Monday, April 14, 2014

NES Replay: Trojan

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Released: February 1987
Capcom was so skilled in the early years of the NES that even crappy games had something that almost redeemed them. Case in point, Trojan.

Trojan was developed by Takashi Nishiyama, the same person who developed Kung Fu and later made Street Fighter and was extremely influential at SNK. Trojan and Kung Fu are almost spiritual cousins. In Kung Fu, you saw the outline of the fighting game genre: High attack, low attack, punch, kick. In Trojan, you saw another evolutionary step, as blocking became a major component.

Trojan's gameplay is very similar to Kung Fu. As you move around in the level, enemies will come at you from the left or right and you can attack them high or low. Some enemies take more hits, though, so you have to anticipate their attacks and block with your shield.

Something else makes Trojan notable. While the name "Trojan" may conjure up images of Greek warriors battling hoplites on the way to a siege, Trojan is actually set in a post-apocalyptic world where you're a lone warrior setting out to destroy a violent gang. Capcom does a fantastic job and making the game feel like a coherent, ruined place. The buildings look broken-down, and the muted colors stand in stark contrast to the vibrant enemies and your hero. Each level flows very easily into the next, so that it feels plausible that this could have been a normal 8-bit city until the 8-bit apocalypse destroyed it.

Alas, while there's a lot to like in Trojan, there's an equal amount that still needed work. Like Kung Fu, you only have a melee attack, but your hero in Trojan really needed a longer range attack owing to the fact that more enemies have long-range attacks too. Yes, you can block those attacks, but in order to really put a stop to them you have to get up close and personal. When you get close, many of your enemies have melee attacks that are too fast to block properly, so that puts you back at square one. It's especially problematic with some bosses. If you could attack from across the screen with a projectile that would even the playing field, but otherwise, you're wildly overmatched.

I think that Capcom thought they could get away with this solely because of the block function, but blocking doesn't really level the playing field when you have a split second to decide whether or not to block an attack. The pace of Trojan needed to be much, much slower in order to justify adding that layer of complexity.

That said, Trojan is definitely noticeable as another evolutionary step for Nishiyama's nascent design philosophy. The fast pace carried over to his later SNK brawlers, and while Trojan may not have been entirely successful, the art design almost pushes it into good territory. Almost.

Final Rating:

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