Saturday, January 16, 2016

Tom and Jerry (SNES) Review

Received: November 13th, 2015 / Written: January 12th-16th, 2016
Year: 1992 | Developed by: Riedel Software Productions
Published by: Hi Tech Expressions

<={  .........hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit...  *sigh*  Once upon a time in 1940, two individuals by the name of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera would create a dynamic duo for a little slapstick series of shorts; and the name of the two characters--as well as the name of the series for Metro-Goldwyn Mayer--was Tom and Jerry, and basically it's about a cat and mouse trying to either one up each other or having a slapstick-induced feud with each other.
Image from Wikipedia
In their debut short "Puss Gets the Boot", done under the production of Rudolf Ising for Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, the cat and mouse started out with different names (Jasper and Jinx respectively), and because the studio felt that there were too many cat and mouse cartoons and did not have a high opinion of the premise it was released without much of a fanfare.  But MGM's negative perceptions towards it changed when they found that "Puss Gets the Boot" was becoming a favorite for many that saw it; this caught the attention of producer Fred Quimby, who commissioned a series of cat and mouse shorts after reteaming Hanna and Barbera.
Image from Wikipedia
After an intra-studio contest to put a final pin on what the cat and mouse's new names should be, the final vote settled on "Tom and Jerry", suggested by animator John Carr who won $50 as a result.  And so from 1941's "The Midnight Snack" onward, Tom and Jerry would become a success in their theatrical stints and audiences just could not get enough of them; even though much of the premise was the same, it was the different variations, spins, and ingenious twists on the idea (not to mention the fantastic animation, facial expressions, and great comedic timing) that made audiences crave for more.
Image from Wikipedia
The Hanna-Barbera era lasted until 1958's "Tot Watchers", released after MGM's animation studio was closed a year earlier, which surprised most everyone involved.  Still, at 114 episodes (nearly twenty of them done in CinemaScope, egregiously pan-and-scanned when shown on TV; why the hell is this still a thing in 20-freakin'-16???), Tom and Jerry had a good run while it lasted, and they're highly entertaining to watch (yes, even the handful of clip shows).  ......  But then it got turned into crap.
Image from Wikipedia
After MGM renewed Tom and Jerry in 1960, they asked for a total of thirteen episodes done by European-based Rembrandt Studios in Prague, Czechoslovakia, all produced by William L. Snyder and directed by Gene Deitch between 1961 and 1962.  Now you'd think that more Tom and Jerry would be a good thing, right?  You'd think that, but the end result here was completely opposite of that; the Snyder/Deitch studio was very inexperienced, and it's incredibly apparent due to the very low budget they were made under (to be fair, though, the '60s was the decade where people realized that animation costs money), and none of them received awards like the previous era did and were largely met with negativity.
Image from Wikipedia
Personally, I do not like these shorts in particular one bit: the animation was way too jerky with what were supposed to be impactful or funny moments happening way too fast to elicit recognition, the charm and likability of the characters from the Hanna-Barbera era were far gone, there was too much mumbling and overreliance on reverb and echoic music, and above all they're just painful and unfunny to watch for me.  I can't imagine anyone placing any of these thirteen shorts at the top of their Tom and Jerry favorites list (it's just unfathomable).
Images from Wikipedia
Luckily for the cat and mouse they didn't end their shorts series on a paltry low note, as from 1963 to 1967 at thirty-four episodes former Looney Tunes animator Chuck Jones got hired by MGM (under his Sib Tower 12 Productions) along with his partner Les Goldman after the former got fired from the aforementioned studio (for reasons).  While the animation budget was still limited and does not hold a candle to the Hanna-Barbera series, it was such a huge improvement over the last era, for it was still funny and good to watch thanks to the comic timing; and in retrospect I find the hiring of Jones to be inspired given his masterful take on facial expressions.  No, it's not perfect, but I still have a ball watching these ones whenever they pop up.  The Chuck Jones Tom and Jerry shorts were the last one to see any major theatrical releases; most anything after was made for TV.

I'm probably losing you all with all this history, so cutting to the chase: the bottom line is that Tom and Jerry was so successful, having becoming the highest-grossing short series at the time, that it's inspired a franchise comprised of spin-offs (like Tom and Jerry Kids and The Tom and Jerry Show), movies (especially the infamous Tom and Jerry: The Movie), and video games.  In the past two-plus decades and a half there have been various games based on the exploits of Tom and Jerry, primarily on the Game Boy family of handhelds.  The fortunate news is that the Nintendo 16-bit console did have one Tom and Jerry game made for it.  Or should I say "unfortunately the Nintendo 16-bit console had one Tom and Jerry game available to play"?  =(

Nice to see the bottom of Tom's body and film strip not
touching the bottom of the screen  =<  It's seamless!  =P
Developed by MS-DOS regulars Riedel Software Productions and published in North America and Europe by Hi Tech Expressions (Altron in Japan for the Super Famicom), this take on Tom and Jerry in particular is not very good; just thought I'd break the tension.  RSP is a little-known company that started out in 1987, whose main body of work comprised of licensed titles based on properties such as Chip'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Looney Tunes, and Beetlejuice to name a few.  But their reign did not last very long for they only lasted about six years, ending in 1993 with three licensed games made by them for the Nintendo 16-bit console (not the MS-DOS) which were not well-received by the public, including this game.  So how weak is this licensed property that I'm about to dive into today?  ......veeerrry!  ={

(Inflatable) Tires Up
Tom and Jerry on the SNES has you take control of Jerry Mouse, as the primary goal of this platformer is to reach the goal at the end of each stage, while at the end of every third stage you get to face off against Tom Cat.  The controls are very basic as you can move left and right, duck, jump with the B button (how high or low you jump depends on how hard you press the button), throw upward green projectiles with the Y button, and throw downward green projectiles with the X and A buttons.  Littered throughout each stage are projectiles which you can collect (the limit is ninety-nine), cheeseballs for Jerry to consume (getting all a hundred of them will give you a life), and pieces of cheese that are there to help replenish a heart for your health (your heart capacity is four).

...  I have so many questions have right now
Naturally, being a platformer, the stages are littered with enemies and obstacles that block your path; including flies, miniature movie monsters, sentient fruit, and red ants (who look nothing like the awesomely and amusingly strong marching ants from the Hanna-Barbera series).  Most of them can be jumped on a few times, but to really do them in with one blow just throw the green projectiles you have at your disposal.  There is also a timer in this game, which means that you must absolutely reach the goal by the time it reaches zero otherwise you'll lose a life and have to start the stage all over again.

If this is really what the inside of a film projector is
like, then this is downright complicated
The visuals in Riedel Software Productions' Tom and Jerry are rather hit-and-miss here and there.  =/  When the game begins the title is presented as a film reel with the flashy colors changing every so often with the rainbow tones, which is fine; but after the fact everything I felt was slowly falling apart.  I know that this game was made during the SDTV era of the '90s (back when TV monitors were rounded), but could RSP not ensure that the bottom edge of the screen be touched by stuff that should be there instead of cutting off--you know, like in the stage preview screen with Tom?  =/  Yyyeah, that's encouraging.

Oh, silly Riedel!  Everyone knows that Tom and
Jerry's movie debut did not reach U.S. theatres until
nine months after the 1992 German release!  =<
Oh, and three months after this game came out
I think the biggest problem I have with the visuals, aside from not being all that exciting to look at, is the choice of colors; some of them do not mesh well (like the aforementioned Tom screen with gaudy pink curtains) while on other occasions there are details in the backdrop that I find to lack in polish (like the fences and all the dump in the dumpster stages, for example).  I find that the foregrounds are somewhat better-detailed than the actual background, which doesn't say much; and honestly for a Nintendo 16-bit game it's not real exciting to look at, even when there are a handful of moments that try to divert from its plain feel (like the billboard advertising Tom and Jerry: The Movie and the toy stages with the large toys looming in the background with creepy purple lighting).

Jerry looks and animates decently, but there isn't much in the way of charm for him in this game; his idle animation is just him waiting impatiently for you to start moving again, and he doesn't have any cheering animation whenever you've beaten a stage.  Now let's talk about his frenemy Tom: his cyan fur tone is interesting, but unfortunately whenever you actually face him all you see is his head (sometimes from the front, other times on his profile side).  One of the greatest animated pairings of all time, and this is how you treat it?  =[  I get that Tom is gigantic compared to Jerry, but I'd expect to actually see more than that during the game; not counting the title, stage preview, and ending scenes (where Jerry is mostly absent).  And despite the slapstick-driven nature of the shorts there is a surprising lack of it for this game treatment; not even an incredulous reaction from Tom after having being defeated (just him slowly slowly lowering his head until you see it no more) or even any comedic timing.

NOOOOOOO!!!!!!  D=>  Not the original cut of
The Land Before Time!!!!!!  Now we'll never know
what those cut ten minutes were like!  Damn you,
Backstage Tom!!!  >={
The music in Riedel Software Productions' Tom and Jerry is just bland and underwhelming, with questionable sound samples used for the instrumentation.  It is some of the most unexciting score I've ever heard from a Nintendo 16-bit game, which is sad given that the console normally turns out such fantastic scores (even some of the much lesser games had better music than this one).  The closest the music sounds tolerable is during the title/stage preview screen where RSP for the most part faithfully recaptured the composition of the series' title cue; everything else is not worth mentioning, and I'm not lying when I say that I actually wish this game had the option to turn the music off (something I normally don't do, but there's no option of that sort here).  The sound effects are... there, with the life lost cue distractingly louder than the actual music in the game, and I swear that Jerry's jumping sound sounds exactly like it was directly lifted from that one spring-bouncing sound from Super Mario World (very suspicious, third-party company).

I love underwater portions, but this one was a
complete joke  T_T
There are enemies and obstacles in these stages (some of them comprising of dropping platforms), and some area layouts are a bit open-ended and seemingly complex; there is one moment later on in the game where Jerry must actually swim in a water tank.  I love underwater segments and stages in video games, but the one given in this take on Tom and Jerry was a total farce: Jerry swims at a snail's pace, which was so disappointing.  But there is a reason for all these obstacles and the slowness in that one bit moment, and that's to disguise the fact that these stages are in actuality very short, and add them all together you get a platformer that's roughly thirty-forty minutes long.  But that's if you decide to take the legitimate route.

Shame on you, Riedel!  Shame on you!
RSP's Tom and Jerry is a largely playable game, that is up until that one moment in the kitchen stage where you must jump on a platform that is way above your normal jumping capacity.  It is possible to get on it legitimately, but there are two major problems with this: the first is that you must hold down the up button as you continually jump up until you reach it (no, don't actually run to gain higher altitude as you jump or any of that logic, just risk straining your hand and/or controller for it to work) and even then it may forever to actually accomplish.  The second problem is that in this moment there are fireballs raining down on you here and there, sometimes at the spot where you are supposed to jump, so you have to move out of the way lest you want to take damage; this just adds to the frustration and does not benefit this game.  Riedel, you cannot make the majority of stages have manageable area designs and have one in the middle of the venture feel broken like that!  >=(  This does not a sound design make.  I only managed to get up there legitimately two times, and the second time I lost a life and had to start over again; this was so frustrating that I had to consult GameFAQs, and if you pause the game and put in a code it is possible to bypass a stage entirely (that, or you could be invincible, have infinite lives, or jump in the air indefinitely).
Stage Skip: Pause, L, X, A, Y, Y, B, R
I normally advise against this sort of thing (as it takes away from the challenge and fun), but in this case I feel like I'm doing you a favor by telling you to do so as it is completely frustrating otherwise.  If a developer has made a game that actually demands that you use a stage skipping code, you're doing it wrong=<

Don't get used to this rare boarding opportunity,
it's only for a momentary period in the game  =|
And speaking of jumping, at times those controls feel faulty and demand precise timing when it comes to bouncy surfaces like slinkies and toaster switches; if you don't press the B button at the precise moment you touch the bouncy surface then you won't gain much altitude and will have to bounce on it again before you do.  Losing all your lives means an automatic game over with no chance of continuing your progress, and if you fall down dozens of feet to the ground you will die... nice to see Riedel Software Productions adding a bit of realism to this game.  {=|  Now let's talk about the boss fights against Tom: all you have to do is hit his face ten times with your projectiles (or other means) before he bites it--a wee bit excessive for a game aimed at children, no?  But the very last time you fight him you have to throw ten projectiles at Tom's face three times (all while avoiding his hand swipes) thereby enabling the setup for his skyrocketing exit which you'll help make possible.  Not much in terms of strategy, really: just attack and avoid when it calls for it.

I admit in years past I was a bit curious about the SNES treatment of Tom and Jerry, given that since I was very little I loved watching that series (er, the good ones anyway) and every night on Boomerang they show it, and honestly I kind of did not actually consider playing it until mere months ago.  It's not often that I find myself kind of regretting playing a game the day I got it, but that was the case with Riedel Software Productions' game for me.  When I heard the Hi Tech Expressions jingle (which sounded interesting) I had kind of hoped for something occult and unusual like Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday, and if not that then I hoped that this Tom and Jerry would at least be decent and/or fun to play--it ended up being neither of those things.  =(  Only a few minutes in (a record, I might add) did I realize that I was in trouble, and throughout there was something that bothered me about this game that I couldn't quite put my finger on it at the time but realized shortly afterwards: I found it to be rather generic fare.

There are people out there who have the gall to classify Mr. Nutz as a generic platformer; I'm sorry, but those people have no idea what "generic" means for they have not played this game, and if they have then clearly their definition of the term does not correlate with mine.  >=(  Ocean's rodent-starring game looked breathtaking, sounded amazing, had admittedly loose play control which benefited for the game, there were secrets, it had (optional) replay value, its structure was sound, it was legitimately challenging, and it was genuinely fun to play.

Bouncing balls
Riedel Software Productions' rodent-starring game?  None of those things I described for the Euro platformer, I can tell you that much.  Nintendo 16-bit Tom and Jerry was not at all that fun, in fact I actually found it to be quite dull.  I did not expect greatness prior to playing this game, but I expected more from a license based on a well-respected funny series.  Oh, you know what else Mr. Nutz had that the SFC/SNES version of Tom and Jerry purely lacked?  Energy!  I cannot recall the last time I had played a game as un-energetic and un-exciting and completely underwhelming as this one, as I personally felt that it was slowly draining energy from me as I played it and at one point I hoped that there would be at least something that would make the game all worth it, but I did not find that anywhere here.  I was incredibly disappointed with RSP's effort and I should've known better than to have my hopes high like that.  There is a two-player option, but it's not cooperative but rather alternative, with Jerry's nephew/charge Tuffy (Nibbles in the Hanna-Barbera shorts) serving as the second player.  Wouldn't this game have been better with the two side by side as opposed to on their own?

The phrase "Everything is Awesome" does not
apply to this unremarkable game  =|
And the worst part about it is that RSP's take on Tom and Jerry is the only game on the Nintendo 16-bit based on the shorts, which makes it even more disappointing that it could not have been fun and decent.  =(  Instead it turned out to bet dull, unenergetic, underwhelming mediocre fare.  If you wanted to play a fun Tom and Jerry game you would have much better luck finding it on any of the Game Boy trilogy of handhelds (there's plenty to choose from).  Unless you're an avid Tom and Jerry fan or want to play every Nintendo 16-bit platformer out there, I cannot find a compelling reason to recommend this adaptation of the series.  It is simply not worth the disappointment; you're much better off playing a Mickey Mouse title instead.  On second thought, just stick with the Hanna-Barbera and Chuck Jones Tom and Jerry shorts series and pass on this game treatment altogether; you're not missing out, trust me.  =|

My Personal Score: 5.0/10
<( -_-)>TO EACH THEIR OWN<(-_- )>
P.S. God, I need to watch The LEGO Movie again!  It's been ages since I saw it last!
P.S. 2 I have nothing against Gene Deitch, I'm sure he's a nice person and I'm sorry he didn't get a chance to show his true talents, but unfunny is still unfunny.  Although, if anything makes his thirteen Tom and Jerry shorts look like a masterpiece by comparison, it would be The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show: now that incarnation is absolutely misbegotten and ugly for '80s TV fare.  Avoid.
P.S. 3 Speaking of TV (in particular '50s TV): I get why pan-and-scan exists as it's the same reason CinemaScope exists (TV was outselling theatres by 1953), but I just abhor pan-and-scan with a passion for it undermines all the hard work that the director, the characters/actors, the producers, the set designers, the special effects artists, animators and artists, and cinematographer put into it to make it possible (and knowing that makes me upset for their sake).  I hate pan-and-scan so much, and the fact that this ill-conceived process is allowed to exist even after sixty-three years is frustrating to me.  Give me the movie or series with the correct aspect ratio any day, or bust!
P.S. 4 I have seen bits and pieces of The Tom and Jerry Show, but no matter how many times I try to give that flash animated show a chance I just can't get as into it as I do the older Hanna-Barbera series.  Personally when it comes to flash animation I often turn to Wander Over Yonder, We Bare Bears, and Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!... oh, and Wabbit sometimes (if only because its flash animation is mesmerizingly good).
P.S. 5 From now on if I want to play a platformer on the Nintendo 16-bit starring a character named Jerry, I will instead play the very flawed but somewhat fun Jerry Boy thank you very much; hell, even the inferior American version without towns and story Smart Ball is better than this game.
R.I.P. William Hanna (1910-2001) and Joseph Barbera (1911-2006)
Thank you for creating Tom and Jerry as well as your Hanna-Barbera series; thank you so much for all the childhood memories you gave us
R.I.P. Chuck Jones (1912-2002)
Thank you for your involvement in Looney Tunes, your take on How the Grinch Saved Christmas, and for having made the second-best incarnation of Tom and Jerry there is
R.I.P. Mel Blanc (1908-1989)
"The Man of 1000 Voices", thank you for having provided so many voices to many of our favorite childhood characters (on Looney Tunes, The Flintstones, and on Chuck Jones' Tom and Jerry); we will always remember you
Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.  I hope you have a great Winter day, take care!
I really hope the next game I talk about is something to look forward to.

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