Review: Wolfenstein 3D (SNES)

By Drew Wilson

In this review, we check out a port to one of the most iconic classic first person shooters – Wolfenstein 3D. We check out the SNES version of this game to see how well this port stands on its own.

This port of the classic PC game was released in 1994 – two years after it was released in its original DOS form.

If you’ve played the original PC version of the Wolfenstein 3D game and then play this game, you’ll notice some significant differences. Apparently, Nintendo wasn’t too thrilled with the presence of Nazi content, so things like Swastika’s and Hitler were removed. Portrait textures had the arm band removed. Larger swastika textures were removed and replaced with large plus signs. When the guards speech is now in English instead of German. In addition to this, the attack dogs were replaced with mutant rats curiously enough.

The storyline is also altered. You are pitted against an evil scientist who is attempting to take over the world with his robots, zombies, and mutant rats. You are tasked with stopping him.

Each level is denoted by floor and level. So, the first level is Level 1, floor 1 (or 1-1). When you complete that level, you’ll advance to level 1, floor 2 (or 1-2). This level structure is almost identical to that of the level structure of Super Mario Bros for the NES.

When you first start the game, you are simply armed with a pistol and a knife. If you run out of pistol bullets, you only have the surprisingly ineffective knife to protect yourself with. You also have 2 lives at your disposal. When you lose a life, you start back at the beginning of the level you were on with simply a small amount of pistol bullets, a pistol, and the knife. At first, this isn’t a huge setback, but when you find yourself in a later level and dying, you basically lose a huge arsenal of weapons and bullets – making the beginning of the level almost impossible if you are at the end game levels.

There are numerous weapons that you can get your hands on throughout the game. There are mini-guns, rocket launchers, and laser pulse rifles to be had. The caveat is that while these guns can be automatically equipped when you obtain a more powerful one, I could not see any way of cycling through weapons. So, I ended up being stuck using all the ammo of a powerful weapon quickly before getting access to a weapon that lasts longer with ammo – the minigun.

Along the way, there are various items that can replenish your health. These can be pieces of cheese, food, bandages, and health kits (health kits restore the most at 25). Your health is denoted by a percentage of 100 and there’s no way of getting more than 100 health.

Another thing that one can collect is treasure. If you collect a certain amount of treasure, you get a bonus free life.

Beyond that, the only other way to obtain a free life is picking up the rather rare sphere with your head on it.

For all the items and kills you get, you also gain points. When you get a certain number of points, you can also win a free life. The only problem is that you can only get a maximum of 9 free lives. From there, any free lives you earn do not count towards your total.

There are a number of enemies you can encounter. The first enemy you encounter is the brown clothed guard that wields a pistol. The blue guard takes numerous shots to take down and holds a semi-automatic rifle. The mutant rat obviously can’t shoot, but can bite. Zombies also take a bit more firepower to take down and fire powerful pistols. Also found in this game are a number of bosses. One of them fires a minigun at you. Another fires multiple rockets at you. One likes to throw knives at you. Different enemies can require different tactics to take down as safely as possible.

One more thing to know about Wolfenstein 3D are secret rooms. The rooms are found when you use the activate button on walls that move back. At the beginning, these secret rooms simply help add to your arsenal, boost up the amount of treasure you have, and top off your health. In later levels, these secret rooms can mean the difference between life and death. One way that can help you find these secret rooms is by looking at your map. The moving wall will basically be one of the squares that moves back two spaces. If there’s not enough room in an open space for there to not be a secret area, you won’t need to be randomly pressing the activate button in that area.

At the end of each level, you get a tally of how well you did. You get a percentage of how many enemies in that level you killed, how many secrets you were able to locate, and how quickly you were able to complete the level. A perfect score yields a nice bonus for you.

The level structure itself is very basic. It’s always a single floor and follows a grid structure. Each wall is basically a square as far as the map is concerned. You, as the player, can travel on the open space between these walls. There are never any multiple levels in each floor and there are no angled walls. There are blocked passages that you can see through and even walls that allow you to see outside (not that you can really see much outside though). Adding to the complexity of this game are locked doors. There’s two kinds of keys that can fit two kinds of locked doors. If you find one key, all the locked doors that go with that key can be opened. When you advance to the next stage, obviously you lose those keys.

If you’ve played numerous first person shooters that have since been made, one really obvious thing that is missing is the lack of ability to strafe. This forces you to move at different angles to allow for a somewhat similar effect, but the most effective evasive measures are using walls and doors to block shots. Beyond that, it’s a simple matter of killing the enemies as fast as you can. There’s no real sneaking up on enemies, so the best you can hope for is that split second it takes for them to turn around.

In spite of some deficiencies in gameplay, I found this game to be quite playable. It has an approachable difficulty, a steady difficulty curve, and can be addicting.

Graphically, while it is impressive that a first person shooter can be crammed into such a small gaming cartridge, there are limitations to the graphics. The biggest limitation is being able to accurately see far into the distance. After a certain distance, there is no real difference between a brown plant and a brown clothed guard. So, often, plants get a case of mistaken identity (causing you to annoyingly waste ammo). While technical constraints do make the graphics seem impressive, there’s been a number of PC games such as Ultima Underworld and Doom that make this game seem like there is a lot to be desired in the graphics department. Still, a nice effort since most games were restricted to side scrollers on this system.

The audio wasn’t bad. The speech samples of guards shouting, for instance, was nicely done for such a small cartridge. The shouting does get repetitive, but I don’t know if much more could have been stuffed into such a small little space. The music has a huge variety at first, but after a while, the music does get a little repetitive considering how large this game really is. It’s as if the soundtrack couldn’t quite keep up with the huge size of the game itself. By the end of the game, I was getting a little bored with the music. Still, it was pretty good at first.

Overall, this game was a nice effort for the SNES. It’s impressive how much could be stuffed into this game. It’s interesting that this was one of the games that got a heavy dose of censorship by Nintendo, but I’m not sure if this really hurt the overall gaming experience here. In spite of a rather simple level structure, this game gives you a lot of playable space to play around with. The points, items, secrets, and large variety of enemies help keep this game interesting. The music and sound effects do get a little boring and repetitive after a while, but they aren’t that bad to listen to at first. Overall, a great play.


Furthest point in game: Ran out of ammo and died on Floor 6, level 7 after defeating two of the bosses on the floor.

General gameplay: 22/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 80%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

1 Comment

  • GetTeFookMan says:

    haha 80%! i would give this game 5%. the graphics are so poor you can barely see anything and the controls are so slow. feels like this game was knocked together overnight in an effort to catch any lingering wolf3d craze leftover from pc days 2 years prior. no one in their right mind would ever play this for more than 2 minutes.

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