Developer: Victor Interactive Software
Publisher: Victor Interactive Software
Release date: 1986
I have kind of a funny history (well, it's funny to me anyway) with Banana. For the longest time, I thought it and Takara's rather lackluster-looking platformer, Banana Prince, were one and the same. Then I came across (on Famicomblog) a photo of this game's packaging that made it clear the two titles were unique entities.
As for what prompted me to give this oddly named Famicom game a go: Well, the aforementioned packaging, which features an adorable mole wearing white gloves and what appears to be a pair of blue jeans, certainly got the proverbial ball rolling, but what kept it moving along was this YouTube video.
Admittedly, said video makes Banana look more than a little rough, but that's rarely deterred me in the past. Also, I'm one of those weirdos who actually likes the aesthetics of severely retro games.
Anyway, it wasn't just the colorfully chunky graphics that attracted me to Victor Interactive Software's maiden Famicom release. I also liked the looks of its gameplay, which at first called to mind such classics as Adventures of Lolo, Dig Dug, Magical Puzzle Popils and Wrecking Crew.
In the end, those comparisons aren't completely apt. A better one, I quickly came to learn, would be to compare it to First Star Software's Boulder Dash. That 1984 release is a cakewalk compared to Banana, though, thanks to the latter's devilish, "you'd better make the right moves in the right order--or else!" mentality.
Speaking of which, you'd probably like an explanation of how this pixelated puzzler plays, wouldn't you? The gist: You control the strangely dressed mole I mentioned earlier. He's plopped into each stage for some reason or other (sorry, I don't know the game's backstory--assuming there is one) and is tasked with gathering all of the fruit that's been deposited throughout each level (again, for some reason or another), retrieving the blue-haired lady mole who seems to be his girlfriend or wife and then somehow making it to the exit door.
That's harder than it sounds, of course, thanks in large part to the game's sense of gravity--which means that whenever you dig or fall or otherwise move in a downward direction, the only way you can move up again is to find a ladder and climb it. And if you can't? Hit the reset button and start over, because you basically got yourself stuck.
Oh, and most stages include boulders that, should you walk beneath them (and you will), fall into your path and make life even more challenging for you and your mole-y friends.
The good news among all of this doom and gloom: Banana is a lot of fun despite its sometimes brain-melting difficulty. Partially responsible for that are the game's cheerful (if basic) visuals, although the appealingly blippy background music, which calls to mind both Donkey Kong and Mario Bros., deserves a quite a bit of credit, too.
See also: Previous 'Great Gaymathon' posts