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Review by: Moonwulf
The first Goemon game to be released worldwide, under the name of 'The Legend of the Mystical Ninja', was the first Goemon game for the SNES as well. Back then people over here in the West had a very odd reaction to playing this game, even still to those largely unfamiliar with the series outside Japan, because it's packed with numerous references to ancient Japanese culture, which unless you were Japanese yourself, would not understand it and most likely would find this game incredibly weird.
But Konami did attempt to bring this game over to the West and introduce the rest of the world to the Goemon series, which largely failed because of it's heavy Japanese culture influences which was the main reason it wouldn't sell well, and as such it's more or less treated as a cult classic overseas. It is, however, a very well-made cult classics and one of my personal most favourite games for the SNES. Let me dive into this game more and explain my reasons...
The gameplay of this game consists usually of 2 parts in each stage. (in this game the stages being called 'Warlock Zone' with a Roman numeral after it)
The first part of it being to walk around the town defeating people who act as enemies and will hurt you should you come in contact with them in order to gain money to buy stuff, scrolls which are used for special abilities (which are explained later in this section) and lucky cats to inprove your weapon. Beware though that every once in awhile Omitsu or in the later stages another woman might show up among the enemies, and if you hit her with your weapon, you lose 100 $, but if you touch her you get 50 $, so make sure you don't hit them by accident. Your weapon starts out as a short kiseru for Goemon and a fue for Ebisumaru, but getting a lucky cat upgrades it to a longer metallic version of either weapon, and another grants you a long-range weapon which is a yo-yo for Goemon and a kazoo for Ebisumaru. When you get hit however, it degrades your weapon so be careful not to do so. Your other weapon of choice you can select is a projectile which costs 4 $ everytime you use it. Goemon tosses ryo while Ebisumaru throws shurikens.
Amongst the towns you can find various stores which sells items like pizza slices to automatically replenish your health when you get hit too much, armor to prevent any health loss from being hit by an enemy, helmets to prevent damage from projectiles, extra lifes, and sandals to increase your walking speed and jumping height in the town sections and of which it tops at the amount of 3, but you can buy more in case you get hit, which will reduce your sandal count with each hit. Essentially you do want to stock up on sandals pretty soon at the start of the game, because otherwise you'll move horribly slow. There are also bombs for sale, but since they function as projectiles and have a very limited range when you throw them, they're practically not very helpful, so you're best on not buying them to save cash for better equipment
Aside from the stores, there's also a few buildings where you can replenish your health like food stores, sauna's, and inn's. The hotel food stores and sauna's offer various prices to equal the healing amount, but the sauna costs 100 $ and will heal you completely, so beware that choice so you don't waste cash on little health replenishment.
There's also a lot of mini-games in the towns on which you can earn or lose money from, most of them being gambling games like the lottery, horse races you can bet on, and dice-throwing. The few non-gambling games are a memory card game, a trivia quiz game, and a 3D-esque maze you can navigate through in order to gain stuff. There's also a job place where you can play 3 sorts of different games to earn cash in a safer way, the first one being a ball-throwing game which isn't very fun to play as the balls are really hard to aim in. A painting game in which you have to change the movement direction of a constantly moving paint brush which goes faster over time over a square field without letting it hit the edges of the wall, a area in has already moved over, or the blocks on the field. And lastly a typical whack-a-mole game.
A fortune teller also appears in a few stages who will tell you something for 20 $, which usually result either in that bad or good things will happen to you. The catch to his fortunes is that if he predicted something bad, you will be surrounded by enemies upon leaving, or when predicting something good, will surround you by women instead to give you extra cash. He can also tell you there's nothing happening, which will give you nothing, so it's ultimately another lucky shot thing.
There's also a dojo in a few stages. It serves as the spot to gain special abilities which you can select from the pause menu and use one of them with the X-button in the action stages at the cost of a scroll, of which you can collect 10 from defeated enemies to gain one of which the maximum is 10. While they can be helpful, they're pretty much not worth it in the long run as training for one of those abillities is very expensive, it requires you to have at least 6 bars of energy as you will lose 4 in the process, and you can only use such a ability in that stage only.
One of the best features in the game comes in the form of a game building in where you can pay 100 $ to play a game of either a simple game of Pong for 2 players only, one round of bouncing the ball off your pad against the tiles which is just a simpler version of Arkanoid, but the inarguably best game from the selection is that you can play the first stage of the first Gradius, which on the SNES looks and sounds alot better than the Arcade and NES versions.
Lastly there's also a building in a few stages which gives you passwords to keep track of your progress, but they're very complicated, which isn't very much worth writing it down if you ask me. For the rest there are people inside buildings which will most often just tell something of non-importance, but some of them give off useful advice, one of them even referring to the infamous 'Konami code' as a in-joke.
The second part of the game is to progress through a 2-D side-scrolling stage with various enemies and platforming segments along the way to overcome. When you're ready to take that on, you leave the town or enter the building that you're supposed to get into, and the first sign that you're about to enter those stages is by the tanuki (racoon dog) that awaits you at the start and tells you upon approaching that it's dangerous ahead.
While most of the side-scrolling stages aren't very difficult with enemies, they do offer some very creative and very tricky platforming segments to keep it fun and challenging, especially in the later stages which can be kinda hard. At the end of each stage you face a boss, and all of them are pretty creative and all are fought pretty unique and some in certain patterns you need to hit them, it's solid fun to beat them.
Also hidden amongst both area's are a few bonus area's which simply house some items or money to collect and don't have any threats in it, so if you can find them, be sure to collect them.
The only real bad point I can come up with is that the final upgraded weapon has a flaw in that only it's very end actually damages enemies, which leaves you vulnerable for a second. Some enemies have sudden unpredictable movement that when you miss with your weapon, they can sometimes get a shot at you because of that. But otherwise the gameplay's pretty much very varied and fun to play, especially the mini-games.
At the time when this game originally came out in Japan in 1991 when the Super Famicom was shortly released, it has some pretty appealing visuals and colorful graphics. Especially the facial expressions of the characters are neatly animated and it's very comically portrayed. Nothing's ever a real mess and it adds to the nice presentation of the game, otherwise there isn't much to talk about it.
One of the strong aspects of the Goemon games is it's music and this one's no exception. The soundtrack of this game has a wonderful atmosphere to it that makes you feel that you're really in ancient Japan, and it's always appropiate. The ones that stand out as my personal favourites are the ones of Oedo Town, the very first town music, the boss fights, and the Gradius music.
Considering the many Japanese culture references in this game, it was a suprise that most of the content made it intact in most releases in the West, save for a few minor edits. Most notably are the names changes of Goemon and Ebisumaru, to Kid Ying and Dr. Yang respectively, the most likely reason for this being that Goemon and Ebisumaru's names might not be easy for English speakers to pronounce, especially the latter's.
The only parts that were actually removed from the Japanese version in other versions were two scenes in two of the tents in the game that costed 100 $ to view. The first one which was located at the Carnival in stage 3 was a short dance show of Ebisumaru which had him and a few clones of him doing a fart joke closing, which might have been a bit too crude for westerners.
The other one was in stage 6's Tengu Mountain town, in where a girl was slowly revealing more and more of her body (no actual sexual body parts, of course), as spotlights moved across the darkened room and semi-porn music played in the background. This was removed for all too obvious reasons that strip-teasing in kids games are generally taboo in games in the West.
This was also the first appearence of Sasuke and Wise Man, though Sasuke appears as a boss in the game at the end of stage 5. While he doesn't have any dialogue and his name isn't shown at any point in the game, it's obvious that it's him judging from his design. The only thing that was changed in Ganbare Goemon 2 forwards from his initial appearence was his pink shirt and yellow boots, as well as the lack of the red buttons on both sides of his head.
The Legend of the Mystical Ninja or Ganbare Goemon 1, however you want to call it, is a pretty cool and entertaining game, even if you aren't familiar with the series at all. It's so much comical fun and some good challenge to it that makes a good solo or 2-player game.