Retro Gaming Challenge Week Three: The Firemen (SNES)

It’s time to burn, baby, burn with The Firemen (SNES), a quirky, short, fun game about a common peril that isn’t often the only peril.
Before I start, I should point out that I’m writing this while listening to Prince, because of course I am. My thoughts on his passing are over here if you’re interested.
Three weeks in, which means that next week’s game — which by a slim voting margin will be Godzilla for Dreamcast, a game I recall as being not-terribly-good, so maybe the Internet wants me to suffer — will mark the first month of the challenge down. It’s still definitely at the stage where it hurts my head if I try to think in terms of fifty two weeks worth of games.
There’s still plenty of time, and plenty of games to go, and my brain is bubbling with concepts for games lists I could suggest. But more on that below, including week five’s compatible voting games.
You could also do worse than to check out the first couple of challenges. For those coming in late, I’m going to play one retro game a week for the next year; everything from every platform is up for grabs, as long as I own a physical copy of it. I have, at a conservative estimate too many games, so choice is not going to be a problem, and you can vote on what I play next at the bottom of this piece.
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Two: Donkey Konga
Retro Gaming Challenge Week One: Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling: Toukon Road 2: The Next Generation (N64)

The Firemen (SNES)

I miss video stores. This is something I’ve written about before, but from a gamer’s perspective, and especially a gamer on a limited budget as I was throughout the SNES’ lifespan, the video store was the place to get access to games that I otherwise couldn’t afford in any way.
Except for that weird time that my flatmate starting buying SNES games despite not owning a console at all, but that’s a story for another day.
Being able to rent games meant being able to play games that were both great and groanworthy for a low price, as well as pick up bargains when console generations passed. That’s precisely where my copy of The Firemen came from, and it’s still got the sticker that tells me it was from Video Ezy Epping to prove it. The box meanwhile is minty fresh, which leads me to suspect they used the strategy of plastic shelf boxes to actually hire it out.
Anyway, I picked up The Firemen for what is perhaps the worst reason to buy a game back in the day: I liked the box art. Yeah, I can be shallow sometimes, but there was something about this game — which I never saw at all in any way on an actual store shelf in Australia — that appealed to me in what I felt (at the time) was a low-rent Zelda way. Plus, it was $5, so the price was right. I played it a little at the time, and then it gathered a little dust on my games shelf over the years.

Fireman Pete is not fond of being set on fire. Who could have guessed that?
Fireman Pete is not fond of being set on fire. Who could have guessed that?

In hindsight, having spent the last week playing it, this was a critical mistake, because The Firemen is a cracking little game. It’s essentially an overhead shoot-em-up with fire as the main enemy, as you make your way through a collapsing office building as Fireman Pete, assisted by the completely invincible Fireman Danny. Seriously, this guy cannot be killed, but you can, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just sent just him in solo in the first place. One of those quirks of videogame logic, I suppose.
Equally, in hindsight it’s amusing that The Firemen is set in the distant future… of the year 2010. I don’t recall it being a terrible year for office fires, so on the prophecy scale it scores badly, especially as the office I work in most definitely doesn’t have fire control robots. Possibly that’s a plus, given that in The Firemen they’ve gone berserk, as video game robots are wont to do.
There's probably an iffy joke about playing with your hose here, but I'm too classy for that kind of thing.
There’s probably an iffy joke about playing with your hose here, but I’m too classy for that kind of thing.

The Firemen also isn’t a long game per se, with only six levels to make your way through. It’s not a complete pushover, but the odds are high you’ll splash your way through at least three of those levels the first time you play, with challenge coming from trying to put out every last fire on each level and rescue each civilian along the way.
Games don’t have to be long to be good, though, and The Firemen is nicely paced with developing fire threats that don’t outstay their welcome. On that subject though, while fire and combustion hazards are a rather obvious and prevalent threat across a wide variety of game genres, all the week while I’ve been playing this, I’ve been struck by the fact that I can’t think of too many games where fire is basically the only threat.
There’s The Firemen of course, and the Internet tells me that there’s a PlayStation sequel that I’m very tempted to try to track down. There’s Burning Rangers for the Saturn, but I don’t own a copy of that. And then there’s…?
There must be at least one other purely fire fighting game, but I’m struggling to think of what it could be. Anyone got any suggestions?
"Am I OK? Naturally! I always lie around prone in burning buildings JUST FOR FUN. Idiot."
“Am I OK? Naturally! I always lie around prone in burning buildings JUST FOR FUN. Idiot.”

Getting back to The Firemen, while it’s short, it’s not a game that you’ll finish all at once, although that’s not always to do with proper game balance. Invisible partner Danny is fond of attacking exploding enemies or backdrafting doors with his axe, and I’ve lost more than a few lives thanks to his foolhardiness. Some boss battles are a little lopsided, up to and including a few instances where I’ve had life drain away for reasons I can only ascribe to game bugs and gremlins. Gremlins on fire, I guess, to keep it contextual.
Next week: I guess I’ve got to face up to the challenge of the big scaly guy and play Godzilla for the Dreamcast.
Update: But… no. Annoyingly, my copy of Godzilla appears to have wandered off into the wilderness. No, I’m not sure how you lose a gigantic atomic fire breathing lizard either.
What to do? Yeah, I could go down the dodgy route and “find” a copy online, but the idea is to play games I have a physical copy of, and right now, I don’t. I’m a firm believer in owning proper legal copies of things I want to play. Call it a quirk.
So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to buy a copy of Godzilla from Japan, and pencil it in for a future week once it arrives. In the meantime, the second place vote, which went to Space Invaders for the Atari 2600, will be the game for next week.
But while I do that, you (that’s the Internet as an entire you, not just you personally…) get to decide which game I play after that.
I’m going to stay within just one console for week four, and according to my whim-of-the-moment, that system will be… The Sega Saturn. Perusing my shelves, you can pick which of the following I should play.

  • Three Dirty Dwarves
  • Nights Into Dreams
  • X-Men: Children Of The Atom

As a side note, I would have included Athlete Kings in that group, but a long standing deal I have with a good friend means I’m not allowed to play it unless he’s present. Maybe I’ll have to kidnap him for a week so it can be a later challenge.
You can vote by commenting below, hitting me up on Twitter, or putting your choice written on parchment in a bottle and throwing in in the ocean. Except not that last one, because I won’t get it in time, and littering is a very bad thing..

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

1 thought on “Retro Gaming Challenge Week Three: The Firemen (SNES)

  1. There was also a firefighting game on PS2. It was called Firefighter FD18 and was made by Konami. It played alright but was a bit boring, iirc.

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