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Super Smash T.V. (SNES) artwork

Super Smash T.V. (SNES) review

"A re-run worth catching"

Super Smash TV had two major things going for it way back: it was super violent and geared for multiple players. Yet, the experience proved worthwhile for a single dude with a bloody itch to scratch. Granted, the campaign was technically doable for a solo effort, but lone wolves usually got eaten alive. Personally, I never got through the game on my own. I made it past the second boss and almost to the third before getting destroyed. Still, I tried and I dug the piece all the same. Somehow, knowing I was going to fail eased the process of losing. I never went in with the nervous expectation that I had to focus and play hard or choke. I already knew the latter lie in my future...

Nowadays, the game seems to have fallen into obscurity, even if its influence can still be felt in numerous twin-stick and top-down shooters...

Imagine if Robotron: 2084 had a child with the Schwarzenegger flick “The Running Man.” That's basically what you have here, and no surprise, Robotron designer Eugene Jarvis also designed this one (and would later go on to craft another successor in Total Carnage). With that in mind, it would not be a stretch to refer to this one as a spiritual successor. Here, you play a contestant on a gory game show where players plow through droves of murderous madmen and killer robots to earn cash prizes. When the killing starts, you enter a room with a top-down perspective and commence rapid-firing every which way to mow down as many monsters as possible until you're the last man standing.

Of course, it wouldn't be at least a decent shooter without power-ups, so the occasional rocket launcher, force field, spread shots, and grenade launchers manifest on the grounds, not to mention a smart bomb now and then for clearing the field. Meanwhile, you get hit with massive waves of marauding foes, starting with slow-moving dudes armed with bludgeons who do little more than die quickly. Eventually, though, you meet other baddies, such as robots that explode into killer shrapnel, wall-mounted snipers, mechanical snakes, and meaner varieties of your original opponents.

Here's the thing: even now, the over-the-top slaughter can be satisfying because you get swarmed big time, and your automatic weaponry often tends to be enough to quell the horde. The game moves swiftly, allowing you to gun down foes without issue and watching as their frames explode like gigantic tomatoes. It's even more satiating as you nab explosive arsenal and blow through tons of these guys.

After you've completed a room, you receive the option to mosey onto another one. Usually, you get a choice of a couple different directions and varying chambers to check out, each with its own array of enemies and hazards. With repeated play, you can carve out a pathway that works best for you, making it as easy as possible (“easy” used very loosely) to make your way to the area boss.

Obviously, the SNES iteration lacks a second joystick that would allow you to play this one as a proper twin-stick shooter. Thankfully, its developers found a decent way around it by converting the XABY button scheme into different directions. X, being the top most of these buttons, fires upward, while A blasts to the right, and so on. If you want to fire diagonally, you only need to press the two buttons corresponding to that direction. It's actually quite easy, though it doesn't allow for a full range of motion in the same way the arcade cabinet does, and could be tricky for players who have trouble with two-button combos.

You know what it does inherit from the coin-op, though? Cheapness...

Arcade games were not made to be beatable with a single coin. There was no obligation to make the game as fair as possible because arcades made money on failure and persistence. Granted, some people became arcade whizzes who could blow through certain games on a single credit, such as my brother who cracked the code on Crime Fighters and absolutely stomped that machine. Smash pitted you against monstrous throngs and impossible odds because it wanted to suck the quarters out of your pocket. Home console adaptations of these titles sometimes took things easier, but not by much. Super Smash, in this case, still operated as if it were munching on your change, and that becomes a sticking point for this version.

Yes, you can easily get through the first two episodes. Hell, I got so good at the first one that I could make it without exhausting one of my finite continues. By the second gauntlet, though, I was already getting schooled. The tidal waves of adversaries I faced couldn't possibly be manageable by a single person unless they had godly ability. Sure, they could make it with a partner who was also skilled, but even then they were fighting an uphill battle on a nearly sheer cliff.

However, the game's personality made it all worth the while. It was gory, but also glitzy. Arenas stood brightly colored with flashing lights, introduced by an obnoxious MC with his arms around a couple of babes in a way that felt oh so '90s. “I'd buy that for a dollar!” he'd chime in, an obvious head nod to “Robocop.” Its soundtrack didn't always pump out sounds of war and destruction, but occasionally blared with excited trumpets and jubilant vibes like you were playing Jeopardy! or Press Your Luck and not Contra hosted by a robotic Pat Sajak.

Even with its unfairness, it's difficult to deny this title's pull. It's exciting and action-packed and yet an absolute face-breaker. Something tells you to not worry so much about never beating it. You go into it not expecting to survive and just learning to go with the flow and enjoy the moment. So you do: every explosion, every popping body, every pile of money or gold, every horrific boss... For instance, you fight a villain that's half-man and half-tank, accepting your shots while returning his own volley. Eventually, his chest explodes, his arms fall off, and his whole torso disappears, revealing another head underneath it. These are the kind of villains you face, calling to mind the weirdness of arcade works of yore.

So yeah, Super Smash TV may not feel cutting edge these days because so many other games have breached the whole “oodles of violence and twin-stick shooting” thing while offering fairer challenge factors and odds that at least feel somewhat doable. This one may still boast the exuberance it once held, but its hope-destroying difficulty prevents it from being an all-time great. Still, it's worth a look and maybe a re-release in the future...

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (May 12, 2024)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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