In 1995, there was a sea change in the consoles for video games, both in what they looked like and in what type of game they played. The fifth generation of consoles was launched in North America, including the original Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn. Nintendo prepared for the future with the upcoming Nintendo 64 and threw the past with its discontinuation of the original NES system. It left Super Nintendo in a difficult place – on the one hand, developers made games as good as ever for a system they knew well. On the other, who wanted to play yesterday’s system?
If Super Nintendo had really become yesterday̵
If you are a paid Nintendo Switch Online subscriber, you can play Wild cannons right now for free by downloading the Super Nintendo Entertainment System app.
Like many Super Nintendo games, Wild cannons was done in a hurry. Looking back in an interview in 2013, creator Shunichi Taniguchi said that his boss at Natsume, his Tokyo-based game developer, “asked us to develop a new game with two conditions: fast and cheap.” The game was made in five months with a team of three, but bursts with creativity.
Inspired by the late 70’s to mid 80’s space adventure manga Cobra and spaghetti western like The good the bad and the ugly, Wild cannons has two main characters, Clint and Annie. The original manual covers the game’s plot, where Annie’s family seeks revenge on the Kid family and Clint is her hired space hunter.
There is no significant difference between the two, apart from a few different animations (Clint brings out a bombshell lever while Annie throws her in the air), but I thought it was fun to play with Annie. Beyond a few characters like Samus of Super Metroid and Terra Branford from Final Fantasy III, there are not many female protagonists in SNES games. While the game itself does not offer much in the way of plot or dialogue, it is gratifying to see her blast through the endless waves.
Despite the title, shooting is just one aspect of Wild cannons. I used my first attempts to focus on my weapons, but I died quickly again and again, the screen faded to an old-fashioned gray. The objective of Wild cannons is not to kill most enemies, but to survive them. Once, I started jumping and double-jumping around the screen, dodging the bullet targets and sounding on Annie’s call to “Watch out!”, I started to live a little longer, although frequent use of the Switch Online rewind button was still useful.
However, it was worth it, because the enemies of Wild cannons is something to see. They start as standard cowboys and robot destroyers, but they become more and more random. It’s a markedly non-western guy with a knife trying to stab you. It’s a man with leopard print like hula hoops on a moving robo train, and the hula hoop shoots circular freeze explosions that make your character vulnerable to attack.
What are these people doing in a western space? It’s hard to say, but the real surprise I felt when I saw them, and then the sudden rush to avoid the attacks, was a real roller coaster of emotions.
Looking back, Taniguchi says that Wild cannons the team “still thought it was the golden age” of Super Nintendo, not really concerned with what quickly came down the pike. At its best is Wild cannons the screen is a series of constant explosions, from dynamite to robots, and it is difficult to predict where it will go next. But it makes you want to find out.