Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Super Smash T.V. for the Super Nintendo - Essay by Todd Friedman

Todd Friedman, host of the Smash TV - The Video Game Facebook page, wrote a killer essay on Super Smash T.V. for the Super Nintendo for my forthcoming book, The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1988-1998. I decided to share the text from the chapter with you guys and gals months ahead of the book’s release. The book will be out in November, and the Kickstarter campaign is doing very well. ENJOY!







“The Year is 1999. Television has adapted to the more violent nature of man. The most popular form of television remains the game show. One show in particular has dominated the ratings.  That show is Smash T.V. The most violent game show of all time.

“Two lucky contestants compete for cash and prizes. Each contestant is armed with an assortment of powerful weapons and sent into a closed arena. The action takes place in front of a studio audience and is broadcast live via satellite around the world. Be prepared, the future is now.

“You are the next lucky contestant!”  -  From the Super Smash T.V. manual

With the huge success of the original arcade version of Smash T.V. (1990), it was only natural for home consoles to jump onboard. The Nintendo Entertainment System had an 8-bit version of the game, and then a 16-bit Super NES rendition called Super Smash T.V. followed. Despite the name change, it is a straight-up port of the arcade classic. (Smash T.V. was also ported to the Game Gear, Master System, and Genesis. For the computer market, Ocean published ports for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, and Amiga).

The concept for the game was the brainchild of Eugene Jarvis, who created various other historically important classics, including Defender and Robotron: 2084. Gameplay is similar to Robotron, and the plot and design were influenced by the 1987 films The Running Man and RoboCop. In fact, one of the announcers’ lines in the game is “I’d buy that for a dollar,” which is a direct quote from RoboCop.

According to the programmers of Smash T.V., among them Mark Turmell of NBA Jam fame, the original layout of the game had blood, but just a pixel here and a pixel there. However, they decided to test the limits and go above and beyond most gory games such as Mortal Kombat, and they did not disappoint. The blood quotient is in a class of its own, bringing many people to the game just to see how bloody it really was. Then, many of these players would get hooked and put in more quarters to see what the next screen would bring.

Unsurprisingly, the arcade game has higher resolution graphics than the Super Nintendo port, but the home game looks great nevertheless and retains most of the blood (only the big bloods sprays from certain bosses are missing). Better yet, the game manages to display dozens of sprites with little to no slowdown. The SNES game isn’t quite as fast as its coin-op cousin, but it’s a speedy game nonetheless.

In a recent interview I conducted with Jamie Rivett, the lead developer of the SNES port, he revealed that he was happy with the game and provided some behind-the-scenes info.

“All the heavy optimizations and work really paid off because the Super Nintendo version was actually a pretty faithful conversion of the actual game,” he said. “We never got source code, but I was able to replicate the various enemies by playing the game, and in some ways, this was more fun than if I had been given the code for everything. The one thing that Mark [Turmell] did give up was the spawn tables for each level. That defined which enemies, how many, max on screen, and what rate they came in. I think this is what really gave the SNES version the authentic feel.”

When I was 16, I absolutely loved Smash T.V. The announcer’s voice, the gameshow-style presentation, and the intense shooting action made it super appealing to me. I was excited for the home versions because the arcade game was taking all my money—it is one of the hardest coin-ops to finish on just a few credits. At home, I could play the game again and again without spending loads of money (except for the money it took to purchase the game, of course). To this day, I still play it when I have a chance. If given the choice, I will always play the SNES version as it’s the most realistic of the vintage ports.

Super Smash T.V. is likely not the first game you think of when it comes to the Super Nintendo, but it is a nice change of pace when you want a break from all the family-friendly, first-party titles like Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

In this hardcore shooter, you are a contestant on a vicious, violent game show. With the cameras rolling, the announcer says, “Good Luck, You’ll Need It!” The action begins with you (or you and a friend in simultaneous two-player mode) entering the first room on the gameshow stage. Armed with a machine gun, you must run for your life in a series of closed arenas, avoiding bullets and bombs while blowing away baseball bat-wielding gangs, laser-firing orbs, exploding tin soldiers, and other killers bent on your destruction. There at times up to 20 different enemies onscreen at once in the Super Nintendo version and up to 30 in the arcade game. There are few breaks to catch your breath as more enemies come out the instant you kill the others. Each arena has different enemies and attack patterns for you to contend with.

Along the way, you’ll pick up such prizes as money and gold bricks—be careful, though, they may be sitting on top of a hidden landmine. You’ll also find grenade launchers, photon guns, missile launchers, and other weapons. After you clear a stage, you will have the option of going to a couple different rooms. Over time, you’ll learn which routes are easiest to travel and which arenas have more prizes for you to grab. At the end of each of the four rounds of play, a boss awaits: Mutoid Man, Scarface, Cobra Head, or The Game Show Host With The Most. Regular machine gun fire won’t work on them, so you must use your special firepower. There are more than 45 levels of carnage, plus bonus stages.

Playing Smash T.V. can be difficult at home. One of the coolest things about the arcade version is the dual-joystick control that lets you move your character in one direction and fire in another at the same time. The challenge was to replicate that for consoles. The NES did a good job of utilizing both controllers for a one-player game and four controllers for two-player action. Super Nintendo controllers have extra buttons, so you can use them to shoot up, down, left, or right while you guide your character with the d-pad. It’s not a perfect solution, but it gets the job done. In fact, it works pretty well.

When Super Smash T.V. was released, it garnered high marks from such publications as Computer and Video Games, which called it “the most awesome home arcade blaster yet seen,” and Electronic Gaming Monthly, which hailed it as a “winning effort that fans of the coin-op should not miss.”

The action can get a little repetitive, as certain magazine and website reviews point out, but most gamers agree that it is a highly entertaining shooter overall.

In my interview with Jamie Rivett, he further described his satisfaction with the port: “All the conversion shops said no to Smash T.V. because they thought it was impossible to replicate on the home consoles. I guess we proved them wrong!”


After finishing Super Smash T.V., programmer Jamie Rivett realized that he had optimized the game so much that it could run faster, so he added a turbo mode after completing the regular game. After he implemented this, he would only play the game in that mode.


Super Smash T.V. is a controller gripping, heart pounding shoot-'em-up that will blow your mind. No cutscenes, prolonged build-up, or rescuing princesses here—just lots of ass kicking and taking names. Experience everything that made the arcade game great in the comfort of your home—it’s a great way to “kill” an afternoon.

~ Todd Friedman, author of Walter Day's Gaming Superstars, writer for Old School Gamer Magazine

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