Okay, boys and girls, today we’re going outside the box a little bit, so bear with me. Y’see, we’re not just reviewing Super Scope 6, the game, we’re also going to check out the actual factual Super Scope itself, because let’s face it, the Super Scope is far too awesome to not be enshrined here.
To really understand the Super Scope, we have to go back to the days of the original NES. Back in those days, Nintendo cranked out a jillion peripherals for their little box: R.O.B. the robot, the Speedboard, the Power Pad, and a bevy of others, perhaps in an effort to convince gamers that their little 8-bit box could provide an arcade-style experience at home, or to provide a new dimension of fun to those who’d already joined Team Nintendo. But perhaps the most successful, both commercially and functionally, was the Zapper. The little red pistol broke onto the scene with Duck Hunt and Hogan’s Alley and would go on to make cameo appearances in games like The Adventures of Bayou Billy and Track and Field II.
But, there weren’t a whole lot of games that utilized the Zapper, and it wouldn’t be long before the NES gave way to Super Nintendo. Even though the Zapper was rather underused, the idea of a shooting gallery/arcade shooter game on a home console still had legs, and so somebody decided to create a new-and-improved Zapper, one that had to be SUPER enough to be worth of the Super Nintendo. That dinky little pistol wasn’t gonna cut it anymore, so what should it be? A rifle? Maybe something more like an Uzi?
No, they went whole hog, full fat and created the Super Scope, a giant plastic bazooka. Well, that’s certainly a lot more super than the Zapper. It required two hands, six (!) AA batteries, a sensor box that would plug into the controller slot, and a willingness to look like a complete dork while playing. I’m not going to go Wikipedia on you and pretend to explain the principles on which this beast worked, instead, I’ll just stick to personal recollections and such.
My parents got me this when I was maybe six or seven years old, because apparently they thought it would be comedy gold to watch their son attempt to play games with a device that was more than half his size. I didn’t find it funny. Oh, no. Instead, I felt like a combination of Rambo, Predator, and the Terminator when I played with it, and it was so badass to Little Dave that I would carry it around the house even with the rest of the stuff in the box. Hell, I even took it outside and pretended to shoot planes down (WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TODAY).
Now, at the time, my family only had one TV (a 21-inch Magnavox with wood paneling) so getting any game time at all was a win, but for my parents to agree to hook the Super Scope up, that was an EVENT. God knows I probably gave myself eye strain trying to squint through the eyepiece and the tiny eye-of-the-needle sized front sight, tired my arms out holding the damned thing for hours on end, and had to remember to always aim a little below and to the right because we could never figure out how to calibrate it perfectly, but I didn’t care. The Super Scope was my own personal Lawgiver.
Now, the collection of games that used the Super Scope wasn’t large, but it did seem better than the list of games that the Zapper was stuck with. Battle Clash, X-Zone, Bazooka Blitzkrieg, and of course, the SNES port of T2: The Arcade Game all featured it, amongst others, even Lamborghini American Challenge (couldn’t make that up). Even that craptacular Hunt for Red October game featured a bonus stage compatible with the Super Scope, and for the record, if you want to know just how foolish Little Dave was, I played T2 with The Scope before I ever saw a cabinet version. When the local arcade finally got one, I refused to play it because I thought the machine guns mounted on the cabinet were wussy compared to using my Nintendo-made hand cannon. Ultimately, though, the game best associated with the Super Scope was the game packed in with it, aptly titled Super Scope 6.
As you would imagine, Super Scope 6 is a very obvious tech demo, existing solely to show off your new toy’s powers and hopefully give something to keep you entertained while programmers figure out how to apply this new technology in a better game. That being said, it’s actually quite good, as far as pack-in games go. The titular 6 is the number of mini-games on the cart, broken up into two groups: Blastris, which features a couple of Tetris-style puzzlers as well as the legendary Mole Patrol, and Lazerblazer, which fulfills the required interplanetary/futuristic/anime war role.
Blastris A plays pretty much like Tetris, only left-to-right instead of top-to-bottom, and instead of rotating pieces, you simply blow blocks off the pieces to make them fit, which is something I’m pretty sure anyone who ever played Tetris would’ve liked to been able to do when they’re stuck with a never-ending conga line of those damn zigzag pieces…it also has a two-player mode, but only insofar as you swap turns; there’s no potential sabotage by one player on the other, sadly.
Blastris B resembles Tetris 2; you clear the board by lining up three of the same colored pieces, and you blast the falling pieces to rotate them to a different color. It sounds pretty simplistic, yes, but the introduction of metal pieces that can’t be rotated and will frequently ruin your setups will ramp up the challenge considerably.
The last game on the Blastris side of the ledger is probably the most famous game on the cart, Mole Patrol. It’s good, old-fashioned Whack-a-Mole, where you blast all the blue moles before the timer runs out to advance, but as you advance, you’ll start having to deal with pink moles, which, if shot, cause the screen to go wonky, the timer to speed up, and swap your Coke with Pepsi. It would be simple enough to avoid shooting them, but as you whittle the blue mole population down to the last few stragglers, the game has a nasty habit of deciding that nothing but pink moles are going to pop up for long stretches, so it’s not uncommon to run out of time because you got to the last mole with 15 seconds to go and you ended up drawing nothing but pink moles until the clock ran out.
Lazerblazer is a bit closer to the spirit of the Super Scope; you’re at war with…well, something, but they have angry-looking ships and they need to be blazed… LAZERBLAZED. The first game on this side is Intercept, which seems to draw heavily from arcade classics Defender and Missile Command. You’re basically a turret of sorts, watching enemy missiles fly from one side of the screen to the other, and you have to…um…well…intercept them. There are four different sizes of missile, with a higher point multiplier for tagging smaller missiles. However, it’s not necessarily that the missiles are smaller, they’re also considered further away, so not only are you trying to hit a smaller target, your shots have further to fly to reach them, so you have to find the timing to lead your shots properly, and when you’re limited to only three shots on-screen at a time and hampered by multiple missiles flying at once, you pretty much have to be spot-on the first time.
After Intercept is Engage, where you’re now flying a ship of your own (kinda, you don’t handle any of the actual flying) and destroy a certain number of enemy ships before you run out of fuel. Your opposition is also helpful enough to show up one at a time or in convenient formations, and the ships themselves don’t actually fire at you. Instead, you’ll eventually have a missile fired at you in an erratic pattern (pointed out by a white crosshair) that you have to blast before it gets to you. It’s equal parts frustrating because of being a tiny target that dances around, and frustrating because it can buy the enemy ships enough time to go off-screen while you’re busy fending off the missile.
Lastly, we have Confront, which puts you back in a turret fighting off enemy bombers that combine that annoying missile flight pattern from Engage with the fact that these ships actually shoot at you. Worse yet, a few enemies will also pull a page from the arcade shooter “HEY BUDDY, LEMME JUST POP UP RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!” playbook. Intercept can be hard, but Confront is the only game out of this group that drove me to f-bombs.
Graphics and sound are pretty solid all across the board here. The Lazerblazer games especially do a really good job of using scaling to give the impression of enemies bearing down or actual depth in the missile field on Intercept, and little touches like the HUD indicator for incoming missiles on Engage help give it an arcade feel. Blastris has a weird “Tetris in Space” motif to it, but I suspect the developers just went under the theory that “Super Scope = Future. Future = Space, therefore, Super Scope = Space” when they were designing it, so it does fit, for the most part. The moles on Mole Patrol resemble the Whammies from Press Your Luck more than any actual mole I’ve ever seen, but it’s still satisfying to blast one out of his hole and hear the whistle as he flies away. The only thing that might start to irritate you is the sound your shots make; no matter what the game, every shot will make the same “ka-thunk” sound. Every. Time.
Now, my above reminiscence about the Super Scope would lead you to believe it was all sunshine and gold coins, but that’s not the case, to be sure. The library of games that supported The Scope was decent, but also small, and a year after the Super Scope’s release, there were basically no more games coming down the pike for it, which I suppose makes sense, because not a lot of people owned one, and I’ve heard/read a number of complaints that components would go bad in the sensor box fairly quickly or the Super Scope just would not work on their TV’s. It was probably a little too big for its target demo, and you could get sore playing it for longer than a half hour at a time, which doesn’t help, either (I’m looking at you, Virtual Boy) But, it was a lot of fun while it lasted, and that’s the key thing…if I had to give it a score, separate from the game, I’d probably give it two-and-a-half stars; they tried, it was cool, but it wasn’t sustained.
As for Super Scope 6, if you look at it like an arcade quarter-muncher, it’s not bad. Yeah, it’s a tech demo game, and what you see is pretty much what you get, but you could get invested in a long run on a Lazerblazer game or setting a new personal best at Mole Patrol. There’s not a lot of variety in the actual gameplay besides point and shoot, but there’s enough little quirks to make it not feel like one game with six different coats of paint, and for a short burst of fun, you could do a lot worse.
Super Scope: Unique, and totally the coolest thing ever if you had it as a kid.
Super Scope 6: Not a bad little facsimile of an arcade experience at home, nice little range of games.
Super Scope: Decidedly not ergonomic, small library, hope it works on your TV.
Super Scope 6: Are you tired of pointing and shooting yet?