Retro Review: Super Back to the Future 2 (Super Famicom)

Review-Super-Back-To-The-Future-IIWhy are so many film licensed games rubbish? That question is down to personal taste and preference of course, but the homogeneous lump of us are generally in agreement that movie tie ins are a load of old trousers. The LJN games of 8 and 16-bit lore are synonymous with being mediocre and were thrust into the limelight with the rise of the Angry Videogame Nerd. That is a different tale however, we all now consider that video gaming 101.

Let's not just blame LJN as there were loads of companies in it for a quick buck. My beloved Ocean Software were the godfather of film games with quality titles like Robocop, The Great Escape and Batman for example. But they seemed to lose the silver screen magic when making the jump from the C64 and Spectrum to the NES and later 16 bit machines. Vacuous holes such as Dennis The Menace, Cool World and Hook added to the plethora of dross constantly littering store shelves. I'm not even going to get into one of my latest purchases - The Flintstones...

Let's Take A Step Back

The Back to the Future films (1985 - 1990) were and still are regarded as one of the greatest trilogies ever made. Even today the films have stood the test of time (ideals of technology advancement permitted) and are considered timeless classics. LJN (Beam Software) had already butchered the trilogy's transition to the gaming world on the Nintendo NES and the other numerous titles (BTTF 3 on Mega Drive / Amiga springs to mind) on other systems failed to meet the stature that the films suggest. We were duped anyway and bought in on the license... and regretted it. So it comes to a surprise that in 1993 (nearing the dawn of the 32bit era) electronics firm Toshiba published Super Back to the Future 2 (SBTTF2) on the Super Famicom. Is it the angelic gospel choir music on the way to film license heaven? Or is it languishing in Virtual Boy hell with Waterworld?

Immediate reaction and I'm excited. Official music score by Alan Silvestri? Check. A Mode 7 back to foreground of the DeLorean to whet your appetite that doesn't look guff? Check. Already this is better than several film tie in games. The main thing I notice is colour, masses and masses of the stuff. Big, well detailed chunky anime inspired sprites fill the screen and just pop with character. You control Marty McFly in his quest to stop Biff Tannen from changing the future. He has stolen a Sports Almanac and given it to himself in the past, to make him rich in the future. This has a detrimental effect on all around so cue lots of jumping around on a pink Mattel hover board in a quest to stop him.

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Whoa. This is heavy.

Weird over the top enemies: policemen with huge over exaggerated guns, biker gangs, robots from the future all vying for Marty during each stage before the game gets all the more sillier. Golden busts of Biff's head, a myriad of falling objects and even balloons with constipated faces round up an obscure cast of characters. Each frame of animation has its own foibles as does Marty - dangling over a ledge precariously will see an eye pop out of his head with fear which is a stark contrast to his cool demure grin as he spin jumps (your only attack) foes. Marty's death animation is a slight cause for concern however - he grasps himself, X X's for eyes as he rocks back and forth, seemingly hoping Rolf doesn't come back again.

The stages reflect the film to a point, Hill Valley town square (clock tower present in the background) to Tannen Towers (in the future) to the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance (in the past). Even the boss fights reflect each area (cue a ripped, screen filling Biff Tannen!) As per any platformer worth its salt, coins are collected which can be used on vending machines strewn about each level. Various items such as extra hits and shields can be purchased, each varying in price. Be wary not to blow all your hard earned on something you may not need. Marty can take 3 hits before death (no cheap one hit deaths here!) - buying another hit when already on full hits does not give you any extra. So shop smart, shop S Mart...y.

Learning To Ride The Hoverboard

The controls need practice. SBTTF2 does include a practice mode on the start menu which you won't really need as the game only uses jump and run buttons; you really need to become proficient in the games' nuances though. Marty's' jump spin attack makes him more or less invincible to enemies so my first rule of thumb is to just keep jumping! Jumping can be an issue though, jumping and moving the d-pad does a small forward hop - handy for dispatching enemies where as you need to hold the direction first before jumping to execute a longer leap. This can be very tricky when trying to traverse small ledges and moving platforms! You can go faster on the hover board, but this will result in damage more often than not. There are no jumps that require huge speed (negates the need of the board to be honest as there are no ramps that require skill to get to different parts of the stage) but thankfully the camera doesn't suffer from fast panning when you turn (I'm looking at you Soccer Kid!) So second rule is to simply take your time - there is no timer so no need to rush. Absolutely no collecting clocks here.

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Everything in SBTTF2 seems relatively easy and straightforward. The stages are traversed with relative ease and early Biff bosses are taken down quickly. Suddenly the difficulty ramps up and kicks in with venom. Tiny ledges have to be hopped along and run-jump-combo'd whilst being abused by more enemies and even more projectiles from nowhere. Marr this with some frame rate issues and it can at times become a chore. When Marty dies you have to restart the whole stage again. Some levels are quite tricky and time consuming so having a check point would have been a godsend. One of the Biff Tower stages had a drop right at the end which plonked me right back at the start of the level! Come on! I have one moment of Indiana Jones curiosity and I'm punished for it!

The positives more than outweigh the negatives. Just the theme music alone (which is played 80% of the time) doesn't get dull, nor do the various re-arranged versions of it that are shoehorned into most stages. The story plays out via fun cartoon cut scenes, sadly these are in Japanese but it doesn't deter you from knowing what is going on. You will spot a "MARTYY!" shout regardless of what language its in! There is enough of the film in there to forgive the parts that aren't exactly true to the script.

So why was Super Back to the Future 2 was only released in Japan? It does look though it could have been a reskinned version of something, but when you consider how well Super Mario Bros 2 did, why wouldn't you release it everywhere? Plus the mind boggles as to the cost of obtaining the Back to the Future license in the first place - unless Toshiba had a deal with Universal for shifting tapes. So remember, the next time someone gives film games abuse saying they are all a load of old tosh, just correct them that Super Back to the Future 2 is not only decent, but is also hardly spoken of so you can slap down your foe with a knowledge bomb!

Super Back To The Future 2 (Super Famicom) Gameplay

Link: Find Super Back To The Future on eBay


Last Updated ( 21 March 2015 )  

James 'ewjim' Evans

Jim is a self confessed know it all when it comes to 16-bit gaming. With a strange fondness of playing rubbish videogames for the fun of it, there is no stoop too low he won't go to for entertainment.

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