Smash T.V. was a phenomenon in the arcade and next to Street Fighter 2 and Turtles in Time is the game I probably poured the most quarters into. It’s easy to see why: the Running Man was a popular movie and Smash T.V. absolutely nails its homage. It’s a gameplay formula has endured over the decades and if anything has become even more popular with the advent of indie gaming. But as much as I liked it in the arcade it was the SNES port that truly made me love the game. Super Smash T.V. was the best console port of its time and is one of the SNES’ best top down shooters.
The premise of Super Smash T.V. is simple. As a contestant in a death match style game show you have the opportunity to earn ridiculous amounts of cash and prizes. VCRs, toasters, lawnmowers, and cars can be yours, but only if you survive. It sounds quaint today but the prospect of a free VCR was huge back then. It really is amazing just how well they mimic the style of the Running Man in their own way which gives the game a ton of personality. That is why it was so endearing. Or at least I think so.
Beyond its graphics what made the Super Nintendo version of Smash T.V. the best are its controls. This was the days before dual analog sticks so the D-pad had to suffice. Other ports had to come up with creative solutions to mimic the arcades dual setup. These had varying results. The four face buttons on the SNES controller perfectly mimicked the arcade setup and becomes second nature quickly. In the heat of the moment you might screw up but compared to other ports this is far superior. I liked Smash T.V. in the arcade but I wouldn’t say I was good at it. Twin sticks were beyond me at age 11. But four face buttons? I could wrap my brain around that.
Beside the controls the other reason Super Smash T.V. is noticeable are its production values. The game is a fantastic conversion of the arcade machine, only losing out in resolution. From a performance perspective Super Smash T.V. embarrasses most early SNES titles. The game throws around dozens of sprites without a hint of slowdown. There’s even a double speed mode although it is suicide. Somehow Acclaim managed to keep the blood intact too. As a whole Midway did their best to add a great deal of variety to each Arena. But the game long enough that it can’t help but get repetitive. Overall though this was the best conversion for its time and it holds up.
Greed is the name of the game as you rush to collect cash, prizes and power-ups in each arena as various enemies stream in to end your life. Survival is a lot harder than you would expect as there seem to be no shortage of enemies that constantly let your gluttony get the best of you and die trying to pick up that one last pile of cash. The game moves at a fairly brisk pace with each stage lasting around a minute or two. The few power-ups last a short while but are absolutely essential for survival.
While the basic setup of Smash T.V. is simple what is most impressive is its variety. There are three “stages” and you can plot your own course to the boss of each. While you will deal with an enormous number of enemies in every room the game does a great job of introducing new elements frequently. Most arenas are themed; some feature one enemy type exclusively while others have certain conditions. These can be as simple as Mr. Shrapnel constantly spawning in every corner of the room to increasing the speed of every enemy. Considering how long the game is it really is amazing that they keep up the variety to the very end.
The one area I wish Super Smash T.V. deviated from the arcade would be its difficulty. Smash T.V. was not an easy game in the arcade and that remains the same at home. For as much as the game adds variety repetition does set in. The number of enemy waves borders on the ridiculous and the game is practically set on turbo speed. It wouldn’t be so bad if weapons lasted longer than ten seconds. I can understand why; weapons appear so frequently that you won’t use the standard gun as much. But by the game’s midpoint when stronger enemies appear you need that extra firepower more consistently. They could have doubled weapon time and the game would be better for it.
Weapon balance also affects the boss battles. These should be the game’s highlight. After surviving hordes of enemies you finally face off against a big bad. Instead they are excruciatingly long battles of attrition. Each boss has to be systematically dismantled piece by piece and it is ridiculous. The Mutoid Man has to have his body destroyed, and then you fight his headless torso, and finally his disembodied head on wheels. I haven’t mentioned that only special weapons affect him. Each subsequent fight plays out the same way and takes so long it simply isn’t fun. You can practically see the hand reaching for your quarters. Except now it is on a home system with limited continues.
Super Smash T.V. is a fantastic port of a great arcade game and still provides plenty of action to satisfy shooter fans. It would take many years for an arcade perfect port to arrive, leaving this the best way to experience the game outside of the arcade. Even today it is a great way to kill an afternoon. This comes highly recommended.