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Goemon: Origins of the Ninja

Mr. Goemon
(ARCADE, 1986)

'Twas in the arcades where the legend of the mystical ninja officially began. Starring only the thief known as Mr. Goemon (his friends had not yet been established), his goal was seek out wonderful treasure -- particularly a Golden Lamp which, when found, would effectively end his journey. This is the old game where Goemon is depicted as an obese character, although he can still move around fairly well. All his foes are also rotund, and it appears that when they come in contact with him, they will try to gnaw on his barbeque-infected flesh until he dies of embarrassment and/or deliciousness. The gameplay is clunky and the graphics are typical 1986 fare, so don't expect to be impressed; brown may be the colour of choice here. Goemon has since dropped the formality of "Mr." in front of his name as well.

Ganbare Goemon! Karakuri Douchuu
(FAMICOM, 1986 / MSX, 1987)

Once again, Goemon's goal is to raid the streets of Japan during the Edo period in search of golden goods, plus three passes per level which will allow him to progress to the next area. Armed with his now signature pipe (and coinage as well for tossing into the ocular sockets of his foes), he runs around, thrashing guards and making his way around towns and collecting ryo, the currency of the time. The game is very basic, as were most arcade games of its time. You do get to move around on a multi-level plane, similar to that of the Double Dragon and Final Fight series -- plus you get to sneak underground if you get the opportunity. It's not a particularly eye-pleasing game either, but it helped to solidify the type of gameplay peppered over most future games in the series.

Ganbare Goemon 2
(FAMICOM, 1989)

If there's a game that we should thank for transforming the series from a serious theft glorifier to a silly romp through ninjahood, it should be Ganbare Goemon 2 for the Famicom. Don't worry: the Grand Theft Auto series picked up the slack. This game has Goemon trapped in prison and having to break out to look for the legendary treasure he once stole from the Feudal Lord. The game plays very similarly to the previous Goemon game (though with better graphics). However, the big change is that Goemon meets a special traveler in his jail cell that will forever change his life: the jesterish Ebisumaru! Also a thief who works for the good of the people, he tells his story to Goemon and accompanies him on his adventures. Thank you, Ganbare Goemon 2. Without you, we'd probably have a completely different direction for the series...and who would want that?

Ganbare Goemon Gaiden: Kieta Ougon Kiseru
(FAMICOM, 1990)

Considered as the first side-story in the Goemon series, this one is a departure from the typical platformer fare, plunking Goemon smack-dab in the midst of a turn-based RPG. Goemon returns home one day to find that his beloved pipe has been stolen! With a tip on who may have taken it from his sidekick, the ever-pudgy Ebisumaru, the duo set off to get the pipe back. Everything here is pretty standard -- you go through various towns and mingle with the locals, then head out for some leveling-up and a boss fight to get more information about your lost pipe. This game also introduced the green-haired temptress ninja in a purple sweatsuit, Yae. She made that outfit popular... so... thank you, Yae? The game maintains its fine level of Japanese humour, and is certainly worth testing out if you like RPGs...and can read Japanese fluently.

Ganbare Goemon Gaiden: Tenka no Zaihou
(FAMICOM, 1992)

This was the second RPG for Goemon and party and the final Famicom outing in the series. This time, they kept the story simple: there's treasure overseas, and Goemon & Co. are going to go get it! It would remind you very much of the previous Gaiden game, except for a few changes, such as the perspective in the battle scenes, which is now in the third-person. Sadly, unless you know how to read Japanese, you'll have yourself a bit more of a challenge in getting through this one.

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