Smash TV

Reviewed by Stan, Posted on 2010-07-02


Developer: Williams Entertainment Publisher: Acclaim
Release Date: 1991 Also On: Genesis, Sega Master System, SNES & Xbox 360

Wow, here's an underappreciated little game. Sadly most people don't know about this version, but luckily my family stuck it through and kept buying NES games way up until they weren't sold in stores anymore, at least not in bargain bins. Everyone else was moving on to 16-Bit, but our parents kept it old and real. 8-Bit or quit. Anyway, our father brought this beauty home one day and I've been hooked ever since. Smash TV is one of my favorite video games. The arcade version was phenomenal, it helped put Williams on the map before Mortal Kombat, and the NES port manages to capture nearly everything using what little memory it had.

Graphically, they had to strip down Smash TV quite a bit for the NES. The main reason for this is the sheer number of enemies. This game, in fact, supposedly has the most on-screen enemies and total enemies in video game history. So to make sure no skipping happened, they trimmed down the characters so they weren't built on too many colors. Larger enemies tend to have the same thing going on with one to three colors being utilized to pull it off as closely as possible. Some characters had to be changed almost totally, such as Mr. Shrapnel, who's a rolling bomb in this version instead of a fat man with a bomb pack. But these issues I find to be minor considering the massive amount of work they had to do to even get it this good. Looks a little rough, but in general they managed to make this game look pretty good for what they had to work with.

One of my favorite areas of Smash TV on the NES is the sound. The effects work very well. They did a great job of cutting it down to what are the most critical sounds, such as bullet strikes, blasts, explosions, and the like. Couldn't have done better in my opinion. Where this version really shines, however, is the music. It's funny, I actually prefer the soundtrack to this port over the SNES version. There's just something about it, it really shows off the power of the sound chip in the NES. Even the digitized voices came out pretty dang good. My only problem is that, for some odd reason, the music fades out after a minute or so, leaving just sound effects as you clear a room. I was never able to figure out why they did this, because it's not like the game slows down or anything. Really strange, and I have to drop the score just a tad for it.

So what is Smash TV? Well, the majority of the original is here other than a weapon and a few characters. For those of you who haven't heard of it, this game was built off of the idea from the movie The Running Man. You can play alone or with a friend, controlling one of two contestants in a futuristic TV game show where your goal is to destroy everything, collect as much as possible, and stay alive. You blast away with your endless bullets, or power up with various weapon icons that function for a short time while collecting money and prizes to boost your score. So it's kind of part shooter, part platformer in a way. Nothing existed like this before it, however, so it's hard to completely describe. Best thing is to just check it out:

So, how does it play? Smash TV is just one thing, awesome. This is one of the most entertaining games I've ever played, and the fact that they were able to pull it off on the NES makes me smile. They've retained the majority of the original and it's a damn good adrenaline high. The endless swarms of enemies make things tense almost immediately, and the controls are perfect. That's one awesome thing about this title, due to the fact that they original relied on two joysticks, they figured out a very innovative technique to retain this level of play. Even if they didn't get this right the controls are still fluid and easy to pick up. It takes the most basic concepts of play, adds lots of cool ideas, makes a new format out of it, and blows you away.

Smash TV is a port of the original, but even for the NES it's a damn creative title. The one thing that makes this baby stand out, however, are the controls. See, as I mentioned, the original relied on two joysticks. One controls your character's movement, the other the direction they shoot, which means you can run the opposite direction you're shooting or even shoot at diagonals as you move backwards, forwards, whatever. The NES controller, don't forget, only has the direction pad and two buttons. Using one controller, Button B locks your shooting position, but it's pretty hard. However, luckily, the programmers tried something totally unexpected. They made it so you can play using two controllers at the same time. You turn them to the side, and the the left one is your direction and the right your gun. Wow, this just makes this version of Smash TV that much more awesome and pretty much spot on with the feel of the arcade. Really an innovative way to pull it off. High marks here.

I've played the NES version of Smash TV countless times since I first owned it. It's one of the few games I took care of religiously, placing it carefully on the shelf and trying to retain the sanctity of the original box it came with. It's a lot of fun and you'll come back to it a lot, even if you've played other versions. This is probably my favorite port of this game, and that says a lot because I own most of them. The length is good too and you have enough lives and continues that it makes it possible to beat it, but definitely not a walk in the park.

Smash TV is one of the best shooting-style games on the NES. It has a lot of variety and it's easily one of the most, if not the most successful port of the arcade version considering all the factors. The two-controller option is highly original, the pace is fast and fun, it's just an all-around great title that I strongly recommend to any NES fans out there. Heck, if you're not even familiar with the original Smash TV, this is one I'd suggest you start with. When you compare it to something even closer to the arcades, like the SNES version, you'll be amazed what they were able to do here.

Graphics: 7.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 10
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9.1
Written by Stan Review Guide

Reviewed by Stan