Retro Review: “Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose” (SNES)

It’s now been three full decades since Tiny Toon Adventures premiered. 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. The show was at the forefront of a new age of kids’ programming, laying the groundwork for shows like Animaniacs and ushering in a new level of fourth-wall breaking antics.

To mark this momentous anniversary, we’re going to retro-review one of the many games that the TV series inspired: Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose for the Super NES.

The scripts were rejected…

Published by Konami in 1993, Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose is an action-platformer starring the series’ lead blue hare: Buster Bunny. There’s not really much “story” to speak of, as each stage is introduced as though it’s an episode of the show. As the fleet-footed Buster, players must run, dash, jump, and flip through stages that include Acme Looniversity, Spook Mansion, and outer space. At only six stage, Buster Busts Loose may not seem very long, but each stage is fairly long, so it helps to pad out what would otherwise be a short game.

The control scheme is innovative, but it takes an awful lot of time to get used to it. Instead of having Buster simply jump on top of enemies, he has a “flip kick” attack that must be executed with a separate button. This feels awkward at first, and it can cause you some headaches if you don’t time the animation properly or if the attack causes you to bounce back.

Buster can also dash at high speed and slide under low-hanging surfaces, though this doesn’t mean that the game is trying to be a Sonic clone. Not only does your dash meter run out, but the stage designs don’t mirror SEGA’s Blue Blur in the slightest. One remarkable aspect of Buster’s dash, however, is his ability to run straight up a vertical wall. This is employed several times throughout the Buster Busts Loose, as the player must navigate some rough terrain using skillfully executed wall-jumps. This can make for some exciting moments, but often Buster’s landings are difficult to control when dashing, which can lead to some aggravating deaths, particularly if you are “jumping blind.”

What Tiny Toon characters are tall enough for those top lockers?

A whole wide world apart

The stages offer a pretty solid amount of variation, with the standout being playing a winning drive of a football game (and by that I mean God’s football, not that Euro-trash “sport” also known as soccer). There’s also a solid Wild West level, to which I am always partial. Between each of the main stages, you’ll get a chance to play one of five different mini-games featuring the show’s expanded cast. These include Plucky Duck’s Go-Go Bingo, Mystery Weight Challenge, Hungry Boy Hampton, Furrball’s Championship Squash (I sucked hard at this), and Babs, Find Your Friends. Each gives you the chance to earn several extra lives, and they made for a good place to highlight the full Tiny Toons cast.

You can also score an extra life every time you collect a hundred stars, which usually pop up when you defeat enemies. Otherwise, there isn’t much else in the way of items or power-ups. There are ways to recover and expand your health, as well as replenish your dash meter, but that’s about it. You’re going to need those extra lives, though. While most of the stages themselves aren’t terribly difficult outside of a few tricky platforming sections, the bosses will eat away at your patience and your life count. Fans of the show should recognize most of them, including Dizzy Devil, Duck Vader, and the mad scientist Dr. Gene Splicer with his monstrous creation Melvin. To overcome them, most of these fights involve more than just a few well-timed kicks to the boss’ face, but they’re not unfair. Just standard fare for a retro platformer.

Gravity. Ain’t it a stinker?

A cartoon work of art?

Graphically, Buster Busts Loose does a good job replicating the look of the Tiny Toons show. The color palette is bright and colorful, and there are also several moments where the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 effects are used, from trains moving up and down slopes to spinning the bonus game wheel (inspired by the show’s “Wheel of Comedy”).

Buster himself animates well. The enemies aren’t quite as dynamic or detailed in their movements – except the bosses, that is. Essentially, if the character is one that you can name from the show, there was clearly a bit of extra care in their design.

In the sound department, all of the tunes are distinctly “Tiny Toonish.” Nothing memorable, but a good match, and several tracks are lifted straight from the television show. Sound effects are also a bit on the standard side, but nothing to fuss about. If there is any room to complain, it would have been a nice touch to use the Super Nintendo’s sampling capabilities to throw in a few voices. No biggie, though.

Plucky’s Go-Go Bingo kinda sucks

They crack up all the censors

While Buster Busts Loose offers a lot of enjoyment, particularly to Tiny Toons fans, some of the game’s most innovative aspects are also its most aggravating. Buster’s flip kick is a unique way of attacking enemies, but the timing and collision detection is somewhat unpredictable. Even by the end of the game, you may not be fully used to it. The game’s most unorthodox stage, the football game, is also quite frustrating. You have very little time to react to the defensive players, and success feels too dependent on chance.

The bonus stages between each action stage may also be a turn-off for some. While they offer much-appreciated extra lives, some of them take too long for those who are eager to jump straight into the next main stage.

Buster Busts Loose is challenging, but it doesn’t seem to be much more difficult that its contemporary platforming games of the era. In the least, you get multiple hits before dying and there is a password system to save your progress.

Up, up, and up some more!

Of course you know, this means Console War

Much like other games of the era such as Aladdin and Mortal Kombat, Buster Busts Loose is commonly compared to the SEGA Genesis Tiny Toons game, Buster’s Hidden Treasure. In this case, the two are not ports, but rather completely different games. While still developed and published by Konami, the Genesis/Mega Drive version is a far more derivative platformer where Buster merely has to jump on enemies to defeat them (much like Mario) with stage designs that seem very Sonic-inspired. Oh, and there are many more stages in the SEGA version, too.

However, even with all of the flaws of Buster Busts Loose, I slightly prefer it over Buster’s Hidden Treasure on Genesis. I personally give the SNES version a lot of credit for not playing it safe and choosing to try something unique, 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. You can read our review of Buster’s Hidden Treasure for the SEGA Genesis here.

And that’s a wrap!

If you are a big fan of the Tiny Toon Adventures tv show and have the patience to get used to a slightly unorthodox control scheme, then you probably will be able to get into Buster Busts Loose and enjoy it. There’s a lot of creative ideas at play, but the awkward attack mechanic prevents me from wholeheartedly recommending it to a broader base of retro gamers. It’s honestly not a very expensive pickup, though. At the time of this writing, eBay has several listings priced between $10 and $15, so the price of admission isn’t too bad if you want to give it a shot.

Thanks for reading! Oh, and happy anniversary, Tiny Toon Adventures!

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