Sunday, 22 August 2010

Snow Bros.

In 1997 the first decent NES emulator, NESticle, was released. Not long after that, people started hacking the first Super Mario Bros. game, sticking everyone and their aunt in the place of Mario and releasing their efforts to the world. At one point I actually had a collection of these, and most were horrible. Problem is, when you start having hoards of hacks being called "xxx Bros." you forget of the real games that copied Mario Bros' naming scheme.

Like Snow Bros., an arcade game released by Toaplan in 1990. It was Toaplan's answer to Bubble Bobble, except it was released four years after Taito's creation and few people cared for it as a result. I, however, think it is a great game. Here's why.

You may be shocked to hear that today I'll be mostly reviewing the Sega Mega Drive port, not the arcade original. Why? Because the Mega Drive (and most other ports for that matter) give the game a bit more life by throwing more instruments into the soundtrack. The arcade version is fairly quiet, and even though the graphics are a little better than the home ports... the differences are mostly negligible.

The Mega Drive port was handled by our good friends at Tengen, which just seem to keep bouncing back again and again. It was three years late and only saw a release in Japan, so it certainly wasn't going to make up for Atari's losses during the 1980s. Ocean brought it to the Amiga, and that version's nice too, and Capcom brought it to the NES, which is probably the most widely known version out there (but also the worst... unless you count the reduced port on the Game Boy titled "Snow Bros. Jr").

The game follows Nick and Tom, two snowmen. In some ports they're part of the monarchy, attempting to save princesses, in others, they're snowmen with super powers saving young maidens. It's probably not good to think about why snowmen can hop about killing things, but I suppose you could say the same about Bubble Bobble, which constantly sees the same two blokes change between dinosaur and human forms.

Like Bubble Bobble, you're thrown into a string of non-scrolling stages in which you're forced to defeat all the enemies on screen to progress. Obviously there's no bubbles involved this time, just the ability to throw snowballs at a small distance in front of you. The plan is to keep chucking these things until your enemies are covered in snow, and then push them to see how far they go. Otherwise it's a very simple game for up to two players.

For the most part, it's quite fun. It doesn't have the edge on Bubble Bobble but personally I'd rank it slightly higher than Bubble Bobble's sequel, Rainbow Islands. It's a bit of a challenge and there's not quite as much room to move, but it has a nice theme tune and fits right in with other titles from around that time.

There's more bosses in Snow Bros., with one appearing every ten "floors". There are a few powerups that can change a few stats such as speed and firing distance, but nothing quite as exotic as in Bubble Bobble where you might wash the whole stage with water or use lightning.

I can't really think of much else to say about this one, other than it's extremely unloved. It's never been re-released and as most of the ports never left Japan, it never got the same recognition as Taito's works. It did see an arcade sequel under the name of "Snow Bros. 2: With New Elves", but that game just adds in a few weird looking characters and ruins a few things. And, as you can expect, it wasn't half as successful.

But the original Snow Bros. is something to look out for. So... look out for it.

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  7. For my money the Data East "Tumble Pop" (+sequels/clones) games are better.

    Despite being a great game on all available systems, suffers from one big problem.

    The basic jump 'n run element feels way too sluggish and the playfield is too restrictive. If you only needed to hit most enemies say, twice, then it would have been all the better.

    Play "Tumble Pop", "Diet Go Go" or that other DE caveman-themed one to see how it should be done.

    Or just play Bubble Bobble.

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