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by Kurt Kalata - September 26, 2007

Almana no Kiseki (アルマナの奇跡) - Famicom Disk System (1987)

Japanese FDS Cover

Card Artwork

Back in the early days of the Famicom, Konami was a huge supporter of the disk system. Although a handful of its games were transferred to cartridges and exported, like Castlevania (Akumajou Dracula), Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest (Dracula II: Noroi no Fuuin), Rush'n Attack (Green Beret), Stinger (Moeru Twinbee) and Jackal (Final Commando Akai Yousai), many of them simply wallowed in obscurity as Nintendo refocused its format. Some of these include Esper Dream (which later received a sequel in cartridge format), Meikyuu Jiin Dababa, Ai Senshi Nicol, Falsion, and Almana no Kiseki, (sometimes transliterated as "Arumana no Kiseki", which means "The Miracle of Almana".) It's a sidescrolling action game that takes part of the action of Castlevania and combines it with Bionic Commando (which, in 1987, hadn't been released yet), and then stole its setting almost piece-for-piece from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, right up to the quest to find a stolen magical stone for some deprived village. This is actually a pretty awesome title. What is the Miracle of Almana? You are, apparently, an adventurous outsider with a fedora, an expansive arsenal of deadly weapons, and a grappling hook unfettered by any real adherence to physics.

Almana no Kiseki

The hero can use one of six weapons - throwing daggers, bombs (which can explode on command), pistols, bolas (which are tossed upward at an angle), gems (which damage everything on the screen) and spiked balls (useful for breaking open certain walls and floors, which are, in true Metroid fashion, indistinguishable from nonbreakable walls and floors.) You can select between any of these at any time, but the problem is that each of them are limited in quantity. This is quite troublesome considering that enemies, inclusing the usual human foes but also spiders, snakes, skeletons, and bats, infinitely respawn from various holes in the background. You can try to dodge them and converse your arsenal for the boss creatures, but it's a smarter idea to just explore each stage thoroughly to stock up on extra weapons. Although each level is technically linear, there are usually a few branch off points that technically lead to dead ends, but usually have some worthwhile power-ups along the way, especially ones that extend your life bar.

Roc 'n Rope

To aid in your exploration, your hero also has a grappling hook, activated by pressing Up and B, which tosses it at an upward 45 degree angle. Once hooked, it'll stick in place, allowing you to jump on or off, and you can climb up to the next platform. Toss another rope and your previous one disappears. It's basically an expansion of an idea from an early Konami arcade game called Rock 'n Rope. When traveling short distances, it's no real problem to use, but nearly all of the levels call for some skilled use of the hook, and this is where things get confusing. One would think that you would need to jump and toss it at the peak of your leap, but no. Instead, you're supposed to throw the hook, and then jump, because the hook will ascend with you, and it's the best way to obtain maximum height.

Not only is this a smack in the face of physics, but it feels horribly unnatural, and you'll undoubtedly spend far longer than necessary try to conquer simple obstacles, all while taking damage from the nonstop horde of enemies that just won't go away, as they continue to sap both your strength and your weapon supply. Plus it takes a bit more than a full second for the hook to fully extend, making it quite hard to time your grapple. Theoretically you can save yourself from falling and grab onto a platform at the last moment, but it requires a sense of awkward timing that is quite baffling. Also, good luck trying to jump on some of the moving platforms, because the game physics just can't seem to handle that either, and even the simplest of jumps can become huge hassles. It's more than a bit glitchy, as sometimes you can swear the hook is hitting a platform but just goes right through it, or you can just pass through the wall to your sad, sad death.

Almana no Kiseki

It takes some getting used to, and more than a fair bit of patience (and forgiveness) but once you've practiced you can find yourself becoming an expert, and traversing most of the stages becomes far simpler. And with some strategic weapon conservation, you'll probably find most of the bosses - which range from hydras to giant spiders to wall-burrowing, rock-spitting squids - to be not terribly difficult. So while it's initially quite frustrating, Almana no Kiseki has most of the essentials of a lost classic, and it's way better than ever later games like Fausseté Amour. And as is typical of Konami during the era, it has a remarkable soundtrack, whose only downfall is that there's really on a handful of tunes set across the six stages. The main theme (played in the first stage and beyond) is remarkably catchy, and the extra FM sound channel of the Famicom Disk System provides a fuller texture than its typical of most early FC/NES games. It's composed by Kinuyo Yamashita, who also did Castlevania, Esper Dream, and King Kong 2 for Konami. Great stuff all around.


Almana no Kiseki (FDS)

Almana no Kiseki (FDS)

Almana no Kiseki (FDS)

Almana no Kiseki (FDS)

Almana no Kiseki (FDS)

Almana no Kiseki (FDS)



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