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Smorgasbored!

In there's one thing that 8-bit beat-em-ups taught us, it's that it takes a lot of time, energy and storage space to draw a unique enemy sprite. That's why Billy Lee (and sometimes Jimmy Lee) would beat up hundreds of clones of Williams, Lopar, Linda, Abobo and the gang*.
*: Abobo and the Gang: possibly cooler than "Kool and the Gang."
However, the dawning of the 16-bit era gave developers more storage space to work with, and...uh, can you guys tell I'm just making this up? Ok, good; let's take the history lesson as read and just get on to what I'm going to show pictures of this week:
Unique Graphics of Questionable Value in Super Nintendo Games
There, that wasn't that hard, was it?
Yes, ever since I discovered the bizarre and twisted last 2 rooms of GunForce
...I've been kind of fascinated with weird little throw-away pieces of game functionality that are only used once.
Why would developer go to all the trouble of drawing and programming a unique (non-boss) thing -- often adding new game functionality/behavior to support it, but then not reuse it? This is most notable in games that are fairly repetative otherwise, where repeating that weird and unique thing would add some welcome diversity to the other 99% of the gameplay.
Dammit, I've accidentally started writing like I know what I'm talking about again, so that means it's time to go straight in to the pictures!
Once Upon a Graphic in the SNES:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time — Giant Krang with laser eyes
Actually, I can't really complain about this one: Turtles in Time is a frickin' brilliant beat-em-up, with lots of creative use of level hazards. Even your "electrified turtle" graphic is used several different times (for the drill-bots grabby-beams, etc). So what if Giant Krang's Robot Body only lumbers by for a few screen-widths in the first level -- how else are you going to interact with a robot big enough to hug the statue of liberty?
So, why did I mention this? Well, mainly because I forgot that the skateboard lady is only in the NES TMNT II game because it is a nice set-up for...
Brawl Brothers — First Level Helicopter
The not at all Final Fight-knockoff Rushing Beat series of beat-em-ups takes a page from TMNT IV's book, by having a helicopter that hovers around the screen part-way through the first level, strafing you and your opponents with equal abandon. If any of those bullets hit you, you're immediately consumed in flames. Of course, that's a non-fist-or-foot related attack in a Rushing Beat-series game, so it hurts significantly less than being punched or kicked.
But you know what's even weirder? Brawl Bros takes a page out of Final Fight's car-smashing book, where you have to destroy an enemy's vehicle with your bare hands.
Except this time it isn't Bred's beloved car (whose destruction he bemoans with either taking the Lord's name in vain or calling it a car, depending on which country's verison you're playing). No, this time you've found that helicopter that was shooting at you in Level 1. You have survived its favorite game (namely, "shoot at dudes on a bridge"), so now you get to challenge it to a round of your speciality: bare-knuckle boxing!
Man punches helicopter...Film at 11!
Ghoul Patrol — rescue birds for fun and points
Ah, Ghoul Patrol, the kinda-sorta sequel to the always-fun Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Like a lot of half-baked games, it's scattered with unfinished ideas. One of them is "rescuing animals (who are not your neighbors) for points." You'd be forgiven if you didn't know this was something that happened in the game, because it only happens in the first level. There are several very tiny birds, which blend in with the grass and leaves outside the building in the first level. If you happen to spot them and then touch them, they disappear and you get 50 points.
Ghoul Patrol — redundant power-ups
The "Genie Bottle" potion in the first level is a unique item. However it functions exactly like a Med Kit: it goes into your inventory, and when you use it, you get all your health back. There seems to be a few other things like this -- a golden beer stein in the pirate level, etc. This time it's kind of an inversion of the question...why did they bother drawing several different sprites if they're not going to program new functionality? It kind of smacks of "half-implemented ideas that got cut due to time constraints."
Ghoul Patrol — run over by a car
Who can forget the "Titanic Toddler" from Zombies Ate my Neighbors -- a boss that not only sucked up bazooka rounds and exploding soda cans like they were Gerbers, but who dashed around the screen, injuring and often smashing your character flat (in the game's only "unique damage sprite"). These giant babies only appeared 3 or 4 times in the game, but each time they were a big part of the level they were in, and your unique "smashed kid" stun-sprite often meant you'd take several hits in a row.
Well, level 2 of Ghoul Patrol threw in the game's only instance of the "smashed kid" sprite: if you wander into the street, you can get run over by the weirdly-painted Edzells that rocket across the screen. Yes, it ticks another box in the "something reminiscent of Zombies Ate My Neighbors" checklist, but given that A) the road is fairly easy to cross without getting run over, II) you can't actually FIGHT the cars, and 3) it only happens IN THE SECOND LEVEL OF THE GAME, then not again...it earns its place on this "why did they bother?" list.
True Lies — Karate in the Park
If you ask me, True Lies is proof positive that every movie adaptation should be done as a top-down run-and-gun, rather than a platformer. It's brutal fun, and you never have to think to yourself, "hey, I don't remember the part in Cliffhanger where Stallone's character had to jump over 3 tiny platforms, using a variety of long-jumps and short-hops!"
Another liberty that this Schwarzenegger-em-up took with the source material is the addition of civilians: especially in the first few levels, Arnie has to watch his shootin', or he'll mow down some innocent bystanders. And they actually strike a decent balance between action movie realism (the hero miraculously never injuries or kills bystanders) and how games normally handle civilians in the line of fire (if you shoot them, it hurts you): whenever you blow away a non-bad-guy, Tom Arnold pops up and says something like, "the chief's going to be mad; don't do that again!" After your third unjustified killing, it's Game Over.
So, I mention all this because after the first few levels, there are less and less civilians about. It's fortunate because the bad guys really start showing up thick and fast, and having to watch your fire would be a pretty hard limitation (which is one of the reasons that the Mall level is kind of fun).
But back to the subject at hand: see those Karate Guys pictured above? They're civilians, not enemies. Killing 3 of those 4 will end your game real good. It's especially insidious because this is the first time you've seen this civilian type, and they're in one of the last levels where you have to worry about civilians in the entire game. To make matters worse, they do little "Hi-yah" yells when they're nearby. Because this level is a hedge-maze, you'll be near enough to hear them long before you'll actually be able to see with them...so you'll hear that ominous noise a few times as you work your way through the maze, then all of the sudden you'll see these sprites for the first time.
If you've gotten this far in the game, you know it rewards a shoot-first-ask-questions-later kind of approach....so, to summarize: they put these guys in here to surprise you into accidentally killing them the first time you saw them. And if that's not an odd use of a new sprite, I don't know what is!
True Lies — weird stick figure in the window
I don't even really know what to call it; this stick-figure face guy appears in exactly one window in the Oil Refinery level. He pops up, then waves/blinks/says 'HELP'/wears a hat...then goes back down below the window frame, only to repeat itself with a different action (click here for an animated version)
It's not hidden enough to qualify as an Easter Egg (it's right there in the window), and it's not "done" enough to serve some purpose (there's nothing special there, nothing you can do to the wall, and no way to get to the other side of that window). It feels like some crap someone put in a background layer and then forgot to remove!
Well, that's all for this week
I hope you've enjoyed these odd little cul-du-sacs in SNES history; hopefully next week I'll get my Friday article out on Friday!
— carlmarksguy, 2013-05-17
1
Did you try removing the background layers to see if anything else is around there?
2
Never mind above comment. I just loaded this up on an emulator and used a password to jump right to the oil refinery stage. Man, that is weird. It's like a graphic that was meant to show you where to go got left in the final product even though it wasn't necessary.
3
Yeah, like you said (and right after I posted this today :) I checked the background-layers thing, and it's just a background layer of its own. The funny thing that reminds me of making an animated GIF is that, if you look at only its background layer, you see a one-dot black pixel when its entirely hidden :)
4
The Genie Bottle thing reminds me of the Cheeseburger in Puss N Boots: "I normally would not be taken aback by the existence of a cheeseburger power-up in a video game, but when it's the only cheeseburger in the entire game, then it seems weird for it to be floating in the sky."
5
Wow, Puss N Boots seems really really weird. And for the record, the birds in the horrible NES "Dr Jekkyl n Mr. Hyde" drop the same "fake dog-doo swirl" on you as in "N Boots"; except in Dr J it's dog-doo brown instead of Boot's more avian-appropriate white.
7
Forget Samus and Link, True Lies Stick Man is my new favourite 16-bit character. He's just so friendly! Also I can't see that giant Krang's brow as anything but a butt.
8
Krang's brow-butt is indeed disturbing. And "True Lies" stickman is perhaps the unsung hero of the piece! It's be great if he got his own spinoff with another over-the-hill comedy star as his wisecracking mission-objective-describing sidekick (perhaps George's mom from Seinfeld?)
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