Icons, Sequels & Franchises – Contra 3, Mega Man X, Ms. Pac Man, Tetris 2

Icons, sequels and franchises. Those are the buzzwords and descriptors that can be used to identify the four Super Nintendo games in this post. From an icon standpoint, I don’t think there’s much argument to be made about Ms. Pac Man and Mega Man’s status as 80s relics that have stood the test of time over the decades since their incarnations. As for sequels, all four of the titular games can be considered sequels to earlier titles while being part of gaming franchises.

Let’s start with the Big Mama of the group, Ms. Pac Man. I was surprised to find out that the Super Nintendo included a port of this popular early 80s arcade sequel. By the 90s, Mr. and Ms. Pac Man were pretty much ancient history and headed towards a cozy arcade icon retirement village. I initially didn’t see a reason to release this game on the SNES since it already received not one, but two ports on the NES. One by Tengen and one by Namco. To top it off, the SNES port is by yet a different developer/publisher, Williams. So what does the Williams SNES version of Ms. Pac Man offer that you can’t already find on the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, Atari Lynx, Sega Master System, Sega Genesis and the two Nintendo Entertainment System versions? Well, for starters, it looks very sharp since it’s on a 16 bit console. The mazes are large and scroll up and down as you’re moving around. It also has new mazes not found in the arcade but what I like the most about the SNES version is the speed booster. In college, I used to play Ms. Pac Man at a bar that was just down the street from my house. My roommates and I liked to hit the bars early, around 5-6pm, on Fridays and Saturdays, before they got really crazy. I’d grab a beer and play the Ms. Pac Man cabinet with the speed booster until I achieved the high score then I’d join my friends again. It was my weekend ritual for a semester or two. So I have a lot of good memories of using this speed booster to zip around the mazes lightning fast and clear numerous screens before my beer could even get warm. This is the only home port of Ms. Pac Man I own that has the speed booster so for me, this is my favorite home version of one of my favorite arcade games of all time.

Tetris 2 on the other hand, never caught on with me. Like millions of middle aged men and women, I loved Tetris when I had a chance to play it on a Gameboy or on my NES back when it came out. A sequel sounded like a great idea to me at the time. Keep the gameplay simple yet addictive, update the graphics, although no one would argue that graphics are the most important feature for a puzzle game, and voila….another big seller! Unfortunately for me, Tetris 2 was never the instantly enjoyable game that the original was. I bought Tetris 2 when SNES games were being discounted in the late 90s during the N64 era thinking it would be a game I could sit down and play when I needed mindless puzzle fun but I could never get into it. Maybe I should give it another chance….but the SNES has way too many other games that are standouts to really make this game anything more than an also-ran.

The last two games, Mega Man X and Contra III: The Alien Wars, are continuations of the franchises that began on the NES and were also a huge part of my childhood. As a result of my history with these franchises, these games were of great interest to me when they came out and when I began adding carts to my collection much later after my SNES had been retired. Mega Man X would be more accurately called a spin-off of the original Mega Man franchise which saw a total of 6 games released on the NES. Taking place a century after the original Mega Man games, Mega Man X stars a new character, the titular android. When I first caught wind of the “X” series of Mega Man games, I assumed these were just continuations of the story and the X was used to signify that the series was now on a new console. By that logic, the game should have been called Super Mega Man in order to fit in with Nintendo’s message but that obviously wasn’t the case. The true sequel to the NES’s Mega Man 6 was Mega Man 7, also on the SNES. It was only after I found out that game existed, that I realized that the Mega Man X games (there were 3 total released on the SNES) were more of an off-shoot. The first Mega Man X game is the most common of the three as it was the first one released for the console and likely the one that fans of the original franchise bought. It’s typical action platforming in the Mega Man vein. Play levels in any order you choose, acquire their weapons, rinse/repeat. Great fun, don’t get me wrong, but I haven’t spent enough time with it to really get too far and see what new twists this spin-off provides. Mega Man X is another winner from Capcom.

Lastly, Contra 3: The Alien Wars, is of course the next game in the Contra franchise. The NES saw the release of Konami’s Contra and Super Contra (aka Super C). Those are two amazing games, and SNES owners didn’t have to wait long to add a 16 bit Contra title to their library. Released in early 1992, Contra 3 is another run and gun action game with similar gameplay mechanics to its predecessors. If you enjoyed either one of the proper Contra titles on the NES, there is nothing that should keep you away from Contra 3. The SNES installment also picks up where the first two left off in terms of difficulty. I find Contra 3 to be tough as nails and certainly wish the old Konami code would work for this game just so I could see more of the levels. Guess I need to grab a friend for some co-op fun and practice because Contra 3 does everything the NES Contra games do except on a grander scale. Stellar title overall.

Currently in my collection:

Contra 3: The Alien Wars – game only A-

Mega Man X – game only B+

Ms. Pac Man – game, manual, box B+

Tetris 2 – game, manual, box B-

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