When I was a little girl, I had some pretty awesome role models. In the mid ‘90s sweet spot between Working Girl and Girls Gone Wild, I was lucky to pluck out a few strong role models, the heroines of my day: Sailor Moon, the Powerpuff Girls, the entire 1996 Atlanta Olympic gymnastics team, both the girl Power Rangers, and, in her own quirky way, even Gwen Stefani. From them I received the message that femininity could be many things, but most importantly, that it could be anything you wanted it to be. It could be both tough and weak, soft and hard, hungry and lovelorn and a complete mess and yet, still strong enough to save the day. It could also damn well like the color pink if it wanted to. And if not, that was ok.
Super Crush KO reminds me of when my whole world was comics, Sega games and anime. It is a perfect mix of kickass and cute. The heroine, a young woman named Karen, sets out to save her cat from a villainous monster of the week type, armed with a simple but powerful set of attacks that are strung together for combos and high scores. Her motivations are pure and wholesome, and she’s a Sailor Jupiter look-alike, her high ponytail and neon sneakers bright but breezy. She’s the kind of everyday hero that any sporty brunette can identify with.
Described as a beat-em-up and a run and gunner, the game bears some hallmarks of classic ‘90s gaming. Each level is divided into sections that are graded based on the points earned from chain attacks, with a total at the end determining your final score. As Karen fights against a cookie cutter city skyscape through waves of robot enemies and bosses, the game dramatically increases in difficulty by adding environment hazards that force a diverse attack strategy over cheap button spamming. The marvelous fluidity of the combat combos, while attributed to Street Fighter, reminds me more of Super Smash Bros., namely in how nimbly I’m able to duck, dodge, juggle, and pause in mid-air. Karen moves like a gymnast, and her uppercut is a force to be reckoned with. That, combined with the bullet hell attack patterns of the robots, creates an exciting and explosive chaos on each battle screen that feels euphoric to tame.
The game isn’t terribly long, but I haven’t finished Super Crush KO just yet. The combos and chain attacks are easy to learn, but with only five continues and four health hearts, completing a level can take several attempts. Between that and a thin story and outdated structure, I can only get so far before I need a break. The action is thrilling but the fights get repetitive, especially after many tries.
But despite my difficulty getting through it, I wish I’d had a game like Super Crush KO when I was a kid. Karen would have fit right in with the Sailor Scouts and the Powerpuff Girls on my list of heroes, and I would have benefited from the game’s pastel-gay Magic Girl energy. To be honest, I could use more of that even as an adult; the soft palette spunkiness of Super Crush KO is affirming in its duality. Between that and its simple but high spirited combat, I recommend the game for all ages.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.