February 13, 2008
Matt Chimes in With His Fave Console of All-Time – The Super NES
An article that Steve posted recently regarding the greatest gaming console of them all has spurred me on to post some thoughts regarding that of my own. Yes siree, the good old Super NES. Please, allow me give you 20 reasons as to why it holds such a crown....
20. It Looked Fab
The American model looked ghastly by comparison – purple, blocky and really rather hideous – also marking an ever rare moment where PALers avoided the short end of the stick from Nintendo to boot. The happy times, as I like to think of them. Which promptly ended about five minutes later.
19. Super Mario All-Stars
Via the Super Mario All-Stars compilation, you not only got the original and charming Super Mario Brothers in all its simplistic box nuttin' glory, but also its demented sequel, the startlingly brilliant Super Mario 3, and even the previously unreleased "Lost Levels" collection too. Even cooler? All of the above had been remade to make use of the redonkulously ferocious power of Nintendo's new machine; flat and dull backgrounds were now gorgeously rendered parallax vistas, characters had detail and personality they could never have dreamed of previously, and damn, that vintage SMB music was better than ever also.
The whole thing looked, and indeed sounded amazing, and arguably still does ... which is a relief, seeing how often Nintendo have since whored these games out on every other platform known to man.
18. Japanese RPGs
Like your Final Fantasy XII? Dig your Lost Odyssey? Can't wait for White Knight Story? Thank the SNES. Chances are you wouldn't be playing 'em without it.
17. The SuperScope
Sure, there weren't a ton of games released for it at the end of the day (Mole Patrol!), and those too cool for school simply pointed and laughed. But us true believers? AKA those blessed with rich parents? We had the last laugh. The SuperScope rocked. Hard.
16. Pilot Wings
A flying sim for kids, essentially, your goal was to sore through the sky as everything from a hang glider trying to make it through floating rings, to a sky diver trying to land without going splat. It harnessed the Super NES' crazy new "Mode 7" graphics to render and distort truly massive environments though, fooling your eyes into thinking you were actually there, when in reality, it was doing little more than zooming in and out of flat 2D planes.
As an innocent young whippersnapper, you had no idea about such things though. For all you could tell, it was real. It was amazing. It was frakkin' Pilot Wings. Just don't play it these days if you value your memories.
15. The Sound Chip
This extended to the music, of course, which had a depth and a style to it just leaps and bounds ahead of the bleeps and boings previously associated with gaming, and about as close as you could get to full blown CD quality tunes in them there days. If that wasn't enough, the console's enhanced CPU power (a whopping great 3.58mhz) and its ludicrously insane wad of memory (128k!) made it one of the first to boast extensive use of genuine voice sampling too.
Dying in Alien 3 for the first time to hear Hudson yell, "Game over man!" was enough to melt pre-pubescent hearts.
14. Mortal Kombat
Strangely though, with all the hilarious violence removed, Kombat was forced to rely almost solely on good old fashioned gameplay instead, and as a result? I became mildly obsessed with it. Believe it or not, a fab 2D beat 'em up was buried deep down beneath all the splodgy red paint. Matches were fast, skillful and satisfying, while blocking and specials proved deep enough to give it some surprising tactical value as well.
And cripes, how about them graphics?
The Sega Genesis muppets laughed at us with our sweat covered Rayden merely scorching dudes instead of blowing their heads apart – while they enjoyed full-blown violence and decapitations as the Mortal Kombat gods intended. But hey. You know what, guys? At least our version was playable.
Oh no he didn't...!
For me though, pace, excitement and good old gameplay took a distinct second place to simply the sheer style of the thing. Taking those aforementioned Mode 7 capabilities to the next level, F-Zero was truly stunning to behold. The courses – set high above everything from Blade-Runner style metropolises to massive desert canyons – were 100% epic in every sense of the word. It may look blocky, low-rez, if not down-right ugly these days, but back then ... this was the future. Hitting a jump at the wrong angle and going hurtling over the edge into the great abyss thousands of miles below had never been so much fun.
It didn't hurt that this sucker had officially the best music ever heard in a game either, hinting back once again to the aforementioned killer sound capabilities of this demented beast of a machine. No F-Zero since has touched it; could the Wii perhaps remedy that?
A great grandfather to Black & White of sorts, you played a god watching over a typical medieval fantasy land here, but you did so through a variety of different means. On the face of it, it looked like any other old god game, one where villager's needs had to be met and peace constantly maintained as you'd expect. Yet while tending to structures, building houses and leveling forests for the growth of civilization took precedence, evil flying meanies would continually rain down havoc upon your towns, resulting in a constant need to shoot the little mongrels outta the sky with your cupid-like avatar. As a result, Actraiser became the first – and indeed last – god-game-slash-vertical-shooter ever. T'was an ingenious way of intertwining proper action into an otherwise somewhat slow and more thought-provoking genre, and made the hours simply fly by.
But wait. That was barely half the game, as particularly nasty monsters and lairs could only be destroyed by actually traveling down to Earth yourself, taking over a full blown human body, and kicking ass mano a mano. Just like that? The game became a side scrolling beat 'em up, with your sword-wielding Barbarian tearing up enemies like a crazed Conan.
It was truly inspired stuff, full of variety and invention, with no doubt its baseline premise of melding a ton of these different games and genres together proving a blue-print for future such genre-benders for generations to come. As a bonus, it too had the best music ever.
11. Prince of Persia
Has there ever been a game quite so atmospheric?
A ludicrously enhanced take on the original, SNES Prince was not only twice as long as its PC counter-part, but also came totally revamped from top to bottom to harness true next-gen sound and visuals on top. The Prince himself looked better than ever, animated and detailed gorgeously enough as to pass for real in those days, but it was the levels themselves that saw the true fruits of the upgrade.
Not content with mere character-less corridors and nondescript platforms here, now we had beautifully extravagant palace interiors and stunningly epic caverns to behold. Exploring the game's every nook and cranny took on a whole other level as a result, one bulking up and adding immeasurably to the otherwise somewhat simplistic trial and error puzzle-based gameplay at its core.
Many cite Flashback and even Another World as the classics of both this genre and system, but as ace as those games indeed were ... Prince was the one for me. Unless I'm mistaken, it too had the best darn music ever.
10. Multiplayer Gaming
Killer Instinct, Zombies ate My Neighbors, Sunset Riders, Smash TV, Turtles in Time...not to mention the various others mentioned on this here list that I'll resist spoilerating for now, all proved alarmingly fun and utterly hysterical with a pal by your side.
But it didn't end there. A copy of Super Bomberman with the oh so sexy Super Multi-tap adapter provided instant 4-player craziness in your very own living room. And you know what? The world would never be the same again.
The SNES brought multiplayer gaming to my life with that in mind, and for that I'm eternally grateful.
9. Super Tennis
As an early launch window title that experimented with taking simple, every day games, then sprucing 'em up and re-branding them as home-grown Nintendo titles, Tennis revamped an arguably somewhat dull and lifeless concept into one so full of character, charm, and sheer fun that I'd even go as far as saying was one of the coolest games on the system.
Needless to say, when played with friends – either on the same team, or in cut-throat versus matches – it took on a whole other life of its own. Simply amazing stuff, that's still a blast here in 2008.
8. Super Mario Kart
Gotta love that DS rendition.
Of course, with Crash Bandicoot, Star Wars, Diddy Kong, and even Mortal Kombat all jumping on the cutesy go-karting spin-off bandwagon in more recent times, the concept as a whole has dropped to depressingly sad at this point. All it takes is one single lap of Mario Circuit 1 to remember just why we all fell for it in the first place though. That's right; pure, adulterated fun.
I love you, Mario Kart.
7. Sim City
Sim City marked another fab Nintendo-ization of a comparatively bland game. Don't get me wrong, I was a huge Sim City PC guy, but what Maxis did for its console port is deserving of wedding night bliss.
You still had your residential, commercial and industrial zones to build. You still had to contend with power supplies, traffic, and mass transit systems. You even had earthquakes, fires and Godzillas running rampant around your beloved city. But the whole thing had been blessed with personality at last. There was a nutty professor guiding you through the game now, your citizens regularly blessed you with amazing
For those who missed out on it first time around, this title was quite rightly one of the very first SNES games to see its way onto Nintendo's Virtual Console service, and as a result, needs a purchase right now from each and every one of you.
Cast all memories of the recent cross-platform FPS from your mind, SNES Shadowrun was a far more divine and stylish works you see. In fact, you could call it Deus Ex before it was even a whisper of an idea in Warren Spector's oh so young head. Fusing cyberpunk grittiness with quasi-real-time combat and an expert conversation system that I've still to see beaten, it holds up wondrously to this very day. Trust me, I'd know; I play it through at least once a year!
Undoubtedly one of the finest RPGs ever made, I still lay awake at night crying over FASA's ill-conceived, 14-year late follow-up. Is redemption on the cards?
5. The Controller
The fact that the SNES pad also proved ever so comfy to hold, looked amazing, and boasted the sweetest D-pad of them all didn't hurt either. Wisely Nintendo trademarked the cross style design itself, resulting in minor alterations on all other pads since as to avoid copyright infringements, none of which have ever thus matched up.
More than anything though? It was all about them triggers. So clicky, they were. Without 'em, Halo would nay exist.
4. Super Street Fighter II
I mean heck, now you could get that same hardcore fighting experience in your very own home, and it didn't cost 20 pence a go either. Forget putting on clothes and leaving the house!
Street Fighter II really took console gaming up a notch with that in mind; clearly we were now entering a whole new age. Graphics were arcade-quality, sound was phenomenal, and you had the first real glimpse into just what these machines were gonna be capable of in the coming years.
Incidentally, I remember paying a whopping great £75 for an early import copy back then. Which in them there days ... was about 500 zillion dollars.
3. Star Fox
I guess what one could only compare to perhaps buying a new PC game and having it come with its own built-in 3D card, the Super FX imbued the SNES with incredible new extra-dimensional graphic capabilities. Now it could render full 3D models and even entire games with startling beauty and razor-sharp crispness.
Star Fox proved the first such title to make use of this technology, and seeing it for the first time was to behold a sight unlike any other. Wow. These were actual spaceships. Those were real buildings. You could look around and see an entire bloody city. One could say it practically set every other SNES game back an entire generation by comparison.
Of course, it didn't hurt that Star Fox itself – or Star Wing as us Euros bizarrely called it – was a dynamite game in its own right. A genuine, epic space opera brought to video gaming for the first time. Like the Star Wars game we'd always dreamed of, mixed with a zany, Japanese twist. Crazy talking animals and insanely brilliant gibberish speech brought it all to life particularly well, the latter being a feature in fact, that I wish the subsequent sequels hadn't scrapped ("MY EMPEROR!
Between blazing through asteroid fields, skimming along planet surfaces, and weaving in-between massive space armadas along the fringe of space, it left your jaw-gaping open wide from beginning to end. It's truly odd how successfully Nintendo captured that exquisite, galaxy hopping sci-fi atmosphere in fact, compared to how disgracefully they since fumbled it in all subsequent sequels and systems that followed.
There was a SNES-boundStar Fox 2 incidentally, but it found itself canceled towards the end of development and its better ideas set aside for use in the upcoming N64 sequel. Leaked screens and even half-finished roms of that game litter the internet's seedier corners, but I for one would rather not. No doubt it'd just gimme a lump in the old throat over what could have been ... as opposed to what this series has instead since become.
I have to mention incidentally, that this game has the best music ever.
2. The Legend of Zelda – A Link to the Past
None of its relentless follow-ups – as highly praised as they all were by pretty much the entire gaming world -–have ever really knocked it off that top perch for me; it's just an ever so rare marriage of sheer perfection right across the board. 100% faultless gameplay. Cartoony, yet timeless graphics. And the music? Quite simply ... the greatest ever heard.
Unforgettable moments. So many housed within one meager game. Waking up to Zelda's cries of pain. Grabbing that lantern and setting off into the rainy night. The death of your uncle before your very eyes. Taking his sword in your hands. Your first spin attack. Beating your first boss. Nabbing the Pegasus boots. Battling Gannon. Saving Zelda. Perfect snapshots from a perfect journey.
Go on. You know you fancy a replay.
1. Super Mario World
No I'm serious. It is. I can prove it, in fact. Quite easily.
Just play it.
Super Mario World truly revolutionized what to expect from a video game. No simple platformer like its predecessors, what Nintendo admirably nailed so spectacularly well this time around was the concept of having a huge, gargantuan, and truly enormous world to explore. Split into literally dozens of different areas – including underground caverns, beautiful forests, and lava filled dungeons plucked straight outta hell – Mario felt truly unleashed at last.
Yeah, you still had linear(ish) levels to complete, a central goal to accomplish, and a very clear – if ludicrously long – straight path with which to get there, but you were also free to splinter off and explore to your heart's content if you so desired. And my god, the game sure as hell rewarded you if you did.
The sheer volume of secret passages, hidden levels, even entire unlockable worlds was so ludicrously alien and new, I honestly didn't know half this stuff was even in there 'til years later. I worshiped this game back in its day, you see, but it took a more recent replay via its GBA port – one in which a far older and more experienced Mr. Robinson was able to revisit it with a fresh outlook – to really explore and uncover just how much sheer game it contains. That's a true sign of a title made ahead of its time. It's enormous. It's daunting. It's epic. 96 full-blown levels so.
Of course, Mario 64 went on to define 3D gaming years later, and is thus the one many look back on as the more pivotal and revolutionary title. Fair enough. But make no mistake. The blue-print was forged here. The underlying concept, the wealth of content ... heck, just the pure vision alone? All present and correct. 64 simply made it 3D.
Super Mario World is the ever rare golden oldie that holds up just as well today as the day it was released, if not more so. To replay it here in the new millennium is to see it instantly spring to the top of your fave games of all-time list, and then some. Not only was it the single title to make the Super NES the most important and downright greatest machine of them all – regardless of the wealth of additional classics mentioned above – but that this baby came out on day one of the system's life? Wow. What a stark and alien concept next to more recent console launches.
SEGA were cool. I love my 360. And I hope Sony aren't destined for doom as many have trumpeted these last few years. Ya know what, though? Compiling this list, I've come to the conclusion that deep, deep down ... ignoring swishy next-gen graphics and HD-TVs ... with age and "wisdom" and jaded cynicism aside ... I'll always be a Nintendo guy above all else.
Do a barrel roll!