Fans of musclebound men with unlimited firepower and the ability to shoot in any direction, take note: You’ve got a tough decision to make during this month’s Clash of the Classics! One game stays, one game goes, and only your quarters can truly decide.
We’re pitting the 1990 Williams shoot ’em up Smash TV against the 1998 Capcom shoot ’em up Forgotten Worlds! Similar in concept but different in design, both games feature endless waves of enemies, shirtless protagonists, and 360-degree aiming to keep you on your surely-muscular toes.
Smash TV is quite possibly the perfect distillation of action movie excess and game show greed. Obviously inspired by semi-satirical sci-fi classics The Running Man and RoboCop, designer Eugene Jarvis brought the twin-stick-shooter gameplay of his 1982 classic Robotron: 2084 to the 90s with this game that dropped you in a twisted TV experience where you fought for your life in addition to big money and big prizes (“I love it!”). Set in the then-semi-distant future of 1999, up to 2 players were challenged to make their way through a labyrinth of rooms filled with increasingly dangerous (and plentiful) enemies, while collecting as much loot as possible.
Just like Robotron, the controls in Smash TV were deceptively simple for the level of difficulty you’d quickly face. Moving your hero with the left joystick in any direction and firing your weapon with the right joystick in any direction made you feel nearly unstoppable at first, but the first second you’re swarmed, you realize it’s not that simple! Fortunately, power-ups litter each room along with prizes, and playing with a friend not only makes it less difficult but more fun, too. Completing the game wasn’t enough of a challenge for gamers of the 90s – the fabled “Pleasure Dome” teased by the game had to be added after the fact once Williams got word that their game had been conquered but players were still seeking the ultimate reward.
Forgotten Worlds offers less humor and more complicated (arguably better) gameplay. Two soldiers equipped with jetpacks set out to traverse the crumbled remains of the planet in search of the evil god Emperor Bios to give him a piece of their mind (and about a million laser bullets). Blending fantasy tropes and sci-fi stereotypes, you’ll use high-tech weapons to take on all manner of mythical monsters, with five stages and eight bosses to conquer. Along the way, make sure you collect every glowing blue coin you see – it’s Zenny, and you’ll need it to buy power-ups, armor and more at the shops you’ll encounter in your quest!
Capcom made a concerted effort to stand out with the controls for Forgotten Worlds, forgoing traditional attack buttons or joysticks for a unique puck-shaped spinning controller. As with Smash TV, you move your player character with the left joystick. When it comes time to send a flying lizard man to its spectral home, you press down on the button/joystick to fire. Continue to hold down while you rotate, and pressing it rapidly will “megacrush” every foe on the screen, at the cost of precious hit points.
So, which is it: Entertaining television audiences for fortune and freedom in Smash TV, or saving what remains of the world in Forgotten Worlds? You’ve got a week to play your favorite as much as possible and make your choice known. Can’t decide? Play both and see where the coins fall! After Wednesday August 10, we’ll see what game stays and what game goes!