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Nightmare Busters Is an Awesome New Game for … Super Nintendo?

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Image courtesy Super Fighter Team

By Chris Kohler, Wired: Game|Life

Bargain game publisher Majesco released a version of the classic game Frogger for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1998. By then, every other publisher had moved on from the 16-bit game platform to shiny new CD-ROM systems like PlayStation. Frogger was the last game released for the Super Nintendo in America.

Until now.

Some enterprising companies have released new games for the old system, feeding the growing market for classic games. The most prominent of these new releases is Nightmare Busters, a two-player action game created in 1994 but unpublished until last month. Super Fighter Team opened up preorders and processed everyone’s $68 payment in February, 2012, and it took until now to finally ship out the games.

As one of those early customers, I finally got my copy in the mail and I’m pretty happy with the final product. The box, instruction manual and liner tray look and feel pretty damn close to an original Super Nintendo game’s packaging. I have some bootleg game releases with boxes printed on white cardstock, but Nightmare Busters uses brown cardboard like legit SNES boxes, so that when you look at it from the inside it looks identical to the real thing. It’s the smallest detail but it makes a big difference. The cartridge itself is shaped so that it fits into any region SNES or Super Famicom system.

Nightmare Busters is an interesting product of an increasingly globalized game culture. It was created in Europe, and the leprechauns and trolls that populate it are drawn in a distinctly continental comic art style. But the gameplay is clearly an homage to the Japanese run-and-gun shooter, something more along the lines of Gunstar Heroes or Contra. You pound on the Y button to fling a rapid-fire spray of playing cards at your enemies, and you’re constantly be shooting if you want to survive.

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Nightmare Busters‘s packaging is very close to what you’d get if you unwrapped a new Super Nintendo game back in …

It’s a tough game. Enemies come at you from all sides, and the game seems always able to predict where I’m going and spawn an enemy there. This is clearly the product of an age when harder was better. But like every good classic game, Nightmare Busters has a cheat code: Hit Y, R, L, down, down, right as the title screen is fading in and you can unlock a rapid-fire option and a level select.

While Nightmare Busters, originally slated to be published by the Japanese gamemaker Nichibutsu, was shown in an issue of Nintendo Power magazine, it never made it out back in the day. A development cartridge containing the game data surfaced in 2007, and so if you’re a huge Super Nintendo nerd you might have already played this on an emulator or on one of the unauthorized reproduction carts floating around. A few things make Super Fighter Team’s release different. First, it’s produced in partnership with the original copyright holders of Nightmare Busters, so it’s an authorized, authentic release. Second, the games are constructed entirely of new parts.

The game is not, of course, authorized by Nintendo. So it fits into the same category as Super 3D Noah’s Ark, a Bible-themed game released by Christian game publisher Wisdom Tree in 1994, the only unauthorized SNES game released in the U.S. during the platform’s lifetime.

In the lengthy interim between the announcement of Nightmare Busters and its release, at least one other small outfit has sprung up to ship authorized Super Nintendo games: Piko Interactive went to Kickstarter in 2013 to fund a cartridge with four original games on it. That and a few more titles are currently available at its website.

Want a copy of Nightmare Busters? Pre-orders for another batch of Nightmare Busters are open, although Super Fighter Team stresses it will be “several months” before they’re fulfilled (if experience is anything to go by, perhaps longer). Still, Super Fighter Team is notorious for only printing small runs of its neo-classic games — its games for Sega Genesis like Beggar Prince and Star Odyssey are long out of stock — so this might be the last batch of them.

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