System: Nintendo Famicom
Publisher: Taito Corporation
Completed: January 14, 2014
THIS GAME! If ever I needed a reason to buy a Family Computer, this is that reason. I know it is legendary as one of the rarest North American releases (under the name Little Samson), and taking a look at some auctions, it can go for about $800. I spent less than a quarter of that on the Famicom itself along with a copy of Seiri Densetsu Lickle. I actually did some research first and found out the Japanese version is almost identical save the title screen. Sounds like a no brainer to me!
Also, green cartridge! Famicom games are just awesome to look at in general…
The game begins with a cutscene. King Vitamin is bored one day and since cell phones and the internet have yet to be invented, he hits up his friends through carrier pigeon. The intro stage has the player go through a stage designed for each of the four characters to test their abilities. Since I already did that, I get to list them all here, saving you precious seconds playing the game:
Little Dude (I think he’s the Lickle, which according to my tenuous grasp on reality translates to Little Dude) is the human character. Since I am assuming the programmers are also humans, they gave all the cool abilities to him (real progressive, specie-ists). Little Dude gets a projectile weapon in the form of bells (I’m pretty sure it is. Did I mention I cannot read Japanese well?), which is surprisingly effective. I don’t know why he has them, but he certainly doesn’t want them. When you press down, he ducks. This doesn’t sound impressive until you consider that a certain robotic wrestler lacks this ability. He also gets climbing action to reinforce the idea that he has opposable thumbs. I ended up playing as Little Dude the most.
Next is a rock guy that looks like the robot from Chrono Trigger (is he a rock monster or a robot? I assumed rock monster. I will call him Action Frank). Action Frank has the uncanny ability of walking slowly and being a big target. A mix between slowness and gravity leads to pits. I’m pretty sure this is by design, given the backstory I gave him: The lab experiments that birthed him were so horrific, the brutal tasks assigned to him by a corrupt government, and the haunting screams of his victims drove him to madness. It can only be silenced by the bliss of the sweet, nullifying darkness. It washes away the pain and lets him forget, even if for a moment, that he was designed to destroy. He can also walk on spikes. Neat!
Dragon dinosaur thing shoots fireballs and can suspend itself in the air for a bit. I have no idea of the timing as it was in constant flux. I think I read somewhere that the dragon is of the female persuasion. I’mma call her… Dana. Danger Dana. Since I am not a fan of death and she has a chargeable attack, Dana was my choice for boss battles.
The last character is a mouse that lays bombs. I don’t even know what to think of this. Since I couldn’t come up with a nickname, I decided to look up his name. It is K.O. Judging by his short life bar and his propensity toward smashing his face into painful objects, I have dubbed him Kamikaze Ollie. He also climbs on walls. I have never seen a mouse excrete bombs before, but then again I have never seen one try.
Our four heroes enter the king’s chambers, where they are absorbed into a bell. Except Danger Dana, who ain’t havin’ none of this! I find it odd that Action Frank and Ollie are quick to accept their fate, though with the exposition I gave earlier, it isn’t surprising. Little Dude has to give Dana an attitude adjustment with deadly bells. There is never an explanation (this is not a language barrier issue since there is no dialogue in this game), so we are left to assume. I like to think she hates being crammed inside a bell. Dragons typically hate that kind of stuff, right?
Here we get our first password. This has only four characters, all capital letters and numbers. Bless this game!
The map screen… exists. There is no clear path drawn out. All I see are strange landmarks and five skulls. The game could have branching paths, but I am not sure. Look, my job as a gamer is to go from left to right, occasionally scrolling vertically. I didn’t do this to study cartography.
Entering the first stage, I find out one of the first problems: the music. I started to rehear the music from Little Dude’s intro stage. When I switched characters (which you can do on the fly. Pretty cool), the music changed as well. Everyone has their own individual theme song that constantly plays when they are selected. The music is okay, but it gets repetitive REALLY FAST.
I don’t know why, but I want to take this time to address a little touch that caught my attention: Whenever Little Dude jumps, he does a twist in the air. This might be to make him appear more acrobatic, give his bell toss more speed, or just as a way for the sprite animators to show off. Either way, it’s fun at first, but impractical in real life. People will give you hurtful nicknames if you imitate this behavior even if you set out to save the world.
So Apollo Ono and his three friends must work together to complete each stage. Apollo can supposedly complete each stage single-handedly, though it is much, much easier if you incorporate Action Frank, Danger Dana, and Kamikaze Ollie. At the end of certain stages, you will fight a robed character. They follow a simple pattern that, with Lana’s help, is pretty easy to beat. But then they transform into their true form! This is end boss material right here, and I’m fighting it at the end of the first stage!! Things just got real!!!
The game has the gall to have an escape scene. After such a long stage, needing to escape! When the hall is lined with spikes and explosions?! These dead robed guys mean business!! It doesn’t help that I died at this part. At the very end of the hall, there is a wall that closes over a hole. If it gets far enough over, it seals the exit. I tried to take my time to avoid damage, getting stuck and dying at the end. The game may have well been over. I was no longer feeling that excitement high where I’m all like: “YEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!” Instead, I’m frustrated since I already did this and just suffered a cheap death. It somewhat ruins the experience…
Apollo reaches the castle balcony where the evil… blue bell is waiting for him. He stabs at Apollo, prompting Dana to leap into evil guy, throwing them both off the edge. Apollo is saved by the bell (I can’t believe I just wrote that). He looks around for his friend worriedly until Danger Dana flies triumphantly overhead, lifting Apollo across the credits. What happened to Action Frank and Kamikaze Ollie?!?
Honestly, this was an awesome game. It was a late entry into the NES library, explaining why it was overlooked as the SNES was hitting its stride. I never played it when I was younger and only heard about it when I found it on the internet in high school (a mere ten years after it debuted). It is rarely mentioned outside of top ten lists of unknown gems and I don’t know anyone who bought it when it came out, so I’m glad I got to play this gem. I just wish it had more varied music…
Price is one of the biggest issues with this game, imported or otherwise. Loose copies are going as of this writing for about $125 to get a Famicom copy. There are other ways of playing the game for much less… It is a phenomenal game, though there are others that are slightly better for the NES.
My arbitrary score based on nothing is 20 out of 23.