As with most of the import games featured on this site,
this review will start pretty much the same way: how excellent
the game is, what a shame that it was never released in America,
and the general overall stupidity of the American
game industry. For the uninformed, Ganbare Goemon 2: Materetsu Shogun Magginesu
is the sequel to the fab SNES game Legend of the Mystical
Ninja (the first Goemon on that platform). This was one of the many games in the Goemon
series that was delightfully skipped over by Konami but
suddenly reintroduced on the N64 in the USA, perhaps because
they figured that the 3D graphics would impress people
enough to ignore the wacky Japanese theme. But enough
of the rant, onto the game!
Goemon and Ebisimaru (I hated their horrible American names,
Kid Ying and Dr. Yang) are now joined by Sasuke, a cute
little clockwork ninja wielding knives. Their task
involves hunting down the evil general Magginesu, who is
probably doing some bad things like opressing people, but I wouldn't
know given my near-lack of Japanese (most of the text is Hiragana though,
so it probably won't be too hard for early learners.) Goemon wields
his traditional pipe weapon and can charge up coins to throw at bad guys.
Ebisimaru has a deadly fan and throws shurikens while Sasuke is the most
agile one and can throw bombs.
The structure of the game has changed a little bit since the first
SNES/SFC Goemon game. Now there is a overworld map similar to Super Mario
World. There are many levels in the game but are fairly small, and
nearly all of them are side-scrolling. The levels
themselves are changed a little bit also, many involving manuevering
over obstacles and platforms. You'll
fight through five worlds in order to reach Magginesu's flying battleship
and destroy the evil shogun. In most chapters, there's a town or two that
allows you to spend any money you found on armor, food, special items or
any variety of nifty little items.
New to this chapter of the Goemon games is everyone's favorite robot, the
Goemon Impact! This rollerskating, grinning, pipe-wielding gigantic mechanical being
usually pops up at the end of the level to do battle with a nasty boss.
The first section of a boss sequence is a side-scrolling view, where you
need to destroy as many buildings and baddies as possible to gain energy.
After completing these short segments, it's onto the real boss.
These battles are fought in the first-person perspective. The boss jumps
around the screen (using the SNES' fancy Mode 7 graphics and actually looking
very nice nad smooth) and you've got to get his energy down via punches,
throwing coins, or some sort of nuclear pipe bomb. Since you can't actually
move the Impact, you're pretty much stationary and are on the defense all
of the time. Therefore, success relies primarily on blocking the attacks
and hitting the approaching enemies at the right time. These scenes take
a little while to get used to and can be quite a bit frustrating, but after
enough practice these fights aren't too hard.
There's actually plenty of secrets to be found here. Some of the levels
have alternate exits and lead to separate paths with lots of treasure. The
coolest things to find though is the amusement park. As with other Goemon
games, there's a whole bunch of mini-games. One of the best ones is a Super
Mario Kart rip-off where you run around the tracks to get the coins. But
the game that really takes the cake is the first level of the arcade shooter
XEXEX. This game was never released on any home system and after playing
it in Goemon 2, I REALLY wish I could get my hands on it. It's similar
to R-Type in that you can detach or re-attach a little pod-thing that attacks
enemies, plus you can charge up your weapon to let out a lightning blast.
Makes me almost cry when I think about all of the other arcade Konami shoot-em-ups
I never got to play since they were never ported home...
The general atmosphere of the game is very strange to say the least. One
of the main bad guys in the game (I SWEAR) is dressed up in a bunny rabbit
suit. Similarly, many of the enemies are rabbits too. Some of the levels
are just plain weird, one taking place in a gigantic kitchen (watch out
for attacking fried shrimp) and even a ski resort (???) I told you it was
There's a big difference between Goemon 2 and the original Mystical Ninja
titles visually...the characters are much bigger and more detailed. There's
a bit of a trade-off though, as the backgrounds aren't quite as detailed.
Still, the Goemon Impact battles manage to look rather impressive. You'll
find a mixed variety of tunes here, some very good and others rather generic.
Overall though, the music is generally very good, though I wish that some of it
were a bit more....well...Japanese. The town theme sounds very good but there's
not enough of the cool drums in the action scenes, at least when compared
to its predecessor.
In addition to the bizarrely-cool scenario and gobs of extra stuff to play
around with, one of the things that really makes this game stand out
is the excellent play control. It's just beautiful and extremely smooth...
a model of what all side-scrolling games should play like. Plus the
enemies usually blow up with shaprel flying all over the place (or in
Sasuke's case, cutting a baddie in half) so it's all good fun. The
two player mode is great also, allowing two of the three heroes
to fight side-by-side in destroying evil strange things! There's
also plenty of vehicles to be stolen and used in levels, the best one
being a sumo robot (tee hee!)
Ganbare Goemon 2 isn't horriblly difficult on a whole. There are moments
of typical Konami frustrating (being stuck on a particular level for a long
time because you keep missing a jump or something like that) but the penalty
for continuing isn't much. You lose half of your yen, but get to keep
your position on the overworld map (heck, you can even still start at the
checkpoints in the middle of a level.) At least your life meter is comparitively long
(you can take six hits from most enemies and can also extend your life meter
in certain towns.) Alas, you can't change characters
unless you reset and load up the game again.
While the format of the game has changed a little bit to set it apart
gameplay wise from most of the other games in the series (especially
the platform elements) it still remains an extremely fun and engrossing
game. There's so much to do as far as extra levels or hidden goodies, buying
different items or pointing out Konami characters hidden throughout (look
for Simon Belmont, Sparkster and Gillian Seed!) I'd go to say it's even
better than the original Mystical Ninja, with the better controls, graphics
and overall design. This is an absolute must import for Konami action fans!