Swat Kats – The Radical Squadron – The Video Game

Yeah, yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve done Amiga stuff. I’ll get around to it, I swear. Let me make fun of my own childhood a little more first before I go make fun of some British dude’s.

It’s that time again, boys and girls. That’s right, story time, back in those olden days before I was the bitter old 20-something I am today, shaking his cane and telling all those damn CoD fans to get off of my lawn. Let me tell you about… Swat Kats. Or rather, it’s jank ass video game for the Super Nintendo. But not yet. Let me wallow in my nostalgia for a moment.

The 90's, the decade that dared to say "You know what? Who needs the letter C anyway?"

The 90’s, the decade that dared to say “You know what? Who needs the letter C anyway?”

Wikipedia will tell you Swat Kats was an animated series that aired from 1993 to 1994 on TBS, with reruns playing on Cartoon Network for a while afterward. This would be technically correct. What they didn’t tell you is that for a young, impressionable Bobinator, it’d be the best damn cartoon on TV, next to Batman: The Animated Series. Seriously, I watched this show every single chance I got, and when they released the DVD of both seasons, you better BELIEVE I was all over that.

And with an intro like THIS, wouldn’t you?

I’m pretty this is the most metal thing you’ll ever see on children’s television, bar none. So, if you haven’t seen the series, let me sum it up like this. There are these two guys, Chance “T-Bone” Furlong and Jake “Razor” Clawson, pilots for the Enforcers, Megakat City’s police force. Yeah, everybody’s a cat. Look, just roll with it, all right? So, after disobeying orders to disengage a target lock on the evil Dark Kat (You know how every 90’s cartoon had some bad guy who was more dangerous, more powerful, and more competent than the rest? Yeah, that was Dark Kat.), and ending up partially destroying Enforcers headquarters, they get demoted to junkyard duty. Where they build a super-awesome jet and go out to fight crime, anyway. Which is good, because as it turns out, the Enforcers are frickin’ useless.

The best way to describe the Swat Kats as characters is if somebody took the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, only they put all the turtle’s personalities into two guys. They’re also a lot more violent. Like, they straight up end up killing quite a few of the villians over the course of the series. And then a bunch of executives from Turner Broadcasting Station ended up thinking that this wouldn’t be a good infuence for children, so they ordered the show cancelled in favor of more Captain Planet.

You know what else isn't a good influence for children? HITLER.

You know what else isn’t a good influence for children? HITLER. No, serious, he was in an episode of Captain Planet. Look it up.

The show that was NOT too violent, despite having episodes about drug use, including one where a guy got slammed through a window and bled to death, episodes about AIDS, episodes about gang violence… good clean family fun, over all. Overall, Swat Kats hasn’t aged entirely well, but if you’re into the sorts of stuff like the X-Men cartoon, Reboot, or what have you, you’ll probably enjoy it.

So then they made a game about it, as most licenses end up getting. It was only released for the Super Nintendo in 1995, published by Hudson Soft and developed by AIM. The only game from AIM I seem to recognize is Inspector Gadget, also on the Super Nintendo. Now there’s a game I could talk about. Much like Inspector Gadget, Swat Kats is a game where you at least feel like the people who made the game at least WATCHED the shoe behind it. Unfortunately, they didn’t care about making a really good game, so we’re left with… well, your average licensed platformer.

BADASS CATS OUT TO KICK YOUR ASS. Cute little cartoon bee!

BADASS CATS OUT TO KICK YOUR ASS. Cute little cartoon bee!

I hope you like this scene, you'll be seeing it a lot.

I hope you like this scene, you’ll be seeing it a lot.

So the game starts off with this scene here, showing off what can only be described as pornographic amounts of Mode 7. I’m pretty sure that this bacteria monster was in one of the episodes, even if I can’t remember if I saw it or not. I’m pretty sure it was in one of the intros, anyway.

Swat Kats (U)_00006

And title screen. For reference, T-Bone is the chunky one on the left, Razor’s the one on the right. Where would you be without me to tell you these things, right? The title screen tries the best it can to replicate the show’s theme song with the SNES’s sound chip, but it doesn’t quite make it. The SNES just can’t handle that level of metal.

All right, before we get things underway, let me tell you how I would have done a Swat Kats game. First up, Konami would do it, and it would basically be a game just like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons, maybe something like Bucky O’ Hare. You’d have a few levels about going around beating up various mooks, picking up different missles as special weapons. The Swat Kats love the hell out of their missles. And then you’d have a few SHMUP stages where you fly in their jet. Use villians from the show as bosses, cut, print, done.

This game doesn’t do that. Thus, this game is not very good.

That pose looks uncomfortable.

That pose looks uncomfortable.

For one thing, there’s no co-op. You get one Swat Kat or the other, and if you don’t like it, deal. Razor here doesn’t do as much damage as T-Bone, but he jumps higher. And he gets a jetpack. If you’re curious, T-Bone jets a bazooka that can blow up certain walls, but doesn’t harm enemies in any way. Again. Jetpack. The choice is obvious.

Apparently Megakat City can't afford a new map. The thing looks so old I expect to see "HERE BE DRAGONS" on one side of it.

Apparently Megakat City can’t afford a new map. The thing looks so old I expect to see “HERE BE DRAGONS” on one side of it.

So, there’s five stages, four on the map, with one after you beat all four. Each one has a villian from the show as a boss at the end, as you’d expect. That giant worm wrapped around that ship isn’t a villian, by the way. He’s just kind of there.

Not quite the Batsignal, but it'll do.

Not quite the Batsignal, is it?

Apparently the Swat Kats get contacted about crime through their email client. That doesn’t really seem like it could end well. Like, what do they do if their connection goes out, or T-Bone is too busy playing Minecraft to check? …Anyway, our first stage is Megakat City proper, with Dr. Viper as our boss for this evening. How bad can it be, right?

Swat Kats (U)_00011

So here we are in the game proper. It’s a platformer. I’m sure you’re shocked. Here we’ve got Razor, all here by his lonesome because T-Bone apparently just couldn’t be assed to save the city today. Take a look up at the health bar. I didn’t take damage. That’s how much you have to START with.

Swat Kats (U)_00012

Your main, or to be more accurate, ONLY method of defense is shooting missles out of your gauntlet. Problem is, these missiles have a range about one Kat long, so you basically have to get into what’s basically melee range to hit anything, anyway.  No special weapons, just you and your crappy missiles. Maybe there’s some kind of social taboo on clawing things, but you think the Swat Kats would have learned how to punch people or something.

Here's Razor, once again being cooler than T-Bone.

Here’s Razor, once again being cooler than T-Bone.

And as promised, here’s Razor on a jetpack. It sucks for getting any sort of horizontal movement going, but it can take you pretty far up before it overheats. Oh, yeah, you might notice my “Lv” went from 00 to 01. Some genius decided this game needed RPG elements, so every time you kill enough enemies, you do SLIGHTLY more damage, and get about a sliver of maximum health. Barely any you’d notice without going up at least 5 levels, though.

Oh, yeah, and there’s miniature versions of that blob monster wandering around for you to shoot at. They generally take about three rockets to the face to kill, which probably means that the Swat Kats are packing missiles loaded with glitter, for all the damage they do. It’s not like it’s going to hurt anybody, forever wandering back and forth across that girder.

You might think this is the only time they'll rip off Spider-Man. You'd be wrong.

You might think this is the only time they’ll rip off Spider-Man. You’d be wrong.

Also, they can both climb walls, which makes sense, I guess. Honestly, I tend to like games that let you crawl across walls. Gives more freedom of movement, and I’m big on that. Problem is every time you get to the top of the wall, your Kat will jump forward, which can mean you’ll probably end up hitting something if they’re on a ledge. It can also mean you’ll end up sticking to a wall if there’s one at the top of whatever you’re climbing. This doesn’t sound so bad right now, does it?

Something about this game seems familiar, actually… I can’t quite put my finger on it, except… wait…

Snikt, bub, etc.

Snikt, bub, etc.

Except that Mutant Apocolypse was a go — a game that I could dare say I tolerated playing. Mostly because they didn’t put RPG elements in a frickin’ licensed platformer. Seriously, that’d be like playing one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles beat-em-ups and having to buy and equip different kinds of katanas, figuring out which ones would raise your strength or agility more. Maybe if they made a Swat Kats Metroidvania, it would work. It would probably be better than this.

Swat Kats (U)_00015

And here we get a good look at the miniboss for this stage, being his Mode 7 self. Every time he steps down, stuff falls from the sky, so watch out for that. Other than, it’s basically just a left or right walk to the next part of the stage. You can tell because there’s a giant sign that says ‘NEXT’ on the far end of this substage. Not sure who’s convience that’s for, unless some construction crew figured that the Swat Kats would come by and get lost.

Swat Kats (U)_00016

T-Bone decides to finally make himself useful after doing crap all for the entire level. They’re about to get out the Turbokat, so it must be time for a fun SHMUP sequence, right?

Er, not quite.

If you want to imagine playing this, stare at the picture and spin your head in circles really fast until you feel sick.

If you want to imagine playing this, stare at the picture and spin your head in circles really fast until you feel sick.

So this is how the miniboss works: All you do is move the Turbokat left or right, shooting missiles at the big mouthed floating thingies, to borrow a phrase from the Doom comic. The monster doesn’t do much but stare at you slack-jawed, so all you have to do is dodge everything and not get hit. The problem is, it takes a while to actually get to where the monster is. And while you’re doing all this, the screen’s constantly spinning like they’ve won the frickin’ Mode 7 lottery. Imagine the scene below spinning in circles and constantly zooming in, and then getting faster. And faster. It’s really distracting, which means you’re going to get hit.

And when you do get hit, you start the sequence all over again. You don’t even lose a life, you’re just forced to start all over again, until you get it right, or you take a sledgehammer to the cartridge. But once you get inside the monster…

Great, now it's R-Type. Only not in the way I was hoping at all.

Great, now it’s R-Type. Only not in the way I was hoping at all.

This part of the fight is a little easier, mostly because everything isn’t spinning quite as quickly, and there aren’t enemies constantly spawning in. You’ve played video games, I don’t need to tell you where the weak point is. I will give you a tip, however, if you’re unlucky enough to play this game for yourself. Don’t fire all your missiles into one eye at once. Fire each one at a different weak point and you’ll kill it a lot faster.

Or you won't, because the damn thing still isn't dead.

Or you won’t, because the damn thing still isn’t dead.

Now it’s doing the Mode 7 thing like there’s no tommorow, spinning, zooming in and out, and generally being really annoying. The good news is that if you die here, you only have to start the fight from this thing’s first form This still doesn’t make this thing any fun to fight.

And so, after destroying the core, the bacteria monster explodes. And so, the city is safe, free from terror for a — oh, right, that was just the mid-boss, wasn’t it?

As Dr. Viper escapes through a giant Mario pipe, Razor quickly takes chase to the Mushroom Kingdom.

As Dr. Viper escapes through a giant Mario pipe, Razor quickly takes chase to the Mushroom Kingdom.

Swat Kats (U)_00026

Or the sewer works too, I guess. Can’t say I’ve ever seen one that’s actually outdoors, though. That CAN’T be good for Megakat City’s rent values, though. All joking aside, this part sucks. The parts with ooze on them are slippery, which can hard to make it stay on them. And the water below will instantly kill you. Which is fair, I suppose, since falling into sewer water would probably make anybody lose their will to live, too. Thing is, Razor pretty much plummets like a rock when descending from a jump, and there are a lot of blind jumps in this particular part of the level. So we’ve got slippery platforms leading to blind jumps, all over a bottomless pit. Sounds fun, right?

Swat Kats (U)_00027

And here’s where T-Bone would have helped, by the way. If I had him, I could have shot through those blocks and grabbed those power-ups. Oh well, I’ve still got a jetpack. The question mark things, if you’re curious, are XP. They’re ALWAYS XP, no matter what, so why the game decided to make them all mysterious is beyond me.

Swat Kats (U)_00028

And then there were these caves, which led themselves to a small maze of different rooms. It wouldn’t have been so bad, if it weren’t for these plants which can kill you in about two hits. Oh, and I didn’t get a picture of this, but Razor’s missile gauntlet thing started shooting webs. For a while, I thought this meant that I couldn’t use it in this part of the stage, but apparently it turns out that webs are indeed more powerful than shooting a missile into somebody’s face at point blank range. All right, then.

Razor begins to wish he had played Base Jumpers more often.

Razor begins to wish he had played Base Jumpers more often.

You can tell this part’s going to suck because there’s a 1-Up right before it begins. Any game that has a section that starts off with you picking up a 1-Up which never stops respawning is basically the developer’s way of saying “All right, we made this section way too hard, but we couldn’t be bothered to fix it, so try as much as you want”. I’m getting some bad flashbacks to Sonic Unleashed’s final level right about now. So, to avoid this thing, all you have to do is crawl up the wall, jump across a few platforms, and step through a door. Easy, right?

Swat Kats (U)_00030

Remember when I was talking about how your Kat will jump forward after climbing up a ledge? Here is where it bites you in the ass. The platform just above Razor leads to one of the two doors you’re supposed to go through. Thing is, though, that IF he does that jump instead of doing a straight jump to the top, he’ll cling to the wall on the right. And that plant monster down there is a poor sport, so he WILL kill you if you don’t get your ass through a door in about two seconds. If you’ve clung to the wall on the top, you’re already dead.

After another section in the caves, we finally reach the boss.

Swat Kats (U)_00033

So when this guy fills out forms, does he put down his occupation as “evil biochemist” on them? Then again, I guess when your name is “Dr. Viper”, you don’t have to be subtle about anything. Oh, yeah, and he wants to turn the city into a swamp or something, I guess. We should probably go do something about that, shouldn’t we. While we’re at it, maybe we can make him put on some pants.

Swat Kats (U)_00034

After a hard-as-balls fight with the bacteria monster, Dr. Viper is actually pretty easy. Disappointingly so, even. The little mushroom things he sprouts under you only make it easier to jump up and hit him in the face. Sure, he can blow wind at you to push you back a little, but the only thing you have to worry about are his little fire potions.

If he only stood a few inches or so higher, he could have been unstoppable.

If he only stood a few inches or so higher, he could have been unstoppable.

And so, Dr. Viper proceeds to explode like a proper video game boss, even though we’ve quit using weapons that actually explode about two experience levels ago.

Well, I’m glad that game’s over with. Can’t say I enjoyed it, really. I mean, it wasn’t THAT bad over all, just painfully generic and —

Swat Kats (U)_00037

Trust me, that didn’t FEEL like 20 minutes.

FUCK ME, THAT WAS STAGE 1?

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