I sometimes wonder what the readers of this column think about me. For all I know, they might think me as some sort of of sick weirdo who enjoys nothing but ultra violent shooting games and weird RPGs. To this I say…oh wait. Actually that is kind accurate. But I do enjoy a bit of Toilet Tycoon now and then….Na I’m kidding. All jokes aside, as much as I love mowing down demons in Doom or innocent bystanders in Postal 2, I’ve been known to enjoy more pleasant and lighter games once in a while. That brings me to the game in question. Today on Retro Saturdays I’ll be talking about Snow Bros! Wait, are you telling me you don’t know what Snow Bros. is? Blasphemy I say! That leaves you no other choice than to spare 5 minutes and listen to this wonderful story I have to say.
I use two words to describe an Indian kid’s life in the 90s; Cricket and Nintendo Entertainment System. I totally made up the second one, but hey that’s pretty accurate in my case. India used to be at least 10 years behind on technology those days, and most of the younger generation weren’t blessed with the original NES. However, we did get cheap Chinese knockoffs like Victor, Ending Man, Little Master etc. They costed around 200 rupees (which is like a thousand bucks today) and would come bundled with a Zapper replica and two controllers. I had one too. But that lucky sob called my cousin had an original NES. An actual Nintendo Entertainment System! Everyone was so jealous of him like you wouldn’t believe. Anyways I’m going off track here. I used to visit him every summer vacation and thus got to play it every day. We used to get up early at 6 AM and would spend the day alternating between cricket and NES. Those were the days. God I’m such a nostalgia freak. Guess we all are, one way or another.
We would play all sorts of games like Shadow of the Ninja, Ninja Gaiden, Double Dragon, Contra, Jackal, Dead Fox and a lot more. We always preferred co-operative games as none of us would end up sitting bored, watching the other play. This is how I got to play Snow Bros. for the first time. It had everything going for it to make a perfect co-operative game. There was a lot of teamwork, compromises and tactics involved, as well as the chance to screw the other out of potential upgrades and loot (*evil laugh*) Would you believe me when I say that I have finished that game more than 50 times? What makes this game so special? Well, read on.
Snow Bros. is a 1990 platform arcade game developed by Toaplan and published by Capcom. It was later ported to various other platforms such as Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, Sega Genesis, Amiga etc. The game has you play as princes of Whiteland (SJWs be getting triggered) Nick and Tom, distinguished by their red and blue apparel respectively. The evil king Scorch turns the both of them into snowmen and enslaves the princesses in order to gain control over Whiteland. The plot of the game revolves around the brothers kicking the asses of Scorch and his minions, save the princesses and regain control over Whiteland. All in a day’s work.
Snow Bros. is heavily inspired by 1986’s Bubble Bobble. The game supports up to two players, with each player taking the part of one of two snowmen. Each level constitutes of a single screen with various platforms and layers. The levels are populated by monsters, all of whom must be eliminated before moving on to the next level. This is done by using Nick and Tom’s super secret power to throw snow in the face of enemies at an accelerated pace, stunning enemies and turning them to one big ball of snow. These snowballs can then be rolled off and they rebound off of walls until eventually shattering against a wall. Any enemies the snowball rolls into are eliminated and other stationary snowballs start rolling when the rolling snowball touches them. If the player manages to take out all of the enemies using one snowball, bonus money will start falling from the top of the screen, i.e the sky.
If the player manages to roll a snowball over another partial snowball, then it nets you different types of potions. We used to call them jams back then because, well they do look like jars of jam. Red jam lets your character run at alarming speeds (and make their legs look like that of a caterpillar on cocaine). Blue jam made your snow more thick and strong ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°). Yellow jam increased the range of your throwing and finally, the green jam inflated your head into a hydrogen balloon, enabling you to fly around and bite the monsters (it sure looked like biting). The desired jam would not appear as often and me and my cousin had to make compromises and deals as to who will get which. But sometimes, we used to screw one another over to get the red or yellow jam first. Of course when you die, you loose all your powers and would have to start over again. This made dying not a popular option. Plus, the amount of lives you had were limited. You could get additional lives by winning them on a slot machine after each boss encounter.
Speaking of bosses, there are one every ten levels. Since the game has 50 levels, there are five bosses, with the last one being king Scorch himself. Each boss encounter is varied and unique, requiring different strategies for them to be beaten. One of my favorite encounters has you fighting two gigantic birds at the same time. The birds would fly around the screen dropping eggs. You have to freeze the newly hatched birdling inside snowballs and roll them straight towards their mommas. The normal enemies aren’t cookie clutter either. For example there is one little bugger that can make itself into a twister, rendering himself invulnerable and hunt you down in a jiffy. If the player takes too much time to complete a level, an evil pumpkin head will appear and try to kill the player character. It is invincible but can be stunned and sent to appear somewhere else in the level with snowballs or snow shots. There are some levels which can make you fall into inescapable areas if you’re not to careful. Throw the twister monster into the mix and the party is complete.
The game is relatively short and can be completed in about 3 hours. But the fun factor never ceases to exist. The game also features a kickass Christmas carol-like soundtrack that gets you in the holiday spirit. Especially the bonus level and slot machine soundtracks. I have heard of the game getting some sequels or unofficial remakes for Android, iOS and modern Nintendo platforms. But by that time I had moved on to PC gaming. Even after 20 years, I still remember all those great moments we had. I for one, could never get the game out of my mind. Snow Bros. a hidden gem in all manner of speaking.
Snow Bros. holds a special place in my heart. I know I say that about many games. I’m a human being with a big heart after all. Snow Bros. is a game that can never get boring, at least to me. Hence even after 50 or so playthroughs I still go back from time to time. My cousin grew out of gaming and now leads a boring normal life. So I miss playing with him. We made one hell of a team. Going back and playing alone feels weird and even sad at times. Mostly because it reminds me of days gone. I’ll never get those days back. All those days when you barely had anything to worry about other than deciding how you wanted to spend the day. Time and tide waits for no man I guess.
Well that’s enough teary eyes for one day. If I talk one more line about missing my childhood I risk the danger of falling into depression territory. This article has once again, given me a lot to ponder upon. I’ll see you guys next week with another retro gem. Til then, enjoy the weekend and happy gaming.
*Credits goes to youtuber World of Longplays for the gameplay video.