Author Topic: [VLP] Let's Play The Legend of the Mystical Ninja, Goemon's SNES adventure!  (Read 1795 times)

Goemon you say?  What's that?  It's Konami's series of games staring the ninja Goemon.  The cast and setting get a bit goofy here and there, even for Konami.  As in: ninjas in ancient Japan eating hamburgers, occasionally stumbling into gameshows, and all around everyone has cartoony, slapstick reactions.  If you haven't played it, Legend of the Mystical Ninja is also a real fun game.  It's sidescrolling action, but you roam freely during towns in a beat 'em up style perspective before venturing out into more linear, 2D action stages with the boss.



Episode 1:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7D5QXZDtpTc



~

The Goemon games tend to have a very large number of cultural references, in no small part due to how the game blends both a feudal setting and a modern setting.  There is an interesting webpage that goes into detail about the Japanese cultural references within the game.

It's worth checking it out!  I'll mention some of these during the LP, but I'm not going to be able to point them all out myself, nor would I be able to add anything for most of them.  I also found another, shorter news article that has a few more references.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2017, 11:02:32 PM by dosboot »

Hey, let's flip through the manual!  There's eyebrow-raising pieces of text here and there, plus a bunch of original artwork:

(Note: the forum code allows you to click images to enlarge them)


^You don't need me to point out that this is the Western box art on the right, while everything else is in the manual is Japanese art. 

I probably don't dislike these sorts of Westernized cover art as most people, and if you had to use that art style then I think they didn't do a bad job with this one either.   Not my preference, but eh whatever.

Mainly I think Goemon looks a bit too odd for me.  The enemies are decent, especially given that the game is so flexible with its own seriousness. 

The clown is the only character I wasn't immediately sure what it was meant to be, but I guess it is the NPC who wanders around the amusement park.


~~~


One thing that didn't escape my attention on the following pages is the mention of the "Dragonbeast" as the primary antagonist.  This isn't mentioned in the game, so it seems made up for the Western manual like so much else.  These pages go on to claim that the reason the friendly-looking townspeople attack you is because they are controlled by the "Silver Serpent".  Whatever.  I'm filing this under a "Mushroom citizens are inside the bricks" level of veracity. 

I also don't know about the "sinjin item" terminology to refer to your collective gear or "the Great Sukiyaki" as some important character who is giving you advice.  I assume these are completely made up for the manual too.




Everything special is "mystic" or "mystical".  This game has a real bad case of what I call the "Link to the Past Syndrome", where one adjective is elevated above all others (magic hammer, magic mirror, magic bottle, magic cape, magic powder...)


~~~




There's going to be a lot of corny text played for laughs and snark!  I can't help but point out most of them here.  When reading this manual, it's almost impossible not to imagine the person writing it and how they tried to make it fun to read through (and to be fair I think they were mostly successful.  This was ahead of the curve for the era, perhaps?).




The password system in this game is a little complicated, and I don't always see it fully understood (including by myself sometimes!)

First off, there's two types of passwords:  When you get a game over and choose to 'end' (quit), you get a very short password that saves basically nothing other than the zone you were in.

The second password is the one most people know about: the very long and complicated password you can ask for by visiting Diary Places.  It's several lines long, and involves capitalizations, numbers, punctuation and a few symbols like hearts:



These long passwords do save everything you have (lives, gold, equipment, etc.), but honestly you don't need to write them down.  Visiting the diary places also creates a save point that you can use freely, without inputting the password at all!  Well, it is only "freely" usable in the sense that you need to intentionally lose all your lives to reload it, but it still works like a real save file (and restores all the lives you had before, of course). 

You can use these diary saves to replay minigames, play around with Judo powers, or simply restart if you screw up badly and wasted a lot of your equipment/gold/lives.  That can be very important in the later stages!

There is no save battery though, so theoretically the password itself is useful if you can't finish in one sitting (and don't have save states :P).  This diary-based save file might delete itself when you enter a new zone as well, I'm not sure about that.


~~~


The manual now goes on to describe all the mini-games and specialty houses.  If it wasn't obvious before, it's clear now that the writer was inventing their own names for everything:





I don't care for the dice game (called a 'Casino' above), so this line seemed oddly fitting to me.


~~~




The goblin minigame ("Demondo", according to the manual) also ranks very low on the ordering of best minigames.  I wonder if they are intentionally lampshading this fact or not.

Curiously, they refer to the game shop as the "employment office".  Am I wrong in thinking that this screenshot is from a different version of the game?  I don't think it's ever called that.


~~~


Finally we get to a whole bunch of artwork and lists of items/powerups (yay!).  This was always my favorite part of SNES manuals, and I don't think I'm alone.

Side note: I'm awfully suspicious at these bomb and scroll items they list.  I feel like there aren't 3 types of scroll pickups and there isn't a bomb pickup that grants 3 bombs, but whatever.







« Last Edit: December 01, 2017, 12:11:28 AM by dosboot »


Episode 2:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ta9wpG8z-RM


Ads might appear on this video, you can watch the twitch upload if you want to get rid of them.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2017, 03:08:44 AM by dosboot »

more commentary incoming for episode 2
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2017, 08:54:53 PM »
Zone 3 is probably the most memorable level in the game, but I also think it one of the more interesting levels when it comes to cultural references.  Namely it takes place on Awaji Island, and the developers built it around local points of interest.





As mentioned in episode, you can see Konami's headquarters in the end screen for the zone.  Konami's headquarters was on Awaji Island (until April 1993), and Mystical Ninja isn't even the only time they reference this building in their games: check out SD Snatcher!

~

The zone starts off with Goemon crossing a bridge with visible whirlpools below.  This is the real life Onaruto Bridge and it's famous eddies.







More on these whirlpools:
Quote
The ocean floor right under the Onaruto Bridge sinks deeply, reaching about 90 m at the deepest spot. There are deep depressions at the sea bottoms on the south (Pacific Ocean) and north (Seto Inland Sea) sides of the Naruto Strait. This unique topography of the sea bottom, along with the seawater?s current according to the tide?s ebb and flow, produces the whirlpools of Naruto Strait. The size of a whirling wave, reaching a maximum diameter of 20 m, is said to be the largest in the world, and that the name ?Naruto? (naru: sound, to: Seto) is said to be derived from the roaring sound of these violent tides.

It's even famous enough to get a shoutout in google maps:


https://www.google.com/maps/place/Shikoku/@34.2418469,134.6576403,16.29z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x3551e76a6585fd45:0xd4602fd80d0ed59d!8m2!3d33.7432238!4d133.6375314


~

The level ends with another bridge, almost surely a reference to the Akashi Kaiyko bridge which links the north side of Awaji Island with Kobe.  The Akashi Kaiyko bridge is in fact the longest suspension bridge in the world!  In the level, it runs vertically from bottom to top, while the first bridge runs from left to right.  This roughly matches the geography of Awaji island, with "up" in the game as "North".  Both suspension bridges are depicted as wood and stone in the game though, perhaps more fitting of Goemon's world.





The Akashi Kaiyko bridge would not have been finished though at the time of release.  Construction began in 1988 and it was still going through it's 10 year construction during the development of Legend of the Mystical Ninja (which you can guess was about 1990-1991).  Nevertheless, this bridge was a momentous event.  Quoting wikipedia,
Quote
It opened for traffic on April 5, 1998 in a ceremony officiated by the Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife Crown Princess Masako of Japan along with Construction Minister Tsutomu Kawara.
It is also frequently reported to be a beautiful sight when it gets dark out, as the bridge is "nightly illuminated in seven different colors to regale the eyes of viewers":





I think what makes these references interesting to me is now that I know what makes them special and now that I know that Konami's employees would have been residents here, I get a picture of local pride and eagerness to share their famous sights (and place of work :P). 

Another observation is that the Onaruto bridge was opened in 1985 and the Akashi Kaiyko bridge was opened in 1998.  It seems particularly important that there are no other bridges to Awaji island that I can tell; they only used ferries before 1985.  These bridges must have been an important generational event. 

Furthermore, you can deduce that not long before development of Mystical Ninja started, the developers would have being seeing all the news about the Akashi Kaikyo bridge beginning its construction.  It suggests the possibility of a widespread sense of excitement on the island, which then made its way into the game like a little time capsule.  I'm reminded of those stories you hear about the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge, how the city held all sorts of events surrounding it and how people got swept up in a craze for a while (one story I recall in particular is how people competed to be "the first" at doing X on the Golden Gate bridge: first person to walk across, first to ride a unicycle across, first to walk backwards across, etc...) 

~

Enough about bridges, Zone 3 is also one big amusement park.  Both of the websites I linked to in the first post failed to find any particular connection to real world locations on Awaji island (and, in the process, the technobuffalo article also seems to get its facts wrong about the bridges, but I digress).  The first website offers the plausible suggestion that the Amusement park is a sideways reference to Konami itself, you know given they are an amusement company located on Awaji.  However it seems to me that this level is in fact a giant reference to Awaji World Park Onokoro.





Awaji World Park Onokoro is an amusement park whose most unique attraction is a miniature world duplicating famous buildings worldwide in 1/25 of its original size, as well as many other family friendly activities and the usual types of rides.

From Japan Hoppers:
Quote
It exhibits 18 famous buildings at 1/25 of their original size such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Taj Mahal, The Colosseum and The Great Wall of China. They have an exhibition area called  "World of Ruins" that has sculptures from the ancient cultures of Iran, Egypt, Mexico and Colombia, and five more replicas of ruins from around the world.  Visitors can also find the "Forest of Fairy Tales" outside the building which has exhibitions based on famous fairytales like "The Emperor?s New Clothes," "Three Little Pigs" and "Saiyuki." (English title is "Monkey.")





Now, it's very hard to find straightforward historical information on the English speaking internet, but reportedly this park was built towards the end of Japan's bubble economy.  This seems flexible enough to come before the release date of Legend of the Mystical Ninja.  (It also passes the goo.gle maps notoriety test and it gets mentioned on an otherwise sparse wikipedia entry about the city :P)

Placing the arcade minigame here in zone 3 though?  Yeah, that's probably a reference to Konami's location. ;)

~

Finally, going back to zone 2, when you exit the secret passage you get plopped in front of a bronze statue of Ryoma Sakamoto, who is a famous revolutionary samurai. 







From wikipedia:
Quote
"Ryoma has inspired at least seven television drama series, six novels, seven manga and five films." His appeal stems from being "the kind of person onto whom anyone can project themselves", as actor Masaharu Fukuyama described his role playing him in the NHK drama Ryomaden.

It sounds like Ryoma is still a really popular figure today, with his life being described as "cool, heroic and dramatic".  Judging by google images, this guy doesn't just have one statue, but numerous ones all over Japan.  There is one especially famous one in Kochi though, which is in Shikoku.

Now, before Roman Mars gets on my case: I did remember the mantra "Always Read the Plaque" but I couldn't find any transcriptions (or even pictures) online!

« Last Edit: November 24, 2017, 11:16:22 PM by dosboot »

Episode 3: Bonus Minigames at the Amusement Park

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em65XdSZKuc


Playing all the minigames was more fun than I expected! The arcade is still the best, but it's just fun to mess around with all of them. I'm also thinking playing the concentration game is the best way to make money.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2017, 12:14:44 AM by dosboot »

One topic I was thinking about is how the Arcade costs money but doesn't offer any potential reward (unlike all the other minigames and special stops). The value you get out of it is just playing it and so in that sense, it simulates real life. Now then, what about minigames in other video games? How often do they let you play something that costs money each time but where no rewards can be won? Zelda comes to mind when I think about fun minigames you'd play just for the heck of it, but they always seem to give you some rupees, consumables or upgrades.

Kirby Super Star has stuff like the Gourmet Race, Quick Draw and Megaton punch. You don't get anything but you also don't pay anything, they are just accessed from the main menu. And in other Kirby games I think you get powers or 1ups.

In Final Fantasy 4 there are a bunch of dancer shows that you pay to see and don't get anything out of, but they also aren't games either. Chrono Trigger's festival has games that you must pay to play, but you get Silver Points as rewards.

Its surprisingly difficult to come up with these. I have a hazy picture of PS1/PS2 era jRPGs as the most likely candidates for these kind of minigames, but I can't say for certain which offer absolutely no reward.

Something else I came across regarding cultural references: The Awaji Burger





You can buy hamburgers in Zone 3, the only place that has a modern looking fast food shop.  I know that the pizzas throughout the game were originally rice balls in the Japanese version, but I believe the hamburgers in Zone 3 are unchanged.  They are supposed to be special to that one store, so it makes complete sense.  It's also probably a local reference:

From kansaiscene.com:
Quote
The Awaji Burger

In Japan, it?s not unusual for a food item to gain cult status, which is precisely what has happened with the Awajishima Burger. Therefore, your visit to Awaji wouldn?t be complete without jumping on the bandwagon to suss out the revered burger for yourself.

Awaji Island is well-known, among other things, for its onions and you can see them hanging up to dry almost anywhere you go on the island. This explains the emphasis on the onion in the Awajishima burger. There are many incarnations of this burger across the island, but the most sought-after comes from Awajishima Onion-Kitchen.

I've read multiple times now that Awaji is famous for its onions.  It makes me wonder if Konami ever put onions in one of their games.  If you find an example from 80's or 90's, I'd suggest taking a hard look and consider whether or not it was placed prominently enough to be a local reference.


more commentary for episode 4
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2017, 07:01:25 PM »
The Buddhist Temple of zone 4's action stage does seem to be a direct reference to the Todaiji Temple in Nara, built in 752.  This sounds like a really amazing place, but if you are like me you might have never heard about it for most of your life despite it being a world famous historical structure.





From Wikipedia:
Quote
Tōdai-ji (東大寺, Eastern Great Temple)[1] is a Buddhist temple complex that was once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples, located in the city of Nara, Japan. Its Great Buddha Hall (大仏殿 Daibutsuden) houses the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha[2] Vairocana,[3] known in Japanese as Daibutsu (大仏). The temple also serves as the Japanese headquarters of the Kegon school of Buddhism. The temple is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara", together with seven other sites including temples, shrines and places in the city of Nara. Deer, regarded as messengers of the gods in the Shinto religion, roam the grounds freely.

 


Which also explains the deer in this stage!  The actual location is famous for it's large 15m bronze Buddha statue, but in the game you get several smaller ones.  Still I think it's meant to be Todaiji or perhaps this game's fictional equivalent:






As you might expect, if you visit the Temple you can see many of Japan's oldest historical artifacts.  I found it interesting that for a long time it was the largest wooden structure in the world (very long, like over 1200 years!).  According to Japan Guide, the original main hall was even 50% bigger during those brief first 950 years.  (The current largest wooden structure? The Meropol Parasol built in 2011.)

~

Zone 5 is the Ninja Castle, where we meet up with some of our ninja buddies in their tricky hideout.  The game tells us this level is located in "the famous village of Iga" when we travel there.  Once again, the game is referring to a real region of Japan.  But in this case as with the later stages, it is moreso to fit the theme of the level without (I think) trying to exactly depict landmarks in that region.  Iga is the name of a former province of Japan whose big claim to fame is being the birthplace of Ninjas (alongside the nearby Koka province).  Today there is a Ninja museum called the Iga-ryu Ninja House for tourists to enjoy, which conveniently explains for us some important Ninja hideout knowledge:

Quote
In order to prevent having explosives manufacturing technology stolen by enemies, this typical ninja house had protections such as set traps and fake hallways. The ninja house is a simple farm dwelling, but has surprises, escape routes, hidden doors, places to hide swords, and the above traps and trickery.




This Ninja museum even has live shows (trained performance fighting) and what sounds like a movie where their actors play out a ninja infiltration.  Or you can throw ninja stars for 200 yen per pack of 5.  Here's an article about the place with even more details.

~

Back to the game, I like some of the small background details we see in the hideout here: the lights coming through holes (possibly made during battle), and in general the scuff marks over all the wood beams:





We encounter a lot of Goemon characters in these two levels.  I will admit upfront that the wider Goemon series isn't as familiar to me as this game is.  As such I only feel comfortable sticking with the basics:

First and foremost is our friend and fellow ninja, Yae.  She was rescued in level 4 from the Otafu Army (who "are known to kidnap women", although there's also a clear plot explanation later as well).  She's the lead female character in Goemon, and the more responsible one compared to Goemon and Ebisamaru.  Sasuke is the badass who fights us from the kite and the wise old man who provides us with cannon travel is "Wise Old Man".  He's also known as Monoshiri Ojisan, which is literally "wise old man" (ha!).  You obviously don't get a great sense of these characters though in this game, but Monoshiri is an inventor and Sasuke is a combat robot created by him.

 

Episode 5: over Tengu Mountain and to the Dragon Pond

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfzzIQpQcpE



One comment about cultural references in this episode:

Zone 7 takes place in the real life region of Izumo.  The lake is Lake Shinji, which really does have an island in the middle of it.

Once again, the region was chosen to fit the level theme: Izumo is especially connected to the Shinto religion.  The region is also known as "The Land of the Gods" and it is the setting where many Japanese myths take place.  If you go there today you can see one of Japan’s oldest shrines, the Izumo Taisha.

Obviously, given the boss and plot NPC at the end of zone 7, it was natural for the designers to put the level in Izumo.

~

And finally a note:
Episode 4 and onward were recorded in one big session.  As I say at the end of the LP, I'm still new to video LPs and I am still thinking a lot about improvement.  I would appreciate reading feedback if you happen have some as you continue to watch.  If there is anything in particular that was amazing or terrible that I should take into account for the future, I'd be interested in knowing.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2017, 02:53:51 PM by dosboot »


Re: [VLP] Let's Play The Legend of the Mystical Ninja, Goemon's SNES adventure!
« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2017, 08:24:55 PM »
One subject I mentioned in this episode was about finding places to use the "useless-to-marginally-useful" items in games, such as the bombs in Mystical Ninja.  Even if the best places aren't all that effective, sometimes the satisfaction of having those deliberate spots that make the item fun or else are "befitting" for that item is enough incentive to use them.  Hunting for these niche usages is also quite fun in of itself. 

This is a deep vein about my own gaming habits that I didn't completely connect together from numerous individual games until I was thinking about it before this episode.  If anyone relates to this, I would be super interested in hearing about more examples of marginal items you like to use and any other thoughts along these lines.





Two notes about cultural references in this episode:

i. Zone 8 takes places on the Ryukyu Islands.  This is an archipelago that stretches from the southern tip of Japan down to Taiwan.  If you've heard of Okinawa, then you've heard of one of the most well known Ryukyu islands.  I suggest taking a glance at this article for numerous pretty pictures: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ryukyu-islands-japan_us_586d3e1fe4b0d9a5945d9218





The two websites I linked in the first post have differing interpretations regarding the way the game has weird looking NPCs in this level who don't speak your language.  The first points out that the Ryukyu Islands are the home to several groups of peoples with a distinct culture and history from mainland Japan.  In particular, there are several native languages on the islands which would explain the need for a translation book to talk to them.  The second article believes that the NPCs represent Americans, since Okinawa has a rather well known American military base and some of the NPCs have unusual blonde hair.

I have no idea, but if you are like me perhaps you'll find that first part interesting.  I never really knew thought about Okinawa other than being a wayward part of Japan whose locals have a particularly healthy lifestyles/genes.  Learning that there was an independent Ryukyu Kingdom that was later incorporated into Japan was an interesting historical tidbit.



ii. What I found really cool though about this level (and completely unrelated to Ryukyu itself) are the Daruma dolls.  This is a toy-like doll without arms and legs that is weighted so that it returns upright when you attempt to knock it over.  Both bosses in this level, along with tons of the regular enemies, are based on them:





From Wikipedia:
Quote
A Daruma doll (達磨 daruma) is a hollow, round, Japanese traditional doll modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen tradition of Buddhism. These dolls, though typically red and depicting a bearded man (Dharma), vary greatly in color and design depending on region and artist. Though considered a toy by some, Daruma has a design that is rich in symbolism and is regarded more as a talisman of good luck to the Japanese. Daruma dolls are seen as a symbol of perseverance and good luck, making them a popular gift of encouragement. The doll has also been commercialized by many Buddhist temples to use alongside the setting of goals.

Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th/6th century AD. He is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Ch'an (Zen) to China. Little contemporary biographical information on Bodhidharma is extant, and subsequent accounts became layered with legend.[1] According to one tradition, Bodhidharma gained a reputation for, among other things, his practice of wall-gazing. Legend claims that he sat facing a wall in meditation for a period of nine years without moving, which caused his legs and arms to fall off from atrophy.[2] Another popular legend is that after falling asleep during his nine-year meditation he became angry with himself and cut off his eyelids to avoid ever falling asleep again.




So the dolls lack arms and legs due to this legend about the monk they are based off.  If you've ever heard about happiness/good luck charms in Japanese culture, then this is another one of those.  The philosophy surrounding Daruma dolls often also involves "resilience", a trait symbolized by the fact that you can't tip them over.

Although these dolls are plainly commercialized, that doesn't mean they are without fun traditions: people use them to observe targets/goals by buying one and coloring in one of his pupils.  Once it comes to fruition, they color in the remaining one.


Re: [VLP] Let's Play The Legend of the Mystical Ninja, Goemon's SNES adventure!
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2017, 02:42:21 AM »
Finale:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx_XkY1yz10


And with this last update the LP reaches a conclusion. 

This Let's Play was twice as fun as I expected.  I learned some new things about the game, a lot of new things about cultural references, and I'll probably remember some moments for a long time to come.   To everyone who watched the whole thing I would like to say thanks for coming along!