Obscure Japanese Games: Ganbare Goemon 2

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If you're reading this second entry, you're probably not afraid of obscure Japanese titles.  That's a good thing, because I consider the sequel to the Legend of the Mystical Ninja (Ganbare Goemon) to be the best game in the series.  There were four Ganbare Goemon games released for the Super Famicom Console, and Ganbare Goemon 2 is often people's favorite.  Like many good sequels such as Super Mario Bros. 3, Goemon 2 was more of a refinement than a complete reinvention of the Goemon series.  Goemon 2 made plenty of additions, but what was added didn't take away from the core Goemon formula that was developed in the first SNES game.  Later titles in the series would be significant departures from Ganbare Goemon's side-scrolling co-op gameplay, but Goemon 2 stays true to its roots.

Like the Legend of the Mystical Ninja, Goemon 2 is a two-player cooperative side-scroller set in an alternate reality medieval Japan.  Goemon and his rotund friend Ebisimaru make a return, but they're joined by a new character that would later appear in the N64 Goemon games--Sasuke.  Sasuke is a miniature robot ninja that can slice enemies in half and use his hair as a weapon (take that Bayonetta).  Like with the last game, the three characters can upgrade their weapons by picking up cat dolls.  If they get hit, their weapons return to their previous state, so it's important to utilize your character's  Ninja-like reflexes. 

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Not only do you get a new character, but you also have an assortment of vehicles to pilot.  You can ride a mouse vehicle that shoot bullets, a giant fish that keeps you from drowning, a suit that enables you to knock a sumo wrestler out of the ring, and you get to pilot Goemon Impact, which is a giant robot that looks like Goemon (you didn't expect this in a Japanese game, right?).  Those of you who've played Goemon for N64 will probably recognize Goemon Impact.  In Ganbare Goemon 2, he can level villages and fight giant bosses.  These bosses are fought in a format similar to boxing games and these sequences utilize Mode 7 effects.  You can throw a strong punch, a jab, block, and hurl currency at your opponent.  When fighting bosses, you'll have to analyze their attack patterns carefully, because they can quickly turn you into scrap metal.  Some of them have fairly high HP, so you must have good reflexes to survive these grueling brawls.

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Using Goemon Impact is fun and breaks up the action, but my favorite part of Goemon 2 is the traditional platforming segments.  What's great about this game is that they removed almost everything I hated about its predecessor.  The towns in The Legend of the Mystical Ninja were more of a hassle than anything.  You had to constantly avoid drunk villagers and samurai who could quickly turn you into mincemeat.  Villagers filled the streets and would repeatedly respawn, so you'd constantly have to fight whether you liked it or not.  The game forced you to relentlessly fight enemies who would drop meager amounts of gold for the purpose of buying items that would allow you to access the next dungeon.  Thankfully, this process has been streamlined in Goemon 2.  Villagers no longer attack you unless you attack them (kind of like the chickens in A Link to the Past), so getting through towns is a breeze.  You also rarely have to buy items (I only had to buy one town pass), so you'll seldom have to grind to progress.  Instead, most fights now occur in the game's many levels. 

Goemon 2 features a world map, much like Super Mario World, and there are levels, towns, and a final dungeon within each world.  Regular levels are the most frequent, and are typically the most enjoyable areas.  They're home to many vehicles, platforming challenges, and plenty of fights.  You'll do things like jump from ski-lift to ski-lift, ride giant snowballs in the sea until they melt, jump off logs that are being sawed in half, and ride Japanese dolls up treacherous shafts.  The level design is a significant improvement over the prequel, and the levels are generally a bit easier.  Save and check points are also more frequent, so you'll avoid having to repeat frustrating areas over and over again. 

As you can see, Goemon 2 shed quite a bit of excess baggage carried by its prequel.  It's a more action-oriented game that contains at least as much variety as a fruit basket, but the improvements don't stop there.  Goemon 2's graphics are a considerable improvement over its prequel.  The increased color palette, more detailed backgrounds, better animated character models, and psuedo-3D sequences make Goemon 2 a gorgeous SNES game.  I also found the soundtrack to be a significant improvement.  The original SNES Goemon had a great soundtrack, but there was an occasional tune that was downright annoying.  Goemon 2 rectifies this problem and the soundtrack is great throughout.

Most import games remain beyond the reach of Americans, due to most of us only speaking English, but Goemon 2 is a game that can be beaten without knowing any Japanese.  For those of you who do know Japanese, you'll enjoy every little detail of the plot, and fortunately, they made the majority of the text in Hiragana.  The basic plot can be understood to some extent by pretty much everyone simply by observing the cutscenes.  Regardless of whether you understand the cutscenes or not, Goemon 2 is a game that's easy to understand.  The controls are the same as its predecessor--one button attacks, another jumps, and the shoulder buttons change between your primary and secondary weapon.  You can also ride on objects that have two Japanese characters  pop up overhead.  The robot controls are similar to the standard controls--one button jabs, one does a strong punch, the shoulder buttons block, and another button throws coins.  To save, you simply have to enter inns and choose the far right option.  The left option lets you stay at inns, the middle declines the invitation, and the right saves.  Or if you're using an emulator, you can simply choose save state.  Since this lost classic is relatively easy to figure out without a knowledge of Japanese, I highly recommend it. 

Be sure to stay tuned for part three of Obscure Japanese Games.

*If you missed my entry on The Legend of the Mystical Ninja, click here.