The Five SNES Games You Play In Hell
In 2003, Mitch Albom's book The Five People You Meet In Heaven was published. Being as I am not a post-menopausal housewife, I have never actually read this book. However, I did read a brief synopsis of the TV movie based on the book, so I feel that I am fully qualified to talk about it. The Five People You Meet In Heaven is the story of Eddie, an 83-year-old maintenance man at the Ruby Pier amusement park who dies saving a little girl from malfunctioning ride. Eddie has felt that his life was meaningless, but when he gets to Heaven he meets five people whose lives he had a profound effect on. Basically, the whole thing is a bunch of cheesy sentimental bullshit. Still, it does put forth an interesting hypothesis. In the book, each person is granted their own personalized Heaven based on their happiest memory; Eddie's version of Heaven is Ruby Pier as it was on the day that he met his wife. That got me thinking: if Heaven is a physical embodiment of a person's best memory, would Hell be the worst? If it was, what would MY Hell be? That idea rattled around in my head for several days as I tried to figure out what my single worst memory was. I thought about it pretty much nonstop, right up until the moment that I slipped in the shower.
I awoke in daze, my head throbbing from its fierce collision with the tiled bathroom wall. As I pondered how long I had been unconscious, I suddenly realized that the shower was no longer on. My eyes finally began to focus and I saw that I was no longer in the bathroom... I was in a plain blue room that I had never seen before. My first thought was that I was in some sort of hospital, but there was no bed in the room; I had been lying on the floor. Even more strange was the fact that I was wearing dirty clothes from three days ago.
"Hello Mr. Lexia. We're ready for you."
Who the fuck said that? I looked frantically around the room, trying to figure out where the hell the voice had come from. As I returned to my original orientation, I suddenly saw the devil standing in front of me. It HAD to be the devil, he had all the stereotypical features of the devil: red skin, horns, hooves, a goatee, a pitchfork, and the keys to a 1995 Fiat Barchetta. Clearly I had to handle this situation delicately. I mean, what if this guy WASN'T the Prince of Darkness? I certainly didn't want to offend some random stranger. I decided to tread lightly...
"So... you're Satan, huh?"
"Yeah, pretty much."
"Goddamit! Why the fuck am I in Hell?"
"I'll give you a hint: you just did it again a second ago."
"I'm here for having impure thoughts about Hayden Panettiere?"
"No, you retard. Think back to the Ten Commandments."
"What the fuck? I didn't kill anyone!"
"Dammit, the Second Commandment!"
"Which Second Commandment? There's three different ones for Catholics, Protestants, and Jews."
"DON'T FUCKING USE THE LORD'S NAME IN VAIN, ASSHOLE!"
"That bullshit? I didn't think He enforced that one."
"Well He does."
"Wow... I'm really, really fucked."
"That you are!"
"Well, I guess I'll have to make the best of it. I may have to spend eternity burning in a fiery pit of awfulness, but at least I'll be warm."
"Sorry to disappoint you, but we don't do the whole fire and brimstone thing anymore. These days, Hell is more... personalized. You are hereby sentenced to relive your worst memory over and over again."
"Um... what IS my worst memory?"
"Do you remember when you were eleven and your parents refused to buy you a Super Nintendo?"
"Yeah, that sucked. My mom worked at a video store, so she let me rent a SNES when I was good, but it wasn't the same as owning it!"
"Mwa ha ha, that's right!"
"So wait... my punishment is that I can't play Super Nintendo for the rest of eternity?"
"Quite the contrary, your punishment is that you MUST play Super Nintendo!"
"Sweet! Do you guys have Super Mario World?"
"Do you have Final Fantasy III?"
"A Link To The Past?"
"Let's make this easy. You pick a genre, and I'll give you a game to play."
"Fair enough. Let's see... how about a fighting game?"
"Oh shit! You're not gonna make me play the crappy SNES port of Mortal Kombat where they replaced the blood with sweat, are you?"
"Of course not, I've got something MUCH better in store for you: Double Dragon 5!"
Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls
Do you remember the scene in A Time To Kill when Matthew McConaughey describes the rape of Tonya Hailey? He might as well have been describing what Double Dragon V did to the Double Dragon franchise. To be fair, Double Dragon V had a little bit of help. 1992's Super Double Dragon had already slipped the series the metaphorical roofie by dumbing down the difficulty, replacing all the classic enemies, and removing any semblance of a plot. But Double Dragon was a respected brand, and it wasn't about to let one mediocre game bring it down. The franchise rallied back in 1993 with the release of the excellent Battletoads & Double Dragon, but by then it was too late; the sedatives were already in its system. The Double Dragon series collapsed face down, ass up in the gutter. This allowed Double Dragon V to sneak in and rape it to death.
At a time when Super Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat II machines were guzzling quarters at a fantastic rate, Tradewest decided it needed its own fighting game. The result was one of the most cynical attempts to cash in on a gaming fad ever produced. Rather than build a fighting game from the ground up, the company decided to make it part of the already established Double Dragon franchise. This would have been acceptable if they had called the game Double Dragon: The Fighting Game or something like that, but they didn't; they called it Double Dragon V. This is problematic, because the name presupposes some sort of continuity between this game and other Double Dragon games when no such continuity exists. Oh sure, the game still features Billy and Jimmy Lee as its main protagonists, but that's it. The game completely abandons any semblance of a plot as well as the beat-em-up genre that made the series famous. Now don't get me wrong, the latter isn't inherently a bad thing. Double Dragon as a fighting game could have been awesome. In my head, I can see a 2D fighter where you can select from a character roster that includes Billy, Jimmy, Linda, Abobo, Roper, Willy, Burnov, Abore, Duke, and other characters from the Double Dragon games. In fact, such a game ALMOST exists; Technos released a 2D Fighter based off the crappy live action Double Dragon movie in 1995. Unfortunately, Double Dragon V does not have a roster like that. Double Dragon V has Billy, Jimmy, and ten assholes you've never heard of. This game desperately wants to be Street Fighter 2 Turbo, but it plays more like Time Killers due to the fact that the characters have weapons and instant kill moves. And since Time Killers came out first, that means Double Dragon V is a rip-off of one of the cheesiest fighting games ever made. And Time Killers at least has an interesting roster. The only character worth mentioning from DD5 besides the Lee brothers is a female fighter named Sekka. If Sekka had one less K in her name and a super blowjob attack, she would easily be the best character in the game. Sadly the programmers decided to make a game that only sucked in the figurative sense.
"That was awful. Really, really awful. Give me something else to play."
"All right, pick a genre."
"I don't care! Anything!"
"You have to pick a genre"
"OK, give me a beat-em-up to play!"
"You know, like Streets of Rage."
"Ah, of course. I have just the game: Bebe's Kids."
Few people would expect a beat-em-up based on a blaxplotation cartoon to be good, but I don't think anyone would expect it to be as bad as it was. The 1992 film the game is based on, Bebe's Kids, is the story of a hapless man named Robin who is suckered into taking his girlfriend's best friend's three monstrous children to the Fun World amusement park along with his girlfriend's well-behaved son Leon. Bebe's Kids act like complete assholes the whole time and Fun World is destroyed as a result of their actions. The movie was pretty dumb and the game is really fucking terrible. So terrible, in fact, that the company that published it, Mandingo, only managed to release one other game: the equally abysmal Rap Jam. Even if you liked the movie, you'd be hard-pressed to enjoy this pile of shit. The game lets you select from two different children, LaShawn and Kahlil, but it doesn't have two player support. This isn't really an issue though, as this game should never be played by anyone. Everything about this game is ill-conceived. For example, most beat-em-up games start you off with a couple of easily defeated enemies, thus allowing you to familiarize yourself with the controls. Bebe's Kids takes a different route: the first two enemies you encounter each take around 30 hits to defeat. Factor in clunky controls, unimpressive graphics, and the fact that the kids lurch around like arthritic orangutans, and you have a game that no one could possibly enjoy... and I'm pretty sure no one did.
"Fuck this game. Give me something else."
"I see you are finally beginning to understand the true nature of your punishment."
"Pick another genre."
"Syd, either you pick a game or I'll make you play a sports game. How'd you like to play some NBA Give 'N Go?"
"You sick bastard! You wouldn't!"
"The fuck I wouldn't, I'm the goddam devil."
"Fine, give me a platformer."
"OK, Chuck Rock it is."
Chuck Rock can effectively be reviewed in four words: Chuck Rock sucks cock. You wouldn't find a more perfect game review than that sentence; it's short, it's accurate, and it fucking rhymes. I'm really tempted to leave the review at that. In fact, I think I will. If you really want to know more about a game where you play as fat, bald, barely clothed caveman whose primary attack involves his grotesque beer belly, you can play it yourself. But you probably shouldn't. The 16-bit era ushered in some of the shittiest platformers ever made. The 8-bit era had some pretty bad platformers, but the truly terrible ones didn't come out until the Genesis/SNES days. The general philosophy of the day seemed to be that as long as a game LOOKED good, it didn't matter if the the controls were shitty, the game was boring, or if the story was stupid. Chuck Rock is a poignant example as to why that mode of thinking is a scourge upon this land.
"Did you just orgasm?"
"No, that was a heavy sigh of frustration brought on by the extreme craptitude of Chuck Rock."
"So I get to pick another genre again, right?"
"Yeah, go for it."
"All right, I want a first person shooter."
"You're making this way too easy. You sure you don't want to pick something else?"
"I said I want a fucking FPS!"
"I don't much care for the tone of your voice. Since you enjoy being insolent, let's see how much you enjoy Faceball 2000!"
First person shooters and the SNES go together about as well as vodka and painkillers. In addition to shitty ports of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, the SNES also had its own first person shooter: Faceball 2000. Released for the Game Boy in 1991 and the SNES in 1992, Faceball 2000 was out before Apogee's shareware version of Wolfenstein 3D turned the FPS into a viable genre. At its core, Faceball 2000 is essentially the same game as Wolfenstein, Doom, or any other 3D shooter; your goal is to neutralize your enemies, dodge hostile fire, and navigate your way to the end of labyrinthine levels. But the devil is in the details, and Faceball has none. Wolfenstein became popular because it pitted you against Nazis in well-decorated levels. Sure, it made you wonder why the fuck the Nazis needed so many blue vases and portraits of Hitler, but the game's limited textures and level decorations were incredibly groundbreaking at the time, especially when compared to Faceball. Faceball pairs you up against smiling geometric shapes as you run through mundane monochrome mazes. A large part of whether or not a first person shooter is successful is its ability to provide a convincing first person experience, and captivating level designs are instrumental in creating such an experience. When an FPS doesn't even pretend to offer up anything more than glorified hedge mazes as levels, it is predestined to suck some major ass. So let it be with Faceball.
"Well, that was a stupid fucking idea."
"You do realize this is Hell, right? Every decision you make is going to end in more agony."
"Yeah... I know."
"You're handling this pretty well."
"Well, to be fair, it's only been a few hours. After a few hundred years of this shit, I'll probably be screaming uncontrollably."
"You better, or else I'll find a new punishment for you, like maybe anal fisting."
"Giving or receiving?"
"Gross. I don't really want to visualize that, so I think I'll go for another game. Give me another platformer."
"Yeah, I didn't learn my lesson the first time."
"Very well then, you get to play Custer's Revenge 2: Anal Fist Adventures!"
"That is NOT a real game."
"That was a joke. We do have jokes in hell, you know. Carrot Top is going to be playing at Mephistopheles' Laugh Assembly Plant every night starting in 2051. We're currently taking preorders on premium seating tickets. Would you like to purchase some?"
"I'll put you down as a maybe."
"Am I gonna play a game here or what?"
"Oh, that. You can play Virtual Bart."
As a general rule, video games based upon television shows have a tendency of sucking major ass. The most convincing argument for this rule is The Simpsons. The classic primetime series has been translated into over 20 separate games, most of which are absolutely terrible. Perhaps the worst of the bunch is Virtual Bart, a lackluster platformer that is equal parts difficult and stupid. The premise of the game is simple: Bart is trapped in a virtual reality machine and he must successfully complete six simulations in order to escape. It's not a terrible concept in theory, but the execution leaves much to be desired. Most of your Virtual Bart experience will be spent performing repetitive jumping exercises, lobbing tomatoes at Milhouse, and ramming your head into Homer's ass. The game doesn't offer up anything that you haven't seen before and poor controls turn the completion of its otherwise pedestrian antics into a Herculean task. In fact, I'm not even sure Hercules could summon the patience and courage to beat it. Maybe that's why no one's seen Kevin Sorbo in years.
"I'm done with this."
"But you've only been playing for five minutes!"
"I know, but this is an Acclaim game. Acclaim games are far too awful to ever be played."
"What about Legends of Wrestling?"
"Especially Legends of Wrestling! But ESPECIALLY Virtual Bart."
"Well I'm sorry to hear that, because you have to play Virtual Bart for the next 16 hours."
"You stupid motherfucker, did you really think I was going to let you just keep switching games whenever you felt like?"
"Well, you were wrong. Now play the game!"
"PLAY THE FUCKING GAME!"
"Listen man, you REALLY don't want to go there."
"No, I REALLY don't want to play Virtual Bart."
"Fine, have it your way."
The devil's eyes began to glow bright red and I felt a sharp pain shoot through my head, one more intense than I ever thought possible. Suddenly, there was a loud popping sound and I saw blood fly everywhere. At this point, the pain became so incredibly horrible that it permeated my entire existence. I could no longer think or see; all I could do was feel pain. I begged for mercy, knowing it wouldn't come. And then suddenly it did. As the pain subsided and my senses returned, I was finally able to see what Lucifer had done: he had removed my brain. My head slowly began to turn back towards the TV screen and my hand picked up the SNES controller. Before I knew it, I was playing Virtual Bart, laughing and smiling as I went. I eventually came to understand that Satan was manipulating my brain like a keyboard, forcing me to do what I had refused to do myself. I desperately wanted to scream, but I found that I could not. Horror set in as I realized the true futility of my situation. Having no other options, I did the only thing that I could: I gave myself over to my punishment. Then I blacked out.
I awoke on the bathroom floor, my head still pounding. Had the whole thing been a dream, or was it a haunting vision of my fate? And if it truly was a glimpse at the future, could that future be changed? If I were to repent and stop using the Lord's name in vain, could I prevent myself from ending up in my own personal Hell, a place I now knew to be more awful than I had ever imagined? Wait, why the hell am I asking myself so many questions? It was probably just a stupid goddam dream. Jesus Fucking Christ.
Posted by: Syd Lexia