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Snow Bros. - Nick & Tom was an arcade game released by Toaplan in 1990. This title was licensed to Romstar in the United States, and was sold under the title "The Winter Bobble" in some markets.

The story

Your mission is to guide Nick & Tom (who are a couple of snowmen who wear suspenders), in their quest to save two chubby little princesses from the clutches of evil. This game has been largely ignored by the public, despite the fact that it is one of the best games ever made. I believe it is due to the explosion of fighting games in 1991, which pretty much overshadowed everything else on the market. This game would have been considered a true classic, if it had only been released a few years earlier.

The game

Snow Bros. has a very similar feel to the Bubble Bobble series. It is played one screen at a time, from a side view. Each screen is littered with platforms, and several baddies. You must defeat these enemies by covering them in snow, and rolling them off the screen. Play is controlled with a joystick and two buttons (jump and snow). To defeat an enemy, you should get close to them, and then repeatedly hit your snow button (which turns them into a snowball). You can then roll the snowball, which will also take out any creatures it bumps into along the way. It is quite easy to get caught in one of your own rolling snowballs, but this doesn't hurt you, but it does take you back to the bottom of the screen. Most of the enemies are easy to beat, but some of them breathe fire, and are a bit tougher to get close to (snowmen do not like fireballs).

From time to time magic potions will appear on the screen, and these will give you bonuses to your attacks. The yellow potion increases range. The red potion speeds up your Snow Bro. While the blue potion makes your attacks twice as effective. Some machines also have a green potion that lets you fly around and kill everything in sight simply by touching it (under MAME you should select "Snow Bros. - Nick & Tom (Set 2)" to play this version).

Every ten levels you will have to fight a "boss" creature. These are a lot more difficult than the normal levels (especially the last one, which took me 13 men to defeat). The game has 50 levels in total, at the end of which you get to view a very simple (by 1990 standards), ending sequence, that shows your Snow Bro running back and forth between the two princesses, while a red sun rises in the background.

The Machine

This game was released as a conversion kit only (often factory installed in a generic cabinet). So any machine can be a proper Snow Bros. machine. This title is JAMMA compatible (the circuit board for it is one of the smallest ever made, it is barely larger than a NES cartridge), and is run by two CPUs, a Z80 and a 68000, while using a YM3812 for audio.

The marquee for this title shows a "Snow Bros." logo, with two snowmen, and a couple of cartoon baddies in the background (it is very cutesy, just like the game is).

Where to play

This title is supported by two emulators (MAME and Raine). MAME does not play the sounds correctly (they sound nice, but are wrong when compared to an actual machine). Raine however gets everything correct, and is the best way to play this title. You can also try and hunt down the Sega Genesis version, but it is fairly uncommon.

This is an excellent title to add to your arcade game collection. All you need to do is get a Snow Bros JAMMA board, and plug it into your existing JAMMA cabinet. This title is good enough to dedicate an entire machine to, if you can find a complete conversion kit (marquee, control panel overlay, monitor bezel, etc). Prices vary a bit, but this game is good enough to spend even $50 - $100 on (for just the JAMMA board), without feeling ripped off.

References
http://www.mame.dk/gameinfo/snowbros/
http://www.klov.com/S/Snow_Bros._-_Nick_&_Tom.html
http://www.toaplan.com/hardware/index.html#snowbros

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