Happy Back To The Future Day! The 21st October 2015 is finally here, the day Marty and Doc arrived in the future, or is that the present now? Either way, earlier in the week I checked out Back To The Future on the NES, and let’s just say I wish I hadn’t. Sadly, this isn’t the only Back To The Future tie-in that doesn’t live up to the legendary reputation of the time hopping sci-fi trilogy. Thankfully though, there is one Back To The Future game that will make many want to take the trip back in time, especially if you’re a fan of the series, and why wouldn’t you be?
That game is the obscure 1993 title, Super Back To The Future 2 on Super Famicom. A game fittingly based on the film that sees Marty travel to this very day. Unfortunately though, most never had the opportunity to experience the one retro game that treats the source material with the respect it deserves. That’s because Super Back To The Future 2 didn’t manage to find its way west, remaining a Japanese exclusive to this day.
If you’ve seen part 2, then you know the story. Yep that’s right, there’s no “improving” the story here. All of the main locations from the film are visited, as is the past, present, and of course, future. Additionally, whilst Marty quite rightly acts as the main character, all of the others are featured too, including Doc Brown, Jennifer, and both Biff and Griff, who fittingly act multiple times as Boss battles. Bosses are also well made, and fit in accurately with the story, with Biff’s final end involving a certain manure truck being fully recreated. The other enemies whilst generic, are not out of place, and include policemen, bullies, and guards from Biff’s casino, all of which adds to the experience.
Cutscenes are how the game tells the main story, and whilst these may be short, credit must go to Daft and Toshiba EMI. Right from the excellent Delorean flying across the screen animation, there’s a lot of enjoyment to be taken from seeing the film recreated in 16-bit form. It must be said though that you’ll need a good grasp of written Japanese to be able to read the text. However, most will know the story from the film.
The one difference that is instantly noticeable, is how all of the characters have been given an Anime style makeover, with big heads and large eyes. This truly is Back To The Future as seen through the eyes of early 90s Japan. Many may cringe at the thought of this, but in actuality this only adds to the game’s charm, and really fits the 16-bit aesthetic and the overall game design.
Additionally, the background and foreground look spectacular, with high levels of detail and a vivid use of colours. This is something especially seen when the rain is heavily falling on Marty as he visits the Oak Park Cemetery. The presentation also allows the game to effectively transition between the time periods, and really adds to the feeling that you are visiting Hill Valley in many different guises.
The soundtrack is also excellent. Quote simply, you know you’re on to a winner when the first thing you are greeted with when booting up the cartridge is the Back To The Future theme recreated in all its glory for the Super Famicom. Moreover, whilst you won’t find any of the other tracks from the game in the film, all of them sound excellent, and wouldn’t be out of place in any platformer from the 16-bit era.
That’s cool, but many will be wondering what the incentive is to play the game, rather than just watch the film again. Well, I have good news for you here. Gone is LJN’s pathetic attempt, and in comes a game that at its heart is an enjoyable platforming experience. One that feels similar to a certain hedgehog’s adventures, whilst doing enough to difference itself and not seem too similar.
This is achieved through the game’s unique gameplay mechanic, the hoverboard. Yes, quite fittingly the hoverboard takes leading role in the gameplay here. Whether you’re in the past, present, or future Marty never gets off the board unless he injured, and whilst this does create inconsistencies in the storyline, it can be forgiven.
Learning how to control the hoverboard can take some getting used to, despite . In standard platforming fashion the game utilises two buttons, one to jump, and one to boost. However, jumping differs depending on your speed, meaning that within later platforming challenges you may want to avoid that boost button. Boosting also allows you to speed your way through some of the early stages. However, there really is no need to rush, as ironically the game does not have a time limit to worry about. No worrying about stupid clocks in this game!
What’s more, when Marty jumps, he essentially becomes invincible for the entirety of that jump. This makes bosses especially easy, none more so than the final battle with Biff as he tries to drive away. He doesn’t even move, as though saying “you can have this one”. All in all, this does have the effect of making the game seem overtly easy.
However, whilst the game swings towards the easier side of the difficulty spectrum, there are gameplay elements that make up for this. Firstly, platforming challenges quickly begin to appear, with this especially true of when Marty returns to the dystopian 1985. These involve all of the standard platforming tropes being put to excellent use, including spikes, disappearing platforms, and hidden enemies. However, while these do add diversity to the experience, there is quite a degree of repetition. Leaving many wondering when a specific element ends, after having defeated an identical enemy in an identical fashion for the fifth time.
The other element is the lack of a checkpoint system. But before this potentially worries you, Super Back To The Future 2 has unlimited continues, a frightfully user friendly password system, and 3 hits. This means there’s no reason not to keeping trying.
Players can also regain some of their lost hits by spending collected coins at vending machines that appear mid level. This really is an excellent feature, one that finally rewards players for collecting all of the items lying around. Not only that, but it encourages a small degree of resource management and scrounging for coins, especially when low on hits.
Ultimately, the game isn’t one that you’ll be returning to time and time again. Super Back To The Future 2 is a standard platformer, albeit one that looks excellent and features some unique differences. Yet it’s a rare beast, one that treats the series with the respect it deserves, and isn’t that all we asked for back in the late 80s and early 90s? Well people, it may never have been released outside of Japan, but this is it, and its relevant all over again thanks to Back To The Future Day.
Now you’ll have to excuse me whilst I go unwrap my brand new hoverboard.