Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Manual Stimulation: Popeye (GameBoy)

Don't feel bad if this is the first you're hearing of this game.

After all, it was only released in Japan and it was both made and published by the unheralded Sigma Enterprises, Inc.

Plus, it isn't exactly a gem. It also isn't a turd, though. So what is it? Ignoring discussions of its quality for a second, this portable Popeye is, at its core, an overhead action game set in a handful of maze-like stages. Some folks might even call it a Pac-Man clone, although I wouldn't go that far myself.

Regardless, it's an enjoyable enough GameBoy title.

Another enjoyable aspect of this 1990 release: its instruction manual.

Things get off to a rather iconic start with the cover illustration seen above.

The game's story comes next--not that I can tell you anything about it. Maybe some kind reader can translate it for those of us who know little or no Japanese?

Next up, we've got a page detailing Popeye's controls and game modes. Interestingly enough, the two-player mode allows one person to control the husky, bearded Bluto--I'm guessing in a race to win the heart of Olive Oyl?

The spread above highlights Popeye's cast of characters. Swee'Pea is the baby shown at the top of the right-hand page, by the way, while the guy beneath him is Wimpy.

Oh, and those creatures near the bottom of the same page? Bluto tosses them around each stage to trip you up. Run into one of them and you'll be knocked out for a few precious seconds.

As you might expect, the Popeye instruction manual includes a page about the game's items. Sadly, there are only two: a can of spinach and a heart.

The can of spinach flies across a level at seemingly random moments. Catch it, and not only does Popeye become faster and stronger (the latter makes it easier to beat Bluto in a tussle), but he also can topple any obstacle that gets in his way, such as an alligator, a cannon, or even a hamburger.

The folks who pieced together the Popeye manual waited until the seventh page to explain how the game works. That explanation continues on pages eight and nine.

I'll do a deeper dive into this in an upcoming review of the game, but here's the gist for now: to clear each stage, you need to grab the hearts that are lying around, find Olive Oyl, and save Swee'Pea. Swee'Pea only shows up after you've accomplished the first two tasks, though, so start with those.

I'm not entirely sure what information the left-hand page above is supposed to pass along to readers, to be honest, though I think it may be giving hints on how to beat Bluto in the one-on-one fights that happen whenever he and Popeye touch.

The manual wraps up with some words about Popeye for GameBoy's two-player mode. I've yet to experience this mode myself, so I sadly can't tell you how it differs from the solo campaign (if at all).

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts on other Japan-only GameBoy games like Astro Rabby, Burning Paper, Noobow, and Peetan

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