Category Archives: SNES Games

Earthbound – Week 01

It’s been a long break from writing for me, but I’m finally back at it. I’m going to be doing things a bit differently this time. Instead of the weekly full articles, I’m going to try a more average blog posting style with this game. I’ll be playing for maybe 30 minutes a day, and posting daily updates as I play. I’m hoping that will be a bit more manageable and I’ll have more fun doing it. For the first game with this new posting structure, I thought I’d go full out and play the cult classic Earthbound!

Before we get into the game, let’s start with a brief history. Earthbound, known as Mother 2 in Japan, was first released for the SNES in 1994. It’s the sequel to Mother for the NES, another great game which unfortunately never found its way out of Japan until 2015 when it was released on the Wii U Shop as “Earthbound Beginnings”. During its original US release, it sadly received little praise from reviewers and was somewhat overlooked. However, Ness’ inclusion in the Super Smash Brothers Series brought renewed interest into the game, and Earthbound became the cult classic it is today. Now it seems to pop up within the top 5 games on every “Best of the SNES” lists I ever happen to see. It was also a key inspiration for Undertale, one of the most well received indie games in recent years.

One final note before we get started. I refuse to review games that I don’t physically own, but the average $300 price tag on Earthbound has put it a little out of my reach at the moment. I do however own a Rom Cartridge of the fan version “Earthbound Uncut”. So likewise, I will not be playing the official US version of Earthbound for this playthrough. Instead I will be playing a fan hack known as “Maternalbound” which is the closest equivalent to Earthbound Uncut. The differences between Maternalbound and Earthbound are minor, and aim to make the game closer to the original Mother 2 release. It removes much of the North American cencership and restores the game to what it was supposed to be. So the basic game will be the same, but there will be a few subtle sprite and dialogue changes compared to the official Earthbound release.

Now that that’s all out of the way, lets dive into this SNES classic, and see what I have been missing all my life!

–DAY 01–

In typical RPG fashion, the game starts with you naming your characters. Less typical however is stating your favorite food and thing. I picked Pizza, because pizza is delicious, and you can have infinite different kinds of pizza, making it the best food ever. Then of course my favorite thing is gaming. For the characters themselves however, I left them all at their default names. Maybe if I knew something about them first I would have customized their names. But I think their default names are fine.

The year is 199X, and something big is going to happen in the small town of Onett. One night, young Ness is startled awake from a loud noise outside. Naturally, that means our young hero must go investigate the disturbance.

Amazingly, the police have already arrived and set up road blocks throughout the town. While that would be inconvenient for the residents, it does make it easy to not get lost this early in the game. After talking with a few of the police officers, we discover the origin of the noise. It would appear a meteorite has crash landed just outside town. Also the town is apparently infested with sharks?

With no other path to follow, we venture up the hills outside of town until we’re almost at the peak. Unfortunately, the police have blocked off the final stretch to the top. It would seem we won’t be able to get any closer to the meteorite after all. We are however introduced to our neighbor Porky, who I believe is named Pokey in the official release.

Even from just the brief interaction I had with him, he comes across as the brown nosing weasel type character. I don’t think I’ll be able to trust him. Also, can we take a second to look at his character sprite? I’m sure the intent was that his eyes are hidden in his hair, but it looks like he’s some kind of Cyclops. Anyway, he also seems to be annoying the police officers at the hilltop and they wish I’d do something about him.

With nothing else to do since the roads are closed off, I’m forced to simply go back home without starting some grand adventure. Or so I thought. Shortly after returning to bed, there is a loud frantic knock at the door. Maybe we’ll have an adventure tonight after all.

It’s Porky. Apparently the police suddenly left the site of the meteorite to deal with the Sharks going wild in town. He also clears up that the sharks are a gang, not actual sharks. Anyway, in the confusion, his little brother Picky has gone missing and he needs my help finding him. If anything happens to Picky, their father is going to spank him 100 times! As much as I feel like I can’t trust him, I’m willing to help him find his little brother.

At my mother’s request, I take the dog with me to search for Picky. Now that I have some backup, the game allows me to actually enter combat, and I love the way it is handled in this game. Rather than using the typical random encounters of most RPGS, it utilized monster in the world map that you could avoid if you so desired, but would enter combat with if you came in contact with them.

I also love the humor present during the battles. The enemies are very fun looking, and all have their own distinct personalities. Even if it’s just subtle changes to the dialogue, they enemies aren’t just “Attacking”. The Runaway Dog will make a loud piercing howl, or the Spiteful Crow will peck at your eyes. Your own party as well can have some humorous actions, like when Porky plays dead, or uses Ness as a shield. I knew I couldn’t trust him.

Turns out, I also shouldn’t have trusted the dog. No sooner do we make it to the top of the hill does the coward run off on us. But that’s ok, we found Picky alive and well. He was napping behind a tree, tired out from searching for Porky. According to Picky, it was Porky who went missing after the police left, and not the other way around. Whichever story is the truth doesn’t really matter, either way we now need to make our way home before their parents notice they’re missing.

We don’t make it far before Porky starts to hear a buzzing noise. The source of which is a small bee like creature sent from 10 years in the future, a future where Giygas has sent the world into the horror of eternal darkness. However, there is a well known legend handed down from ancient times about a boy who will shatter the nightmare and restore the light. The bee believes this boy to be Ness, and thus my quest to save the world officially begins.

And so, Buzz Buzz joins our party as we make our way home. However, we are quickly stopped by one of Giygas’ henchmen, The Starman Junior. From the sounds of it, Buzz Buzz was once a hero who opposed Giygas Now that he’s only an insect, the Starman Junior plans to get rid of him once and for all.

Even as an insect, Buzz Buzz proved to be exceptionally powerful, at least in comparison to Ness. He cast powerful shields around the party to protect us from the Starman Junior’s PSI attacks. He was also doing 125 damage with his attacks, compared to Ness’ 9 damage. Our victory against the Starman Junior was really all the work of Buzz Buzz.

There’s no way I would have been able to defeat the Starman Junior on my own. But we have a long road ahead of us now. Giygas will surely send more henchmen after us. On top of that, Buzz Buzz warns that Giygas’ influence will drive both people and animals crazy, so we’ll have to fight them as well. We’ll have to get stronger quickly if we plan to survive.

So thank you for reading so far, and be sure to check in on my progress as I defend the world from Giygas’ evil!

–Day 02–

With the Starman Junior defeated, there’s nothing left to do now but guide Porky and Picky home. If we’re lucky, we’ll get them home before their parents notice they were gone. Sadly, that is not the case. Both their parents are home and OH MY GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER FACE?!?!

Ahem, anyway, their dad seems normal enough. He apologizes for the trouble his kids have caused and warns them that they’re going to “get it now”. Both children run off upstairs to their room, quickly followed by dear old dad. Then WHAM! They get it. I guess Porky was serious when he said his dad would spank him if he found out they were out so late.

It’s amazing how quickly the tone changed after that. No sooner does their father come back downstairs is he asking me to leave. Not just the house, which would be reasonable considering the time of night. No, he’s asking me to leave town forever, me and my whole family. Apparently he has loaned my father quite a bit of money, possibly $100,000 by now. It might have been less, but either way, the loan is what is causing them to live in poverty now.

To this, his wife interjects about how he is much too lenient with the children. Too lenient? He just followed them to their room and beat them for being out at night. Should he have killed them instead? Buzz Buzz clearly has the same thought process as I do, and he quickly attacks her after hearing such an insane comment. On top of being insane, she’s also very stupid, mistaking Buzz Buzz for a dung beetle of all things. How do you mistake a bee for a dung beetle?

Without warning, she strike Buzz Buzz down with such swiftness that it puts the Starman Junior to shame. Clearly she is the true agent of Giygas! Poor Buzz Buzz. I was just getting to know him, and already he is struck down.

With the last of his strength, he tries to relay his final words of wisdom to young Ness. He tells that Ness must unite his power with that of the Earth, letting the planet channel and multiply it to defeat Giygas.

To do this, we must visit eight points around the world and make them my own, whatever that means. One of the locations is actually near Onett. It’s called “Giant Step” and it’s going to be our first stop towards saving the world. With these words of advice given, he dies, leaving us alone on our quest.

Or not, he apparently has more to give us. This time it’s a present, the Sound Stone. With this, we can record the melodies from the eight locations we have to visit. I’m not sure what good that is going to do, but as the first key item in the game, tradition dictates this will be the most important item I will receive throughout the entire playthrough. So I shall cherish it always.

With those final words, Buzz Buzz fades from existence, and the quest to save the world is truly underway. Before we leave, I thought it would be best to check in on Porky and Picky upstairs. Sure enough their father beat them good. They don’t even want to sit down their butts hurt so much.

Upon leaving their house, we found that it is already morning. Before we can even set out on our adventure some guy in a top hat and suit literally falls out of the sky to talk to me. He is apparently a photographer and wants to take my picture, which he does. Then as quickly as he came, he vanishes once again into the sky. That’s apparently the type of game we’re embarking on here.

Now that the police barricades are gone, we can finally head down into Onett. We could, but I have some exploring I would like to do first. For example, there is a house up on the hill towards the meteorite where some weird treasure hunter guy lives. He mentioned last night that he wanted to talk to me in private, so what better time to check in with him than now.

The treasure hunter has dug quite the elaborate tunnel underneath his house. After following him to the deepest part of the cave, he shows me a life size golden statue that he has unearthed. Interacting with it reveals that it is “glowing strangely”, however that is the only information I can gather at the moment. I’ll have to make a mental note of this however. I’m sure it will become important in the future.

After a bit of training against the random animals on the hill, it’s time to head down into the city. The first stop is the library. I’m very happy to have stopped in here, because the receptionist is handing out maps of the town. Now I won’t have to worry about getting lost.

The people in the library were also all very informative, and gave out some helpful advice for my quest. Um, everyone except this guy in the mask… he’s just creepy… Anyway, the other more helpful people told me about, among other things, the location of the Giant Step. It’s in the North West corner of town.

Knowing this information, it’s my job as the savior of the world to go absolutely everywhere there is to go in town before even considering going to the Giant Step. Visit every house, talk to every person, and search every garbage can for food. Don’t judge me! I’m a young child setting out on my own. I need to take food from wherever I can get it.

After searching a few houses, it’s time to settle in for the night at the hotel. But a room costs $35 for the night, and I’m not exactly desperate for health at the moment. Instead I think we’ll just use the complementary desk phone to call dad and have him record our progress. Oh yeah, that’s how you save in this game, you have to call your dad.

Join me again next time as we continue exploring the town. We might even head up to Giant Step if there’s time.

–Day 03–

After the call to dad, I leave the hotel to continue exploring the town. It isn’t long before I encounter some suspicious looking people who end up chasing after young Ness. Sure enough, these are members of the Sharks Gang I’ve heard people talking about. I thought maybe I could handle them, but I was wrong, so very VERY wrong. Even just that single gang member was more than poor Ness could handle.

Death Count: 1

And so it would seem young Ness has died. We barely even started our adventure. I guess I should be glad that I literally just saved my progress and haven’t even had a chance to do anything yet. How about we start over and try that one again.

So obviously I’m nowhere near ready to try fighting the Sharks, which means I’m DEFINITELY not ready to try to fight whatever boss might be waiting up at the Giant Step. I guess the best thing I can do is try to level grind a bit against some of the random animals running around town.

Naturally, all that fighting really works up an appetite. Maybe we can get something at the bakery. I’m hearing good things about this Lucky Sandwich. Apparently it’s similar to a fortune cookie, except the fortune is a prize, and it’s a sandwich instead of a cookie… Ok, so it’s not really anything like a fortune cookie. And at $128.00 each, I doubt I’ll be trying one any time soon. Who has money to spend $128.00 on a sandwich?! Even a $7.00 cookie is expensive. Unless it’s one of those giant 12” cookies you see at the mall. Guess I’ll just buy a skip sandwich for $38.00. Honestly, this better be one amazing sandwich.

Maybe I can find something cheaper at the Burger shop to snack on after that sandwich, even if it’s just something off the dollar menu. Sadly, we’re not going to be getting any cheap food here either. How can they even think to charge $14.00 for a hamburger? Now I’m glad I found that discarded one in the trash the other day. Poor Ness is going to be bankrupted just trying to feed himself in this world.

Not that I seem to have money anyway, but we might as well check out the selection at the drug store as well. In this game, the drug store apparently doubles as the weapon & armor shop. They have a decent collection of items, though I’m not really sure what the stats are on anything. I’ll have to collect some money and come back to buy one of each item.

On the plus side, I haven’t really gone that far yet. I can simply run home and have Mom make me some Pizza whenever I’m in need of healing. No reason to throw money away this early in the game if I don’t have to. Thanks Mom, you’re the best.

In between battles with the local wildlife, I finish exploring the rest of town. That is, all except for the area around the arcade where the Sharks are hanging out. Apparently I’m not the only one frustrated with the Sharks. The police officers at the station seem to have their hands full just trying to deal with them. A quick stop to the Town Hall reveals that even the mayor is looking for someone to put a stop to them.

If only there were some place I could go and just relax for a while. Luckily there is! Just to the west of town is a small cottage for sale overlooking the ocean. It’s even very reasonably priced at a mere $7500.00. That’s of course out of my price range at the moment, but it’s not an unobtainable amount. I’ll have to come back here later in the game and see if I really am allowed to buy it. I hope I can. I love when you get to buy your own house in games.

Only one more stop in town to look into, and that is the hospital. Considering the beating I took from the sharks already, I expect I’ll be spending a lot of time in the hospital. To my surprise, there also seem to be magical healers in each of the hospitals for any sickness or condition that can’t be cured normally by the hospital. Conditions like being “Diamondized”, where your head gets as hard a diamond, or “Mushroomized”, where you grow mushrooms on your head.

I foresee myself becoming sick often in this game, so for my own mental health it’s best to stop now. Join me next time as Ness trains hard in an attempt to rid the town of the Sharks!

–Day 04–

With the town thoroughly explored, it’s time to really get serious about training. I need to get stronger, and I need better equipment if I’m going to ever hope to defeat the Sharks. So for now, I think it would be best to head back home and train in the hills for a while.

Along the way, I happened to find something interesting. There was a “Magical Butterfly” that made Ness relax. There was someone in the library that mentioned magical butterflies, but even after encountering one, I’m not really sure what they do. It wasn’t an enemy, and the message simply said Ness relaxed. But I don’t really notice anything different. Maybe this will become clearer as we get deeper into the game.

While training I started to notice a rather unique game feature that is actually very much appreciated. As Ness gets stronger, it’s eventually obvious to everyone that he’s going to just destroy the weaker enemies. So rather than bore the player to death with the random encounters with weak enemies, you just skip the battle entirely. Upon encountering a sufficiently weak enemy, the game will simply declare you the winning and award you the appropriate amount of experience. Honestly I’m surprised more games don’t have a system like this.

Another interesting feature to this game is the method by which you actually gain money. Normally you would fight enemies and after the battle you would be rewarded with experience and money. It’s such a common mechanic that no one really ever questions WHY the random stray dog was somehow carrying around $12 for you to collect after killing taming it. In this game however, you are still rewarded with money for every battle you win, just not directly. Instead, you need to call your dad and he will deposit money into your bank account based on how many enemies you’ve defeated. Then whenever you want it you can go withdraw the money from an ATM. It’s a small change, but it adds a nice touch of realism, which is actually ironic in this otherwise surreal game.

After a bit of training, Ness has leveled and is now level 5. Likewise, Dad has rewarded all my training with quite a bit of money. I can actually afford some of the equipment back at the drug store. I think it’s time for me to head back to town and upgrade all my equipment.

I manage to buy nearly everything at the store. The Cheap Bracelet and Baseball Cap both add quite a bit of defense to Ness, raising his pathetic 4 defense all the way up to an impressive 14. Likewise the upgrade from the Cracked Bat to the Tee Ball Bat raises Ness’s attack from 12 to a respectable 16. Now that Ness is properly equipped, I think it’s time to test our new strength against those Sharks.

This time around however, we get a little unlucky. When I engaged in battle with one of the Sharks, it seemed like a second one decided to join the battle. I’m not sure if I’m ready to be taking on two of them at once. Thankfully, my new equipment is better than I thought. The Sharks’ attacks are practically bouncing right off of Ness now, and it doesn’t take long before I defeat them both.

Not only does Ness win the fight, but we were rewarded with a hamburger that one of the Sharks was holding. It looks like we’ve finally discovered a good source for food. Why should I be spending $14 buying my own burgers when I can just beat up some punks and take theirs?

It’s getting late, so how about just one more before we quit. Interestingly, this one seems to be special. Rather than attacking me, I had to actually initiate conversation with them to start the battle. But who is Frank, and why would he want to beat me up? I guess we won’t be getting any answers today, because these punks are dead tamed, and it’s time to stop for the day.

So join me next time. Will we find out who Frank is? Will we rid the town of the sharks? Will we make it to the Giant Step? Only time will tell! See you next time.

–Day 05–

Now that I know I can beat the Shark Punks walking around the streets, I think it’s about time I help clean up this town. A task that is easier said than done. There are actually quite a few Sharks roaming around the streets. Not only that, but every time I fight one of them, they seem to just call in more reinforcements. Eventually it felt like I was fighting the entire gang all at once.

It took longer than I expected, but I finally cleaned the streets of all the Sharks. However, they aren’t completely eliminated. They still have their base inside the local arcade. Naturally, there are quite a few of them inside just waiting to avenge their fallen brethren.

Unfortunately for the sharks, the members in the arcade aren’t any stronger than the ones out in the streets. Ness on the other hand is getting stronger with every fight, eventually leveling all the way up to level 7. How can they even hope to beat Ness now?

The Sharks on the second floor of the arcade have a bit more confidence than the first floor, but they don’t put up much more of a fight. Really, all that’s left now is their boss Frank. But that will have to wait for another day.

Will Ness be able to beat Frank and put an end to the Sharks? You’ll just have to come back next time to find out. Thanks for reading.

Math Blaster: Episode One (SNES)

After playing Mario is Missing last week, it got me thinking about other educational games. It’s hard to make an educational game that is actually still fun, but there are a few games that have elevated themselves above the rest. Games like the Carmen Sandiego series still have a decent following, even if in reputation only. Then the Mavis Beacon typing games I think taught me typing better than the teacher did. And who doesn’t love a game of Oregon Trail. Though that last one is more of a “how will my friends die?” game than a learning game. While those games are all great, I thought I’d play one that seemed to be pre-installed on all the computers at my school, Math Blaster.

Math Blaster - Episode One (SNES) - 01

I have always loved the Math Blaster series, partly because it is so much more action oriented than many other educational games. You typically play as Blasternaut, a green alien astronaut with a blaster gun and a jet pack. Each game has you going on an adventure flying around space and shooting up bad guys using math usually to identify your targets. But before I start rambling on about the series, why don’t we just jump into it and start learning some math!

Gameplay

 

 

Amazingly, the game features a fully voiced introduction. Blasternaut is in his space ship ready to blast off, but he seems to be having trouble and needs to make some repairs. While repairing the ship, his robot companion Spot is kidnapped by the Yellow Three Eyed Trash Alien. Now it’s up to Blasternaut to track down this yellow menace and rescue his friend Spot.

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The game starts with Blasternaut behind the controls of his ship. All the repairs have been made, but it seems we’re still out of fuel. Luckily, the Trash Alien’s ship left behind a whole load of garbage and that just so happens to be what our ship runs on. But we need to pick the right fuel for the job. To do this, a math problem is displayed on the dashboard. Solve the math problem, and then blast the corresponding piece of garbage to convert it into fuel.

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The garbage isn’t the only thing floating around out there in space. It seems that Trash Alien wasn’t working alone, and some of his friends might just come by to make Blasternaut’s life difficult. Whenever you see one of their ships in front of you, it would be best to blast them into space dust before they start shooting at you themselves.

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Fill up the fuel tank, and we can take off after that Trash Alien, but not before one last bonus round. Now, instead of blasting garbage, you seem to be flying directly through an asteroid field blasting away as many space rocks as you can. Thankfully, there’s no danger to your ship since this is only a bonus round.

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Don’t take too long in the asteroid field, we still have to rescue Spot, remember. Now that this ship is fully fueled, we managed to track the Yellow Three Eyed Trash Alien right back to his home planet. Lucky us, we were even close enough behind him to fly right into his secret base before the door closed behind him.

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Inside, Blasternaut finds himself trapped in a weird cave full of electrical defense grids. On either side of the openings there is a label with either a number or an equation. If you want to get through the defenses, you’ll have to become a number which falls between the two numbers shown on the labels.

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But how do you change your number? Well, Blasternaut has to collect drops of water that drip down from the stalactites in the ceiling. Each drop has a number in it that will either be added or subtracted from Blasternaut’s current number. Be careful, because sometimes lava will be dripping down from the ceiling instead of water, and no one wants a face full of lava when they’re expecting some nice refreshing water.

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The cave is also full of a handful of wild beasts just waiting to tear into our hero. Use your trusty blaster gun to quickly dispose of them before they can cause you any damage. Keep climbing up and up and eventually you’ll make it to the planet’s surface, just in time to catch the Trash Alien.

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With Blasternaut hot on his tail, the Trash Alien jumps into his ship and tries to escape with Spot. You’ll have to fly right up into the ship to get him back. But how will you know which of the four tubes actually leads into the ship? Simple, just solve the math problem and you’ll know which one leads to saving spot!

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Knowing which tube is the right one is only half the problem. There’s so much trash flying around on the planet’s surface that you’ll have a tough time even reaching the ship. It’s a good thing you have your trusty blaster to clear some of it away. But the trash isn’t the only thing to worry about as you make your way up into the ship. The Trash Alien will be raining fire down on top of you in a desperate attempt to slow you down.

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But it will take more than that to stop Blasternaut from rescuing Spot. We’re already traveled all this way and we’re not leaving without him. So with one final push, Blasternaut forces the Yellow Three Eyed Trash Alien to leave his ship and fly off in defeat. Spot is once again safe, and the Trash Alien’s Ship will serve as some lovely celebratory pyrotechnics!

Verdict

Gameplay – 8 / 10

I actually really like the gameplay in the Math Blaster Series. It is constantly mixing it up, but always keeps things much more action oriented than most other educational games. It’s not without its flaws though. The first stage in particular becomes slightly frustrating with a controller because it was so obviously meant to be played on the computer with a mouse. This leaves the cross hairs just a little too slow for what you’re trying to do, but just slightly. They actually did a good job programming both the speed and responsiveness of the crosshairs to make it work as best they could with the D-pad. The only other complaint is that Blasternaut is somewhat difficult to control when using his jetpack, he just doesn’t have the right weight to him you would expect.

Graphics – 8 / 10

It’s not a very graphically intense game, but everything was handled very well I think. The first stage in particular has a lot of little details that I picked up on. Things like Blasternaut turning the controls alone with you when you’re moving the cross hairs, and his thumb pressing the button every time you fire. Then those asteroids looked almost three dimensional.

Audio – 8 / 10

I’m giving this one a lot of credit simply for that fully voiced introduction. Such a thing on the SNES is practically unheard of. Beyond that, the music and sound effects were quite enjoyable. It did lose a point though because the sound of the score tallying after the stage is rather loud and annoying.

Story – 7 / 10

It’s a very simple story, your buddy was randomly kidnapped and it’s up to you to save them. However, every section reinforced the idea that you are hot on the trail of the kidnapper. You were actually chasing him the whole way rather than him just sitting at the end waiting for you.

Total Playtime – 0h 30m

It’s a very short game, they knew you couldn’t get kids to sit still much longer than a half hour at a time. But with all the different difficulty settings as well as the fact that so many things are randomly generated, it actually has a lot of replay value.

Total Deaths – 4 Deaths

Yes, I died a few times, but this game handles it so wonderfully. You’re not punished and sent all the way back to the beginning like in so many other games. Instead, you just get right back up from where you landed and continue on your adventure as if nothing happened. It’s enough for you to stay aware of what you’re doing, but it’s gentle enough to keep you playing a game you would never tolerate any back tracking from.

Overall Score – 8 / 10

Making an educational game and having it still be fun is a difficult balancing act, but Math Blaster manages to pull it off. Honestly, it gets so many things right that I can’t even knock it for also being educational. The fast paced, action oriented gameplay keeps you on your toes the whole time. Pair that with good graphics as well as some impressive audio for the time and you are left with a genuinely fun game. The short length is really the only thing I can fault the game on, but with 12 difficulty settings ranging from simple addition right up to double digit multiplication, there is a lot of replay value for a wide range of ages. So if for some reason you’ve never played Math Blaster, why don’t you look past those educational warning labels for once and give it a try.

 

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This counts as a high school diploma, right?

 

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I hope you enjoyed Math Blaster: Episode One. If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

 

Super Mario World (SNES) – Part 1

I can’t believe it’s been a year already since I started the site. I’ve put a lot more work into it than I thought I ever would, and I’m actually quite happy with how everything is evolving. I know I’m not the greatest writer, but I hope it comes across at least as entertaining to read. Beyond the site itself, I’m happy to finally be able to dedicate time to games I missed or just never finished as a child. With that in mind, I thought I should go big for the site’s one year anniversary and play a true classic, Super Mario World for the SNES.

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The game itself really needs no introduction. It is the game that practically defined the entire Super Nintendo Generation, as well as being the template that most future Mario games have been based on. It’s amazing to me that I’ve gone this long in my life without playing this game to completion. However, if you’ve been following closely, you’ll already know it’s because I never had a SNES growing up. My parents bought me the Genesis instead. Even without owning the game, I wasn’t completely unaware of how ground breaking a title it really was. On rare occasion I managed to play it at a friend’s house while we hung out together, which left a lasting impression on me to this day. But you can never complete the whole game that way, only get enough of a taste to know you want more. Those are exactly the games I started this site to play, the ones that got away.  So to commemorate the site’s one year anniversary, I hope to do the game justice as I play and review Super Mario World for the SNES! Let’s-a Go!!

Gameplay

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Welcome to Dinosaur Island, home of the Yoshis and setting for our grand adventure in Super Mario World. It might not technically be the mushroom kingdom, but that doesn’t seem to stop Princess Peach from being kidnapped by Bowser. Not only that, but Bowser managed to kidnap the entire Yoshi population as well. It looks like a lot of people are counting on Mario to once again save the day.

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Before even starting a level, you just have to take in the world map. While technically just a hub for the rest of the levels, there is still a lot of detail and fun thrown into the map itself. I have always especially loved how the landscape breaths and changes as you clear levels. Mountains will change in size, bridges will be built, and even whole new branching paths form if you manage to find secret exits to stages.

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Speaking of secrets and branching paths, following the left path from the start of the game will bring you up to the Yellow Switch Palace, which contains one of several colored switches hidden throughout Dinosaur Island. What does it do exactly? Well, scattered throughout the levels are multi colored outlines of blocks. Activating the corresponding switch will fill those blocks in, providing helpful platforms, or even access to more hidden areas. So do your best to find all of them.

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Finally getting into the gameplay itself and you’ll see it is a huge improvement over previous Mario titles. As would be expected of Mario’s arrival on the Super Nintendo, the graphics have been vastly improved, elevating Mario to his now iconic look. That’s not all that has improved, Mario managed to learn a few new tricks along the way. In addition to his usual running and jumping, he also learned a spinning jump which allows him to finally break bricks below himself as well as above. You’ll also notice that he now has the ability to hold onto an additional power-up item for use at a later time, adding a bit of convenience and strategy to collecting power-ups.

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The enemies have evolved quite a bit after the conversion as well. The Koopas for example now walk upright instead of on all fours like in previous games, a trait that will stay with them for the rest of the series. Bullet Bill is also more than eager to greet you in the first stages and show off how much he has grown between games, now filling up half the screen on his own and adopting the new name of Banzai Bill.

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Death Count: 1

There are also some newcomers to the series such as the purple dinosaurs name Rex. These guys take 2 hits each to kill, and for the life of me I can’t manage to play the game without them killing me at least once. I know they’re there and I know how to kill them, but still they kill me at least once. They’re just like that first goomba in the original Mario for me.

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Dinosaur Island is also home to a rather large family of Monty Moles. These furry little moles will burrow up out of the ground all around Mario and try to overpower him with their sheer numbers. Dispite the infestation, it would seem the whole Chargin’ Chucks football team is also on the island for some off season training, and they see Mario are the perfect training partner. These guys are really tough to kill thanks to all their padding, and it doesn’t help that, as their name suggests, they will regularly charge straight at you. Curiously though, they have a tendency to throw baseballs at you, despite very clearly being football players.

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Then of course, there is my favorite addition to the whole series, Yoshi. This adorable green dinosaur is the tank of Mario’s arsenal, offering up a deadly offensive attack as well as a substantial strategic defense. For an attack, Yoshi is capable of grabbing most enemies with his long tongue and swallowing them whole, clearing a safe passage for your journey. Should any enemies actually manage to attack Yoshi, he is thankfully indestructible. The damage will still dismount Mario, and with no rider Yoshi will run blindly forward, often into bottomless pits. However, Mario himself takes no damage from the attack, and you’re fully capable of remounting Yoshi if you get to him before he runs away. All of these combined make Yoshi an indispensable companion for your adventure.

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Unfortunately, Yoshi is not allowed to assist you inside the castles, so you’ll have to leave him at the door. It’s a shame, but Yoshi wouldn’t be much help inside the castles anyway. Not with all the new traps Bowser has thought up. It would seem the Koopas have gone through some intense training between games, because they’ll now climb around on chain link fences as they try to stop Mario. Mario will have to use their own defenses against them as he too climbs across the fences over the lava.

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That’s not all that’s in store for Mario. If you thought the Thwomps were bad, you just have to wait for the giant wooden columns coming from the ceiling this time around. You wouldn’t want to be flattened under one of those when they finally come down!

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Survive the challenges of the castle, and it’s time to face off against the first Koopaling, Iggy Koopa. Unlike previous titles, where a few attacks were enough to kill the boss, this time around you have to actually knock Iggy into the lava pits to kill him. With the platform rocking back and forth, that’s easier said than done. He’s also not going to just stand there and take the abuse either. No, Iggy will regularly be throwing giant fire balls at our hero. Don’t give up Mario, so many people depend on you!

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Knock Iggy into the Lava and you’ve won, as well as managed to rescue a yellow Yoshi. He’s still trapped in an egg, but I’m sure we can fix that. But first, we need to destroy this castle of evil. Set some dynamite, press the plunger, and just like that Mario has yet another new occupation in demolition. With that, we’re done here on Yoshi’s Island and we’re off to Donut Land!

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It is here in the first stages of Donut Land that you are finally introduced to perhaps Super Mario World’s most iconic power-up, the Cape Feather which transforms Mario into Cape Mario. With this power up, Mario is capable of jumping high up into the air like a super hero after getting a good running start. Not just that, but he can use the cape to glide through the air with ease. In fact, with practice, it’s possible to stay in the air for entire stages without ever touching the ground again.

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Donut Land also happens to contain my favorite secret area of the game. There is a secret exit to the Ghost House in the top left area of Donut Land. To access it, you need to start the level as Cape Mario, pick up some speed, and super jump to a secret area directly above your starting position. This will bring you to the secret exit and unlock the Top Secret Area.

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What’s so special about the Top Secret Area? Only everything! This area is a simple single screen with five ?-Blocks in it. Two of them have fire flowers, the other two have cape feathers, and there is a Yoshi egg in the center. This lets you prep yourself however you want for any of the upcoming levels. Just take a quick trip back and get the power-ups you need. But more importantly, it offers you infinite lives thanks to the Yoshi egg. Any time you find a Yoshi egg while already riding a Yoshi, the egg will produce a 1-Up mushroom instead. With this area, you can just keep hatching 1-Ups for as long as you want without any enemy threat. It takes a little time to fill up your lives, but it’s worth it. I might be on a pretty good streak so far, but I know I’ll need as many lives as I can get for the levels ahead.

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Of course, getting to 99 lives might seems unnecessary with how overpowered the Cape Feather really is. The stage Donut Plains 3 for example is supposed to be a platforming challenge with its lack of stable ground to stand on. But thanks to the cape, you can literally fly right over the entire level. After the first good running start, I honestly didn’t even see most of the level. I didn’t even see the goal line I was flying so high. It really does feel like cheating, but it’s just so easy to do.

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Thankfully, the Castles don’t allow such blatant cheating. This time around, it’s all about timing as you avoid being flattened into a Mario pancake. While I’m not sure how much the little baby Thwomps would actually hurt in real life, their grown counterparts are just waiting around the corner. If you can make it past all the Ball ‘n’ Chains that is.

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Death Count: 3

The Thwomps aren’t the only thing you’ll have to worry about in this Castle though. You’ll also have to avoid whole sections of the walls shifting in an attempt to flatten you. As much as you’d like to simply avoid them, these shifting walls also provide your only footing as you try to climb to the top of the Castle. Of course, you also can’t forget the ever present Dry Bones wandering around.

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Death Count: 4

If you can manage to make it through the castle, you’ll now have to face off against Morton Koopa Jr. Morton puts up a rather interesting fight. You’ll have to jump on his head several times to defeat him, but he makes that hard to do when he insists on standing on the ceiling. His strategy is actually the same as your own, he wants to jump on your head. So watch out for falling Koopas and attack before he can run away. While you might not be able to attack him on the ceiling, his attack pattern is very easy to predict, simply run under him to make him drop, which makes him a rather easy target once he’s back on the ground.

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With another Castle cleared, we’ve managed to rescue another Yoshi, but still no sign of Princess Peach. We’ll have to press on forward into the Vanilla Dome in search of her. But before that, it’s once again time to destroy the castle. We wouldn’t want the Koopalings to use it to plan a counter attack. Unfortunately Mario used up all his dynamite back on the first Castle. He’ll just have to stomp this one into dust himself.

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Death Count: 8

Now deep underground, Mario can no longer abuse the power of the Cape Feather. The vibrant green open landscapes of the previous levels have been temporarily replaced with confining, maze like caves. You would think that would make this area better suited for the Fire Flower, but you would be wrong. The Fire Flower may be powerful against most enemies, but it proves useless against the numerous Buzzy Beetles and their Red Spike variant.

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Death Count: 13

The confined spaces also make Chargin’ Chuck more deadly than ever. You’ll have to remain ever vigilant if you don’t want them to trample right over you. It’s not all bad though. The Vanilla Dome also features some amazing crystal blue lakes full of adorable fish. Just remember that these fish don’t like it when you try to pet them. We learned that the hard way.

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Death Count: 15

With me controlling Mario, it’s really no surprise to see so many ghosts filling the only house in the area. I’m just not very good at keeping Mario alive. At least all the Boos seem to be having fun together as they play follow the leader. Or maybe it’s ring around the rosie. The Big Boos however seem less than happy at Mario’s arrival, I have no idea why. I also have no idea what the heck these green blobs are supposed to be. Whatever they are, they don’t like me either.

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Death Count: 17

In fact, it feels like no one want to be friends with Mario as even the boiling lava gains consciousness with the sole purpose of murdering our hero plumber. Though I have a feeling it is somehow my fault and I just don’t know it. I mean, just look at Mario’s raft. It’s clearly made from the skulls of the fallen. Whether they be fallen enemies or one of the many Mario clones to already die on this journey is unclear. But either case would give them ample reason to want revenge.

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Death Count: 25

With so much death already haunting Mario, I’m somewhat frightened to even enter the next castle. Those fears prove to be well founded as the death count quickly rises with the introduction of the Magikoopa. Armed with powerful magic as well as the ability to teleport around the castle, they prove almost too much for Mario.

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Death Count: 38

Even when Mario does manages to rush past these new foes, the legions of undead Dry Bones still block the path. Combined with the moving stone slabs, I quickly lose my cool and make the same stupid mistakes over and over again, for which Mario ends up suffering. It’s sad really, all those Mario clones gone in an instant.

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Death Count: 42

Pressing forward over the bodies of the fallen, we finally manage to make it to Lemmy Koopa’s Lair. Having gained wisdom from the previous Koopalings, Lemmy goes for a much more defensive approach to defeating Mario. He’ll hide in a row of warp pipes, only occasionally emerging to attack. As an added precaution, Lemmy has also created two decoys to pop up with him to distract Mario. But such tactics won’t work forever, and before long Lemmy is launched clear through the pipes into the lava below.

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With Lemmy’s defenses broken, it’s time to destroy his castle. I hate it so much, and apparently so does Mario as he demolishes it with his giant mallet. Our quest is indeed getting much harder. And now I know that hidden somewhere in the previous areas are two of the other switches. Not that it does me much good. I’m pressing forward to save Princess Peach and there’s no time to be sidetracked!

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Outside the dome, we find ourselves in one of the shorter areas of the island here on Cheese Bridge. With only two areas to explore before the Castle, this should be a breeze. But I know better than to start thinking that way. The description says bridge, but there’s really no bridge to speak of. Instead you’ll be gliding through the air on the scrolling platforms, all the while avoiding the log cutting Buzz Saws so recklessly placed on the same tracks.

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Thankfully, we found a nice pair of magic wings to help Yoshi fly way up into the sky. But flight alone isn’t enough to keep Mario out of danger. For in the Mario universe, floating block technology extends high up into the reaches of space. And where there are floating blocks, there are creatures trying to claim them as their own. In this case a rather large infestation of black Fuzzies. You’ll have your work set out for you just trying to avoid all of them as you navigate the high reaches of space atop your winged Yoshi!

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Death Count: 45

I’d like to say the wings guided us to safety on the other side of the bridge, but that would be a lie. While there is once again some solid ground to stand on, that ground just so happens to be erupting into flames thanks to a new enemy, the Sumo Brothers. A variant to the classic Hammer Brothers, this new enemy will stomp the ground with such force that lighting is created which then ignites the ground below them.

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By some miracle we manage to make it to Ludwig von Koopa’s castle. After the marathon of deaths experience back at Lemmy’s castle, I’m less than excited to be charging into another one so soon. Thankfully, it’s not quite as hard as the last castle, in my opinion anyway. The castle starts in a narrow passage with a gauntlet of Ball ‘n’ Chains to run past. Then you’ll have to be quick as you make your way over the lava pits. Unless you WANT the spiked ceiling to crush you.

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Death Count: 47

Thankfully, there’s a handy toggle switch about half way through that will send it right back up where it came from. Of course, this leaves you as climbing partners with a room full of Koopas as you make your way up the chain link fences. Dodge them or knock them off, either way you have to reach the top if you want to face off against Ludwig!

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Death Count: 48

With Lemmy’s ultimate defense having been defeated, Ludwig goes for a full assault offensive approach as he shoots fireball after fireball at Mario. The tactic works at first, making it very difficult to even get near him. However, since he’s otherwise motionless while attacking, he has set himself up as a sitting duck. Well, turtle as the case may be. This motionless, repetitive attack pattern ends up being his undoing as Mario stomps him like the other Koopalings before him.

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Ludwig von Koopa will torment us no more, and so it’s time to destroy his castle as well. Unfortunately there seems to have been a miscalculation, or something flammable in the basement that was overlooked. Instead of blowing up and crumbling to the ground, Ludwig’s castle instead shoots into the air like a rocket, eventually crashing into the hill off in the distance. Quite to Mario’s surprise I might add. In either case, the castle is destroyed, and we’re off to the Forest of Illusion, that doesn’t sound good for us!

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This forest is a literal maze just waiting to force Mario to lose his way. Simply clearing the stages won’t be enough here, you’ll have to find secret exits if you want to make any real progress. Otherwise you’ll simply be wandering around in circles forever.

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Death Count: 53

While the Forest of Illusion may be a death trap to all who enter it. It is also the happy home to the lovable new addition to the Mario series, the Wiggler enemies. Resembling real world caterpillars, the Wigglers are actually quite peaceful creatures. That all changes however if you jump on them, knocking off the flower that grows on their forehead. Without this flower they will become red with rage and viciously attack. Furthermore, they’re nearly indestructible, being immune to nearly all forms of attack other than tossed items or being eaten by Yoshi. Perhaps they’re an enemy better left alone.

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But enough with the nature watch, we need to find some secrets here in the forest, and find them we shall. Starting with this not so hidden ?-Block with a P-Balloon hidden inside. Thanks to the power of this odd power-up, Mario himself will swell up like a balloon, allowing him to float through the air with ease. With this power, we can drift along until we happen upon the first lock and key I’ve managed to use so far, and the first secret exit discovered here in the forest.

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Death Count: 59

Though if I knew where that secret led, maybe I wouldn’t have been so eager to find it, as now we’ve stumbled upon the Ghost House hidden away in the forest. And what a densely populated Ghost House it is. With how poor of a player I am, I can’t help but feel responsible for filling this house with Boos out for vengeance. Not to mention the literal walls of Eeries, reminding me of all the Yoshi’s I’ve lost or sacrificed during this journey.

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Death Count: 61

If it’s any consolation, it’s very likely that Mario will be sleeping with the fishes very soon, and perhaps quite literally. Mario does have an amazingly large lung capacity. He could easily lay down right next to those Rip Van Fish and sleep right next to them. Of course, they don’t like to be disturbed, and Mario isn’t exactly great at stealth. Should Mario wake them from their slumber, they will understandably chase him down and try to kill him. That’s of course assuming the Urchin’s don’t kill him first along the way.

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Death Count: 65

Naturally, Mario and I become hopelessly lost within the woods. There has to be a secret exit somewhere, and I have a feeling it’s in the Forest of Illusion 3 stage at the bottom right side of the map. There are quite a few spots where such an exit might be hidden, but I’m convinced it’s somewhere in this mess of ?-Blocks scattered among the trees. Hitting all the different blocks however is easier said than done with all these Galoombas and Bob-ombs swarming around them.

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Unfortunately, all those Mario deaths were in vain, because there was no secret hidden in those blocks. But I was at least partially right, there is a secret exit in this level, just not right there. Instead, it’s hidden in one of the warp pipes right before the goal line. Inside is a key and keyhole which will finally open up a path out of this forest and straight to the front gate of Roy Koopa’s castle.

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Death Count: 76

As we enter yet another castle, the death toll once again skyrockets. To be clear, Roy’s Castle is not a difficult castle on a technical level, but it has a large emphasis on patience, a quality I simply do not possess. As such, the Snake Blocks providing Mario’s only solid footing may as well have just killed me themselves. Whether I be plunging off the side into the fiery lava, or impaling myself on the spikes, my lack of patience with the slow moving platform caused the death of many a Mario.

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Death Count: 79

Even when I can hold it together long enough to make it past the Snake Blocks, my impatience still gets the better of me. For example, there’s my insistence of jumping on the Switch Block at the start of the bridge. Ignoring the switch would make things easier, because it would prevent one of the Bowser Statues from falling into my path. But I simply can’t resist the allure of the Switch Block.

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Death Count: 82

Things just get worse when I’m faced with the series of Stretch Blocks following the bridge. I want so much to rush, but that more often than not just causes me to fall to my death. If I don’t miss the landing entirely, then more than likely my timing is off and I wind up jumping straight into one of the Lava Bubbles or even the fireballs shot from the Bower statues.

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Eventually, I do actually make it to Roy Koopa’s lair, and it looks like he’s going to be taking a page out of Morton’s book and go with the whole “Climb up to the ceiling” plan of attack. He does put his own twist on the plan though by forcing the outer walls to close in on you as the fight goes on, reducing the amount of room available to dodge his attacks. Unfortunately for Roy, the lack of room doesn’t make his attack pattern any less predictable. Before long, Roy’s plan falls apart just as Morton’s did before him and we are one step closer to rescuing princess peach.

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Before we leave, we better destroy this castle just like all the others. After the fiasco that was the castle rocket last time, we’re going to have to be extra careful this time to makes sure everything goes according to plan. We’re looking for precision demolition here, Mario. Unfortunately, it looks like we either got a wire crossed somewhere, or that bomb was a dud. With a blatant disregard to job site safety, Mario rushes up to the bomb himself to investigate, and predictably it blows up in his face. When will you ever learn? But look at the bright side, we’re heading to the delicious Chocolate Island next.

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What more dangers wait ahead for Mario? How many more times can he possibly die? You’ll just have to keep reading in Part 2 to find out!

Total Deaths So Far – 82 Deaths

Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose! (SNES)

I’m about ready to give up on Looney Tunes themed games. The ones I’ve tried so far have been terrible. I have a few others, but I know them and they aren’t much better. Maybe the characters are just too old, too out of style. Video games weren’t even around when they came out. No, we need to move on to the younger generation, my generation, the ones that know what games are all about. I speak of course of the amazing Tiny Toon Adventures!

Tiny Toons Promo

For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember, Tiny Toon Adventures (AKA Tiny Toons) was a joint project between Warner Brothers and Steven Spielberg’s very own Amblin Entertainment. It first aired in September of 1990, the show followed quite literally a new generation of cartoon characters as they attended school and learned how to be funny. The main characters were mostly analogues for the various famous Looney Tunes characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, many of whom actually appeared as the teachers in the school they attended. The show only lasted 3 seasons, which is a huge shame. It was and still is one of my favorite shows. Even with the relatively short life of the show, I consider it to be one of the shows that shaped my childhood.

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There were actually quite a few games made with the Tiny Toons license. There were a good handful of games for the Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Genesis. Then another whole handful made for the Gameboy, Gameboy Color, and right up to the Gameboy Advance. There were even games made for the Playstation and Playstation 2 long after the show had ended. With so many to choose from, it was hard to pick just one, but I narrowed it down and decided to try Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose! for the SNES. It’s an action platformer created by Konami, who were at the top of their game at the time. It would seem every great cartoon game of the time was made by either Konami or Capcom, and I can only imagine this will live up to that high standard. So without any further delay, let’s jump right into this game and see if this new generation can bring some credibility back to the Looney Tunes name.

Gameplay

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The game starts with Buster and Babs introducing the game and setting the basic groundwork for the first stage. Just like in most of the cartoons, we start out at their school, Acme Looniversity. Buster has to run because his classes are starting, and Babs warns that some animals have escaped and are causing trouble in the school. It looks like we’ll have to be careful as we make our way to class.

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We control Buster as he makes his way through the school, and just as Babs warned, there are a variety of different animals running around loose in the school. Though really, what makes one animal a main character and the other just a wild animal? Anyway, the most common of these animals are rats with remind me of Roderick Rat, a reoccurring character from the rival school of Perfecto Prep. Of course, Buster isn’t helpless in his journey, but his controls are definitely going to take some getting used to. For starters, his attack is, as best I can describe it, a drop kick with a back flip. It’s very effective, but it’s such an awkward attack style that it’s a bit hard to get comfortable with.

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Buster’s other ability is his dash, which in full cartoon fashion allows him to run straight up walls. This is another very effective ability, but again one that is so foreign of a concept that I often found myself underutilizing its potential.

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Death Count: 1

 

Halfway through the level, there is a brief mini boss fight against Arnold the Pit Bull, acting as a security guard in what looks like the art department. You’ll need to defeat him to retrieve the keys to the door on the far end if you want to escape. He’s not just going to stand around and take a beating though. Being the meathead that he is, he’ll charge straight at you as soon as he sees you. But after a few drop kicks, he’ll be down for the count and give up his keys.

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This brings us to the school’s cafeteria where Hamton warns us of the trouble Dizzy Devil is causing. Always hungry and naturally quite stupid, Dizzy is destroying the entire kitchen in an attempt to get full his belly. Left unchecked, there won’t be any food left for anyone else to eat. It’s up to Buster to stop him.

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Death Count: 3

 

Inside the kitchen is one of the most unique boss battles I think I’ve ever seen. Dizzy isn’t evil, he’s just hungry, and so we don’t want to hurt him. Instead, we just want to help fill him up before he destroys everything. To do this, we need to stand on a platform below him and bump the food from below so it flies up into his hungry mouth. This is easier said than done, as Dizzy has a tendency to get over excided and destructively spin around the whole kitchen, destroying the food, the platforms, and even Buster if he just stuck in Dizzy’s path. Hide inside the doorways until it’s safe, then feed him as quickly as you can.

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Once he’s had his fill, Dizzy will promptly fall asleep right there in the middle of the kitchen. But that’s ok, you beat the first stage and get to move on to the bonus rounds. Set up like a game show, you spin the wheel to see which of the 5 minigames you’ll get to play. These games give you the opportunity to win quite a few extra lives each, which you’ll need in the coming stages.

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For my first bonus round, I landed on the Mystery Weight Challenge. In this, you have 5 characters ranked in weight from 1 to 5. You pick the order in which they will compete, and quite simply, if your character is heavier than your opponent’s character, you win a life. I actually managed to win 3 out of the 5 levels, though honestly it was nothing but luck.

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The next stage opens with Buster telling us how important the dash is going to be. It also sets the stage as a western movie, with Montana Max insisting he be the main character. Buster and Plucky are suspicious that Max is up to something, but they let the spoiled brat have his way for now.

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The western town is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, you have some thugs throwing tomatoes out the second floor windows at you. On the other, there’s a happy pair of mice that want nothing more than for you to do jump rope with them. In fact you can’t proceed until you successfully jump rope with them, which is kind of odd.

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Making it though the town, you eventually find yourself at the Inn. With nowhere else to go, you’ll have to climb up to the highest floors of the building, all the while avoiding rolling barrels and falling chandeliers. When you make it to the attic, you’ll finally see what Montana Max was scheming as he steals all the valuables out of the attic safe.

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Death Count: 8

 

After jumping out the window to catch Montana Max, we find ourselves on a train for what is possibly the most frustrating section of the whole game. In retrospect, it wasn’t hard, it was just very demanding, and required complete mastery of Buster’s dash ability. The screen is auto scrolling as you slowly progress up the train, dodging random nets the whole way just waiting to snatch up Buster. Unfortunately for you, the train enters a tunnel, and Buster is left no other option but to dash over the mountain, jumping over gaps, and busting straight through enemies in the process.

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Death Count: 13

 

There aren’t very many obstacles along the way, but you need to be completely perfect or you’ll never make it. The tiniest hesitation will cause Buster to lag behind and fall off screen, dying and forcing you to start over again. Things like jumping slightly too late will cause Buster to take too much time climbing a wall, and fall off the screen as it scrolls.

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Leading up to this point, you’ve never really had a chance to figure out the subtleties of Buster’s dash, and they really come back to bite you in this level. It’s the little things like the fact his dash has no true momentum to it. What I mean by this is that when Buster comes to a ledge, he doesn’t go flying off like you would expect to happen when someone is running as fast as they can towards a ledge. Instead he’ll make a 90 degree turn straight down the side of the cliff, again causing you to fall off the edge of the screen as it scrolls and having to start over.

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Death Count: 18

 

If you manage to make it over the mountain and catch up with the train again, you’ll now be in even greater danger as the tracks fall away out from under the train. Once again, the auto scroll is what makes this so dangerous. In any other situation, you’d be able to stay ahead of the train cars falling. In this game however, you need to ride the falling train car down as it falls until the screen scrolls enough to reveal the next car. Then you’ll have to dash and jump to the next car before you fall into oblivion.

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I don’t know what happened to the front of this train, because after one last long jump, we find ourselves on what is clearly a different train. This new train has a ridiculously high roof which would never have fit through that first tiny tunnel. It’s also full of passengers, all of whom seem to have it out for Buster for some reason. I want to believe that they’re thugs, but on closer inspection, they might be some kind of special needs people. The one guy is wearing a Yale sweater and swinging a turkey leg at me. I think I might have just beat up a handicapped person. At least the magician at the end of the train is more clearly attacking me with his extending cane. He also looks like he might be the devil, so double win for killing him.

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Death Count: 24

 

Once again, the engine of this train is nowhere to be found, how has it kept its momentum this long without an engine? At first, it would seem like this is the end of our journey, since there’s nowhere else to go, but just then a collection of wooden beams start flying through the air. If we jump from beam to beam, we might just be able to catch up to the rest of the train. But once again, the lack of experience with Buster’s dash made this harder than it needed to me. Namely the fact that I didn’t realize you could start a dash in midair. Without knowing this fact, the final jump to the back of the train can feel impossible.

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It looks like it was Arnold the Pit Bull throwing those wooden beams at us. I don’t know if I should thank him, or be mad at him, so I’m going to drop kick him in the head. Even with his help, we still haven’t reached the engine of the train yet. It’s going to take one super jump to the moon if we want to catch it.

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Death Count: 27

 

Then again, maybe we don’t want to make it to the engine. It seems no one is driving the train, it’s just full speed ahead and hope we don’t all die. We can’t have that, so it’s up to Buster to bring it to a stop. In what is another unconventional boss fight, Buster has to actually fight the train until it stops. As with this whole level so far, the auto scroll still never stops, and makes this battle so much harder than it needs to be. You’ll have to attack the smokestacks as fast as you can while avoiding the shooting flames and steam. If you slow down, you’ll end up falling off screen and have to start the fight over.

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Destroying the smoke stacks apparently wasn’t enough to stop the train. This makes sense since the smoke stacks really have nothing to do with propelling the train forward. I don’t know why Buster thought that was the solution to this problem. So the train is still recklessly out of control, and it looks like we’re not the only ones going for a ride here. Montana Max is clinging for dear life to the front of the train begging for help. Thank God for that conveniently placed railcar being pushed along in front of the train. We’ll have to use that to escape. Lucky for us we manage to pump the railcar all the way up to 88 mph and travel back in time. Hooray for back to the future references! Wait, was there plutonium on that cart?

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We’ve finally completed another stage, and that means another bonus round. This time I end up landing on Hungry Boy Hamton. In this minigame you have to slide the tiles around to create a path for Hamton to walk on and collect the apples. This mini game is so unbelievably easy. I managed to collect all 6 apples, and with it gained 6 extra lives for the next stage.

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I’m going to need every one of those lives as we head into the spooky mansion. It’s raining, and there’s nowhere else to go except for a lone mansion out in the woods. It’s so overdone that even Buster knows it’s cliché. But cliché doesn’t mean bad, let’s see what horrors are in store for us in this spooky mansion.

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Death Count: 30

 

It doesn’t start out promising for me as I’m killed almost instantly by the plethora of ghosts roaming around the mansion. After a few attempts, their patterns start to become more obvious, even when they appear to be coming from everywhere at once. Surviving the ghosts brings us face to face with what appears to be a Two Headed Vampire Frankenstein Monster. And here I thought I’d go my whole life without seeing one of those. What’s more, these monsters are accompanied by what look like evil cake. How on earth could cake be made evil?

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Death Count: 32

 

This brings us to the most frightening room in all of creation. The dreaded teeter totter and giant mallet room! Oh the humanity, think of the children. Won’t someone please think of the children!! In all seriousness, I’m not sure how this room really fits with the rest of the mansion. There’s only a single enemy in the whole room, which is a bat that turns into a vampire. He is easily dispatched, and the rest of the room is just navigating the teeter totters and avoiding the mallets.

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Hiding in fear in the deepest corner of the room is Babs. Apparently she and a friend were playing in the basement when a mad scientist came and captured her friend. He hooked the friend up to some weird machine, and Buster will have to destroy it to save the friend without hurting them. It looks like we’ve made it to our next boss battle.

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We enter the scientist’s lab and OH MY GOD IS THAT BABS’ FRIEND?! Babs, after this is all over I think we need to have a serious talk about what the hell you were doing alone in the basement with whatever that thing is. But for now, it looks like we’re going to have to do the hero act and KILL IT WITH FIRE! Sorry, I mean rescue Babs’ friend. We don’t want to hurt…it…so we’re going to have to find a way to destroy the mind control machine instead.

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Death Count: 36

 

Thankfully, Melvin is providing us with just the ammo we need to do that. Oh yeah, the monster’s name is Melvin, Melvin the Monster. Anyway, while trying to destroy us, Melvin will throw giant light bulbs and giant bolts at Buster. The light bulbs are useless, but those giant bolts are heavy enough to do some serious damage to that machine. Just kick them are hard as you can into the machine, and watch as it cracks and breaks. Eventually the machine will become so unstable that it just explodes entirely. Melvin is free of the mind control, Buster is the hero yet again and we all should probably get back to school.

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After another bonus round of Hungry Boy Hamton, it’s time to resume our school life. Of course, the school life of a cartoon character can’t be all trains and mansions. Sometimes you have to show a little school spirit! Out at Acme Looniversity Stadium, things aren’t going great for our heroes. With the game almost over, and the rival school Perfecto Prep leading 14 – 10, only a touchdown will win the game. Can we do it? I don’t even know how to football!!!

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Death Count: 38

 

So it looks like we’re playing football now, but thankfully, it’s an incredibly over simplified version of the game. There are no plays to plan out or anything like that. Your only choices are to either run the ball or pass it. If you choose to pass the ball, Plucky will send a long pass down the field for Buster to catch. There’s a convenient X marking the spot it will land, but Buster refuses to ever stop moving. This means you’ll have to try to run back and forth in the landing zone in hopes of catching the ball when it comes. I found this to be nearly impossible, and opted to run the ball more often than not.

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Death Count: 40

 

Running the ball is much easier. Since the game is still played in a side view perspective, running the ball boiled down to jumping over or occasionally sliding under the defensive linesmen as you make your way down the field. It’s slow but steady progress, and it’s worth it in the end when you finally make that touchdown to win the big game for the school.

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After such an amazing victory against our rival school, we need to kick back with another fun bonus round. This time we land on Plucky Duck’s Go-Go Bingo. Just like real bingo, you have very little control or strategy for this game. 7 balls are called, filling in character faces on the board and you get an extra life for every bingo you make. By the end, I only managed a single bingo to get a single extra life.

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Now that Buster is the big sports star of the school, everyone is going to start asking him for favors. Case in point, here we have Calamity Coyote asking for help. Apparently he hid something up in the sky, but can’t remember where, and wants Buster to help find it. He hid something…in the sky…are there a lot of good hiding places just kind of floating around in the air that I just don’t know about? How did he even get up to the sky to hide anything? He can’t fly.

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Death Count: 41

 

It likes like I might have my answer, giant balloons. I would think Hamton’s idea to use a plane would be the better option, but he doesn’t seem inclined to help us. Instead he just makes bubbles for Buster to jump on. Bubbles don’t make the best platforms, and they will quickly break if you’re not fast enough.

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Eventually Buster lands on top of a blimp, which is actually a very bad place to be. The blimp is constantly rocking back and forth, and Buster has no control over it. All he can do is defend himself from the vultures as he hopes for the best. Of course, nothing can ever go right for Buster as the blimp suddenly pops.

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Death Count: 43

 

Buster is saved at the last second, and now finds himself trapped in some kind of giant floating pinball machine. Seriously, what is going on anymore? I must have lived a very sheltered life to not know about giant pinball machines in the sky. Anyway, about half way up the machine, there are a variety of colored balls which Buster must collect. It’s not until Buster collects all of them will the other set of flippers appear at the top of the machine, offering Buster the final push he needs to escape.

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So we’ve done it, we braved the sky world and found calamity’s lost treasure. What was so important that Calamity felt the best hiding place would be way up in the sky? Well of course it was the script for the rest of the game. No wonder nothing has made sense, everyone was adlibbing until they could find a copy of the script.

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Death Count: 44

 

Someone isn’t too happy about this discovery however, as the structure quickly starts collapsing around you. Buster has to run as fast as he can to escape, but why is he running higher? Do you have some master plan to float back down to the ground once you make it to the top of the building? I guess we’ll never know, because this stage ends once Buster runs off screen at the top of the building.

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After yet another round of Hungry Boy Hamton, it’s time for the final stage. This time it’s a Space Opera where Buster must battle an evil empire army all by himself, all to save Princess Babs. Well, once she’s actually ready for the scene and lets herself be captured that is. She looks suspiciously like Princess Leia from Star Wars right now. But I’m sure that’s a coincidence.

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Death Count: 48

 

Contrary to popular gaming convention, this game starts with you traveling to the left. It’s actually surprising how disorienting that little change can be at first. Along the way, you’ll be fighting a whole army of Stormtwoopers, removing any doubt that this is absolutely a Star Wars parody. Also that’s not a typo, in the Tiny Toons universe they’re called Stormtwoopers. But you’ll soon forget all about it when you reach the far right and see one of the most annoying things in all of gaming, a jump to a ladder over a bottomless pit. In all my years, I have never seen such evil.

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This ladder brings you up to one of the space ships, but unfortunately for you it’s locked. If you want access to this amazing space ship, you’ll have to find the key. There aren’t a lot of hiding places for it in this area, so just keep climbing until you finally reach it in the top left corner of the room. Returning this key to the ship will not only allow you inside, but it will also activate some kind of light bridge to leave the area.

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Death Count: 53

 

It looks like we somehow managed to make it to the outside of the ship, and thankfully Buster seems to be able to survive the cold vacuum of space without a space suit. Who knew bunnies were so well suited to space travel. Buster’s amazing abilities don’t save him from the war going on around him. Every so often a large explosion will engulf the whole ship, destroying everything on screen. The only way to protect yourself is to be hiding behind one of these randomly placed barriers. It won’t be easy, but Buster must survive this war! If he fails, who will ever save Princess Babs?

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Back inside the ship, those explosions must have messed with the gravity as well as dislodging this giant ball. I’m not sure what the ship would need this random giant ball for, but it serves your needs rather well right now by being a convenient wrecking ball. Just keep messing with the gravity until it finally smashes right through the floor. Then have fun as you play some more pinball with a robot. You could kill him quickly, but why would you want to, every time it hits the bumper it makes it explode with stars to collect.

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Death Count: 58

 

Is this level still going? Anyway, it’s time for the game to give your reflexes their ultimate test. You’ll have to use Buster’s dash ability to climb up a rather tall shaft. Of course, Buster’s dash doesn’t last long enough to get you the whole way to the top. You’ll have to run over the dodo buttons set on the wall to refill you power along the way. The dodo buttons aren’t the only buttons on the wall however. If you aren’t careful and run across one of the “Out” buttons, a metal barrel will fall from the sky, trapping Buster inside for storm troopers to beat on.

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Death Count: 65

 

The level just keeps on going once you make it to the top of the shaft. With plenty of enemies around, Buster will have to stay on his toes to survive. But the real challenge comes from the red hot glowing balls bouncing around. Jump over then, duck under them, whatever you have to do to get past them, just don’t let them hit you.

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Death Count: 70

 

Having persevered through all of that, we finally come face to face with Duck Vader and his giant paralyzer gun. Buster, the Knight of Honor, will have to defeat him in order to finally rescue Princess Babs. I guess expecting an “I am your father” reference was hoping for too much out of this conversation.

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Death Count: 73

 

This is going to be yet another rather unconventional boss battle. The paralyzer gun will pivot around the center of the screen as Duck Vader tries to shoot our hero. You’ll need to kick Duck Vader in the head to detach him from the gun, and then knock the gun around until it shoots him. The problem with this strategy is that you’re just as likely to shoot yourself as you are to shoot him. It’s a challenging battle, but you must rescue Princess Babs.

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With Duck Vader defeated, Princess Babs is finally safe again, and Buster is about to get a kiss as a reward. Just them, Plucky jumps back on stage and ruins the whole mood. So forget it, no more Star Wars parody. Strike the set, get it all out of here, we’re done.

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In fact, roll credits. We’re done with the whole game. Are you happy now Plucky? Everyone was having a good time, but now we’re just going to end the game super abruptly. Congratulations!

Verdict

Gameplay – 7 / 10

This game is hard for me to review unbiasedly. The game feels very difficult, to the point of being unfair, but in retrospect was actually very easy, just demanding. And that’s the word I’m trying to hold on to, demanding. Nothing about the gameplay was particularly hard. In fact everything was so perfectly patterned that it becomes second nature after a few attempts. But it is very demanding of perfection, with the tiniest of missteps spelling disaster. Looking at basic controls, boss battles, and general game structure, everything was very well implemented, as well as being unique and interesting. Unfortunately, being unique and interesting ultimately made them feel unnatural. However, that’s a failing in the player, not the game itself.

Graphics – 8 / 10

The graphics in the game I thought were very good. Everything was very detailed and true to the original character designs. The animation however is somewhat lacking, with many characters that would probably benefit from a few extra frames of animation. This is particularly noticeable during the football game where the Perfecto Prep team has completely rigid upper bodies. Their arms are just generically outstretched like mannequins the whole time. This oversight leads a lot of characters to appear stiff and almost animatronic.

Audio – 7 / 10

The music is really good, and fits both the feel of the source material as well as setting a good atmosphere for the game. Nothing about the music really stands out as great, but nothing was bad either, which is more important in my opinion. No, my complaint with the audio is more in regard to the sound effects, or rather lack thereof. There weren’t any sound bites from the show, or reactions to damage, or really any of those audio details games of this nature usually have. I know it’s an SNES game, and the options were limited at the time, but this feels like they didn’t even try.

Story – 7 / 10

Again I’m torn. On one hand, each stage was well introduced with its own mini story arc. But on the other hand, there was no over arching story for the game as a whole. Each stage was almost completely self contained, and left the game as a whole feeling rather disjointed.

Total Playtime – 3h 7m

It’s a rather short game, and if I were a better player it would be even shorter. I would guess that a perfect run of the game could be done in roughly an hour.

Total Deaths – 73 Deaths

I’ve said it before, but the game is not hard, it demanding. Once you get the patterns down, you wonder how they ever tricked you in the first place. With that being said, I died quite a few times before I saw those patterns.

Overall Score – 7.5 / 10

It’s been a while since I thought a game should get a half score, but this game deserves it. Every aspect of the game shows that the creators cared about and understood their source material. But at the same time everything was just a hair off being great. The occasional 4th wall quip and the movie parodies perfectly match the show. Even Buster’s controls, specifically his dash, prove that they understood he’s a cartoon and needs to have cartoon physics. But at the same time everything felt slightly stiff, as if we were watching the dress rehearsal rather than the final performance. Going back to Buster’s dash, the cartoon physics of it, while true to the character, feel unnatural for the player. This ultimately makes the experience frustrating rather than charming. Then the level designs, while simple in retrospect, are just a hair too demanding to not feel broken. However, the overall experience was a fun one, frustration and all. Being a hair off great is still a generally good game, and one I would easily recommend to fans of the series.

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NO! No more tests! We’re done! Plucky ruined it for everyone!

 

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I hope you enjoyed Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose! If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

 

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (SNES)

GO, GO, POWER RANGERS! MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS!!! I don’t care how old I get, that song will always make me feel like a little kid again. I don’t know a single child of the 90’s that didn’t watch Power Rangers. So while we’re already reliving my gaming childhood, we might as well dive into my television childhood as well. When I think about it now, the background of the show is just ridiculous. Take a Japanese costumed superhero show, and splice the actions scenes with newly filmed American high school drama scenes to make a whole new show. As ridiculous as it is, it worked.

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The show took off so quickly, and was marketed with so many different products, it was only a matter of time before they started making video games of it. By the start of the second season, games were being made for every system. The Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Game Gear, Game Boy, and the topic of today’s article, the SNES. It was produced by Bandai, the same company that produced all the other official merchandise, so I actually have pretty high hopes for this game. It’s been years since I last actually WATCHED a Power Rangers episode, but that shouldn’t matter. A good game is a good game. So let’s see how this one stacks up.

Gameplay

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Rita Repulsa has um, shown up in the sky and set the whole world on fire? I’m not really sure what happened because there’s no actually cut scene or text or even a story in the manual. Bad things happen, so go be the Power Rangers I guess is the only story this game is going to get. As the Power Rangers, you get to pick any of the 5 original Rangers to play as. I’m going to choose Jason, the Red Ranger, since he’s basically the leader, so he’s probably the best.

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Anyway, the game plays out as a basic beat em’ up game and the controls are kind of limited. You can only move left and right and you only have a basic punch and jump as well as a crouching attack. You can also throw enemies if you attack them while standing close enough. This will happen a lot since it’s a pretty close combat style game, which is actually kind of fun. Beat up all the Putty enemies in the area and you’ll be prompted to go to the next screen. It’s all pretty basic stuff.

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Before long, you’ll enter a park area and be confronted with a skeleton like monster. Seeing him reminds you that you can transform into your Power Ranger suit which is so much better than your street cloths. This must have scared the skeleton pretty good, because he runs away, leaving behind a small swarm of enemies for you to mow down.

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only for “emergencies”… Like pressing the button by acccident

 

Fighting in the Ranger suit is so much more enjoyable than in the human form. You feel so much more powerful, especially since you now have an actual weapon. In Jason’s case, he is equipped with a sword which gives him a huge increase in the range of his attacks. You also now have access to a screen clearing special move, indicated by the “BOMB” icon down in the bottom corner. You can only use it once so it’s best to save it for emergencies.

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I also want to note that the game has a number of interactable environmental elements, like several of the cars in the background. You’re actually capable of attacking them until eventually they explode. Probably more useful to actual combat however are the random barrels and even park benches that show up in certain levels. As you would expect, you are able to pick them up and throw them at any oncoming enemies.

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Mow down all the enemies in the park and you’ll eventually come face to face with the skeleton again. He’s the first area’s boss, and it’s actually quite an enjoyable fight. He doesn’t have any actual health bar, but he does have nice reaction animations to being hit, so that’s good enough. He moves really quickly, and you’ll really have to do your best to stay on top of him. Thankfully he telegraphs his attacks nicely making them pretty easy to avoid.

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As you hack away at him, he’ll eventually explode into a pile of bones. It’s not over yet though, he’ll just reassemble himself as best he can. It looks like he’s lost his arms during the fight, but that isn’t stopping him. Keep hacking away and eventually he’ll just be a floating head, which was actually kind of hard to fight because he’s such a small target. He’s overall not that hard, and was an enjoyable first boss.

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Between areas, you’ll be given a password so you can start from that spot again later. Honestly, thank God. Why is it that so many retro games refuse to let you beat them without dedicating your whole life to memorizing every detail of the game? Anyway, after clearing the level you’ll also be brought back to the character select screen and be able to pick a different Ranger to play as if you want. I’m going to stick with Jason for the time being, he felt really well balanced.

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Death Count: 1

 

The next area starts out in a wooded area, before switching to a warehouse like location. You’re still fighting the same generic Putty enemies, but this time there are a few environmental factors to watch out for. Things like auto guns mounted in the woods, or rolling barrels in the warehouse. These aren’t huge changes or anything, so it’s still pretty straight forward. Just mow down the enemies like usual.

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Again, about half way through the level, you’ll encounter the level boss and transform into your Ranger suit. This time around we’re fighting… what is that, a giant garden gnome? I never did like garden gnomes. They always look so creepy and vaguely evil, and this just proves it.

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The second half of the level takes place inside one of the warehouses and introduces a few new mechanics. Several of the platforms are just begging to be grabbed, which of course you can do. Then while hanging, you can swing up to the top of the platform. That’s not all, you also have to use a wall jump technique to grab some of the platforms that are just out of reach for your normal jump.

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There are a lot of interesting things in the second half of the stage. Things like random conveyer belts that don’t really lead anywhere. They just kind of pose a minor annoyance. Then there are sections with flaming garbage raining down from the heavens. Why is there just random flaming garbage? Then there are these weird indestructible spike things all over that place that seem to serve no function at all other than to be annoying.

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We eventually get to fight the giant garden gnome, and truth be told he’s actually a decent threat. He is constantly teleporting around the stage. Something I unfortunately can’t show with still images. Anyway, he’ll rapidly teleport between the various platforms before stopping on one to attack, leaving you very little time to actually get a hit in. I found it best to just stay still and attack him when he gets close. It’s kind of a slower fight, but still not overly difficult. Plus you get to kill a garden gnome. TAKE THAT CREEPY GNOME!!!

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Death Count: 2

 

We’re onto another area and this time I thought I’d mix it up and play as Trini, the Yellow Ranger. Maybe it’s just me, but she didn’t feel as strong, and it seemed like her attack range was a lot shorter than Jason’s. Whatever, she makes up for her lack of range with the comedy of her crouching attack being basically kicking the bad guys in their privates.

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As for the area itself, we’re now in the sewers, and that doesn’t really fill me with confidence. Being anywhere near water means that soon we’ll be swimming in it, and nothing is worse than video game water levels. Thankfully that doesn’t happen until after we meet the boss. It’s a, um, mass of eyeballs? I’m going to stick with eyeballs.

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I’m really starting to regret picking yellow ranger for this level. It’s not just because her attack range still seems short even after transforming. I can deal with that. No, it’s the sections where she’s crawling and an enemy is trying to poke her in the ass. The fact that she’s a woman makes that feel horribly inappropriate somehow.

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And there it is, just like I feared, we’re now SWIMMING. And just as feared, it makes the controls very annoying. To be clear, the swimming controls themselves are actually pretty good. I never felt out of control in the water. No, what’s annoying is the fact that you CAN’T ATTACK WHILE SWIMMING! Oh, but of course the enemies can still attack you while underwater. Thankfully most of the underwater section is just swimming through section without taking damage from the turbines with very few enemies around. So it could have been worse.

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It’s time to finish things with the eyeball monster. He only has a few attacks, so he’s not that hard. He’s got a laser attack which is fairly easy to dodge. Then he’ll occasionally throw a bunch of small eyeballs at you which is a good time to just hack away at him.

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After enough damage, his body will explode away revealing a giant eyeball squid thing second form. If you’ve made it this far, you won’t have much trouble with this second form either. Really the only hard part about this second form is the fact that the target is smaller, making it harder to hit.

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Back to the character select screen again, and we might as well pick a different ranger again, this time I’ll go with Kimberly, the Pink Ranger. Her range still feels kind of short, but I’ve gotten used to that after playing as Trini. This time around, it looks like we’re fighting in some kind of half destroyed hotel. Aside from new environmental hazards like falling chandeliers, this area isn’t fundamentally much different from the other areas.

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Make it to the half way point, and we see the area boss which is some kind of Genie Dog? I really wish I knew these guy’s names. I don’t want to just call him Genie Dog. Anyway, Kimberly’s transformation into the Pink Ranger is amazing. She uses a bow, so swinging it like a melee weapon gives her the best range yet.

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Also, since it’s a bow, she can shoot arrows at the enemies from completely across the screen. While the range is good, the damage is terrible. I couldn’t even manage to kill a single enemy with it. Oh well, it’s not like I would be using it much anyway.

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The second half of the level takes us to the top of the building for some fresh air. First we start out by climbing up a narrow elevator shaft from hell to eventually get to the roof. There are random electrical orbs and falling spike bombs all the way up until surprise, the whole elevator explodes and you need to jump the rest of the way. Then we get to have the fun of running across exposed I-beams and hope we don’t trip and fall to our sudden death. Exciting!

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Amazingly, this level also includes the only example of a mid level boss in the game. At least it feels like a midlevel boss. This robot blimp floated around shooting lasers and took quite a bit of damage before he was defeated. It was quite enjoyable to fight something other than the Putties the whole game. Then again, it was also kind of annoying that it stayed under the platform for quite a while, completely out of my attack range.

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Death Count: 4

 

This of course brings us to the boss fight with the Genie Dog. An appropriate name it would seem as he does fight with what appears to be magical powers. He’ll throw disks into the air which shoot lasers down on you, he’ll breath fire, even summon small lightning dragons. One of the more common attacks has him throwing 4 daggers into the air. They’ll hover and spin for a moment and then one by one dart down towards you.

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The pink ranger’s amazing attack range actually makes her very well suited to this fight. The Genie dog will teleport across the screen after each attack and the range of the bow allows you to get some good hits in before the attack finishes. The attacks are also very patterned and predictable once you’ve seen them a few times, so be quick, and be careful, and before long he’ll go down like the rest.

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So, who should I pick for the next stage? I haven’t used Billy, the Blue Ranger, Or Zach, the Black Ranger yet. For some reason Billy just looks so out of place, and slightly fat. I remember him being kind of a nerd, but I don’t remember him being overweight at all. So instead, let’s go with Zach, even though they gave him parachute pants. I guess those were technically in style then, but that doesn’t excuse them for being terrible. Then again, maybe there’s something to these parachute pants. In complete defiance of gravity, Zach actually picks up both feet and hovers there when he throws someone. It’s got to be the pants!!

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Anyway, onto the level itself. We appear to be in some kind of underground cave. There isn’t really anything else special in this area, and it felt someone short compared to the other human form sections. Not that I’m really complaining. It’s the most fun after they transform. But before that, we need to see who our villain is. This time it’s the Green Goblin! No, that’s a Spider-man villain, so let’s just call him the Green Ninja. Then again, the Japanese Spider-man show did kind of inspire the whole Super Sentai / Power Rangers show. It’s a very strange show, you should watch it if you ever get the opportunity.

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Continuing deeper into the cave, we quickly find ourselves in some kind of underground laboratory. This section is rather long and somewhat difficult. Not because of the Putties, never because of the Putties. No, this section is hard because of the variety of flying robots raining death on you, and the wall mounted guns forcing you to watch your footing.

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Death Count: 5

 

Oh, and did I mention the run though the giant laser room? That’s right. At one point in the level you’ll be running down a hallway towards a giant laser which will regularly fire at you, practically filling the screen. Your only hope is to duck down into one of the small gaps, or you’ll be consumed inside the laser’s path. It does give off a warning siren, so you have plenty of time to get in position, and I do love how the enemy Putties also take damage from it.

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Destroy the laser and you’ll soon be face to face with the Green Ninja. This guy gave me a lot of trouble before I found out a good strategy for him. He is always in motion jumping around the room. Then when you do land a few hits on him, he’ll constantly ninja smoke bomb teleport across the room.

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Death Count: 7

 

Possibly the most annoying attack is when he jumps into the air and drops a bomb on you. Normally it wouldn’t be a difficult attack to dodge, but he’s always jumping, and you’re trying to get in position for when he lands. So the attack ends up catching you a bit by surprise. Also he hovers in the air in defiance of gravity. It must be the pants again!

 

And now the moment everyone is always waiting for in a Power Rangers episode. It’s time to summon the MEGAZORD!!! This of course changes the whole dynamic of the game. Now, instead of the beat em up that we’ve been playing the whole game so far, the action changes to be more of a fighting game. For the record, I really suck at fighting games.

 

 

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Death Count: 10

 

As you’re fighting the giant horned moth thing, you might notice that in addition to a life meter, you both also have a power meter. This second meter will gradually fill as the fight goes on and allow you to do special moves depending on how far filled it is. You’ll really need these because they can do some amazing damage if you get them to land right.

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It took me quite a few attempts before I managed to beat this guy, but it was worth it in the end just for the finishing move. Summon the lightning and slice clean though him. That’s the Power Rangers I remember. So that’s it, we killed the giant monster and saved the world.

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Not quite yet I’m afraid. There’s one more fight with another giant robot on the moon! This guy is a push over compared to the last. Or maybe I’m just more used to the controls. Either way, he barely lays a hand on me before I’m rushing him ready to finish him off.

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Death Count: 14

 

OH NO!! He has a second stage!! Of course he would have a second stage. He’s now stronger and faster than before and took me forever to figure out how to beat. He just seems to be able to do so many more attacks than you can. He’s constantly throwing energy balls at you, and seems to have a few special moves that don’t deplete the power gauge. I swear one time he actually ABSORBED my special attack to refill his own power bar.

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But I think the most annoying thing about him is the fact that he can actually BLOCK your attacks. Try as I might, I didn’t find a single button that allowed ME to block any attacks. How is that fair?

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Death Count: 17

 

Don’t give up though. Every battle I learned a little more and got a little better. Eventually I did manage to beat him and it was such a rewarding feeling. It’s something I haven’t felt from the last few games I’ve played. He might be hard, but he’s not impossible, and that sense of accomplishment after you beat him is a true sign of a great boss fight.

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Not to sound racist, but could they have made Zach’s sprite look any more like a monkey right here?

 

The ending cut scene however was, shall I say, less than spectacular. All 5 rangers are piled into the car driving down the road. Then they all stop at the juice bar to watch on as Zach dances in a way only a black person could get away with. Roll credits and thank you for playing.

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Verdict

Gameplay – 7 / 10

I found the game to be very fun. Most of the game is a bit on the easy side, but still very entertaining. While all the rangers play generally the same, they do have subtleties to them that make they feel like individuals. Then when they are transformed into ranger mode, they all feel just incredibly powerful. The boss fights are where this game really shines. Every one of them was well done and entertaining, with a good balance of skill and pattern recognition. It was definitely a welcome change from some of the recent games I’ve played. My biggest complaint was with the sudden gameplay shift and in my opinion difficulty spike at the end. I can’t really say I can think of a better way to control the Megazord, but the sudden shift is a bit jarring. Then the final boss I found to be just slightly too hard in comparison to the rest of the game. It made it satisfying when I finally won, but required just enough retries to become ACTUALLY frustrating.

Graphics – 6 / 10

The graphics were generally very good. The sprites were moderately detailed, and the bosses were entertaining. The backgrounds might have been a bit generic, but they were still very well done. The low score is actually more about the lack of diversity. Right up until the area boss, the Putty enemies are the only kind of enemy you’ll be fighting. There have a few pallet swaps, but they die so easily that it hardly makes any difference. There are a few minor robotic like enemies, but they are presented more like environmental hazards than as enemies.

Audio – 8 / 10

I thought the music was generally great. It had that nice high energy atmosphere to it you would expect from a beat em up while still maintaining the Power rangers feel. Then the fact that they digitized the vocals for the main theme was a really nice touch.

Story – 2 / 10

Rita Repulsa has sent Putties to earth to…something. But the Power Rangers do…something something to stop something or something. And that’s about the entire story present in this game. Even the manual doesn’t really say anything about any kind of story. There isn’t even a text page explaining what’s going on or anything. It’s just “You’re the power rangers. GO!” Then again, the show was always about the “Monster of the Week” so there never has been a really deep story to begin with.

Total Playtime – 1h 49m

It’s a little on the short side, and you could finish it in one sitting. That’s what I did. But it’s an enjoyable length, and with the lack of diversity in enemies it would only be worse if it went on longer. But there’s a lot packed into that short time. Each stage threw in something new, and the change in play style when in the Megazord kept the game fresh right up to the end, even if it was a bit jarring.

Total Deaths – 17 Deaths

In general, it’s an easy game. The early parts of the stages before they transform can be a little difficult at time, but they all feel near invincible once they do suit up. The boss battles were where all the challenge is. They all have nice attack patterns, but they still present a decent challenge. The final boss however I felt was a little too hard in comparison to the rest of the game. The game compensates for this though by giving you infinite continue as well as password saves to start off where you left off.

Overall Score – 7 / 10

Overall I liked the game, but there just wasn’t anything particularly special about it compared to other games like says Mega Man. With only one real enemy throughout the bulk of the game, the levels didn’t really have fully fleshed out personalities and could easily blend together. The bosses however were very enjoyable and easily made up for the lack of diversity during the rest of the stage. Also it felt really satisfying playing as the Rangers just mowing down enemies. Unfortunately the putties were a little too easy to defeat most of the time. They attacked in small, easy to manage groups, and kind of shuffle around rather than charging at you. Then contrast that with the final boss fight in the Megazord, which was just a notch too difficult to not be frustrating, and the balance just isn’t there. With a few small changes this could easily be a great game, but as it is, it’s just an ok game. If you’re a fan of Power Rangers or beat em ups in general, you should give it a try, because you’ll probably enjoy it. Just don’t expect to be particularly amazed.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (SNES) - 81

The world is safe for another day

 

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I hope you enjoyed Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

 

Tetris Attack (SNES)

Tetris is one of those classic games that virtually everyone has played at some point. It’s easy to pick up, difficult to master, and just generally fun to play. Even though the basic gameplay hasn’t changed much in the years, new Tetris games are still being released on nearly every major system. Thanks to the strong grip the Tetris Company has on their branding, no matter which version you play, you’ll have an authentic Tetris experience. All except for that one game that slipped through their fingers. That game being “Tetris Attack” for the SNES.

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To be fair, Tetris attack has a very valid reason for being so different from any other Tetris game. That being that it was never intended to even be a Tetris game at all. When it was released in Japan it was called “Panel de Pon” and featured a magical girl theme. During localization, Nintendo of America thought it would sell better under the Tetris name, as well as giving it Mario characters instead of the magical girls. The Tetris Company agreed, and would later regret, to letting Nintendo use the Tetris name. Thus, Tetris Attack was born. It has drastically different play style to any other Tetris game, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game, does it?

Gameplay

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For starters, let me explain the gameplay, since it really isn’t Tetris at all. It’s actually more similar to games like Bejeweled. The game starts with a stack of panels already on the screen and more panels slowly rising from the bottom. Your job is to clear away the panels before they reach the top of the screen. You accomplish this by moving panels around in order to make lines of three or more. Unfortunately, you can only move the panels left and right, which can make finding matches difficult at times. However, you don’t have to make a match with each move, you’re free to move the panels around as much as you want to set up chains and combos.

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Taking the time to make chains and combos can really pay off, especially in the later levels. You don’t get any special tiles like in other block games, instead the stack stops rising for a few seconds depending on the complexity of your combo. It might not sound like much, but in the later levels, it gives you that extra second you need to plan out your next move, and can really make the difference between winning and losing.

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For the game itself, it has several different modes of play. Of course, it has the classic endless mode. You play the game like normal for as long as you can until it finally becomes too much and you lose. It’s basic, but it’s still a lot of fun to play.

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There’s also a time trial mode. In this mode you have limited time to score as many points as possible. Again, it’s very basic, but still fun.

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Now we get into the real meat of the game. The puzzle mode is just what it sounds like. The panels are prearranged to make a puzzle and you have a limited number of turns to clear them all out. These start out insultingly easy, with puzzles you can solve in one move. The later levels however can get pretty crazy and I admittedly couldn’t finish all of them.

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Then there’s the challenge mode, which is probably the largest part of the game. This mode is actually more of a survival mode. You have to clear panels away as quickly as you can until the clear line appears. Then you have to clear all the panels out from above that line to win. Each round is relatively short, but as you progress the levels get harder by increasing the speed and number of panels to start with. Again, I was unable to finish this mode, I got to the 3rd to last level and the speed was just too much for me.

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Someday i shall defeat you!

 

In the challenge mode, there was also a boss battle with Bowser about half way through. You’re intended to lose this battle, but no doubt you would face him again at the end when your skills have improved. Although I only lasted about 6 seconds against Bowser, it still showed off an interesting mechanic. Instead of just surviving, Bowser had a health bar that decreased with each match made until eventually you would defeat him. It looked like fun, and I wish it was used more in the game.

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The final mode also happens to be my favorite. In Tetris Attack, Vs mode also doubles as the story mode. It’s a simple story. Bowser has used his magic to make it rain all over Yoshi’s Island as well as enchant all of its residents. Only Yoshi was immune to the magic, and it’s up to him to stop the rain and save his friends.

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As the name suggests, Vs mode is head to head play against the various residents of Yoshi’s Island. Now it’s not enough to just survive the level, you need to outplay your opponent. In this mode the chains and combos become even more important. Instead of stopping the panels like they did before, now they will send a large block over to your opponent’s side to ruin their day. Watch out, because they can do the same thing right back to you.

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Once you’ve rescued all your friends, it’s time to head to Mt Wickedness and teach Bowser a lesson. Or, um, teach Naval Piranha a lesson. Maybe you get to fight Bowser in the higher difficulties. If that’s the case, I’ll probably never know.

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Hang in there yoshi!

 

Verdict

Gameplay – 8 / 10

The inability to move panels up and down made this feel harder than it needed to be at times, but that’s really my only complaint. The game is still fun and very addicting. There are several modes of play for whatever you feel like playing. Then the controls were just perfect, keeping up with even the most frantic of inputs. I can’t fault the game for my lack of skill, it held up perfectly from start to finish.

Graphics – 8 / 10

While not a graphically intense game, every element still had so much life to it. The color pallet was just so bright and vibrant. The backgrounds were detailed and just beautifully drawn. Even the little faces on the panels had some character. You almost feel bad for destroying them.

Audio – 9 / 10

The music in this game is just fantastic. It’s so lively and memorable. Every so often I still find myself humming one of the tunes to myself, or just have one stuck in my head, and I love it. When you’re getting close to losing a level, the music even switches to a much more frantic version of itself, and it just builds the perfect tension for the moment.

Story – 7 / 10

The story mode isn’t some sprawling epic. It’s simple, and fills the basic needs of a story. However, it’s still fun, and the inclusion of a story mode at all is a delight to see. Considering it’s a puzzle game, vs. mode could have easily been a single match like endless or time trial, but they took the time to build a story for it, and it really made the game for me.

Total Playtime – 2 h 51 m

Seeing everything the game has to offer doesn’t take long. The whole story mode only took me less than an hour. But this is one of those games that you gladly pick up and play time and time again, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Even with the time I put into it, I still didn’t finish everything, and I would love to come back and tackle them again when I get a chance.

Total Deaths – 77 Failures

Once the speed levels got up into the high 30’s I just lose it. I always get too focused on one section and before I know it the other side is already hitting the top.

Overall Score – 9 / 10

The Tetris name might have helped to push it off the shelf, but Tetris Attack can easily stand on its own. The gameplay is rather unique, and takes a little time to get used to, but it’s well worth the learning curve. Everything about this game is an embodiment of a fun game. Good graphics, good sound, good controls, likeable characters, and fun gameplay. Every aspect of the game just made me so happy while I was playing. Sure, I got frustrated at the higher levels, but never AT the game, only ever at my own lack of skill. Honestly, find a copy and add it to your SNES library. You won’t regret it.

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I shall frame this for all to see!

 

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I hope you enjoyed Tetris Attack. If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Daffy Duck: The Marvin Missions

Daffy Duck may never be my favorite Looney Tunes character, that honor goes to Taz. However, the Duck Dodgers episodes are ranked highly among my favorites in the series. Daffy’s slapstick lovable loser personality just works so perfectly beside Marvin’s calculating monotone.  So when I saw Daffy Duck: The Marvin Missions on the shelf, I just had to have it. Getting to play as Duck Dodgers saving the earth from Marvin Martian, how could that go wrong?

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Released in 1993 by Sunsoft, Daffy Duck: The Marvin Missions is an action platformer for the SNES. You play as Duck Dodgers following Marvin Martian to various planets to stop his evil plans. You’ll be equipped with your trusty blaster as well as a few other weapons you’ll find along the way, like the freeze gun and the antimatter gun. You’ll need all the ammo you can get, because Marvin has a whole supply of instant Martians at his disposal. So, is the game any good? Well…

Gameplay

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Marvin is causing trouble on the resort planet Magma, and it’s up to Duck Dodgers to stop him. Before you head out, you’re allowed to buy upgrades at the store. There’s ammo for the various different guns, fuel for your jet pack, even extra lives and continues. While in game stores aren’t a new thing, it’s kind of disconcerting to see one before you even start playing. It’s basically advertising “your standard gun is useless, buy a real gun while you can”

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When you start playing, you’ll notice two things. First, the graphics are top notch. Daffy’s sprite is very detailed for his size, and the environments feel very alive. The second thing you’ll notice is that Daffy is near impossible to control. He feels like he’s on ice at all times. And to make matters worse, every time you shoot there is a very noticeable kickback that will have daffy sliding backwards on his ass after a few shots.

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The enemies also have fairly high health and give little to no reaction when you damage them, causing you to questing if you’re damaging them at all. The instant Martians for example, one of the most common enemies in the game, takes 6 shots to kill, and has no damage animation. They don’t even flash or anything to show damage. The only hint you get is that the blaster ray disappears after it hits them.

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The levels themselves are also very maze like, but not in a good way. If it weren’t for the frequent checkpoints showing me which direction I’m supposed to be going, I don’t think I would have ever made it through some of the levels.


Death Count: 8

 

The boss fights bring the lack of damage indication to a whole new level. Marvin has such an insane amount of health that I was convinced my game was broken. He also has the most subtle damage flash I have ever seen. The only redeeming quality of the boss battle was the fact that it was VERY patterned, allowing you to get the hits in once you got the pattern down. But that doesn’t excuse the 146 hits it took to kill him. Yes, I counted, that’s way too much health for the first boss of the game, especially with no health bar or real damage indicator of any kind.

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Marvin escapes the previous attack and retreats to Aquarion-4 with an all new evil scheme. Oh goody, Daffy’s controls weren’t bad enough already. Let’s include water physics to the mix. The first stage at least isn’t that bad. It’s one of the few completely linear stages in the game. It has you running along the back of a giant sea serpent as Marvin drops instant Martians into the water to slow you down. Eventually you face the 2 heads of the sea serpent in what was a rare enjoyable mini boss battle for this game. One head breaths fire while the other only sprays water. Keep attacking the water breathing head for a nice victory.

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One of these is a death trap, the other is a leap of faith. Can you guess which is which?

 

The rest of the planet however is exactly as I feared for a water level to be. While underwater, daffy feels even more floaty, as if that was even possible. The water levels also had my first introduction to the many bottomless pits that are to come. Just to be clear, bottomless pits are a common and acceptable obstacle in many early games, it’s the WAY they were done in this game that makes them annoying. As I mentioned before, the levels are very maze like, with many leaps of faith down into the unknown, so the bottomless pits don’t distinguish themselves from any other random ledge you’re expected to drop down. It’s only after they kill you that you see them for what they are.

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Death Count: 15

 

The eventual boss battle with Marvin once again suffers from lack of any type of damage indicator. There are two targets, Marvin on the top, and a jar of instant Martians below him. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea if attacking the jar of instant Martians actually registers any damage, or if it just knocked out more enemies. I went with the assumption that it only made my life miserable, and did my best to only attack Marvin. I hope you stocked up on Antimatter ammo when you had the chance. Without them, this battle, and really all the following boss battles, will seem impossible.

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Marvin’s defeat means we’re finally done with crappy water physics. This brings us to planet Zeus-3, an ice planet. OH COME ON!! Why would they do that? Have mercy. The controls can only get so terrible. Anyway, this time you have to rescue Dr I.Q High who has been kidnapped by Marvin.

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As feared, the whole planet is covered in slippery ice and deadly environmental hazards. Daffy couldn’t possibly be any less controllable than he is on this planet. This is also the first time I actually noticed how annoying the limited rocket fuel really is. There were a few spots where the next ledge was just slightly out of reach for a normal jump. Thankfully the knockback on the gun also lets you jump slightly higher, allowing me to actually reach these platforms after I ran out of fuel.

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Because Dr I.Q. High was kidnapped and forced to work for Marvin, the whole planet is full of robots and lasers. The most annoying of which is the robotic instant Martian that serves as a mini boss. He attacks fast and bounces around a lot making it hard to actually get any shots in. It’s even worse when you fight two of them at once later.

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Death Count: 35

 

When you find Dr I.Q. High, he is strapped into some giant contraption shooting lasers at you. Maybe I’m just not that good of a gamer, but I couldn’t figure out where the safe spots where for his pattern. Instead I went with the tried and true method of “Ignore the damage and just shoot him in the face with your biggest gun until he dies”. Thankfully this worked and we are done with all the stupid ice.

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Planet Amazonius finally frees us from annoying movement physics. Well, besides Daffy’s naturally horrible controls. Instead, the gimmick is that Daffy has been shrunk down to the size of an ant. This is actually my favorite planet of the whole game. The environment is much more enjoyable than the other levels, and it’s just generally more creative than the other planets. Plus it’s the only planet where you’re not fighting instant Martians, so the change in enemies is rather nice.

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This planet also has a lot of mini bosses. First you’ll fight what I guess is the ant queen as she bounces around the map and summons her ant guards. Then shortly after, you’ll be facing off with the dragonfly. Get it? Because it’s a fly, but it looks like a dragon. HAHA! I’ll stop now.

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Death Count: 52

 

The final boss of this planet brought the lack of damage indication to a whole new level. You can’t even see the boss this time,