Welcome to Part II chronicling the Super NES games that impacted my life in sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always unique ways. As I was compiling this list, I noticed two things: 1. I have a lot of fighting games on these lists for some reason. Obviously the fighting game genre seemed to hit big during the Super NES life cycle, but I was never a huge fighting game fan. Honestly, I'm not really a fighting game fan today either. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that you play what is popular at that time and fighting games were definitely "in" during the 90s. 2. This is where I discovered my love for RPGs. The NES had some great and memorable RPGs, but the Super NES had some that you could absolutely lose yourself in. I will detail a few in the upcoming article. The Super NES RPGs could leave you discovering new things for weeks if not months. So here we go with Part II of the retrospective:
The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse
While playing in the park, Pluto runs off and as Mickey Mouse, it is your job to rescue him. Mickey falls into a fantasy world full of creatures and wizards. In this game, you have the ability to "change" into a wizard, a fireman, and a mountain climber. This in my mind is what really sets the game apart from a traditional Mickey game. Yet again, we have a Capcom/Disney team up that works to perfection. The graphics in this game are great. It feels alive and vibrant from every world. Lots of the stages are very different from a beanstalk level, to a fire world level, a haunted forest and an ice level just to name a few. Every sprite is rendered beautifully and the soundtrack to this game is top notch.
This game was a snow day rental. In Oklahoma, we don't have a ton of snow days in the winter, but every so often in January and February we will. The day I played this game was one of those days. We all had been aware of the winter storm coming in and readying ourselves for it. In fact, it was such a big storm that our school preemptively cancelled classes before there was even snow on the ground. We went to the video rental store that night before to rent a movie and a game as we knew we would be stuck indoors all day. My entire town must have had the same idea because I remember the store being absolutely jam packed with kids and parents everywhere. Our movie selection that night was Last Action Hero and our game choice was this one. This was another game that as a teenager I was a little embarrassed to be renting but it totally blew me away from the opening all the way to the end. I spent the entire snow day playing that game as snow fell all through out the day. In fact the roads got so bad that our local video rental store waived late fees and let us keep it an extra day.
Super Castlevania IV
For my money, one of the greatest video games ever made on the Super NES. Not to mention possibly the best soundtrack in video game history. It is creepy, ethereal, moody and overall a brilliant score from beginning to end. I listen to this soundtrack in my car on the way to work every morning when it is cloudy or rainy. Basic story: Dracula has risen yet again and as Simon Belmont, you must destroy him. The great thing this game brought to the franchise was the ability to utilize your whip in a unique variety of ways. You can let it hang or whip it diagonally. All new things in this version at the time. And did I mention the graphics? My gosh...the graphics. The best on the Super NES in my opinion. Every sprite has a tremendous amount of detail and the environments are second to none. From the abandoned graveyards all the way through Dracula's castle, these are the best 16 bit graphics around.
This game reminds me of the dog days of summer and starting football in junior high. In my town, the best competitive football we had was flag football for the younger kids. There was no tackle football until you were in 7th grade. So as a football fanatic, I couldn't wait to play football for real in 7th grade. I won't mention my complete and total lack of athletic prowess but trust me on this one, athletics were made to be watched by me, not played by me. Anyway, there was a new kid that moved into town that summer and he integrated himself into our "group" really quickly. He had a copy of Castlevania IV and I had never played it. I spent the night over at his house one night and played this game all night long. His Dad even had a save file which at the time I thought was the coolest thing a parent had ever done. So during football practice I remember realizing that my calling was not football but I sure did like that Super NES. I can still recall going through drills and the entire time, thinking to myself I would rather be playing this game. So on Sunday nights, my routine was to watch the Simpsons and play this borrowed copy of Castlevania IV from my buddy.
Knights of the Round
Man, I have a lot of Capcom games on this list. Never realized it until compiling everything together. What can I say, they make great games. This game is basically a Final Fight or Streets of Rage (depending on your preference) ripoff set in medieval times. But it's still a lot of fun. given, it is hard to screw up a beat 'em up if you know the formula but this one featured playable characters Arthur, Lancelot and Perceival. What was great about this game was you could level up and each time you did, your powers got a little stronger and your appearance changed. Now, keep in mind the enemies also leveled up with you with each passing stage but at least you looked cool getting your ass kicked. This was a tough game without being punishingly hard like Maximum Carnage was, which we covered in Part I.
This was another Friday night rental. I hadn't even heard of it, but after checking out the back of the box, it looked really cool. This game will always remind me of having to pick up flags around town. Let me explain that bizarre statement. My Dad was part of a local Rotary men's group and each Labor Day they would have American flags all around the downtown area that were in front of stores and such. Well after Labor Day was over, the members had to go pick up the flags and haul them back to the police station where they were stored. So in order to "bribe" us to help him, my Dad promised us a video game rental if we wold help him pick up the flags. So we got in the back of his pickup and went to retrieve the flags for a couple of hours and my rental was this one. I couldn't stop playing it! In fact, several years ago when I signed up for ebay, this was one of the first purchases I made. It's always an easy game to pick up and play without too much strategy.
A Link to the Past
The word classic is thrown around a lot. The word epic is thrown around too much. But sometimes....just sometimes, it's appropriate. This is one of those times. In the vast pantheon of video games, this is one of the few that has little to no flaws. The story, the graphics, the music...everything. I played this game again a few months ago and it still stands up. I don't have to say it's a great Super Nintendo game, I just say it's a great game period. Any platform, any generation.
Well that was a lot of gushing. But that was nothing compared to the obsession I had with this game in my 7th grade year. Oh my gosh. I was OBSESSED with this game. I rented it and from the opening of the game when you could hear rain on the roof and thunder and lightning outside, I was in, hook line and sinker. I had to own it. The problem? Christmas was still several months away. But like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, I was laying down the hints hardcore for my parents. So much so that I'm pretty sure they were sick of hearing about it. December came and I became terrified. What if they didn't remember? What if they can't find it? What if I never get to play this game for the rest of my life?!? I even had a strategy guide from Nintendo Power that was laid out and ready to go on Christmas morning. I literally had it resting on top of my Super Nintendo so I wouldn't have to wait the 16 seconds it would take to find it in my magazines. Christmas Eve I couldn't sleep. I had a little mini Christmas tree right next to my bed in my room and I remember just staring at those colored lights and the anticipation killing me as the hours ticked slowly by. About four in the morning I couldn't take it anymore. I slowly crept out of bed to see if it was laying out in the fireplace. I made my way to the dark living room and saw nothing. You have got to be kidding me. This is not happening. In my single mindedness, I didn't look to my immediate left to see the chair I always sat in Christmas morning while opening presents. Was that it?? I picked it up, brought it close to the window so the streetlight could give me a little more light and it was confirmed. The golden box, the red lettering...in a few hours I would be playing this and own it for the rest of my life. I crept back to bed and was so happy that I couldn't get back to sleep. I owned a Link to the Past!! I don't think anyone bought my Oscar worthy surprised acting job that morning. They knew I had peeked. To this day, I still have that same cart and will always remember that Christmas morning.
Justice League Task Force
I was never much of a DC comics fa, I always liked Marvel. And for a guy who doesn't enjoy fighting games, this one was a real find for me. So it essentially had two strikes against it, but I really liked this game. You can pick from just about any big DC character and fight each other and also Darkseid as the final boss. The game was a lot of fun and the different environments you fight in for each specific character was a nice touch. My personal favorite was Aquaman and Wonder Woman's stages.
This was a "congratulations on graduating eight grade" gift. Yeah those three years of middle school can really take it out of a guy. I got this game from my parents and with the 20 bucks of gift money from my grandparents, I bought the Woodstock '94 double CD. Nothing quite like spending your time playing this game while listening to some post grunge goodness. Had a lot of fun with this one though and still consider it a premier fighting game on the Super NES even though it's reputation is not that great.
Boy was this an odd but great title. Not only that, severely underrated in my opinion. You play as Firebrand, the red demon from Ghosts 'N Goblins who actually had his first game as a Game Boy game called Gargoyle's Quest. This is apparently that sequel or spin-off. This was another game where the environments were second to none and it was a very creepy and gory game for the family friendly Super Nintendo. You could also change your form throughout the game into a different sort of demon with a different power. There are also some pretty solid RPG elements in this game as well. This is not an easy game either. It can be pretty tough. It's very unique though in that you fight a large dragon boss at the very beginning of the game. Something that was not seen a lot in those days was to start off fighting a boss. He was pretty easy but still a great opener none the less.
Nintendo Power was the reason behind me loving this game. I had read about it in the Nintendo Power magazine and they mentioned in the article that while it was a great game, it would be difficult to find due to the fact that Capcom was not going to be producing very many of them. I never did find out why they decided to produce so few copies but it was very hard to find. I recall searching everywhere for it: the local Wal Mart, Babbage's, Kay Bee Toys, Toys 'R Us, everywhere. Could never find it. My local rental store did have it and I rented it many times and thought it was outstanding even though I could never get very far. I even offered them money for it to purchase one time and they weren't having any of that. Well, one day that very rental store went out of business and were selling all their used games for discount prices and I went in, spent almost all my paycheck from my high school job and got Demon's Crest. Still own it today and it still kicks my ass.
Mega Man Soccer
What an odd idea for a game. Well, if Mario can have Mario Party, Mario Kart, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis and on and on...why can't Mega Man have soccer? This game operates very much like a Mega Man game. You can pick your team through a stage select type screen with different Mega Man characters to play one on one or you can pick Mega Man and work your way through a tournament against Dr. Wily's robots. Each robot even has a "special kick" that varies to their particular strengths like Metal Man's kick is a metal saw, Mega Man's is a Mega Buster, etc. A very easy pick up and play game that never gets much publicity, but is a very fun and worthy addition to the Mega Man cannon.
This was a game rented my youngest brother who basically played nothing but Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball all day. I wasn't really interested until I saw him play this one afternoon. I sat in his room and watched him play, then decided I would give it a try. I was hooked. The controls were easy, the game never got boring and the difficulty was tough without being cheap. This game actually got me interested in soccer for about five minutes, so at least it has that going for it. I really include this game simply because it reminds me of the spring days we would play this and then try to come up with the best strategic team to beat each other.
Secret of Mana
Oh boy do I love this game. It is quite simply for me, one of the best RPGs ever made, scratch that, one of the best video games ever made. In the 90s and early 2000s, Square could do no wrong for me. The story is quite deep but the Cliff Notes version is you must return Mana to the Mana tree and thereby saving the world. Again, the story is much more deep than that. but that's the somewhat simplified version. Read the entire story on wikipedia or something because it is probably one of the more detailed storylines in the Super NES RPG era. The graphics are great in this game but what sets it apart is the soundtrack. It is a flawless soundtrack. I love every single track on the album. I bought the CD on Amazon a few years ago. It wasn't cheap but it was worth it. In my humble opinion, it is one of the best video game soundtracks of all time. It can be haunting, grandiose, cheerful and just overall fun. If you have never played this game, get it now. It's even on iphones.
Similar to Link to the Past, this game was an obsession throughout the Christmas season. I had dismissed it after reading about it in Nintendo Power. For some odd reason, it just didn't really appeal to me. Then one day I was in Babbage's in Oklahoma City and was looking through the games and I asked the clerk what good games were out right now and he asked what kind of games I liked. I told him my Link to the Past obsession and he just said "Secret of Mana". No hesitation whatsoever. I rented it and completely was head over heels for it. So I dropped the hints to my parents and trusted them a little bit more this time. Hey, they came through last year on Link to the Past, why not this time? So I relaxed a little and wasn't overly concerned with them coming through for me until a week or two before Christmas. They informed me they were having a lot of trouble finding it and they may not be able to get it for me. Now, I don't know if they were telling me that to further the surprise or not, but I immediately got nervous. I had to have this game!!! My life depended on it!! So I spent the rest of Christmas break in a constant state of edginess. Christmas morning came and I went out into the living room again to check it out on my usual chair. Well, the Star Wars VHS set was there (which was great by the way) but not Secret of Mana. Welp, better luck next year kid. But just like Ralphie's Dad coming through at the end of A Christmas Story, one of the final presents I opened was the Secret of Mana cart. Just the cart. It had a rental store sticker on it. "Grandma found this at her Blockbuster." Hey it wasn't a bright shiny new copy, but it was a fully functional copy. I was cool with it and beyond happy. To this day, that cart is in my Super NES always ready to be played. I even started playing it a few weeks ago on my Wii Virtual Console.
Well that wraps up the second part of my two part retrospective on the important Super NES games in my early teen years. These articles are a blast to write and I'm just thrilled to be able to add on to the great articles already on retro junk. Thanks for reading!!