31 Nights of Castlevania: Super Castlevania IV

Super Castlevania IV Screenshot

By the time the 16-bit era rolled around, Castlevania was one of the many franchises making the jump. The first game to take the plunge was Super Castlevania IV.

While it is essentially a big budget remake of the first game, Super Castlevania IV is a game that showcases the best of the best of the SNES. Super Castlevania IV contains graphics and music that utilize the hardware of the new system.

Super Castlevania IV Screenshot

Those features are just the icing on the cake, though.

A cinematic-like intro sets the mood for Super Castlevania IV
Super Castlevania IV marks the first time in the series a full length animated introduction. A lightning strike destroys a gravestone, followed by creeping fog and evil sounding organ music. This is accompanied by a text crawl similar to the one in Dracula’s Curse, but far more sinister and atmospheric. It plays more like a Hammer/Universal studios intro that fits the aesthetics of the Castlevania series.

Players will be taking control of Simon Belmont once more. This time, he is prepared to fight the forces of darkness and end Dracula’s reign once and for all.

Super Castlevania IV Screenshot

Super Castlevania IV plays like a Greatest Hits…plus more!
Once Super Castlevania IV kicks off, it hits the ground running and does not stop going. It very much keeps what made the last three games so incredible. The platforming and combat are completely on point in this game. Controls have been refined, so players won’t have to make any awkward jumps. The whip can now be used to attack enemies below, above and even diagonally, adding more moves to combat. The weapons are still helpful as well, as sometimes the whip may not be enough to beat a boss.

Super Castlevania IV Screenshot

Longtime Castlevania fans can breathe a sigh of relief at the decrease in the challenge, as the game is not unfair. Players will still have to use skills, but it’s no longer a steep curve.

Simon will be traveling to Dracula’s castle through villages, underground caverns, and ruined temples. When he finally steps foot into the castle, our hero will have to fight off all kinds of monsters in the library, the catacombs and the rooftops themselves. Every stage in this game contains an ingenious level design full of creativity and tests for the player.

Super Castlevania IV Screenshot

Boss fights reflect the originality of the levels, in the sense that each of them is a unique fight that requires a different skill from the player. Konami crammed in a few bosses based on Greek mythology as well to add to the innovative enemy types.

Finally, there is the beautifully composed soundtrack. It very much fits the ambiance of the game and feels very much like a horror/adventure film.

Super Castlevania IV’s minor flaw does not come close to ruining the game
Super Castlevania IV has a lot going for it and very little negatives. The cons of the game are almost nitpicky, but there is one that could be a turn-off. For starters, Super Castlevania IV is a very long game. There is over 10 stages, each split up into three sections of varying length and challenge. Even the speed runs of this game are significantly longer than Dracula’s Curse. Which is saying a lot, considering Dracula’s Curse’s overly unfair difficulty.

Super Castlevania IV Screenshot

All in all, Super Castlevania IV is seen by many fans as one of the best “old school” Castlevanias. It’s a damn near perfect experience no Castlevania, or even gamer should pass up. The flawless design of the levels, the sound controls, the faultless graphics that use all the tricks in the SNES and it’s even a blast to play. Super Castlevania IV stands the test of time when compared to many platformers of the day, and is worth every second.

Gaming’s Undervalued Treasures Special: Axelay, the 25th Anniversary

Axelay Box Art

The SNES wasn’t known for shmups…until Axelay came along

For an incredible library that spans over all kinds of genres, the SNES is not well known for its “shmups”.

For example, Gradius III is bogged down with flicker and slow down and Super Nova and Darius Twin are the definitions of “meh”. While on the other hand, Sega had the Thunder Force series ripping it up. It was one genre that truly embodied the phrase “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t.”

However, the Genesis did not have Axelay.

Developed by Konami and released in September 1992, Axelay stands head and shoulders above several games in the shmup genre and is, without question, the best of its kind on the SNES. It’s still a fondly looked at game, as reviews for its Virtual Console re-release are still positive across the board.

And yet, Axelay did not set the charts ablaze with sales figures. It was (probably) a combination of the SNES not being a great system for this particular genre and less than two weeks prior, a little game called Super Mario Kart was released. Another factor is that Axelay was meant to be Japanese-exclusive, but was ported to the US at the last minute. Heck, a sequel was even planned.

Axelay has gained a cult following on the ‘web for being an all-around great shmup. The gameplay is tight, the music is great, and the graphics hold their own against the SNES’ best.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary today, Gaming’s Undervalued Treasures is profiling a game that deserves to be called an “undervalued treasure.”

Also, fun fact: the majority of the development team went on to become the founding members of Treasure.

From a pure gameplay standpoint, Axelay is the best shmup on the SNES

Axelay’s wonderfully optimistic story is about how the planet of Corliss has faced total annihilation by the…well, Armada of Annihilation. It’s up to the lone pilot of the Axelay (aaaaad…title drop) to fight off this horde.

Taking cues from their Gradius series, Konami included a Weapon Select system into Axelay. Players can choose a primary, secondary, and a missile option.

When you select your weapons, the game says in a very clear tone: “ARMS INSTALLATION IS COMPLETE…GOOD LUCK.” It never gets old.

However, from the outset not all the weapons are selectable and as the game progresses, more weapons become available. There also is not as many options as Gradius. That being said, there is not one weapon in the game that is useless. Players can also select the weapons on the fly as well and won’t have to rely on an upgrade system like other shmups.

The Round Vulcan weapon, for example, allows the ship to shoot enemies circling around the player. The missiles are fantastic for the more crowded moments in the game as well.

The controls are tight and responsive, key for any shmup, and gives the player a fighting chance. Make no mistake, Axelay is a difficult game, but not quite controller-smashing, hair-pulling, screaming-obscenities-to-make-90s-Denis-Leary-blush difficult as other games in the genre.

Certain bosses, like this Ed-209-looking one, can be a little tough.

However, other features are quite awesome as well
Axelay utilizes the SNES’ color palette and its Mode 7 processor quite well. The tiny details on the Axelay ship, the enemies and bosses and stages are all pleasing to look at. The development team knew what they were working with, and decided to work around the SNES’ capabilities, rather than against them. The opening stages have a nice use of blue and the standout lava stage is exceptionally nice looking.

The lava monster is scary-looking and well animated as well. All of Axelay’s bosses are consistently impressive.

The game has both horizontal and vertical shooting stages, similar to Konami’s Life Force each with its own aesthetic. Many of the vertical levels have a sort-of-gimmicky feel to them, as it looks like you are flying over a city.

However, they are quite nice to look at and add more dimension as opposed to being some generic level. Other levels take place inside dilapidated space stations and on a planet made of lava, where the game’s most memorable boss fight takes place.

Then there’s the music. Composed by Super Castlevania IV’s Taro Kudo, Axelay’s OST is a varied one and each boss has their own theme. The first level’s track, “Unkai” is perfect to get the player ready for the action.

One of Gaming’s Undervalued Treasures

Axelay is one of Konami’s best games in the 90s and one that holds its own against other shmups of the era. It’s a shame we may never get that sequel though.

Regardless, happy 25th Axelay. A game as awesome as this one deserves a big celebration; from the quality of the gameplay, to its unique weapon system, to its overall fun nature, Axelay is one no shmup fan should ever pass up.

The game is available on both the Wii and Wii U Virtual Console, but copies on the SNES are going to be quite expensive.

 

Gaming’s Undervalued Treasures: Natsume Championship Wrestling

Image courtesy of GameFAQs.

Natsume Championship Wrestling is a game for fans of ‘puroresu’

Natsume Championship Wrestling is a port of a game based on legendary Japanese wrestling promotion All Japan Pro Wrestling. The original Japanese title is Zen-Nippon Pro Wrestling Dash: Sekai Saikyo Tag, and had a massive focus on tag team wrestling.

Super Famicom cover art, featuring Shoei “Giant” Baba. Image courtesy of Hardcore Gaming 101.

 For hardcore fans of Japanese wrestling, or ‘puroresu,’ Natsume Championship Wrestling contains some winks and nods to legendary wrestlers from the 90s.

Natsume Championship Wrestling Screenshot
Image courtesy of GameFAQs.

It also helps that Natsume Championship Wrestling is a competent pro wrestling game in its own right. Natsume Championship Wrestling contains the timing-based grapping of the ever popular Fire Pro Wrestling series, along with colorful graphics and tight controls.

Natsume Championship Wrestling Screenshot
Image courtesy of GameFAQs.

The game was quietly released in 1994 over in the United States. While it was popular over in Japan, Natsume Championship Wrestling never got a hold (wrestling pun intended) in North America. Perhaps it was the lack of then-WWF or WCW name branding or the overall different gameplay from other pro wrestling games at the time.

A brief history of All Japan Pro Wrestling…

Image result for all japan pro wrestling logo
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.


Natsume Championship Wrestling is based upon the promotion All Japan Pro Wrestling. Founded by Shoei “Giant” Baba in 1972, All Japan Pro Wrestling was originally part of the National Wrestling Alliance (or NWA) for the majority of the 1970s and early 80s.

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The man, the myth the Japanese pro wrestling legend himself, Giant Baba! This man helped define a new generation of professional wrestling in the Land of the Rising Sun. Image courtesy of Puroresu Spirit.

The promotion utilized “King’s Road” style of wrestling. King’s Road contains a big focus on athleticism and storytelling, while maintaining the over-the-top nature of American pro wrestling.

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Kenta Kobashi (red trunks) and Mitsuharu MIsawa were the two top wrestlers in the 90s for All Japan Pro Wresting. Their matches are near perfect. Image courtesy of YouTube user ClassicPuro83.

Upon breaking off the NWA, All Japan started promoting top talents such as Baba himself, Mitsuhara Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, Jun Akiyama and recent WWE Hall of Fame inductee Stan “The Lariat” Hansen. Throughout the late 80s and 90s, All Japan’s “King’s Road” style of wrestling proved to be massively popular.

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Stan Hansen became one of the most famous “gaijins” in Japanese pro wrestling. Image courtesy of Illegal Foreign Object.

Giant Baba’s tragic death resulted in more than a few massive shake ups within All Japan Pro Wrestling. The 2000s started a rather unpopular period for the promotion, due to just about every popular wrestler either leaving or retiring. However, around the start of the new decade All Japan has slowly regained its foothold in Japan.

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Jun Akiyama, who flourised in All Japan and its off-shoot Pro Wrestling NOAH, is now the president of All Japan Pro Wrestling. Image courtesy of Puroresu Spirit.

 

Natsume Championship Wrestling is unique among other SNES wrestling games
Natsume Championship Wrestling is one of the few wrestling games on the SNES to attempt to match the gameplay style of Super Famicom grapplers. Players will not be mashing the attack button and expect to win after a bombardment of kicks and punches. Natsume Championship Wrestling instead urges players to time their grapples and strikes.

Natsume Championship Wrestling Screenshot
Waiting to hit that punch may take some quick thinking in Natsume Championship Wrestling. Image courtesy of GameFAQs.

It’s a system that rewards patience, but it is far more user friendly than Fire Pro Wrestling. For example, Fire Pro matches are generally slower and more deliberate. Natsume Championship Wrestling’s matches are fast paced and allows players to perform moves quicker. Using a combination of the D-pad and grapple button, players can perform a wide array of moves. Timing is everything though and this will take a while to get used to it. It does make for fun gameplay, once a player finds their routine. There is also a health meter to keep track of a wrestler’s stamina.

Natsume Championship Wrestling Screenshot
MISSILE DROPKICK!!! Image courtesy of GameFAQs.

Unlike the WWF games of the time, Natsume Championship Wrestling has distinct moves for each wrestler. Many of them being techniques they used in real life. Stan Hansen has his infamous lariats, Jun Akiyama has his vicious suplexes and Kenta Kobashi has his devastating strike maneuvers.

Image courtesy of Giant Bomb.

The roster is composed of several popular wrestlers from the mid-90s in All Japan Pro Wrestling. However, due to all of them being near-unrecognizable to American audiences at the time, they all of psuedonyms. Kenta Kobashi is dubbed Conan and “Dr Death” Steve Williams is rechristened as Big Ape. Puroresu fans will be able to recognize the grapplers based on their well-detailed character portraits.

Natsume Championship Wrestling Screenshot
The late Jumbo Tsurata is renamed Asteroid. Image coutesy of GameFAQs.

The impressive graphics aren’t just shown on the character select screen. Natsume Championship Wrestling is very colorful. The ring itself is a nice blue, like the All Japan ring during the 90s. Sprites during the matches themselves reflect each wrestler well and are well animated when big moves are performed. Occasionally there is a hiccup, but the graphics are more than serviceable.

Natsume Championship Wrestling Screenshot
For some obscure wrestling trivia: the blonde guy, J.Kraze? That’s Johnny Ace aka John Laurinaitis! Image courtesy of GameFAQs.

Natsume Championship Wrestling has features not seen in other US professional wrestling games

The addition of tag team wrestling is welcome and it’s executed well. Unfortunately, players cannot customize teams, since they are all preset teams. Interestingly enough, many of them were teams during the 90s in All Japan.

Natsume Championship Wrestling Screenshot
Double team! Image courtesy of GameFAQs.

Other modes include championship tournament and round robin tournaments. Round robins are common in Japanese wrestling and they consist of blocks where wrestlers will fight each other a few times. Winner with the most points based on their performance moves forward. It is yet another creative inclusion to Natsume Championship Wrestling that is sure to be a blast with friends.

Natsume Championship Wrestling Screenshot
An example of a round robin tournament. Image courtesy of GameFAQs.

The music is decent too, with several wrestler’s theme songs being highlights. Jun Akiyama/M. Roach’s is a standout. Although, the SNES soundtrack is changed from its original Japanese soundtrack. For example, the title screen are drastically different.

Strangely enough, All Japan’s founder, Giant Baba is not playable in the SNES version. Depending on the translation, neither is Mitsuharu Misawa who is one of puroresu’s biggest stars.

One of Gaming’s Undervalued Treasures
Natsume Championship Wrestling
is exceptional and more fulfilling than the WWF games on the console. The tactical aesthetics and gameplay may be daunting to many players, but once they get in the groove, it’s fun. The game could even be a great introduction to Japanese professional wrestling.

Author’s note: I can assure you, puroresu is AWESOME!!! Image courtesy of YouTube user ClassicPuro83.

Natsume Championship Wresting is not expensive to buy and can also be downloaded on the Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles for a few bucks. Any fan of ‘puroresu’ definitely check it out.

Natsume Championship Wrestling Screenshot
Image courtesy of GameFAQs.

 

Kirby Super Star, the 20th Anniversary

 

Image courtesy of Game FAQ

Kirby Super Star is one of many classic games celebrating a milestone this year. Along with Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot, Kirby Super Star is now 20 years old.

Released on the SNES in 1996, Kirby Super Star set itself apart from previous entries in the series. The game still had the series’ trademarked copy ability gameplay, colorful graphics and upbeat, addictive music.

However, to quote the 80s classic This is Spinal Tap, “It goes to eleven.”

Kirby Super Star offers players 25 unique copy abilities, eight creative sub-games to play and some of the best music on the SNES. It also contains one of the more distinct and entertaining two player modes in any platformer. The game also contains top notch controls.

Many other Kirby games borrowed ideas and elements from Super Star, and is often considered to be the best overall game in the franchise, as well as many fans’ favorite.

After two decades and several legitimately fantastic entries in the series later, is Kirby Super Star still great? Are gamers looking through pink tinted glasses? Does its remake, Kirby Super Star Ultra, overshadow it? Or does Kirby Super Star still stand on its own and deserve to be put into every SNES owner’s collection?

What makes Kirby Super Star so great? Variety of course!
Similar to any work of art, there are several factors that make Kirby Super Star great and it’s strongest trait is its variety. Each of the sub-games are all creative and worth checking out at least once. However, a player should play them all in a row to get a true one-of-a-kind Kirby experience.

The variety in Super Star feels more concise and straight to the point than its remake. There is just enough sub-games where none of them feel tacked on and the copy abilities are a perfect assortment. The game is also not terribly long and overly stuffed.

Super Star Ultra adds a lot of mini-games and special modes, on top of the enhanced graphics and sound. However, Super Star Ultra is spread a little bit too thin. The extra stuff is just there. Getting the chance to throw down as Meta Knight is fun and the online multiplayer is great, but they aren’t particularly needed additions.

Copy Abilities are EVERYWHERE!

Along with the sub-games come the copy abilities. With 25 unique ways to defeat enemies, Kirby Super Star also introduces the Kirby Hats. Kirby will change color and wear a different hat or hairstyle to coincide with the ability. It’s a nice graphical change that keeps the variety up.

There is also not one copy ability that is not useless. The classic abilities of Fire, Sword and Stone are there. However, the more creative ones, Yo-Yo, Suplex and Ninja make appearances in Kirby Super Star. Fighter Kirby makes his first appearance in the game as well!

The game allows for experimentation, as it does not penalize you for not having a particular copy ability. If someone wants to play through only using Fire, they can! If they feel like switching out every few seconds, players can!

It’s strange to think about, there is a significant amount of freedom and choice in a Kirby game.

Twice the Fun with Two Players!
Playing the game as just Kirby is a fun time. Using the abilities to create a second player makes Kirby Super Star more of an unadulterated blast. Player twos will take control of one many cartoonish enemies Kirby copies abilities from. For example, if Kirby gets rid of his ability, than Player Two will become that enemy. It makes for some real fun gameplay combinations and silly, but fun, moments.

The  “8  9 Games in 1!”

 

http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/kirby/images/f/f3/Superstar2.gif/revision/latest?cb=20110817185823&path-prefix=en
The whole game available on a corkboard. Image courtesy of Kirby Wiki.

Kirby Super Star boasts the “eight games in one” slogan right on the box. The games are all interesting and remarkable in their own right. The “eight games in one” schtick may appear gimmicky. It is technically nine, counting the mini-games. However, each sub-game contains its own story, challenge and even graphical aesthetics, along with slight positive updates to the gameplay.

Kirby Super Star SNES The tree throws apples on you: you have to inhale them and then to spit on the tree to defeat it
Whispy Woods in 16-bit! Image courtesy of Game FAQs.

Spring Breeze is a loose remake of Kirby’s Dream Land, but now with the copy abilities. It’s a fantastic start to the game and hooks players in with its colorful graphics. Level design and bosses are all great, but it’s just an appetizer to the main course.

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Fighting off Dyna Blade with two players! Image courtesy of VG Museum.

Dyna Blade is the first original game on deck. It’s up to Kirby to defeat the title character, who has been terrorizing Dream Land. The map system is a lot like Super Mario World, and is an extended version of Spring Breeze. It just happens to have better level design, boss fights and a memorable final one with Dyna Blade herself.

 

Kirby Super Star SNES Finding a treasure in the Cave Offensive
Finding treasures of all worth! Image courtesy of Moby Games.

The Great Cave Offensive is the Kirby series attempt at a Metroid style game. Kirby has fallen into a massive cave and find his way out, while spelunking for treasure. Also, Kirby must fight off several unique bosses, including one that is a hysterical parody of Final Fantasy’s turn based combat. The Great Cave Offensive is definitely the most difficult for players and it is a MASSIVE part of the game. However, there are players who don’t want to leave the caves and just keep exploring.

 

Gourmet Race has Kirby and the nefarious and hilarious King Dedede competing in a foot race to see who can eat the most food. The music is beyond memorable and has been remixed more than a few times. This is also a blast  because of how competitive it is.

 

Revenge of Meta Knight, arguably the darkest of the eight games, has Kirby stopping his rival from conquering Dream Land. Meta Knight and his cronies send just about everything after Kirby, including a combat lobster and a MASSIVE gun. The speed run nature of the gameplay, appearance of the fan favorite Meta Knight and pulse pounding music make Revenge of Meta Knight one of the more memorable sub-games in Kirby Super Star. The dialogue between Meta Knight and his army is also enjoyable.

 

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Kirby in the final battle of Milky Way Wishes! Image courtesy of VG Museum.

Finally, after blowing through each game, the player unlocks the penultimate sub-game, Milky Way Wishes. The Sun and Moon are fighting caused by an unknown entity. Kirby’s friend Marx shows up to help. Milky Way Wishes has Kirby traveling throughout the galaxy. Stopping from planet to planet, Kirby notices the damage the Sun and Moon are doing, which results in some unique level design and steep challenge. Milky Way Wishes is also the only game in the franchise to have the Copy Ability Deluxe feature, where Kirby must find the abilities and stock them. It also contains one of the best final bosses in any Kirby game.

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Facing off against Meta Knight in the Arena! Image courtesy of https://happyhibisci.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/kirbys-super-star/

The Arena is Kirby Super Star’s boss rush mode and is easily the most difficult of all the sub-games. The Arena only gives the player five Maximum Tomatoes to recharge on health to fight all of the game’s bosses.

Rounding out Kirby Super Star are two mini-games. Megaton Punch and Samurai Kirby are quick games involving timing. Megaton has Kirby facing off against strong enemies by testing his strength. Samurai is stylish like a classic samurai film and has Kirby taking out enemies similar to the quick draw mini-game in Kirby’s Adventure. The two mini-games are fun to play around with when you need a break from the actual game.

Everything Else Fires on All Cylinders
Kirby Super Star’s other features like its graphics, controls and sound are about as flawless as a 2D platformer can be. No one will ever feel like they are out of control or they won’t brush off the graphics as being “just another SNES game.” And no one will be able to not hum the theme to “Gourmet Race” after playing it. It goes without saying the features that make up video games (controls, graphics, etc..) are phenomenal in Kirby Super Star.

 

Kirby Super Star SNES Nice exotic setting
The Great Cave Offensive is perfect for showing off the graphical capabilities of the SNES. Image courtesy of Moby Games.

There are many SNES games that are as colorful and full of energy and take full advantage of the superior sound capabilities. Kirby Super Star absolutely deserves to be on the list of SNES greats like Super Metroid or Chrono Trigger in terms of using the hardware to its full potential.

My personal experience with the game…
I first played Kirby Super Star back in 1999. One of my childhood friends had an elusive SNES still kicking and owned a copy of Kirby Super Star. Now, I had only played Kirby’s Dream Land 2 on the Game Boy, so to say my experience with the Kirby franchise was limited is accurate. On my friend’s birthday, we all decided to head over in his basement and start playing away.

Within the next few hours, I don’t remember playing anything else but Kirby Super Star. All I wanted to do was conquer the Halberd as Kuckel Joe one more time. I wanted give back the food to Dream Land from Dyna Blade or just race King Dedede. I wanted to play as every enemy who had Kirby’s abilities. I just wanted to play this game!

As the years went by and several “edgy/mer-I-hate-Nintendo” phases later, I bought a Wii. Mostly to play games on the Virtual Console.

One summer, I downloaded Kirby Super Star from the Virtual Console on a whim. The same feelings I had when I played the game back in 1999 came flooding back nearly 11 years later. The gameplay still held up after all these years and I couldn’t believe it. I even found myself enjoying it more than the other Kirby games I downloaded.

Not counting RPGs, it’s the most played game on the Virtual Console for me.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Kirby franchise and will always love Kirby Super Star. It’s one of the few video games where I can play for five minutes or five hours and still be happy. To me, it’s the only Kirby game that feels fresh every single time I boot it up. Kirby Super Star is just simply fun. It doesn’t tell a deep story, it does not completely reinvent platforming. Kirby Super Star just does everything right and keeps players entertained, no matter what.

For those who are curious, Revenge of Meta Knight is my personal favorite sub-game and the Yo-Yo ability is my favorite Kirby copy ability of all time.

Image result for yo yo kirby snes

Kirby Super Star is still great even after two decades and a remake
Ask any Kirby fan what their personal favorite is in the series and it will usually differ. However, one game in the series all fans can agree is legitimately great is Kirby Super Star. The perfect graphics, sound and control build up the experience. It is the gameplay that is chock full of diversity and choices that sets it apart.

Kirby Super Star does its job so well that it is the measuring stick for many Kirby games have copied it. It’s also a game many gamers have fond memories of.

Happy 20th, Kirby Super Star! A game this legitimately great after all these years deserves to be played by anyone. It truly is one of the best SNES games and an honest classic.

Hoshi no Kirby Super Deluxe Screenshot
Happy 20th Kirby Super Star and a happy 24th to you too, Kirby! Image courtesy of Game FAQs.

 

Gaming’s Undervalued Treasures: Goof Troop

Image courtesy of Giant Bomb user hmmisee.
Image courtesy of Giant Bomb user hmmisee.

Report to the GOOF TROOP…and we’ll always stick together!
Goof Troop on the SNES is an interesting adaptation. Instead of being a typical platformer, Goof Troop is an overhead adventure/puzzle game, not unlike classic Legend of Zelda games. Goof Troop manages to pack in addicting and challenging gameplay and excellent sound and graphics.

Goof Troop aired on the Disney Afternoon block from 1992 to 1993. It was a sitcom style cartoon about Goofy and his teenaged son Max living in the suburbs of Spoonersville. Goof Troop is another fondly remembered show from the ‘90s, and has one of the more catchy theme songs from a Disney cartoon.

Goof Troop on the SNES is the only game based on the show. Developed by Capcom, it is also worthy of being considered one of their better Disney games as well. Unfortunately, the show’s short lifespan and lack of coverage from the video game press caused Goof Troop to fade away.

Also, in an answer to an obscure trivia question, Goof Troop was also Shinji Mikami’s first video game. Everyone has got to start somewhere.

Goof Troop takes liberties in a fun, creative way
Strangely enough, Goof Troop for the SNES does not take place in Goofy and Max’s town. Instead, Goofy, Max and their neighbors Pete and PJ are out fishing. Suddenly, Pete and PJ are kidnapped by pirates and it’s up to Max and Goofy to save them. Max and his dad end up on a tropical island paradise and begin their adventure.

Goofy and Max make their way to the pirate island! Image courtesy of Obsolete Gamer.
Goofy and Max make their way to the pirate island! Image courtesy of Obsolete Gamer.

Most of Capcom’s Disney games are platformers. DuckTales, Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers and Aladdin, among others, are going down a well-traveled road. It’s a breath of fresh air to see Capcom use one of their Disney licenses for a different genre. It works in Goof Troop, since the show had a laid back tone and wasn’t huge on action to begin with. It’s nice to see Capcom getting creative.

Goofy tries to figure out what to do. See the determination in his eyes! Image courtesy of Obsolete Gamer.
Goofy tries to figure out what to do. See the determination in his eyes! Image courtesy of Obsolete Gamer.

Players can choose to either play as Goofy or Max. Goofy is much slower, but can take more hits. Max is quicker than his dear old dad, but his health is lower. Regardless of their differences, both characters are fun to play as in Goof Troop. It really comes down to personal preferences.

Goof Troop will have Goofy and his son running around beaches, dockside areas and even pirate castles in order to save their friends. Each stage has enough block puzzles to keep players guessing. They are all challenging in their own right, and are just as fun with two players.

Now what has Max gotten himself into now? Image courtesy of Obsolete Gamer.
Now what has Max gotten himself into now? Image courtesy of Obsolete Gamer.

Goof Troop is similar to Four Swords Adventures in the sense that it’s a top-down adventure game with co-op options. For certain puzzles, two players would be required. For the most part though, the challenge isn’t steep at all. However, that does not stop Goof Troop from being entertaining.

Max and his father cannot fight the pirates off with their bare hands, but can use the environment and few items along the way. Blocks in the puzzles and even a grappling hook will help Goofy and his son on their quest. It’s actually very satisfying kicking a block in a pirate’s direction and watching them fly off the screen.

Yeah, the grappling hook can be used as a bridge. It's awesome. Image courtesy of Obsolete Gamer.
Yeah, the grappling hook can be used as a bridge. It’s awesome. Image courtesy of Obsolete Gamer.

Goof Troop lives up to Capcom’s standards for Disney games
The original setting and inspired gameplay make Goof Troop worth playing. It’s the game’s graphics and sound which will draw players in. Capcom knew how to take full advantage of the SNES’ colors and power. Goof Troop on the SNES is able to capture the colorful nature of the cartoon, and even manages to get the expressions down as well.

The cutscenes and in-game graphics represent the cartoon perfectly. Image courtesy of Obsolete Gamer.
The cutscenes and in-game graphics represent the cartoon perfectly. Image courtesy of Obsolete Gamer.

The music in Goof Troop is bombastic, but playful. It fits the tropical tone of the setting. It’s not Capcom’s best SNES work, but it serves a purpose in keeping the player entertained.

One of Gaming’s Undervalued Treasures
Goof Troop on the SNES manages to be an interesting adaptation of a cartoon many 90s kids love. The adventure game format and engaging gameplay certainly make Goof Troop one of the more creative Disney licensed games. It’s unfortunate the show was short lived, as this game is one of the most highly appealing games on the SNES.

It goes without saying if you’re a fan of the cartoon, than play Goof Troop. However, the game does have a mass appeal to not just fans of Disney cartoons. Anyone looking for a good time with friends, look no further than Goof Troop.  It’s not back breaking in terms of prices, so buying it on Amazon won’t be an issue.

 

Gaming’s Undervalued Treasures: Kirby’s Dream Land 3

Image courtesy of Giant Bomb user hmmisee.
Image courtesy of Giant Bomb user hmmisee.

 

Kirby’s Dream Land 3 is one Kirby’s most fun and creative adventures
Kirby’s Dream Land 3 is one of the better entries in the long running series, but also one of the SNES’ most unique platformers.

Released in late fall of 1997, Kirby’s Dream Land 3 has the distinction of being Nintendo’s last published title on the SNES. The game was also overshadowed by the release of the Nintendo 64 and its ever growing library. Gamers were more interested in Super Mario 64, Star Fox 64 and GoldenEye 007 rather than what the little pink guy was copying.

The game was also unfavorably compared to the smash hit Kirby Super Star. While Super Star is a great game in its own right, Kirby’s Dream Land 3 gets the series back to its roots of straightforward platforming, while doing something new as well.

Kirby’s Dream Land 3 showcases the power of the SNES, not with cutting-edge effects, with the impressive color palate the system had. Gameplay is also as fun as ever, but introduces a good amount of elements to keep it fresh each level.

Colors, colors everywhere in Dream Land! Image courtesy of GameFAQs.
Colors, colors everywhere in Dream Land! Image courtesy of GameFAQs.

Consistently solid gameplay keeps Kirby’s Dream Land 3 interesting
Kirby’s Dream Land 3 uses the typical Kirby format. Jumping, flying around and getting opponents abilities. However, the addition of Kirby’s animal friends make things more interesting. Instead of three, there is now six. Rick, Coo and Kine all return from Kirby’s Dream Land 2. Nago the double jumping cat, Pitch the green bird and Chuchu the octopus wearing a bow all join the ranks of Kirby’s friends. The blue ball Gooey is along for the ride and can be used by player two.

Kirby and Gooey's Excellent Adventure. Image courtesy of GameFAQs.
Kirby and Gooey’s Excellent Adventure. Image courtesy of GameFAQs.

Kirby’s Dream Land 3 does not have the gimmick of being “six games in one” like Super Star, but has the same amount of variety. Not in game types, but in gameplay. It is also more streamlined to focus. It does not break down barriers, but keeps gameplay steady.

The amount of animal friends in Kirby’s Dream Land 3 for one is a great addition. Each of them will be helpful in finding secret passages in stages.

The sort of “missions” in each stage will allow for replayability. Kirby’s Dream Land 3 contains a side character in each stage. Some times its an original character. Other times its another Nintendo character. The character will ask Kirby break down a wall, bring back children or find a certain item. It is not the main goal of each stage, but it adds to Kirby’s Dream Land 3’s platformingIt’s a nice addition to make the game feel longer.

Image courtesy of GameFAQs.
It’s random cameo time! Image courtesy of GameFAQs.

Kirby’s Dream Land 3 has the typical copy abilities such as cutter, spark and stone, among others. They aren’t particularly different, but it’s not an overwhelming selection. Each copy ability in Kirby’s Dream Land 3 is useful in its own right, and the player won’t ever feel like they got the short end of the stick. This is somewhat a rare feature, since every Kirby game has its selection of useless copy abilities and this one does not.

The franchise has always had fun, but simplistic, gameplay that keeps players coming back. Kirby’s Dream Land 3 will certainly delight longtime fans and even new comers.

Kirby’s Dream Land 3 boasts a great art style
Kirby’s Dream Land 3’s stylized sprites and backgrounds are absolute eye candy. Similar to Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, Kirby’s Dream Land 3 has a distinct hand drawn style. Outlines of characters will have scribbly lines and the game looks like it was drawn with pencil crayons. The Kirby series has been all about cute visuals, the graphics of Kirby’s Dream Land 3 exemplify this aspect perfectly. It does not display bright colors like Super Star did, but it at least has its own style.

The art style alone is great to look at. Image courtesy of GameFAQs.
The art style alone is great to look at. Image courtesy of GameFAQs.

One of Gaming’s Undervalued Treasures
Kirby’s Dream Land 3 came out at one of the worst times. A (then) second-tier Nintendo series being released at the very end of a last generation console, and  having to live up to an instant classic stacked the cards against the game.

If any Kirby fan or even someone looking for an addictive and clever platformer, than Kirby’s Dream Land 3 will be what the doctor ordered. The visuals alone make the game worth playing at least once, but the addition of several gameplay elements will keep gamers glued to the game. In some ways, it is just as good, if not better, than Super Star.

Kirby’s Dream Land 3 isn’t expensive to find on the SNES and it is available to download on the Virtual Console.

Gaming’s Undervalued Treasures: Final Fight 3

Picture courtesy of Giant Bomb user dracocall
Picture courtesy of Giant Bomb user dracocall

Final Fight 3 deserves more love from SNES fans
The original Final Fight, released back in 1989, is often seen by several old school gamers to be one of the most memorable beat ‘em ups.

The game was a massive success in the arcades, as well as home consoles. Capcom created and developed a sequel exclusive to the SNES under the immensely intriguing title Final Fight 2, which is a solid game in its own right.

Final Fight 3 was also released as a SNES exclusive. However, it came near the system’s end in 1995. The game features the largest roster of characters, each with their own truly unique special moves to add to the already near-perfect gameplay.

GUT Final Fight 3 7

Final Fight 3 is also one of the few side scrolling beat ‘em ups to feature branching paths which effect the game’s ending. From a technical stand point, Final Fight 3 contains some fist pumping anthems which fit the chaotic fights seamlessly and curb check the tinny sounds of the original game. Final Fight 3’s colorful, comic book-like graphics are pleasing to look it throughout.

Since it was released so late into the SNES lifespan, and was BLASTED by several major video game magazines , Final Fight 3 faded into obscurity.

The only franchise to feature a pro wrestling mayor as its hero three times!
Final Fight 3’s story is similar to most beat ‘em ups; an interchangeable gang, (this time the Skull Cross Gang, which to be fair is a totally bad ass name), takes over an interchangeable city (Metro City) and our heroes (Mayor Mike Haggar and friends) must walk forward and punch and kick everyone in the face in the name of justice.

What is nice to see when the game is booted up on the SNES, is an extended intro which gives a detailed backstory, including the riots the Skull Cross Gang has started throughout city. New comers to the series, Luica and Dean are even given a quick origin story and players are caught up with the returning Guy and Haggar.

The cut scenes actually add to the story of Final Fight 3. Image courtesy of Giant Bomb user 234r2we232.
The cut scenes actually add to the story of Final Fight 3. Image courtesy of Giant Bomb user 234r2we232.

Lucia is a booty short wearing cop who mildly resembles Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female. Dean is a big Image Comics looking-dude who controls electricity and whose family was killed by the Skull Cross Gang.

Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen! Image courtesy of Hardcore Gaming 101.
Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen! Image courtesy of Hardcore Gaming 101.

Refined and polished to borderline perfection

By this time in the mid-90s, the beat ‘em up genre was very much a road well-traveled. Final Fight 3 is walking down that road, but the gameplay has beneficial tweaks here and there which make Final Fight 3 fresh and exciting.

The new cast members, Dean and Lucina in action! Image courtesy of Giant Bomb user Kou_Leifou
The new cast members, Dean and Lucia in action! Image courtesy of Giant Bomb user Kou_Leifou

For starters, Final Fight 3 introduces a run button, similar to how Sega’s Streets of Rage 3 did. However, it does not feel as slippery as it was introduced in that game. Running in Final Fight 3 allows for more moves for each character, adding in a  bit of depth in a genre that is not known for being deep.

 

 

The return of Guy is something most Final Fight fans will love about this game. Image courtesy of Giant Bomb user ignor
Guy executing a running attack!. Image courtesy of Giant Bomb user ignor

Each of the four characters has their own unique play style and special attacks. Guy is the quick, combo heavy one, not unlike his appearances in Street Fighter. Haggar is a grappler/powerhouse, Lucia is your basic, all around character and Dean is a charge-like character. It helps to have more variety, especially when it comes to playing with other friends.

Final Fight 3 also takes on a more colorful and animated art style that is not like the other games. Characters appear a little cartoony and have that mid-90s Capcom vibe which gives Final Fight 3 an appealing look. It gets rid of the gritty style of the first game and overall looks better than 2.

Haggar has spent most of his political career on the streets! Image courtesy of Giant Bomb user kou_leifou.
Haggar has spent most of his political career on the streets! Image courtesy of Giant Bomb user kou_leifou.

Finally, the branching paths will offer some new scenery along with a chance to get a different ending. Not the greatest feature of the game, but it helps add to the experience of playing Final Fight 3.

Final Fight 3
’s features similarities to another Capcom franchise…
Even when compared to most beat ‘em ups, the first and second Final Fight had beyond easy control set ups. One button to jump, one to attack and pressing the two made the character do a special attack. There was a separate button in 2 which controlled the special attacks.

An example of the super moves found in Final Fight 3. Image courtesy of Giant Bomb user kou_leifou.
An example of the super moves found in Final Fight 3. Image courtesy of Giant Bomb user kou_leifou.

This control scheme is implemented in Final Fight 3, but there is the addition of more special attacks. How the player executes the moves is more in line with a fighting game, very similar to how Street Fighter or Darkstalkers plays. Fighting game fans can feel right at home with the special move system along with the super meter which can be triggered and create a devastating super move.  

Final Fight 3’s only flaw is the mild repetition
A welcome addition of characters, moves and smoother gameplay allows Final Fight 3 to be great. Not flawless though, as the game suffers from what many other beat ‘em ups suffer from. Repetition.

Dispensing some justice with a lead pipe. Image courtesy of Giant Bomb user 234r2we232.
Dispensing some justice with a lead pipe. Image courtesy of Giant Bomb user 234r2we232.

The player will be taking Haggar and friends on an excellent adventure through some vibrant locales, but the enemies and even the bosses will not be as creative. At least halfway through the game, enemies start to repeat.

The music does not fare much better, as the same tunes are repeated ad nausem throughout the game. They aren’t bad, the song “For Metro City” is arguably the highlight of the soundtrack, but when the player is hearing the same four songs over and over again, it gets old.

One of Gaming’s Undervalued Treasures
Final Fight 3 is one of the best examples of a sequel being overshadowed. The original Final Fight has a massive following and several ports to consoles, whereas 3 has the SNES port and it is exceptionally rare. However, the game can be downloaded on the Wii and Wii U thanks in part to the Virtual Console.

A beat ‘em up worthy of anyone’s collection, Final Fight 3 offers gameplay a little more complex than the average side scroller and features some fantastic controls as well. The graphics showcase the SNES colors expertly and the multiple characters and paths will make this an instant replay, especially among fans of classic beat ’em ups.