Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Super Back to the Future, Part II (SNES)

Super Back to the Future Part 2 title screen
Developer:Daft|Release Date:1993|Systems:Super Nintendo

This week on Super Adventures, I've got a 'Back to the Future' game loaded up and it's playing the actual theme from the movie! It's funny how few of them do that.

It's Back to the Future Day today! We've finally reached Wednesday October 21th 2015, the day that Doc Brown and Marty McFly visit in the second movie, and that makes this the perfect time for me to take a look at Super Back to the Future, Part II for the SNES. Other good dates would’ve been November 12th 1955 and October 27th 1985, but I’ve already missed them, so I'm basically on my last chance here.

Weirdly there was never a Super Back to the Future or Super Back to the Future, Part III, despite the fact that SBTTF,PII came out long after the movie trilogy concluded in 1990. There were plenty of other 'Back to the Future' games released for other systems, but this is all the Super Nintendo ever got, and it got it 3 years late. Sorry I mean the Super Famicom, as the game was only ever released in Japan (presumably because it's not very good).

Oh right, I should put a warning here that the game's based on the film, so I'll be spoiling part of the movie's storyline along with the game's. Assuming that the game even has a storyline.



It’s still playing the theme from the movie! It sounds really good though: YouTube link, I'm kind of surprised the SNES soundchip is able to pull it off.

Well the game's a platformer, no huge surprise there, though Marty's on a hoverboard. What does surprise me though is how much this wants to be Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s got regular hit points instead of rings, and I guess they don’t have momentum or inertia in this timeline, but it’s got that same style of gameplay and level design.

It also has phone boxes everywhere.

Marty even spins in the air like Sonic the Hedgehog! I can’t get him to stop!

I'll have to wait a while before I can confirm that backflips kill enemies though as I'm on a peaceful training level right now. There’s only two buttons, ‘jump’ and ‘go a little faster’ so there’s not exactly much for me to learn on this practice stage, but the level is covered in shiny golden coins so I’m not complaining.

And there’s the Sonic style power up boxes. Not sure what the number’s for, but opening it has given me star power! Whatever that means.

Okay it took me a bit, but I've figured out that star power turns these regular gold coins floating above the pavement into giant star coins worth ten times as much! So basically this would be a really good time for Marty to check behind his couch cushions.

That is so eerie, how all the birds have stopped moving all of a sudden.

I like Marty's ridiculous hoverboard twirl though. I’ve played a lot of platformers recently which switch over to the next stage immediately after you hit the goal, and it’s so much more satisfying when the game takes a moment at the end of the level to acknowledge you’ve achieved something.

Not that I achieved anything here, the level was completely empty of enemies or hazards of any kind, but I'll accept the 100 dollar payout anyway.

Hey the game has cutscenes! I mentioned that it only ever came out in Japan right?

I could struggle to translate all that text, but I'm busy checking Wikipedia to see if the US really does have golden 1 dollar coins. I think anyone who’s seen the film can make a reasonable guess at what’s being said and anyone who hasn’t doesn’t much care. You should totally see the film though, it’s good.

Aww, look at chibi Doc Brown! He’s so… pink.

Long story short, both Marty and his girlfriend Jennifer have to go to the future with Doc Brown to help their kids, even though only Marty's the only one he actually needs for his scheme. You see 'Back to the Future' ends with the three of them getting in the time machine and flying off into another adventure because the creators thought it'd be a cool ending; there was no intention of ever following up on it.

When the film actually got a sequel the creators were forced to deal with the fact that Jennifer was coming too... which they did by knocking her out and then leaving her asleep on her porch at the first opportunity. So she's not going to be player 2 unfortunately.

I'm sure the writing on that back bumper says 'DELSPEED' instead of 'DELOREAN'.

In the movie Doc's plan was for Marty to go to the future and impersonate his own son but I'm thinking that this time it'll mostly involve hoverboard platforming. Wait, if this level was set in the present day, where’d Marty get the hoverboard from huh?

Hey, a word I can finally translate all by myself! The katakana under 'ROUND' says ‘password’, which makes me wonder why they didn't just use English like they've done everywhere else.

Plus there’s some kanji there on the right that says ‘future’, but I needed Google Translate for that. Turns out that playing lots of video games is actually a terrible way to learn Japanese.

Super Back to the Future Part 2 password screen
The game doesn't have battery backed up saves but four letter passwords aren't so bad.

Though seeing as the password screen looks like the DeLorean's date input display, they could've taken the next logical step and had the codes be a unique combination of date and time for each stage. And I'm so glad they didn't.

Well I ballsed that up. It wasn’t my fault though! It turns out that Marty can steer just fine mid-jump, as long as he’s already moving left or right. But if I press jump without moving he goes straight up and then straight back down again and no amount of wishing on my part can change that. It’s really annoying.

The future’s looking cool though. Uh, I mean the present day. Glad to see they’re building artificial hills out of interlocking red tiles now in the middle of the street now. It makes hoverboarding more interesting and all the cars fly these days anyway.

Marty seems more or less invulnerable when he’s spinning, even against bullets, which is good as it’s the only way I can get past these cops blocking the path.

Wait… the fuck was that cop holding just then?

Whoa, he whipped out a revolver as tall as he is! It fires bullets as big as his giant super deformed head!

It's also a little bit odd now that I think about it that they're shooting hoverboarders on sight. I don't want to disintegrate people by pulling off sick hoverboard flips in their face, but they're not giving me much choice here!

Well that’s kind of weird. I guess they're drinking dehydrated cans.

There’s been no jokes about Jaws 19 the Cubs winning the World Series or anything like that by the way, but I've found the Hill Valley town hall at least. Beside Marty that's the only hint that I'm actually in 'Back to the Future, Part II' right now, aside from this damn theme. It started playing over the title screen and it still hasn't stopped yet! I never thought I’d ever hate this tune but I’m getting there.


ROUND 1-2 未来
パスワアド BOSS


Damn, they’re not screwing around with these boss fights.

It's been a while since I saw the movie so I can't remember exactly why Marty's fighting Biff Tannen's grandson in an 80s themed diner, but it does seem kind of familiar.

Griff Tannen is a hulking monster armed with two baseball bats and a limitless supply of Pepsi Perfect, but I know how to beat him; I just send the Michael Jackson themed TV waiter out to take his order. The hard bit is getting down to the switches. It doesn’t help that the jumping is so awkward and not in a fun Castlevania kind of way. 

Dude, you can lay off with the bats now, I'm pretty sure you got him! You've shattered Marty's legs and rib-cage. That goes to whoever's dropping bottles of Pepsi from the ceiling as well.

Well at least now I know that I reappear at the beginning of the boss battle when I lose a life, so I’m getting important research done here. Next time though I should check what happens if I win.


SECONDS LATER.


Okay, I did not expect that to be so easy. I really did just stand in the middle of the room and tap the jump button until he died. Sure walking into him cost me a hit point but I think I can live with the outcome.

By the way, see that arcade machine in the background? In the movie that was a NES lightgun game called Wild Gunman, which is getting a Virtual Console release on the Wii U right about... tomorrow actually. Though you have to use your hands to play it, so it's pretty much a baby's toy by present day standards.


ROUND 2-1 未来
パスワアド HEAD

Now the action is moving over to the purple side of town and I am not a fan of these floating indestructible spiky things they have here. They’re kind of hard to see when you’re in a hurry.

At least the music’s finally changed. Now it’s playing the Sonic the Hedgehog remix of the 'Back to the Future' theme instead (with a hint of Soccer Kid). Here, have a YouTube link to save me from struggling to describe it with words.

I've fallen into a pit? Why does future Hill Valley have a pit with vending machines at the bottom? Oh, by the way I figured out what these power up boxes are. They're kind of like vending machines that require me to hand over the amount of cash marked on the front before they'll break open. It seems like the kind of system that's appeared in a million other games before but I'm struggling to name even one right now.

I also know how to get out of the pit! If I just keep jumping at that wall on the right he'll eventually make it to the top. Doesn't work on every wall, just the ones that look like a zip. I guess it's there to help robots get around or something.

Agh, so close! This section of the game is a pain in the ass, as I have to leap from flying car to flying car… and then inevitably screw up and fall back down to the bottom again.

It’s a pain because they’re all flying left and right and if one of them intersects with the one I'm on I get knocked off. Plus there's that awkward jumping tripping me up again. I want to go right, Marty wants to go straight up in the air, and the car's moved by the time he falls down again.

I think I may have to come to terms with the fact that I’ll never leave this place, that I’ll never reach the top of that wall. Sure I have my own flying car, but I can’t call Doc for a lift as cheap convenient mobile phones haven’t been invented yet!


EVENTUALLY, AFTER THE BIT WITH THE CARS.


Okay, that was unexpected.

And that’s why good platformers scroll the screen over a bit to let you see what you're running into. You know what else good platformers often have? Checkpoints. Not here though, I’m getting sent right back to the very start of the stage!

It’s my own fault though really. I should’ve learned to slowly edge forward the first couple of times I ran into those spiky balls earlier. It’s not like there’s any time limit to worry about.

Oh come on, right after I made it past the hovercar bit? I don’t want to do the cars again, please don’t make me do the cars again! There's so many futuristic phone booths around (now there's a contradiction) that you'd think they'd be used as checkpoints, but nope. Phone boxes are traditionally a time traveller's best friend, but not this time.

This GIF has been cropped to lower the filesize, but I haven't cut anything off the right side of the screen. That is exactly how much warning I got about the spike wall.


MUCH LATER.


So this is my life now then.

I've actually done this a few times now, I just keep screwing up later down the level. I made it across flawlessly on one run which just makes it more annoying I can't get out of here now.

In fact I’m going to do something here I never do and pass my controller to a friend and let him beat the stage, because I'm bored and I want to see what's coming next. I'm sure if I put my mind to it I could eventually accomplish it, but I can’t stand being stuck in this time loop any more. The game's just not good enough to get away with not having checkpoints.


ROUND 2-2 未来
パスワアド FROG

Oh, turns out that Griff is what's coming next, and he’s gone and picked another terrible place to fight, because there’s two switches you can use against him here as well (if you feel like it). Sure they’re a bit close to that dangerous looking water, but it’s fine, hoverboards can glide on water. In fact I haven’t seen a single bottomless hole or spike pit in the game so far.

There you go, Biff’s grandson has been beaten so hard he bounced across the rooftops, and we've done everything we came here for, I guess. Seems like the game's not straying that far from the plot of the movie.

Which means that this is the bit where original Biff figures out that they have a time machine and changes history to make himself rich!

Then he goes and brings the DeLorean back, giving our heroes the means to defeat him. Because he's an idiot. Not that Doc Brown couldn't just build another time machine with all this futuristic technology around, assuming he didn't blink out of existence first (I never did figure out exactly how that works).


ROUND 3-1 現在
パスワアド IRON

Unaware that their present has been changed, Doc, Marty and Jennifer return to a timeline very different to their own. It's always night for one thing and there's enemies around.

Now that we're in the bleak altered present day of 1985, the music’s shifted to something that only very vaguely sounds like the Back to the Future soundtrack, which is a relief: YouTube link. This is a dystopian alternate timeline where Marty’s dad is dead, his mother’s married to Biff, and Hill Valley has become Gotham City, so of course they’ve chosen happy video game music to go with it.

Check out this force field pick up by the way. When you buy this shield it’s like you’re getting an extra hit point, except this one plays an alarm! A constantly blaring alarm sound you can only get rid of by running into an enemy. The developers learned a lot from Sonic the Hedgehog, but they didn't learn the value of catchy power up music.

You know I’m starting to think this moving platform we're waiting for is never coming back down.

Well this is where the moving platform takes you. There's no need to play around up here on the springs collecting coins, the game's not a collect 'em up by any means, it's just a smart move to have some cash handy to buy hit points, shields and extra lives. It sure gets frustrating though when you find yourself doing this every single time you screw up and have to replay the level.

Also this is a really dangerous thing to do, falling out of the sky like this. There's no falling damage, but Marty can only hurt enemies when he's spinning and if he lands on anyone in his current non-rotating condition he'll lose a precious hit point. I have to keep reminding myself that it's not a typical platformer and I have to steer away from the enemies.

Haha, I knew what was coming the second I saw this gap coming up. I can't say I was expecting them to send Wesker after me though.

The town's definitely gotten a lot more dangerous and unfriendly after Tannen's rise to wealth, they've even started lining the pavement and tunnels with spikes, though that wouldn't be so bad if McFly just controlled a little better. Even getting him standing exactly below the gap was a little harder than you'd expect, considering that he's got next to zero momentum or inertia.


EVENTUALLY.


Hey it's a another non-animated pixel painted interlude, always nice to see these between levels. A level select or map would've been cool too but I'm not greedy.

Uh, what does that say? "Biff Tunns Museums"? He's got a nice looking waxwork there though, looks authentically constipated.

You know it's funny how BTTF 2 kind of has the opposite message to BTTF 1 in a way.

I mean Back to the Future 1 ends with the McFly family gaining the self-esteem and confidence to live happier and more successful lives, that's how the ending's meant to be read, but from another point of view Marty completes his quest and is awarded with money and a 4x4 truck. That's what Crispin Glover hates about it anyway. BTTF 2 on the other hand reveals that improving his family's fortunes didn't automatically result in Marty's own future happiness and when further time travel leaves his family incredibly wealthy in the present day, it turns Hill Valley into a nightmare for everyone.

Of course the fact that Biff killed his dad and married his mother has something to do with that as well.


ROUND 3-2 現在
パスワアド BUST

(Bit of a subtle movie reference in the password there.)

Damn that was fluky.

It's not technically a good thing to slip past enemies instead of hitting them, but this looked cool so whatever. Someone in Tannen's building actually gets to live and go home to their families tonight! Of course we’re going to go back in time after this level and alter their last 30 years so we could well be wiping out their families as well due to the ripple effect, but he's got a couple of hours left.


ROUND 3-3 現在
パスワアド WOLF

Okay this is actually a pretty inventive boss fight. Biff's goon has got his elaborate Mario Bros. inspired security contraption set up to drop cannon balls out of the pipes and crush unsuspecting intruders (because seriously, who’d suspect this?). But Marty can smash through the bottom of the trap to let the cannon balls bounce onto his own head instead! That’s why the guy needs to constantly operate the trap repair mechanism, to drop new blocks in place over his head from a crane on the ceiling.

So it’s a fight between him dropping new blocks and Marty destroying them, with him firing off three-way shots from his trumpet in between.

Because of course he’s got a trumpet gun, why not?

Oh in case you’re wondering, yeah you can just drop through the hole and jump on his head instead. You can even leap into the pipes afterwards and ride them back to the top. The main problem with this fight though is it takes absolutely bloody forever and there’s no indication how much health he’s got left. Also the lag.

Fortunately it seems that the game has infinite continues so you can repeat a level indefinitely without having to type the password in each time.


ROUND 3-4 現在
パスワアド BLUE

It appears that Biff's whole security system in here is based around balls. He must be been inspired by Marty's bowling ball attack in the NES game.

Also Round 3 never bloody ends does it? If I remember how Back to the Future II goes, after confronting Biff they go back in time to 1955, so we'll be getting a change of scenery any time now. Hopefully.


ROUND 4-1 現在
パスワアド JACK

Hey this isn't 1955, this is just some graveyard in miserable present day Hill Valley! I love the dancing flame-haired British punk though, it's interesting to see how Dynamite Headdy's life turned out completely different in this timeline.

Well I don't need to see the past anyway, I've spoiled enough of the game already. And the movie now that I think about it. Sorry about that.


CONCLUSION

I can't stop humming the bloody 'Back to the Future' theme now, this is horrible.

Super Back to the Future, Part II on the other hand is alright I suppose. It's basically a secret Sonic the Hedgehog sequel except with no rings to grab and the brakes on. Well, kind of anyway.

I definitely wouldn't call it a particularly complicated game, as most levels I saw were just a straight run from left to right, navigating the various obstacles and weirdness in between. I didn't find any bonus rooms or chaos emeralds (or clocks) to collect along the way, so there isn't much there to encourage replays. Though there's definitely some cleverness in there, especially with the boss fights. I don't know if they're any good, but they're different!

While I was playing it I was keeping my mind occupied by making a mental list of all the things that were frustrating me along the way, and by my reckoning the three main problems that really drain the joy out of the game are:
  1. The way Marty launches straight up like a rocket if you try to jump without moving.
  2. His inability to stomp enemies when he's not spinning.
  3. No checkpoints.
But while it might not be that great to play but when it comes to the graphics they nailed it and those pixel art visuals are the game's real selling point. I'm usually not keen on adaptations taking too many liberties with the source material, because it often leads to the original charm being flushed away in favour of whatever the new creator feels like doing. See: every video game film ever (or the NES Back to the Future games for that matter). But there's no way a SNES platformer was ever going to look or feel like 'Back to the Future', they were doomed from the start, so I can't blame them for playing to the console's strengths and going with the super deformed art instead. The way I see it, if you're gonna turn a movie into a platformer, why not do it with some style? This is unmistakably SUPER Back to the Future and it's a joy to see in motion. When it's not suffering from slowdown that is.

So I can't exactly recommend playing it, but if you can trick someone else into playing it then it's probably worth a look! Definitely going to be a better experience for you than playing those other classic 'Back to the Future' games at least.


Thank you for reading my humble article, as always you're welcome to leave comments. I'll be taking some time off from the the site for a while, but please remember to check back on August 3rd 2032 to read my next article, about Demolition Man.

Actually I promised to play an indie platformer released on Steam on recently, so you can look forward to that next week, and the week after I'll be playing... a horror game I guess.

4 comments:

  1. Phew. I was afraid you were going to do that crappy telltale adventure game. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I sort of like that Sonic style remix of the BttF theme. I am probably a bad person.

    The music in Ogre Battle always reminded me of BttF's soundtrack, this one in particular. I mean, it doesn't sound like a version of the film's theme, but like its cousin or something.

    Ye gods, I make no sense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Given that Hitoshi Sakimoto did the music for both Super BttF Part II and Ogre Battle, you totally make sense!

      Delete
    2. I had no idea! That explains it!

      Delete

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