My current problem with the gaming journalism culture, both amateur and professional, small and large, known and unknown, is its incessant need to tell me the TOP TEN GAMES I’VE NEVER PLAYED. Top ten if I’m lucky—sometimes it’s longer. These lists started out well enough, bulleting, in no real order whatsoever, ten or more titles I kind of remember enjoying way back; it was a fun way to waltz down memory lane. But as time and the Internet and gaming culture expanded many times over, the lists got longer and the games got more obscure with larger caveats. This continues today.
The part that annoys me the most is how utterly pointless these lists are. They don’t make anyone play those games; they just show off how much of an underground, counter-culture, anti-mainstream turd you are. They IMPLORE me to track these games down and buy them, no matter the cost and, I’m sorry, I just don’t feel like tracking down some obscure PC-FX title at Super Potato so I can fulfill some dream I didn’t know I had. The fact is, if a game was really that good in the first place, it would have sold well enough for me to get a copy without wading through the cosplayers of Akihibara. Sales and quality don’t always match up, but face it—if the general public isn’t buying, then it really wasn’t worth playing in the first place.
But every once in a while, a game does come along that manages to bring tears to your eyes without making a mark in general recognition. I’m talking about the one and only LEGEND OF THE MYSTICAL NINJA for the SNES console.
It is nothing short of an honor to play through this game. I can’t think of any other non-major-console-defining title that managed to squeeze in so much without becoming overwhelming. This game has two major parts: Overhead exploration (through many Japanese towns and areas) and side-scrolling levels. Whereas most other SNES games would be happy with either, Goemon does both and makes both relevant and balanced. The overhead levels have you slamming through phalanxes of weird enemies, all highly Japanese and ridiculous, gaining money and items until you find your way to the lair where the enemies come from. Then it switches to platforming, and now level design is your chief concern.
I love absolutely everything about this game. I love the simple, bright graphics and lush backgrounds. The soundtrack is a winner, too. There’s about 70 songs and not a loser in the bunch—let’s see you do that with only five notes in a scale. I love the fact that the game never feels lazy; it just gets more and more creative and wild as it goes on. There’s lots of great ideas and great boss fights. It’s very challenging without getting too frustrating (although I would complain about the hit detection). And most important of all—it always has your attention. You can’t play this game and watch a movie at the same time because it would be a waste of a movie.
I really don’t know why the Goemon series never caught on here as much as it did in Japan (Goemon is to Konami what Metroid is to Nintendo—the kinda “other” flagship character). I kinda figure that American audiences really don’t go for a whole game that is completely Japanese in tone. It’s hard to get into a game that prominently features a country and culture that’s almost alien to us. I’m a reluctant Japanophile and even still it’s occasionally lost on me. Also, it could be the box art. God, I’d rather have tentacle hentai of my mom than look at that shit s’more of artwork again.
But just for the sheer number of stuff you get to do in this game—the main game, the minigames, the actual other games that made their way in (first level of Gradius, motherfucker)—on top of an excellent and thoughtful foundation of creativity and playability (1:00 a.m. about now, I’ll try to wrap it up), this game should be #1 on your top ten list. This truly is a game you should’ve bought but didn’t, a game you should’ve played but missed out. Luckily, it’s available on the Wii’s Virtual Console, so now is your chance to play the best Super NES game you never played before.
P.S. And now, here’s the GameFAQs top ten list that got me hired here at GameCola! Enjoy the wonderful writing genius I used to possess before I had to write three reviews a month on top of everything else.