Welcome, one and all, to what will be a slightly different edition of In Desperate Need of Love. You see, normally what I will do here is heap some praise on a title that I feel is either tragically overlooked by the gaming community at large or is subject to what I would view as unfair criticism. This time around though, I’m going to be talking about two similar releases: Tiny Toon Adventures: ACME All-Stars (SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis) and Tiny Toon Adventures: Wacky Sports Challenge (SNES).
So, a bit of history. Tiny Toon Adventures was a cartoon that originally ran between 1990 and 1992 (with two specials in 1994) before being nixed in favour of Animaniacs. The show was based at the ACME Looniversity, a school run by Loony Tunes alumni such as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. The cast of characters were, in fitting with the setting, younger than the old stars, but were in many respects similar. For example, we had Babs and Buster Bunny (no relation), Dizzy Devil, Plucky Duck and so on. You see, once Muppet Babies stopped airing in 1991, someone in TV land obviously had the idea that kid versions of older characters may still have some legs in terms of being marketable. What this meant was Tiny Toon Adventures, James Bond Jr, and Tom and Jerry Kids (which I’m convinced was the start of toning down the violence shared by the cat and mouse duo) were all pushed out. What set Tiny Toons apart was that it was more of an ensemble piece than the other two examples listed, which no doubt influenced the creation of the Animaniacs later on.
That aside though, we’re talking about games here. Both sports games were released by Konami in 1994, and both sought to provide a simple but fun multi-player enabled set of party games based around the then still popular franchise. While both games took slightly different approaches to the set-up, the first thing that I want to mention here is something that they both did well: multi-player. You see, back in 1994, the idea of having four players playing at once was a novelty for many of us, and the multi-tap was the near magical piece of kit that allowed this. Both games were enabled to take this into account, which led to the potential for much fun to be had. In much the same way, both releases made good use of the power offered by their respective systems and served up a graphical treat. While not on par with the best the consoles had to offer, and perhaps a shade below Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure from the year before, the games are suitably bright and colourful, the animated well, and they played at a decent speed. Really, what more could you ask for from something that clearly wasn’t trying to be a long-time classic?
Here is where the two games hit a fork in the road though. You see, there are some major differences between the two games in terms of content. Let’s have a look at a quick run-down of what to expect:
Tiny Toon Adventures: Wacky Sports Challenge (SNES)
Playable Characters: Buster Bunny, Babs Bunny, Plucky Duck, Dizzy Devil.
Events: Ice Cream Throw, Chicken Dash, Weight Lifting, Saucer Thrown, Obstacle Course, Birdman Contest, Ski Race, Pole Vault, Bungee Jump, Log Cutting, Swimming, Hammer Mash, Marathon.
Game Modes: Story Mode, plus a level select if you sue the Konami Code.
Tiny Toon Adventures: ACME All-Stars (SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis)
Playable Characters: Buster Bunny, Babs Bunny, Plucky Duck, Hamton J. Pig in story mode, plus the following for multi-player games – Montana Max, Elmyra Duff, Shirley the Loon, Fifi La Fume, Calamity Coyote, Little Beeper, Furrball, Dizzy Devil.
Events: Soccer, Basketball, Obstacle Course, Montana Hitting, Bowling.
Game Modes: Story, Soccer, Basketball.
So, what can we ascertain from this? The SNES had far more events, and a multi-player story mode. The Genesis/Mega Drive had more characters and a dedicated multi-player mode. The thing is, in my eyes, they both got this right and wrong. From my personal standpoint, I would have liked to see two near identical releases with a middle ground. Perhaps a good eight playable characters, multi-player story mode, dedicated multi-player mode and maybe eight or nine events. Why? Because to me both releases found themselves lacking in different areas due to not taking the middle road. The SNES version had a wonderfully large selection of games to play, but didn’t have enough stalwart characters to make it quite as interesting on multiple paly-throughs. Meanwhile, SEGA had all your favourites selectable but only a limited number of events that you could use them all in.
What makes this all very odd to me though, is that the games being flawed is a conclusion that I’ve come to in my later years. And therein lays my reasoning for both games being overlooked as simple party games of our youth. The thing is, that’s exactly what they were. Or more to the point, that’s exactly what they needed to be.
While it’s easy to dismiss both games as something fun for five minutes, they did achieve what they set out to do. As kids, a lot of us around my area wanted very specific things from licensed games. These were:
- The ability to play as characters from the licensed franchise
- Decent graphical representations of the characters
- The games to be fun, playable and not obviously awful
Yes, looking back on them, some tweaks could have made both games more balanced, but … they provided everything that I could have ever wanted from a Tiny Toon Adventures party game. These are not gaming classics like Sonic 2 or Super Mario Bros 3, but they don’t need to be. All they need to be is what they were. For simply existing and filling a gap in a way that made my childhood more fun, I think that they deserve to be better remembered than they are. OK, so that’s not as detailed an argument as I sometimes make for IDNoL games, but it fits, right? A simple case for simple games. Sometimes, it pays to just sit back and enjoy things for what they are after all.
As a note, while I enjoyed both, I have more fond memories around ACME All-Stars. Most people I knew had a SEGA Mega Drive, so we got a lot more play out of that one. Plus, I loved Furrball and Calamity Coyote, so having them as playable was a great bonus!