Final Mission (S.C.A.T./Action in New York)

Shoot ’em ups are not for the light-hearted. They require the quick reflexes and hand-eye coordination of a sprightly feline. They can also be immensely fun to play, especially in co-op mode. These sorts of games were perfect for the arcades and players brave enough to attempt them would soon find they had a mass of spectators cheering them on. Those were the days!

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Final Mission is a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up developed by Natsume. It was published by Natsume Co. Ltd. (North America and Japan), Infogames (Europe), and Konami (Australia). It was released on the NES in Japan in 1990. In North America it was released in 1991 under the name SCAT: Special Cybernetic Attack Team. In 1992, it was released in Europe and Australia under the name Action in New York. It was later released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2011, and the Nintendo DS and Wii U in 2014.

The year is 2029, Supreme Commander Vile Malmort leads an army of aliens to invade and conquer Earth. A team consisting of soldiers that are part-human, part-machine, are assembled and sent to repel the invasion.

Use your satellites to attack the enemy, and protect your six! (Screenshot taken by the author)

Final Mission can be played in one, or two player co-op modes. You play as either Arnold or Sigourney, no doubt a nod to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sigourney Weaver (in the Japanese version they are both male). You are equipped with jet packs and two satellite modules that fire at the enemies as you fly around the levels destroying the invaders. You must battle your way through five levels: New York City Ruins; Subterranean Realm; the Astrotube; the Battleship; and the Orbiting Platform. You can pick-up several upgrades along the way, boosting your attacking power and maneuverability. The upgrade icons are: S – Increases the speed of your warrior; L – You wield a high powered laser gun that can shoot through some walls; W – You wield a wide beam to attack multiple enemies; B – Explosive shells; and R – Restores your lost energy.  

The controls are simple and easy to learn. The D-pad moves you around the screen. The B button fires your weapons (some weapons fire continuously when the fire button is held down). The A button locks your satellites into position, and unlocks them again so that they can change position as you move. There is no time limit but the screen will scroll sideways (and sometimes up and down). This feature adds an element of strategy when battling through the levels. Sadly, it only takes three of four hits before you die. You only have one life and four or five continues, which are used up very quickly making this game is very tough.

The graphics and level detail are good. The backgrounds are very detailed and look great. In NES shoot ‘em ups, the backgrounds aren’t usually as detailed (see Gradius II [1988] and Over Horizon [1991]), but Final Mission’s backgrounds are really impressive. However, there is a little bit of flicker when the screen gets too busy.

Did I complete the game?

Nope, didn’t even get past the first stage.

What the critics said:

At present I have been unable to find a contemporary review of this game.

My verdict: “This game looks great and the controls easy to learn and are very responsive. Sadly, the difficulty level is rather off putting and I found that I simply didn’t enjoy playing this game. However, it is a little more fun in two-player mode.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Final Mission? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.

Super Mario Kart

Racing games aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, as gamers usually expect realism and serious competition. Super Mario Kart took already established and loved characters and put them in a family-friendly racing game. The result was the beginning of a huge series of games that saw children and adults alike competing for hours in heated but fun and entertaining tournaments. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Super Mario Kart!

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

SMK is a kart racing game developed and published by Nintendo. It was released in North America and Japan in 1992, and Europe in 1993 on the SNES. It was later released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2009, and the Wii U Virtual Console in 2013. The version I reviewed can be found on the SNES Mini.

This is a racing game with a difference. You can choose from eight classic Mario characters including Mario, Luigi, Toad, Donkey Kong Jr, Bowser, Princess Peach, Yoshi and Koopa Troopa. Each character has different characteristics, e.g., Top speed, acceleration and handling. You then race on a number of tracks based on Super Mario World (Donut Plains, Ghost House and Bowser’s Castle etc.). Throughout the race you can pick up various weapons and power-ups such as turtle shells, banana skins and super stars to assist you.

One of the tracks from Donut Land

SMK has two, one-player modes. The first is Mario Kart GP which is divided into two kart speeds: 50cc and 100cc. You can also unlock a 150cc mode when you win all the trophies from 100cc mode. Each kart speed has three trophies to attain: The Mushroom Cup, The Flower Cup and the Star Cup. The more challenging 100cc option also adds The Special cup which contains tougher race tracks. Each cup consists of five, five-lap races. Depending on where you finish in the races will depend on how many points you accrue. The racer with the highest amount of points at the end of the cup competition will determine who wins the trophy. If a racer finishes between 5th to 8th then the player will lose a life and will have to race that track again. You can gain extra lives by finishing in the same position three races in a row.

The second one-player mode is he Time Trial Mode. t’s pretty self-explanatory, you simply race each track and try to gain the fastest time possible.

One of the Ghost House tracks (Screenshot taken by the author)

Although one-player mode is fun and challenging, this game really comes into its own in two-player mode. Hours of swearing at your best mate and calling them “cheating bastards” as I recall from my youth when I’d lose. In two-player mode, you and a friend can compete in Mario Kart GP, Match Race and Battle Mode. In two-player mode, the same rules apply for Mario Kart GP as in one-player mode, but you compete simultaneously via split-screen. In Match Race you can pick and choose which tracks you wish to compete on for a single race without other CPU racers. Battle mode is also head to head and sees each racer begin with three balloons spinning around their kart. You have a choice of four arenas in which you can pick up weapons and power-ups and attack your opponent. The first player that has all their balloons popped, loses. All of these features give the game loads of replay value.

Battle Mode (Screenshot taken by the author)

Wikipedia claims that in an interview with Super Mario Kart creator Shigeru Miyamoto, he explained that SMK was originally developed as an experiment to see if they could create a game capable of displaying the same game on the same screen simultaneously. Whilst I have heard this before, sadly, I haven’t been able to verify this quote, as Wikipedia’s links are broken. If this is true, then this experiment was fortuitous because it culminated in the creation of one of the most popular sub-series of games from Nintendo, with the initial instalment selling over 8 million copies.[1]

If you would like to learn more about the origins of Super Mario Kart, I can recommened listening to episode 17 of season 2 of The Life and Times of Video Games podcast.

What can I say? This game is great! The graphics are bright and colourful, the music sounds perfect for the game, and the gameplay is easy to learn. A nice little touch, to stop you dominating the grid all the time, is that if you are in first place, you will get less effective power-ups and weapons. The further back in the pack your are, the better your weapons and power-ups. My only criticism for this game is that the graphics for the tracks themselves are a little blocky, but that can be forgiven because, in my opiniom, gameplay trumps graphics everytime (controvesial I know).

I had a blast revisiting this game, and it was as fun as I remembered. My blood was pumping as I scraped wins, and dodged banana skins. My favourite character play with is Yoshi. I tried other players too (I really dislike playing with Bowser and Donkey Kong Jr) and found that I also like playing with Mario and Koopa Troopa.

Did I complete the game?

Although I completed 50cc mode, as of yet I cannot seem to win the Star Cup in 100cc mode.

What the critics said:

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “This is the best driving game to come along for some time. Mario Kart may look like an F-Zero clone on the surface, but there are many interesting upgrades ranging from power-ups to special combat battle modes using a split-screen layout. Replay options and plenty of tracks add to the appeal of this super game. Overall 8.5/10.[2]

Gamerpro: “Here’s one that’s a winner. Super Mario Kart makes wheel-spinning, bumper-grinding, motor racing actually cute! The little guys definitely have a lot of drive. Overall 4.75/5.[3]

Electronic Games: “Super Mario Kart has a fast-paced feelwith plenty of in-depth play. While the gameplay isn’t totally revolutionary, the action does deviate from what we’ve been exposed to in the past to make this new driving adventure something worthwhile to add to the collection, whether you’re a fan of driving titles, or Mario. Overall 93%.[4]

Superplay: Matt Bielby – “Quite simply the best racing game yet on the Super Nintendo, and one of the funniest, most playable ones on any system. The balloon-bursting option is a delight! Guaranteed to be one of the most played carts in the Superplay office for the rest of the year. Overall 93%.[5]

Superplay: Jonathon Davies – “Everything we could have hoped for, and more. It’s completely impossible to fault. In fact, this is the sort of thing the Super Nintendo is all about –  sheer perfection (ahem). (Make sure you find yourself a decent opponent, though). Overall 93%.[6]

My verdict:

“A simple concept but a fantastically fun game, especially in two-player mode that will keep you coming back for more. Tons of replay value, with countless evenings with friends and family is what this game is all about.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Super Mario Kart? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.


[1] (14th April 2010). ‘IGN’s Top 100 Games of All Time – Super Mario Kart’. http://www.top1ign.100.com. https://web.archive.org/web/20120414133232/http://top100.ign.com/2007/ign_top_game_23.html Accessed 24th February 2020.

[2] ‘Review Crew: SNES – Super Mario Kart’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (November 1992). Volume 5 Issue 11:26. (https://retrocdn.net/images/7/7f/EGM_US_040.pdf Accessed 25th February 2020).

[3] ‘Bro. Buzz, ‘Pro Review: Super Nes – Super Mario Kart’. Gamerpro. (December 1992). :80-2. (https://retrocdn.net/images/2/26/GamePro_US_041.pdf Accessed 25th February 2020).

[4] Stevens, S., ‘Video Game Gallery: SNES – Super Mario Kart’. Electronic Games. (December 1992). Volume 1 Issue 3:79-80. (https://archive.org/stream/Electronic-Games-1992-12/Electronic%20Games%201992-12#page/n79/mode/2up Accessed 25th February 2020).

[5] Import Review: SNES – Super Mario Kart. Superplay. (November 1992). Issue 1:29-30. (https://archive.org/details/Superplay_Issue_01_1992-11_Future_Publishing_GB/page/n29/mode/2up Accessed 22nd February 2020).

[6] Davies, J., Import Review: SNES – Super Mario Kart. Superplay. (November 1992). Issue 1:29-30. (https://archive.org/details/Superplay_Issue_01_1992-11_Future_Publishing_GB/page/n29/mode/2up Accessed 22nd February 2020).

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

In 1986, The Legend of Zelda was released for the NES and sold over 6 million copies.[1] Its success spawned a whole series of video games that continue today, with every instalment being much anticipated by fans all over the world. A Link to the Past was one of the SNES’s earliest games in Europe, but sadly I wouldn’t get to play it through properly until 2019.

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past is the third game in the Zelda series. It is an action-adventure game developed and published by Nintendo. It released for the SNES in Japan in 1991, and Europe and North America in 1992. It was ported to the Game Boy Advance as A link to the Past and Four Swords, as well as the Wii, Wii U. It was accessible for the Nintendo 3DS through the Virtual console and the Nintendo Switch through Nintendo Switch Online. The version I reviewed was for the SNES which came with the SNES Mini.

You play as young adventurer Link who must defeat the evil Ganon from gaining the power of the Triforce which would allow him to turn the world dark and evil. Link must save the Kingdom of Hyrule and stop Ganon by rescuing several maidens who are the descendants of the Seven Sages. To do this he must scour the dungeons and defeat a plethora of enemies and end of dungeon bosses.

Link can slash or pick up bushes and stones to find health and rupees (Screenshot taken by the author)

Link is armed with a sword, shield, and bow and arrow with which to fight his enemies. By killing the many minions throughout the worlds, you can gain rupees, arrows and health. Your sword has two actions: You can swing it to attack or if you hold the attack button, your sword will charge and will produce 360 degree swing, which is handy if you are surrounded by enemies. Once you gain the Pegasus Boots you can charge your enemies and stab them with your sword. Along the way you can acquire upgrades for your armour, sword and shield as well as many magical items to aid you in your quest.

The open world design enables you to explore every inch of the Light and Dark worlds, which can become frustratingly tedious at times as it involves returning to the same areas with new items to access secret areas. However, a cool aspect of the game is the need to warp from the Light and Dark worlds in different parts of the map in order to access areas that are inaccessible in the other world (it’ll make sense when you play it). The enemies re-spawn which can be annoying at times, but it also gives you the opportunities to gain more health, rupees and magic.

Link must warp from the Light to the Dark worlds and back again to gain access to certain areas

The main music for the Light World, known as the Hyrule Overture, is dramatic and fitting for the game. It is the music of a hero! The overhead perspective offers a more 3D feel to the game and allows more detail and colour to the backgrounds and sprites. The increasing difficulty of the dungeons and end bosses adds a challenging aspect to the game. You will find yourself spending many hours on this game as there is so much to explore. Don’t feel bad if you use a walkthrough, as some items are hard to find.

The dungeons increase in difficulty, so make sure you are well prepared before attempting them (Screenshot taken by the author)

My little brother had a SNES growing up, but he didn’t buy Link to the Past. The first time I saw it was at my friend Graeme’s house. I never really got to play it, but I watched the very early bits of it and was amazed by how great it looked. When I bought the SNES Mini, I was excited that I would finally get to play it. Was it as good as I’d hoped? Hell yes! My only gripe was that by the end of the game I was a bit bored as I felt it had become monotonous, and I should have been wanting more. Other than that, this is a great game and I would recommend it to all.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, but I did have some assistance from a walkthrough to find certain items.

What the critics said:

Nintendo Power: George: “This game is amazing. Its got incredible graphics, great sound effects, and it’s a well thought out adventure. Overall 4.675/5.[2]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “Wow! This is the closest a game has ever come to being perfect. Everything except the graphics gets the best score possible. Unfortunately, Nintendo let us down when it comes to the graphics as there is nothing spectacular here. Overall 8.75/10.[3]

Computer and Video Games: “The graphics are very simple, but the animation is fluid and the game is packed full of colour. Sound-wise, Zelda III is spot on. It has some great orchestral scores and lovely sound effects throughout. If you liked the first two games, or you fancy a spot of RPG related malarkey, the get this straight away. It’s a corker! Overall 89%”.[4]

Superplay: “The long awaited 16-bit Zelda is a brilliantly designed and implemented adventure that puts similar games to shame, in much the same way as Mario dominates the platform world – Nintendo’s top programmer was involved in both games. Overall 9/10.[5]

Awards:

Best Video Game Sequel (All Systems) – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Best and Worst of 1992[6]

My verdict:

“It was worth the 27 year wait!!! Beatutiful to look at, excellent gameplay, and an engaging story. Frustratingly lengthy at times, but a classic of the genre, and every gamer must at least attempt to play this game.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Zelda: A Link to the Past? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.


[1] Sahdev, I., (November 12th, 2019). ‘The Legend of Zelda – Global Sales’. http://www.gamedesigngazette.com. http://www.gamedesigngazette.com/2018/01/the-legend-of-zelda-global-sales.html Accessed 19th February 2020).

[2] George & Rob. ‘Now Playing: SNES – The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past’. Nintendo Power. (March 1992). Issue 34:105. (https://archive.org/stream/Nintendo_Power_Issue001-Issue127/Nintendo%20Power%20Issue%20034%20March%201992#page/n111/mode/2up Accessed 19th February 2020).

[3] ‘Review Crew: SNES – Zelda III’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (March 1992). Issue 32:24. (https://retrocdn.net/images/3/35/EGM_US_032.pdf Accessed 19th February 2020).

[4] O’Connor, F., ‘Review: Famicom – The Legend of Zelda III’ Computer and Video Games Magazine. (February 1992). Issue 123: 68. (https://archive.org/details/computer-and-videogames-123/page/n67/mode/2up Accessed 17th February 2020).

[5] ‘What Cart? RPG/Adventure Games: SNES – Zelda III: A Link to the Past’. Superplay. (November 1992). Issue 1:90. (https://archive.org/details/Superplay_Issue_01_1992-11_Future_Publishing_GB/page/n89/mode/2up Accessed 22nd February 2020).

[6] ‘EGM’s Best and Worst of 1992: Best Video Game Sequel (All Game Systems) – Legend of Zelda III‘. Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 1993 Video Game Buyer’s Guide. (1993). :17. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/04/EGM_US_BuyersGuide_1993.pdf Accessed 21st February 2020).