later iterations on the same system, a series that saw several incremental improvements across the board, from graphics, gameplay, and sound, to the acquisition of the NFL license, and the inclusion of a number of different bells and whistles.  But it all started here.

The graphics, framerate and animations are all decent, but were much improved later on in the series.  Well, the player models in the next two games were still pretty goofy looking, but everything else got better.  EA also didn't get the NFL license until the 1994 version of the game, and didn't start adding all of the extra shit until 1995 and 1996.  But the core gameplay is here, it's just a little "off" in various ways.

The running game and defending against the run are both pretty solid, and fun for the most part.  Madden staples such as the hurdle, stiff arm/power, spin, and dive are all present and accounted for, which gives some nice variety to your strategy.  Do you try to burn past the end?  Hurdle over the dives?  Run through the defender?  It's one of the things that I've always felt Madden got correct, right from the beginning.  It is harder to bust off "home run" plays than it would be later in the series, but I'm not sure if that's a bad thing or not.  More realistic?  Probably.  But more fun?  Probably not.

The passing game is completely busted though.  Some of the worst I have seen in any football game, and a night-and-day different from what we'd be seeing in later iterations in the series.  As far as I can tell, if you sit in the pocket with your quarterback for more than a second, your receivers will most likely finish their routes and then proceed to just do whatever.  I'm not saying that doesn't happen in real life at the end of the route, where busted plays quickly turn into bouts of improvisation.  But here it happens basically immediately.  As in, if you want a pass to go anywhere near where you intend it to, you have to throw the ball the instant it is hiked to you.  And that is ridiculous.

So, this is easily the worst Madden game on the Super Nintendo, and easily the worst one I've played on any system for that matter.  But the foundation of what was gonna make this such a good series was here.  EA, bless their hearts, actively worked to improve the product with each follow-up, and they made a substantial leap just the following year.  So while I don't think this installment of Madden is especially good, I can still enjoy it as a curiosity if nothing else.

Did I beat it?
Yes, I played through the postseason with somebody.  I forget who.


#440 - Bugs Bunny Rabbit Rampage



Another Sunsoft Looney Tunes game already?  Can we tell yet that I'm not a huge fan of their work?  Furthermore, Bugs Bunny Rabbit Rampage had to have been their highest profile release, with tons of ads and coverage in every magazine under the sun, and even a cover story with Nintendo Power.  This was supposed to be the big one!  Well suffice it to say, I was pretty disappointed when I finally got my hands on it, and would go so far as to say that BBRR has to be in the running for worst game that's ever been the feature story in a Nintendo magazine [note - I guess I forgot that they gave Wrestlemania and Road Runner Death Valley Rally covers as well... no comment there]

Now I will say that everything about the game's presentation is beautiful.  Bugs and all of the various enemies and bosses he encounters - all ripped straight out of classic episodes - look and animate wonderfully.  I'd even boldly claim it's one of the best looking platformers on the system.  And the music score sounds great, again mimicking many of the classic tunes features in his cartoons.

But looks only go so far, because the gameplay is once again pretty rough.  Granted it's not nearly as disastrous as that Road Runner game, but the poorly-thought-out mechanics and sloppy implementation and balancing certainly draw Duck Dodgers to mind.

The gist of most levels: move left to right until you reach the boss, and then bounce on his/its head until it dies.  But to the game's credit it does throw a few wrinkles at you.  Like defeating a series of wolves who are trying to knock down the three little piggies' houses, and yourself to boot.  Or the matador level, where you need to trick a bull into plowing into barriers so that your path is cleared.  Or making a series of blind jumps across flying Martian ships.  These ideas don't usually work, but they at least try to give the game some variety.

The combat is also not very good.  Bugs has been given plenty of options to get the job done, yet all of them are inferior to the best option: running away.  You know you have a problem when a game centers its design entirely around combat, and yet you're better off never engaging if at all possible.  anyway, the attacks are as thus:

Primary attack - throwing pies in your enemies' faces.  It is not very well done, and I can't say it's because of a hit detection problem, but more of an enemy "invulnerability" problem.

Secondary attack - a swift kick to the nuts.  Well, the groin area... basically Bugs is hitting the short area directly in front of him.  How is that different from what the pies do?  It isn't.

Tertiary attack - subweapons that you collect throughout the levels.  These includes bombs, sticks of dynamite, tomatoes, "holes," and other various wacky items from Bugs' cartoon history.  These also all kind of suck.  They'll trigger an animation, which does grant a very short period of invulnerability, but it also keeps you from getting out of harm's way in a speedy fashion.  And most (if not all) bosses are immune to subweapons anyway.

Uh, Quaternary attack? - a butt stomp of sorts.  This is gonna be your bread-and-butter move since the act of jumping up will at least keep you out of danger some of the time.

Despite that varied repertoire of moves, Bugs cannot attack while jumping, amazingly enough.  That seems like the sort of no-brainer that has been figured out since the original Castlevania, but Sunsoft didn't deem such a thing to be important.

The game also has this wonderful feature where you can "create" save points during levels by using one of the items you come across.  Or at least it would be wonderful if it didn't have a fatal flaw.  You see, Bugs will respawn at this save point, but none of the powerups throughout the level respawn with him.  So you're stuck with the dilemma of either A) trying to use the save immediately before the boss so that you can take him on at full health each time, or B) play it safe and save earlier in the level, which leaves you with no guarantee that you'll be getting to the boss in one piece each time.  In fact you most likely will not be.  It's one of those "damned if you do, damned if you don't" type of things.

One thing I did like though, was the rating you'd earn at the end of each level, based on the "pizzazz" (as the manual puts it) and efficiency through which you got through the level.  A good rating will award lives or continues, not that I ever saw any of those.  But it was still one of the best ideas the game has.

So overall I think it's a letdown, which makes Sunsoft Looney Tunes games 0/4 in regards to impressing me so far.  And just like usual, I was not able (or willing) to see it through to the end.  But they're at least making progress here.  The game is fun at times, and there are good ideas present.  And it looks and sounds great.  It's just not as good as you'd hope it would be, and it's certainly not on par with Konami's run of games made with Warner Brother cartoon properties.  In fact, I haven't gotten to any of those yet, which means Sunsoft was nearly universally worse at this on the Super Nintendo.  I realize Konami was stiff competition but... god damn.

Did I beat it?
No.  I got to the Marvin the Martian level on my fourth or fifth attempt and couldn't bring myself to start over once again after inevitably dying.


#439 - David Crane's Amazing Tennis



David Crane's Amazing Tennis - presumably named for the same developer who brought us A Boy and His Blob and not some obscure tennis pro - is an okay game.  It's perfectly playable, and moderately fun once you know what you're doing.  But it's not the game I had hoped it would be.

If you look at the screenshots up above, you'll notice that the game goes for a "behind the shoulder" perspective, as opposed to the more "bird's eye" view used by the rest of the tennis games on the system.  I will say it's ambitious, and definitely ahead of its time, as future tennis games such as the famed Virtua Tennis series opted for this same approach.  And though I don't think that it works very well here, I will at least appreciate what they were going for.  You see, as the rallies heat up the camera is going to track the ball by sliding left and right.  The problem with that is it never zooms in or out.  So if you hit the ball sharply to the right or left your player is gonna to move out of sight as the camera hurries to stay on the ball.  So when your opponent makes his return, you're scrambling to get into place without being able to see where you are.  It's very jarring, and to this day I still have a hard time adjusting to it.  I can also confidently say this is what costs me most of my points.

The game also seems a little too demanding with its hit detection.  I don't know how many times I've had the ball returned directly in front of me and then whiffed right through where I thought it was going.  I'm not saying that's the worst thing in the world, or that the game shouldn't demand skilled play from the user, but a crappy tennis player like me could have used a little more leniency.

My final gripe with the game is that it's pretty hard to play from the far end of the court.  You have almost no angle for seeing your half of the playing area which can make it really hard to get the ball over the net as you mistime your swings.  It can also be very hard to judge "drop" shots from your opponent, as you end up swinging over the ball because you're standing too far back.

Those grievances aside, it's a fun game.  The controls are perfect, the animation smooth, and I think it accurately captures the feeling of the sport.  When you get a rally going it can get pretty intense as you try to outmaneuver your foe.  Now granted I never made it especially far in any of the tournaments, and was lucky to beat a foe or two at best, but I can only imagine how tough the later opponents would be.

So overall, I think Crane's game is a huuuuuge improvement over the last two tennis games I covered awhile back, but still only the third best offering on the system.  I'll be covering another one in the near future, but I think both pale in comparison to that last remaining title.

Did I beat it?
No, I'm not much for knowing how to win at tennis (or tennis games).  I'm more of a table tennis player, where I can win through brute force and disguising my spin.


#438 - Wolverine Adamantium Rage



Remember when I was keeping track of how many bad games each of the different publishers had released, tallying up the various ranks they had "earned" at the bottom of every post?  And how I quickly realized just how long and unsustainable those lists were starting to get?  Eventually I had to drop them for the time being while I figured out a better solution.  But if I had kept that up, Wolverine would have been the 30th entry from LJN/Acclaim.  Let that sink in for a moment.  I'm still almost a hundred titles away from the halfway point, and the boys from Long Island have been responsible for over 10% of the games I've written about.  That's amazing when you think about it.  They may not have been responsible for as many sheer trainwrecks as THQ or Mindscape, but they have done more than their fair share to drag down the overall quality of the SNES library.

Wolverine can represent something of a watershed moment for the company though.  This is probably the first game of theirs where I can say there's legitimate fun to be had.  I know I admitted that I enjoyed Warlock quite a bit (mostly because I'm a sucker for the source material), but Logan's starring vehicle is the first one that seems like a fully realized game to me.

The gameplay is best described as a mixture of brawler and action platformer.  As in, stages are on a 2D plane, where you generally move from left to right, hopping up onto platforms, and trying to find the level exit.  But combat is ripped straight from a beat 'em up.  In fact the whole game kind of reminds me of a mix between The Incredible Hulk and X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse.  But not nearly as good or as polished as either of those games.

For starters, the combat is deep, but awkward.  You have all of these moves at your disposal, but they all have such weirdly specific hitboxes that it becomes a pain more than anything.  Even after spending at least half a dozen hours with the game I was still relying on the same two moves just so I could minimize the number of whiffs I was doling out.

The graphics and animation are pretty good though, and without caveat.  In fact, I'd say they're much better than any of the other LJN superhero games, which are a fairly ugly lot for the most part.  One only has to look at Comix Zone on Genesis to know that comic art can transfer over to 16 bit sprites if the artists are talented enough to make it happen, but this isn't usually the case on the Super Nintendo.  Wolverine is one of the few exceptions to that rule.

The game also makes a pretty bad first impression, with an opening mission that is super annoying.  It's chock-full of awkwardly placed enemy generators that must be destroyed in order to open up a series of doors.  To make matters worse, the enemies they spawn are constantly hitting you, interrupting your attacks and knocking you around.  It's one of the worst starting levels that I can recall across this entire project.  That's how bad it is.

I should also quickly mention that Wolverine's power of regeneration is present and accounted for.  Logan starts at 100% health, and will regen back up to it if given enough time.  While that sounds cool in theory, in reality it means lots of waiting around to heal.  Slowly.

Plus, that is kept in check by another mechanic, which acts as a soft time limit of sorts.  You see, there is a killer doll bomb thing that will eventually appear and chase you down, killing you instantly if successful.  Though I never really could figure out what the specifics around its appearances were, I'm assuming it spawns if you take too long in any given section.  It never seemed to happen consistently, so I'm not entirely sure.

Most of the boss fights, while cool in design, also kind of suck in practice.  The first one is the kind of crap where your best play is running up to his face and swinging your claws as fast as you can so that he'll die before you do.  The sort of thing where you have to wonder if it was ever actually playtested.

The second level is much less ambitious than the first, but way more enjoyable.  You'll fight a number of Ninja Warriors rejects in a bamboo forest, rapidly moving through houses and underground caves.  It's reminiscent of a second rate Shinobi, which isn't a terrible thing.  The game's second boss fight (a trio of armored ninja types) is also a much better design than the first guy, with tons of patterns to learn and strategies that can be used.  It's also insanely hard.  I nearly got them down a number of times, but continously got my ass handed to me, and eventually had to resort to watching a longplay which showed how to win with the help of a minor exploit.  Which is going to be a trend with this game: using exploits, which usually means finding a gap in the enemy patterns so that you can regen your health.  It's pretty dumb, but the game is so hard that you're usually just happy for the relief.

Later levels are mostly more of the same.  Kill dudes as you move through a city/streets/whatever, until you get to a boss who can either be cheesed with brute force, or acts as a total roadblock until you find an exploit.  And while no boss fight is as painfully difficult as the trio I described up above, even they are nothing compared to the most frustrating level overall; a maze stage near the end of the game.  It is made up of many different sections, most of them lengthy, and some of them fiendishly tricky to solve.  Your reward for spending an hour or two getting through it all is another frustrating boss fight that probably relies on exploits to safely beat.  And if you lose that fight, like I did?  You get to do it all again.  Every section.  That's the point where I threw in the towel.  It's unusual for me to give up on games when I'm so close to beating them, and I had already assumed I had this one in the bag.  But facing the task of getting through that level again for the third time broke me, and I put up my white flag.

Anyway, it's still a decent game, and I tried not to let the sour taste of defeat spoil my mood on it too much.  But overall it's still too rough, too uneven, and too sadistic to really deserve a rank much higher than this.  I think Acclaim/LJN could have had something great with a sequel that smoothed out all of these course edges.

Did I beat it?
No, the challenge starts at brutal and works up to sadistic.


#437 - SeaQuest DSV



So, one of the other things I "do" on the internet (or did on the internet, depending on when you read this) is run an annual thread where everyone tries to beat each and every one of the Super Nintendo games.  As you may or may not know, sometimes we fare rather well, sometimes we don't.  Of course the popular titles like Mega Man X and Donkey Kong Country are always knocked out rather quickly; everyone loves them, and everyone knows how to burn through them easily.  And then there are hundreds upon hundreds of games that almost never get beaten.  In fact, many of them had never been cleared before I went to the painstaking lengths of reviewing years' worth of data so that I could log each and every game, when it was completed, and who did it.  That whole endeavour sucked major balls, but I'm glad I did it.  Partially because that also gave me a master list of games previously unbeaten, which let us then shift focuses and target those specific titles.  And one by one those previously uncleared titles have fallen.  As of this writing there are only thirteen left, and exactly one of those remaining titles is not a sports game.  Any guesses as to what game that sole survivor may be?

I've sunk a number of hours into SeaQuest DSV over the years.  Partially because I wanted to clear it from that damn list, and partially because I thought there was a pretty good game buried in here somewhere.  Do I still think that?  I'm not sure.  It depends on how recently the game has pissed me off.

I'm not gonna regale us with the history of the television show (mostly because I never watched it), but I'm fairly sure it was an "underwater Star Trek" that had Steven Spielberg involved in some capacity, and starred Roy Scheider and Jonathan Brandis, before he hung himself.  Possibly because his career had tanked enough that he was stuck starring in shows like SeaQuest DSV[Too soon? - editor]

Anyway, the game tasks you with navigating your overly large submarine around big underwater areas from an isometric overhead view, similar to something like the Strike series.  Here you'll sink enemy vessels, discover various caves, wreckage, and other points of interest, and spend lots of time wandering around wondering what to do.  When you do "enter" any of the locations you come across you're brought to a 2D type of level similar to a game like Ecco the Dolphin, where you'll need to blow up more enemy vessels, retrieve cargo, or save people.

Now all of these things do have promise.  It's fun cruising around the ocean floor, trying to come across hidden secrets, battling other subs, and just letting the atmosphere soak in (did I ever mention that I have a massive soft spot for "ocean" games?).  And the 2D levels start off well, with good controls, variety to the action, and a number of different vehicles you can choose from.  But things start to unravel at an alarming rate.  And that's for two primary reasons...

First, the game is way too confusing.  I can never tell what I'm supposed to do, where I'm supposed to go, or what my overall "objective" is.  I guess you're just supposed to wander around trying to trigger events until something happens.  Or you perfectly decipher the game's cryptic directions and head where you're supposed to go.  I'll let you guess on which one of those things happens most of the time.

Second, the game is too unforgiving.  The whole thing is divided into several large levels where you have to complete a number of smaller missions with a limited number of available craft, a limited number of attempts allowed, where trial and error often reigns supreme.  Worst of all though, you have to start each level over from scratch upon game over.  I don't know how many times I had to redo the first half a dozen missions, but it was way more than any sane person would have put themselves through. 

Some of the mechanics are really iffy too.  Your sub on the main map is way too large and bulky, which doesn't make the combat especially fun.  And the controls and hit detection during the missions are very spotty.  Especially with any of the more "limber" vessels such as the dolphin (yes, seriously).  One mission in particular, where you need to blast through tons of rocks, while dodging other rocks, so that you can rescue some trapped people, is especially maddening.  I'm not sure how many tries it took me to finally clear it, but trust me when I say it was way too many.

Did I have fun with SeaQuest?  Yeah, despite all of my grievances I still have to admit that I did, for some reason.  And I genuinely do want to go back and clear it at some point, mostly to see what future missions and maps hold.  But I also know it's probably not gonna happen.  I'd just get to the same roadblock missions again, suffer defeat again, get frustrated again, and quit again.

Did I beat it?
Nope, I admitted defeat at some point and have yet to try it again.


#436 - Dig & Spike Volleyball



One of two volleyball games on the system.  I would never profess to be any sort of expert in the game.  Hell, I've barely played it since high school gym.  Mostly just during drunken barbeques where you're mostly laughing at the hilariously bad (non)plays that happen.

I will happily admit that I have never played another volleyball game aside from this and Hyper V-Ball.  Hell, I'm not sure if I can even name another volleyball game other than Super Spike on NES.  And I'm not even 100% sure that was the title!  So in other words, I have zero baseline for how these games play, and can only compare them against one another, and how much fun I had with them in relation to the rest of the Super Nintendo library.

Upon starting you have the choice of either volleyball or "beach volleyball."  Aside from the obvious difference of one being played on a gym floor and the other in a sand pit (or the beach), beach volleyball is 2v2 while the regular game is 6v6.  Presumably the beach sport should also slower and the players wouldn't be leaping as high, but I didn't notice much if any difference.  And any other differences would be beyond me.  For the purposes of this review I tried out both game types, but my most recent session (thirty minutes ago) was beach volleyball, so that's what's freshest in my mind.

Before starting a match you will pick a team.  Some appear to be really good at everything, some things, or nothing.  So I guess you go with one of the shitty teams if you feel like challenging yourself.  All teams are measured in power, jump, and speed.  After that you select how many matches you want to play, the point system (not that I have any idea what those are), and the starting scores (a handicap of sorts I'm guessing).

Gameplay is pretty basic, much like the real sport (I'm sure any volleyball enthusiasts will gladly tell me off on this one).  One team serves, the other team bumps, sets, and spikes, the first team does the same, until someone hits it out, hits the net, or nails their opponent's floor.  And this all done mostly automatically.  All you really need to do is position players (an 'X' will indicate where the other team's serve is gonna land), press a button to bump, automatically set, and direct your spike with the D-Pad.  When the other team is spikes you press B to jump and try to block it.  Easy peasy.

And it all works well enough.  Controls are smooth, the hit detection is not too demanding, and you'll be off and running after 5-10 minutes getting used to the game.  But I found it a bit shallow.  Once you get into a pattern of trying to spike around your opponents and block their shots in turn, you're just doing the same things over and over again.  As far as I can tell it doesn't have the sort of nuances you'd see in the real game, like faking a spike and instead blooping it over your opponent's outstretched arms.  I don't know if that's a thing in professional volleyball, but it certainly is in casual backyard matches and adult rec leagues.

In the end I'd say I had a decent time with the game, but it's not exactly something I was dying to get back to.  Even though I had expected to enjoy it more than I did Hyper V-Ball, I ended up playing that other game quite a bit more.  Considering this is the much better-looking and sounding game, that should tell you just how much I preferred the gameplay in McO'River's title.

Did I beat it?
No, I sucks.


#435 - Battle Grand Prix



Yep, it's another one of those overhead racers.  Did that genre ever have a name?  I just call them Micro Machines clones, but for all I know that wasn't even the first series to do this style.  Toy car racers?  Because that makes me think of a game like RC Pro AM.  Maybe no one ever bothered to come up with something.

Battle Grand Prix is actually fairly similar to Cyber Spin, a title I just covered in the last volume.  Both games have very similar handling and graphical styles, which is to say, I think they look and feel pretty good.  Steering is on point, there's lots of nice little details in the sprites, and both games have an absolutely wonderful sense of speed.  Which I guess could be considered both a good and a bad thing.  Good because no one wants to play a prodding racer.  Bad because the view is so claustrophobic that whenever you crank up to maximum speed it is only a matter of time before you are late reacting to a turn and crash spectacularly.  Which in this game is practically a death sentence since placing anywhere near the top is very, very hard.  Yes I know I am terrible at racing games, and yes I keep saying that about all of them, but I swear the bottom half of the SNES racing library is full of some tough as nails mothers.

Now I will say that the game does shine a bit in the two player mode.  Normally I don't even look at these games from that perspective, because no one in their right mind would play Redline F1 Racer with me, but here I knew I had to test it out.  I could tell that the ingredients at work here (insane speeds, unforgiving tracks, cramped view) would be hilarious in two player.  So I busted this out at one of my game nights.  And it was a bit of a success.  Not a big success, but a success.  In the same way Battletoads is a success, everyone gets a great laugh out of the heaping amounts of fail on display.

So overall, it's the same story as Newman/Haas Racing - a pretty good game that is partially ruined by the difficulty.  BGP is a racing game I wanted to love.  Hell, it's a game I anticipated I would love.  But it's just too hard.  You'll have to completely and absolutely memorize every single part of the track if you want to have a prayer at winning.

Did I beat it?
No.  Occasionally I get first place because the AI is dumb and has all of my opponents pit on the penultimate lap or something, but those victories are rare.


#434 - Tuff E Nuff



Hey Punk! Are you Tuff E Nuff? Master the Moves to Master Me! aka Tuff E Nuff aka the dumbest video game title in all of gaming, is what happens when you ask yourself "Hey, what if Street Fighter II had been made in a parallel universe by Jaleco instead of Capcom?  One where the life bars are on the side of the screen, everything moves and animates slightly differently, there's password continues, the storyline is even dumber than SFII's was, and the main hero gets his fashion advice from Vanilla Ice."

Gameplay is pretty standard stuff; kick, punch, throw fireball, yadda yadda yadda.  The only thing I noticed that was remotely out of the ordinary was a mid-air throw move that I pulled off a few times by accident.  It's also possible I hallucinated that happening.  Either way, it was pretty cool.

The controls could be a little tighter, as swallowed up inputs weren't common, but did rear up from time to time.  There's also a strange little pause that happens after someone connects a hit.  I cannot tell if that's by design, or if the game is just struggling to catch up with the action.  It's not a huge deal as it doesn't seem like you're intended to be pulling off huge combos, but it did throw me off a bit during my first couple fights or so.

I also have to mention that the game can be pretty damn hard in single player.  I know I always complain about that in fighters (in addition to racing games), mostly because I am absolutely horrid at this genre, but this is yet another instance of a game where I seem to find myself staring at the final boss fight at 2:00 AM, just begging him to lay down and die already so that I can go to bed.  It's not SNK game bad, or Mortal Kombat bad, but it's still a pretty tall order to clear this game.

I do have to admit that I dig the soundtrack.  It sounds like a poor man's mix of Mega Man X and Street Fighter II... but in a good way.  You know what I mean?  It's also probably another instance where I spent more time listening to the OST on Youtube while I was at work than I did playing the actual game.

All in all I'll call it a decent fighter, that isn't bad for an early entry in the genre's history.  It doesn't have the graphics and animation of an SNK game, the nuance of Weaponlord, or the insanity of Ultimate Fighter, but it's an interesting little curiosity in its own right.

I also gotta quickly mention how the Super Famicom title and boxart are like a thousand times cooler than what we got in the West.  I mean, who doesn't love how the hero's pecs are spilling out of his purple bra?



...oh, and lastly, I gotta give a shout out to Beans.  The only fighting game character I've ever seen who not only resembles Beef from The Phantom of the Paradise, but whose designated weapon is his "American Sack."  Be very afraid.

Did I beat it?
Yes, on easy.  Possibly again on medium.  I dunno, it was quite awhile ago.


#433 - Alien vs. Predator



So strictly going off my memory here (which is probably not the greatest idea since we're talking about a property that is over 25 years old), I'm going to say the origins of Alien vs Predator trace back to a crossover comic book series from Dark Horse Comics.  This was during an era where many classic science fiction properties were being dug up for brand new book and comic series.  We're talking Star Wars, Star Trek, and of course, Alien and Predator.  And as a young child who was both enthralled and alarmed by extreme graphic violence in media, they drew me in like a moth to flames.  I mostly remember the Alien adaptations.  Whenever my family went to the mall I would quickly hunt down the comics at the B. Daltons or Waldenbooks, and I even conned my grandparents into buying me several of the books.  Now I was a pretty adventurous kid back then, reading Stephen King while other kids were reading R.L. Stine (until the school caught wise and put a stop to that), but these Aliens books were almost too much for me.  People being graphically ripped to pieces by nightmares-made-flesh xenomorphs?  I still ate it up, but some part of me was scared shitless by the things.

Anyway at some point I noticed that the various properties had started to cross over.  There was Superman vs Alien, Batman vs Predator, Archie vs Ripley (probably), and of course, Alien vs Predator.  I still remember one of the original covers, clear as day...



Around the same time I also became aware of the existence of this video game.  Specifically, I noticed that my local Hastings had it as a rental, with the box art immediately grabbing my attention.  Now, by the time this happened I had already moved onto playing N64 (and PC games of the era) so there was no chance I was gonna waste my time on an "old" SNES game.  Yeah, I still collected them from time to time when the opportunity arose, but I had more or less stopped bothering to actually play them.  But I never forgot about the game.  I could tell from the screenshots on the back that it was some sort of action/brawler sort of thing, which I thought looked pretty cool.  So I filed it away in the memory banks and moved on.

Flash forward to the early 2010s, and SNES was back on the menu in a big way.  I had by that point come to the conclusion that I was gonna get a full set, beat all of the games, and write about them.  Alien vs Predator was one of the first ones I popped in for this purpose.  And man was I underwhelmed.  The action was repetitive, the difficulty curve wildly out of balance, and the Predator moved and attacked like a gimpy old bastard, not the universe's greatest hunter.  I was let down, but not surprised.  The game was practically unknown, with no media coverage that I could remember, and it was released by Activision of all studios.  The odds were always long that this was gonna be some sort of hidden gem.

Eventually I sat with it long enough to figure out what did and didn't work, and plowed through the game.  And I've plowed through it a number of times since.  And my final verdict is... that it's alright.  It has decent graphics, but bad animation.  Lots of moves, cool bosses and various xenomorph designs, but it's relatively short even for a brawler.  Whacking xenomorphs with laser discs and spears is fun, but also very repetitive.  Though I guess that kind of comes with the territory as far as brawlers go.  It's also woefully unbalanced, with lots of cheap enemy attacks, and lots of exploits to be found (hint: use the laser, use the laser, use the laser), and on and on.  In other words, very flawed.  But I have to admit that I still have a little fun every time I play through it.  And who doesn't appreciate aliens and predators, regardless of their flaws?

Did I beat it?
Yes, many times.


#432 - Lethal Enforcers



[full disclosure - I did not revisit this with the Konami light gun.  I used the SNES controller, and emulated with an optical mouse]

I remember the first time I laid eyes on Lethal Enforcers.  It was in an Aladdin's Castle arcade back in my hometown, where the cab was nestled up right near the front, just to the side of the prize booth.  The impression made on me was immediate - the game seemed so action-packed, so thrilling, so... visceral.  I had to play it.

Of course I didn't actually play it, mostly because I had no money and my parents weren't about to waste theirs on watching me blow people away.  But I watched a few other people play it.  And I was enthralled.  Criminals being gunned down as they leap out from behind cover.  Innocent civilians begging for help.  Bosses that soaked up damage while launching rockets at you?  I had never seen anything like that.

Flash forward to a few years later when the SNES version came out, and I did finally get to play it... briefly.  A buddy of mine had rented it, and every single one of our circle of friends went over to his house to bathe in its gloriousness.  And so I joined them and patiently waited my turn to plug some terrorist bastards.  And plug them I did.  From about two inches away.  I still remember his older brother giving me shit for doing it.  I didn't care, it was an effective strategy.

Coming back to the game 25 years later, I can say the game is still pretty fun.  Yeah, like most games of this style it looks and sounds laughably bad nowadays, but in a way the core gameplay is almost... timeless?  What I guess I mean by that is, regardless of how much games advance or evolve through the years, or how many different trends come and go, there is always gonna be a simple pleasure to quick-shooting pop-up targets with a fake gun.

And make no mistake, the graphics and sounds in this game are bad.  Similar to Revolution X, everything is so blurry and compressed that it's usually hard to even tell what you're looking at.  Often the only way to tell if someone is good or bad is by the sound they make when they jump out.  And it doesn't help that occasionally enemies will instantly shoot you with almost no warning, which makes you want to shoot first and ask questions later.  Except the sprites are so muddy and compressed that it's often hard to tell friend from foe.  So prepare to shoot a fair number of civilians by accident, heavy penalty in tow, until you train yourself to react to sound and not sight.

I also have to give a special shout-out to the Area Four boss.  It's a guy manning a turret in a helicopter, and is by far the game's biggest "F U" moment.  I don't know what the hell they were thinking with this part, but it pretty much ruined every run I've ever tried to make in this game.  Remember that difficulty chart I made for Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus?...



But yeah, like I said it's still a fun game, all these years later.  Of course it can't hope to compete with the fancy Time Crisis games and Silent Scopes and Point Blanks and all that, but it will always be fun.

Did I beat it?
Yes, but just on Easy.  I'd be real impressed if someone could beat this on Normal with the SNES controller.


#431 - Pac-Attack



The first of the system's three (four?) "Pac" games, Pac-Attack is a puzzle game that takes the age old Tetris formula and adds a twist by injecting elements of classic Pac-Man gameplay into it.  By that I mean you now drop blocks and ghosts.  And Pac-Mans... Pac-Men?  Pac-Manses?  Who cares, let's just see if I can use the word "Pac" two hundred more times over the course of this review.

I think I've stated this sometime before, but, I'm a pretty big puzzle game fan.  Which isn't to say that I love them, but I do like most of them.  Even the crappier ones.  And PA leans just onto the correct side of being a (slightly) enjoyable puzzler.

The best way I can explain the gameplay is that it is indeed Tetris with a twist, but that it's also somehow simpler and yet more complicated at the same time.  Humor me and pretend that makes any sense to you whatsoever.  To clarify, you are working a vertical shaft [... - editor], dropping blocks and trying to clear lines just like you would in the landmark Russian game.  The difference here is that you're only working with six columns instead of ten, and you will only ever receive "L" shaped blocks that are made up of three objects.  Herein lies the rub though, because those "objects" will consist of regular blocks, ghosts, and the Pac-Mans.  The ghosts effectively act as an impediment, or barrier, blocking your progress in clearing lines.  And I'm sure you can guess what the purpose of the Pac-Mans is.  It's a simple premise, and it should work.

The problem is it's all too aggravating.  It's not enough to just rotate the blocks, because now you also need to flip them so that Pac-Man will head in the right direction once he's in play.  You see, he takes off in a straight line forward once he lands and you will need to do your best to corral him in the direction the ghosts are.  It adds an extra sense of urgency and demands for strategic play, which some enthusiasts may enjoy.  But I just find it stressful.  It's never apparent what's gonna happen just by glancing at the board, and you don't have enough time to study where his path is gonna go.  So the end result is I never feel like I'm in complete control of what's happening onscreen, and surviving a level is just that...  surviving.

There's also an included puzzle mode that is decently fun.  It's also nice enough to provide passwords to save your progress, which is always great.  But it's also super annoying that a screw up basically costs you a clear and yet the game keeps going like it expects you to pick up the pieces with your remaining moves.  It needs a "restart puzzle" option pretty badly.

So overall it's probably a mixed bag, that I still enjoyed.  In fact puzzle enthusiasts will probably find plenty to sink their teeth into here.  I just get extreme anxiety playing it.  That seems a bit melodramatic, but I never feel comfortable with it, and I never want to play it more than once at a time.

Did I beat it?
I "looped" the main mode by getting the bar filled which summoned a fairy.  So... sort of?


#430 - Tecmo Secret of the Stars



Here it is, one of the most infamous JRPGS on the system.  Maybe one of the most infamous JRPGs in gaming history.  Notable for its hilariously awful translation, NES-quality graphics, insanely obtuse fetch quests, and hideous box art, Tecmo Secret of the Stars has a reputation for being one of the worst roleplaying games you could ever play.  And while I agree that this game is not especially great - and easily one of the weakest JRPGs I have ever played through - it is not the out-and-out trainwreck that some make it out to be.

I mean, that should already be obvious, right?  I've already covered a number of other role playing games in my writing.  Paladin's Quest's translation was worse, or at least more annoying, with everything being truncated into indecipherable garbage.  Super Ninja Boy was uglier; at least this game has decent spritework on some of the enemy designs.  King Arthur was much more maddeningly annoying to play.  And the fetch quests in Lord of the Rings were at least eleventy trillion times worse than what's present here.  So I shouldn't have to explain too much as to why I favor TSotS over the lot of them.

Let's start though by looking at the "Three tenets of JRPGs" that I pulled out of my ass in the last installment:

A Coherent Storyline and Characters with Depth
I can't do a great job of explaining the storyline because not only is it translated pretty badly horribly, but most of the details have slowly slipped my mind in the sixteen months that have passed since I played through it.  Something about you being the son of some magical warrior guy, who must travel around the world and recruit a number of other divine warriors so that you can work together to bring down some big bad forever.  Hardly riveting or groundbreaking stuff.

Now I will say there is at least an attempt at developing the characters here.  I mean, no one's ever gonna mistake this game for Final Fantasy III/VI in that regard, but at least they tried.  For instance, everyone you recruit (and there are a lot of them) either has a fun little quest you undertake in order to find them, or you free them, or persuade them to join you, or even defeat them in combat.  Every one of your core party members can also be upgraded, or promoted in a sense, by undertaking a trial of sorts.  That's the sort of high-concept stuff that I dig, and it was pulled off reasonably well here. 

A Fun Battle System That Stays Engaging
Overall, meh.  It's pretty typical old school Dragon Quest type of stuff: attack, defend, use item, use spell, flee, etc.  Which isn't to say that I don't like those types of battle systems, or that they can't get the job done.  The DQ series and Earthbound are proof enough of that.  But they weren't exactly trying to push any boundaries here.

Challenging Yet Fair Gameplay
*blows raspberry* Yeah they fucked this one up in many ways.  Or at least the "fair" part.  Remember how I mentioned the cryptic fetch quests?  Well, you're gonna need an FAQ on hand for this bad boy, even if you aren't the sort of person to normally lean on that sort of a crutch.  And I don't know how many times I got lost trying to figure out where to go, or what to do, or in what direction I was supposed to be heading in one of the many dungeons.

In addition, one of the dealbreakers for many people is the "two party" system in this game.  By that I mean you are supposed to manage two different rosters of characters throughout your quest.  Basically, think of the segments in Final Fantasy III/VI where you switch between different groups in a dungeon so that they can hit triggers and open doorways for one another.  Except this goes on for the entire game.  Annoying, right?  Having to grind levels, buy gear, and keep track of double the number of assholes?

Well it would be extremely annoying, except for one tiny little detail.  You see, you don't ever have to fight anything with that second group because this game lets you escape from every random encounter if you feel like it.  Every time.  Hell, if there weren't any bosses I'm fairly sure you could get through this entire game at level 1.  So while the two party idea is a pretty stupid and ill-advised one, it ends up being more of a minor nuisance rather than an overt disaster.

In the end I have to say that Secret of the Stars is a bit of a blasé affair.  Not bad enough to earn its reputation, but not nearly good enough to recommend over most of the other role playing games on the Super Nintendo.  And it is a far cry from any of the elite titles on the system.  Then again, so are most games.

Did I beat it?
I did.  Of course I had a walkthrough on hand at all times, because I do that with all of the "lesser" RPGs, but I still plowed through to the end.  Something most people would not be willing to do.


#429 - Spider-Man/X-Men: Arcade's Revenge



The second Spider-Man game I've covered, Spider-Man/X-Men Arcade's Revenge was actually the first one to be released on the system.  I'd also say this is the Spidey title - Maximum Carnage aside - that people are most familiar with.  It is also one of those games where I swear its only fans are the people who grew up with it...

As the title would imply, the game lets you play as both Spidey and several of the X-Men.  Specifically, Wolverine, Cyclops, Dolphin Girl Storm, and Gambit.  Each hero stars in an assortment of their own levels, with the freedom to pick which hero you want to progress with.  Well, "freedom" after you're forced to start off with the first Spider-Man level on each fresh attempt.  That gets old real fast too, let me tell you.

Spider-Man Level 1 - A hunt for bombs.  Whoever thought this was a good idea for a level should be shot.  Lots of backtracking, and it gets real repetitive after you've gone through it for the twentieth time.  Spider-Man controls decently, but I really wish you could avoid clinging to walls that you touch.  And why can't you launch your "swinging" web when jumping?

Spider-Man Level 2 - Navigate through a maze of twisted, broken buildings, with laser-firing robots and sharp killer rebar at every turn.  This is one is a serious ramp up in difficulty from the first level, with a severe lack of health pickups, and tricky platforming at every turn.  You can collect gold and silver spiders throughout the level, but I have no idea what they do.  At several points throughout the level there are minibosses of some sort, but the graphics in this game are so simplistically drawn that I have no idea who or what they were supposed to be.  The final boss is a gargoyle of sorts.

Wolverine Level 1 - Slice through a legion of life-sized killer toys, while losing sight of your character behind the numerous objects in the foreground in this annoying stage.  Wolverine has three abilities: attack forwards, attack upwards, and extract/retract your claws.  Why would you attack without your claws?  I have no idea.  You'll also need to progress through walls by breaking them when you see a weak point.  But this only works some of the time.  Why?  I have no idea. [note - I guess you have to uppercut them.  Except for the times where you can punch them.  WTF?]

Gambit Level 1 - A race against a large rolling ball that is trying to crush you.  Gambit has a ranged card attack (but limited ammo), with which he can clear out the various animated chess pieces that are out for his blood.  This is the level with the infamous "infinite lives" trick, but I can never pull it off.  Mostly because trying to race to the trick's spot fast enough to actually have time to rack up some lives means I die on the way there through sloppy play.

Cyclops Level 1 - Explore a crystalline cave, riding minecarts and avoiding electrified tracks.  As you'd expect Cyclops attacks with his trademarked laser vision thingy, but also has a wimpy punch and kick for some reason.  I guess you can rely on them if you want to make an already difficult game impossible.  This one is reasonable with its challenge, but still pretty reliant on trial and error, learning where to go and what to do.

Storm Level 1 - You swim through water, shooting lightning from your face, killing vicious fish and squid, and blowing up containers full of water so that you have more water to swim in, all while trying not to drown.  I swear I'm not making this up.  Interestingly enough, this level has no health, just an oxygen supply.  It also becomes something of a double-edged sword.  On one hand you can always heal, so long as you backtrack towards some O2 bubbles.  On the other hand, it leaves little margin for error on sections in-between the bubbles, and it means more backtracking.  Because that is what this game needed, more backtracking.  Overall it's not a bad idea, but not the greatest execution.

Spider-Man Level 3 - Another platforming maze, this time with the addition of a "wind" mechanic (think Ninja Gaiden II).  Bosses are Carnage and Rhino.

Those are just the levels I was able to see, so god knows how many more of them there are.  And that's because this game is damn hard.  Many of the levels are pretty unforgiving, with instant death pits, or balls that crush you, or water that drowns you, or bosses that aggressively sap your health.  There's also no in-level checkpoints, which is just brutal.  You also have a limited number of lives that are shared across all heroes.  But extra ones are fairly sparse, and they don't reappear on later attempts.  And once all of those lives are gone you go right back to the main menu.  No passwords, no saves, nothing.  So you have to get used to playing the same levels over and over again.

The graphics are also very ugly and simplistically drawn.  Like many early SNES games I'd even say it barely looks better than an NES game.  The animations are also pretty horrible for the most part, making the whole thing a visual letdown.  The soundtrack on the other hand is what I can only describe as "hilariously silly."  I dig it, and can honestly say I've listened to it a couple of times while I was at work.

Overall, this reminds me of a decent NES game, that seriously needed unlimited continues in order to blunt its challenge.  The levels can be overcome with persistence, but having to do it all in one run is just too much.  Tack on having to replay that damned bomb level over and over again, and I had had enough after a couple dozen attempts.  I know people like this game, but I can only assume most of them grew up with the game.  It's a very rough product that needed some more time in testing, and this ranking is a bit generous if anything.

Did I beat it?
No.  I maybe could have if the game had checkpoints, but after the millionth run through the first level I was starting to go insane.


#428 - The Jungle Book



Oh, Jesus.  These Disney games are gonna be the death of me.  Why is it that every single one is either insanely easy, or insanely hard?  Why was there such a wild pendulum swing with these things?  Were the various developers constantly overcorrecting from the last title?  Were these titles rushed onto the market without proper tuning?  Was this all some sort of Mengelian experiment to test the mettle of children?  They all seem like reasonable hypotheses to me!

The gameplay is kind of like a mix of The Lion King and Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure.  As in, lots of jungle platforming and animal murdering, with liberal vine swinging.  And that is what you do across the first two levels; swing through the jungle, occasionally bopping things to death, and grabbing power-ups that do God knows what.  Pretty standard fare.

But then at the level three mark things escalate difficulty-wise.  Dramatically.  This is where you meet the first boss, Kaa, and he is a doozy.  I just... I don't even have words for this fight.  It's a relatively simple thing in nature; Kaa pops out of various corners of the screen and shoots homing hypnotizing rays at you while you pepper him with ranged attacks.  But those homing attacks just keep coming back again and again and again... it's insane.  It may be the hardest boss fight I've ever experienced in a kids' game.  Hell, it's one of the hardest boss fights in a Super Nintendo game period.  And it happens ten minutes in.  Like, what the hell were Virgin thinking?  Did no warning flags come up during development?  Did anyone even test this thing?

I eventually had to resort to playing on the "Practice" difficulty in order to progress and beat that SOB.  Practice mode, in a kid's game... that is either a pathetic indictment of this game, or myself.  Probably both.  Though the joke was on me because you are kicked back to the main menu after beating him this way.

So eventually I pushed through and defeated him legitimately and continued on.  And got a game over on level four.  And then I tried again, and made it to level five, before losing all my lives.  So I started again.  And made it to level four again.  And that's when I threw the towel in.  Much like Toy Story, there reached a point where I couldn't continue on.  I'm sick of the beginning levels, and I don't want to play it anymore.  I know I could beat it given enough time, but I feel like it was given more than enough of it already.

Now to be fair the difficulty is partially offset by the game being fairly generous with lives.  And you can also earn continues by collecting red gems, though you begin with zero continues, which seems a bit harsh.  There's also green gems scattered about, but I don't know what they do.

So overall it's a decent Disney game, with good graphics, good animation, good controls, and satisfying gameplay.  It's just too hard for its own good.  With an extra couple continues right off the bat, or hell, unlimited continues, TJB would have cracked the top 400.  But that one shortcoming is enough to hold it back.

Did I beat it?
No, I struggle mightily with the tougher "half" of the Disney library.  So, spoiler-alert, I probably won't be beating The Lion King before I cover that one either.


#427 - Super Batter Up



Twenty five random thoughts while playing Super Batter Up:

1.  Good god is this the ugliest cart in my collection.  It's so yellow it's not even yellow.  It's like spicy brown mustard colored.
2.  Horrific graphics and animation.  Hell, does this game even have animation?  It barely looks better than the old RBI Baseball games.
3.  The music (what little there is) and sound are pretty good.  It's very "early SNES" sounding, but in a good way, if that makes sense?
4.  The options are pretty limited; basically just single games or a season. But that's not unusual for the sport on this system.
5.  The first thing I noticed upon starting the game is how out of whack the size of the field is.  It looks like you're playing at a high school softball field.
6.  This is probably the easiest baseball game on the system as far as generating offense goes, which is a nice change of pace.  Making contact is never a problem, and once you get used to the mechanics and settle into a rhythm you can string together hits.
7.  ...which goes for your opponents as well.  Anticipate some super high-scoring games.
8.  Like usual, the AI is also way too stupid to defend against any baserunning shenanigans, which I'm always happy to abuse.
9.  ...and of course, like usual, the baserunning controls are super confusing.  I just mash away until good things happen.
10.  Did I mention that I like the music?  It's worth repeating.  Every little baseball melody is present and accounted for.
11.  The pitching kind of sucks.  You really only control the movement of the ball in-flight since you can't select pitches, or vary the speed, which makes things very limiting.
12.  This means that limiting how much damage your computer opponents do is very tricky, if not impossible.
13.  At several points I thought I had figured out gaps in the AI for easy strikeouts.  But either the tricks don't last for long, or you have to be incredibly precise to consistently pull them off.
14.  Baserunners also love to run on fly balls.  I really hate that SNES baseball games couldn't figure out how to make the AI not do that.
15.  Fielding is also pretty tricky since it is often hard to tell where fly balls are gonna land until you pick out their shadows, and your fielders move so slow that getting there without a jump on the ball is probably not gonna happen.  Worse, you cannot move when holding a ball, which means no running to the nearest base.  It's a very bizarre quirk, which will cost you a number of errors.
16.  Actually I take that back.  You can tell your guy to head to the designated base with the press of a button.  It's still awkward, and would be much easier if you could just run him there yourself.
17.  When left to its own devices the fielding can be extremely hit or miss.  My advice is to assume you're gonna need to make the play on your own.
18.  Overall the game is very fast paced, which I always welcome.  Especially with baseball where optimally you could get an entire game played in less than half an hour.
19.  The game nails the atmosphere of the game, with the sounds and music and little bits of pageantry thrown in here and there (such as the pregame ritual).
20.  I love how the ball kicks up dirt (or maybe it's smoke) when it hits the ground in the outfield.  They must be playing every game in the Coliseum.
21.  Namco really didn't have much of a presence on the Super Nintendo, did they?  This, Suzuka 8 Hours, the Pac-Man games... umm, I'm drawing a blank on anything else here.
22.  Why did I pick a baseball game to do the "25 thoughts" thing?  How many possible gameplay points are there to talk about in these games?
23.  I cannot tell what that insignia on the cover art is, but this game only has the player licenses, no franchises.
24.  Overall it's a decent effort, but a far cry from the better baseball games on the system...
25.  ...a number of which will be covered shortly here in Volume VIII of this thing.

Did I beat it?
No.  I didn't even bother trying to do anything other than exhibition games, which I never won anyway.


#426 - Oscar



Oscar, another Titus title, and the millionth platformer I've covered, kind of comes across as a poor man's Bubsy.  Yes, you read that right, and yes, I have this rated higher than Bubsy.  Explanation?  I think that even though the game has a lack of fresh ideas or inspiration, and some sorely misplaced character and sound design, the game is kinda fun to play, despite itself.  Does that make sense?  Well it makes sense to me, for whatever that's worth.

The central gimmick here is that our pal Oscar needs to collect "Oscars" (as in the motion picture awards) inside various movie scenes, which will then unlock each level's exit.  No, this game is not endorsed or affiliated with the Academy of Motion Pictures in any way, but that didn't stop Titus from trying to tie it in in the loosest possible sense.

The controls are basic, but not bad for the most part.  Enemy movement is a little too quick for me though, and the relatively demanding hitboxes mean that combat does have a slight learning curve.  I should also mention that your main method of attack is jumping on their heads.  Unless you find a yo-yo, which basically turns any level into easy mode.

You can also get springs that let you jump higher, and wings that let you fly for a limited time.  That's about the extent of the powerups in this game.

The challenge is also low, for once, which is a nice change of pace for me.  I'm so sick of platformers that are obnoxiously hard.  Extra lives are plentiful, there are no time limits.  Enemies don't respawn (unless you die).  There's no one hit deaths.  Every little thing that is usually an annoyance in these kinds of games is missing here.

Overall, I had a better time with it than I thought I would.  And revisiting it didn't do much to change that opinion.

Did I beat it?
Yes, I burned through it the night I got it, and then I burned through this review.