System: Nintendo Famicom
Developer: Game Studio
Completed: January 17, 2014
I like to watch a show online called Game Center CX. I discovered it late one night when searching for YouTube videos concerning Street Fighter 2010 (I think I was looking for the Angry Video Game Nerd video after recently playing the game). It was offered as a suggestion and since I had an hour to kill, I watched Shinya Arino play Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight. Seeing this man playing these games, showcasing his frustration and triumph (it was rare to see him get angry, which was refreshing compared to other personalities online reviewing video games). I began to watch more and more. I eventually came to an episode about The Quest of Ki. I remembered this particularly since he battled it for a Christmas television special.
When I say “battled,” that’s what I truly mean. He started on a late stage during the marathon (stage 98 out of 100). That one stage took him over nine hours to finish! After watching such a struggle over what looked like a simple game, it stuck with me. I have a tendency to watch someone talk about a game and have an, “Ah, this looks easy! I bet I could beat it,” attitude. Sometimes I’m right, and sometimes…
From my understanding, there were over 700 North American NES releases and over 1,000 Japanese Famicom releases. That means there are roughly 300 exclusive games made available to me with my then-recent system purchase! The first Japan exclusive game I got was Transformers: Mystery of Convoy. I played it for a couple minutes, mostly as a way to test the second controller on my Famicom (it works). The second was Kai no Boken: The Quest of Ki. I wanted to take up Arino’s Challenge and destroy it!
I want to comment on the game itself first. I managed to snag it complete in the box. When I got it, it was in a clamshell case, similar to a miniature Sega Genesis box. I didn’t know if this was a custom made case, but upon further investigation, it turns out this is typical for some Namco games (not all of them. I have Mappy in a standard cardboard box). I like!
Wait, is it Namco or Namcot? The box said Namcot, but the in-game text said Namco. I know the common complaint about video game titles being different between the box and the title screen (for example, Gyromite), but for the company name to change? Weird…
The game itself is HOLY JAPANESE, BATMAN!! I felt like a three year old “reading” a book by looking at the pretty pictures!! Between levels, an angel or goddess appears in front of a blindingly green background to offer encouragement or hints or recipes. I only know so much Japanese through online sites. I remember thinking to myself, “This will be a fun way to learn a foreign language.” That’s why I also have Zelda II for the Famicom Disk System. I’m pretty familiar with the game so it should be a snap to translate.
It feels like using a slingshot with ping pong balls to fight Gamera. Except the slingshot is a cobra constantly biting you. And Gamera has a Gatling gun.
First, the sentence structure is completely different. English usually goes along the lines of Subject-Verb-Object, whereas Japanese is Subject-Object-Verb. Second, there are different ways of communicating an idea depending on who the listener is (respectful vs. informal). Third, the translator may have taken certain liberties to make it applicable to the region, meaning what we know in the West may not actually be what was said in the Eastern version of the same game.
From what I gather, you are a Princess with moon shoes. You can jump the entire height of the screen, but mind your head! A single touch of any wall or ceiling will concuss poor Ki. Don’t worry about it too much because she might be a ghost as made evident by the pale complexion. Or she is anemic, in which case you might need to worry. The whole anti-Mario thing is Ki’s downfall and saving grace. Jumping into the ceiling usually leads to calamity in the form of spikes, or in the time she is clutching her head, it could allow her to dodge a projectile (there is no other way to duck).
I really hope this game isn’t like Legend of Zelda or Metroid. Calling the protagonist Ki is the only part of the plot that I feel confident in saying…
This game has classic one-hit deaths. Early in the game, this is not a problem, though the later stages have enemies popping out of nowhere, fireballs from off-screen and more general unfriendliness bordering on sadism. The nice part is if a death was caused by direct enemy contact, the enemy is removed from the field on the next life. All enemies are reset once you continue, so you can usually clear out two bothersome enemies that are difficult to avoid otherwise. I got rid of so many Inkies that way… If only Pac-Man could do the same…
Each stage has a key and locked door. If the premise needs to be spelled out further, then you must not be a fan of older games or general knowledge of architecture. What are not found in your average house are treasure chests. These often hold useful items such as a feather that allows multiple “jumps,” an orb that protects Ki from certain projectiles, and warps. I used warps for a majority of the first half of the game, turning the first 60 stages into 11.
For those keeping score at home, I specifically mentioned the first 60 stages out of 100. Upon reaching level 60, Ki finds a wand in the stone. Before she can be crowned King of England, a shadowy tentacle monster kills Ki, turning her into a rock with a tiara (according to the internet, that was probably the best outcome).
Story happens. You dead. Roll credits.
Man, did that frustrate me! I thought I did something wrong and got the bad ending. I hit reset to try to get the rest of those levels Arino was playing. About five minutes later, I’m looking at Rock Ki again!! What a letdown…
This time, I wait until after the credits (this takes about five minutes in itself) and get sent to the title screen again. When I select Continue, it starts me at level 61. Now we’re talking!
I instinctively grab treasure chests. My time playing The Legend of Zelda taught me it was awesome and should be done at the expense of your own wellbeing. After all, this is how I was able to warp and complete the game so quickly the first time. One of the first chests had a warp, which was great! Green screen displayed, and I’m sent to… level 61. Huh.
If I remember correctly from Game Center CX, the screen explains how warps work differently after level 60. Instead of warping Ki ahead, these warp her back to a previous level. The first time is a warning. Now I’m absolutely scared to get another chest! The game is punishing me at random since this is my first playthrough.
This happened again. I needed a chest for the feather item and found the warp tile. It sent me back to a level in the 40s. I was not a happy player. Frustrated, I turned the system off and walked away.
A few days later, I start from the beginning, remembering to avoid that stupid treasure chest. A few levels later, a warp tile pops up for a few seconds.
Move the lever to the “Off” position.
This game was making me mad! I wanted to beat it (I don’t know why, I wouldn’t be able to read the congratulatory message), but the game cheated. Well, I can cheat a cheater!! I found a guide online detailing which of the stages had warps so I could be a little more frugal in my chest openings. I hate doing this, but war makes you do things…
Arino got stuck on stage 98. My nemesis was level 97. There is a very specific jump that requires very precise control. I don’t know why I struggled with this level so much, but I was trapped for over half an hour on this part alone. Two Inkies meander back and forth over a pit of spikes with the key on an isolated platform below. If Ki went too far left before hooking back, Inky would hit her. If she didn’t go far enough, she would hit the ledge, assume the fetal position, and accept death. Again. And again.
But I learn and get better through trial. Eventually my mighty enemy fell, and level 97 was completed. 98 was comparatively easy, making me wonder why it took Arino nine hours. I was feeling good about myself! I felt accomplished at this point on overcoming an obstacle that I struggled with for so long!! I got to the final stage, level 100, and saw a warp tile pop out of the treasure chest.
I’m not the swearing type. I consider myself pretty easy-going, slow to anger. The sheer rage I felt at that moment, looking at the single digit stage number, made me want to rethink that philosophy. If the controller was not hardwired into the Famicom system with a very short chord, it would currently be resting inside my television set. It was a very Zen moment, allowing me to connect with the angry internet reviewers. I became a part of something bigger. I wanted to break everything in arm’s length.
Needless to say, I did not continue that day. I ended up completing the game two days later, but it felt disappointing. Imagine you watched a movie the entire way through, but missed the last line said by the hero because you accidentally turned the player off. Instead of fast forwarding, you are forced to watch the entire movie again. You sit there, thinking, “I know what’s coming up, can we just move it along already?” When the time comes, the hero mumbles something incoherent, making it pointless. Sure, you could have looked it up online, but on some level, you can’t say you watched the whole movie. Likewise, I already got to the last stage, but due to some bad luck, I was forced to quit. For all intents and purposes, the game was already done. All I did was play an extra minute that time around.
It’s a fine game and worth a check, though maybe not one to go out of your way to find. Kacho, I salute you!
As mentioned, the game has a lot of Japanese text, so don’t expect much in the story department unless you can read it. The gameplay is fun, but I don’t see myself going back to it. If you can find it under $10 and have an afternoon to kill, it is a nice diversion. Just be ready for some frustration with the backward warping!
My arbitrary score based on nothing is 98 out of 211.