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The SNES Classic had a sterling assortment of games from Nintendo's 16-bit star console, but it's hardly all that system has to offer a modern audience. In each installment of this fortnightly feature, I judge two games for their suitability for a Classic successor based on four criteria, with the ultimate goal of assembling another collection of 25 SNES games that not only shine as brightly as those in the first SNES Classic, but have equally stood the test of time. The rules, list of games considered so far, and links to previous episodes can all be found at The SNES Classic Mk II Intro and Contents.
Episode VII: Hakkun Smash!
The Candidate: Nintendo/Indieszero's Sutte Hakkun
Sutte Hakkun is one of those legendary lost Nintendo games that's overdue for a remake, especially with Nintendo's current philosophy of being all-in on portable-ready games. The game has a wild history, serving as a prototype of sorts for original programming on Nintendo's Satellaview service. A puzzle game that could be downloaded in level installments made for an enticing prospect for the fledgling digital distribution service, and Sutte Hakkun was one of a handful of games created especially for it. Its success, however, eventually ensured a "Definitive Edition" sold via Nintendo Power - a separate, less internet-intensive game purchasing service in which people brought blank SFC carts to kiosks in participating game stores and conbinis and wrote games directly onto them for a modest price. It also eventually ended up on the Virtual Console service for the Wii and Wii U in Japan many years later, completing the trifecta of Nintendo digital distribution formats. Of course, you could always just plump for the standard physical release too: with a release date of June 1998, it was one of the system's last games to be sold on a physical cart.
In addition to this distinctive background, it's also the first game to be developed by Indieszero. The creators of the Retro Game Challenge series - based on the GameCenter CX Japanese TV show - and the Square Enix musical crossover Theatrhythm games got their start with this modest puzzler, working alongside Nintendo's in-house R&D2 development team to create a Satellaview-ready game.
Sutte Hakkun is the kind of puzzle platformer with a small number of moving parts that finds its difficulty in necessitating increasingly elaborate solutions, often requiring some strict reflexes on top of the usual puzzle-solving perspicacity. The eponymous hero is a transparent bird who is able to absorb and deposit various items to where they need to be in order to reach valuable rainbow shards, of which there are usually one or two per level. In addition, Sutte can absorb paint and fill items with that color, which can lend it different properties. A red block, for instance, will start floating up and down while a blue one will float left and right. There's a handful of mechanics to learn early on, and then every subsequent level simply builds on what you already know. I tend to be a little ambivalent towards this approach to puzzle games - on the one hand, I appreciate that I can start a tough puzzle with the foreknowledge that I already have all the techniques I will need down pat, but on the other hand it means the puzzles become a little repetitive before too long. Sutte Hakkun has at least 100 puzzles, most of which rely on the same handful of techniques and objects, which is probably more than I'd prefer; however, given the game's then-unique backstory as an iterative game released in episodes, I can appreciate how such a large number came to be.
If I were to compare Sutte Hakkun to a modern puzzle game, I'd probably opt for Two Tribes's Toki Tori. Beyond the whole cute eponymous bird protagonist angle, both games do a lot with a little, finding multiple diabolical puzzle scenarios based on a handful of mechanics, with an emphasis on exacting precision and timing. The two Toki Tori games, despite appearances, seemed to get exponentially more difficult the further you got in, though the relative lack of moving pieces and the truncated nature of the playing area meant that you were rarely stumped for too long. This gave the game the elusive (and illusive) quality that all puzzle games strive for: being challenging enough that its players feel like geniuses for solving a stage, without being so difficult that it loses their attention/affection from mental fatigue.
A subtle puzzle game that was ahead of its time, better suited perhaps for this modern era of Nintendo-exclusive puzzle-platformers in the vein of Pushmo or BOXBOY!. But how does it rate in our P.O.G.S. system?
- : If Tetris has taught us anything, and it's taught us a lot, it's that puzzle games with a basic interface and graphical style can persist throughout the ages if the core is appealing enough. Sutte Hakkun's simple, cute pixel graphics haven't aged a day, and are clear enough to ensure minimal visual confusion. Similarly, once you have a handle on its mechanics and certain techniques like a post-deposit lift (this raises blocks a little, which can often be vital for reaching higher platforms) and using the L-button to choose between multiple overlapping objects, the only obstacle to success is your own wits. The game's as fresh now as it was when it came out twenty years ago. 5.
- : We didn't see too many pure puzzle games for the Super Famicom/SNES, and the ones we did get usually fit a pre-existing model: Puyo-Puyo, for instance, which originated on the NES and MSX, or Picross which first came to prominence via pen-and-paper magazines. With the exception of a few new block-stacking variants like Panel de Pon, Pac-Attack, Bust-a-Move, or Dossun! Gasenki Battle, truly original puzzle games for the platform were few and far between. Sutte Hakkun's mix of block puzzle and platforming was still fairly distinctive back then, even if puzzle-platformers are now ubiquitous within the Indie sphere (or cube, as the case often is). 4.
- : When judging puzzle games on their gameplay, I tend to focus on two things - how reliable the controls are for the exacting timing that the puzzles demand, and puzzle variation. Sutte Hakkun nails the former, with responsive controls that set some clear boundaries for what you can and cannot do - for example, jump beyond a certain fixed height or length. In addition, the game's eagerness to please means it has a few welcome quality-of-life features, including a mid-stage quick save/quick load tool that players can use to ensure they don't have to keep pulling off the same difficult maneuver each time they need to restart a level. In addition, the game smartly scores the players on the actions they've taken, rather than a time limit: you won't lose any points from simply sitting there and staring at the screen while you figure out the solution, and there are no moving hazards or enemies that will force your hand before you're ready to execute. (Though, ultimately, points are immaterial beyond high score tables.) While the puzzle variation is a little lacking, I can't fault the game in this category. 4.
- : Sutte Hakkun's presentation and backstory are, as is typical for the genre, threadbare. The visuals are clean and sharp, with a lot of character inserted into its avian hero and the "mokkun" creatures that are involved in many of the puzzles, and some delightful, peaceful backgrounds to stare at as you calm down from whatever is causing you frustration in the current level. The music, also befitting genre norms, is both pleasant and unintrusive. Let's just say the game's presentation can be summed up as "necessary plainness". 3.
The Nominee: Tomcat System/Ape's Sanrio World Smash Ball!
We're getting a double dose of cutesy on this week's SNES Classic Mk. II, as I visit an old Giant Bomb favorite with Sanrio World Smash Ball!. A licensed game that uses many of Sanrio's famous characters, namely Hello Kitty (who acts as non-playable referee, presumably so the game's intended grade school aged audience wouldn't fight over her) and Kerokerokeroppi, it was designed to be a multiplayer affair that takes elements of tennis and dodgeball to create a chaotic, vertically-aligned sports title that the whole family could enjoy.
Instead, it's become the sort of high-velocity, high-skill game that still occasionally invites sessions from more serious gamers like the Giant Bomb team, elevating it above its original intent as a quickie cash-in intended for undiscerning children. Maybe not quite "cash games at EVO" tier, but it's shown to have a surprising amount of longevity. Tomcat System, its primary developer, were a fairly minor development house working on licensed games, but Ape is perhaps better known for their work on EarthBound and the other Mother games.
Part of the game's appeal is in the variation of its arenas. Because each one is built differently with different features and chokepoints, the player's tactics have to change accordingly. This means that's less about playing the game well, but playing the specific environment well, and any system that rewards players for experience rather than pure skill - say, a fighter that requires some training in the ol' lab before you get a handle on its combos and cross-ups, rather than a button-masher anyone can be reasonably adept at immediately - tends to find itself a dedicated fanbase. However, the game is also - by design - accessible to anyone, and sometimes all you need is to be trigger on the button than your opponent. Between its simple controls and interface and the level of mastery it offers, it bridges the gap between a casual, fun party game and something more... well, hardcore, if that's a word that can apply to anything starring Hello Kitty. If you don't believe me, feel free to check out any of the times the Bomb Crew has taken to the field to slap a colored disc back and forth.
A kid-friendly free-for-all sports game with a surprising and perhaps unintentional level of depth in the competitive scene. How will it rate with P.O.G.S., which was itself a one-time playground institution?
- : This is one of those games where the preservation and originality factors are closely interlinked, as while we have a fair variety of twitch-based coach competitive multiplayer games there aren't many that does what Sanrio World Smash Ball! does. Windjammers is the closest approximation, and it too was a rare case of a game with no modern equivalent. Fortunately for Windjammer fans, the Neo Geo classic recently found its way to a modern rerelease. There's also the license: Sanrio's still popular at least, though perhaps facing stronger competition from the likes of Pokemon and other cute menageries. 4.
- : Sanrio World Smash Ball builds on games like Pong and air hockey and Breakout, and while it results in a fairly distinct package actually playing it feels familiar enough due to its roots. Even so, its particular brand of surreal sports-adjacent one-on-one multiplayer action was much rarer then than it is now, barring lesser examples like Bill Lambeer's Combat Basketball. 3.
- : Obviously, the appeal of Sanrio World Smash Ball hinges quite strongly on having a second player to compete against, as the AI's fairly basic. That said, there's a lot to mastering the game beyond simply hammering the swing button whenever the disc gets close. Learning to stay still to build your power shot meter is paramount, especially in such an active game where your instincts are telling you to keep moving for better placement, and all those different arenas give you various priorities and wrinkles to consider. It's a far deeper game than it first appears. 4.
- : Your affection for Sanrio's world of adorable mascots is going to determine how far you're prepared to tolerate the sugary universe they call home, but at least it's graphically diverse with its arena layouts and obstacles. There's no music while playing - the game is a tiny 2MB on cart, which means a lot of streamlining - but the cacophony of disc "plinks" as it hits walls and the players' swings would probably drown it out regardless. 3.