Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why I Love the SNES Wolf3D

Let's be honest, most fans of the PC version of Wolfenstein 3D either really dislike the SNES port, or downright hate it. Is it because it's a bad game? well, that depends on what you're comparing it to. I do, however, take issue with the box art, which seems to portray our hero as being Billy Idol during the Vietnam War.

In my younger years, I initially had two different exposures to Wolfenstein 3D, the first being the shareware version on a friend's computer in college, the second being the SNES port some time later (it wasn't until years later that I finally got my hands on the full PC version for the first time). Like many other people of the time, Wolf3D was my first exposre to a FPS, and was a very memorable experience, and I often found myself longing to know what adventures awaited those who didn't just replay the first ten levels over and over, but actually bought the full version. When I later discovered there was a SNES port of the game, I just assumed it would answer that question for me, which in some ways, it did.

To really examine why the SNES port isn't as bad as some folks think, let's take a look at some of the objections diehard fans of the PC version have to the SNES version...

1. "The graphics suck!" - Okay, I can't really argue against that point. There's no denying that the SNES wasn't really made to handle FPS the way the PC could, and yes, looking at enemies and walls from a distance was kind of like viewing them through Vaseline coated goggles. This was true of the Doom SNES port as well. The HUD and weapons look pretty good, though, and let's face it, is it better to have NO Wolfenstein, or a port with inferior graphics to the original?

2. "No Nazi symbolism!" - Yes, this takes away from the decorations a little bit, not having the Nazi symbols the original version had, but is there really anyone out there playing the game who doesn't already know the enemies in the game are Nazis? Going in to the SNES version for the first time after it had been a while since I'd played the shareware version, honestly, I didn't even think anything of the absence of swaztikas on the flags, and it definitely didn't factor into my enjoyment of the game.

3. "What? No blood!" - It was an SNES game, folks, what did you expect? Honestly, though, if a game has good gameplay mechanics and decent pacing, is the absence of blood going to negate those things? For some folks, the answer is "yes", and those people scare me, but for a guy raised on arcade machines, and console games like Contra and Rush n' Attack, where blood was not present, it really never made a difference to me. I accidentally bought the "gore free" version of Duke Nukem 3D at Wal-Mart initially, and it took me three days before I realized the blood and swearing was censored out? Why? Because of the solid gameplay elements I was focusing on instead. SNES Wolfenstein is no Duke 3D, but you get my point (I hope).

4. "Giant rats instead of dogs?" - I'm not going to touch the whole "a dog's life is more valuable than a rat's" argument, I have my preference for which animal I prefer, but that's a topic for another discussion. Yes, removing attack dogs because killing them is mean but still allowing the killing of attack humans is stupid, I agree, but the giant rat is cool. I admit, I was a little confused by the presence of the rats the first time I played the SNES version, but with all the other mutants running around in the game, it didn't seem that far fetched. Training the rats to attack just BJ and not the Nazis, well, okay, that's a bit of a stretch. Maybe BJ's prison sweats were soaked in melted cheese before they locked him up.

5. "English speaking enemies!" - When Wolf3D first came out, the internet was not the big deal it is today. When trying to interpret what the PC enemies were saying, I either had to rely on my (very rusty) knowledge of German, or consult the German to English dictionary and hope I was actually understanding what was being said well enough to translate it. When the SNES was popular, your average kid playing the game probably had very little interest in breaking out the dictionary to translate enemy dialogue, so the port was actually doing them a favor by providing enemy voices in English. Sure, they weren't direct translations of the German from the PC version, but people played the game to shoot the bad guys, not sit around and listen to them babble.

6. "They screwed up the bosses!" - Did they, though? Yes, it's true that instead of Otto Giftmacher, General Fatface and Gretel Grosse, we get instead Trans Grosse, Ubermutant and "Black Knight" (known to us PC folks as Death Knight). You know what, though? When I first played the full version of Wolf3D, and had not yet heard of SOD, I was actually a little depressed. The SOD bosses that appear in the SNES port are a lot more colorful and interesting, in my opinion at least. I was more than a little disappointed to find out that at least two of the "real" bosses in the full version of Wolf3D were nothing but oversized officers with big guns.

At any rate, I think I've made my point, which is, if the SNES port were the only version of Wolf3D out there, I'm sure most folks would think it was a pretty good game (albiet in need of some clearer graphics on the SNES). If we had only the original Wolf3D and the SNES was actually a PC mod release, I'm pretty sure folks would be all over it. In fact, I'm going to wrap this up here and go see if such a thing as a PC mod version of the SNES port exists somewhere. Those of you who think I'm crazy, well, you're not the first, so I won't lose any sleep tonight! :-D

1 comment:

  1. totally agree - I also very much like the actual map designs, the levels are balanced and play very well and use the limited wall textures and decoration to their best effect.