Mario? Nah, we're going to the MONSTER Party!
- Hard as nails platformer with a movie-monster theme going on
- Surprising amount of blood, gore, and weirdness for an NES game
- Fantastic music and graphics
- Actually can be pretty creepy
- Infinite continues
- Really difficult to the point of unfair
- Playing as not-Bert (the demon you can transform into) sucks
- Annoying empty rooms without bosses slow down the action
- Some bosses are stupidly hard
It's time for a party. And I think you know what kind.
Yeah, Monster Party!
One of the reasons I love the NES is the insane number of straight up weird games that get put on it. It was the wild west back in those days (much like early PC/DOS gaming) with people punching out whatever they thought would sell and often using weirdness to push that point home. Enter Monster Party, a 1989 Bandai game starring, you guessed it, cliche movie monsters. This game flew under everybody's radar until a beta cart sold for an insane sum of money in Japan, revealing the game was originally darker and gorier. Still, no matter how you look at it, Monster Party is a wonderfully weird game, and one you can use the phrase "they sure don't make 'em like this anymore" liberally when describing.
"Ya know, nothin, just playing some Monster Party. You?"
You play as Mark, a baseball kid who, on his way home, encounters a purple demon bird guy named Bert. Bert says that his planet of monsters is under attack and he needs help to clean stuff up. Why he needs a punk kid with a baseball bat is beyond me, but before Mark can protest Bert fuses (yes fuses?!) with him and they are whisked away on a magical adventure in the land of the monsters.
This game also has the most f***ed up ending of any NES game I've played (well, except maybe Hitler's head exploding in Bionic Commando): Mark has a dream where his friends and then himself rot and decay, complete with every gory little detail being depicted on screen. Yeah, great game for kids, Monster Party.
This don't look so bad. Minus the weird legs popping up out of the ground.
Monster Party is basically another NES platformer with a few little differences. You normally play as Mark, his main weapon being a bat. This doesn't just do damage: it can also bounce back projectiles, which is necessary to kill some bosses. Enemies you kill are of a bizarre variety: guys who are on fire, fish heads on legs, walking pants, tongues licking out of the wall, dogs with human faces, witches, and all sorts of other weird crap. Enemies often drop powerups like hearts and pills, and a neat trick for the cheap is that 1. Enemies respawn and 2. If it dropped an item before, it'll always drop it. So if you are tricky you can farm enemies for hearts when necessary by just letting them respawn and kill them again. Protip.
OH SWEET BABY MOSES I TAKE IT ALL BACK.
Grabbing a pill will temporarily turn you into Bert, who can fly as well as shoot...slivers of magic? I don't know. You lose the ability to bounce stuff back, but Bert does so much damage (and, again, can fly) he's necessary for many of the bosses. After a while you'll swap back to crappy ol' Mark, who can take something like eighty trillion hits to kill enemies in the later levels.
The platforming itself is pretty standard with an "action" emphasis, and by "action" I mean "there's a lot of enemies and not a lot of tricky jumps." However, where this game really gets interesting is its bosses.
Bosses. You know. Shrimp.
Each level has a handfull of bosses hidden behind doors. It's your goal to kill them all in one go, thus earning a key to proceed to the next level. Most are standard movie monster fare: a man eating plant, a giant spider, Medusa, zombies, etc. A few are...weird, like the shrimp you see above you. Actually most are weird. They all say something before they fight you that's usually hilarious and stupid, and then the battle is on.
It's highly recommended you take on this multitude of bosses as Bert, if only because it takes about a trillion years to kill things with Mark. While it's true he can bounce a boss' projectiles back (which, honestly, is the only way to kill a lot of bosses), it is extremely tedious and very obnoxious. I honestly don't think you can beat Medusa without Bert, and there are bosses I know you can't beat as Mark.
And some rooms have...nothing in them. Awesome use of my time.
That, in a nutshell, is Monster Party. Traveling through a level until you find a door, seeing if there's a boss in there, killing it, and moving on to the next. There's nine stages total, but seeing as the game is quite difficult it will take a good deal of time to beat it. While having a wide array of bosses is nice, they don't really mix up the formula too often. Either they run back and forth and you have to hit them and not get hit, they shoot projectiles you bounce back, or a combination of both. It's not particularly enthralling, and if you play as Bert with a turbo controller you can take most of them out pretty quickly.
Where Monster Party really sells me, though, is it's impeccable style. It isn't a particularly fantastic game gameplay-wise, but the game is just so freakishly bizarre I can't help but love it. Blood is everywhere (I'd go so far as to argue this is the bloodiest NES game ever, at least the bloodiest I've ever played), from enemies to backgrounds to...everywhere, and mixed with the sillyness of the monster bosses you get this uncomfortable dissonance. You feel a bit uneasy playing Monster Party, because you don't know which one it is: is this a scary Monster game, or a silly Party game? I DON'T KNOW.
Oh, it's a punk rock concert. Clearly a party.
I love the graphics in this game, not only because of their style but also they just look really good. The enemy designs are silly and clever, the animations for Mark are fantastic (try ducking and then moving with him...he crawls across the ground like a worm) and all the bosses are memorable.
The music is also top notch, but particular standouts are the title and continue screen music. I have never heard a continue screen that is this upbeat, and freaking look at it. It's coated in blood!
They put this...
With this song. Seriously...WHAT?!
Regardless, it's awesome. That's all I have to say.
And...super creepy. And yet also not. Geez, Monster Party is really getting in my head.
Despite knowing this game is flawed (again, it's too hard and the bosses aren't really that fun to fight), I freaking love Monster Party. It's far from being good, but it's so good at just doing it's own little weird thing I absolutely must recommend it. Yeah, it can be a trudge trying to get through it, but it's worth it for the absurd, bizarre journey it takes you on.
A must for a collector, and if you don't own an NES at least check it out in an emulator. Four out of five stars.
But you don't have to take my word for it. JonTron (who is way more charismatic that me) documents his experiences pretty nicely.