Over 8 million people purchased Halo 3. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas sold a whopping 12 million. And Nintendo can’t defecate out Pokémon and “Wii Insert Random Thing To Do Here” games fast enough to completely satisfy the masses. But with all these amazing successes, there have been numerous games and even complete series that have fallen to the wayside. Remember: for every Super Mario Bros., there’s a Shutokou Battle 2: Drift King Keichii Tsuchiya & Masaaki Bandoh. As a proud gamer, I feel that it is my privilege—nay, my duty—to take some time and offer a brief glimpse at many of the games that either disappeared into bargain bins and trash bins alike due to overshadowing from more prominent titles, as well as titles that will forever remain sequestered within one region of the world. You’d better be prepared to be educated a little, because there is much that you haven’t seen.
JANUARY 2010: Popeye: Ijiwaru Majo Sea Hag no Maki
TELL ME A BIT ABOUT IT.
Believe it or not, Japan must really like that Popeye character. I just hope that Japanese audiences don’t consider Popeye as the embodiment of Western freedom, or else we’re going to end up looking like ship-hugging, anchor-loving sea yokels with puffy arms and heroin-addict level spinach infatuations (not to mention the fact that our women all look like coat racks, which is straying farther and farther from the truth every year).
Anyway, surprisingly enough, there was a videogame released there on the Super Famicom (SNES to us North American folks) back in 1994 (which, oddly enough, did not make Meteo’s Top Games of 1994 list) called Popeye: Ijiwaru Majo Sea Hag no Maki, which supposedly roughly translates to “Popeye: Volume of the Malicious Witch Seahag.” That’s certainly something else. Not as exciting of a title as “Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony,” but it will have to do. One of the more unexpected details about this is the fact that it was developed by Technos Japan, who would normally have characters beating each other up in some Double Dragon game or hurling dodgeballs at each other. Who knew they did other stuff?
OK, WISE GUY, TELL ME A LITTLE MORE.
Looks like a Sea Hag has cast a spell on all of Popeye’s friends and turned them to solid ice. Not satisfied with the newly-acquired cold dispositions of his peers, Popeye now has to collect special hearts scattered around his world to bring them back to life. Damn, without guys with names like Wimpy and Blozo to chat with, how could anyone get through their day without thoughts of suicide by rectal anchor trauma? The game is set on a board-like playing field where you have to use of those goofy spinners to determine how many spaces you can move. If it’s only a one-player game, it’s more an effort in tedium to have to self-gauge how many spaces you can move. Just move, dammit. Considering his background as a stuttering sailor, I guess Popeye isn’t as useful on land.
Anyway, depending on what space you finish your turn on, different results can occur. Blue spaces can give you nice things like health bonuses or items for your journey, while red spaces cause you to be tortured by lightning damage, theft of coinage from your wallet, or by having to watch The Notebook with the sound on. Weird stuff can happen too—some meteor flew in from the sky and bashed me in the head, causing the map to be temporarily heavily pixelated. Too many drugs out there. There are also random minibosses floating about, so if you meet up with them, expect a battle.
Other than that, there are also shops and casinos to visit, if you’re into shopping or gambling away your life savings. Oh yeah, and a whole bunch of platforming stages where you run around, collecting coins and whacking the local fauna with your signature anchor on a chain (and for some reason, I could turn into a frog at some random point). The platforming is very bland fare, but it keeps you off the streets. After you collect all the hearts in one area, you tackle Brutus, and move on to the next area. I’m not sure what Brutus has to do with all this, but he’s probably just being a pissant to make the game longer.
SO, IS THIS GAME WORTH SCOURING eBAY FOR?
If you’re a completist who wants every Super Famicom game in existence so they can boast to their friends and then go to sleep in their undersized Power Rangers pajamas with a huge rip through Goldar’s face, then… hold on, I went too far on a tangent. Hold… hold on…
*several hours later*
…ah yes, then yes, it’s worth your while. Otherwise, it’s just another average platformer that was sucked into the vortex of obscurity. Plus, all the text is in Japanese, so you’ll need some solid knowledge of the language before you can really figure out everything that’s going on (with the exception of the camera transition between the map and a platforming level, which actually reads “BLOW ME DOWN”). At least the game looks nice. It’s not horrible, it’s not spectacular, it’s just a Popeye product that won’t give you diabetes like his candy sticks. Popeye: Ijiwaru Majo Sea Hag no Maki is the healthy choice of champions!