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Ganbare Goemon Review

Publisher - Konami
Developer - Konami
Platform - N64
Type - Adventure/Platform
Score - 6/10

There’s no doubt about it - Konami’s new N64 title is simply one of the most bizarre, warped excursions to Trip-Out City ever devised...

Having already graced the Super NES, PlayStation, and Game Boy in an increasingly weird and wonderful series of titles, Ganbare Goemon - Neomomoyama Bakufu no Odori (aka Mystical Ninja) finally arrives on N64... and guess what? It’s another clone of Super Mario 64. However, this is a clone with a difference. Not only have the coders virtually replicated Mario 64’s control system and graphics, they’ve also lifted large portions of Zelda’s task-based gameplay and combined it with aspects of Goemon’s past in order to create what must be one of the most bizarre games ever to grace the Nintendo 64.

Just watching this game in action is to bear witness to a psychedelic episode of frightening proportions. Taking to the skies atop a giant serpent, doing battle with beskirted blobs and trampling over towns in your enormous robot are merely three aspects of what is quite simply a seriously whacked out game. What’s more, the further you get into the game, the weirder it gets. This in itself gives Ganbare Goemon a peculiar kind of appeal. You want to keep on playing to see just how twisted these designers are (and the answer is "very").

The tasks you undertake in order to progress range from the enjoyable (climbing towers, taking down bosses, and solving logic puzzles) to the utterly surreal (collecting fish for the incredible shrinking woman and finding a pond-dwelling fellow a nice cucumber for him to play with). This is probably the one area of the game that in theory supersedes Mario 64 -- Goemon’s blatant taxation of Zelda’s task-based gameplay makes for a vast game with plenty of challenge... that’s if you can figure out the hell’s going on, of course.

Being an adventure game from Japan, there are vast amounts of indecipherable text to wade through. The chances are that you’ll blunder through the first couple of levels by trial and error, but to stand any chance of getting your money’s worth from this game you’re going to need a working understanding of Japanese. Alternatively, you can just wait for the US release come February next year.

So will the newly re-titled Mystical Ninja 64: Goemon’s Adventure be worth the wait? At this stage, it’s difficult to tell, but there are some promising signs. The game starts out poorly with dull, repetitive visuals and music very reminiscent of the first Goemon game on the SNES. However, give it a couple of hours’ play and you’ll bear witness to some pretty phenomenal lighting effects and very attractive surroundings. The sound and music also pick up later in the game. For example, there are three full-length songs complete with midi music and digitzed singing voices. The final battle with a peach-shaped UFO in outer space, followed by a climactic opera scene sung by the game’s two main villains is easily the best cut-scene ever put on an N64 cartridge.

Unavoidably, it is disappointing to see a Konami title with a jerky frame rate and very noticeable clipping. This becomes all the more galling when you compare the game to Mario 64 (as you inevitably will). Miyamoto’s classic is faster, smoother, and far more attractive... and it was released in Japan in July last year! Technical progress was clearly not on the agenda when Konami put this game together.

To be frank, as an import title, Ganbare Goemon is best avoided. Despite the fun nature of the hybrid Zelda/ Mario gameplay, the language barrier severely diminishes any kind of fun you’re likely to have with the game. Our editors who do speak the language suggest to raise the score by one if you understand Japanese. But for everyone else, wait for the English language version unless you enjoy getting lost in the woods. N64.com will feature a detailed comparison of the Japanese and English versions as soon as the translation is complete.