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CONSOLE: Super Famicom DEVELOPER: Konami PUBLISHER: Konami
RELEASE DATE (NA): July 17, 1991 GENRE: Platformer
// review by Meow

Went for it.

Goemon is a series I've had the good fortune to encounter during the N64 era with Mystical Ninja starring Goemon, and eventually the not-quite-as-awesome-but-still-pretty-dang-neat Goemon's Great Adventure. A wide array of wacky characters and humorous dialog was had, and it left me wanting more. Unfortunately, of Konami's franchises, Goemon was among the first to be given the "pachinko" treatment, banished to an eternity as being merely a tool for gambling. In addition to this, only *FOUR games of the entire franchise ever left Japan, two of which I've already mentioned, but there's also Mystical Ninja starring Goemon for Game Boy which is by far the worst game of the entire series that I've played so far, and lastly... or rather, first of all, was the game Legend of the Mystical Ninja for the SNES. Being a Goemon fan, I had to get my greasy mitts on a copy of this sometime, but looking at prices online for it... yeesh, I'm not exactly able to afford those prices. Thankfully since that time, the game has come to Nintendo consoles for their Virtual Console service, as well as the N3DS as well, but it was too late by then: I had imported the significantly cheaper Super Famicom original release of Ganbare Goemon: Yukihime Kyūshutsu Emaki.

An early title for the Super Famicom, this game is a little ugly compared to any of the later titles. Gameplay consists of two general styles. The first, for the overworld, is a beat-em-up styled layout (though typically foes take only a single hit to defeat) with enemies continually pouring in from the sides of the screen, with each of whom that are defeated dropping a coin that gives 10 money, a "silver fortune doll" that looks like a white cat that will upgrade your melee weapon, or a worthless pink scroll. To defend Goemon and his friend Ebisumaru (if you play 2-player co-op mode), you are armed initially only with a melee weapon and the ability to consume 4 money to launch a projectile. For the sake of my convenience, I'll stick to talking about Goemon only as I've not beaten the game in 2-player mode. Goemon's melee weapon is his classic family pipe, and it can be upgraded to a much large golden version with a fortune doll, and with a second fortune doll, it's downgraded to a bladed yo-yo. Now, it's supposed to be an upgrade since the weapon technically has a longer reach, but the speed of this weapon is actually pretty freaking awful. It starts out in front of you and slowly extends out and retracts back, leaving you fairly vulnerable, which makes me hesitant on collecting dolls. Collecting more dolls when you're armed with the yo-yo will yield 10 money instead, and if you take a hit from any enemy you will have your weapon drop a stage, making the yo-yo into the golden pipe and the golden pipe into the normal one.

Other things in the overworld that you can find are a multitude of shops, most of which I usually avoid. A shocking amount of them are just gambling games, such as a house that has you roll dice to double your money or lose it all, a horse track to bet on horses, and even a plain old lottery to see if you win big. There are also other mini-games to play in these houses that don't always give prizes but are just there to let you waste your time playing something like an Arkanoid-clone or play a level of a game that's a little like Gradius. There's also one house that's literally just a striptease. You know, for kids! Other than that, the useful shops to visit are one where you can play some mini-games for payout depending on how good you are, and this is where I tend to sit and farm money for a while in the game because you will need a LOT of it, specifically the Whack-a-mole mini-game because getting a perfect on it gives an extra 300 coins in addition to the 90-100 you get from just hitting moles. You can potentially get more if you have the reflex of a champ since there is a hard mode of the mini-game that will pay out double if you so choose to challenge it.

Other shops include restaurants that will let you purchase some food on the cheap to restore your health, and inns that are a little pricier but pretty much do the same thing. Finally, item shops are everywhere in the game, and this is where your coins will be sunk into. Many crucial items, and a couple of required items, are all purchased for good sums of money that increase the further into the game you are, as well as in relation to how much of an item you have, and each item has a different limit to how many you can hold. For instance, the sandals that give you much needed extra moving speed can stack up to 10, but the much-beloved rice balls that revive you if your HP runs out can only stack up to three. In addition to these, you can buy armor that will help you take more hits, extra lives that are incredibly overpriced, and the completely worthless bombs that can't shoot out as far as your always-available thrown weapon and does half the damage. Seriously, what's the point? There are also two key items you need at certain stages later in the game that are basically just there to artificially extend the game by being expensive, costing just shy of 1000 money each. I feel I should also note that there is a special shop that's like some sort of dojo where you spend money AND your hit points to temporarily learn some special move that you can consume scrolls to use, but I haven't found any real practical use for any of these moves, and life is so incredibly vital since the only way to restore it is with an inn or restaurant, or via finding a golden fortune doll in the platforming stages of the game. More on that in a bit.

He's saying what we're all thinking.

I honestly find these overworld segments to be absolutely dreadful. Hit detection is really weird, with projectiles from foes being impossible to dodge (though a few can thankfully be deflected... very few...), even if you try to jump over it, it'll still hurt you despite what you're actually looking at. In addition to the worthlessness in most of the buildings in the game, the simple fact that these overworld bits is so frustrating are the true reason I try to power rush my way through just to get to the platforming stages. Eventually, starting with Stage 6, the game will start spamming ludicrous amounts of foes at you, and I find myself ducking into stores continually just to despawn everything. Getting closer to the end of the game, the thrown weapon is absolutely vital for keeping everything at a distance and not just getting pulverized.

Mentioning platforming stages a few times, you probably have gathered that the second gameplay style is good old-fashioned running and jumping. And attacking, too, of course. The platforming stages are usually alright, featuring unique stage settings, usually a boss at the end, and a good amount of checkpoints usually at critical parts such as shortly before a boss, or just after a mid-boss. There are a lot of uses of faux-3D techniques here that are done, for the most part, well. Mostly because it's used as a supplement and not as the main focus which makes the use actually not as noticeable, nor has it really aged much. The only stage I can recall being actually what I'd consider "not enjoyable" would be Stage 6's platforming stage (making Stage 6 in its entirety the worst place of the game), there are copious amounts of unpleasant enemies, and the boss itself has two health bars (one per phase) and isn't all that easy to avoid. Stage 7 was also a little enemy-spam-heavy, but not as bad, didn't last as long, and the boss was probably the easiest to second easiest in the game.

Wrapping things up, I have to say that there are some things that, without a guide or knowing Japanese, would be a bit hard to know what to do, so for you non-日本語 speaking peeps who are truly curious about this title, get the Virtual Console version of this game. It's only around $7 USD, and it's available on all current SNES Virtual Consoles to my knowledge. I have to warn you, though, that this wasn't really the best experience for Goemon I've ever had. The game is frustratingly hard, and jankey, but it's an early SNES/SFC release, so what can ya do? Be warned about The Legend of the Mystical Ninja, though: it went really through the ringer for localization, such as rice balls becoming pizza, Goemon becoming Kid Ying and Ebisumaru becoming Dr. Yang, and a few of the pointless shops being cut out altogether for the sake of "kids shouldn't be watching a woman slowly take her clothes off to music". Unless you're a Goemon fan, masochistic, or just into old games (or any combination), I'd suggest keeping away from this title.

*During writing this review, it came to my attention that a fifth Goemon game, another one of the Game Boy titles, was released in Europe as part of a collection of Konami Game Boy titles for Game Boy Color.

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