Taz-mania

 

You can't run forever
You can’t run forever

Imagine running down a road forever. You’re running down this road and everything looks nearly identical. There’s some trees. Rocks. Bushes. Birds fly around. Every so often a dingo(…?!) on a motorbike tosses you a literal bone. That’s all Taz-mania is. Forever. You run in a straight line—I guess you can go backward, but why would you?—trying to devour birds. If you stomach the number of birds the level requires, you may even get to run down a road with slightly different scenery. It’s all roads.

Taz hallucinates his food survives digestion
Dying? no, nothing is so easy

Does this sound fun to you? It isn’t. It’s a Mode-7 abomination designed to hypnotize children into seeing the Tazmanian Devil when they close their eyes. Maybe he asks them to buy a Tweety Bird t-shirt. Maybe he asks them to eat their pets. I don’t know. I’m not going to play this awful, awful game long enough to find out what the Devil wants.

I started aiming for oncoming traffic. To let the bus sweep me under and away from this nightmare. But the bus can’t stop the Devil. It just slows him down. The Devil gets right back up and starts running again. He craves that bird flesh. He wants to crack those little bones in his teeth. He may fall in the middle of the road and start vomiting up everything he’s eaten, but he’ll never stop. He’s going back for seconds, thirds, fourths…it’s All You Can Eat on the open road, and the Devil is never full. He says he’s stuffed, but HE LIES.

I wish someone would "stuff" me into a woodchipper
I wish someone would “stuff” me into a woodchipper

Maybe you love this game. Maybe you close your eyes and imagine yourself flying down that blocky road, mouth agape and claws reaching for the winged food all around you. Maybe you already let the Devil take you and you ain’t noticed yet.

You got that Taz-mania.

Body image issues
Please let this end

Super Strike Eagle

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, eagle is a Noun defined as follows: “A small, but not too small, bird that eats up other birds, if it so chooses, and never without jam, yum, yum.” Yum.

But this game is not about eagles, at least not the regular kind. No, these are eagles of a rather metaphorical kind. The kind that people fly around in. And they shoot other people, but not with jam. With bullets, and missiles and other such things. Obviously, I was out of my element. I said to the game, I said: “But game! I do not have a pilots licence! How will I fly your aircraft.” And the game said, “Well, it’ll be tricky, but it’s not really that realistic.” And I said,  “But how realistic will it be?” hoping for jam.

“Really not very,” said the game. “But it will pretend to be realistic, which is all anyone ever asked for anyway.”

Take that, you commie, you!

It was right. Frankly, this is far and away the best Top Gun game I’ve played on the SNES, or (dare I say it?) ever at all. Well, maybe it’s not that good, but I’ve had a bit of caffeine, and I’m feeling pretty extreme, so I’d say it was extremely good. Everything in it was top notch. Even though there’s obviously a little bit lost without access to a manual, I was still able to get my plane off the ship and into the frickin air without much trouble. Although, I am an old hand at Microsoft Flight Simulator 98, which taught me the basics. Really, all planes are the same, guns or no. You wanna go up; you push down. After you get that, it’s smooth sailing. Why they don’t make up up is beyond me. Perhaps they’re sadists. Or maybe they’re hyper dimensional beings who have no truck with the whole up, down distinction.

But yeah. This game’s pretty hot. It manages to look pretty good, too. It flips between camera angles in a way that really works for it. It struts its stuff, baby. Like a jet.

Oh yeah.

Super R-Type

Super R-Type: The Game doesn’t interest me in the slightest.  It’s slower than other R-Types and yet somehow manages to be even more incredulous/relentless/S&M in its difficulty.  What does interest me is the mythology that underpins it.

The ‘bad guys’ of the R-Type series are known as the Bydo Empire.  I say [quote][/unquote] bad guys because it is us who created them.  In the 26th Century.  As sentient, ecology-destroying biological weapons.  It’s just the kind of hubris you would expect from humanity – we’ve always been a little too big for our britches since we started playing with atoms.  So, like a kid with a box of matches, we got burned – the Bydo turned on their human overlords after a botched attempt to annihilate a foreign solar system.

But the hubris doesn’t end there!  The humans ‘solved’ the problem by making it someone else’s problem – they simply shifted the Bydo to another dimension.  Eventually they made their own way to the 22nd Century, where humanity’s great-great-great-great[…] grandparents were left to clean up the mess.  How typical!  Well, maybe that’s not fair – it’s refreshing to see Earth’s problems dropped in the laps of its elderly, in a time when so many are laid at the feet of its children – but do you know what would be more refreshing?  IF EVERYONE CLEANED UP THEIR OWN DAMN MESS!  Or at least lie in the bed that they’ve made for themselves.  Perhaps humanity deserves its grisly fate; perhaps we’re the villains and we need to be stopped.

Future-proofing the distant past.

So what started out as an innocent bit of backstory has actually developed into an intriguing fictional example of retrocausality.  On that note, it’s really difficult to talk about the future in past tense, or any tense for that matter.

Super Pinball: Behind the Mask

There was a time, long, long ago, when pinball machines and videogames stood together – a veritable Brotherhood of Coin Crunchers. Oh, how they danced and player together in that magical land; the magical land of Arcadia. But fate had other designs.

The humans were comfortable in their little homes, and it was only a matter of time before the consoles took over. The pinballs and Model 3s fought long into the night – one could say they gave no quarter – but it was all for nought. Naomi, the Queen of Arcadia, was seduced by the Dark Side. She gave up the Brotherhood’s secrets, porting her library to the consoles. Arcadia had fallen, and the pinballs were given in servitude to the consoles. Their bodies were destroyed in the Forge; their souls extracted as gems to power their golems. These hulking abominations were but shadows of their former glory.

Thus concludes my dark tale, the tale of Arcadia. But I’d like to think there’s another ending:

On occasion, you might find a pinball machine tucked away in the corner of a pool hall, or maybe a bowling alley, or a wealthy politician’s basement, like old trees in a sacred grove. They’re the ones that got away.

Super Ninja Boy

Super Ninja Boy is every bit as amazing as its title suggests.

It’s a co-operative two-player RPG that allows the second player to drop in and out in any given town.  Do we even have that today?  I don’t know, but it’s amazing.

BOUT!

It’s an RPG whose battle menu is limited to  ‘BOUT’ (fight) or ‘RUN’ (flee).  Choose ‘BOUT’ and you’re immediately thrust into a side-scrolling beat-’em-up, that’s every bit as fun as River City Ransom.  Have these two genres ever met again since?  I don’t know, but it’s amazing.

You want to know how satisfying this feels.

But by far the most amazing thing about Super Ninja Boy is its relative obscurity within the annals of videogame history.  I’d never heard of this game prior to writing this review – had you?  And yet, as far as I can surmise, it’s pioneered two great ideas in the RPG genre that to my knowledge are yet to be replicated.

I can only offer a few possible explanations for this.  One is that ardent RPG players back then may not have had any friends, and thus were unable to discover the joys of friendship, human communication, and co-operation via Ninja Boy‘s two player mode.

Another is that RPG fans were only interested in playing RPG games.  It’s possible that the exclusion of a menu-based battle system (though curiously still present for boss battles) was perceived as a dilution of a ‘key’ genre staple rather than a welcome reprieve (or dare I say – “innovation”?) from the same old, same old of practically Every Japanese Role-Playing Game Ever™ – then and since.

I have only two legitimate criticisms to level against Mr. Ninja Boy, and these are they:

  1. The graphics are a hodge-podge of art styles and assets stolen from its more well-remembered contemporaries.  Namely, the map screens from Dragon Quest, caves and treasure chests from Phantasy Star, and the manga stylings of River City Ransom – thrown together.
    EXHIBIT A:
    EXHIBIT B:

    And:

  2. You’ll be lucky to walk three seconds before being pulled into yet another random battle encounter, and it’s a bit of a pain in the ass.  You might want to think of this as “incidental grinding”, or you’ll probably be driven to agoraphobia.

But hey, this game charmed the pants off me.  It’s cute and it’s wild and it’s set in Chinaland with aliens in it – what more could you want from an RPG?

Super Mario Kart

A word to the wise: do NOT under any circumstances get your flatmate hooked on Mario Kart. That means DON’T let them play it. At all.

Oh, you might think it’s terrific at first having a Player 2 at the ready, but you’ve got to understand – it’s a ‘bridge title’ in the truest sense of the word – it’s a gateway drug.

Marx was wrong. Mario Kart is the Opiate of the Masses.

It’s like being married to a nymphomaniac – you might think that’s an awesome problem to have, but wait until you’re red, raw, run down, and can’t get a damn thing done*; then let’s see what you have to say about it. Oh yes, you can most definitely have too much of a good thing. Try telling that to my flatmate, though, who’ll happily put “World on a String” (as performed by Michael Bublé) on repeat for the entire duration of the morning commute, simply because he likes it.

I’ve worked long and hard at expanding his horizons, but it seems he can only accommodate latch onto one new thing at a time before culture club is adjourned. Oh well, I suppose listening to the Pulp Fiction soundtrack on repeat instead of Billy Joel is progress. The thing is, if I wasn’t constantly introducing new cultural material, we’d be stuck on the latest obsession FOREVER.  Not even joking.

Thus far, I have failed to replace Super Mario Kart Wii. Can you see how that might be a problem?

I have another friend who’s stuck on Super Mario Kart. Not stuck as in “can’t finish it”, but stuck as in he keeps coming back to it. He uses the Classic Controller on Mario Kart Wii, if only to simulate playing it on a SNES. I’m pretty sure his frustration with the Wii version is parallel with my feelings “going back” to the SNES version. What he may see as impurities introduced to the Wii version, I see as tweaks missing from the SNES version. I’m progressive like that. Nonetheless, Super Mario Kart is an experience enshrined with very good reason.

I’ve seen it referred to as an abstraction of go-karting, but it’s more an abstraction of Super Mario Bros. Your adversaries may as well be the timer, as your driver jumps, hits ‘?’ blocks for powerups, throws shells, and avoids obstacles to reach the finish line [flagpole]. It’s Mario in 3D, essentially, and a testament to the primal strength of the Super Mario Bros. game design.

It’s Wacky Races: The Videogame, where everybody knows your name playing dirty is a virtue, and mischief is encouraged. So many great games revel in the fun of mischief made [see A Link to the Past, GTA, and my current obsession, The Saboteur].

For every time Nintendo has been berated for making “kiddie” games, they should be applauded for their timeless aesthetic choices. What separates Super Mario Kart (and indeed, any Nintendo game) from the rest of the dross is this thing we in the biz like to call “art direction”. This vibrant cast of characters wouldn’t look out of place in a Saturday morning cartoon, and I’m here to tell you that’s a good thing.  Donkey Kong, Luigi, Yoshi, Bowser, and Princess Peach have each become so familiar they can headline their own games and still sell a million copies.

I picked Yoshi because he looks like he has a thermometer in his mouth.

It blew the Mario game wide open – beyond platformers – into racers, sports, RPGs, and fighters. It was just a great idea.

Super Mario Kart deserves every bit of nostalgia lavished on it. Everything about it is memorable. Just don’t show it to your flatmate.

* This review was delayed by at least two days due to Flatmate Mario Kart Addiction.

Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts

Are you one of the two people on Earth that found Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts too easy? So easy, in fact, that you finished it twice in a row just to get the proper ending? Don’t you ever wish it could get just a *little bit* harder? Well, have I got something for you! Presenting:

SUPER GHOULS ‘n’ GHOSTS!

It's pandemonium! It's pandemonium!

Featuring:

  • Rising obstructive pillars!
    They rise! They obstruct! They generally cause death and discomfort!
  • The amazing double-jump!
    You might think it’s helpful, but watch as you hurtle helplessly towards a violent and untimely end! No mid-air re-directions here!
  • Infinite, invincible caskets on respawn!
    You can’t kill them, but you can’t touch them either! Oh, and zombies come out of them as well.  Don’t forget those zombies!
  • Child’s Play.
    Still too easy?  Enter the Sorcerer, who can turn you into a baby at the flick of his wand!  They say only the good die young – so how good are ya?!
  • 2 games for the price of 1!
    Don’t think we’ll let you off too easy! In true G ‘n’ G fashion, you must finish the game twice in a row to get the true ending. Double the gameplay = double the fun!
  • * EXCLAMATION MARKS!
    Lots of them!!!!11111!!!!!!

All this comes with a free wedge of lemon and a pinch of sea salt to sprinkle in your eye while you play! Bodacious!

***CALL NOW on 1900-GNG-SNM to secure your copy today!***

SUPER GHOULS 'n' GHOSTS: It'll leave you screaming for Mummy!