First off, let me apologize for the delay in this article. It's been a long time between this and part 2, but unfortunately it couldn't be helped. A month or so ago, my laptop completely crapped out on me and I haven't been able to replace it. I'm finishing this article on a laptop I checked out from my local library. It's been hard because I've been going through some rough stuff lately and working on these articles has been big help for me. That being said, since this article will mark the halfway point of my list SNES games I remember renting, I think it's only fair to thank you those of you who have read, commented, and hopefully enjoyed this retrospective. Writing this all out has brought me back time and again to carefree days where game cartridges made for many an unforgettable afternoon which was followed by curling up with the most recent issue of Nintendo Power. I still remember getting the Donkey Kong Country promo tape in the mail, and swearing I was going to work at Nintendo of America after watching it over and over and over again. To some it may seem silly, but for me it was filled with a special kind of magic. Every trip to the video store was the opportunity to bring home to bring home more of that magic, even if it was only for three days or so. But alas, the times they have a-changed. So let's take another trip down memory lane to some 16-bit awesomeness.
The 16-bit era is practically synonymous with mascot platformers. But where Mario, Sonic, and their respective games were held in highest regard for time, others...not so much. If I remember right, Bubsy initially appeared to have promise and was anticipated. I know I thought it looked cool. But upon it's release, critics panned it. I rented the game anyway and at first, I enjoyed it. He ran as fast as Sonic, the gameplay was fun, and I didn't see what was so bad about it. My cousin Brent stayed the night when I rented the game and he seemed to think it was ok, but I think I also remember him wanting to play something else eventually.
I don't remember a whole lot about Bubsy other than I grew tired of it eventually too. I think the music was pretty good but 'm not sure. I remember the levels being really long and you finished them by running into a giant ball of yarn. There was a western train stage, an amusement park, and a forest-y type level. The enemies were little critters that had no arms. Bubsy only had one hit before he died, which was frustrating because he ran so fast you didn't always know something had hit you until he stopped suddenly and fell over, broke apart, or did a number of other amusing death animations. I haven't played it since that weekend so many years ago. I know there was a Bubsy 2 and a Bubsy 3d, but I didn't play them. From what I can tell, Bubsy isn't looked favorably upon. Though it's obvious that Bubsy tried to be special, it didn't succeed. Pity, because I had high hopes for this game.
When I played the Animaniacs game, I hadn't seen very much of the show so I didn't appreciate the license like I do now. I didn't let that stop me from being excited to play it. At first, I thought the game was cool. The warner bros (and sister) come out of the water tower and the first level has them going through Warner studio, wreaking havoc, showcasing different characters from the show, and ends with a boss fight against Brain in a giant suit. (I later to grew to love Pinky and the Brain, and was thrilled when they got their own show, which I watched religiously.) After that, the game gives you a choice to go to different sets of the studio. These were themed areas like fantasy, sci-fi, pirates...etc.
I thought the game was fun, but I found it to be hard. I think the only stage I ever completed was the pirate stage. The fantasy stage started off with a turbo-tunnel like ride on broomsticks through wonderland. I think I only beat that part once. Other levels didn't have that type gameplay, but I still had trouble progressing through the game and never came close to finishing it during my time with it. Animaniacs is notable for me one reason however. Whenever I rented a game, it was the only game I played while I had it. Animaniacs was the first game I rented where I broke that rule. Tired of getting my butt kicked, I eventually returned to my copy of Donkey Kong Country. As it stands, I think Animaniacs is a decent game, but not one of Konami's best. I'd like to try the Genesis version of the game someday because I'm told it's better.
I have an interesting relationship with Swat Kats. It's a show I thought was awesome and always looked forward to watching. Yet in the end, I think I may have seen three episodes at most. I never took the time to look up when it was on and for as much as I wanted to see it, I always forgot until well after the episode had aired. I still loved the idea of the show though, and I got really excited when I read a brief review and walkthrough in Nintendo Power of the game. They only give it a middle-ground score, but I couldn't wait to play it myself.
I though it was a lot of fun. Picking either T-Bone or Rayzor, players picked between one of four stages, each taken from an episode, and fight through them to battle the boss. Pretty standard stuff at face-value, but I think Swat Kats stands one of the best licensed titles of this era. At times, it even manages to have a Capcom feel to it. It captured the feel of the show really well. Each stage came across as unique. Two levels made use of the Swat Kats jet. First you had to avoid enemies and fly into the mouth of a giant beast. Once inside, you had destroy it's heart while avoiding and shooting monsters. Levels consisted of a subway, the garbage dump, an evil amusement park, the medieval past(based on one of the few episodes I had actually seen.), and finally a warehouse and the final level that resembled, well, hell. The platforming and action was fun. My only real complaint is the range of your weapon. It only goes about half-an-inch away from your body which meant you still had to be standing right next to your enemy to hit them. You could level up and upgrade both your life meter and your weapon which almost made up for that. I really enjoyed this game, and I highly recommend it if you've never played it before.
There was a lot of buzz for Star Fox when it first came out, but I really didn't care for it at first. I played it a little bit at Sears back when Sears had Super Nintendo's and Segas set up to play, but I wasn't impressed. My dad thought it was neat so when I rented Super Empire Strikes Back, he grabbed Star Fox with it. During my rental, I only played it maybe once and focused exclusively on Empire. But I did watch my dad play it whenever he did. He was pretty good at it and really seemed to enjoy it. One of the stages in space had your arwing fly through a rollercoaster-ish tunnel into a space station and at first I thought my dad had mad skills navigating through it without crashing. When I finally asked him if it was hard to do, he informed me it was computer controlled and we both found the whole thing funny.
I came around eventually and bought the game with some birthday money one year. It has since become one of my most fondly remembered SNES games. My dad and I were both really excited for Star Fox 2 and were really bummed out when we found out it was cancelled. Most of it's ideas went into Star Fox 64 and we both loved it when it came out. (Youtube the Star Fox 64 promo video when you get the chance, it's hilarious.) However, I find myself liking Star Fox 64 less and less as the years go by. I hope Star Fox has a proper resurrection soon because I just don't like where the series has gone. I hear there's a brand new Starfox for the Wii U on the horizon, but I remain skeptical about it's quality. I can guarantee I will be comparing to Star Fox SNES. I do hope they bring back the arwing transformation to mech idea from the cancelled Star Fox 2. That was seriously cool. While the Super FX chip effects look may look primitive by today's standards, it goes to show how ambitious Nintendo tried to be with the SNES. Sometimes I'm still amazed at what that console was capable of.
Like most kids, I liked me some Star Wars, but it took some time before I brought this game home. I had eyeballed it several times on Blockbuster's shelves but passed it over just as many. Then one afternoon, we tried a blockbuster video we hadn't been to yet. For a long time, my folks went to Faith Baptist Church, now known as Faith Community Church, in Victorville, CA. We lived in Hesperia and it was good 30 minutes or so to get to church. This new blockbuster was down the street from that church so you can understand why we never went there when we had one 10 minutes away from our house in Hesperia. One Friday afternoon we were in the area and I asked if we could try this blockbuster out and take the rentals back after church on Sunday. They agreed. They had a slightly bigger selection then the one near us which made me happy. I debated between this game and Empire for a few minutes but eventually went with the original.
It was epic. Blaster in hand, I made my way through womp rats, jawas, sand people, and imperial stormtroopers, all with a huge smile on my face. This trilogy has something I like to call exaggerated gameplay. The developers decided to make a level out of everything in the film. Luke never descended into the jawas sandcrawler and fight a massive lava beast to rescues R2-D2, but the game had him doing just that. It was cool. The farthest I got during my weekend was the mos-eisely stage right after the cantina. Try as I might I couldn't beat the boss. And then, Sunday before church, I finally did and got as far as the tractor beam control boss and was blowing it smithereens when my parents declared it was time to leave for church. Aaargh! I rented the game again sometime later and was able to finish it, but I'll always remember that first time fondly. The only things I don't really like this game are that Han's life meter is really small and that once get off tattooine, Luke's lightsaber becomes worthless. Even with those flaws, Super Star Wars is one of the best licensed games to be made for any console to this day. Had a lot of fun with this one.
Like I said before, I rented StarFox with this game, but Empire was my focus. Having enjoyed the first one so much, I was really excited about this game. I noticed something immediately when I started though that had me concerned: this game was (and still is) hard. The early Hoth stages where the player takes Luke in and out of various caverns was very confusing to me at first and I was never sure if I was going the right way or not. When I reached the first giant Wampa boss, it felt more like a matter luck than skill. Thankfully, he's pretty easy to beat. One thing I did appreciate was that Luke's lightsaber was back to being a powerful weapon.
During my first rental, I never got to get the cool force powers for it though because I couldn't get past the snowspeeder stage. See, I hadn't actually seen Empire Strikes Back at the time, so I had no idea that you had to use your tow cables to take down the AT-ATs. Therefore, I spent a good half-hour or so blasting at one to no avail. Eventually I was able to beat the game, but that wouldn't happen until I was in my late 20's. Better late than never I suppose. I played Super Return of the Jedi too, but that was when I borrowed it from a friend in junior high a few years later. It's a great trilogy of games overall. When virtual console first came out, and Capcom released Mega Man 9 in the classic NES style, I was hoping somebody would get the idea to make a 16-but Super Star Wars trilogy based on he prequel films. Mode-7 pod race? I can't be the only one who thinks that would be awesome...
With the exception of Mario Kart and more recently Trials, I'm never been a huge racing game fan, but the box art here was just too cool to ignore. I love me some Claymation and I quickly flipped this box over hoping against hope that the actual gameplay looked as cool as the box's cover did. It turned out to be graphically similar to Star Fox, thanks to the Super FX chip, but I rented it anyway. My dad likes racing games and I thought this could be something we could play together. Stunt Race FX turned out to be pretty cool. Using one of four different cars, players could choose from 8 different tracks in a standard grand prix mode. There were also some bonus modes too like timed checkpoint rally style races, and one that had you collecting all the stars scattered throughout the arena. There even a couple stages that had you controlling a big rig with a trailer through checkpoints.
The course designs were pretty cool. Some had you driving through underwater tunnels, others through mountains with falling rocks, some through cities, and one that had fog that got thinner with each lap. Hot Wheels even released a limited edition Stunt Race FX car in Kellogs cereals. (It turned to be repaint. I had the original car and recognized the design.) While it's a not a bad game, time hasn't been kind to Stunt Race FX. There's considerable slowdown when things get hectic, and sometimes the game is too difficult for its own good. My dad and I had fun with it regardless. I remember favoring the coupe. Personally, I'd loved to see a remake of this game on modern consoles that actually uses claymation style graphics.
If you want to take a nutshell look into what 16-bit gaming was, look no further than Earthworm Jim. It was wacky, it was weird, it was tough, but it was also a solid game. This critical acclaim for this game was pretty big and I was really excited to play it. Blockbuster had only one copy of it and I immediately snatched it up. Here's the thing though...I never got it home. In the car, I was reading through the instruction booklet and was surprised to find the game was filled with toilet humor. Bunging jumping over a giant pool of snot to battle a giant booger named Major Mucous. A queen named slug-for-a-butt. I was reading about these things and they sounded gross. My dad agreed and we turned around and exchanged it for something else. I don't remember what.
Although don't remember exactly when, but I did play the game eventually. I thought it was a lot of fun and don't know what turned me off before. Professor Monkey-for-a-head. A goldfish who has a cat for a bodyguard. A planet named heck ruled by a cat with nine loves and even the bunging jumping over snot...there was a mad sort of genius here and It complimented the Nickelodeon era very nicely. It's funny, but I find that more people remember the WB cartoon more than the game it came from. It's a shame, because they don't make 'em like this anymore.
After what happened with trying to rent the first game, it took some convincing before my parents let me rent this. Obviously, they agreed after a while. I like Earthworm Jim 2, but not as much as the first one. While there was no shortage of weirdness in this game, it wasn't put together as well. The first game had worlds and characters that felt like it they all belonged together in the same universe, whereas the second game had a stitched together feeling. One level had you turned into a newt. Another had you walking through papers in a office-themed stage. One level was a barbecue. It's not that it wasn't fun, because it was, it just didn't flow very well.
One thing I enjoyed very much were the Peter Puppy stages. These involved bouncing puppies on a giant marshmallow from one end of the level to the other. Drop to many and Peter jumps out and mauls you. Kind weird, slightly demented, but a lot of fun. One other thing about this game that was irritating is that it tended to freeze once in awhile which meant that all your progress was gone. It happened to me most often in Stage 2. Both games are good, but if you have to choose, take the first one. It's a better design overall.
I'm a massive Indiana Jones fan, so I'm glad to say that this is one of my favorite SNES games. It used the same type of exaggerated gameplay as the super star wars games but packed the entire trilogy into one cartridge. I especially liked the mode-7 stages, which included the life-raft and minecart sequences from Temple of Doom, and the airplane part from Last Crusade.
Admittedly, it's not very innovative game, but it captured the Indy feel really well. If any serious complaint, it's that levels aren't divided very evenly. Raiders has the most stages, as well as the most fun. Tempe of Doom had good stages, but the maze-like Pankot Palace stage sucked. The thuggee temple level are also really hard. Last Crusade had good stages, but I'm a disappointed they didn't include another mode-7 stage for the boat pursuit and skipped out on the films intro with Indy as boy entirely. All these are minor quibbles though. This is still one of the best Indiana Jones games out there and holds it's own with other Indy games like Fate of Atlantis. I know not everybody cared for it, but I think it would be neat to reprogram this game to include Crystal Skull. I can picture in my mind what places like Hangar 51 and Chauchilla cemetery would look like in side-scrolling 16-bit.
And there you have it folks. We are halfway done. While I will finish this series, I'm thinking about maybe taking a quick break form it. I have a new series I would like to start and I have and article about afternoon PBS that I would like to work on as well. Meanwhile I hope I've triggered few memory jogs for you and look forward to writing again. Until then, stay retro folks. Thanks for reading.