Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mitsume ga Tooru

   Recently this quirky title came to my attention. It's called Mitsume ga Tooru. It's based on the anime/manga "The Three-Eyed One" by none other than Osamu Tezuka, it was developed by Natsume, and published by Tomy.  The plot of the game is incredibly cliche now; an evil prince who is sort of related to you kidnaps your girl and destroys your city. Maybe this was stale then too, though I'm most likely correct in assuming this game was targeted at children, so it's shallow plot may be forgivable based on that. From my understanding though, it differs greatly from it's print and animated counterparts which seem to have more going on in terms of story.

Title Screen
   The game was released only in Japan during the month of July, 1992 and although it's not as spectacular as other games released the same year, some also developed by Natsume - it still provides a slight challenge while being cute. If cuteness doesn't adhere to your uber-hardcore gamer sensibility - maybe this isn't for you. If you like titles such as Bucky O'Hare, Little Samson, or even Mega Man it will definitely be worth your time. In all seriousness, this game plays a lot like Mega Man, but nowhere near as difficult.

   So, Sharaku is the Prince of Darkness (悪魔のプリンス) and heir to a lost race of hyper-advanced, three-eyed beings. His best friend is Chiyoko Wato, a slightly older young woman who usually ends up stopping Sharaku from turning people into soggy ramen and other hijinks when the bandage from his third eye is removed. In the game however, she is demoted to damsel-in-distress and has been kidnapped by Sharaku's nemesis Prince Godaru for seemingly no apparent reason other than to screw with our hero - only after Godaru uses an ancient weapon of mass destruction, the tank Gomorrah, to lay waste to the city in which our hero resides.
Godaru lays waste to a city with the ancient tank Gomorrah

   Instead of implementing devious machinations of torment and misery such as the aforementioned human-to-soggy ramen device, Sharaku does something constructive and sets off to rescue his friend Chiyoko from Sodom, the ancient fortress of the three-eyed ones - and Godaru's base of operations. To get there you must first overcome four levels and a fifth; which is split into three segments.

First I park my tank, then I snatch your girl

   It plays just as you would expect for an SAP; you can charge your weapon like in Mega Man - and when fully charged, Sharaku conjures the Red Condor; Sharaku's spear - which  deals double damage but can be used as a spring board which comes in handy in a few sections. There is unfortunately no slide ability which would be useful against some of the bosses.

Sharaku conjures the Red Condor
ugliest enemy ever?
   The first level is simple and quaint, you strut through what appears to be a typical Japanese town. It must be noted that the music in each level is amazing, it was composed by Hiroyuki Iwatsuki (who also composed the sounds for Wild Guns, Gundam Wing: Endless Duel, and Shatterhand/Solbrain to name a few). You encounter a few troll-doll looking enemies, they leap into the air when you fire your optic-blasts at them. Once you reach a mass of boxes at the end of the path things get really dark.

   As soon as you are on top of the boxes you quickly realize it's the payload of a commercial truck that's beginning to take off. Living up to the name "Prince of Darkness" Sharaku must slaughter waves of puppies that begin leaping at you from atop a fence in the background.
After the truck reaches it's destination, Area 1-1 rounds out with a few bandage-spewing spiders.
Side-note: you can "juggle" coins to increase their value.

   The next area is a cave with incredibly annoying stacks of heads that each spit a bandage at you. Think Bone Pillars from Castlevania, only mobile. There's also more dogs and strangely enough, fire breathing mollusks. yes, mollusks that can launch fireballs that explode into pillars of flame when they make contact with the ground.

Sharaku using the arc-shot upgrade..
   You also encounter your first shop here. For a price you can buy three different eye beam upgrades, increase the speed of the Red Condor's charge; buy health and 1-ups - and you even buy a bird to assist you should you fall. Each of the weapon upgrades have their own advantages but, the rapid-fire shot is probably the best out of them all. The wide-shot can prove to be quite helpful at some points however. Don't worry about choosing between them though - you can cycle through your weapons.

Sharaku using the wide-shot upgrade.
   After avoiding cascades of water from the ceiling and more head-stacks you will come to a strange statue and the game's first boss - the goblin boy. Your attacks are useless against him and you must use the Ubaid style idol in the background's projectiles to stun him; then spam him with yours. Be wary of his darts; he often throws them after the second time you have successfully attacked him and it can catch you off guard if you're not expecting it. After a few rounds of this goblin boy is toast, and we're rewarded with a little cut-scene in which Sharaku is incorrectly referred to as "Mitsume".

    Now on to Stage 2-1. The first act is a little lackluster; it's enemies bring more character to it overall. You encounter strange pink men in black togas that float in meditation and when you draw near they hurl a boomerang at you. I must also note that they can use it as a shield. At various points you are assailed by swarms of unusually resilient bats and strange abominations that leap upwards from pits between floating platforms. There is also another variety that spit Sharaku-seeking bandages. As you make your way through this area you will encounter very conspicuous black blocks that will obscure your path. The Red Condor easily allows you to overcome them and they just serve as a nuisance. That's all one can really say about this area so enjoy the previously mentioned abominations in .gif form:

Okay, maybe not exactly a Moai Head.

   In the next area you find yourself in a cave; you must cross over two sets of crumbling floors over spikes - while avoiding projectiles from above fired by floating Moai heads. From here the path narrows; there's a spiked ceiling now and geysers of water from various pits in the floor. You encounter devious bandage-chucking skeletons and little apparitions that appear and disappear as well.

It is key to neutralize the skeletons promptly.

   I only had the wide-shot in this area but I feel the rapid-shot would have been more effective since you want to take out the skeletons as quick as possible to be able to freely maneuver around the ghosts and water traps.

   In the third act we push deeper into the cave; this time were ascending waterfalls on platforms. this area will require you to learn just when to jump from platform to platform and though that's not a real problem in this game, those pink boomerang enemies will make it quite a frustrating endeavor.

  I chose to use the Red Condor to skip going near them altogether, an effort which proved to be just as rage-inducing - but effective in the long run. After you manage to make your way up the waterfalls and across the final gap we're back on solid ground but we're not safe yet. walk to the right down the path a ways and we come to the final obstacle of this stage; boulders. Boulders of pure hate and torment.
Timing is everything.

   They fall in succession, so you must get right between them and carefully follow them as they descend to the next level. When dropping down to the next platform you have to be extra careful; any misspent time will cost you some health and this area may result in cheap hits right before the boss. The second boss isn't too difficult when compared to the first. You must avoid his whipping tentacle that shoots bandages and spam your attacks into it's eye over and over. Seriously, this boss took so many hits I lost count. His tentacle and projectiles are very easy to avoid too, making this boss battle incredibly monotonous. After it's defeated we see another splash screen, Sharaku smacking the "Strange Plant Creature" in the head with his spear - then it's on to Stage Three.

Just do this over and over again.

    The first area of Level Three takes us to the desert, it features one of the strangest enemies in the game - a two-faced, vaguely phallic, spinning disembodied head. These guys are just here to block your way, you must shoot them to make them move but they will return to their original position once you stop. There's several parts where you must move more than one of these things out of your way. It's tedious and you can be sure they return later on in the game.

There's also crabs that shoot bandages that follow you; they usually show up after you have cleared one of those spinning things out of your path, crawling across the ground. When you're in their line of sight they also charge at you. On the next screen you have to ascend the side of what appears to be a pyramid; There's a few fire-breathing mollusks here but they're easily dispelled. After a quick stop at the shop, we descend into the pyramid itself.
   Using the same type of elevator we used to enter the pyramid, we plunge deeper. Those boomerang-wielding, pink monks return and flank either side of you as you lower yourself down the chasm. The next screen is the same thing, except instead of the monks, it's more spinning heads. I think there's more pink enemies in this game than Barbie for NES; which is rather sad since this same year Natsume released Power Blade 2 and that was very colorful.

    Next up, we come to a room with a trap ceiling that comes crashing down upon you, and when fully raised; spikes will actually fall out so you have to be careful where you're standing. There's one gap that's too long to cross normally, so you have to use the Red Condor. This can be costly if not timed right; As you can see in the animation above, I narrowly made the time window and that was with the speed upgrade for the spear. Featured in that same animation is another trap in the room; over some of the columns that will block your way are a pair of blowing lips that will knock you back a bit, so be wary.

    After the falling-ceiling room, this time you must ascend a corridor while avoiding more spinning heads. Once you reach the top you have to maneuver through three more which move vertically, then make a final trip downwards, then through a corridor to the boss room - each full of yet more spin-heads.

   This stage's boss isn't really too impressive, and, surprise - he's pink. The object here is to avoid the boulders he tosses around the room with telekinetic powers I'm presuming. Disembodied heads in jars are typically capable of telekinesis, I guess this guy is no different. You can also destroy the boulders with enough hits which is great because once the bottom face is ready to close it's eyes - ending your opportunity to damage him -  the boulders will hover in mid air then fly in your direction. Constant movement and the rapid-fire eye blast upgrade should make light work of this guy who totally reminds me of an evil version of Zordon from MMPR. Like before, we get another scene of Sharaku defeating the "abnormal" boss. That's three down, one more to go.

The fourth level starts out on some docks. As you make your way right the platform ends and we see a little boat. Once on the boat the screen begins auto-scrolling and we're on our way. you must leap on to platforms that impede you, and the troll enemies return to cause further annoyance. There are also new piranha enemies that will leap from the water. The fish telegraph their attacks, so you just need to shoot towards where they jump out of the water and that takes care of them. The easiest way to progress through this level is to scale the platforms in your way before worrying about enemies. Either the wide shot or the rapid-fire work well here. Speaking of the weapon upgrades, the arc-shot upgrade - the one that lets you shoot at an upward or downward angle - is pretty much useless throughout the entire game, at least it was for me. After traversing the open seas on our little dingy, we reach a ship docked on the far side.

   Now we're inside the ship, there's some more trolls to deal with and some falling ceiling tiles to watch out for. Some more skeletons show up to join in the fun but they prove to be pushovers when you have ample room to avoid their shots. There's some pairs of crabs towards the end of this section and that's about it. On the next screen is where things get a little more difficult.

   Here we have some platforms that rise up once stepped on and they all elevate at different speeds. The area featured in the animation to the left shows a particularly nasty segment; you must leap across three of these platforms and the last one zips up much faster than the rest so you can't wait around like I did - it's jump or die here. After you make it past this part there's one lone troll to annihilate then were back topside.

 This area is a cake walk. You'll encounter some bees as you proceed but they're harmless. You can go towards the top of the ship or you can just continue right to the front of the sea vessel. I chose to go right, most likely missing a shop but at this point I had all of the upgrades and was doing well on health and lives. There's also several waves of fish that leap up at you, and another troll or two. After we reach the end of the screen it's on to the boss.

   This boss is pretty cool and the most challenging so far. It takes place upon the front end of the boat during a thunderstorm; a swarm of bees appear and gather together to manifest a pale green ghost that hovers around shooting fireballs at you. He shoots high first, then down the middle just above your head, then high again. Once you learn that pattern you can save yourself some hits. After he takes some damage though, he burst apart into two clusters of bees - one goes high, the other low. You must either leap or walk through the center; but the trick to avoid cheap hits is to attack the ghost when it's on the opposite side of the screen. Sometimes the pattern of the bees is erratic and their hit-box can collide with you unexpectedly. Much like the plant boss, the ghost seems to take a lot of hits to put down. We're rewarded with the last splash screen in which Sharaku is using some bug-spray to ward off the "ghostly boss". All is not well indeed, it's time to rescue Chiyoko from the hands of the evil Prince Godaru. Onward to Sodom!

   The final level starts off at some ruins; and we encounter the most awesome enemy of the game.
an aggressive Moai Head that stomps around after you. seriously, besides the skeleton that may or may not be doing something inappropriate when tossing bandages at you, this is as good as it gets.

What we all came here for.
  You encounter two  Moai heads and a couple bats before we see Sodom looming in the background. It looks somewhat like a rooster for no apparent reason. I'll let you connect the dots on that one, this is a family blog.

   Anyway, After we reach the end of this screen we finally enter Godaru's base of operations. I don't want to spoil the final areas of the game too much so I'll make it brief from here on. There's only one enemy in this area that we have never encountered previously, a little snake that slithers back and forth. As far as obstacles you encounter, it's a matter of applying what you learned in the previous four levels and dealing with them all being tossed at you in various ways. At the end of the three sections you must fight a mini boss; it's stationary and doesn't have any attacks of it's own but there are anti-personnel laser walls that can be a pain if you don't know their pattern, but once you know the first one's capabilities the second two are just a nuisance.

I still don't know what this is all about.
   I must also make you aware of the strangest thing I've encountered in this game - when you enter the third area, take out the snake to the right then turn left and shoot at the wall. You will see your beams hitting something and after a few shots this strange bird appears, does a little dance, then spins upwards dropping money. It really felt out of place but it was really great to discover something so strange.

Edit: User Squigglydigg has informed me that the bird is actually from the anime (It's even in the opening); Ass-Jets are canon, apparently.

There's going to be some major spoilers in the next few paragraphs, so if you don't want me to spoil a twenty year old game for you then please stop reading now.

Once you reach the end of the third area and face another mini boss it's time to face off against Godaru. First you must defeat the tank Gomorrah, though. If you can manage to stay in front of him and avoid his advances and ice breath you can avoid taking too many hits, but this is surprisingly hard to do and it's probably the most difficult boss in the entire game.

After the tank is destroyed the prince himself makes his entrance. His patterns aren't too hard to pick up on but he's no slouch. Occasionally he will slash and send an iai wave at you - you can use your optic blasts to dispel these, I recommend using the rapid-fire shot to maximize your attack opportunities here. He will become invulnerable from time to time and jump-kick at you but you can easily manage to walk right underneath him. He will also discharge his stored energy as multiple projectiles that shoot in all directions. After prattling away at him for a few rounds Godaru is put out of his misery and Sharaku is finally reunited with Chiyoko who descends in a glittery aura from the heavens. After all that we're treated to an 8-bit vignette of Chiyoko chasing down the tiny Prince of Darkness to stick a bandage over his third eye, then the credits roll as the two pals walk towards a city in the distance; The End.

   That about sums up Mitsume ga Tooru for the Famicom. It's not incredibly hard and offers the usual platformer trappings which make it feel like the somewhat handicapped offspring of Mario and Mega Man. I think it deserves it's place in the pantheon of the NES/Famicom's B-sides - Okay, maybe C-sides - for sure. Aside from it's shallow enemy pool, their monochrome color palettes, and it's dull story; I had a lot of fun playing this game and at no point did I feel that it was being unnecessarily unfair. There were, however, some points where it was just too easy even on the normal setting. If you're not supposed to have fun while playing a game then I guess I'm doing it wrong; so make my mistake for yourself and enjoy a rather strange and overlooked licensed title that glows but doesn't quite shine.

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