TBT - Choose Your Own Adventure With The Peace Keepers (Super Nintendo)
Sometimes we think of things as kids and carry those thoughts and memories our whole lives, not realizing how foolish they are until we take the briefest of moments to reflect on them. Case in point: My thoughts on a little gem of a Super Nintendo cartridge called The Peace Keepers.
For the uninitiated, The Peace Keepers is a 1994 JALECO Beat ‘em up side-scroller for the SNES. Similar to Streets of Rage or Golden Axe II, the game features multiple playable characters and offers a 2-player team-up mode, and in this version of the tried-and-true beat ‘em up formula, characters faced not only mutants and clones but also pirates and goons that looked like they were ported from Thunderdome itself. The graphics were fantastic, and if I recall correctly the gameplay and controls were solid, too.
However, The Peace Keepers also offered something very unique to the genre. Unlike so many other games of its type, The Peace Keepers allowed players to dictate the story via branching gameplay. At the close of some levels, players could choose different levels or paths and different characters to take them. As a thirteen-year-old, this feature boggled my mind. See, I had always enjoyed those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, even if I always either dies or got captured during them; and The Peace Keepers took that same concept to the digital realm. Having the choice of where to go and who to beat was a novelty I treasured, and I esteemed this game as a unique novelty for years. I always thought, “Wow, no other game allows me to dictate my experience and what the characters do like this one does.”
Which of course brings me back to my opening. As all of you have likely already realized, my thirteen-year-old self had forgotten about games like Mega Man 2, Metroid, Zelda, and a host of others that allowed you, the player, to dictate the order of your experience and how you fulfilled your quest. Not only did all those games do it before this one, but one could argue, rather easily, they do it more robustly. So much for this game being a revolution. But sometimes life is like that, you'll look back on something that you put on a pedestal, only to realize that so many things around it were already standing on higher ground.
But this being a throwback article, that doesn't really matter all that much does it? As the novice on the site, I tend to write from one of two positions: nostalgia or ignorance; and in this format, the former gets to trump the latter. As far as I was concerned back then, The Peace Keepers was a unique and stunning cartridge, and it offered a freedom of gameplay unlike any other. Even though it’s pretty clear to me now just how inaccurate my outlook was, I’m gonna esteem this game, regardless. …
Because it deserves it. See, for this article, I did something I’ve not done previously for Gaming with Swag. I ran a quick Youtube search of The Peace Keepers and decided to watch one of those long-play videos of it as a refresher. I’ve had it running in the background while I’ve been composing this piece, and SERIOUSLY, I forgot how awesome this game is. I had forgotten about the intro stories for the four main playable characters; I had forgotten about the cut scenes that made the player invested in their journeys. I forgot why the branching gameplay in The Peace Keepers was so important: in this game, you had to choose whose journey you would follow, and ALL OF THEM had weight (well, at least for a 2D beat ‘em up).Watching this gameplay, I was reminded how invested I was as a kid in the emotional stories of these characters: Prokop (basically T-HAWK), Echo (kind of a female Terry Bogard), Flynn (a Final-Fight Guy+Cody hybrid), and Al (pretty much Ernie Hudson from Congo). I spent hours with these characters trying to get them justice; and while this game remains on the “never got to beat it” shelf, I forgot just how hard I tried, not just because of the legit gameplay but because of the stories that drove it.
Sure, tons of games allowed one to better dictate their gameplay, but branching stories of this intricate and emotional nature WERE revolutionary in a 2-D side-scroller. So, it looks like my thirteen-year-old self was smarter than my thirty-something self-gave myself my credit for. …
Or something like that.
Game on, Dads.