Friday, September 07, 2012

Five favorites: Famicom/NES platformers that don't involve a fat, Italian-American plumber

As much as I love the first three Super Mario Bros. titles as much as the next guy or gal, they're not the only cartridges I stick into my Famicom when I'm in the mood for some platforming action.

In fact, these days I'm far more likely to reach for the five games listed below--each of which offer up music, graphics and gameplay that I consider to be on par with those aforementioned Nintendo-made classics.

1. Don Doko Don 2--I'm guessing Taito's decision to turn Don Doko Don's sequel into a Super Mario Bros.-esque, side-scrolling platformer was met with at least a bit of skepticism back in the day (it was released in 1992), but gamers needn't have worried. After all, the contents of this particular cart is a treat for the eyes, ears and even hands. (You know, because it controls well and is an overall joy to play.) Plus, it features a cameo of sorts by Chack'n (of Chack'n Pop fame)--which, in my mind at least, means it's an absolute-must-play.

2. Hoshi no Kirby: Yume no Izumi no Monogatari (aka Kirby's Adventure)--Is Kirby's first console outing his best? I tend to think so, although I also hold Kirby's Epic Yarn and Kirby's Return to Dream Land in high esteem. (Sorry, I've yet to play Kirby Super Star.) Regardless, the game known to westerners as Kirby's Adventure easily is one of the more enjoyable--and precious--platformers released for Nintendo's 8-bit super system. It is easy? Yes, it is, but that's the point. Focus on taking in the sights and having fun while doing so and you won't regret a second of the time you spend with this one.

3. Pajama Hero Nemo (aka Little Nemo the Dream Master)--Would you believe me if I said that this may be my favorite Famicom/NES game? Well, it is. Or it may be. Whatever. Anyway, even if you don't agree--due to its difficulty, most likely--you have to admit this title is a looker. I mean, really, how adorable are those sprites? That Little Nemo sounds nearly as good as it looks just adds to its status as a top-shelf platformer that should be experienced by everyone who isn't afraid of a bit of a challenge, a splash of color and a protagonist who's still in his pajamas.

4. Wanpaku Dakku Yume Bōken (aka Duck Tales)--This next comment will surprise no one who actually lived through the 8-bit era, but I'm going to say it awyway: Capcom absolutely killed it during the days of the Famicom and NES, and this trend-bucking (when it comes to licensed releases) games is proof positive of that fact. The keys for me: The ability to use ol' Scrooge McDuck's cane both as a pogo stick and as a golf club. Also, its highly explorable stages (something that also can be said for the game above, by the way). Spend some time with this one and you'll understand why so many of us "mature" gamers say things like, "They sure don't make 'em like they used to."

5. Yume Penguin Monogatari--This is one of those fabulously weird games that, for reasons unknown, never left Japan. I guess it was just too odd for us buttoned-up Americans? It wouldn't surprise me, considering the game is about a rather chubby penguin who, desperate to reunite with his ex-girlfriend, works his way through level after level (some of which involve shooting, a la Gradius or Parodius, rather than platforming) in order to "lose the chunk" for his judgmental former lover. Whatever the reason, it's too bad, as Yume Penguin Monogatari is one of the most unique titles to have been made for the Famicom.

Note: Look for follow-up post--titled, "Five more favorites: Famicom/NES platformers that don't involve a fat, Italian-American plumber"--to be published within the next few days.


RetroKingSimon said...

Haha, I love the look of that penguin one :) I've played the three above it too - I agree, they're splendid! Never tried Don Doko Don 2 though. I guess I have little excuse now :)

Retr0gamer said...

Love the Penguin one as well. The storyline is hilarious :) As for the pimp penguin, he cracks me up!

I have to check out Don Doku Don 2.

MadHierophant said...

I like that I haven't played all 5 of these. Now I have something to do this afternoon.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Simon: As soon as you're able, download the ROMs for Don Doko Don 2 and Yume Penguin Monogatari and them play them via your favorite emulator. You won't regret it :)

You'll probably like Yume Penguin Monogatari more than Don Doko Don 2, but both are great -- and unique -- little platformers.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Retr0gamer: Yes, the story included in Yume Penguin Monogatari is hilarious, isn't it? I also love how the protagonist gets thinner and fatter during gameplay :)

I'm kind of surprised so many of you have yet to play Don Doko Don 2, by the way. I guess I did my job if I introduced even a few of you to its charms.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, MadHierophant! Nice to see you here :) Anyway, yes, give them all a try sometime soon. And keep an eye out for this post's follow-up, which will showcase five more great Famicom/NES platformers (that don't feature Mario).

Viewtiful_Justin said...

To do list, after reading this post:
1. Find Little Nemo because I LOVED THAT GAME and I don't have a copy...
2. Revisit Duck Tales, since it rocks so damn hard.
3. Track down the penguin game.
4. Figure out what the hell is going on in that first screen shot.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, Justin! My response to your to do list:

1. YES! God, how I love Little Nemo. It's amazing what Capcom's designers/developers were able to do with the Famicom/NES architecture when it comes to graphics.

2. YES X2!! I played the hell out of this game as a kid, and I'd play the hell out of it today, too, if I still owned a copy of it.

3. Do it. It's wonderfully quirky and also just tons of fun. I much prefer the platforming stages to the shooting ones, but the overall package is a blast, regardless.

4. Yeah, that screenshot's a bit weird. I'm assuming it's a boss fight. (I'm assuming here because I've yet to make it that far in the game.) Anyway, I only included it because it shows Bub from Bobble Bobble. The rest of the game looks much better, I assure you.

2D2Will said...

Have you ever played Jackie Chan's Action Kung-Fu? I think it's a fantastic game for the NES.

Bryan Ochalla said...

I've never played the Famicom/NES version, 2D2Will, just the PC Engine/TG-16 version. I think they're basically the same, though? Anyway, I like the PC Engine version, but it's not one of my favorite PCE games. I think it's because the characters/enemies are just so BIG.

2D2Will said...

I haven't played the TG-16 version, but after watching some footage of it, I can say with certainty that character models in the NES version are smaller than the TG-16 version. It's worth a play. The platforming is very solid in the NES version.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Well, then, I'll give it a try sometime soon. The only thing I didn't like about the TG-16 version was those huge character/enemy sprites.

Reggie White Jr. said...

I love the title of this post.

Duck Tales is a classic. Shame that Capcom no longer has the license to these Disney games. Duck Tales and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers deserve a Virtual Console release.

You haven't played Kirby Super Star? Whoa. If you plan to get Kirby's Dream Collection this month, I hope you check KSS out. It's one of my favorite Kirby games as well as many other fan's faves.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hello again, Reggie! I'm glad you loved the title, BTW. Seems that's not the case for everyone, but what can you do?

As for it being a shame that Capcom no longer has the license to these games: I agree :( All of Capcom's licensed games from this era were superb. Well, maybe all but Mickey Mousecapade.

I know it's crazy that I haven't played Kirby Super Star. I can't even give you a reason as to why that is. Well, other than I didn't much like Kirby until last year.

I'm definitely getting Kirby's Dream Collection, by the way. After that happens, I'll give Super Star a try, no question.

Kaze said...

Great list!! I agree with you on every game! Although I haven't actually played Don Doko Don 2 yet! (I looked for it at PAX but didn't see it! lol)

I remember being so proud of myself when I was younger and I beat Little Nemo! I had my dad take a picture of the ending screen. lol

I also remember playing Yume Penguin Monogatari with a friend of mine! We picked it out of a list of ROMs based solely on the name. I remember the main character's girlfriend being like "Penta-kun, you're so fat!! Gross!" and thinking how 8-bit era Nintendo would be super hesitant to release it in the states. lol

Duck Tales is a classic! The music for the moon level and for the Transylvania stage are still some of my favorite 8-bit tracks! ^^

Also wow!! I totally agree with 2D2Will about Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu for the NES! It's one of my favorite NES games and is a kind of gaming "comfort food" of mine! I can seriously play through the game again and again! lol I remember seeing screen shots of the TG-16 version and the character sprites for the NES version are way way cuter! Usually no one has ever heard of that game when I mention it! lol

Bryan Ochalla said...

Did you seriously look for Don Doko Don 2 at PAX, Marty? I can't believe it!

I'm not surprised that you didn't see it, though, as it seems kind of rare. (I often look for it on eBay, as I really want a copy.)

I also can't believe you beat Little Nemo back in the day. I haven't even come close! Such a tough game. Still, I love it.

And, yes, the music in Duck Tales is truly amazing.

As for the Fami version of Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu: I guess I'll have to check it out soon if you and 2D2Will love it so :)

sir jorge said...

greatest post about nintendo ever! no seriously, i love the comic relief, but more importantly that you picked some awesome games

Bryan Ochalla said...

Ha! Why, thank you, sir jorge :)

Kaze said...

Haha, I did! They only had the original Don Doko Don though!

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hello again, Kaze! Ah, the original Don Doko Don is a nice game, too, but the sequel is better, IMO -- at least if we're talking about Famicom/NES games/versions. The arcade and PC Engine versions of the first Don Doko Don is pretty great, though.

sharc said...

if you're fond of don doko don 2, you should check out mitsume ga tooru and the jetsons: cogswell's caper; i'm reasonably sure they were all made by the same team.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Thanks for the suggestions, sharc! I've never heard of either of them, actually, which surprises me. BTW, do you like Don Doko Don 2 yourself?

sharc said...

hard copies of either are not cheap, but they're both pretty snazzy; mitsume ga tooru in particular has some cool parallax effects. you'll probably notice the music and sfx sound similar to don doko don 2. natsume is a sorely underappreciated developer and there's a lot of great stuff in their nes/fc catalog!

yeah, i like don doko don 2 well enough. it's not always the most elegant game; for instance, how beating the first boss requires you to use throwing upward, an ability you aren't taught at any point prior to the fight. the presentation is fun though, and it's an overall solid game that a lot of folks aren't familiar with.

Bryan Ochalla said...

So, sharc, I looked up Mitsume ga Tooru, and ... I'm sure not I like the look of the game. I'm going to give it a try, though -- through emulation of course. Haven't yet looked up the Jetsens game, but I'll do that in a minute.

As for Don Doko Don 2: You know what? I've honestly never thought about the instance you brought up until now. I just knew what to do when I got into that situation. I wonder if it's explained in the instruction manual that you have to toss enemies upward every once in a while? That wouldn't surprise me, as many games from that era (and the 16-bit era) explained such things in the manual but not in the game as they do today.