It has become something of a running joke in recent years that Doom has been ported to pretty much every piece of technology available, be it a digital camera, a smart watch or a graphics calculator. Back in the day, however, you were much more limited as to what could play Doom, and if you didn’t have a suitable PC (not a 386, they fibbed about that!), you were left with console ports of varying quality. Yes, even the then-latest hardware like the Atari Jaguar, Sega’s 32X and the 3DO (though that is a special case as noted here) struggled to deliver the full experience. Then there was the SNES port.
Of course, the SNES had a secret weapon – the Super FX chip, specifically the GSU-2 version running at a stonking 21MHz. This, combined with more RAM and ROM, give Nintendo’s ageing console a fighting chance at hosting one of the hottest titles of the early 1990’s. So how did Sculptured Software (who were tasked with the conversion) do?
Let’s start with what was cut. As noted above, all of the console conversions were hobbled by limitations and the SNES is no exception. There are 22 levels included, not matching the original PC’s total but still enough to keep you occupied. There is no password system though, and no battery back up, so unless you play through an entire episode in one go, you’ll see an awful lot of those levels.
Graphically, the enemies lack animation, so only ever face you. Walls and floors lack textures and the Spectre is missing. Effects such as bullet marks and smoke are also out. It gets worse. To put it simply, this is a very low-res title with a limited colour palette and it’s not a full-screen experience either. The consequence of this is that enemies at a distance are mere pixels and can often blend into the background. This leads you to taking hits from effectively invisible foes. To counter this, it’s probably best to keep moving, which leads me to the frame rate. It’s terrible, varying depending on the on-screen complexity. This also leads to jerky aiming and, for me, a newly discovered propensity for motion sickness. Not something I suffered from when playing this back in the 90’s but very much an issue now.
As for the rest of the presentation, the music is actually quite good, as are the sound effects, but Nintendo did censure most of the references to Hell and the gore. Ah, the good old days when only “children” played videogames. Fools.
This is a difficult port to review in that when you sit down to play it, you are getting Doom and it is on the SNES. The problem is that even with the added power of that Super-FX chip, it’s not really the Doom experience. It plays sluggishly and unevenly, there are unintended difficulty spikes caused by the graphical issues and some weird decisions about what episodes can be played at certain difficulty levels, and it very much feels that the decision to develop the port was more about the money rather than actually releasing a good conversion. This is not to call Sculptured Software. As things have turned out, they have created a port that kind of works and one that, if the SNES was your only gaming system at the time, at least gave you a chance to get your hands on the game. Unless you had a 386… then you had an equivalent graphical experience.
SNES Doom is a very poor cousin of the original but, as noted above, pretty much none of the console ports (until the PlayStation) covered themselves with glory. Yes, it is technically impressive that there is a port for the SNES, but it’s not that fun a game to play. What makes matters worse is that once you have played the original (or the PS version if you remained a console gamer), you can never look at this title again without noticing the massive differences it contains. With that in mind, you may think the score below a tad harsh but whilst you are getting Doom on Nintendo’s funky grey wonder, you’re not getting a good game of Doom, and that’s really what matters.
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Whilst a technical tour de force for Nintendo’s 16-bit wonder, SNES Doom is a step too far even for fans of the original PC version.
Quiet guy enjoying videogames (both retro and modern), military history, historical wargaming, sci-fi and fantasy. Run my own blog at tantobieinternettattler.blogspot.com which covers most of my hobbies and interests.