Greetings! It’s time for another action packed review of Super Powered vintage games! Today I will take a look at an overlooked and oft-misunderstood game. It is entitled Totally Rad! This was during the later period Jaleco games that were not sports based like their Bases Loaded series, such as Shatterhand or Operation Logic Bomb (I have nothing against sports per se, but I would prefer playing asBabe Ruth as a vice cop taking care of zombie drug cartels in a game called Zombie-ville Slugger). I realize that idea is a little “left-field.” But hey, I am just “spitballing” here!
Back to Totally Rad: In the modern times, the game is often considered a joke mostly due to it’s incredibly over the top 80′s atmosphere, outdated surf dude talk, and hairstyles. In fact, the cover reminds me of a very-80′s line of “Rad Dog” Trapper Keeper knock-offs I had. But have no fear, the game is considered by many to not be a relic of the past, but rather a parody that was actually ahead of its time as one of the very first games to spoof the 80′s. In other words, the 80′s inspired motif seems to be intentional! Of course, this retro makeover was part of Jaleco’s localization process. The original Japanese version of the game was a standard platformer entitled Magic John. It was a generic game with a basic storyline about a boy with magic powers that has to save the day. For a humorous comparison of the Japanese vs. U.S. version go here. The game is also known for having a very creative and humorous instruction manual. To see that, go here.
As mentioned, the game stars a boy named Jake who has magic powers. His girlfriend Allison and your magic trainer Zebadia are kidnapped and it is up to you to use your limilted powers to save them. The cinemas, albeit a bit silly, still manage to maintain a modicum of suspense allowing that “what happens next?” feeling.
Again, this game was released late in the NES’s lifespan (around 1991). As such, it has some of the best eye candy the system has ever seen (especially notable with the parallax scrolling and the massive and mobile boss encounters). Some of the graphic sets are plain, as are some of the enemies you face (such as generic robots or floor-lids that open and shoot). The levels conist of circus motifs, caves, underwater areas, and facilities. I tend to like snow stages, and sadly there are none here. The mini bosses are cool, and include mermen, cyclops robots, and agile goblins. The end-stage bosses are the game’s strongest feature. Not only are they huge and detailed, but mobile. Unlike the 3rd form of Dracula in Castlevania 3, for example, these guys are not posing for a school photo. They include a mohawked monster, hopping eye being, large fish, huge robot, and a very cool final boss with two forms.
The gameplay consists of walking, jumping, and shooting short range fireballs that you can charge to go further (like Mega Man 4-6). There are also tons of elemental magic spells (where each one contains an assortment of different graphic effects). And while you are spoiled for choice, the magic system isn’t perfect. Many of the elements seem to have the same effect on enemies. Also, despite being a student in training, you have all the magic you can get in the game all at once. It would have been cool to “learn” these as you go. But I guess that is kind of hard when your teacher is kidnapped. But the way it stands, it feels a bit random, excessive, and haphazard (perhaps kinda like the magic system in Castlevania: Circle of the Moon).
The music is quite good as well. The beats are catchy and mostly melodic. The sound effects are basically average, however, and don’t seem to stand out (there are no digitized voices to speak of).
In the end, I was very impressed with the title and had lots of fun. Feel free to give it a chance. Although the game is all-too-often ridiculed in hindsight, the game received pretty good reviews by the popular game magazines of the early 90′s.
The game poses a moderate challenge but can be beat. The game offers three continues and a free life after dispatching so many enemies. It pays off to be patient and move slowly. It also pays off to become familiar with the spells (both defensive and offensive). The game has no password feature, but is fairly long with 5 worlds each consisting of multiple mini-stages.