Monday, January 3, 2011

An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (SNES) Review

1994 Hudson Soft

Ah, Fievel. Who could forget that heroic Jewish mouse and his great adventures? Not I, for I remember having watched his movies when I was little, and I liked them, too. To be honest, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West was the first movie that introduced me to the series of movies. At first I thought it was the original, but when I found out years later that there was a movie that preceded this one, I was surprised. Maybe not as well known as Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse, but I find Don Bluth's character a great mouse character as well. I remember watching the second movie a lot when I was little, and the last time I saw the movie was before I moved here to Texas. Several years later, when I found out that there was an actual video game adaptation based on this movie (on RVGFanatic's site, if I recall correctly), I was completely taken aback. I had no clue that a video game adaptation had existed of it when I was little; and having judged from his review, it sounded like a fun game. In April of 2010, I decided to order the SNES game, along with the manual and the box. I had a good time with it, but the fact that it was based on a movie that I used to watch over and over made me want to watch it again; I could remember a few scenes from it, but not all of it. On the 2nd of January, I had decided to watch the movie again on YouTube (I have the VHS tape, but I wanted to watch the movie in its original wide screen edition). The movie is just as fun to watch as I remember, and now that I have watched the movie, I am now ready to review this game.

In 1986, we were introduced to Fievel Mousekewitz and his family, who are all Jewish, who all fled from Russia and decided to move to America, "the land of opportunity", in the animated movie An American Tail. But during the migration, Fievel got lost from his family and tried to get back to them, but along the way he met up with Tiger (voiced by the late Dom DeLuise), a furry and loveable cat who does not eat mice, unlike the majority of the cats in the land. Once Fievel catches up with his family, but not before facing a few struggles, they all live happily ever after and start enjoying their new American life. Five years later, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West hit the theatres, and it follows the events of the last movie. Several years later, the Mousekewitz family is having a hard time living there as of late, due to lots of distractions and hardships, and is starting to wonder if moving to America was a good idea. After an attack from a squad of cats, the mice all escape to the sewers and meet up with a mysterious mouse promising the mice an easier lifestyle in a Western-like town called Green River, working with the cats to build it. Little do they know that the promoting mouse is actually a puppet controlled by smoothtalking leader of the cats, Cat R. Waul, who has an evil scheme in store for them. On the way to Green River, Fievel gets separated from his family once again, in the desert. Fievel manages to catch up with his family later on, and knows what Cat R. Waul's true intentions are. When he gets there, he meets Wylie Burp, an old sheriff dog (voiced by the late James Stewart, his final film performance) who Fievel idolizes as a Western hero. Will Fievel save all the mice from Cat R. Waul and his cronies, and will everyone enjoy their new life in the Wild West? Watch the movie and find out. It's really good, and I think you may like it if you haven't seen it. Rest in peace Dom DeLuise and James Stewart, for you both did such a great job in bringing so much personality to these characters.

So, how did Hudson Soft handle this game's plot and atmosphere in this game conversion? Atmospherically, they did a terrific job! All the areas have been lifted straight from the movie; the streets of New York, the sewers, the train, the desert, and Green River itself, and it is all represented so well. Plotwise, it's not quite as accurate. For one thing, there are size inconsistencies between Fievel and the cats; in the movie, there were ginormous compared to him, but in the game they are like twice or thrice his size. But, that was done because it was in video game format, so it's understandable. The bosses that he encounters (except Cat R. Waul) are ones that he tries to evade from in the movie. In the box art, Fievel is shown using a lasso, which he never once used in both the movie and the game. After each stage save for the last one, Fievel meets up with Wylie Burp (who appears out of nowhere) in what is a Grand Canyon-like setting, which makes absolutely no sense. But, hey, without slight inaccuracies to the original source material, we wouldn't really be having video game conversions of the movie they're based on, now would we? So I won't hold it against them... mostly.

Controls for this sidescrolling platformer are pretty basic and simple. Fievel can move around, duck, climb up and down the stairs, jump, and shoot with his pop gun. It's a game with fun controls. There are certain power-ups that allow you to shoot up to two or three corks at a time. Fievel takes up to three hits until he loses a life, but there are two different heart power-ups: the small one which restitutes the health by one, and a big heart which increases Fievel's health capacity by one (until you lose a life and/or move on to the next stage). Touching a star will render you invincible for a few seconds. Power-ups are always concealed inside blocks which can be shot at. There are even big boxes with Tiger's face that can be shot up to multiple times to reveal either a power-up or a life. Getting $100 (in coins) nets you a life, and it can be easy to gain a life in this method. There are enemies you can shoot at, either once or a few times to do them in. If you hold Up, then the screen will slowly scroll up to the top so you can see what's above you, same for when you hold Down, only below you. The shooting controls are simple, but the jumping controls are another story; not to say that it's impossible to jump from one location to the other, it's just that they could've been tweaked a bit. The stages each have up to two or three portions, and after that you face the boss. You can even do some swimming in the game, but it only happens in the sewers, and it mostly requires that you tap the jump button repeatedly. In the first stage, you can even shoot water to douse out burning platforms. Each portion of each stage has a timer, but it's always easy to outtime the timer, so you never have to worry about getting a "Time Up". In all these stages (in some portions), you can decide whether to take the high road or the low road, and it'll still take you to the end of the portion. Plus, it's quite fun, and you never have to worry about running out of ammunition. You only have three continues, though, and it has to be beaten in one sitting.

The movie's soundtrack was composed by well-known James Horner (The Land Before Time, We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story, Once Upon a Forest, The Pagemaster), and I think the music in that movie is quite good and reflects the various atmospheres so well. I wanted to find out if any of the songs in the game came from the movie, and I was very sad to find out that none were lifted from it at all. That's outrageous! Though that's just me, and I'm not gonna make a big deal out of it here. Hudson Soft may not have emulated Horner's music in video game format, but they did a good job in creating their own music. The title theme is absolutely spectacular, too bad that you're only allowed to listen to about forty seconds of it before it forcefully fades to the demo (if you want to listen to the full version, try YouTube). The rest of the game's music is fun to listen to as well; the streets have a happy-go-lucky jingly tune, and the desert theme feels completely Western and like you're in a heated place. The thing I find very cool is that a lot of the music is revolved around brass instruments; while maybe out of place sometimes, it is quite neat. The boss theme is appropriately intimidating, and the sewer theme is nice, too. When you pause, you may think that the music has stopped, but it actually still plays while "muted"; you'll understand if you try it while playing the game. The sound effects are very decent: Fievel makes a Sonic-like jumping sound, the splashing sound effects are interesting, and the screeching sound of the mine cart is appropriate. Any time Fievel takes a hit, he makes a cute high-pitched sound. The sound for when you defeat a boss sounds a bit explosive. I wish this game had a sound test, but overall I like the sound of this game (though I wish it had a sound test).

The visuals of this game are very nice to look at it. The colors are nice and there is a tiny bit of detail in certain places. Immediately in the first stage you'll be treated with mist effects, and in the desert stage there are sizzling effects all around, which is awesome. As I said before, all the areas have been directly lifted from the movie, and the way they were converted in video game format is quite great. The title appears in the game the same way it does in the movie, with that transition same effect. There are even a few moments when there is moving foreground, to give off some depth. Before each stage starts, there will be a Mode 7 effect zooming in, which is sweet. The characters and enemies, while not as smoothly animated like in the movie, animate real well. Enemies range from cat gangsters, dogfish, hawks, and more. The enemies are done away with in different effects. Some basically fade away, while the cats explode once you defeat them (not violently, of course). The bosses are huge and decently animated, and one of them even uses Mode 7. All the boss battles take place in dark or glowing areas.

How do I describe this game's difficulty? Well, the main goal of each portion of each stage is to head as far right until you reach the goal. Even if you take slightly alternate pathways, you'll still have to head to the right. This game is easy, really; not mindnumbingly easy, but easy enough to get through with just a few struggles. The enemies are easy to deal with, but they won't have a hard time attacking you either. Some enemies take one shot while others take more. The stages as a whole are mostly easy to navigate, and there are a few obstacles that will try to stop you. The bosses have a decent attack pattern, but are mostly easy to follow. If you lose a continue, then you have to start from the beginning of that portion of the stage where you lost your life at. The game has a decent bit of challenge in certain areas, and there's enough challenge to satisfy starting gamers. The game has to be beaten in one sitting, though it's not really that bad, as it can be beaten in about three-quarters of an hour or about an hour's time. There were no exclusive areas that were added just to lengthen the game, but I think it's a good thing, as the areas have a decent amount of length. It's a bit short, but luckily not that short of a game.

I had fun with An American Tail: Fievel Goes West on the SNES. Sure it's easy, but I didn't mind that so much as it's quite nice, and sometimes it can be a nice diversion in case I feel like taking a brake from challenging games. Control is solid good, but the jumping could've been worked on. The atmosphere has perfectly been brought over from the movie, and the visuals are nice and vibrant. The music used in the game was good, though to discover that none of the tracks were lifted from the movie made me a bit sad. I would've liked for there to have been more, but in the end I thought what was there was good. It's too bad that appearances from certain vital characters were largely scarce, especially Tiger; but, I'm cool with it. It's not perfect, but it's a good game in its own right. So why did this game fall under the radar many years ago? Well, there a few reasons: the first one (mine) being that I focused on buying Game Boy games whenever I went shopping at Toys'R Us or any other store when I was little, resulting in me missing out on a lot of SNES and Nintendo 64 games I had the chance to buy back then, but missed the opportunity; the second being that this game was created three years after the movie, and Fievel's popularity was starting to wane little by little; and finally, this game is incredibly obscure. Not many gamers own this SNES game, as far as I know, but for those that do they either like it or dislike it. I'm a bit worried that I might be the only NintendoLife user who owns this game (I hope I'm wrong). Interesting to note is that the movie got a spin-off animated series that took place after An American Tail: Fievel Goes West: Fievel's American Tails, which only lasted thirteen episodes, and the animated series is something I have little to no recollection of (and I was such a cartoon fanatic when I was little). There were even a couple of direct-to-home prequels that both took place after the first movie and before the second movie which I do not think are bad but I can see why some would think so: An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island (1998) and An American Tail: The Mystery of the Night Monster (1999). An American Tail: Fievel Goes West for the SNES is the one and only video game that ever starred Fievel, and it's quite decent. If you're interested in this game, then go ahead and give it a try, should you find a decently priced copy. I think you might like it. If you haven't seen the movie, I recommend you watch it.


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