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CONSOLE: Nintendo 64 DEVELOPER: Konami PUBLISHER: Konami
RELEASE DATE (NA): September 15, 1999 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Goemon's Grating Adventure.

Of all the great and mystical ninjas out there, I'd say that Goemon probably ranks at the very top, towering high above Ryu Hayabusa, i-Ninja, and Larry the Cable Ninja. Usually, Goemon's adventures are fun little romps, filled with treacherous Japanese castles, flying Japanese coins, and the most outrageous conversationalists known to mankind.

But when a game declares one particular adventure to be "Great", expectations soar like a plum rice ball in a food fight. Like any flying Japanese cuisine, however, my assumptions about Goemon's upcoming adventure were brought to the ground in a brutal landing not fit for gaming or nigiri. In fact, Goemon's Great Adventure aligns more with something that requires a pooper scooper in a national park. If Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon is a Monet, then Goemon's Great Adventure is a cheap cash-in for extra monet.

We are treated to the re-arrival of Sister Bismaru, Ebisumaru's descendant from the future (as first featured in Ganbare Goemon 3: Shishijūrokubē no Karakuri Manji Katame for the Super Famicom), who steal the Wiseman's resurrection machine with the purpose of reviving the prince of darkness, Dochuki, and take over the world. Of course, Bismaru basically looks like Ebisumaru in a nun's outfit, which should bring out many laughs. But it doesn't. Aside from the creepy Game Over screen, the Plasma fortune teller ("Pu-ra-su-maaaa!"), and Ebisumaru claiming that he is a descendant of James Dean, the humour the series is known for has mysteriously disappeared. This seems to be a product of the localization process because no Goemon game could have text this dry and be considered a Goemon game at all. Conversational cutscenes typically consist of hearing about what's happening and a drawn-out explanation, accompanied closely by Goemon saying "Damn!" about something obvious. The previous Goemon game on Nintendo 64 was absolutely full of bizarre Japanese humour that was oddly enticing, which makes this adventure pathetically uninspiring, rather than great. Gee, maybe that laughtrack from Mystical Ninja wouldn't be a bad idea.

You have the option of playing as one of four characters. First is, naturally, Goemon, whose weapon is a pipe with which he whacks enemies over the noggin. He can also use the Pipe Chain ability, allowing to break blocks with stars on them. Goemon can double-jump, and it works... about half the time. I lost quite a few lives on Goemon's selective athletics. Next is Ebisumaru, the plump food-loving man who uses a strange ping-pong paddle as a weapon. He also has a megaphone and can use it to scream words that turn to stone and act as platforms. Yes, I just said that. I can't believe it, either. Sasuke is a robotic ninja with projectiles and bombs. Sasuke can dive underwater and peruse those areas, too. Lastly is Yae, a kunoichi who can slice with a katana. She, too, can go underwater, but she can't use her original weapon down there, unlike Sasuke — only the bazooka. She's purposeless in this game and only appears because she is a major character in all other Goemon games and possibly to attract a female audience.

Things are looking a little strange in Edo these days...

Goemon's Great Adventure borrows liberally from Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon, even though it is generally a different type of game. All the protagonist character models have been copied over, and with them their signature vocal shouts (although I have my doubts about Goemon — he sounds as though he's injected a bit more testosterone in his delicious ohagi snacks). The towns generally look similar, although set more on a 2D plane. At least there are (seemingly) new environs to visit, inspired either by nature or historic Japanese architecture. Likewise, much of the music has been recycled, although that's not necessily a bad thing, considering how awesome the other soundtrack was. The newer tunes don't exactly stick in my head, though. It was also a shame that the vocal tracks in the Japanese version were removed.

And the chapter title cards use Comic Sans font. COMIC SANS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! Plus, there's a typo in one of them.

I can forgive all that. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask did the same thing, and that game turned out to be fresh and wonderful. But Konami took Mystical Ninja's assets and farted on them. Loudly. With gale strength. And turned them into one of the most unpleasant platformers I've played in ages.

Traversing each level in Goemon's Great Adventure doesn't feel like a challenge as much as it does a game of chance. For starters, hit detection is extremely (oh, a pun is coming) hit and miss. More accurately, enemies can more easily hit me than I can hit them. Sometimes the angle of view (which cannot be changed) negatively affects my ability to calculate how to hit something or how NOT to jump on an enemy. Speaking of which, I have to complain about the game's enemy placement. It's absolutely awful sometimes. Why is it that when I am jumping between platforms, a flying enemy just HAS to whiz into view and smack me in the face? That's bad enough, but the knockback can cause me to fall into a bottomless pit or at least leave me fumbling to maintain my stance. These factors alone made the game feel inexplicably difficult.

Just looking at the stages themselves, there's nothing overly complicated about any of them. Yet I had to scratch my head in confusion, wondering why I was failing so often. Could it be that the levels, especially the end of world ones, were as long as time itself? A few missteps would put me right back at the beginning after spending twenty minutes trying not to let some flying jerk pummel me into a tumbling demise. I get that Konami games are hard, but usually they are reasonably so. This one just felt as though my mistakes were the result of poor design rather than lack of skill. It also wouldn't have hurt if they had taken another cue from Mystical Ninja and let the life meter get LONGER as the game progressed. You're stuck with the same three bars (upgradable to up to six bars if you bought armor in town or found an elusive gold kitten) for the entire journey, which makes every step forward all the more scary, not knowing when something's going to hurt you.

This game also exemplifies the belief that underwater levels are inherently terrible. They are not fun in the slightest here. Trying to aim your bazooka to hit a foe underwater is like trying to throw a toothpick into a jam jar... from fifty yards away: not going to happen, so do not bother. At least Sasuke can use a blade underwater. Yae doesn't have that option, thus making her impressively vulnerable and useless down here. At least these sections are infrequent.

...and sometimes, Edo looks downright skeletal.

Each world ends with a boss battle, and they are comparatively easy, including the game's final showdown with Dochuki (yes, Bismaru DOES manage to rejuvenate that smug blue fella). It's GETTING to the boss that's the real challenge. Not only is that last stage usually the most difficult, but you also need to pass through a sealed gate, requiring you to have a certain number of entry passes. You earn passed by completing stages or solving the irritating problems of townsfolk who can't do anything themselves. This part is simply padding, alongside talking to most townspeople who have absolutely nothing of value to inject into a conversation.

But boss battles aren't enough for Konami. Nope, they have to throw in those dreadful first-person mech-style Impact battles right after.

You're put in the pit of Impact, the gigantic robot that resembles Goemon, and forced to battle some other mechanical samurai from Hell. You have a few tactics at your disposal, including slow and fast punches, a goofy kick, and the option to shoot ryo (the currency of Edo). The more damage you deal, the faster a special gauge charges up; once it's full, you can fire off the powerful Blaster Beam (although with the speed some of your opponents have, it will miss often and leave you open to taking damage with no manner of defense for a few seconds). In Mystical Ninja, I used to be able to cheat by attaching Impact's Pipe Chain to the enemy and suckling away damage slowly but surely. They removed that ability here, which really threw me off. What they DID do, however, is throw Lady Impact, the female version of Impact, into each battle as well; you can throw a baton between the two and switch places, allowing you to be avoid major attacks and also to basically have two life bars. Some attacks are both seemingly unavoidable and fatal, so switching between the two is a MUST. Still, these battles are quite difficult and require many attempts in order for success. Thankfully, you don't have to repeat the prior stage to retry this guy, even after a Game Over.

After several bouts of cursing and sobbing, I have successfully completed Goemon's Great Adventure. I have determined that the adventure was not, in fact, as great as I had imagined. The cartridge has now returned safely to my shelf, where I shall never touch it again, except for moving day and shelf vacuuming day.

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