This installment was written by long-time friend of mine, Jefferson Taylor, who also penned last year’s piece Nightmare in the Dark a similarly off-beat horror-themed title.
In all of my years spent thoroughly enjoying the vast library of the Super Nintendo/Super Famicom, I’d somehow overlooked The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang. This may have been due to the higher profile titles of the time (Super Metroid, Final Fantasy III, Earthworm Jim, etc.) streeting around the same time. This may also have been attributed to the fact that (in comparison to the Japanese release) the U.S. boxart is a substantial turn off, with it’s generic, almost ‘edutainment’ vibe. Whatever the reason(s), I’ve finally paused long enough to give this quaint little action RPG it’s due time in my life, and here’s what it had to offer:
“The islands of Vladamasco were world’s away from humankind. It was a land of monsters and misfits ruled by three strong leaders; Dracuman, Vampra, and General Von Hesler. And so it was for many centuries, until the greedy Von Hesler mounted an attack on the other island leaders. With dark magic and an army of zombies, Von Hesler took control of all three kingdoms. During the final battle, Vampra’s daughter, Camelia, fled from the castle by moonlight to seek help from Dracuman’s son Spike McFang, who was training to be a warrior on an island far away.”
The set up, and serviceable story give necessary direction to the largely linear action that follows pressing the start button. Via (at times) lengthy conversations, the characters Spike meets along the way, dish out details that do their best to both further advance the plot, and explain what task lies immediately ahead. Not the most dramatic or engaging of stories, but it does the trick.
Building on the light story elements present in this game, the music does well to provide a suitable accompaniment to the upbeat visual design I’ll be speaking of next. It’s peppy, and fitting where it needs to be. Adding appropriate tone to the game’s lesser moments, or keeping you pumped to finish a tense boss battle, the soundtrack is composed in a way that nicely wraps the entire package in a bright, aural bow. Kudos to composer Hisashi Matsushita for this one :) To top this off, the sound effects are pleasant, blending in well to accomplish their task, without being too jarring or disruptive.
Moving on to what is Spike McFang‘s most notable quality, would be it’s visuals. Orientated in a top-down, isometric format, the graphics are all laid out in a wonderfully ‘chibi’ Japanese flair. Brightly colored, rounded and cute, they do the best job of keeping the player interested in moving from one section of the game to the next. No real usage of Mode 7 scaling, but effective use of the available color palette, and large sprites truly do motivate you to see what visual treats lie ahead!
Speaking of what lies ahead… that would be the areas of play control and difficulty. This is where I found Spike McFang to be at its most surprising, and in some cases, frightening. Spike is very responsive, rarely (if ever) coming off as awkward or laggy. Jumping is solid, and diagonals hit how they should. His methods of attack are mildly varied, quickly growing on you after a few introductory training missions. These things are all great, because I found this game to be unexpectedly tough, particularly in the areas of boss battles. You’d best pack a lunch, as many of the bosses are a real grind. Not so much as in overcoming their individual techniques, but more in the way of simply repeating what works to whittle down their seemingly unending health points. The other factors of the game may represent this as a title for younger players, however, the difficulty proves otherwise. (Upon further research, it appears the difficulty in the U.S. version had been increased over that of it’s Japanese counterpart, by means of enemies receiving higher defense, and Spike not having his health replenished after gaining a level.)
Overall, I found The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang to be a solid entry in the Super Nintendo’s already impressive library. A game that reps the systems hardware capabilities well, and helps to solidify it’s rightful place as an exceptional console. As a cheap joke (in reference to Spike’s primary method of attack), you could do far worse than to give this one a whirl :)
- Released: June, 1994
- System: SNES
- Developer: Red Company Corporation
- Publisher: Bullet-Proof Software