Games in this post:

-Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts-
-Super Earth Defense Force-
-Super Castlevania IV-
-Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball-
-John Madden Football-
-Paperboy 2-
-RPM Racing-
-True Golf Classics: Waialae Country Club-

The last SNES post, if you can remember that far back, covered a bunch of games that probably didn't spark much nostalgia. I was also horrible at them. October into November isn't much different, aside from a couple notable exceptions. The November games were released in the US either before they were released in Japan, or not at all in Japan. Release dates must not have been on people's minds much here in the states, since a lot of games are only narrowed down to the month. I'm covering these as though they were released on the first of the month because... well, because it's my blog. There isn't a scientific or historical reason for it. There are a lot of games to cover so let's get started with one that you've hopefully all heard of at least, if not played.

Super Ghouls and Ghosts - I hope you like boxers

Genre: Action
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Nov. 1991(US)

A lot of people who have never played this game are still familiar with it due to one very specific feature, its challenge. You know when you're doing poorly in this game because instead of hearts or a life bar, you lose your armor when you get hit, and poor Arthur has to run around in his boxers. The premise is that an evil demon king has taken your girlfriend and you need to fight your way through levels of monsters and platforming to get her back. The controls are solid once you get used to them, and even though there are a lot of cheap deaths, it's not in a way that makes you stop playing. The sprites are well done and the variety of weapons let you toy around with different playing styles. The weapons also become upgraded forms and gain a special ability that really helps if you can get your armor upgraded a couple of times. Playing the original version and beating it gives you a great feeling of accomplishment... for about 3 seconds until you find out you have to play the whole game again. As hard as the game is, you have to do it AT LEAST twice. It turns out the princess informs you that you need a special weapon to truly save her, and the only way to find it is in a random chest somewhere in the world. So it's back to stage one, and the weapon drops randomly like all the others. If you happen to mess up and reach the boss without that weapon, you'll need to do it AGAIN! It was certainly a frustrating setup originally but with the addition of save states for emulators and Nintendo's Virtual Console version, which you can view here, it's not as much of an issue. Even with the challenge, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is an extremely polished game and well worth the 800 points to download.
My Grade: A
Worth Playing: Yes


Super Earth Defense Force - More of an attack jet

Genre: Action
Developer: Jaleco
Publisher: Jaleco
Jan, 1992(US)

Super Earth Defense Force (EDF) is a pretty standard side-scrolling shooter along the lines of Gradius and R-Type, but I mean that as a compliment. It's got the typical shmup setup of an invasion in progress and you're the ace pilot of the tiny ship that needs to save everyone. There are some shake-ups to the traditional gameplay for better or worse. First off, you have shields that can take 3 hits before you have to restart, the counter to that is you only get one life and 3 credits to continue with. Second, there are no power-ups in the game, instead you choose one of a handful of weapons and then that weapon levels up as you play. This is great in theory but there just isn't a lot of noticeable difference in power for how long it takes to level up. The game controls well and the sprites are well done. It's worth checking out if you're a fan of the genre. It's available for purchase on the Virtual Console and you can check out Nintendo's page here. On a side note, I'm curious if it's only a coincidence or if this is a franchise related to the recent bug shooting game of the same name and it's sequel being released this year.
My Grade: B+
Worth Playing: Yes



Super Castlevania IV - Whips it good

Genre: Action
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Dec, 1991(US)

Once again it's time for vampire hunter Simon Belmont to make his way to Dracula's castle and defeat him. Super Castlevania IV marked the series' first foray into 16 bit after 3 arguably successful games on the NES. Not everyone liked the second game, but I'll leave it to someone else to play through that library. Castlevania IV stays true to the previous games' style while upgrading in all the right areas. Characters are big, bosses are tough, and mode 7 is used just right. You can also hold the attack button down and use the d-pad to twirl and fling the whip around. It's useful for taking down hard to reach enemies and a lot more fun than it should be. Considering most of the critically acclaimed games in the series are done in this classic style, this iteration holds up very well to the test of time and is still a blast to play. You can pick it up for the Virtual Console or check out the Nintendo page here.
My Grade: A+
Worth Playing: Yes



Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball - Do you even need to read this?

Genre: Basketball?
Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Nov, 1991(US)

Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball has the distinction of being the first game released in the US but never in Japan. This fact could also be use as evidence that Japanese kids were more intelligent that US kids in 1991. The question mark next to basketball in the genre listing above is not a typo. I honestly don't know if it should be called that or not. It's a top-down futuristic version starring the pre-Rodman era bad boy of basketball, Bill Laimbeer. He was picked due to his reputation and the inclusion of armor, weapons, and full contact in the game. In concept this might sound fun but the execution is awful. The perspective ruins any feel of actual basketball, the controls are awkward, and the graphics are boring. I hope Bill was able to use the endorsement money to put a kid through college, as that's the only good that came from this game.
My Grade: F
Worth Playing: No



John Madden Football - The start of a series

Genre: Sports
Developer: Park Place
Publisher: EA(US)
Imagineer (JP)
1/17/1992 (JP)
Nov, 1991(US)

Let me preface this by saying I'm not a fan of sports video games. I could handle baseball games or arcade style versions but simulations just didn't interest me. That said, I'm going to try and be objective about it. This is a game from 1991 after all, and it's spawned a series that has had an entry every year since except for 1992. As of this writing the latest is Madden 2013. That's 21 games so far, and I would guess that's a record for a single series. As for this version, it introduced a level of detail that wasn't seen up to that point. Madden himself would give some pre-game commentary. There was a large playbook to choose from, with options for audibles and time-outs. I'm not sure, but this might have been the first game to use real NFL teams. The biggest problem I ran into, and what makes it unplayable today, is that the player control is too loose. It feels like the players are skating across the field almost like an NHL game would control. Still, it's probably very cheap if you can find a copy and it's worth experiencing the series beginnings if you're a fan.
My Grade: B-
Worth Playing: Only for historical value.



Paperboy 2 - Old school delivery

Genre: Action
Developer: Tengen
Publisher: Mindscape
Nov. 1991(US)

The original Paperboy was a unique arcade game where you played, obviously, a rookie paperboy whose route was a suburban street filled with crazy characters. This sequel follows the same system. The goal is to deliver as many papers into mailboxes as possible while avoiding obstacles like sewer grates, stray dogs, runaway tires, and ghosts. No, this certainly isn't your normal neighborhood. It's an old school game, as much as a game from 1991 could be. The graphics could pass for a later NES game, the gameplay is simple and repetitive, but enjoyable. I almost think it plays better now than it would have in 1991 when the NES was still in production. Consumers then were looking for new things and might not have liked a re-hash of something they've recently played. Still it's a solid game even if it didn't push the new system in any way.
My Grade: C+
Worth Playing: No



RPM Racing - Someone turn this car around

Genre: Racing
Developer: Silicon & Synapse
Victor Inter. (JP)
Interplay (US)
Nov. 1991(US)

Radical Psycho Machine, or RPM Racing is only the third racing game released in over a year of the SNES life cycle. This might seem like good news to finally get another racer but it just doesn't compare to the launch title F-Zero. Graphically the game looks very similar to an older NES game called RC Pro-Am, only the NES game had better control and more interesting courses. You can buy upgrades for your car, but that requires winning races that your starting car can barely complete. There's a hill on the first course that if you are bumped by another car you can't make it over the top, and coast back down to the bottom. Being able to see the first place car is nice, but it limits your view of your own car. All in all it's a very forgettable game and I'm curious at what point another racer will show up that's even close to F-Zero.
My Grade: D
Worth Playing: No



True Golf Classics: Waialae Country Club - Quality golf hits the US

Genre: Golf
Developer: T&E Soft
Publisher:  T&E Soft
Nov. 1991(US)

This is the second SNES golf game from T&E soft, although the first never came to the states. The gameplay and graphics are almost identical to the first game. I doubt most people would be able to tell them apart. The system is a solid one though, with options easily laid out, and lots of ways to tweak your shot. The combo of a power meter and dot placement for accuracy is very good even by today's standards. I had fun trying to perfect my shots, but like most sports games, graphical updates make this less appealing when compared to current options. My Grade: B+
Worth Playing: Yes



We're not done with '91 yet. There's still an amazing game left in November and December was a huge month that will take at least two posts to cover. Thanks for reading!