Tag: 150 SNES Games Review

150 SNES games reviewed #16: Virtual Soccer (aka J.League Super Soccer)

I have mentioned before that when it comes to football games back in the SNES days there was a wide selection as opposed to today’s simple choice of FIFA or PES.

So I thought that it was about time I looked at another one, J.League Super Soccer, which was made by Hudson Soft. You’ll most likely have heard of Hudson due to its most popular series of games Bomberman or due to the fact that they made the first eight Mario Party games for Nintendo. (On a side note Hudson Soft ceased to exist as a company in March 2012 and was merged with Konami Digital Entertainment, although Konami intend to carry on using the Hudson name.)

The first thing I am going to say about J.League Super Soccer is it has a wonderful intro. But the truth is you cant describe what this game does when left to its own devices as an intro there is no story. What we really have here is an arcade attract mode. Basically some lively football music with a nice chant running through it is played while the game goes from showing you a bit of in game footage, to pictures of clapping fans, to the game’s name and then back to small what can best be described as football comic strip pictures. It almost reminds me of one of those brilliant Amiga software demonstration discs you used to get, the type which would show you pictures graphics and music just for the purposes of entertainment. If you can’t tell, this is something I love about this game.

Originally I didn’t realise what I had been playing was a common game, which came out in the UK with some minor alterations. In fact you might have heard of it, it was called Virtual Soccer. Basically all they did was put in the English language and change the teams from Japanese first division teams to national teams. In the process of buying games for this series of reviews I very nearly went and bought Virtual Soccer which would have meant I had wasted my money buying the same game twice. Something I did notice was that the game has a speed option and you can play it at normal speed or fast speed, but even normal speed is quite fast and this is something I like. You can choose two views to play from. I chose the overhead view which made it look like a game I am sure most of you will have heard of – Kick Off.

I found it hard to shoot but then I am usually bad at these kinds of games. Passing didn’t seem to go quite where I wanted it to go, but unlike the last football game I played the ref at least seemed fair calling for yellow cards when I was fouled as well as when I fouled the computer. When you score there is the satisfying “Goallll!” I wanted to hear in the last game, but still I don’t think enough fuss is made for my taste. You can see the little man is celebrating but I still want to see it closer up. I want to see players punching the air or hugging each other in a cartoon panel or something.

I am glad this game exists because I love having a wide variety of choice and there are things I really like about this game, the presentation, the speed the “Goallll!” soundbite after you score. I guess I would give this game a five out of 10, despite it giving me some of the things I said I wanted to see in a football game during my last football game review it was a step forward in some areas and two steps backwards in others.

Fortunately for anyone who would like to try this game the English PAL cart can be got from eBay for about £3 including postage. I paid £2.25 for the Japanese version including postage. This does raise an interesting point about importing though, the fact that games can change from region to region so sometimes some research is useful to make sure your not buying an altered version of something you already own. But I guess I am still searching for my perfect 16-bit football game.

150 SNES games reviewed #15: Taz-Mania

You can’t talk for long about the SNES without mentioning the Mega Drive. Most people when I was young would have one or the other, but I was one of the exceptions to this rule.

I got a Mega Drive at first and then later I got a SNES. I like to think this made me less biased, as I was willing to see the strengths of both machines, willing to recognise good games on both platforms.

The SNES game I’ve played to review was Taz-Mania. The game featuring Taz the Tasmanian devil (yes, the one from Warner Bros.’ Bugs Bunny cartoons and later his own show, Taz-Mania).

This was one of the cases where games bearing the same name came out for both SNES and Mega Drive more or less around the same sort of time, but were actually totally different games developed by different studios. Sometimes this turned out for the best because it meant both machines got games tailored to their own strengths as opposed to a game being made for one then ported to the other, or one simply being made taking the limitations of both platforms in to account. Taz-Mania on the Mega Drive was a 2D side-scrolling platform/adventure game which was developed by Recreational Brainware and published by SEGA. Taz-Mania on the SNES was a very different beast, developed by Visual Concepts and published by Sunsoft.

In each level of SNES Taz-Mania Taz must race against time to grab and eat a set number of kiwi birds, a number which if he does not manage to consume will see you lose. Enemies will attempt to stop Taz by running over him or bumping into him. In all of the levels you run up the road in a fashion a little bit like a car game, you run, you jump and you spin in an attempt to catch up to the birds needed while avoiding all perils. The graphics are nice and bright with a big Taz sprite who is full of character, this instantly makes you want to like the game but once you’ve played for a while you find that it all feels rather soulless. There are a lot of reasons for this, I think one is the fact that the controls feel very floaty – I never felt like I was properly in control of Taz. Whether or not I managed to catch the birds seemed to be based more on luck than any level of skill I did or did not possess. Any game which makes you feel like you’re winning or loosing based on your level of luck is off to a bad start because its only going to bore you even quicker. Add to this the fact that every level in the game is the same – they are all just running up the road looking for birds. Sure, more gets thrown in – rivers to jump, extra enemies – but it all still feels the same and it all feels like it relies on luck.

Mega Drive owners got a platform game. It wasn’t the best platform game in the world, but it scored very highly back in the day. I am talking around 80% but in retrospect I am not sure that it is in fact that good, to me its more of a 75% kind of game, good but forgettable, but still at the time it seemed so much better than the SNES game.

You can see why Sunsoft avoided the platformer route and went for something original, something different. It was a brave decision but one that I just don’t think paid off. If this bird eating racing had served as just one style of play in the game, or had been an almost Sonic the Hedgehog 2-style bonus level interspersed with platforming it would have been a lot better.

If I had to give SNES Taz-Mania a score I guess it would have to be three out of 10. It is perfectly playable, it’s just not very fun and it doesn’t have much to bring you back to it. Sure, some people would argue that it deserves more because it has good graphics and technically there is not enough wrong for it to deserve a score this low, but let’s face it, games are supposed to be fun. They’re supposed to draw you in and make you want to spend your time on them and if they fail to do this then they just fail in general.

I paid £5 for an NTSC cart of this game. You can get either a UK or US one usually for around £8. Heck, I’ve seen a fully boxed PAL copy online for £13 before. I can’t recommend anyone spend anywhere near £8 for it though to be fair. It’s not how bad this is, it’s how good some of the other things you could spend your cash on are. If you have a Mega Drive you can get a boxed PAL copy of Mega Drive Taz-Mania starting from £5 and this would be cash much better spent.

150 SNES games reviewed #14: Sonic Blast Man

It’s funny how sometimes all you need to see is a company’s name on a box and it’s enough to get you excited. In fact it’s sometimes enough to make you buy something on the spot with no real research.

Back in the PlayStation days I remember a lot of people would feel totally safe in just picking up anything with the Square logo on it. For me a company who I have always rather liked is Taito. They made a lot of great games back in the day, so the sight of their name on a cart is cause for a hopeful smile.

Some of you who used to go to the arcades as kids might have heard of the name Sonic Blast Man. It was the name of a pretty sizeable arcade cabinet which came with boxing gloves and a punching pad. You would play the game by trying to punch the pad as hard as you could when it told you to. I remember it started with you punching a thug who was trying to assault a lady and if you got to the end you were trying to punch a meteorite away before it could strike the Earth.

I loved this game I would hunt high and low for it in arcades up and down the coast. Apparently, in March 1995 Taito recalled Sonic Blast Man machines due to reports that some players had sustained injuries while playing the game. Although I have to cry BS on this one, you wore gloves and you punched a well padded sensor. Sure I have seen people injure themselves in connection to the Sonic Blast Man machine but these were idiots who were punching it bare-handed and had no real idea of how to punch it or worse. I once saw a guy try to run and fly kick the pad in an arcade, he miss judged it and landed on a very painful part of his body as it made contact with the corner of an old Operation Wolf machine. Yet in the US, Taito had to pay a fine of $50,000 for failing to disclose these “injuries”.

When I heard as a kid there was going to be a SNES verion of Sonic Blast Man my mind went nuts. How could they turn it into a SNES game? It would cost the earth if it came with boxing gloves and a usable sensor pad, plus I could imagine it would be a PR nightmare as one child punched another child while missing the sensor or punched the TV. (What I saw happening in my mind was basically what we all saw upon the Wii’s release with all of the remote related accidents, newspaper stories, etc.) I kind of expected them to go down the old joystick waggling sports games path, where you’d have to bang buttons to fill up a meter or something but then I stopped and thought that would be awful. The arcade game was very short and was fun purely because of the novelty factor. Five levels of banging joypad buttons to fill a meter to punch something would have been an awful Idea for a £40 cartridge based home game.

The SNES version is actually a side-scrolling beat ’em up. Sonic Blastman’s mission is still to save the Earth, but this time it is from all manner of street gangs, terrorists, aliens and robots. The fight starts on a construction site, but you’re soon moving from place to place and it’s nicely varied for a game of its type.

One minus point is the game is only a one-player game much like the original Final Fight was on the SNES. There is only one character as well Sonic Blastman himself which feels a little limiting. As in all scrolling beat ’em ups the game consists of defeating the enemies on the screen before continuing walking to the right to face more until you complete the stage. Sonic Blastman can do all of the usual moves for a game of this type. He can punch, jump, and grab a hold of enemies. When he approaches his enemies, he is able to grab them. From here he can shake them and throw them, or he can unleash a series of rapid punches, depending upon the direction you hold on your joypad.

The bonus levels are an adaptation of the arcade version of the game which is a neat little touch for fans. Obviously they have been converted to be played with your fingers instead of your fists. They’re not bad, though I am still glad they didn’t use them for the basis of a whole game.

The best thing about the game’s graphics are the large sprites. They are big and colourful and will remind you of arcade and Neo Geo games to an extent. The backgrounds are more or less what you expect to see in a background on a city neighborhood, factory and sewer, so they’re functional but not thrilling. But I would argue that as you get further through the game they become more interesting and seem to have more little details hidden here and there.

The music sounds like some kind of fusion of jazz and elevator music but I kind of like it and I think it suits the game well. The sound effects are pretty decent and give it a good comic book feel. You hear Blastman say little soundbites like  “Take that!”. Overall, I think it works.

I would say this is one of the better scrolling beat ’em ups on the system. Sure a two-player mode would be nice and its absence, along with a few other little things, stop me from calling this game perfect. But for me its a good eight out of 10. I think thanks to the big sprites and the simple but fun gameplay this game has aged a lot better than some of the stuff I have been playing. Having a go now I enjoyed it as much as back then.

The game came out in all regions but I have never seen a PAL copy in the flesh in my life, neither now nor back when released. My copy is a Japanese cartridge which I have had since I was young, I am not sure where I got it, I just remember being very excited to get it. Looking around you might be able to grab a Japanese copy for between £10 to £25 if you’re lucky, but every time I have seen an US copy its been ridiculous money like £60 or more, and I am still to see a PAL copy for sale.