Games from early in a console’s life often feel a tad like they’re missing something. Have you played Red Steel? Of course you have, and you’re scarred for life because of it. This pain is nothing; deal with it.
Red Steel didn’t feel refined enough. A good vodka has been filtered many times, as has a good game. Take the epic Ocarina of Time: triple distilled. We’ve all played games we’ve regretted buying. It’s part of the console launch, and you were suckered into Dead or Alive Xtreme 2. Enjoy your softcore pornography, jerks.
What usually makes these launch titles awful is just that they’re very primitive, or, rather, they just aren’t breathtaking enough (if such a thing can actually be decided). That is why we were all shocked when Nintendo released Super Mario 64. They weren’t laying down in some office on their arses. Prowess like that shows—Super Mario 64 is absolutely huge, with an outrageous 120 stars to obtain. (Which I never have. Tick Tock Clock and Rainbow Ride’s 100-coin stars mock me from within the SRAM of the cartridge. I hear them snickering as I pass by.)
From the beginning, Nintendo 64 games had a lot to live up to. Super Mario 64 introduced the possibility of having a large 3D in-game world brimming with possibilities, secrets, hidden levels, and penguins. I hadn’t even seen a penguin in a videogame before the glorious day I ripped open the packaging of Super Mario 64 (James Pond 2 notwithstanding).
After Super Mario 64, there were an abundance of platformers released on the Nintendo 64. And they were all, as platformers tend to be, kiddy and stupid. Mario had opened the pen, and all the toddlers waddled into the Nintendo 64 games library. Oh great.
Despite the mustachioed, ravioli-guzzling Italian plumbing the way, however, it is clearly Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon that really shines through. This game isn’t exactly “kiddy”—although it is cute, colourful and has cheerful music. FINE. IT IS A KIDS GAME. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?
So Goemon is not a mystical ninja, but actually a small-time thief. He is based on the Japanese equivalent of Robin Hood, who, instead of having Merry Men, had Scantily Clad Schoolgirls. Goemon does harbor a slightly odd obsession with pipes; make of that what you will.
Tackling climate change some insidious threat, alongside Goemon the Great, is a supporting cast of equally oddball followers: a fat guy, a small robot, and someone actually worth mentioning.
Ah, yes. Amongst Goemon’s impromptu dysfunctional family is the sweet and nimble Yae, Ninja Secret Agent (or something equally as awesome-sounding). She is loyal to king and country, and is awfully good at slicing enemies into halves. She is mysterious, with her long, flowing green hair that mesmerizes the player.
Also, our delectable kunoichi heroine can turn into a mermaid at will—complete with clam shells covering her breasts as if they are some kind of seafood buffet. This would be a good time to move onto another subject before this review becomes a declaration of affection for a bunch of polygons, which, in previous drafts, it did.
Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (or Goemon 64) is pretty much a platformer-adventure hybrid. There are no levels, as it were—just exploration of Japan and various creatively designed dungeons. For those who have only been born in the last ten years, it’s like Fallout 3, in that it contains a world, quests, and various items you will need. Oh, and you hurt the developers when you download from a torrent tracker, you detestable pirate!
Goemon 64 also draws parallels to the creepy Castlevania and the messianic Metroid. You do not have a hub area in which you unlock levels, no; the whole of Japan is your hub area. In the nature of these well-known adventure titles, there are a number of puzzles with a rough order, and there are a number of abilities that help you solve these puzzles. Along the way, like in the aforementioned games, you unlock new equipment and better skills for completing harder challenges. We needn’t go into more detail about that. Next slide.
Each of Goemon 64’s multiple heroes has their own abilities and traits. Particular puzzles call for specific characters, so it becomes a mental game of Twister as you associate which character has right hand on green, and left leg on red. The characters themselves are introduced such that, as your current characters are dried up, another is added, whose skills and abilities are necessary to continue. What starts out as a small roster of abilities is maxed out across the space of the game, with necessary skills and secret unlockable powers to be obtained.
So far, I’ve tackled the platforming and the adventuring, which is most of what this game comprises. But let it be noted that, during this journey through Nippon, you will encounter a few minigames. Minigames that wouldn’t feel out of place in Mario Party. And besides these, when Goemon calls upon the gigantic clockwork robot Goemon Impact, you have a small section unlike anything I’ve ever played.
Then, after you have smashed a small Japanese town to pieces, you are thrown headfirst into a boss battle that puts you in command of said gigantic clockwork robot, with the goal of beating ten levels of shit out of another, stronger-looking robot.
It doesn’t take more than a single brain cell to see that what we have within this cartridge is an epic, harking back to the good old days of tongue-in-cheek adventure games.
In 1998, it seems that we still cared about how fun games were. If a videogame turned out a bit rough round the edges, but the whole production was fun from the first five minutes to the staff roll, it was forgiven for its flaws and loved. I don’t see many people who can hug Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. And you know what? Screw them.
Goemon 64 is text-heavy, with lots of clues and hints that, when thought over rationally, lead you to your destination. If you never paid attention in class, and you can’t read, you can’t play Goemon 64. Take that, you educationally challenged individual! Also, if you’re not capable of reading, then why are you here?
The script for Goemon 64 is a laugh-like-a-drain experience, with satisfying dialogue that is both witty and genuinely brilliant. And if you don’t understand what a joke is, the canned laughter will indicate when you should laugh. (I see this happens a lot in sitcoms. Someone walks in, and they say “It’s me!”, and everyone laughs. A good sitcom need not rely on this!)
But all good things must come to an end, such as this review, or when your favourite sitcom is axed because the cast isn’t interested in a third season. So, therefore, despite the sheer size of the game world, and the large number of goals to be completed, Goemon 64 can easily be beaten over a week in 4-5 sittings. A lot of backtracking helps lengthen the game, but once you’ve stepped foot anywhere, to get back is just a single whistle blow from Yae, and then you’re swept away.
There is very little in replay value—a major downfall for what I consider to be the best platformer on the Nintendo 64. Once you have beaten the game and found all the hidden fortune dolls, you have successfully put Goemon 64 to bed. Collecting all the dolls does unlock a consecutive boss fighting mode, but I have never completed it, as it is so difficult that it made me cry. You can get more replay value by beating the game again perhaps a year or two after the last time. Nevertheless, you’re not going to be picking the game up that often after defeating it.
If you wish to experience something magical that you most likely didn’t even know existed, dig out your Nintendo 64. I order you to blow the dust out of your Memory Pak. I demand that you get a hold of Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon. What you witness may just change your outlook on videogames forever.
You are excused. Now, go. Go to your local retro game dealer. You know what to do.
So she’s a mermaid? Yeah, I “cod” be in with a chance!