Little Things: Totally Rad


If anyone tells you that story doesn’t matter to a video game, you’ll find the perfect counterargument in an NES side-scroller called Totally Rad. Jaleco’s American branch took a bland Famicom title named Magic John and remodeled its plot into a parody of the early ‘90s surfer-dude patois that everyone mocked and imitated at some point in between the first two Bill & Ted movies and Wayne’s World. The revamped dialogue turns a standard-issue game into a gnarly, badical, most righteous zeitgeist fragment, and it’s the only reason anyone really remembers Totally Rad.

Jaleco's American branch knew what they had with Totally Rad, and they knew it needed to stand out in some manner besides gameplay. That’s because Totally Rad largely just coasts through the basics of a decent action title of the NES era. It’s a perfect example of Jaleco’s proclivity for merely adequate games and developer Aicom's varying levels of quality. Protagonist Jake has a chargeable shot and magic spells that range from healing to shapeshifting, and yet the level design is sometimes tedious and the control just a little more sluggish than the norm. It's not total in its radness, but it's still worth a play-through if you’re exploring B-list NES side-scrollers, particularly those inspired by Mega Man. Then again, you could always just watch the tubular cutscenes or page through the faithful instructions.

There’s one more thing that I like about Totally Rad. One very minor thing.