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RELEASE DATE (NA): 1994 GENRE: First-Person Shooter
// review by SoyBomb

Never has religion been so misinterpreted...

A while back (perhaps stretching farther back in time than this site has been active), I wrote an article entitled "Hollowing the Wisdom Tree", which is still available on this site to this very day. The article, though somewhat lazily written, examined a series of unlicensed Christianity-based video games released by developer Wisdom Tree for the NES, SNES, and Genesis in the early 1990s. They generally lacked in quality and, above all, proved to me just how little I know and understand about the Bible. Now while there were a number of such games prepared for the NES system, there was only one available for the SNES: Super Noah's Ark 3D (or Super 3D Noah's Ark, depending upon how you interpret the game's logo). This was an unusual little product indeed: it was the only unlicensed game pak for the console, and as a result, it looked rather different. In fact, it was the only one of its kind. Due to Nintendo's lockout chip in the SNES (which required a license from the company), Wisdom Tree had to find a sneaky method of bypassing the technology in order to get their game to function. So the cartridge actually required the player to insert a second game on top of it -- a licensed one -- which would force the SNES to acknowledge a license and allow the game to play. That's quite a feat for this Christian development group! Unfortunately, those who chose to purchase Super 3D Noah's Ark made a grievous error because the game itself is quite deplorable.

...or so the story goes...

In Super Noah's Ark 3D, you play as Noah (of biblical fame) who, as most people already know (thus causing me to wonder why I'm telling you), was informed by God that an impending flood was on the horizon and that he was to construct an ark to carry two of every animal and save every species from extinction. Except for the fish and possibly a few really ugly animals like the butt yak. However, for whatever strange reason, the animals seem to have a bit of a vendetta against Noah. He must have poked them one too many times with his staff. Anyway, as Noah traverses the various levels of the game, numerous animals try and get their sweet revenge against him by doing whatever it takes to murder him. That's downright zany and is likely taking a few liberties from the original story. The reasoning behind this may not have anything to do with the story of Noah itself; it may instead lie with the source code of the game itself. Rumours have been strewn about that id Software, developer of the original PC version of Wolfenstein 3D, was quite dissatisfied by the removal of so many prominent elements of the game (violence, references to Nazism, etc.) by Nintendo that they simply handed over the game's code to Wisdom Tree for whatever purpose they had for it. Super Noah's Ark 3D uses the same basic code as Wolfenstein 3D, which explains why the animals are so violent. If you just replace the Nazis with animals, that's pretty much the premise of this game. Expect many rampaging beasts to try and kill you, but because this is Wolfenstein 3D territory, the animals can hurt you from afar, just like the gunfire of the guards in the original code. It's quite odd to see your character getting injured by a goat when it is kicking you from several metres away. You can also tell that Wolfenstein 3D code was used because your status bar is quite similar, though differing in colour and boasting a picture of Noah instead of B.J. Blazkowicz. And even the layouts of the levels are the same (though I can't say that they are in the same order). You know what? I might as well simply spout off a list of all the changes made between Wolfenstein 3D and Super Noah's Ark 3D:

War Prison Surroundings
B.J. Blazkowicz
Nazi Guards
Gun Ammunition
War Posters
Rooms with Decor
Dark Soundtrack
WWII-based Storyline
First Aid Kits
Golden Treasure
Relative Awesomeness

Wooden Ark Surroundings
Pissed Off Goats
Animal Feed
Pictures of Smilin' Noah
Yawnworthy Boring Rooms
Upbeat Tunage
Something about an ark...
Absolute Mediocrity

Yeah, I was pretty surprised by that last one. Odd Factoid: Because the guards in the original game could open doors, so can the goats. How goats can open doors is beyond me.

Sadly, many of the other elements from the SNES version of Wolfenstein 3D have also seeped through, leading to a horrific disappointment of a product. The game projects some of the muddiest graphics I have ever seen from a SNES game. The original PC game was texture-based; this tries to emulate such a feat but fails on even the most basic aesthetic level. Everything just ends up looking far too blurry. The animals have strange animations as well; goats in the first level, for example, kick in what looks more like an organ spasm than a tough hoofing. The music is also as subpar, though tolerable. It is quite basic overall; if ever there was a good example of video game music sounding like it was composed in MIDI format, this is it! Meanwhile, the sound effects are somewhat realistic but disturbing nonetheless. The slurping sounds of the goats is downright freaky, the slingshot noise is springier than expected, and hearing a goat call is often downright frightening. You tend to hear them before you see them, so you're just walking along, and suddenly a goat bleats in the distance! MWAEEEEEH! Run, Noah, run!

However, the most important aspect of any video game is in its gameplay, its control scheme, its pure unadulterated essence! Unfortunately, it's not exactly my ideal game in this regard either. Although walking controls are generally on par with any other First-Person Shooters on the SNES (Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, etc.), that's still not saying too much. The whole game engine feels clunky and not suitable for a console at the time of its inception into the market. The PC was much better equipped t handle textured 3D adventuring. Leave the SNES for two-dimensional travels, I say (or would have said had I not possessed an age in the single-digit range when this game was made). The game is further hampered by the unfortunate inaccuracy of your shots, which often miss their targets even if the animal is directly within the range of the weapon; some animals take more than one shot though, so don't lose hope and make Noah sad! But as for enemies that take too many hits, Carl the Camel is a prime candidate for that title! In the third level, you must go up against Carl the Camel (a peeved camel who clearly has some sort of grudge against the man who wishes to keep him alive during the flood), and he's just plain tough. I took him down, only to move forward and find another stash of goats... AND an ostrich or two. Odd. This is not to say the game is full of cons; there are a couple of upsides to be found. I initially didn't know whether the strafing function had been left in the game, but you CAN strafe, so that's a plus. There is also a map function in the game, so unlike the PC version of Wolfenstein 3D, it will be more difficult to get lost! I also believe that the maps are NOT the same as in the original version...

But seriously, why are there so many goats?!

Super Noah's Ark 3D is exactly what you'd expect from an unlicensed developer, and perhaps actually somewhat more. Unlike all those old NES knockoffs you could easily find along the streets of Hong Kong back in the day, this one is actually playable and makes some sense... to a certain extent. To be honest, this game is not the worst of the library, and in fact I've encountered much worse on the SNES. Still, I'm not going to recommend this one, not only because it's unlicensed, but simply because it's a ripoff of Wolfenstein 3D, and chances are you'd have more fun with that. Besides, who would want to kill an innocent bloodthirsty goat anyway?

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