Trouble Shooter: Nintendo Haters at Heart

The Sega-Nintendo War of the early 1990s may go down in history as yet another small-scale market squabble, but it left an impression. Uncouth as it is to compare trivial game-industry rivalries to real life, Sega and Nintendo fought a World War, polarizing the masses and reducing NEC’s TurboGrafx-16 to a cringing pocket of irrelevance. It was a momentous age, with every young nerd sifting magazines and playground rumors for the latest revelation that would see Sega or Nintendo triumphant. Friendships were tested, lifelong biases were forged, and at least one person claimed that Eternal Champions was better than Street Fighter II Turbo. And it all happened without widespread Internet access to feed the bonfires.

Yet the battle rarely bled into the games themselves. For the most part, Sega and Nintendo avoided attacking each other in their creations. Sega originally named a mustachioed boss “Mari-Oh” in Alex Kidd in Shinobi World, then changed it for the final version. Nintendo took the high road until the last years of the war, and their most savage blow had Uniracers telling players that names like "Sonic" and "Sega" were, in fact, not cool enough.

The majority of third-party developers avoided taking sides, but some couldn’t help it. Naxat buried an exploding “S?GA” logo in the code of their awesome NES shooter Recca, even though that barb went undiscovered for decades. Bart’s Nightmare, a horrible 1992 Super NES treatment of The Simpsons, snipes at Sega in mini-game where skyscraper residents toss things from windows. Among the items rained down on Bartzilla are cats, TVs, fire extinguishers…and what looks like a Genesis.

On the other side of the conflict, one game bluntly targets Nintendo and the Super Famicom. That game is Vic Tokai’s Trouble Shooter.

Trouble Shooter was never a classic of the Sega Genesis library. It’s basic and slow-paced, though strangely charming in its fusion of the free-floating gameplay of Forgotten Worlds, the humorous tones of Parodius, and the destructive heroines-for-hire of The Dirty Pair. The game sends heavily armed bounty hunters Madison and Crystal (Mania and Maria in Japan) floating through levels and gunning down all sorts of slightly bizarre machines. It has the affectionate, in-jokey air of a pet project, crafted by a Vic Tokai team called Studio Uchuu Tetsujin, or Studio Space Iron Men. Reportedly irked by Vic Tokai’s support of Super Famicom games, Studio Space Iron Men hit Nintendo with a stunning assault. They stepped on the Super Famicom.