Retro Review: “Speedy Gonzales – Los Gatos Bandidos” (Super NES)
The early nineties was the golden age of the character platforming game, with many developers struggling to find their own twist on a genre dominated by Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario World. While some companies many tried to develop their own characters and worlds (Bubsy, Awesome Possum, Socket), others chose to buy up a license as a shortcut to build a game around it.
Sunsoft was one such company. The company developed a number of games based on several popular properties including Disney movies and cartoons, DC Comics’ superheroes, and Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes cartoons. Among the latter, Sunsoft crafted games based on Bugs Bunny, the Tazmanian Devil, the Road Runner and even Porky Pig, but one of the most natural candidates for a quick-paced platformer was Speedy Gonzales, the self-described “fastest mouse in all Mexico.” Likely with an eye on the success of Sonic, Sunsoft picked up the Speedy license and delivered a game exclusive for the Super Nintendo in the form of Speedy Gonzales: Los Gatos Bandidos in 1995.
So how well does Speedy fair against the fleet-footed competition?
In Los Gatos Bandidos, players control the titular Speedy Gonzales across a number of different environments. You see, the naughty pussy cat Sylvester and his posse have kidnapped a number of Speedy’s slower amigos (not Slowpoke Rodriguez, though, if you were worried), and the fastest mouse in all Mexico has to brave a number of dangers to save his buddies. And if you aren’t careful, you will probably watch poor Speedy do his fair share of dying, too, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Like many other side-scrolling platforming games, Los Gatos Bandidos is built around running, jumping, dodging enemies and traps, and Speedy has a kick attack to knock around the baddies.
Controlling Speedy works fairly well. He’s definitely quick, acrobatic, animates well, and he can get some serious air if you jump while running at top speed. The hit box for Speedy’s kick attack seems to be a bit larger than I first expected, so it took a bit of play to get used to. Despite being a mouse, Speedy is a fairly large sprite, so you don’t always have lots of time to react to oncoming threats if you are moving at high speeds. Speedy can also pick up items from time to time (like fire-breathing hot sauce), which he can use to defeat enemies or bypass certain areas.
While the game’s enemies include a number of different animals, most of them are cats. Boss cats, pawn cats, cats with crossbows, cats who ride jackhammers, even the bats kind of look like cats… there is truly no shortage of pussy in this game. Most are dispatched easily enough with a few kicks, but others are best dealt with by dodging them and moving on.
“Everybody’s seester knows Speedy Gonzales!”
Despite being based on a mouse who lives in a small desert village in Mexico, the game’s stages are fairly varied. Speedy will traverse a haunted castle, pirate ship, outer space, and even a snow level. While the variation is nice to have and a game set exclusively in the desert would have become dull quickly, it has to be said that most stages really don’t match the Speedy Gonzales license in the slightest. To be honest, only Fiesta City seems to fit, and there are still plenty of other Mexican locales that would have made sense. For example: Why no Acapulco Beachside, tent cities, or a drug cartel compound? Such an unfortunate, lost opportunity.
Each stages has its own environmental hazards with which to contend, and Speedy can also free a number of his caged amigos along the way, as well as collect cheese wedges to earn extra lives. There are oddly no “tricks” in the stages à la Sonic the Hedgehog, so no corkscrews or loops for Speedy to dash through. There are a few nice graphical touches peppered throughout, such as mouse traps acting as Speedy’s springboards.
However, there is a time limit to worry about, too, and I found it to be much more aggressive than the time limits in other platforming games. You will absolutely want to pick up as many time bonus items as possible, and you will likely not have the time to do a lot of exploring for all of Speedy’s lost amigos. I guess therein lies some of the replay value, eh?
“Esta too mucho rapido for the eyes to follow?”
If you haven’t guessed it by now, completing Los Gatos Bandidos isn’t an easy task. Aside from the host of feroicious felines (petulant pussies) and the aforementioned time limit, there are plenty of chances for Speedy to meet an unfortunate end. The platforming itself can get pretty tough, and there are several blind jumps and cheap hits when you are trying to traverse the stage quickly.
There are also the boss fights, which are pretty weak, to be honest. Despite Sylvester being set up as the big baddie of the game, you never actually fight him, disappointingly. Instead, Speedy only combats a number of Sylvester’s lieutenants in the boss fights. Most of them last far too long, and the game’s final boss was – by far – the easiest to defeat. WTF?
“¡Andale! ¡Andale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! ¡Yii-hah!”
From a graphics standpoint, Los Gatos Bandidos is a great looking game. Most stages are very colorful, and the haunted castle stage specifically makes use of some pretty awesome foreground layers. The graphics are very much reminiscent with an animated cartoon, though not always matching the Looney Tunes art style. The animations range from adequate to good, though some look to be direct “borrows” from Sonic. Sure, Speedy’s Sonic-like running animation can at least point to the fact that the Road Runner did it first, but Speedy’s animation when standing on the edge of a platform is lifted straight from Sonic 2.
On the sound front, Los Gatos Bandidos offers a solid performance. The music has a Latin flare, but is usually not too memorable. There are a few fun flourishes of recognizable tunes like “La Cucaracha”, and there are some fun voices sprinkled throughout, such as Speedy’s “¡Ándele!” when he grabs the speed power up.
“They don’t make pussy cats like they used to….”
Overall, Speedy Gonzales: Los Gatos Bandidos has a lot going for it, but as a whole package, it’s hard to recommend except to Looney Tunes super fans. There are a lot of cheap hits that will frustrate even the more hardcore gamers, and I would have liked to see the stage design do a better job matching the game to the license, because many stages are pretty generic. It is also worth noting that there is a game breaking bug in stage 6-1 if you try playing the game with an emulator (including clone systems such as the Retron 5), which I learned the hard way.
If you are interested, cartridge-only listings for Los Gatos Bandidos won’t set you back too much, so you should be able to snag a copy off of eBay for less than $15, which at the time of this writing is roughly equal to 300 Mexican pesos. That’s not a joke; that’s on-point.