Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon
|Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon|
North American cover art
|Developer(s)||Konami Computer Entertainment Osaka|
Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon[a] is a platform action-adventure video game released by Konami for the Nintendo 64 on August 7, 1997 in Japan and April 16, 1998 in North America as the fifth entry in the Ganbare Goemon series. The second Goemon game released in North America, it follows The Legend of the Mystical Ninja and features hybrid elements of platform games and action-adventure games.
The story follows Goemon's struggles to prevent the Peach Mountain Shoguns gang from turning Japan into a Westernized fine arts theater. The plot calls for three cinematic musical features and battles between giant robots; like other Ganbare Goemon games, it is peppered with surrealist humor and anachronisms.
Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon sold nearly 200,000 copies worldwide. Reviewers praised its graphics, gameplay, and humorous plot.
Players navigate Goemon through forests, fields, dungeons, and other three-dimensional models of feudal Japanese places. Goemon and his friends can walk or run, jump, attack, and use special abilities to cross terrain, pick up money, and defeat adversaries. Players control only one of four characters at a time but can cycle through them with the press of a button. Hearts at the bottom of the screen show a character's health. If hit by an enemy and damage is taken, a character loses a heart. Some items and acts replenish strength, and a Maneki-neko (Luck Cat) adds a heart to the overall health. If all hearts are lost, the player restarts at the entrance to the field map they died in and the player's number of lives declines by one. If the player loses all lives, the game restarts at the last point saved or at the beginning of the game if a Controller Pak is not used.
Traveling through Japan, players visit towns and coffeehouses safe from enemies, where they can eat in restaurants or sleep in inns to refill strength and buy armor or riceballs—a self-acting item that refills health by itself. Many interactive non-player characters populate cities and talk with other characters to uncover plot devices or idle gossip. Players save their progress in towns with a Controller Pak at the inns or at the entrance to some dungeons. Some places are impassable barring the use of special abilities unlocked by completing minigames. For example, Ebisumaru must hide in a giant's cupboard to learn self-shrinking magic, an art that allows passing through small holes. The player has two wayfaring tools: a status screen shows found items, weapons, and player characters and a map screen shows where they are in Japan. In dungeons, the map screen shows the building's floorplan if they have the item Mr. Elly Fant. At the end of each dungeon is a boss, a more difficult than normal enemy with hearts of its own.
Beating a boss can trigger a cutscene, after which Goemon appears outside the dungeon or helms his giant robot friend Impact to thwart an enemy robot (although not mentioned in the manual, these segments of gameplay support the Rumble Pak accessory). These sequences begin with a music video and a high-speed minigame in which Impact must smash structures and avoid hazards while racing across the countryside. The points gained by destroying buildings determine how many health points (measured in oil) Impact will have in the coming battle. Players control Impact from a cockpit behind his eyes where gauges show enemy and player health and ammunition. Impact can punch, kick, defend, reel in opponents with the chain pipe, and use projectile weaponry, including nasal bullets and a laser. Once a boss is defeated, a cutscene of the enemy exploding shows, and the game returns to normal exploration-based play. At the very end is the last boss whose defeat unlocks the ending. Collecting all the fortune cats and beating the game enables an Impact tournament mode with a special image of the robots as the prize for winning.
The protagonist of Mystical Ninja is Goemon, a hot-blooded, kiseru-wielding ninja with blue, bushy hair based loosely on the legendary thief Ishikawa Goemon. The lord of Oedo asks him to find those who maimed Oedo Castle. Goemon lives in Oedo Town and is friends with Ebisumaru, a strange, gluttonous fat man who wears a blue bandana. Ebisumaru is defined as lazy and perverted. Their kunai-throwing friend Sasuke is a mechanical ninja (made by the Wise Man of Iga) who enjoys hot baths and Japanese tea. Rounding out the heroes is Yae, a fierce sword-wielding kunoichi, who happens upon Goemon's band in Zazen Town. The villains of the game hail from the organization Peach Mountain Shoguns and include a gang of four "weirdos" led by Spring Breeze Dancin' (Danshin Harukaze) and Kitty Lily (Margaret Ranko). They intend to transform Japan into a stage for their talents.
While shopping in Oedo Town, Goemon and Ebisumaru feel the ground quake as a peach-shaped flying object sails overhead. The vessel fires a laser at Oedo Castle, turning it into a European-style castle with spires and flags. Worried for the safety of the Lord of Oedo and his daughter, Goemon and Ebisumaru retrieve a chain pipe from Mt. Fuji and assault the castle. Inside is Baron, a member of the fashion-loving Gang of Four who reveals he was sent to turn the castle into a stage. Goemon shrugs him off and defeats the King Robot Congo to free the Lord and find a "miracle item". The Lord asks Goemon to catch them and gives a Super Pass for access to the roads of Japan.
Goemon sets out to the Wise Man's house for assistance, but the house explodes as he approaches. A fuming Baron comes forth and mans his kabuki robot. Goemon finds a Triton shell in the rubble that can call Impact, who lays ruin to the kabuki robot. In Zazen Town, Goemon finds Yae, who claims the troublemakers responsible are Flake Gang members named the Peach Mountain Shoguns. Yae joins Goemon, and they learn that children with dancing talent have been kidnapped around the region. Goemon and his friends must also fight against Benkei, a gatekeeper blocking the Gojo Ohashi Bridge leading out of Zazen Town. In order to defeat him, Goemon needs help from a young fisherman named Ushiwaka. It is hinted that Benkei and Ushiwaka are kind of rivals. Ashamed at his loss against Goemon and his friends, the man offers Goemon the mechanical robot Sasuke, thrown there by the explosion of the Wise Man's house. Goemon accepts the unconscious, powerless Sasuke and walks to Kii-Awaji island, where the dragon-powered passenger ferry has been stopped by the dragon's sudden craze. Goemon teleports to the dragon and finds a Gang of Four member named Colon who used the dragon to kidnap children; he then breaks Colon's mind-control device. The dragon turns back to human and crashes near a shrine.
The human calls himself Koryuta, son of the Dragon God, and apologizes for the kidnappings. He pledges help in transporting the heroes across Japan, and claims the kids are at the Dogo Hot Springs. Goemon travels to Iyo but finds the Hot Springs closed; the only entrance is a mouse hole. He learns from travelers that sweets in the Zazen Town shrine can make a person smaller. Ebisumaru offers to steal the sweets. With the dwarf power the group infiltrate the Ghost Toys Castle, a dark house of traps, toys, and a giant pool table. Colon faces Goemon with the robot Dharmanyo, but is crushed and lets go his miracle item. The hidden man aboard the peach ship at Oedo comes out calling himself Spring Breeze Dancin'. He pokes fun at the group with nicknames and instructs Colon to retreat. With the children liberated, Goemon follows Colon to the Chu-goku Region, where he revives Sasuke with two batteries. They enter the Festival Temple, a Peach Mountain base.
They destroy a guard robot, prompting Gang of Four member Sharon to appear with Kitty Lily, the second leader of the Peach Mountain Shoguns. Lily boasts that Kyushu is a stage and asks Sharon to return to base after buying some foundation. Alarmed, Goemon and friends rush off to the bridge to Kyushu and find Omitsu on her way to deliver dumplings. Stunned by Omitsu's seeming ruggedness, Goemon forgets to warn her of danger, and the island rises into odd thunder clouds in the sky. A fortune teller instructs the group to set out north to Mount Fear to find a way to Kyushu. After necessary weight training to remove obstacles, Goemon finds the northeast Festival Village and learns of a psychic witch. The witch summons Wise Man, who tells Goemon to gather the fourth miracle items at the Stone Circle near Festival Village for passage into outer space and Kyushu. Goemon investigates reports of stolen food in the village while Yae undergoes training to become a mermaid. The two paths converge when Yae finds the Gourmet Submarine, a Peach Mountain vessel containing hordes of food. After sidestepping grills and swimming through gallons of soup, Goemon confronts Poron, the final weirdo, who jokes that he lost the last miracle item in Zazen Town.
Lily enters by hologram to ridicule the party, but is rudely interrupted by Dancin', who continues to call Goemon "Fernandez". Dancin' instructs Poron to activate the ship's self-destruct sequence. Goemon escapes by calling Impact and defeats a mermaid giant robot. In Zazen Town, a kappa named Kihachi desires to trade the miracle item for cucumber made by the priest's son. The son sits on a precipice inaccessible save through jumping training; Sasuke volunteers in the Chu-goku Region and acquires the miracle item. At the Stone Circle, the Pemopemo God awakens and asks the heroes if they have the courage to venture to outer space. Goemon affirms their decision and the group enters Kyushu through the Gorgeous Music Castle. They discover Sogen Town has been converted to a garden city with European architecture. Goemon locates Omitsu and learns that Dancin' and Lily can be found past a rigid gate—accessible only with the help of Wise Man.
Stunned to find him alive, Goemon learns that in exchange for building the Instant Stage Beam and mechanical robots, the Peach Mountain Shoguns gave Wise Man five car magazines and a muscle car poster. Enraged to learn of his home's demise, Wise Man helps Goemon enter the castle. Kitty Lily and Dancin' confront the heroes with the elaborate musical number Gorgeous My Stage before a self-destruct sequence begins. Goemon summons Impact to fly into outer space, where he thwarts the giant peach ship Balberra and duels Lily and Dancin' in their personal battle robot. Dancin' mocks Goemon in defeat, and Impact sends their robot's head far into outer space to reveal a picture of Dancin' and Lily smiling among the stars. Goemon returns to Japan to find a horde of girls rushing towards him, and awaits their praise for saving Japan. The group is shocked to find the girls angry over the apparent death of their idol, Spring Breeze Dancin'.
The story of Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon, a quest to thwart dancers in a peach-shaped spaceship from using laser weaponry to convert Japan to a giant stage and its citizens to loyal dancers, is steeped in surrealist and Japanese humor. Many reviewers and writers commented on the humor in the plot and dialogue. The game's dialogue is peppered with offbeat humor, and a few instances of sexual innuendo. In the Japanese version, Wise Man collected hentai magazines and pornographic posters rather than automotive publications. A laugh track punctuates certain jokes.
Development and audio
Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon was developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Osaka. It was first titled Ganbare Goemon 5, then Legend of the Mystical Ninja. The Japanese producers wished to break the series' numerical naming pattern to stress that Mystical Ninja differed from its forefathers. Originally made with a two-player mode, this feature was scrapped months before the Japanese release. Early development pictures showed Impact battling in a modern city against a handgun-wielding foe. Later images touted the battle against the Wartime Kabuki Robot Kashiwagi taking place over a forest and village. Konami released many renders of Goemon posing and making faces for magazine previews. A 60–70% complete build of the game was featured at E3 in June 1997, suffering from graphical clipping and camera issues. Konami later presented a mostly finished build at the Tokyo Game Show in September 1997. Developers aimed to make the game "very visual" with new content, and the game's marketers echoed this by using large, colorful advertisements. Konami targeted children, among whom the series is popular in Japan, by scheduling appearances of a Goemon mascot at some elementary school gymnastics sessions. The game's later success prompted the production of an animated television show. The series followed Goemon as he struggled against evil after being transported to modern society, where he befriended an elementary school student. Its release in the United States was planned for winter 1997, then February 1998, but was ultimately delayed to two more months.
Mystical Ninja featured a cartridge size of 128 megabits, designed to be much larger than most of its peers and predecessor games to allow high quality musical numbers and voice samples. In total, there are three musical numbers—Theme of Ganbare Goemon, I Am Impact, and Gorgeous My Stage. They feature the talents of Hironobu Kageyama, Ichirou Mizuki, and Toshihiro Tachibana and Etsuyo Ota respectively. The song's main soundtrack is composed of a mix of traditional Japanese and modern instruments integrated in original arrangements. The dungeons feature minimalistic songs which grow in complexity and length as the player proceeds deeper into the lair. The soundtrack on whole is a collaborative effort by four composers. The musical numbers, with forty tunes from the game and one remix of I Am Impact, were released October 3, 1997 on CD. The soundtrack was later extracted from Read-only memory and presented in Nintendo Ultra 64 Sound Format on May 9, 2005; it is one of the most downloaded releases at USF Central.
In 2018, the 8-Bit Big Band recorded a cover of the song "I am Impact!"
Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon sold 55,000 units in America and 141,000 units in Japan. American reviewers praised the game's story and setting for its quirky, unique flavor; Nintendo Power called Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon a "blend of history, fantasy, and science fiction," writing that the game "never failed to enchant or intrigue." Dialogue was considered likably memorable, whether relying on clever puns or surrealist humor. The Japanese songs in Mystical Ninja's title and Impact sequences, unusual to Western audiences, augmented the bizarre humor. One Japanese reviewer claimed the Impact song cultivated a heroic atmosphere for ensuing battles. Gameplay was similar to that of Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda series, offering responsive play control and ability-driven progression. Mystical Ninja featured a simple controller setup and easy learning curve to this end. The minigames, Impact sequences, and secret tournament mode bolstered replay value, and reviewers praised the game's graphical finesse in animating characters creating the Japanese countryside in three dimensions. A reviewer for The News Tribune considered the presentation "a terrific upgrade from the Super Nintendo version". However, the game was found to be prone to slowdowns in detail-heavy areas, and one reviewer decried the inability to pause the game during Impact battles. Another found play control "not as fluid as it is in Super Mario 64".
Critics enjoyed the soundtrack's integration of pop and shamisen-laden traditional Japanese music. A writer for IGN declared that the songs would "permanently burn themselves into your brain...something that can't be said for most N64 titles"—echoed by Japanese reviewers who noted that the music would not grow tiresome. Mystical Ninja was also commended for high-quality voice samples and sound effects. Reviewers were divided concerning the efficiency of the camera system—most considered it inferior to Super Mario 64's, citing instances of clipping issues and resulting in "extremely difficult" platform jumping sequences. The game features a few sequences of long travel between towns, regarded as dull and unenjoyable. Reviewers disapproved of the game's short play time, estimating that Mystical Ninja could be completed in only ten to fifteen hours. The objections came in spite of the developers anticipating the problem and trying to mitigate it by requiring players to return to certain locations. Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon requires a Controller Pak to save—a rarity in early Nintendo 64 titles which garnered negative attention from both American and Japanese critics. One reviewer decried not being able to save his progress inside castles, which become "harder and more complex" with time. Reviewers fluent with past Ganbare Goemon games argued that the absence of the series' usually intuitive minigames and a two-player mode hampered Mystical Ninja's replay value, and a Japanese reviewer felt that the transition to three dimensions had deprived the game of the traditional Goemon feel.
Mystical Ninja's localization was criticized often. The plot and poorly-translated jokes tended to confuse players. A critic for The Tampa Tribune wrote, "upon popping in the...cartridge and listening to the opening theme song, you'll realize something about this game. It's Japanese." He added, "attempts at humor often come across as rather inane. Early conversations with village residents only add to the confusion." Others countered that the strange localization often compounded the surrealist humor through the use of weird, unusual English and grammar. One critic stressed, "talk to everyone you meet... Everybody has something interesting to say." A writer from GameSpot remarked that the game was translated surprisingly well given the sheer number of Japanese jokes and amount of innuendo. Next Generation lamented that Konami had not polished it more, holding that it otherwise might have been the "best N64 action/RPG". IGN's reviewer cautioned that though Mystical Ninja was billed as a role-playing game, it would differ from the expectations of Western fans. Critics noted that it would hold over gamers until the release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time—provided they played it with an open mind to avoid culture shock. A contributor for The Dallas Morning News concluded that the game "will please N64 owners starving for a decent adventure game... But players should rent it before they buy." A reviewer for the Sentinel & Enterprise wrote in 2001 that while considered a "flawed 3D platformer", Mystical Ninja offered "quirky" fun "following the heels of Super Mario 64" by inviting players to "scale mountains, invade pagodas, and pilot giant robots in all-out fisticuffs to the rhythm of Japanese lyrics and pop tunes." The game is rated 73.8% at GameRankings and received an 8.4 out of 10 rating by players at GameSpot.
Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon was followed by a Game Boy game of the same name. Featuring gameplay similar to the Super Famicom title Ganbare Goemon 3: Shishijūrokubē no Karakuri Manji Gatame, the game presented a story in which Yae had been kidnapped by the Black Ship Gang. In 1999, Konami released Goemon's Great Adventure on the Nintendo 64—a 2.5D side-scroller with multiplayer support. Reviewers gave it high marks for recreating the feel of the older, 16-bit Goemon games and considered it the best side-scroller for the Nintendo 64. The final Goemon title for the Nintendo 64 was Goemon Mononoke Sugoroku, released in Japan on December 25, 1999. In Mononoke Sugoroku, players must collect Ofuda cards while navigating a board game. After a spate of sequels on the PlayStation line of consoles, Konami returned to the medieval, quirky Japanese themes of Mystical Ninja and its brethren on June 23, 2005 with Ganbare Goemon: Tōkai Dōchū Ōedo Tengu ri Kaeshi no Maki for the Nintendo DS.
- Known in Japan as Ganbare Goemon: Neo Momoyama Bakufu no Odori (Japanese: がんばれゴエモン~ネオ
桃山幕府のおどり~, lit. Go for it, Goemon: Dance of the Neo Peach Mountain Shogunate)
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- Goemon: You...you WEIRDO! / Baron: You keep calling me weirdo... / [Girl] I was forced to see the weirdo's dance ever single day...Awake or asleep, it was the weirdo dance, weirdo dance, weirdo dance...It's driving me nuts! Konami (1998-04-16). Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (Nintendo 64). Konami.
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- Baron: My name is Baron! / Baron: I've come to make Oedo Castle a beautiful stage!. Konami (1998-04-16). Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (Nintendo 64). Konami.
- Benkei: Aaaaaaaaaah...to be defeated in the same manner as I was by Ushiwaka...Please, I beg you! Don't tell anyone that I lost, please...I'll let you pass the bridge at will, and I'll give you something from my collection... Goemon: Which is? Ebisumaru: Wow, wow! It's our friend, Sasuke! Konami (1998-04-16). Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (Nintendo 64). Konami.
- Koryuta: I remember going to the Dogo Hot Springs, just west at Iyo. Konami (1998-04-16). Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (Nintendo 64). Konami.
- Goemon: Who are you?! / Mystery man: Aha! / Mystery man: I'm the leader of the Peach Mountain Shoguns! / Mystery man: In the fresh spring breeze, sha, la, la, I come alive! La, la... / Mystery man: These beautiful visions appear before my eyes, la, la... / Mystery man: Yes! / Mystery man: I am... you know I am... the one they call...Spring Breeze Dancin'! Ebisumaru: What an intro... Konami (1998-04-16). Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (Nintendo 64). Konami.
- Lily: Kyu-shu- has already become our Stage, la, la... / Goemon: What did you say?! / Sharon: Hey, that's great! Does that mean I can return now? / Lily: Sure... / Lily: But before you go, I'm out of foundation... / Lily: Get the usual best for me! Okay? / Sharon: Uh... all right, but you always take forever to pay me back. Konami (1998-04-16). Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (Nintendo 64). Konami.
- Wise Man: Retrieve [Miracle Items] from the four Flake Gang leaders of Peach Mountain... / Wise Man: ... and take it to the altar of the Stone Circle in [Ugo], to the west... / Wise Man: Then you'll be able to go to outer space! / Goemon: Awesome... / Goemon: But Wise Man! How do you know?! / Wise Man: Ahem! That's because I'm... / Wise Man: The WISE MAN! Konami (1998-04-16). Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (Nintendo 64). Konami. (the witch also reveals that it was indeed Sasuke who had accidentally destroyed his home by accidentally dropping a firecracker bomb).
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