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What games do most people think of when they hear the name "Konami?" Castlevania? Metal Gear? Yu-Gi-Oh!? How about Ganbare Goemon? No? Well, you're not alone.Ganbare Goemon (known as Mystical Ninja in the West) is a long-running series of video games by Konami that began in 1986 with the release of Mr. Goemon for the arcade. The plots revolve around the chivalrous thief Goemon and his friends Ebisumaru, Sasuke, and Yae as they set out to defeat whatever zany villain is threatening Japan (or the universe) at the time. Surreal Humorensues.While Western gamers are largely unfamiliar with the series, it's actually one of Konami's biggest Cash Cow Franchises in Japan, having spawned a great number of games (including some manga, a few anime, and loads of merchandise) since its debut. But if the games are so popular, then why aren't more of them released in English?Cultural barriers, mostly. One of Ganbare Goemon's biggest draws - aside from the vibrant graphics, superb music, and great gameplay - is its bizarre brand of uniquely Japanese humor that makes translation difficult. Within you'll find many oddities such as time-traveling transvestite nuns, bunny-obssessed shoguns, and suicidal sportsmen. There's also a great deal of anachronistic elements (such as giant robots) that really have no place in Edo-period Japan. It's all so absurd that you'll just have to experience it for yourself.
Notable works in the franchise:
Mr. Goemon (1986, Arcade) is a side-scrolling action game that is only thematically related to the later series, as it features a completely different gameplay and an art style based on ukyo paintings.
Ganbare Goemon! Karakuri Dōchū (1986, FC) is the true game in the series, an attempt to create a 3D platformer on the NES by adopting an overhead view. It is notable for being the first 2 Megabit cartridge on the Famicom and the last game to feature old Konami logo. The MSX2 version released in 1987 features redesigned stages in order to better suit the hardware's lack of scrolling capability. A sequel was released titled Ganbare Goemon 2 (1989, FC), which added 2-player co-op and introduced Goemon's faithful sidekick, Ebisumaru.
Two spin-off traditional RPG surfaced: Ganbare Goemon Gaiden: Kieta Ōgun Kiseru (1990, FC) and Ganbare Goemon Gaiden 2: Tenka no Zaihō (1992, FC) . They are notable for using special double-sized cartridges, and for ditching the original gameplay in favour of a more elaborate story. Yae, and Kurobe (the ninja cat) are introduced here, with some cameos from Simon Belmont and Twinbee.
Then there were the Super Famicom games, which returned to the original's gameplay improving upon it to make themselves the epitome of the series.
Ganbare Goemon: Yuki-hime Kyūshutsu Emaki (1991, SFC) was the first one, and the only of the SNES offering to have a release overseas as Legend of the Mystical Ninja (1992, SNES).
There were three more Super Famicom offerings: the second had a case of Sequel Difficulty Drop, and the third was similar in many aspects to Zelda II, although with the best side-scrolling sections in the entire series. Both of them introduced Mode-7 mecha boss battles, after the castles' bosses. These starred the famous Goemon Impact. The fourth one is the one with the best level-design, graphics and situations, although it is Nintendo Hard.
Ganbare Goemon 3: Shishi Jūrokubē no Karakuri Manji-gatame (1994, SFC)
Ganbare Goemon Kirakira Dōchū - Boku ga Dancer ni Natta Wake (1995, SFC)
Kessakusen! Ganbare Goemon: Yuki-hime to Magginesu (2005, GBA): A port of the two first SFC games.
Another puzzler spin-off, with prerendered graphics, starring Ebisumaru, has been released as Soreyuke Ebisumaru: Karakuri Meiro (1996, SFC), with Fake Difficulty due to awful isometric perspective controls.
Meanwhile, a plethora of Game Boy games have been released. Only two of them got released oversas:
Ganbare Goemon: Sarawareta Ebisumaru (1991, GB): Released in Europe as part of Konami GB Collection Vol.3 as Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (2000, GBC). It is available worldwide on the 3DS eShop.
Ganbare Goemon: Kuro Fune-tō no Nazo (1997, GB): a mediocre Zelda clone released as Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (1998, GB) in the west.
Ganbare Goemon: Tengu-tō no Gyakushū (1999, GBC): an RPG like the Gaiden Famicom series.
Ganbare Goemon: Mononoke Dōchū - Tobidase Nabe Bugyō! (1999, GBC): Links with Mononoke Sugoroku. Tries to capitalize on the Pokémon success.
Ganbare Goemon: Seikūshi Dainamaittsu Arawaru!! (2000, GBC), the best Game Boy Color entry in the series: it plays like a port of Goemon 2 SFC.
The PlayStation opuses were not met with nearly as much success as the N64 games.
Ganbare Goemon: Uchū Kaizoku Akogingu (1996, PSX): a 2D sidescroller, inspired from Goemon 3 SFC. It ditches long-time PCs Yae and Sasuke for two Replacement Scrappy old men.
Ganbare Goemon: Kuru Nara Koi! Ayashige Ikka no Kuroi Kage (1998, PSX): a full 3D game. Hit the Polygon Ceiling pretty hard, and is widely considered the worst console Goemon game, save for its Goemon Impact sequences.
Ganbare Goemon: Ōedo Daikaiten (2001, PSX): where the series went back to its 2D roots, with a 2.5D sidescroller, inspired from (and bordering on ripping off) Goemon 2 SFC.
Goemon Shin Sedai Shūmei! (2001, PSX): A spinoff with a futuristic setting and a new cast, with a young spiky-haired Goemon. Fans didn't appreciate. It was ported (with many cuts) to the GBA as Goemon New Age Shutsudō! (2002, GBA).
The Nintendo 64 games, notable for being localized more accurately:
Ganbare Goemon: Neo Momoyama Bakufu no Odori (1997, N64), released overseas as Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (1998, N64). A full-3D platformer, yet more successful than its PSX counterpart.
Ganbare Goemon Derodero Dōchū Obake Tenko Mori (1998. N), Released in American as Goemon's Great Adventure, and in Europe as Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon 2 (1998, N64): a 2.5 sidescroller. A highlight of the series.
Goemon Mononoke Sugoroku (1999, N64): A Japan-only spin-off board game, with Mons elements. Links with Mononoke Dōchū.
Ganbare Goemon: Tōkai Dōchū - Ōedo Tengu-ri Kaeshi no Maki (2005, NDS): Marks the return of the series to its former glory, with a gameplay similar to the first N64 with better controls. Upon being linked to the GBA port of the two first SNES games, it unlocks various cameos from earlier games NPCs.
Attractive Bent-Gender: Inversion. In the end of the second Famicom game, Ebisumaru reveals that he is actually a beautiful young girl who was transformed into an ugly man by a jealous feudal lord. For some reason, he reverts back to his "ugly man" form in subsequent games.
Cherry Blossoms: Used for romantic symbolism in Kuru Nara Koi, when Dr. Yabu (revealed to be Mr. Ayashige) realizes he still loves his estranged wife and in the post-credits scene where Omitsu comes to forgive Goemon.
Chubby Chaser: A NPC girl in Tortoise island in ''Goemon's Great Adventure" will only give you a plot-relevant item if you talk to her as Ebisumaru because she finds his chubbiness attractive.
Continuing Is Painful: Continuing in Legend of the Mystical Ninja causes you to lose everything, including your money, power and max health (which you can't get back.) There are locations in town where you can write a logbook to save your progress and retain everything upon continuing, but if you die in the next town before getting to that place, you better be prepared to either start the previous level over again or give up everything to keep going.
Continuity Reboot: The first SFC game, which has Goemon and Ebisumaru meeting Yae for the first time (despite the fact that she already met them in Goemon Gaiden) and ignores the twist ending of Ganbare Goemon 2 where Ebisumaru is revealed to be a woman who was cursed into looking like an ugly man.
Disc One Final Dungeon: Ryukyu Castle in Legend of the Mystical Ninja is long and hard as hell, and ends with Goemon and Ebisumaru finally rescuing Princess Yuki...only to find out that you fell into a trap set by the villains and get thrown in jail, and have to break out to traverse the real final dungeon and rescue her a second time.
Discontinuity Nod: Tōkai Dōchū has a cameo by the "New Age" Goemon, who has been imprisoned for crimes against the franchise. The same title even has straw training dummies made in his likeness.
Actually, starting with Goemon 2 SFC, the townspeople would no longer harm Goemon in town, at least until he attacks someone, triggering an infinite swarm of furious cops, as a nod to previous Famicom-era games... Played straight however in a town set within Goemon 2 Final Castle (which may be justifiable), and whith te platforming sections.
Fembot: While Yae Impact exhibits the typical "sleek and feminine" style of most cited examples, Miss Impact simply looks like Goemon Impact wearing a wig and kimono.
Forced Level Grinding: Of sorts. Legend of the Mystical Ninja requires the player to buy a pass and a phrasebook at different points throughout the game, both of which are very expensive. If you don't have the money on hand already (which can easily happen if you Game Over in a new town before you reach the logbook, and don't feel like starting the previous level over again,) you either better be good at minigames or be ready to grind for money for a while.
Foreshadowing: In the Famicom version of Ganbare Goemon 2, Ebisumaru can only bathe in the ladies' section of the bathhouses.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: A fair amount. Because of Values Dissonance, many censors don't realize that there's anything that might be objectionable to Westerners. For example, the conspicuous genitalia of Tanukis are left intact.
Despite the game being somewhat censored on Western importation; the English version of Goemon's Great Adventure does contain the word, "damn."
Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: Legend of the Mystical Ninja has the Mountain Pass boss, a giant kabuki actor, who gets no explanation, and after his defeat Goemon and Ebisumaru simply continue on their way.
Mythology Gag : Early on the DS game, Goemon has to free the Wise Man from imprisonment by brainwashed village culltists. In one of the cells, Replacement Scrappy Neo Age Goemon (not depicted in the same Sumi-e art style as the rest of the NPCs) is held for copyright infringement.
The two Goemon games for the Famicom, and the first one on the SNES (the localized one) has a severe case of Everything Trying to Kill You, as all of the villagers, cops, fishermen (and the fish they're holding) trying to kill you. Starting with Goemon 2 SFC, this is no longer the case, but if you hit someone, you're likely to be raided by an infinite army of cops, in a nod to the earlier games. The DS game even summons more powerful cops every time you clear enough of them, some being end-game enemies. But the cops won't react if you attack a thief, or some grandmas/old men (who are much more dangerous then cops..)
In Goemon's Great Adventure there's a sidequest in the Tree Stump Village involving a girl that wants to get ride of the crow tengus infesting the Wonder Valley. She asks you if you are the exterminator she hired and then she correct herself saying that said exterminator mentioned something about wearing a leather jacket and sunglasses.
Polygon Ceiling: Averted with the two first localized N64 games (the third, Goemon: Mononoke Sugoroku, being a Japanese-only version of Culcept), but played horribly straight in the 3D PS1 and the Only PS2 outings. Futuristic Punk Kid Goemon, anyone? Rumours say it was the reason Sony would not allow these to be localized. The Only redeeming factors in those outings (infamous for a blue void as a background, and horrible game designs) are its FM Vs, or the Impact Battles pushing those systems to their limits.
Unwanted Rescue: From Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon - "The oh-so-beautiful song and dance of Dancin' and Lily... we won't be able to see them. Thanks to you! You little..."
Variable Mix: Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon and Goemon's Great Adventure are notable for having this, with the background music in "castle" areas becoming more fleshed out as the player progresses. Not to mention Great Adventure having the music change in field stages as evening rolls in and vice versa.
Video Game Cruelty Punishment: A swarm of angry guards will appear if you harm innocent civilians. They can be defeated in one hit, but will continue to appear until you either die or leave the area. In earlier games, attacking the roving "bonus characters" (which included Omitsu and Princess Yuki) would result in a monetary penalty.
What the Hell, Player?: In Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon, after rescuing the Lord in the Transformed Oedo Castle, he asks you to investigate the Peach Mountain Shoguns, the main antagonists. You have the option of accepting or refusing the call. If you say "no", the Lord will comment on how he can't believe a hero like you would refuse his request followed by the Laugh Track. If you keep refusing, the Lord will keep repeating the same line, but the Laugh Track will be replaced with disapproving groans.
Yagyu Jubei: Appears in Sarawareta Ebisumaru as "Yagi Jubei"; Yae's older sister Hitoe may be modeled after him.
Adaptation Distillation: The games are already light on plot, so trimming the fat allowed Obi to expand upon some characters' roles - such as Omitsu in Legend of the Mystical Ninja and Impact in Ganbare Goemon 4 - and generally making things more interesting.
Bring My Brown Pants: In Legend of the Mystical Ninja, Goemon wets himself when he mistakes a food-engorged Ebisumaru for a monster.
Comic Book Adaptation: There have been a number of gag manga produced over the years, but Hiroshi Obi is by far the most well-known for having made an entire series based on the "major" games (along with two original stories).
Derailing Love Interests: Despite being initially described as Goemon's sweetheart, Omitsu quickly underwent Flanderization into an abusive and selfish harpy of a woman, making readers wonder why Goemon continued to keep her around long after it was made obvious that he preferred Yae.
Fourth Wall Mail Slot: A recurring segment in Ganbare Goemon Fever had Goemon and Ebisumaru "modify" Sasuke based on schematics sent from readers.
Indirect Kiss: Invoked in Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon. Ebisumaru states that he had his lips on Koryuta's Flute after Yae did, making it an indirect kiss. Goemon then assumes that kissing Ebisumaru would be like doing the same to Yae, and does so out of desperation.
Lust Object: Yae is Goemon's, though there's some hints of romantic attraction here and there.
Nosebleed: Described as happening but never actually shown in the games for some reason. The manga naturally has more than enough to make up for it.
Ret Canon: From the manga to the games, there's Yae's bazooka (Legend of the Mystical Ninja) and Ebisumaru Impact (Kiteretsu Shougun Magginesu). The concept of Obisumaru may have resulted from a panel in Legend of the Mystical Ninja in which Hiroshi Obi cosplays as Ebisumaru.
A Day in the Limelight: Chikyū Kyūshutsu Sakusen is a rare occasion in which Omitsu takes an active role in the plot instead of being a cheerleader or kidnapping victim. Nico Nico Douga commenter reactions were a mixture of confusion and annoyance.
Emotion Eater: The "Rage Gauge" in Anime is powered by negative emotions, which will allow Makuamuuge to enter the real world when enough is collected.
Accidental Misnaming: Spring Breeze Dancin' in Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon immediately gives Goemon and Ebisumaru the nicknames of "Fernandez" and "Antonio," respectively. In the manga, Sasuke recieves the less-dignified nickname of "Boingy."
I Have You Now, My Pretty: Happens a few times to Omitsu, particularly in Kuru Nara Koi where the entire plot revolves around the spoiled son of the wealthy Ayashige family attempting to force her into marriage. (Said son is only a child...)
Implied Love Interest: Konami hasn't revealed the true nature of Goemon and Omitsu's relationship, but they're obviously very close. This is possibly for the best, considering how popular it is to pair off Goemon with someone who isn't Omitsu - making them explicitly an Official Couple would definitely piss off a lot of shippers.
Improbable Weapon User: Goemon's trademark weapon is a kiseru, a type of Japanese smoking pipe. Ebisumaru's arsenal varies from game to game, but he has had a few unusual weapons as well, including flutes, megaphones and paper fans.
Kabuki Sounds: The series is generously peppered with all manner of Kabuki influences, such as Goemon's kumadori face paint and tendency to make mie poses.
No Communities Were Harmed: The series uses the names of the old provinces of Japan, but the locations therein are entirely fictional.
No Name Given: The majority of characters are only referred to by their first names, save for most villains. The few exceptions - Ishikawa Goemon, Ikeda Omitsu, and Momochi Monoshirinosuke - are never mentioned again after they're revealed.
Also, the post-game phone conversation in Goemon's Great Adventure has a branch leading to Yae lamenting about how she didn't know that Goemon and Omitsu were together, and she even admits that it's too late to do anything about it.
Probably a reference to the fact that the Goemon/Omitsu couple was there before Yae came into existence, meaning it was too late for the creators to get them together even if they wanted to.
Goemon had nightmares in the manga to make it clear that any romantic feelings he had for Omitsu were eliminated by the time Kiteretsu Shougun Magginesu occured, perhaps even earlier if one takes the bonus chapter of Uchū Kaizoku Akogingu into account. There's another in Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon in which Omitsu guilt-trips him for treating her disappearance with apathy (even whipping out the manga itself as proof when he denies it). Ironically, the real Omitsu thanks Goemon for his concern when they meet again later on.
Takarazuka: The Peach Mountain Shoguns from Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon are a nod to this. The four Miracle Items are based on four of the five troupes - the last referencing their outer space origins. Also, the henchmen are modeled after otokoyaku, making them men dressed as women who dress as men but still behave in an effeminate manner. Try wrapping your brain around that one!
Vague Age: Everyone except for Wise Man (98 years old as of Ganbare Goemon 4) and General Magginesu (39 years old).
Verbal Tic: A lot of characters have them, mostly villains. The Four Tsujigiri even have different verbal tics between the games and anime.