Let’s Interview: Retro Gaming YouTuber SNES Drunk
As just about everyone in the gaming community knows, retro gaming is a hugely popular topic over on video sharing sites like YouTube and Twitch. Whether it’s the Angry Video Game Nerd or Pat the NES Punk, Ashens or Hard4Games, the internet is absolutely inundated with people willing to share their memories of classic games.
Including quite a few we’ve already interviewed here on Gaming Reinvented. Like Slopes Game Room, Top Hat Gaming Man and Guru Larry, all of which talked to us in late 2016/early 2017.
So today, we’ve got another retro gaming YouTuber lined up for an interview. Namely, SNES Drunk, a SNES game reviewer who’s been covering all sorts of titles since he launched his channel back in the olden days of 2013.
And he’s built up quite the library of reviews there too. From the mainstream hits like A Link to the Past and Super Mario World to virtually unknown obscurities like Firestrikers or the Great Battle series, SNES Drunk has reviewed hundreds of games on his channel.
Time to see what he has to say about it all, as well as his experiences running a successful gaming channel in 2019!
1. Starting with a quick bit of personal background. Who are you?
I am Alex, 36 years old from St Paul area, MN, USA. I moved to Albuquerque, NM, USA about 5 years ago.
2. And how did you get into gaming? What was your first game anyway?
The first game I remember playing was Adventure on my older sister’s Atari 2600. I think I was 4 or 5, and it’s one of my earliest memories, only because of the way the dragon could follow you across screens. That scared the crap out of me. We were stuck with Atari for a long while, so I had to rely on neighbourhood friends with NES and later Genesis stuff.
I think the big breakthrough moment for me as a kid, regarding gaming, came when I saw my friend Tim’s issue of Nintendo Power. He and I both really dug Mega Man 3 at the time, and this particular issue (Metal Storm on the cover, Volume 22) had a huge MM3 boss hit chart in the Classified Information section. When I saw that, I realized that there was a LOT more to video games than I initially imagined. There was a science behind things. It wasn’t just run to the right and shoot stuff, the game was designed to use your brain and plan ahead. Imagine that.
3. What about the SNES? How did you get interested in it and its games?
My older brother and I pretty much just gave our parents the Bart and Lisa Simpson treatment (“Can we have a pool Dad, can we have a pool Dad, can we have a pool Dad”) until they finally gave in and got us a Super Nintendo for Christmas in December 1991. Well, technically it was bought for my mom, because my parents were afraid my brother and I would fight over it, with the logic being that she would be the overlord of the SNES and decide who plays for how long and when. I don’t think that lasted a day, or even a few hours. My brother and I got along well enough that there wasn’t any problem.
But yeah, playing Super Mario World for the first time, it was one of those moments where it was almost like I could feel new pathways of my brain opening up. I had no idea the stuff in that game was possible. I can honestly say it was life-changing, everything seemed to be different from then on out. We also had Final Fight early on, and yeah it’s a crappy port but I still love that version. It’s got such great sound design. From then on it not only became a hobby, but THE hobby.
4. Did you always have an interest in the more niche games on a system?
I had an interest in everything. I wanted to play as much stuff as I could, and it was incredibly frustrating to only have access to maybe 8-10% of the SNES catalogue. Thankfully that’s not the case anymore!
5. For the matter, did you often import games (or get them from import shops) when younger?
No, I had no idea that Japan had this treasure trove of games that NA never saw until I was in high school, when I found out about Seiken Densetsu 3. From there I went down the emulation wormhole and English translations and all that good stuff. I think my first Super Famicom cartridge actually was SD3, which I got some time in my mid 20s.
6. On the topic of the SNES, where did you username come from anyway? The SNES part is obvious enough, but SNES Drunk?
It was one of those AOL type situations where I was sitting there like, “Well, I guess I gotta come up with something, this is good enough I guess,” without giving half a second to think that you’re stuck with this name forever. I just thought “SNES” when said as one word makes you sound drunk. It’s painfully un-clever.
7. Onto YouTube now. What made you start a channel there?
It started when I was laid off from my job, Summer 2013. I’d always had a creative project of some kind going and I was hoping one of those (music, writing) would sustain me, but I’d hit a dead end. One day, I’m on YouTube trying to find info on a game (can’t remember which, but I think it was the Power Rangers one-on-one fighting game), and there were maybe two videos about it. I remember one of those videos being a guy pointing his webcam at his TV while he played the game and talked, for something like 12 minutes. And I remember thinking, “Jesus Christ, I just want to know if this game is worth a shit, I don’t want to sit through this godawful looking footage and this guy’s aimless droning.”
That’s when I decided I would just make the kind of videos about old video games that I wanted to see. Plus it helped that I had earned an Associate’s degree in graphic design where I did a lot of video editing, which promptly went nowhere, so I had learned all this stuff and had no outlet to use any of it. And now suddenly it was useful.
8. Did you have any other ideas for channels before this one?
Not in terms of content or anything, no. But I did have an idea that the channel was going to be SNESdog instead of SNESdrunk, where I would make it look like my dog was doing the playing/talking. But eventually I thought it was too hokey and gimmicky.
9. And what were your influences anyway? Given many people came across your channel at the Racketboy forums, I’m guessing you were a fan of quite a few retro gaming sites and channels beforehand?
I just wanna say, the people at Racketboy are so great. I wish I had more time to post there lately, but they’ve been awesome from day one. A really smart, knowledgeable, kind group.
As far as YouTube influences, there’s two channels that stand out. One is HCBailly, who’s still active today. He’s the most thorough LPer out there. There’s so much substance to his content, and the presentation is total bare bones. No frills, no wasted time, here’s the game. Another one is Aqualung Game Reviews. He goes way back, I’m not sure if he’s even still active, but he’s the same kind of way. No bullshit, here’s the game, here’s how many levels, how many lives you get, etc.
Another big influence is the old Siskel and Ebert film review TV show. That was appointment television for me as a kid, and as I got older, I realized I wasn’t even watching to get their opinions on films. I was watching because the format was so clean and concise. They’d introduce the film, tell you what it’s about, then they’d each tell you what they thought of it, all in less than 5 minutes. Then they move onto the next film. Why isn’t there a show like that for gaming out there today? Hell, why isn’t there one for movies anymore?
10. Either way, you’re pretty well known for talking about the more obscure titles on the system. How do you find out about some of these lesser known games?
All sorts of places, just bits and pieces of info that comes together. Racketboy, Hardcore Gaming 101, Romhacking.net, SNES Central, talking to people on Twitter or Discord or wherever. Sometimes it’s just staring at the “List of Super Nintendo games” Wikipedia page and asking, “What is THAT?”
11. Are there any titles you definitely think more people should try out?
There’s tons, but off the top of my head the games I always end up talking about the most with people are in the Great Battle series, namely Great Battle IV and V. They both have Mega Man style action platforming, and V even has Wild Guns style gallery shooter stages. And both games have a high quality polish to them.
There’s also goofy off-the-wall stuff that’s interesting, like Firestriker which combines action adventure with Breakout, or King Arthur’s World which is a Lemmings style game with combat.
Two more popular titles are Axelay and King of Dragons. I’m a little biased toward Axelay, because it was kind of my gateway game into the shoot-em-up genre, so to speak. And King of Dragons is just a great arcade port beat em up that cuts a really quick pace.
12. On the flip side, what about titles that rightfully stayed in Japan? Not every niche game is a classic after all…
I think there’s 33 different pachinko games on Super Famicom that never left Japan. Yeah, no thanks.
13. Any games your opinion has changed on as you got older? Either for the better or worse?
Sure, there’s a bunch. More recently, I made a video about Stunt Race FX. That game is a classic case of taking one glance at a game and saying, “Hell no, this looks awful.” And I did that in years past. But that game is actually kind of fun in its own way. It has a playfulness to it that I really admire, and I also like how each track is kind of its own little world unto itself.
As for worse: the more I play Mega Man X and X2, the more I love those games. But the more I play X3, the more I really don’t like it. The stages just drag on and on, the boss weapons fall flat, the same enemies repeat over and over across every level, the music is maximum cheeseball Capcom soundfont… it’s just a really weak entry in the series unfortunately.
14. Lastly on that note, any games you feel get an unfairly bad rep? Perhaps ones legions of internet critics have torn apart based mainly on hearsay?
Is this where I come to bat for Shaq Fu again? Because that game is NOT that bad. In fact there’s at least 5 or 6 fighting games on the SNES alone that are way worse than that game. Shaq Fu definitely isn’t good but it’s not even in the top 25 or 30 worst SNES games.
I also find myself defending Star Fox a lot, and I get it. The framerate sucks, there’s major issues with last-second pop-ups, there’s all sorts of problems. I still think the positives outweigh the negatives with that game. Some of the environments are inventive, a lot of the boss fights are really interesting, and you can’t beat that music. Plus it’s got a simple pick-up-and-play element to it.
15. One set of interesting videos you’ve done more of recently are the myths ones, where you debunk rumours about old school games. What made you decide to start this series?
It started with a video I wanted to make about Hagane back in late 2016, and all the nonsense about it being a Blockbuster exclusive despite zero proof of that. I filed that away and just slowly accumulated more stuff like that over the next couple years before fleshing it out into its own video.
The 2nd part, which deals with sillier rumours you might’ve heard at school, was entirely brought about by the commenters. I hadn’t thought to do that myself, so all the credit for that idea goes to them. Those are fun to talk about, because everyone heard some kind of ridiculous rumour at some point, whether it be a code to unlock Naked Sonya in Mortal Kombat, or playing as Luigi in Mario RPG or whatever. There was limited internet back then, so all we had were gaming magazines. And even then, they still went out of their way to trick us!
16. Do you think you’ll be making them for other consoles too? Cause the NES, Game Boy and N64 all have interesting gaming myths that could be fun to see debunked…
Yeah maybe, but I’m honestly not as familiar with those myths/glitches so I’d be starting from square one. I think I could actually round up another SNES myths video.
17. Talking of other systems, you’ve diversified your channel a bit more over the years, with videos on NES and GBA games now being included. What made you decide to do that?
Natural curiosity. I didn’t have an NES but I still borrowed my friends’ Nintendo Power magazines at school, just because I wanted to learn about as many games as I could. So it’s fun to kind of channel that mindset again and look at stuff like Shadow of the Ninja or Vice Project Doom, going in and knowing next to nothing about them.
As for GBA, I mean, it’s pretty much a beefed up portable SNES as it is, so it’s an easy jump to make. I’m not interested in looking at very many ports or remakes however, I’d rather spend time with stuff like Konami Krazy Racers or Wade Hixton’s Counter Punch, stuff like that.
18. Will you be covering niche games on other systems in future too? The DS certainly has a few cult classics that need a bit more attention…
That’s a long ways from now. I still need to dip my toe in other consoles like PlayStation, Saturn, Dreamcast, etc.
19. What do you think of the modern development scenes for older consoles? Are you interested in those homebrew titles for older systems?
It’s hit or miss. Unholy Night was a fighting game that showed a lot of promise but that game is a total flop and an absolute stayaway. But Nightmare Busters is pretty dang good. Sydney Hunter and the Caverns of Death looks promising. But to be honest, I pay way more attention to SFC Japanese titles getting translated than I do to any homebrew stuff.
20. What about game mods? The SNES sure gets a lot of ROM hacks, especially for the likes of Super Mario World, Super Metroid and A Link to the Past…
ROM hacks are great, but I’m finding that so many of them are made for such a small audience. For instance, it seems like every other Super Metroid hack was made by someone who’s put like 500 hours into the original game and has memorized every nook and cranny, and if you’re not on that level, then you have no chance at progressing through, say, Super Metroid Redesign, or whatever. Same with a lot of Mario World hacks, they’re just way too hard. Some of them manage to hit a good balance though, like Return to Dinosaur Island is a fun one that’s challenging but not wasting-your-time difficult.
21. Regardless, let’s talk a bit about YouTube in general now. Firstly, what are your thoughts on the growing number of retro gaming channels popping up every day?
As far as the LP style, “Let’s sit and talk and play video games” videos, I have zero interest in that. That market’s been beyond saturated for years. But there’s still promising channels starting up here and there that provide real value, like NES Friend to give one example.
22. Do you think it’s give a lot of obscure games a bit more needed attention?
I suppose so, but I’m not sure that matters. If people care enough, they’ll find what they like, one way or another.
23. And on a slightly more negative note, any things that bug you about said channels? Like, things many of them do that make their videos less accurate/less entertaining/less original?
The whole LP thing is beyond done. Or I should say, I’m just done with it. It’s like starting a jam band at this point. I’m sure it’s fun to play in a jam band, but it’s uh, not all that great to listen to.
24. Either way, your channel has certainly done well for itself, with 95,000+ people having subscribed to it as of this time. Did you ever expect your channel would become this popular?
No bleeping way. It’s still really strange to me. My approach hasn’t changed at all. I still try and write a script as if I’m describe a game to a friend sitting next to me. I still don’t show my face at all. I guess I’m doing something right. Or, something useful, hopefully.
25. Is it your full time job now?
The second it becomes a full time job is the second I quit. It’s a hobby. I have a regular 9 to 5 job.
26. What are your goals for your channel in 2019?
I don’t really think of the channel that way. It’s just whatever’s interesting to me at the time.
27. How about other channels you recommend people should watch? What other YouTubers do you feel make fantastic videos?
There’s tons! My Life in Gaming does an incredible job, such a useful resource, and great production value that puts my dog-and-pony show to shame.
Of course there’s Console Wars. Unfortunately they have to move on from Greg but Pat fits in well. They do a great job balancing informative and entertaining.
DariaPlaysRPGs is another great resource who covers all sorts of stuff. Plus I just like getting her take on things, she’s got a bit of a different voice than most others.
There’s a bunch of smaller channels I really like. One in particular is Hungry Goriya, who does the most absolutely chill LPs ever. She’s like the Bob Ross of LPing. I know I was just ripping on LPs so I sound like a massive hypocrite, but hers are great. Plus she’s Canadian and you gotta love that accent. Gameboyle is another smaller channel that’s a great resource for anything Game Boy related, and he covers a lot of Japanese stuff I’d never heard of. Friday Night Arcade does a great job with his videos. I’ve been a fan of Retro Game On for years. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, but those are what comes to mind.
28. Have you considered working with any of them on collab videos?
I’m honestly not even sure how that would work if I did. I kinda suck at that sort of thing. There certainly isn’t anything I can add to any of those channels that would make them any better, and my channel is just kind of in its own universe.
29. Outside of collabs, what other interesting videos are you working on right now? Any new series being planned about now?
I’m slowly catching up on Super Famicom games that have recently been translated (well, within the last year), playing stuff like Super Famicom Wars. I’ve also just finished up a long-term video I did about Breath of Fire 3. That may be a “series” so to speak, talking about SNES franchises that continued onto other consoles. For instance I’m sure Mega Man X4 will get its own video someday.
Other than that, it’s just whatever seems interesting in the moment. Today it was the SNES port of Wing Commander. Which is surprisingly actually pretty decent!
30. Finally, what advice would you give to someone wanting to create their own YouTube channel in 2019?
I can really only speak to what worked with me, and that’s obviously not going to work for everybody. But what worked for me was keeping a schedule. Videos post on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5am, be there or be square. It builds trust with your audience, they can count on seeing your content at the exact same time, every day/week/month, or whatever. Some people are pressured by that, but it’s kinda how my brain operates anyway.
Yeah, that makes sense to us too. Having a consistent schedule is super important when it comes to succeeding on YouTube. And not just there either.
No, all forms of media and entertainment fall into the same bucket really. Whether you’re writing a blog, updating a website, drawing a webcomic or recording a podcast, you’ll want to make sure your updates are released at a regular time if you want to become successful.
And there are two reasons for it. Firstly, algorithms love regularity, with both Google Search and YouTube heavily recommending sites and channels that post content on a regular basis.
So there’s that whole automated side to it.
But then there’s just the user experience side as well. People want new information and a good idea about when their favourite creator will update, not dead sites and channels with no new content in months.
So set a schedule for posting content, and stick to it. That’s how you’ll succeed in the long run, and it’s one of the reasons why SNES Drunk has been so successful on YouTube.
SNES Drunk on Social Media
Interested in more of SNES Drunk’s work? If so, check out his channel and social media profiles via the links below: