Every once in a while a game is released that's so unique it garners a cult following and becomes more popular years later than when it was first released. Toe Jam & Earl for the Sega Genesis is one such game, but another prime example would be Konami's Zombies Ate My Neighbors. The game takes the "B" grade horror movie theme and builds a unique action game experience around it that feels like a cross between a shoot 'em up and a scavenger hunt. The end result is one of the most unusually enjoyable action titles available for the Super NES system and one that no zombie-slaying-maniac-in-3-D-glasses should ever be without.
Your goal in Zombies Ate My Neighbors is simple: you have to locate and rescue ten of your neighbors before the zombies and other ghouls get their hands on them. Along the way, you'll be chased by everything from tiny axe murderers to chainsaw-wielding madmen. Under normal circumstances this might seem impossible, but you have the unique distinction of being armed to the teeth, which will make it at least a little easier to accomplish your task. Your main weapon is a water pistol filled with holy water that can take down most of the weaker enemies, but you're going to need the big guns to take down the stronger monsters. You'll find dynamite, a bazooka, not to mention a potion that can turn you into a huge scary monster, to aid you on your quest. Once you've managed to rescue all of the neighbors, a door will open up that will warp you to the next area where you must start the entire process all over again.
The control in the game is rock solid and the large selection of different weapons gives the game plenty of variety. The levels start out fairly easy, but they'll soon become much more complicated and finding the neighbors will become increasingly troublesome, not to mention the fact that the monsters become more aggressive. You'll really have your work cut out for you in the later levels of the game when the action gets insanely intense. The good news is the game's responsive play controls give you every chance you'll need to be successful, although you'll have to supply the skills of course.
Visually, Zombies doesn't exactly set new 16-bit standards, but it still manages to look sharp and the creative use of the darker color scheme used throughout the game really makes the creepy visuals come to life onscreen. The monsters animate well enough, but in all honesty you won't have much time to stand around and admire the scenery, since you're going to be constantly chased around by the monsters in the game. Each area has its own distinct look and feel, so there's always something new to look forward to as you enter each new world. Zombies might not be the best looking Super Nintendo game, but it's still got it where it counts.
The music in the game is as outrageous as the scenery. All of the tunes have a menacing and spooky sound to them, and couldn't fit the mood of the game any better. Even the sound effects are incredibly creepy and realistic: you'll honestly feel like you're smack dab in the middle of an old-fashioned horror flick. About the only complaint that can be leveled against the game is that many of these musical tracks are repeated a bit too often; while the tunes are great, they do become a little repetitive after you've heard the same one over and over again.
If you find yourself all played out on the typical action titles available on the Virtual Console service, it might be a good time to try something different. Zombies Ate My Neighbors should fit that bill quite nicely: if you took Contra and somehow turned it into a second rate horror movie, this is probably what you'd end up with. Suffice it to say, if shooting everything in sight and blowing stuff up is your thing, you're going to love this unusual Super Nintendo action title. It might be a little on the strange side, but any time you're given the opportunity to shoot a zombie in the face with a bazooka, you know you're in for a real treat. And at 800 Wii Points, it won't break your wallet either.