Retro Review: “Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure” (SEGA Genesis)

The very first episode of Tiny Toon Adventures debuted on 14 September 1990, so to mark this anniversary, we’re going to review one of the several video games based on the groundbreaking show.

I was hitting middle school around the time that Tiny Toon Adventures first aired, and given that it landed at such a formative time in my life, the show had a significant effect on shaping my sense of humor. Based on a group of young “cartoon characters in training,” the Tiny Toons themselves were re-imagined stand-ins for classic Warner Bros. characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig. Tiny Toons went on to air for several years, winning many awards along the way. It also ushered in a new level of fourth-wall breaking antics that would lay the groundwork for other shows like Animaniacs and Freakazoid.

Much like many other successful cartoons of the early 1990s, the Tiny Toons property would be used to create a number of tie-in products, including comics, happy meal toys, and of course, video games. As it turned out, Konami landed the license, and one of these games was Buster’s Hidden Treasure released in 1993 for the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive.

Script, please

The story of the game is simple enough: Buster Bunny and Montana Max are both after the same lost treasure, and so Monty kidnaps several of Buster’s friends to prevent him from reaching it first. As Buster, you have to travel the full extent of Acme Acres, rescue your friends, and find the treasure before Montana Max does.

Simple enough, right? As it turns out, the gameplay is isn’t very complicated, either. Buster can run at high speed and jump on enemies Mario-style. Collecting carrots will earn you an assist from one of the other Tiny Toon cast members such as Beeper and Li’l Sneezer, who each use different animations to wipe out all of the enemies onscreen. Other than collecting additional health or the occasional invincibility, that’s about it as far as power-ups go.

Is Dr. Gene Splicer the ugliest character design ever conceived?

Expect the unexpected?

The environments in Buster’s Hidden Treasure aren’t very inspired. Actually, that’s not completely fair – they’re actually very Sonic-inspired. Nearly every level seems to be ripped from the Sonic the Hedgehog playbook, starting with a Green Hill-esque first stage, and ending in a giant factory that might as well be called Scrap Brain Zone, complete with electric diodes and oversized rotating cogs. The levels in-between include the woods, a cave, a lava cave, snowy hills, and a pirate ship (which is the only stage that doesn’t seem to fit the Sonic the Hedgehog mold). How do you make a Tiny Toons game and not set a single stage in Acme Looniversity? At least there are a few hidden bonus rounds set in Wackyland… and the Elmyra chase sequence later in the game was a pretty cool idea, too.

Each of the game’s 33 stages is populated with a number of fairly low-threat enemies, most of which Tiny Toons fans will recognize from the show such as Roderick Rat, the wolverine, and Arnie the pit bull. Most of the boss fights involve mad scientist Dr. Gene Splicer who is controlling the minds of one of Buster’s friends, including Calamity Coyote, Hampton J. Pig, Dizzy Devil and Plucky Duck (both in normal and “Toxic Revenger” form). Your path to victory lies in attacking the mad doctor while avoiding attacks from your brainwashed buddy. Most of these fights aren’t remarkably difficult (for the era), thanks in large part to the generous hit box of Buster’s jumping attack.

Green Hill Zone?

“Ah, mango liquid refreshment!”

On the aestheic side, Buster’s Hidden Treasure does a good job in translating the look of the Tiny Toon Adventures television show to SEGA’s 16-bit console. Most of the characters and environments are bright and colorful, and Buster himself has quite a few fun animations. The music is mostly drawn from the television show as well, and the Genesis does a decent job recreating these upbeat tunes. It’s unlikely that any of these tracks will stick in your head or become the basis for a sick retro remix, but as a soundtrack, it’s apt.

While there are a few moments of heightened difficulty, I wouldn’t exactly call Buster’s Hidden Treasure a difficult game when compared to its early-90s peers. There are a few tricky platforming segments and some of the boss fights will take a bit of practice, but you get multiple hits, there is a password system to save your progress, and you can always backtrack on the overworld map to build up your life meter in the earlier stages if you need to. It also helps that Buster controls well, and platforming feels fairly precise.

How are there multiple Arnie the Pit Bull characters at the same time?

No relation

Much like other games of the era such as Aladdin and Mortal Kombat, Buster’s Hidden Treasure is commonly compared to the Super NES Tiny Toons game, Buster Busts Loose. In this case, the two are not ports, but rather completely different games. While still developed and published by Konami, the SNES version is a shorter but less traditional platformer, with a frustrating but unique flip-kick attack and a variety of bonus mini-games between stages.

Even though the control scheme in Buster Busts Loose is awkward and takes quite a bit of time to get used to, I still slightly prefer the SNES game over Buster’s Hidden Treasure on Genesis. I give Buster Busts Loose a lot of credit for not playing it safe and choosing to try something unique, both with its control scheme and more unique levels, even if all of those features aren’t perfectly executed. Of course, the very first Tiny Toon Adventures for the original NES is the best game based on the Tiny Toons license.

Spoilers! Monty doesn’t get to have the treasure.

“Say goodnight, Babs”

I have a lot of good memories of Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure. It was one of the only Genesis games that one of my childhood friends had at his house, so my nostalgic ties to it are strong. It’s a well-made, albeit derivative game, and it’s absolutely worth playing if you are a fan of either the Tiny Toons tv show or faster-paced, Sonic-style platformers. Otherwise, it’s probably a forgettable game for most everyone else, as it doesn’t do anything particularly remarkable or unique.

Being a licensed game, Buster’s Hidden Treasure was never re-released, but if you’re interested, physical copies regularly sell for about $10 – $15 on eBay, so the price is right if you want to try the game for yourself. It’s definitely a solid game and worth the play if you are at all inclined to give it a shot, but it’s a shame that it didn’t break any new ground.

Thanks for reading, and happy anniversary Tiny Toon Adventures!

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