Monday, March 18, 2013

NES Replay: Amagon

Developer: Aicom
Publisher: American Sammy
Released: 1989
Does that letter 'o' have fangs?: Yes.
Yes it does.
I think we can all agree that Japanese culture has its quirks.

Japan isn't as weird as we think it is, of course. A lot of it gets overblown because it's just more fun thinking of Japan as some wacky land of insanity where used panty vending machines are EVERYWHERE and totally legal (they're not) than what it is: Just another place where people are people, albeit with a different culture.

Now that we've made that disclaimer, though, I think we can all think of at least "Japan is weird" story. It's an odd place, but being on an island all by yourself for a thousand years or so will do that to you.

For most of us, our first exposure to the Japanese culture was through the medium of video games. During the 80's and 90's, most of us didn't have access to videos of Japanese game shows or anime where characters grunt at each other for 20 episodes, use their special attack, find out it didn't work, then grunt at each other for another 20 episodes. (That one's for you, DragonBallZ fans.) However, since the vast majority of console video games came from the Land of the Rising Sun, we at least got a taste of how completely different Japanese culture was from our own.
Take the game Amagon, for example. Look at that main character on the title screen. Would you ever guess that the pink-clad doofus with the monkey face is supposed to be a tough soldier (named Amagon) who's crash-landed on an island of murder-death and has to fight his way through to the other side?
This guy.
No! He looks like he just came to this island fresh from Double Cocktail Night at the Copacabana.

Along the way, Amagon can power up and turn into an enormous shirtless musclebound freak named Megagon, because of course he can, and punch his way through the island.
Looking good.
The Japanese title of this game is "Suddenly! Machoman," and I wish that would have been the English title, too. It really would have improved the whole enterprise quite a bit, since Amagon doesn't have much else going for it. The levels are really boring, with long stretches where nothing happens except for the constant attack of the island's flora and fauna.

This is about as exciting as it gets, folks.
As Amagon, you have a gun with which to kill enemies. It has limited ammo, and once it runs out, you're reduced to wildly flailing a stick above your head in order to try and kill enemies. It never works. When you die, your ammo doesn't get refilled for your next life, so if you run out of ammo you're pretty much screwed.

When playing as Amagon, one hit will kill you and drop you back at the beginning of the level. As Megagon, you have more hit points and a stronger attack, but limited range. Some enemies can only be beaten as Megagon, so you have to choose when to bring him out. Since there's very poor level flow, it's hard to tell when you're near the end of a given level, making it easy to summon Megagon well before he's needed.

However, just like most things the Japanese do, there is at least one awesome thing buried in Amagon: The musical track that plays when Megagon is summoned. Listen to it:

That is the 8-bit equivalent of a tyrannosaurus in a helicopter. That is a Rocky training montage in a burning oil tanker while electric guitars wail in the background. That track is two robots flying across the Pacific, firing missiles and laser beams at each other in a battle for the future of humanity.

So now that you've heard the best part of Amagon, you really don't have any excuse to play it. Amagon can almost get by on quirk alone, but the typical Japanese quirkiness isn't enough to get it over the top. However, if you want to play a game where a tough soldier dresses in pink and murders and entire island, here you are.

Final Rating:

Next Week: American Gladiators

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