Q*bert 3, Super Nintendo

Q*Bert 3 was developed by Realtime Associates and released in 1992, and it was a bit of a missed opportunity in some respects.

The SNES could’ve done a great follow-on from Q*Bert, but instead we get an animated technicolor yawn… The first backdrop – the blue skies and clouds – is brilliant. Love it. After that it’s a procession of mind-bending colour schemes and patterns – it’s just too much! Every now and then you might get a less garish backdrop, but they’re rare.

Which is a pity because the underlying mechanics of Q*Bert 3 are fine. A bit dull maybe, but still fine. I just don’t think that the game is as imaginative – or as good – as it should have been. Especially graphically. Whoever designed (most of) the backgrounds was out of control… Jeff Lee – creator of Q*Bert himself – worked on the graphics for this game. Maybe it was him? 🙂

Never mind. Q*Bert 3 is what it is. An alright game. Certainly no classic, but fun for a short while (ie. until it leaves you blind…)

More: Q*Bert 3 on Wikipedia

Sparkster, Super Nintendo

Konami‘s Sparkster is a side-scrolling platform action game released for the Super Nintendo in 1994.

Sparkster is also the name of the main character who you play – an Opossum Knight who fights wolves and robots with a sword that can fire energy bolts and a jet pack that helps him fly short distances.

It’s a cool game, and moves at a fast pace. There’s plenty of variety in both the graphics and the gameplay. The section where Sparkster rides a giant robot bird is just awesome.

Yes: I did cheat when I took these screenshots. The energy bar barely drops across them all… Dead giveaway. It does give a good overview of the first half of the game though.

More: Sparkster on Wikipedia

Soul Blazer, Super Nintendo

Released in Japan as Soul Blader, Soul Blazer is a 1992 Super Nintendo release from Enix and it takes the form of an overhead, Zelda-style adventure.

You are the hero, Blazer, sent on a mission to free a succession of towns from the grip of evil monsters. As you hack and slash away with your sword your experience grows, as does your level. And – when you free a town of its monsters – you also free the soul of one of its inhabitants, and they are reincarnated. As you reincarnate more people the town is reconstructed around them.

After defeating a certain number of monsters you get to fight a boss battle. Win that and you free the soul of the chief of each town, and clear the area, allowing progress to the next town. After clearing six towns you unlock the entrance to “World of Evil” where the boss villain awaits.

Compared to something like Zelda: A Link to the Past, Soul Blazer looks relatively plain. The graphics are nicely drawn and coloured, but are distinctly tile-based. The opening title sequence is impressive, with big, smooth letters zooming across the screen.

Soul Blazer does have a nice hook in the gameplay (the reincarnation), which makes it feel at least a bit unique, and is also quite cute, so definitely does have its admirers.

More: Soul Blazer on Wikipedia

SimCity, Super Nintendo

The 1991 Super Nintendo version of Will Wright‘s classic SimCity was developed by Nintendo themselves, so is somewhat different to previous versions. It’s actually one of the best versions of SimCity around.

SimCity is about city-building, land/power/transportation management, taxation, and dealing with natural disasters. Basically: keeping your growing (or maybe even declining) population happy.

The viewpoint is overhead, and you build your city by clearing land and laying tiles on the scrolling landscape. You build roads, rail tracks, residential areas, industrial areas, and commercial areas – not to mention your own house – and must attract people to come live with you. When you reach a certain size you can then build more advanced structures, such as airports and sports stadia. Of course, you need power stations and police departments, and maybe even a port if you’ve got some coastline.

Nintendo‘s involvement added a lot of nice touches to SimCity on the SNES that aren’t in other versions, not least of which is a Bowser attack on Tokyo! Aping the Godzilla attack of the original game… Or the golden Mario statue awarded for reaching a half million population. Or the special buildings that are awarded for reaching certain milestones, such as casinos, amusement parks, and expo centres. Some of these ideas were incorporated into SimCity 2000 later, so it was prudent of Maxis to approve Nintendo‘s own development of their precious game, in exchange for new ideas.

A regular game of SimCity is an open-ended ‘sandbox’ affair, where you choose a random map and just build on it until you run out of steam. There are also six different disaster scenarios to “beat” – earthquake, pollution, crimewave, nuclear meltdown, coastal flooding, and the aforementioned monster attack.

Not as boring as it looks, SimCity is a classic SNES game and still a lot of fun to play.

More: SimCity on Wikipedia

Tales of Phantasia, Super Nintendo

Tales of Phantasia is an RPG developed by Wolf Team, and first published for the Super Nintendo by Namco in 1995. As JRPGs go, it’s quite memorable.

It’s a time-travelling, party-based adventure with real-time, random combat. Yes: real time combat. Which is quite rare in this genre. The combat sections play like a side-scrolling action game, with your party being attacked from either the left or the right, and the direction of attack dictating who’s closest to the enemy. So you learn to put your more vulnerable characters in the middle! The real-time combat system in Tales of Phantasia is a refreshing change from the usual style of turn-based JPRGs and is I think what gives this game its unique appeal.

That said: there’s more to Tales of Phantasia than just the combat. The story isn’t bad, and neither is the dialogue, and the six playable characters available for recruit are all fairly interesting. There are lots of great little touches too, like the ripples and reflections in the water. There’s a ton of stuff to see and do in this game and it’s frankly more than worth the investment of time.

A Game Boy Advance remake was released in 2006 and was the game’s first official English translation. It’s somewhat different to this, though, with a widescreen display and larger character graphics during combat. Background graphics and gameplay are the same though.

More: Tales of Phantasia on Wikipedia

Dragon Quest VI, Super Nintendo

Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation was developed by Heartbeat for Enix and released for the Super Nintendo in 1995 in Japan. It is the sixth instalment in the Dragon Quest series, if you aren’t familiar with Roman numerals.

Again: the writers of Dragon Quest have made a pretty good story to fit into an RPG. And again: it’s simple but effective. Without giving too much away: you appear to die a short way into the game! Haha. It’s hardly a spoiler – more an attempt to entice you to play the game… but it is part of the plot. I think Japanese RPG-makers may be obsessed with death, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing… As J.R.R. Tolkien once said: love and loss are inextricably linked…

Graphically, Dragon Quest VI is a bit more interesting than the previous game, although you don’t seem to be able to walk behind certain objects in this (that you should be able to walk behind, according to the isometric viewpoint), which is a little frustrating. All the houses, towns, and cute characters are beautifully drawn in that inimitable, colourful SNES style though.

Combat is a bit more interesting than in Dragon Quest V. You have more options available to you, including a ‘Skill’ choice that makes individual character skills available as they unlock. It does take a while to assemble a party, though, which isn’t ideal. Something else that bugged me: you can’t see how much money you’ve got in the status menus! Which is quite an oversight… The only time you see your current money count is when you’re talking to merchants. Dragon Quest VI practically requires you to grind to afford certain armour and weapons (as most RPGs do), and not being able to see your money totals in the field is frustrating at best.

One final thing to mention – a good thing: Dragon Quest VI was the first game in the series to introduce the concept of a “sack” where you can store items outside of your usual limited inventory. That made a difference. It also has a fairly complex class system, which is unlocked at a key point in the game.

Dragon Quest VI was the best-selling game of 1995 in Japan, shipping over 3.2 million physical copies in its first year of release (of which 2.5 million were sold in December, it’s month of release!) – an insane number, and indicative of the series’ popularity worldwide.

In spite of its shortcomings Dragon Quest VI is still a great game. It’s been remade a few times (Nintendo DS, Android and iOS) and is still worth playing if you love Japanese RPGs.

Note: These grabs are from the original Super Nintendo version, having been fan-translated. An official English translation of Dragon Quest VI wasn’t released until 2011.

More: Dragon Quest VI on Wikipedia