EVO: Search for Eden (SNES, 1993)

INFO: My “Retro Vault” reviews are not scored. Instead, I just talk about why I have fond memories of whichever game I’m writing about at the time. Generally, I won’t pick out any bad games for the Retro Vault feature, so scoring them is essentially useless anyway. Enjoy the read.

If there is one thing I did not like about the 1990s, it was that Enix-produced games on the Super Nintendo were always insanely difficult to track down in North America. Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen is a great example of this, but this little gem of a game is another… EVO: Search for Eden. In my opinion, this is one of the Super Nintendo’s absolute best games. This is a shame because it is vastly underrated and, shockingly, still a somewhat unknown game!

My first experience with EVO came around 1998 or 1999 when Super Nintendo emulators were the biggest deal on the internet for gamers. Remember all of those shady rom sites that would lead you to free porn (my, how times have changed) or infest your computer with trojans? A lot of them just had dead links. Ah yes, 1999 was certainly the golden age of Super Nintendo emulation. I had a blast playing through all of my favourite classics that my brother and I had owned on cartridges several years before. It was insanely fun to be playing Final Fantasy VI again. However, my main ambition was to try new games. I played quite a few obscure games at the time just to see what was out there. While skimming the rom list of a random website, I saw a name that seemed vaguely familiar. EVO: Seach for Eden. Very slowly, I had a flashback of reading about the game in an issue of Nintendo Power back in 1993 or 1994. I recall the magazine noting that it was a game by Enix (a developer you could always trust prior to their buyout of Squaresoft) and had a very strong emphasis on evolution. I looked at the few screenshots present in the magazine and I was pumped for the game. However, I never saw the game in any stores and it completely dropped off of my radar for several years until I saw the name appear again on that list of SNES roms. I promptly downloaded it, anxious to experience the game that I had been stoked to play as a little boy. The wait paid off and EVO was a bittersweet experience.

Like Nintendo Power said, EVO is all about evolution. You begin the game as a humble little fish with little means of defending yourself, but you will soon end up becoming quite a formidable predator of the sea thanks to the fantastic evolution system of the game which was, in my opinion, well ahead of its time. You see, you can evolve various parts of your body by spending evolution points. You will amass evolution points by killing enemies and eating the meat that they leave behind. You will be able to spend these points in several categories such as jaws, body size and type, tail, hands and feet, and more. It isn’t entirely impossible to end up with different looking creatures each time you play and, in a way, EVO is a lot like an early version of Spore… But different.

How and why does Spore compare to EVO? Well, as I said, you have freedom over what parts of your body you evolve and when. The whole point is to continue evolving to a point where you are strong and skilled enough to take down the local boss and progress to a new stage of evolution. The main difference is that, while Spore was a pretty bland sandbox simulation game, EVO happens to be a very linear platformer/RPG hybrid that focuses on action and character progression rather than… well, whatever the nonsensical focus of Spore was! As I said, EVO is like an early version of Spore, but it definitely hass less casual appeal. Those who are turned off by the idea of having to level up (via upgrading your body) may be turned off a little, though the steep difficulty in some areas will deter a lot of non-serious gamers.

EVO can be a very ruthless game, as boss fights are anything but cakewalks. I was playing EVO on my TV last night (via emulator, I hooked my laptop up to the TV) and handed the gamepad to my brother and roommate who seemed absolutely enthralled by the game, because he had never seen or heard of it before. I watched him play, and it was clear that he was really enjoying it. As a 28 year old someone who doesn’t play too many games anymore, it was really cool to watch him become briefly absorbed in a classic SNES title. It seems that folks in my age range (about 23-30) really dig playing old SNES games, and when they are presented on a television screen with a wireless gamepad? Even better! Anyway, he managed to reach the boss of the first area in the game. Up until that point, he was doing a really good job of evolving the fish creature that we were jointly playing as. He wasn’t having many difficulties playing through the underwater area, but that all changed one the shark boss made his grand appearance. The confrontation with the boss lasted a whole ten seconds, if even that! Our fish had forty five hit points, and the boss would hit for fifteen damage with every single bite. To make matters worse, he would sometimes get two consecutive hits in! We’re talking the first boss here folks. While EVO is a blast to play and might be a fun little game for casual players to get their feet wet with, they’ll definitely struggle against the tough as nails boss fights. They only get harder and harder as the game goes, and I distinctly remember getting stuck on the queen bee (?) boss many years ago and almost rage quitting!

The most enjoyable aspect of the game? Reaching new periods of time and becoming a new creature. For instance, after you beat the shark boss you evolve into an amphibian and get to crawl onto land. After a short time passes, you then become a reptilian creature that you can even turn into a dinosaur! This is easily my favourite part of the game without a doubt. The dinosaur era of EVO is simply a joy to play, and I suspect that anyone who has played the game will agree with me on that point.

Sadly, I have never beaten EVO. I recall getting stuck years ago at a floating maze-like temple in the sky inhabited by bird people or something of the sort. I don’t know exactly how far in this was, but I certainly hope to surpass it on my new playthrough, especially since I am not experiencing EVO as it was meant to be played – on a television screen. I’m glad to have my wireless Logitech gamepad and a laptop that can conveniently be plugged into my 32 inch Dynex television. I am now experiencing EVO for the first time all over again, and I couldn’t be happier.

If you have never played EVO: Search for Eden, then you are certainly missing out.

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Metal Combat: Falcon’s Revenge (SNES, 1993)

INFO: My “Retro Vault” reviews are not scored. Instead, I just talk about why I have fond memories of whichever game I’m writing about at the time. Generally, I won’t pick out any bad games for the Retro Vault feature, so scoring them is essentially useless anyway. Enjoy the read.

Remember the Super Scope? That clunky and oversized SNES gun that went through batteries faster than Homer Simpson does beers? It sure was a piece of garbage and most of the games that it supported were pretty much not worth any of your time. There was, however, one game that was incredibly epic. One game that I wish would get a proper sequel, or be re-released on the Nintendo’s WiiWare service. This game is none other than the sequel to Battle Clash, Metal Combat: Falcon’s Revenge. With a name like Metal Combat: Falcon’s Revenge, how could this game possibly suck? That’s easy to answer. It can’t suck. At all.

I first played Metal Combat in 1994, shortly after it was released in North America at the end of 1993. I would watch in awe as my brother fought through stage after stage with the Super Scope. When I got my hands on it, I found the gun controller to be very bulky and exceptionally hard to get used to. After I was able to adjust, I learned to love the game and played the hell out of it probably more than my brother did.

Metal Combat, the sequel to the drastically inferior Battle Clash, put players in control of the ST (Standing Tank, another name for mech) Falcon. The Falcon’s weapon systems were controlled by the player, which is where the Super Scope came into play. In many ways, this was one of the first and only SNES titles that felt like proper first person games. The game was played from a first person perspective and the Falcon’s cannon was, quite literally, the bulky plastic device that was resting on your shoulder. Metal Combat was a fiercely immersive game at the time, and it utilized the Super Scopre brilliantly. I can’t really say much about the controls because, well, it was the Super Scope! Point and shoot, we all know the drill. It was essentially just a very graphically advanced Duck Hunt.

The joy of playing Metal Combat came from the battles. Each stage was a one on one fight with an enemy ST that you had to destroy. The cool thing is that they were fully destructable and you could blow off their arms, legs, weapons, whatever. It was up to you to destroy your enemies in whatever way you wished, which was a very cool change of pace because back in 1993, most gamers were used to just pointing their characters at the enemy and shooting it until it died. Metal Combat moved the bar up substantially for SNES games, and the level of immersion that the destructable bosses provided was awesome.

I’ll always remember the bosses in the game very well. They were very memorable, except for a select few. Garam, Wong, Viscount, and Thanatos will always be remembered fondly by me. Three of those bosses (all except Wong) were featured in the original Battle Clash and were the only returning characters aside from the player’s ST Falcon. That says just how badass and cool they were at the time.

One aspect of Metal Combat that was loads of fun was the two player mode. Yes, this game had a freaking two player mode! The coolest thing about it was the fact that the second player actually played as the boss characters. Now how cool is that? At the time, it felt like the most amazing versus mode in the world to me and I loved playing as the boss characters while my brother or friends would play as one of the protagonist characters (Falcon or Tornado, the latter being unlockable). Viscount was always my favourite, because he seemed like a knight-like mech. He had a badass shield and, instead of a sword, had a powerful cannon that had one of the most devastating attacks in the entire game if it hit properly. I cannot even begin to describe how cool this versus mode was to me back in 1994. In recent years, I’ve played it with friends on emulators. While the challenge of the Super Scope isn’t present, we would still have some incredibly close battles.

There was also a time trial mode, which was pretty enjoyable. Essentially, the player had to play through the bosses and try to better their times on each boss. I eventually got most of the bosses down to being defeated in five to fifteen seconds each. In order to defeat them so quickly, you have to find their weak points. Some bosses make it really obvious, like ST Wong who just has to be hit in the middle once with your most powerful attack. Others, like Garam, often hide their weak points and force you to play a waiting game until they expose it for you, or you could just blast away whatever covers the weak point, which is fun too.

Overall, I have to say that this was by far the best Super Scope game ever developed, and I am shocked that Nintendo has never decided to resurrect the Battle Clash/Metal Combat franchise. The Wii is the perfect console for it, so the fact that this gem remains totally unknown to the newer generations of gamers is a damn shame, it really is. Especially since the developer of the game, Intelligent Systems, still makes games for Nintendo.

I demand a new game in this franchise! Nintendo, do us Metal Combat fans a favour and bring this awesome series back to life!