Retro-Gaming Review #4.5 - The Christmas 1998 Edition!
by Scrooge McSuck
- Two reasons for this version, and then I'll explain the numbering system really fast. #1 - Recently on Da' Board, I did a quick write up about the games in my Gameboy Advance collection, much like I did for the NES, SNES, and Genesis (and directly ripped the idea off from a fine gentleman that also contributes now and then, too), and made a couple of references about doing too much to games to try and make them outlandish instead of keeping them traditional and following a more straight pattern. #2 - Fellow site contributor and Da' Board mainstay Samoa Rowe mentioned how sad our Video Games section was, and suddenly it came to me... two games I referenced in the GBA Flashback, through the strangest of coincidences, are somehow connected to each other. How, you might ask? Through the wonderful tradition of Christmas Presents, of course!
Lastly, I'm "comically" numbering this as 4.5 because it's going to be a fairly shorter review than I've done in the past, and is more of an appetizer review more than anything. I'm basing this on the limited amount of effort it takes to play both games, and the fact that, as I just mentioned, this is only covering two games.
As the title suggests, the following games were recieved by me as Christmas gifts. Not that I'm playing the sob story or anything, but I grew up in a pretty poor house, and the fact I got any kind of video games, or just "presents" in general, made me feel good inside. Yes, they were for the SNES, and yes, the last games ever released on that particular console were released earlier in the year, so the console was incredibly out-dated. It would be another year until I got a PlayStation (and eventually an N64), and by that point, the PlayStation 2 was already in the works for an upcoming release sometime in the summer or fall of 2000, IIRC. Either way, no matter what, the SNES was the best console I've ever had, and I stand by that statement until the day I die, and it's gotten me through some hard times. With that all out of the way, let us jump into the first game of the mini-series...
Fun Fact: Frogger was the LAST game released in North America for the Super NES. I feel very honored knowing I got this game practically new, and that it had historic significance, too! Frogger is one of those games you not only had to have played once, you were forced into playing it, too! Growing up in the days where public schools didn't have anal rules about things, there was such a thing as the "Computer Room" where we practiced our typing and on some days, were allowed to play games... floppy disc games, and two of them came in abundance. Oregon Trail and Frogger. And we had to play. And we loved them. Especially Oregon Trail. I can't tell you how many times I died from disentary, or how many times my wagon was robbed of all the meat and spices. We're not here to talk about the Oregon Trail, though, we're talking about Frogger.
If you're one of the three people in known civilization in the past thirty years who has never heard of Frogger, here's the skinny. You're a frog, on one side of the screen. You need to cross a road during rush hour traffic, as well as a river bank, to make it safely to your... lillipad, I think. Do it, then try again, with more people breaking the speed limit, alligators taking a bite out of you, and logs dunking in and out... there's a dirty joke just waiting to be made there, but I will hold back, just this once. It's basically one of those games that never ends, like an old staple from the Atari era of home video game consoles. Frogger has been on every possible system, re-colored, revamped, reimagined, and whored out so many times since it's original release, that it's hard to argue against it being one of the most recycled games ever made, except for Pong, of course.
Overall, the game is unrefined, very out-dated looking, and shows no major upgrades, but for whatever reason, that isn't as bad as it sounds, because the game plays just fine, it holds the classic charm of what Frogger is supposed to be, and it's so damn addictive! I wish I had more to say about Frogger, but there's just not much left, so we shall fill up valuable space with...
[Update: After typing this all up, I actually made it to Level 8, where the hazards include intense speed, two snakes, on the sidewalk, snakes on the logs, gators to ride on, gators blocking safe spots, and rapidly dunking turtle backs. I finished with the second best score in the games memory, and #1... someone named George. I shit you not.]
Game #2: Scooby-Doo Mystery
Developer(s): SunSoft / Acclaim
North American Release Date: November 1995
Console: The Super NES
If you don't know who or what Scooby-Doo is, then all I have to ask is where the hell have you been for the last 44 years? Personally, I think the newer stuff blows, mainly because I'm a stickler for the past and refuse to accept anything but the original Hanna-Barbera cartoons in the Scooby-Doo history line, but that's another story. For nearly half a century, Scooby-Doo has been featured in countless television series', animiated films, live action films, licensed products from dixie cups to Halloween costumes, and everywhere in between. Somewhere in that "between" lies a handful of video games, and you might find this surprising, but most of the Scooby-Doo games I've come across haven't been too bad. That's very odd for something based on a television series or movie.
Other than a couple of obscure games on the Commodore 64, the SNES and Genesis games, both titled "Scooby-Doo Mystery" (but are completely different), are two of the earliest in the long line of games based on this stupid mut and his stoner owners. I remember being a little bit confused about this when I first got it. First, I was a teenager, so I thought my parents might've been a little unsure on what kind of stuff I was into at the time, and second... a Scooby-Doo video game? Up until that point, most of my SNES collection was Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Wrestling, and X-Men. Then I get SCOOBY FRIGGIN DOO. Honestly, I went into playing it with zero interest, and quickly cast it aside as a crappy game... then I gave it a chance...
... and holy crap, they did a pretty good job of totally recreating the original cartoon series in a video game format! The graphics are perfect for what they're supposed to be. All the main characters look alike, the indoor settings are dark and creepy, the outdoor settings are vibrant and creepy, and you have a bunch of cheesy goofs in masks pretending to be ghosts. Scooby and Shaggy do their signature walk/panic run to perfection, and everything just looks like it should. And there's no Scrappy Doo, the biggest walking advertisement for nuetering your dog if there ever was one. Audio is a little on the boring side at times, but it all fits in with what the game needs to acomplish. The background music is usually the Scooby-Doo tune, with a couple of variations, depending on how scared you're supposed to be or not. Scooby and Shaggy yelp at times, and... well, that's pretty much it. There's not a whole lot of sound, but the game doesn't really need it in abundance.
I've beaten this countless times, so I could walkthrough the game pretty fairly, but that would spoil things. First, it's like an episode of the cartoon. You arrive at a location, discover shenanigans going on, search for clues, devise a trap, catch the ghost, and reveal the big secret to why this criminal was doing nefarious deeds in the first place. Repeat a few more times and you've finished the game. This is a criminally short one, too, with only four levels, but you'll get at least a few hours of enjoyment, as long as you like the premise and are a fan of the series it comes from. In between gameplay, you'll also come across a couple of mini-games... one is a version of Whack-a-Mole, except with Scooby-Doo characters, a game where you catch food on platters and try not to drop the stacks, and a slide where you have to avoid hazzards (this is only the funhouse mission, I think).
The first level takes place on an abandoned ship, and you guessed, the "ghost" is a Pirate. All the clues, save for one or two, are out in the open, and the non-playable Velma, Daphne, and Fred basically hold your hand through the entire level. It's also a pretty small location too, so you won't get lost much, if at all. The second level takes place in a Fun Park, and this is where the game kicks in. You have to sniff out almost all the clues, find various keys and objects to help you along the way, and do a lot of back tracking for items you need for traps (you can't pick up trap items until you need them, I don't think). Level Three is on some sort of... farm? Or something. There's an evil Tar Monster, yada yada yada... Level Four, and the Final Stage, takes place in a haunted mansion (YES!) being haunted by the trademark free Count Begosi (geez, what does that remind you of), and that level can be a bit of a bitch when your map doesn't want to cooperate with you.
There's one thing that always bothered me, and seemed like a sick tease... there's obviously a password system, and after you complete the fourth mission, you get a password. Then the credits roll, and the game is over. Seriously, you get a PASSWORD to see the credits? I'm sorry, but when I get a password, I'm expecting more game, not a stupid half-assed attempt at a credits screen. That really disappointed me when I first completed the game. I was expecting more than four levels, and was thinking maybe there was another SNES title with more levels to continue on from, like a series, or something. Nope. One and done. The next Scooby-Doo games were mostly either free-range 3D games or point-and-click like Maniac Mansion. I mentioned in my GBA Flashback the unnecessary need to include 800 feet worth of platforms to make a good game, and brought this one up. There's a few platforms here and there, but you are mostly confined to the laws of physics. You go to high, you get hurt on the way down, and most of the action takes place on the ground, or on top of smaller obstacles, like an outhouse, or something.
Final Thoughts: I feel a little cheap only covering two games, but it fit a certain trend, and it's really hard to come up with a topic without it being all Mario or all Zelda, or something else along those lines. It's weird what ideas you can come up with, just looking back at things in comparison to a very basic common trend, but when an idea presents itself, you just have to grab it and go with what you can. Two under the radar games here, probably unknown to most of the gaming community. By that, I mean this particular version of Frogger, not just Frogger, in general by the way. Frogger is worth a pick up for cheap just for the hell of it, and Scooby-Doo is well worth the time, if you're a fan of the series and wouldn't mind the game following the basic premise that the series' foundation was built upon. I don't know what the true Volume 5 is going to be centered around, but only time will tell.