Tag Archives: arcade games

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge (2022)

In the late 1980s the arcade scene in the US was still going strong. Classic style arcade games like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man were being overtaken by a new genre of quarter-munching pain: the brawler. Or the beat-em-up. If you’ve played one, then you can picture what I’m talking about. It was usually a one to four player experience where each player would take control of an avatar and battle hordes of enemies all while gradually moving to the right with the goal to reach a boss encounter by the end. These games were often very simple, usually requiring just two buttons and a joystick, and most all played the same: you punch, you jump, you unleash a special move that consumes a portion of your health, and you die. A lot. Most games required the player to pump in another quarter upon a final death, usually giving them 10 seconds to do so, which would allow the player to re-spawn immediately. This made completing the game quite manageable, provided one had enough quarters because these games were designed to beat the player down. There was often just too many enemies onscreen for even the most accomplished player to dispatch in a flawless fashion. The character the player controlled just wasn’t equipped with enough maneuvers to avoid hits while simultaneously dishing out punishment. Plus, the games weren’t above getting cheap by having players get attacked by unseen enemies or by having boss characters just shrug off all damage. Actually having a story and an ending made them unique at the time since the goal wasn’t to just play as long as possible and get the highest score, which also made them addicting. Yeah, I want to see the X-Men defeat Mangeto, I need to know if the Simpson family rescues Maggie, and I have enough money to do it!

One of the developers who best exemplefied excellence in the field of the beat-em-up was Konami, and two of their biggest hits belonged to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The other part of this genre that appealed to players was they looked lovely. As video game technology advanced rapidly in the 80s, the home consoles could not keep up with the arcade. That’s why it was the arcade where you could find a brawler with beautiful, large, sprites that truly resembled what they were supposed to. It made this genre a magnet for licensed properties and developers could even sneak in some soundbites if the property was from television or a movie. And for a franchise like TMNT, it made creating a game that actually looked like the mega popular cartoon show a feasible thing. The home Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the Nintendo Entertainment System sort of looked like the property. I knew I was looking at the turtles when I played it, even if they didn’t exactly look like the characters from the show. And the enemies were pretty damn confusing as well, and not always for technological reasons. With the arcade game that released the same year, there was none of that. It felt like playing an episode of the show and was a delight to my kid-brain. My strongest memory of that title was playing it at my cousin’s birthday party which was held at a roller skating rink. We were there, confronting Shredder, after spending who knows how many quarters to get there, when a kid who had been watching for most of the time accidentally stepped on the power cord. My cousin, the birthday boy, went ballistic on the poor kid while my aunt tried to calm him down. At the time, I was initially disappointed to not see the end of the game, but I think I felt worse for the kid. My aunt had been trying to corral us anyway for cake and ice cream so she wasn’t disappointed. Maybe she actually did it and blamed the kid!

The heroes in a half-shell are back in a fun, sleek, retro package!

That initial offering from Konami looked great, and the pacing was a lot of fun, but it was very much a basic game design. When the developer came back for the sequel, Turtles in Time, it did more than just put a shine on the experience. Special moves were added, the kind that take away health to execute, and some additional maneuvers were added to freshen up the experience. By far, the biggest new addition, and the flashiest, was the ability for the player to toss enemies at the screen which was highlighted during the attract mode setting and certainly worked to get attention. And when that game was brought to the Super Nintendo, it was a near perfect port. Some animations and sound clips had to be removed, but the game made up for it by adding new boss encounters and levels making it the superior experience. And it was beatable at home, with the ability to adjust the amount of lives players had and toggle the game’s difficulty. It was a terrific experience for kids in the early 90s into the franchise and it’s a shared experience for men my age (and probably a fair amount of women too) and one most remember quite fondly.

Because of the popularity of those two games, developer Tribute Games returned to it for 2022 with Shredder’s Revenge. The turtles never actually left the brawler genre, more were made into the 2000s including a re-make of Turtles in Time, but none managed to capture the attention of fans like Turtles in Time did. Tribute seemed hell-bent on changing that as Shredder’s Revenge was revealed well ahead of the launch and it was immediately clear that the game was after adults who grew up with those old school games. It’s a 2D, sprite-based, brawler that incorporates a lot of what Turtles in Time did, plus it adds a dash of something new. Yes, it’s still limited by its genre and it’s not out to reinvent the wheel or reexamine what this genre is capable of, but it does provide for some depth. Mostly, it’s designed to take players on a trip through an enhanced episode of the classic cartoon series and returns the original voice cast for the turtles. And because we’re now in the year 2022, the experience has been enhanced to include up to 6 players either via the couch or online and it’s no longer limited to those who own a Super Nintendo.

This time, you and five of your friends can take it to Shredder all at the same time.

Shredder’s Revenge presents two main game modes out of the gate: Story and Arcade. Story mode is self-explanatory, while Arcade is basically just the story mode without the interludes and map and is intended to be more challenging. From the get-go, players have access to six playable characters: the four turtles (Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael) plus their master, Splitner, and main ally April O’Neil. All of the characters differentiate themselves via three attributes: Range, Speed, and Power. Leonardo is intended to be the most balanced, while the other characters all lean towards something such as Donatello having the best range and Raph hitting the hardest. The characters also handle slightly differently with Mikey being able to bounce off of foes while Leonardo has a wide-ranging jump attack. As you progress through story mode, characters earn experience and progressively get better via enhancements to their special move so it pays to replay with different characters.

Yes, you can still throw Foot Soldiers at the screen.

The actual gameplay should feel rather familiar to those who played Turtles in Time. The face buttons on the controller all do something different with one being attack, jump, parry, and special. Special moves no longer consume health and instead have their own meter that gradually fills as you dish out damage. Most special moves are designed to clear the screen, or at least a portion of it, and are best used when undier siege by a lot of enemies. As characters accumulate experience, the special move meter expands and a special dive attack can be unlocked as well as a ninja master mode that’s like a temporary buff in place of just one, singular, attack. Jumping and attacking the standard way should feel pretty familiar as well, while the parry button is where the backflip is basically mapped to now. Players can also still grab enemies by simply walking into them which opens up the bash attack where the player slams the enemy to either side in a comical fashion and the screen-toss is still present, and just like the SNES game, plays a role in one boss encounter. There’s also a taunt button which allows the player to earn special move power without fighting and in co-op mode there’s a button dedicated to assisting allies via a high-five which transfers health from one player to the other. Each player has a set amount of lives at the beginning, but beating back enemies can earn extra lives. Pizzas still restore health and are scattered about the levels and new to this game is a massive pie that will restore the health of all active player characters, so no fighting over that one. There’s also still power-up pizzas which make the player momentarily invincible and places them in a spinning attack to smack away all foes. There’s also a new one that just enables the player to spam their special move too. In short, it’s all rather familiar, but there’s enough new wrinkles to please old school fans and nothing added breaks or ruins the experience. It’s all for the better.

As was the case in past games, boss characters tend to be presented oversized relative to their toon counterpart.

Where the game really shines is in the presentation. There’s a great intro done in a hand-drawn style with a new arrangement of the theme song (sung by Faith No More’s Mike Patton) to accompany it and really set the mood. The sprite work is bright and vibrant, and while the characters seem a little small relative to their environment in this one, it all fits well on the screen. The art style is obviously based on the cartoon, but it also has it’s own thing going for it. Foot Soldiers have more of a squat appearance with oversized heads while the sizing on the boss characters fluctuates quite wildly. Bebop and Rocksteady are huge, while Rat King is fairly petite. All of the enemy deisgns are also based on the show, so you’ll see Triceratons that look removed from their lone experience and Slash has his very toon specific look. All of the bosses from Turtles in Time return for this one, but there’s also some new ones that I won’t spoil. I would consider at least one a true deep cut from the show, but if you’re as into collecting NECA’s action figures as I am then none will appear that deep. You also get the returning cast from the show so you have Cam Clarke (Leonardo, Rocksteady), Rob Paulsen (Raphael), Barry Gordon (Donatello, Bebop) and Townsend Coleman (Michelangelo, Rat King, Rahzar). Unfortunately, they’re the only ones brought back so someone like Pat Fraley is missed, but if you’re only going to bring back four cast members from the show at least it’s the turtles. Most of the characters are one and done battles, but like the original game, you’ll chase Bebop and Rocksteady around a bit. Levels in story mode are laid out on a map of New York that are accessed by driving the Turtle Van around which feels like a nod to the original NES game, though you never get to drive the van in a level which feels like a missed opportunity. There are still surfing and hoverboard levels, and in story mode there are collectibles scattered across levels that can be uncovered for an experience bonus, but they’re not very compelling. The story itself is also mostly non-existant and of little importance. Shredder is still interested in the Statue of Liberty for some reason and most of the game involves the turtles trying to prevent the bad guys from re-assembling Krang’s body.

Story mode will probably only take you a few hours to complete, but there are additional challenges that can keep you coming back for a little while.

Completing all of the levels in story mode will unlock one additional character: Casey Jones. Depending on who you beat the game with will also influence the ending you receive in a small way so there is some encouragement to replay the mode with different characters. Not only will they get stronger, but you’ll get a little bonus postscript for the ending. You can also replay any level at any time throughout story mode and the game will keep track of what you accomplished, or did not, for each one. There are cameos hidden throughout the game in addition to other collectibles. None of them are particularly difficult to find, it just requires the player to bash away at all destructable objects in a given level. There are also additional challenges for each one that range in difficulty. Some will require the player to just avoid a certain obstacle or maneuver an enemy in the level posseses, while others just task you with not taking damage. The difficulty can be toggled as well and playing on the normal setting presents a modest challenge. I haven’t tackled the game on hard yet, and I don’t know when I will since I tend to play with my kids, but I will probably try it at some point.

Shredder’s Revenge is available on all of the major consoles out there. It was first made available digitally, but physical copies have been made availble via Limited Run Games. There’s a standard version available now which is how I purchased the game for the Nintendo Switch, but more robust collector versions were also available. While it was tempting to go for the version that came in a VHS styled box, I ultimately didn’t want to pay the extra money or endure the longer wait to get it. All physical versions come with a Pizza Hut coupon like the NES version of the arcade game back in the day, which is certainly a fun inclusion that I assume most owners would prefer to keep over actually exchanging it for a personal pan pizza. And that inlcudes me. All physical versions also come with a fairly robust manual and some stickers which is pretty cool. As for the Switch version, the performance is great. I didn’t notice any slowdown or frame rate hiccups and it was easy to add players to the mix. I haven’t tried it online, but I hope to whenever my buddy who did go for one of the fancier packages finally gets his.

It’s pretty cool to have these guys back in my game console.

I don’t want to oversell Shredder’s Revenge. It is, at its heart, a humble beat-em-up that doesn’t require numerous amounts of quarters to get through. It is a fun experience though and is especially so for those who grew up on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the games from Konami. And even if you didn’t, my son is proof that it can appeal to the kids of today as well as he’s had his nose buried deep in this one since I got it despite us beating it in a mere two play sessions. It doesn’t do anything to elevate the genre, but it does do enough that I feel it’s easily the best beat-em-up I’ve ever played. There’s enough variety in the characters to make it worthwhile to experiment with them all and the player has enough control over the characters to make it possible to actually get really good at the game. Turtles in Time had some of that going for it, but mostly getting good at that game just involved managing the amount of enemies on screen in the most economical fashion possible and knowing when it wasn’t worth it to try and damage a boss. Some of the bosses in Shredder’s Revenge can feel a tad cheap at times, but for the most part, it’s also easy to see how to tackle each one and for the most part it’s pretty fun too. I think I only dislike one boss fight, Rat King, as it’s just too long and mostly involves the player dodging swarms of rats. Other than that, the other fights are fine and there’s a fair amount of variety in the encounters as well. I don’t think I’ll sink 60 hours into this game or anything, but it’s a good time and I feel motivated to at least power up all of the playable characters. If you grew up on this stuff, then this game is a no-brainer.


Arcade1Up – The Simpsons

An image you can hear.

When it comes to arcade cabinets, there are few that would interest me as far as a purchasing decision is concerned. One such cabinet though has always been The Simpsons arcade game, and it’s not really because of the game’s quality. The game is fine, one of the better brawlers out there, it’s just limited by its genre. The beat-em-up was a style of game designed to extract quarters from patrons. The player had very limited control over their avatar, usually just a jump and attack button plus the joystick, while the game would just send wave after wave of enemies at them to gradually beat the player down and force them to make a purchasing decision on the spot. “Do I continue by inserting another quarter? Oh no, the timer is down to 5 seconds, I need to act quick!” The real advantage for this genre though is it could be adapted to almost any intellectual property, like an animated sitcom about a family of five.

The Simpsons is a game created by Konami released in 1991. In it, the player controls either Marge, Homer, Bart, or Lisa as they battle their way through a selection of levels in order to rescue Maggie from Mr. Burns. It’s a paper thin plot and it’s limited to what it can be by being created in between seasons 1 and 2 of the show. Who is the enemy in a sitcom? Why, the mean old boss of the father figure, of course! It just so happens that in later seasons Burns would actually become more cartoonishly evil and villain-like so think of the game as a precursor of things to come. It’s good at what it does, it’s just limited by its genre.

This thing will look really nice once I remodel this basement and get rid of all of the clutter.

What has always made it appealing to me as a cabinet to own is that it’s The Simpsons! There are plenty of Simpsons video games out there, but most aren’t very good. The arcade game is quite possibly the best one, and if not that it’s probably Hit & Run. The arcade has added appeal because, aside from a brief stay on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Store, it’s been locked to the arcade. The cabinet is appealing and all of the attract mode stuff is honestly what creates most of the nostalgia for me. It’s a fun thing to possess for a Simpsons fan, the only problem is the cost and space requirements to actually have one. It was just a handful of years ago that an arcade near me was going out of business, which sucked, and it was selling all of its games. I was really tempted to make them an offer on their The Simpsons arcade cabinet, but I declined. It’s something I can’t say I truly regret because it’s very impractical, but there’s still a part of me that would love to own such a thing.

Without a riser, this thing is basically a kid’s arcade. My own children for scale ages 7 and 6.

Since then, Arcade1Up has become a thing. The company specializes in making scaled-down versions of arcade cabinets with modern components. They sometimes contain just a game or two, but lately it seems most have a handful of games from the same studio or licensor. I reviewed earlier this year one of their counter models for Marvel Super Heroes and it was a pretty positive review. The problem with Arcade1Up is largely one of cost. When they first started rolling out, I think they were only two to three-hundred dollars. And since those early ones usually just contained a game from the 70s or 80s, I guess that made some sense. If you wanted an affordable Pac-Man cabinet for your rec room or whatever, then sure, why not? And those games are basically designed to just be high score targets, they’re not really progression-driven, so it’s the type of thing you might return to here and there and visitors to your home might try to beat your score. It’s still more novelty than practical, since if you just want to play a game like Pac-Man there are far cheaper options out there, but that’s the niche Arcade1Up is going for. They sell atmosphere that just happen to be games.

A much different experience once the riser is added to the bottom.

Ever since Arcade1Up became a “thing” I’ve hoped they would do The Simpsons, and sure enough, they did. The only problem was, when they unveiled this cabinet late last summer it came with the MSRP of 600 bucks, $700 if you wanted a stool. That was just too rich for my blood for what is a novelty item. I enjoy playing the actual game, but what I’m paying for is the decorative element more than anything and that price is just crazy for what I want. I’m a pretty big Simpsons fan, but I’d rather seek out an authentic cabinet if it was going to cost me $600 to get the Arcade1Up version. There was a silver lining though, and that’s most of these eventually hit the clearance rack. Surely, the price would remain high through the holidays, but there was hope after that. And sure enough, the unit did go on sale earlier this year, but for the still unfriendly price of $400. That’s certainly better than $600, but not quite in novelty territory for me. The magic number, in my mind, was $200. If the unit ever hit that, then I’d pounce. My wife was even onboard, and lo and behold, on a random Thursday in September it did indeed get dropped to such a price. I thought about it for maybe 10 minutes, longer than I thought I would, but eventually put in an order. A Walmart down the street had a few units and that’s where I got mine. My patience paid off.

The screen is quite nice and I love that the marquee lights up.

Now that I’ve had this unit for about a week, I’m ready to tell you all about it. First off, the package included the arcade cabinet and a riser to make it easier to play for those of us that stand more than 4 feet in height. The cabinet does come unassembled and putting it together took around 2 hours. I was able to do it myself and it’s a little clunky at times, but was plenty do-able. It does need to be positioned on its side for much of the build so you definitely want to make sure you’re putting it together on a carpeted, or soft, surface so the artwork doesn’t get scuffed. Once complete though, it’s a pretty faithful reproduction of the old cabinet. The color and artwork on the sides are the same and the marquee over the top lights up like the old one. Without the riser, it stands a mere 45.75″ to the tip top and it’s 18.75″ wide. The control deck where the controls are is where the old form gets broken a bit. That is 31.5″ wide and extends beyond the shape of the actual cabinet. The depth of the unit, without the control deck, is 22.5″ and with it 24.75″. It, and basically every Arcade1Up release, looks a bit off as a result because the controls are spaced further outside relative to the screen than the original, but visually it’s close enough. We’ll get to the gameplay in a second where it matters a bit more.

The other big difference is the screen. This unit uses a modern, LCD, screen instead of an old tube so it’s sharper and the colors are more saturated. There are certainly purists out there who will pine for the old display, but I think it looks really nice. The sprites hold up really well at this resolution and it just makes the game look the best it can. The size is listed at 17″, so presumably it’s a true square, which fits the size of the cabinet itself. The coin inserts on the front are fake and sadly do not light up. If I was going to make one cosmetic change to the unit it would be LED lights in that area. It is hollow so one could customize the unit fairly easily, but I probably won’t. There also isn’t an actual door there, but how cool would it be to put a mini fridge in there or something? Now my mind is racing.

Who could forget Lisa’s classic catchphrase, “Embrace nothingness”?

The riser is basically just a box you assemble that follows the colors of the unit. The cabinet sits on top of it and it boosts the overall height to just under 59″ which is far more comfortable for most adults. I am about six feet tall and I can comfortably play on this with the riser either standing or on a stool. The overall build is fine as it’s mostly held together by screws. The cabinet is made of a wood composite and the unit weighs over 100lbs. Over time, I’m guessing the screws will need to be tightened here and there, but right now it doesn’t wobble or anything. It’s not as rugged as the real thing, but good enough for home use. One thing I don’t like is the instructions on the riser want you to screw the riser to the main unit once inserted, but there are no pre-drilled holes. They just go right through the sides and I’d rather not drill through that, even though the artwork of the family is above that part. There’s also included wall anchors, but I didn’t install them as it’s pretty sturdy. Maybe if this were a more intense style of game I’d be more inclined to do so, but it seems fine. The only other build issue I have is one of the screws on the control deck doesn’t actually “bite” into the unit and just spins. It’s one of four, so it’s not going anywhere, but either the pre-drilled hole is the wrong size or something is mis-aligned.

I already mentioned that the screen is nice, but so is the audio and the actual controls. The speakers are pretty loud and they’re set high by default so you’ll likely get a good blast when first turning it on. The buttons are nice and “clicky” and the joysticks are firm. Interestingly, the two inner joysticks feel tighter than the outside ones, but it’s not something that impacts gameplay. There’s a headphone jack on the control deck and a “Live” button as this thing is Wi-Fi enabled for online play. It’s not something I have any interest in doing, but if you want to play with a full team when actual humans aren’t available in your house, at least it’s there.

Yup, that’s The Simpsons Arcade all right.

Actually playing The Simpsons is still pretty fun, but also a little different. The characters are mapped to the joysticks so going from left to right your options are Marge, Homer, Bart, and Lisa. Because of the placement of the characters, it’s far more preferable to play as either Bart or Homer because they’re in the center. Playing as either of the women is a bit awkward since the viewing angle isn’t optimal, but is do-able. The confines are also cramped, so playing with four players is not exactly the most comfortable experience. With my family of four, it’s basically best done with my wife and I on the outside and our kids in the middle. Mostly though, this game works best as a two-player experience with one character spacing the players out. For kids, that is less of an issue as my two seemed comfortable standing side-by-side playing as Homer and Bart. Beyond that, the actual quality of the game is as good as ever. It looks great, sounds great, and the nostalgia is strong. If you liked the game back in the 90s, you’ll probably still like it. It’s also not super long which is good for the style of game that it is. You can’t save your progress though, so if you want to see it through you have to do it in one session.

I’m guessing many will be playing this game for the first time.

The surprise of this set though is that it’s not just The Simpsons arcade game. You may have noticed that in the pictures there’s a track ball in the center of the control deck and that’s because this also includes Simpsons Bowling. Simpsons Bowling was an arcade game released in 2000. It wasn’t very popular or widely spread, plus the arcade scene was on life support come then in the US, so it’s a game most have likely never played. It was produced by Konami and my assumption is the license they had was about to expire and they wanted to get one last payday out of it. Or, they had a bowling game they wanted to put out and felt the Simpsons license would help move units. Whatever the reason, it was something I had never played and honestly one I don’t know if I ever even saw in the wild. It didn’t really factor into my purchasing decision, but it’s a nice bonus.

A solid selection of characters, but since the cast of the show is so massive, there’s always going to be some missing that people wish were not. I would have loved to have Moe and Otto since they were part of the Pin Pals and I’m rather surprised at the lack of Comic Book Guy.

As far as the game goes, it’s fine. It looks like a game released in 2000. It’s basically a little better than a PlayStation title, but not really on par with the latest and greatest of the era. It’s all rendered in 3D and the character models are certainly recognizable, but not perfectly on-model. Marge’s hair is a bit odd and they couldn’t quite do a perfect sphere so Homer’s head is literally a bit rough around the edges, but I wouldn’t call it ugly. What the game does very well is just the fan service. There’s tons of audio ripped right from the show for each character plus some newly recorded lines. That’s mostly found in the little quips characters will make if you’re taking too long. They’re very chatty though as they’ll have something to say following a strike or spare and there’s enough recorded lines to make sure there are no repeats during a play session. During multiplayer sessions, characters will also comment on how other bowlers are performing often by either dismissing their accomplishments or reveling in their failure. Each character also has their own ending when they win which is both voiced and animated and most of them are quite amusing. All of the talking makes this game have arguably the better attract mode which is something I never would have predicted.

When playing with more than one bowler, the non-active character will often look on and mock bad shots or dismiss good ones.

As for the actual gameplay, well, that’s where things falter a bit. First of all, the characters available are Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Mr. Burns, Krusty, Willie, and Apu. Abe Simpson is a hidden character, but not something that needs to be unlocked, you just roll past Apu on the character select screen three times or so and then roll the track ball up one click past Homer and he should appear. The game is very simple once you get into it. There are two modes: Standard and Spares. Standard is just bowling. You first set the curve of the ball, then position the bowler, and then finally roll the ball. Each character is rated for Power, Curve, and Straight. Those with more power obviously send the ball down the lane with more velocity. Those with more curve can literally curve the ball more, and straight is apparently the character’s ability to keep the ball on a straight line, though I haven’t noticed much difference from character to character in practice. Everything is controlled with the track ball, which is a little awkward, but fine. Rolling the ball fast obviously makes the ball go faster in the game, but if you don’t do it straight you can send the ball down the gutter. If you get three strikes in a row (a turkey) you get one special roll. It’s either a fireball, toxic ball, bomb, or Maggie and it’s selected at random. The bomb and Maggie are basically guaranteed strikes, while the other two are a bit tricky because they obliterate the pins. If you’ve ever bowled before, then you know you rely on the pins falling and knocking each other over about as much as you rely on the ball doing the work. Most of the time, I can get strikes over and over and the only thing that stops me from a perfect game is that damn toxic ball which melts the pins and thus prevents them from knocking each other over. I have bowled strikes with it, but I don’t know what I’m doing differently when I do. As a bonus, following these special balls there’s usually a fun animation quirk by the ball return. The best is for Maggie who comes crawling up the thing looking all cute and stuff.

Because we need a wacky component to separate this from just plain old bowling, there’s a special ball opportunity for every turkey you bowl.

The Spares mode is a bit more of a unique gameplay experience. In that, you compete for money by getting spares. You don’t actually roll the first ball and instead for each frame you’re presented with an arrangement of pins that you need to knock over in one roll. It’s definitely the more challenging of the two modes and it’s this mode where bowlers that have better curve can work out better. The pins are also randomized so it’s not the same experience over and over. The scoring on it is odd as each frame is worth a hundred dollars. If you fail on that frame, the money for it gets added to the pot for the next frame. In this case, you can miss the first 9 frames and convert on the 10th and come away with $1000 which is not how I would have done it since there’s no reward for the number of frames cleared. In multiplayer mode, the bowlers split the pot at the end of each frame so it at least adds something there as frames can end up being worth different amounts. It puts pressure on the third or fourth bowler to match any spares or else one or two players could end up with a big score. What’s missing really is just a multiplier or something for each spare. As-is, the max score one can get is $1000 and you’re guaranteed that if you convert on the 10th frame, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

What Simpsons Bowling does well is just in its presentation. All of the characters in the game are presented in the same attire they were wearing in the episode “Team Homer.” That’s the one where Homer joins a bowling league forming the Pin Pals. There are lots of other characters in the background too adding to the atmosphere. Even characters like Willie and Krusty have their proper bowling shirt on even though they were basically cameos in the episode. For Bart, Lisa, and Marge, they didn’t appear as bowlers in that episode so they don’t get a show-accurate costume. Lisa is just herself in bowling shoes while Bart has an original look. Marge is in her green dress and the only criticism I have is she should be wearing the shoes and glove she had in the episode “Life on the Fast Lane.” That’s minor though, and ultimately the presentation here is pretty terrific and the true strength of the game. I just wish we had Moe as a playable character since the other members of the Pin Pals are. Otto was also on the team briefly, but I’d rather see him in the background working the claw machine. He is indeed in the background, but doesn’t appear to be doing anything which is a bummer. Had this been released on home consoles around the same time it probably would have received a lukewarm reception, but as part of a novelty release like this, it’s more than welcomed.

Maggie emerging from the ball return after used as a bowling ball is pretty freakin’ cute.

The Arcade1Up edition of The Simpsons is basically as expected. It’s a faithful reproduction of the arcade game and Simpsons Bowling in a smaller package. It’s best served as an attention grabber in a room, it’s a way for fans of The Simpsons to interact with the property in a different fashion. The game itself is also a fun time capsule since it came so early in the show’s life and anyone who either was watching the show then or played the game will surely enjoy the trip down memory lane. It is not the type of game that demands frequent play sessions. It’s very disposable and there’s certainly some diminishing returns each time you come back which is why I think of this as a novelty item more than a gaming one. Simpsons Bowling does add to the package, but even that game lacks a skill component that makes it fun to return to over and over. Get this if you are just tickled by the idea of owning The Simpsons arcade game and have the space for it.

When Walmart marked this unit at 200 bucks it sold out pretty quickly. That’s a shame because I think that’s the right price for this sort of thing. Other retailers still have it and most have it marked down to $400. Some of those listings include the themed stool, which mine did not come with, so maybe that’s worth something to you. Is it worth 200 bucks? I don’t think so, but maybe if it hits $300 that will seem more palatable. There’s also a chance this gets re-issued as a counter-cade, but even those start off around $200 or more so it’s hard to say. If I never got this and Arcade1Up did a counter-cade edition at $150 I probably would have pounced. I might have even done $200. I was never going to do $600 and I wouldn’t recommend anybody else do that either, but if you love The Simpsons and come upon a deal for this, then I think it’s definitely worth the investment.


Spider-Man (Arcade)

Forgive me if I’ve said something similar before; but younger people are shocked by the norms of the past! Yeah, it’s a very “old man” thing to say, but it’s also an easy way to impress someone younger. And in this case, the shocking thing to say is that Marvel Comics often found itself in a great deal of financial turmoil in decades past. The company that now is owned by Disney and is able to churn out hit film after hit film about even its most obscure characters once had to file for bankruptcy protection. Go through the history of the company and you’ll find other moments in time where things weren’t so rosy, though Marvel often can be credited with being forward-thinking in looking for other ways to make money.

That’s how Marvel ended up in the TV business in the 1980s. Unable to find the same level of success on both the small and big screen as rival Detective Comics, Marvel started self-producing television programs which included the company’s popular stars as well as properties unrelated to the comic business. The most successful Marvel TV program is probably Muppet Babies, as the company seemed to struggle to really break-through with one of its superheroes even famously failing to find a broadcast partner for its mega-hot X-Men franchise as the pilot for a cartoon series failed to be picked up. This ended up being a good thing since not too long after Fox would start airing a different X-Men series in 92 which ended up being far better than anything Marvel would have done on its own.

Sega landing the Spider-Man license seems like a pretty big deal.

When video games started to take off once again in the 80s, it’s possible some in the industry would have expected Marvel to self-publish. It was already doing so with TV, so why not games? It’s possible Marvel just didn’t trust the industry which had only recently emerged from a crash itself. And whenever Marvel wanted to make money easily, it would turn to licensing deals. With comics rapidly gaining steam in the 80s and building towards what would be a massive boom into the 90s, Marvel probably saw no real benefit in exploring the world of games and was more than willing to see what other companies would do with its characters.

Enter Sega. Sega was fighting an uphill battle to dethrone Nintendo as the kind of the living room. Sega’s strategy was to go after the kids who may have first experienced games via Super Mario Bros. and were looking for something a bit more their speed as they grew older. This made a character like Spider-Man appealing to Sega, and in a world where exclusive licensing agreements were still far off, Sega was able to convince Marvel to let it develop its own games featuring Spider-Man. Details of the agreement are scarce these days, so it’s unknown just what kind of restrictions Sega was under. The deal was apparently tenuous, but success of the Genesis/Mega Drive game Spider-Man vs The Kingpin apparently settled things down as the title once had an attach rate of over 60% with Genesis owners.

One of the first games I’d go looking for as a kid in an arcade.

Back in the 1980s, Sega was as much known for its home console business as it was for the arcade. The arcade boom was coming down, but Sega had success with a variety of genres and many of its games were ported to the Genesis. With the Spider-Man license in-hand, Sega sought to craft an arcade beat-em-up experience with the character that would differentiate itself from similar titles. It would be a game developed for Sega’s System 32 board which was the company’s first attempt at 32-bit development. This also meant hopes for a home port would essentially be dead-on-arrival, but that’s why Sega had the separate Spider-Man vs The Kingpin slated to arrive the same year, 1991.

The normally solo Spider-Man would need some help to take down Kingpin, and entertain more than one player.

When crafting a brawler for the arcade, one of the main issues to solve initially is just what characters to make playable? The brawler had started as a one or two-player affair, but by the 90s arcade-goers expected four-player co-op play. The challenge with Spider-Man is he’s mostly a solo act, so Sega likely had to work with Marvel on finding three allies to join him. They ended up settling on the sometimes ally sometimes foe Black Cat, Sub-Mariner, and the Avenger Hawkeye. The selection of Hawkeye was somewhat interesting as he was a playable character in the Captain America brawler also released in ’91. This naturally lent to comparisons between the two titles with at least my group of friends viewing the Spider-Man Hawkeye as the far superior affair since the graphics were far more attractive.

Not much to see here, just four heroes kicking some butt.

Sega’s approach to the tried and true beat-em-up genre is both conventional and unconventional. Sega often found gimmicks to keep things fresh, such as the transformations of Altered Beast or the mounts in Golden Axe. For Spider-Man, the game begins like any other. You select one of four characters and begin the game with a wave of enemies crashing down upon you. Players have to contend with enemies coming in from both sides of the screen and as they’re dispatched a “Go!” prompt will display imploring the player to continue right. Each character has just two action buttons: jump and attack. Pressing the two simultaneously provides for a ranged super attack unique to each character. Utilizing this move also sacrifices some health. Players can attack while in the air and also use a super move from that position as well which basically results in a diving attack. Interestingly, the amount of credits deposited into the machine increases the amount of health the character possesses as opposed to the amount of lives. As long as you keep pumping in quarters, you’ll never die!

Okay, now this is different.

Where things get interesting in Spider-Man is after the first boss encounter: Venom. The storyline for the game is the Kingpin as acquired some magical artifact and Spider-Man needs to get it back. When Venom gets exposed to that artifact, he grows to a tremendous size. In order to convey that to the player, the player characters and the environment around them shrinks via a zoom-out effect. This also alters the gameplay from a brawler to a basic platformer. Characters now have a ranged attack and all can cling to surfaces in order to scale buildings. Other elements often featured in that style of game show up as well such as falling surfaces, obstacles that need to be dodged, and so on.

Electro is one of the bosses who only appears during a zoomed-out sequence.

Every act in the game features a zoom-out sequence, even though only the initial one features a giant enemy. If the entire game were crafted around this style, it would be okay, but when the two are mixed it works quite well as a change of pace. Some boss fights are exclusive to the zoomed out mode too, which is actually kind of a shame since we’re denied seeing a proper, large, model of certain villains. Nevertheless, it’s Spider-Man’s defining characteristic and it works really well. It’s a real surprise this tactic wasn’t utilized more, but then again, fighting games mostly took over the arcade space shortly there-after and the arcade brawler largely faded away.

Battling a foe like the Green Goblin is a lot different from taking on someone like Venom.

The game is divided into four acts, but each one is quite long and will have the players going back and forth between the two gameplay styles. And even though there are only four acts, there are still numerous boss encounters with Spider-Man’s most popular foes. Expect to face-off against the likes of Venom, Green Goblin, Scorpion, Electro, Hobgoblin, and more. Many will have to be fought more than once, with Venom being the most frequent (this was probably when the character was at the height of its popularity). Some of the fights aren’t much to speak of as the enemy functions like a regular enemy, just with a unique sprite and health bar, but others are multi-stage battles and can get pretty challenging. Kingpin himself is also a bit of a red-herring as the real villain of the game is revealed after the third act, which keeps gamers on their toes, I suppose.

Character sprites are big and detailed when not zoomed out.

The presentation is where things are at though. The characters look great on the System 32 board, especially in the non-zoomed out portions. The models are big and detailed making Spider-Man one of the best looking beat-em-ups produced. The villains are tremendous as well, and in between acts there’s some story-line material with some limited voice over. About the only thing I dislike about the visuals rests with Spider-Man himself, as he has this odd, slightly stooped, posture. The music is also catchy, and some was even recycled from older Sega games. Most of the boss characters also get a line or two of spoken dialogue which helps add a little pizzazz to those encounters.

The charging attack, demonstrated here by Kingpin, gets a bit annoying.

Like any brawler, the gameplay does get repetitive eventually. Spider-Man is able to help itself not just with the gameplay switches during acts, but also with the boss variety. A character like Green Goblin attacks in a manner far different from the Kingpin, for example, though by the end of the game there is definitely some boss fatigue. The hardest foes all seem to attack in a similar pattern in that they get knocked down and then pop back up into a charging attack. The penultimate fight of the game can get a bit annoying as the boss has a very small window of time in which he can be harmed before going into a charging animation that renders him invincible, or a blasting position that grants the same. Even so, Spider-Man is a surprisingly fair game. Most arcade brawlers exist just to extract quarters, but it’s possible to gang up on a boss and practically neuter them. Especially with two players, as most boss characters will pop-up after being knocked down to immediately vault across the screen, rather than be momentarily invincible when first getting up. This means two well-positioned characters can effectively “ping pong” a boss until it’s been defeated. Preventing this from becoming a true exploit though is the fact that most bosses are accompanied by standard grunt enemies. I never counted, but Spider-Man can handle a lot of enemies on screen all at once so things can get a bit hectic. It makes those crowd-clearing special maneuvers more and more useful as the game progresses. The trade-off though is that enemy sprites are recycled throughout as you will largely battle the same three enemies all game long, just with different weapon and color variations.

The game keeps track of how many enemies each player defeated and which took down a boss adding a competitive element to the experience.

A play-through of Spider-Man will last about 45 minutes, maybe a bit more. The one trick the game does pull that I’m not a fan of is that the player’s health is always gradually depleting as a means of forcing the players to move quicker. This seems to mostly be in effect during the platforming sections which is a bit annoying as the game does encourage some mild exploration. The “Go!” arrow might be telling you to go one way, but there’s an obvious area in a different direction with health power-ups. Even with that health-drain in place, a pair of reasonably skilled gamers should be able to get through this one on about 20 credits, or 5 bucks back in ’91. After each act, scores are tabulated and health bonuses distributed in kind as well which helps prolong the adventure and adds a little competition as well. The game awards a boss “kill” to whoever scores the last hit and boss defeats are weighted far more heavily than basic enemies so competitive players will do whatever they can to make sure they land that final blow.

The game is quite unique when compared with its peers, at least as unique as a brawler can be.

Since Spider-Man was an arcade-only release, it has become a bit of an obscure title. For whatever reason, other arcade-only brawlers like X-Men and The Simpsons seem to be remembered more fondly even though I find Spider-Man to be the superior experience. It’s a wonderful looking game, even by today’s standards, and the gameplay quirks help set it apart as well. As much as I enjoy X-Men, that game is a pretty basic brawler that’s over quickly, but also brutal when it comes to quarters. It’s possible Spider-Man has been victimized by the success of the Genesis game since so many people had it that it’s likely the first game they think of when people mention the character and Sega in the same sentence. It certainly wasn’t an issue of distribution as I routinely encountered this game in the wild, and it was often the game I went to first.

If this game were re-released in 2020 the legal info would be a lot more complicated than what is seen here.

Spider-Man is one of the best arcade brawlers ever released, and it’s also one of the few to remain exclusive to that format. When Sega brought 32-bit gaming to the living room with the 32X, it chose to craft a new Spider-Man game for that system rather than port this one, which ended up being the final Spider-Man game developed by Sega. Eventually games like X-Men received a release just a via X-Box Live, but Sega’s Spider-Man has remained in cabinets alone. The game was fairly popular so it’s not hard to track down a cabinet today, but buying one is quite costly since the character is so beloved. I suspect we’ve never seen the game made available due to the complicated licensing agreements surrounding both the game and Spider-Man himself. Sony holds the license for basically all Spider-Man media, while the presence of Hawkeye might give Disney a substantial voice in the room should there ever be talk of re-releasing the game. And then there’s Sega, who no longer has a home console of its own to bill this as an exclusive for. The game is likely viewed as too niche to warrant trying to figure out how to spread the money among all interested parties. Ideally it would be offered as a downloadable title like the Konami brawlers were, but that window has apparently been shut, and Sony striking a deal with Sega to include the game as a bonus feature on a modern Spider-Man title seems unlikely. As a result, if you want to experience what Spider-Man has to offer in 2020 you’ll need to track down a cabinet, or resort to other, less legal, means. Should you find yourself playing it, expect to have a pretty good time. Just make sure to bring a friend, or two, or three!


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (1991)

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The “hired birthday party turtle” look was certainly a bold presentation decision.

Last week we took a look back at the 1989 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game. As a result, it only makes sense to this week look back at that game’s official sequel, Turtles in Time. Turtles in Time is almost fundamentally the same game. It’s a 4-player beat ’em up from Konami starring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Players take control of their preferred turtle and battle their way through stages populated by a seemingly endless supply of Foot Soldiers, only this time they’re trying to rescue the Statue of Liberty instead of April and Splinter (yeah, it’s a bit odd).

Being that Turtles in Time came out a couple years after the first arcade game it’s noticeably better looking. Konami didn’t just take the old assets and clean them up, but rather seemed to redesign the game from the ground up. The Turtles have new animations and even new moves, while the boss characters (aside from Shredder and Krang) are all new as well. It’s still a mostly left-to-right side-scroller though, and surprisingly Konami removed the multi-level features some stages in the previous game had and instead keep things on the same plane. There are two auto-scrolling levels to break things up and most of the settings are different as well. And that should be expected, since as the title implies this game features a time travel gimmick. It’s just a plot device as the players have no agency over the time travel, Shredder just pops in at the end of the third stage to say he’s banishing the player to a past time. You then battle through a prehistoric world, a pirate ship, an old west train stage, a futuristic street world (complete with hoverboards), and a moon base before returning to modern day New York. It’s a fun gimmick though as you get to fight Foot Soldiers in cowboy attire and some come riding in on dinosaurs. Pretty much the only aspect of this game that’s inferior to its predecessor is the lack of voice actors from the cartoon. Instead you get generic voices for the characters. The Turtles and Shredder are fine, but Krang sounds really stupid without the work of Pat Fraley.

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“Pizza power!”

The biggest change from the prior game is in how the Turtles control. They’re still limited to two action buttons:  jump and attack, but now possess advanced moves as well. Pressing the two simultaneously will unleash a special attack unique to each character. This move is usually one that increases the range of the attack as Leonardo will spin in place with his swords, Donatello will vault forward, and so on.  Holding down a direction will also cause the player character to run and from there the Turtle can either lower its shoulder for a ram attack or go into some handstands and even perform a sliding attack. It’s most often from these maneuvers that players can initiate an attack that sends the enemy flying at the screen. It’s mostly a neat gimmick, but it also functions a bit like a one-hit kill attack. The improved animations also not only make the game look better, but enable the Turtles to better fight off attacks from both the front and the rear as they no longer need to completely turn around in order to attack an enemy behind them and instead can deliver a little kick. Jump kicks are still effective and each Turtle can also perform a hovering jump attack in which they contort themselves into a funny looking cannonball like formation while “flapping” their weapons in an attacking motion.

For Turtles in Time, Konami returned the pizza power-up which simply restores health, but also introduced a new one. A red pizza box with a bomb on top of it is featured in a few levels and once collected causes the turtle to rapidly spin for a short duration. The character is free to move all around the screen and is invulnerable in this form. Players who replay the game over and over can learn where these are and when to grab them as often times the screen isn’t densely populated with enemies when you first see it. In one instance, a bunch of Foot Soldiers serve almost like a red herring and once dispatched the much stronger rock soldiers enter. Smart players know to save the pizza bomb for when they show up and not waste it on the fodder.

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The catalyst for this adventure.

The Turtles may possess more maneuvers to utilize when fending off enemies, but the enemies are also improved as well. There are various new Foot Soldiers that wield a variety of weapons like bombs, spiked discs, and giant axes among other things. The rock soldiers are quite durable and some come packing machine guns or grenade launchers.  Boss characters are also pretty stout and some are tough to stagger. You end up learning who you can just wail away at and who you need to back off from. It’s still a pretty tough game in an arcade setting, since it wants to eat quarters, but it feels a bit more fair than its predecessor. The final battle with Shredder is actually one of the easiest fights in the game as he can be staggered relatively easily. The cheapest one might be from the penultimate level which is manned by Krang. He pilots a spacecraft that has this bubble gun that fires from each side, only you can be in front of Krang away from those guns, but it will still connect. And like the first game, there’s also a double boss fight at the end of one stage, only this time it’s Tokka and Rahzar instead of Bebop and Rocksteady. They’re surprisingly manageable though as their main method of attack is a ramming attack in which they can inflict damage upon each other with if you get them lined up right.

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This is the only way you’ll get to battle a Foot Soldier riding a dinosaur.

An unexpected highlight of this game is its soundtrack. Instead of opening with the cartoon theme, the game begins with “Pizza Power” from the Coming Out of Their Shells tour, a mostly terrible stage show that did at least give us one catchy track. The rest of the soundtrack was composed by Mutsuhiko Izumi and it’s awesome. The various level themes from this game still pop into my head from time to time at random. The same boss theme is utilized for each boss encounter, but it’s excellent so you’re not likely to get sick of it. I guess no one should be surprised as Konami routinely releases games with strong soundtracks.

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Krang and his damn bubble gun are super annoying.

Like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Turtles in Time received a home port for the Super Nintendo. Since the final NES Turtles game was titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, the SNES version of Turtles in Time was titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV:  Turtles in Time. Unlike the previous arcade game, the SNES experience is arguably better than the arcade. The game looks almost the same with only a slight downgrade for some of the boss characters and some animations removed. A lot of the voice samples were removed as well, but they still kept most of the speech from the Turtles themselves. The only clear negative is that lack of 4-player options even with a SNES multi-tap. The special moves each Turtle possesses also costs some health to utilize, as they did in TMNT III, and the game is adjustable in how many lives the players begin with: 3, 5, or 7. Players can also earn more lives by accruing points as every 200 points earns a one-up. To make it even easier to accumulate points, the auto-scrolling levels were re-branded as Bonus Stages. You can still die in these, but enemies basically take one hit to kill so you can really rack up the points. The futuristic scrolling level, Neon Night Riders, was also altered to position the camera at the back of the Turtles to give it a different flavor (and show off those sweet Mode7 graphics) before returning to the side view for the boss fight.

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The added battle with Shredder is a highlight of the SNES port.

In addition to the gameplay tweaks, the SNES version also adds new bosses and stages. A Technodrome level is added in-between the third and fourth stage which is a welcomed addition as it was pretty strange to go through the arcade version without a Technodrome level. It ends with the boss fight with Tokka and Rahzar, and they even have new attacks:  a freeze blast for Tokka and fire attack for Rahzar as well as a team-up maneuver. Following that, the players go into an elevator area that ends with a showdown against Shredder. The encounter is perhaps the most memorable in the entire game as Shredder is positioned in the foreground and to damage him you have to throw Foot Soldiers at him via the screen-toss maneuver. In addition to those boss fights, the end of the third stage had the pizza monsters (who are reduced to just regular enemies in the stage) replaced with the Rat King, Slash replaces the cement monster in “Prehistoric Turtlesaurus,” while Bebop and Rocksteady (in pirate attire) replace the original Tokka and Rahzar encounter. And lastly, the end fight with Shredder basically has Shredder re-skinned with a Super Shredder look. He still functions the same, though instead of generic energy wave attacks he can shoot a fire attack that covers the floor, an ice attack that he aims at an angle (basically a jump attack counter), and a mutagen blast that looks like a green hadoken fireball and temporarily turns the Turtles into ordinary turtles.

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Bebop and Rocksteady also get to join in on the fun on the SNES. You have to admire their commitment to the gimmick.

Because the SNES port is so good, Turtles in Time is a far easier game to return to than its predecessor in 2020. You could go out and find an old arcade cabinet, or buy the Arcade1Up one, but it’s a far better deal to just grab the SNES version. It doesn’t look quite as nice due to the removal of some animations, and since the game didn’t utilize the cartoon voice actors you won’t miss the speach it removed, but the added levels and boss encounters more than makes up for any missing animation. It’s also far more manageable as I think this is the first game I ever beat on Hard Mode. There’s even an option to change the skin of each character making the Turtles resemble the original Playmates action figures. There was a remake of this game released in 2008 titled Turtles in Time Re-Shelled for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It’s a remake of the arcade version and it was done on the cheap. It has 3D visuals, but they aren’t particularly impressive. About the only benefit the game featured was online play, but I don’t know if you can even take advantage of that anymore. There was also a port of the arcade version of this game stashed away on the 2005 PlayStation 2/Gamecube/Xbox title Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare. The game is based on the 2003 franchise and isn’t very good, but the arcade port contained as a bonus feature is playable. It’s a bit choppy looking and lacks the original soundtrack though. And since it’s an arcade port, it doesn’t have the added features of the SNES game. The player characters are also mapped to the controller ports, like an arcade game, so you would need the PS2 multi-tap if you had that version and wanted to play as Michelangelo or Raphael.

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If you want to experience this game in 2020 just get the SNES version so you can experience those sweet, sweet, Mode7 visuals.

If you grew up in the 80s and 90s on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles then Turtles in Time is still a good time in 2020. It’s much better than the other Konami brawlers and is better than most of the TMNT games that followed. No version for the Sega Genesis was made, but that console did receive The Hyperstone Heist, which re-used the assets from this game and is a comparable experience, though not quite as good. Because I find the SNES version superior to the arcade one, it’s really the only one I recommend today. If you happen to come across the arcade version though, you’ll probably still have a good time. As long as you don’t have to use actual quarters.


Bucky O’Hare – The Arcade Game

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Bucky O’Hare (1992)

One of the underplayed downsides to the death of the arcade in America is the amount of arcade games that remained solely in the arcade realm. Arcade technology was always ahead of what was available in-home. Arcade cabinets were also often equipped with 4 or 6 player possibilities while virtually every home console in the 80s and 90s could only natively handle 2 players. Sometimes, companies would release two distinct games for the arcade and the home console. While gamers were enjoying co-op play with X-Men at the arcade the home console gamer was forced to experience Marvel’s most famous mutant team via a hideous top-down shooter/action game with horrendous technical issues. X-Men was a popular enough arcade game that it would eventually be released digitally about 20 years after it first hit arcades. It took awhile, but it made it. Other games were not so lucky, and one of them is Bucky O’Hare.

Bucky O’Hare has been a topic more than once here as I take a small sense of pride in being one of the small areas of the internet where Bucky can still exist. Bucky originated in the comics, and when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles exploded he was one of the main beneficiaries. Suddenly, toy companies and television studios were scooping up licenses for any kind of anthropomorphic action series that could be tossed in front of children to make piles of money. These properties were often fast-tracked to the consumer as everyone assumed the TMNT were just some fad that would die a quick death. This meant television shows, toys, and even games were all put into development at around the same time and Bucky O’Hare got the full treatment. So even though the cartoon series would only last 13 episodes and see a quiet cancellation, the aspects of the license that took the longest to develop would still see release after the fall of the show.

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Good luck finding one of these.

Most people into retro-gaming or who had a Nintendo Entertainment System back in the day are familiar with Konami’s Bucky O’Hare for the NES; the Mega Man clone of surprising depth and skill. It’s become a bit of a cult hit these days and copies of the NES cart fetch a pretty decent price on the after-market. Lesser known, is Konami’s Bucky O’Hare game for the arcade, also simply titled Bucky O’Hare.

Like most of Konami’s  arcade games for licensed properties, Bucky O’Hare is a 4-player beat-em-up where the player takes on wave after wave of enemies before reaching the game’s conclusion. And like most games of this style, it sometimes feels like it was designed first and foremost to eat quarters and force gamers to spend a decent chunk of change in order to see the game to its conclusion. Where Bucky O’Hare differentiates itself from Konami’s other brawlers is in that the primary attack for each character is a projectile. All four characters; Bucky, Jenny, Deadeye, and Blinky – all possess a handgun to shoot at the bad guys with. This naturally allows the player to maintain some distance between them and the enemy which actually seems to result in fewer deaths when compared with X-Men or Turtles in Time. Each character also possesses a special attack, referred to as a gimmick weapon, that can be activated at any time and surprisingly doesn’t cost any health to activate. There’s also bomb attacks available and they’re pretty abundant and clear the screen of enemies or deal a significant chunk of damage to a boss, which feels really generous for a game of this genre.

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The game is enjoyable with one of two players, but these ones are always best with four.

The game also further distinguishes itself in style. The previously mentioned gimmick weapons though are sadly the only thing that really differentiates the characters. Of the four, I found Deadeye to be the most useful (though you would think a four-armed duck would possess more than one pistol) as his weapon is basically a temporary shield that orbits around him until it hits something. Jenny’s is a homing attack that’s also useful, though her attack animation is a liability. Bucky just tosses a bomb forward, and Blinky has a flame-thrower. Most of the levels move from left to right, but there’s variety from stage to stage. Some levels have the characters moving at an angle towards the screen (think the second stage from the first TMNT arcade game) and there’s a stage where you’re falling and another where the characters are all riding Toad Croakers that can even stomp on the enemies. Brawlers can get quite stale by design, and Bucky O’Hare does as good a job as any in keeping things as fresh as possible for the game’s duration (of roughly 45 minutes).

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Minimally animated, but fully voiced, cut scenes help to move the story along.

Perhaps surprisingly, the production values on Bucky O’Hare are quite high. It’s very bright and visually appealing with all of the characters looking like the source material. Bucky is the only one that looks a bit off to me, and Blinky is definitely too tall, but for the most part the characters and animations look great. The enemies are especially striking, though the variety is not great as you’ll mostly spend the game fighting Toad Storm Troopers and these little robots. The boss characters look awesome though and they’re mostly taken straight from the cartoon series. Toadborg is appropriately menacing looking and the final battle is against a Komplex-to-Go contraption that even looks like it’s suffered some damage since its encounter against Bucky in episode 13 of the series.

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You’ll be killing lots of Toad Storm Troopers in this one.

Which brings me to the aspect some Bucky fans seem to appreciate most is that this game seems to take place after the cartoon ended and serves as a nice book-end to the series. You take the fight straight to the Toad homeworld and vanquish Komplex seemingly forever. Konami made liberal use of the voice talent from the show and only a couple of voices are off (Blinky most notably being voiced by Scott McNeil). Even characters who aren’t playable still make voiced appearances like Willy and Bruiser. And if you’re into the comic, the omniscient mouse race that never made it into the series shows up in this game and it really feels like someone at Konami really cared about the representing the license as best as possible. It’s pretty cool considering they must have known already that this was to be the last major release for the license and that no season two was coming for the animated series.

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Willy and Bruiser even get to cameo in some cut scenes.

Bucky O’Hare for the arcade is a satisfying experience, especially so for fans of the license. It possesses some of the short-comings inherent with the genre, and I do wish a character like Bruiser or Dogstar was playable as neither was in the NES game, but this is a fun title worth tracking down. Of course, being that it’s been over 25 years since the game’s release, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find a cabinet in the wild and it’s even rare to see them come up for sale on eBay. There are other means available to you, if you want to seek them out, and I’ll let you research that on your own should you wish to play it. Sadly, licensed games like these rarely receive a digital release in this day and age, but maybe this very mild Bucky comeback in 2017 could lead to a digital release of this game and the NES game, though I certainly wouldn’t hold my breath for either.


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