In high school, an acquaintance of mine loaned me his copy of Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon. I haven’t stayed in contact with that acquaintance and honestly don’t even remember his name. I just remember that we used to talk about video games in gym class instead of doing whatever we were supposed to be doing. I’m pretty sure that the copy of Goemon that I played this morning is actually his. Whoops.I don’t have much of a history with the Mystical Ninja games. I never played the original SNES one or the second N64 one. And I’m pretty sure there were others that came out in America, there were certainly more in Japan. But this first N64 game is the only one that I’ve actually played. But the last time I played it was back when I first borrowed it. So, how does the start of the game hold up after all that time?
It starts out charmingly enough. There’s an opening that’s reminiscent of an anime’s opening credits, complete with a subtitled vocals. When you start the game, you’re immediatly introduced to the main characters, Goemon and Ebisumaru, as they get kicked out of a store. For some reason, Ebisumaru, an overweight ninja, is barely wearing any clothes. Goemon asks him what’s up with that, and he tells him that he was trying to get a discount via his dance. Alrighty.
The lengthy cutscene finishes up by showing a spaceship of some kind attacking Oeda Castle. Now, it’s up to our heroes to get to the castle and see what’s going on. But first, Ebisumaru has to run home and get changed.
Now I get to control my character and need to head to the castle. At this point, the game feels a lot like older, pre-Ocarina of Time Zelda games. You explore the town, interact with the townsfolk, and try to find your way to the castle. You might run into a pickpocket, who will steal some of your money. You can hit him to get it back, but like pre-Ocarina Zelda games, there’s no lock-on mechanic, so actually lining up your attack and making the hit is a lot harder than it is in similar N64 games.
Oeda Town is a little difficult to navigate, but I appreciated the size of it. There’s a lot of NPCs and shops to check out. Even though I often felt like I had no idea where I was going, I found that if I just kept running towards doors, I would eventually find my way to where I was going. Soon, I found the entrance to Oeda Castle, but unfortunately the bridge has been destroyed. There are blocks with stars on them, which according to a sign, I can use the chain-pipe to swing to. But first I need the chain-pipe.
I found out the name of the pipe maker and ran into every shop I could find in Oeda Town hoping to run into him. Eventually, I found someone who informed me that the pipe maker had moved to Mount Fuji. So, I guess my next step was to get there and find the pipe maker.
At this point, the game becomes more action-focused. It’s a lot like those old Zelda games again, especially A Link to the Past, where there was a clear break when you left a town and returned to the overworld. Here, enemies are everywhere. Most of them get defeated pretty easily, with just a single hit. However, the lack of a lock-on mechanic once again makes this a lot more frustrating than it really should be.
The enemies themselves are super weird. As I mentioned before, I’m not very familiar with this series, so I don’t know if these are classic returning monsters or what. Some of them look like pudgy little girls, while others are floating dog heads. Very strange enemy design.
Once I got to Mount Fuji, the game became more of an action-platformer. I had to scale the mountain using ladders and jumping across pits. For the most part, this works just fine, but the lack of camera control makes things trickier than they needed to be. Also, I experienced a lot of cheap hits, again from the lack of a lock-on mechanic. Thankfully, enemies dropped health pretty regularly.
After getting to the top of Mount Fuji, I found the pipe maker. He gave me the chain-pipe free of charge. This is a pretty cool weapon, as it has a lot more range than your default pipe. Unfortunately, not being able to lock on meant that I missed constantly, and most of the time I had to get right up an an enemy’s face to hit them anyway. I made my way back to Oeda Town and used the chain-pipe to cross the bridge and stopped at the entrance to Oeda Castle.
The early parts of Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon show a lot of promise. While there’s some dated gameplay that make it a little frustrating to play today, the game oozes with weird charm that I can’t help but like. This might be a game that I’ll have to revisit sometime later.