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Up from (Super) Obscurity

When I go to the numerous stores in CarlMarksGuyopolis which sell Super Nintendo games, I usually have a pretty good idea of what each game is. Space Shooters and Platformers get a big ol' pass, because that's not what I'm about these days. On the other hand, I'd buy any Beat-em-Up out there that I don't have, so I keep a sharp eye out for either of them.
However there's some games that I'm only vaguely familiar with -- I've read their names on the internet and remember enough about them to know they weren't exactly a space shooter, platformer, or traditional sports game...and if they're in the $5 price range, I'll often roll the dice and pick 'em up.
That's how I came to be in possession of...
Super Buster Bros.
What is it about, you say?
Well, if the North American cover art was to be believed...
...it'd be a M.C. Kids-style buddy movie, where a pair of cool cats run around having wacky adventures in a corporate-sponsor-friendly environment. Ok, so McDonalds isn't bankrolling THIS game, but I'm pretty sure the pudgy white kid is wearing pump-up sneakers, so you know Nike could be in on a piece of the action!
However there's nothing to worry about -- this is just a case of the North American regionalization team altering the Japanese cover art.
Let's discuss what each version of the cover art portrays:
  1. The Japanese version shows us goofy kids with bright primary color baseball caps firing bizarre grappling hook guns at cartoonish spheres, while disturbing Anime-style animals flit by.
  2. While the American cover art features a pair of Radical dudes with Bodaciously-backwards baseball caps, Fashion-Accessorized outfits in Designer Colors, wearing Pump-Up Sneakers whilst firing Bad-Ass Looking Laser Weapons at some unseen menace just off-screen.
I wonder which is more accurate to the game's content? Well, keep a sharp eye out as we go on, and you may be able to figure out the answer!
So, what is this game about?
In Super Buster Bros, you play as a dorky kid (with no sun glasses, pump-up sneakers or bad-ass laser weapons) who fires bizarre grappling hook guns at cartoonish spheres, and are occasionally pestered by disturbing Anime-style animals that flit by. Let's take a look at some representative pictures:
As you can see from the pictures above, there are bouncing things; they drop from some height and have bounce around according to the game's pretty straight-forwards gravity, ricocheting off walls and floors. The only odd thing about the gravity is that they tend to keep most (all?) of their momentum with each bounce; but that's probably for the best: otherwise after a while they'd be rolling along the ground and you wouldn't be able to shoot them.
Speaking of shooting, you can fire your hook-and-rope contraption straight up in the air. If a tiny ball hits the hook, OR the rope it trails behind it, the tiny ball will be destroyed.
When you hit bigger spheres, they split into two smaller spheres, and so on and so forth until they've split into tiny spheres, which of course are destroyed when you shoot them.
Though there are two different game modes you can select from...
Tour Mode is pretty much "the normal game levels", while Panic Mode is more of a "have more and more spheres dumped on you on a featureless screen until you lose". As such, we'll pretty much stick to talking about Tour mode from here on out.
In Tour Mode, you play the role of "Boy in a Blue Backwards Baseball Cap, who runs around with a device which shoots an infinite number of grappling hooks skywards." Your goal in life is to travel to every country in the world* and destroy all of their beachballs or balloons or whatever.
*: or at least the 15 countries acknowledged by the Super Buster Bros. World Tour Committee. Actually, since one of the countries is called "The Silk Road", it's quite possible that these are just random regions rather than actual countries.
Dude, the Holy Roman Empire was a really long time ago, I think you can say 'Germany' without quotes by now.
Your character's motivation and back-story is rather under-developed, but I like to imagine that he is the son of the brilliant but mislead scientist who created the evil balloon-like "Rover" device from the television program, The Prisoner, and he's trying to free his family from his father's legacy of shame by destroying every remaining sentient bouncing sphere he can find.
"Bustin' Makes Me Feel Good" -- Ray Parker Jr.
So, Super Buster Bros is basically an "action-y game with vague puzzle overtones," not unlike Lode Runner. Though the basic mechanics are simpler to explain than Lode Runner's, this game has a lot more bells and whistles (which is probably a good thing, seeing as how it came out about a decade later).
Let's explore further!
You get power-ups!
There are two common grappling-hook-gun power-ups, one rare gun power-up, and then a handful of minor power-ups and items.
Double Shot:
The most basic, most common, and probably most useful power-up is Double Shot.
Double Shot lets your character summon "Bennie the Cab", so you can travel more quickly around Acme Studios and Toon Town, and you don't need to worry about being killed by traffic when you cross the street.
No, wait a minute, scratch that -- I was thinking of the Whistle from the NES clapboard-em-up, Who Framed Rodger Rabbit? I'll start again:
Double Shot lets you fire a second grappling hook before your first grappling hook has finished winding its way up the screen. This is very useful, for reasons that should be fairly obvious if you've ever played a video game before (and if you haven't, you should probably try one, they're kind of amusing*).
*: I'm of course excluding any game made after 1999 in this statement, as I can't personally vouch for whether or not they're amusing. I'm inclined to believe not, because it seems like hundreds of thousands of man-hours were devoted to graphic upgrades, leaving little time for any other innovation.
 
Real Grappling-Hook-to-the-top-of-the-screen T-shaped Thingie
Now we get into nomenclatural trouble: because THIS power-up gives you a REAL grappling-hook-style weapon: when you shoot it, it flies up and affixes itself to the first ceiling it reaches, refusing to budge until an evil balloon collides with it or its rope, or it overheats(?) and explodes(!?!) a few seconds later.
Evidently normally you're just shooting harpoons, which just happen to trail long dongles of rope behind them...and it's only THIS power-up which turns your harpoon-launcher into a grappling-hook that Batman or Bionic Commando would be proud of.
Of course that's all incredibly confusing, so I've just given up and used the terms "harpoon" or "grappling hook" interchangeably throughout this whole article (thus blowing my chance for a Pulitzer).
Even more unfortunately than that, this power-up is kind of the game's "sucker" weapon*. Sure, there may be some times when it comes in handy (for levels with low ceilings and where you're only being attacked from one side?), but most of the time if your shot misses, you'd rather not have to wait a few seconds to attack again.
*: Anyone who's ever accidentally picked up The Torch as a weapon in Ghosts and Goblins will understand the pain that your Unnamed Buster Bro feels when he loses his Double Shot for this T-shaped Losergun.
Holy Crap -- Spread Gun?!
From the ridiculous to the sublime, we come to the "Machine Gun"/Spread Gun power-up.
This doesn't have the dangling rope tail that the basic gun/Double Shot/T Shot all include, but you can fire so rapidly and over such a broad area, that doesn't really matter.
It feels kind of like one of those "Game Breaking" power-ups, like in Arkanoid when you get the "L" capsule and can laser-blast every remaining brick before the ball even comes back down.
Sadly this power-up is just as rare as "L" capsules, and usually one of the spheres you destroy will drop a Double Shot or T-Shot on your head so fast that you're down-graded to normal gameplay before you know it. So long, Spread Gun...we hardly new ye!
There's also some cool items
There's some basic stuff -- Fruit (which grant a 1-up if you collect ten), and an Hour-Glass which adds to your (usually pretty generous) timer; they also result in more points coming your way. Of course, no sane player worth their salt cared about high scores since 1988, so let's get on to the good items:
The glowing blue Forcefield allows you to survive one collision without being killed, and the Clock stops time for a little while (5 or 3 seconds usually; there's also an on-screen countdown). While time is stopped you're also invulnerable, so it's a good opportunity to run right up under some of the giant spheres and repeatedly shoot them.
And if you find a pack of TNT, it will break every sphere down into the tiniest of spheres...but this often creates so much bouncing shrapnel that you get killed quickly, so use it at your own risk.
There's a few other gameplay quirks...
One thing of note: you can't jump. Aside from cutting down on your evasive maneuvers, one weird side-effect is that you automatically step up or down 1-square-height difference steps. For any step-ups bigger than that, you'll need to use the ladders.
Another odd thing is that most gaps and holes in the platform are just there for the spheres to bounce through, but you can't fit through them:
You can't walk under things unless they're more than four or five "squares" tall (for example in the ladder picture above, you can't walk UNDER those two green blocks).
Also you can't fall through gaps unless they're more than 2 squares wide (in the picture below, you walk OVER those two-square-wide gaps without falling in).
There's also some weird animal-ish enemies that show up from time to time...but it's unclear who's side they're on. Some just run around the top of the screen to give you some point-generating target practice...
But surprisingly few of them actually kill you if you hit them. For example, if you bump into these firey guys, they just "stun" you for a few seconds, making your gun not work. You CAN destroy them, if you shoot them a few times...but should you? Who knows!
Meanwhile, sometimes alligators waddle through, and counterintuitively these guys are even MORE helpful than the firey fellows: not only can you walk by them with no penalty, but they'll eat any spheres that they run into, saving you the trouble of having to bust the spheres yourself!
Seriously, what's your deal, Child-Like Alligator Being -- are you my would-be friend? My bitterest but most incompetent enemy? WHAT SECRETS DO YOU HIDE!? If only this game had a whistle; I bet Bennie the Cab would make you talk!
Well, anyway..
In tour mode, you just keep going until you lose all your lives and continues. Each time you die, the bubbles reset to their initial positions and you have to play the level again. When you lose all 3 of your lives, if you still have one of your (5? 6?) continues left, you continue on the same level; though your point total resets, and more importantly your collection of Fruit (ten of which give you an extra life) resets as well.
As you make progress you eventually get some extra-special super-duper positive feedback for ridding an entire continent of all its beachballs:
...then you keep going.
That's just good clean fun!
Overall it's a pretty decent little blast-em-up; I guess it gets points for being an arcade-y action/semi-puzzle game which has nothing to do with Tetris.
There's enough going on that it'll keep you occupied, there's very few levels that set you up for immediate failure...though there's a few that suck that way (and ironically, some of the worst levels have NO walls whatsoever -- they just start with a whole screen-full of balloons dumped on you).
Also it's kind of cute how each level has a picture of the country in question...and as you get to later countries that have more and more levels, you get "morning, evening, night time" etc versions of the same picture.
And oddly enough, another thing that keeps it light-hearted is that you don't carry over your weapon or item power-ups from level-to-level (or from life-to-life, but very few games do that).
Though many of the power-ups are quite good, it's usually (always?) predetermined which one will come from which sphere or destructible wall in each level...so you don't need to obsess over hanging on to the Spread Gun or Forcefield because you're going to lose it before the next level anyway.
Yes, overall, a pretty acceptable little game...
Pretty fun, not much depth to it, and it probably wouldn't take too long to get good enough to win the world tour.
But there's just one thing that bothers me: ONE THIRD OF THE TITLE IS INACCURATE!
Since there's no Two-Player mode, this game only contains one "Buster Brother" -- why is the game called "Super Buster BROS"?!
MISSING: BUSTER BROTHER #2
Let's see if Pitfall Harry knows the answer!
"Forget the Buster Brother(s), I'm hangin' with M.C. Kids!"
— carlmarksguy, 2013-03-01
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