Video Game: Ganbare Goemon
aka: Mystical Ninja
What games do most people think of when they hear the name "Konami
? Metal Gear
? 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 Humor ensues
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:Video Games:
Hiroshi Obi's Manga:
- 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 2: Kiteretsu Shōgun Magginesu (1993, SFC)
- 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.
- Other Japan-only Game Boy titles are:
- 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.
- Bōken Jidai Katsugeki Goemon (2000, PS2): A slightly Darker and Edgier attempt at reimagining the series, with a kid Goemon with a pet white tiger, and a more serious tone. Has cameos from long-time PCs Yae, Sasuke, and Ebisamaru. Has a complete unreleased english localization by Working Designs.
- 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.
- Pachislot Ganbare Goemon (2009, Arcade)
- Ganbare Goemon: Yuki-hime Kyūshutsu Emaki (1991): 3 volumes.
- Ganbare Goemon Gaiden: Kieta Ōgun Kiseru + Ganbare Goemon Gaiden 2: Tenka no Zaihō (1992): 4 volumes.
- Shin Ganbare Goemon: Jigoku-hen (1993): 2 volumes.
- Ganbare Goemon 2: Kiteretsu Shōgun Magginesu (1993): 2 volumes.
- Ganbare Goemon 3: Shishi Jūrokubē no Karakuri Manji-gatame (1994): 3 volumes.
- Ganbare Goemon 4: Kirakira Dōchū - Boku ga Dancer ni Natta Wake: (1995) 3 volumes, includes a side chapter based on Soreyuke Ebisumaru.
- Ganbare Goemon: Uchū Kaizoku Akogingu (1996-1997): 1 volume.
- Ganbare Goemon Fever (1997): 1 volume.
- Ganbare Goemon: Neo Momoyama Bakufu no Odori (1997): 3 volumes, includes a side chapter based on Kuro Fune-tō no Nazo.
- Ganbare Goemon: Jigen-jō no Akumu (1991, OVA)
- Anime Ganbare Goemon (1997-1998, TV): 23 episodes.
- Legend of the Mystical Ninja (2003, VHS/DVD): Released by ADV Films.
- Ganbare Goemon: Chikyū Kyūshutsu Sakusen (1998, OVA)
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- Achilles' Heel: Parodied in the first N64 game.
- All There in the Manual: How else could we learn about how Yae enjoys making sweet bean donuts and croissants?
- American Kirby Is Hardcore: When the first SNES game in the series, Ganbare Goemon: Yukihime Kyuushutsu Emaki◊ got translated and brought over to America as Legend of the Mystical Ninja◊, it's boxart got redesigned to suit the more 'American Style'.
- And Your Reward Is Clothes: In Goemon's Great Adventure and Tōkai Dōchū.
- 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.
- Boss Subtitles: Used in the later games.
- Bowdlerise: References to Wise Man's perversions were censored in Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon and Goemon's Great Adventure, such as pornographic books being changed to car magazines.
- Canis Major: Dochuki's true form is a gigantic, horned wolf demon.
- Cel Shading: Tōkai Dōchū
- 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.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: One-shot characters make up a large number of the series' massive cast. The lucky ones are allowed to make a cameo appearance or two.
- 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.
- Dungeon Town: Every single town (at least until future games stopped trying to invoke Everything Is Trying to Kill You.)
- Everything Trying to Kill You: EVERYTHING.
- 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.
- Heart Container: The gold and silver Maneki Neko dolls.
- Historical-Domain Character: Ishikawa Goemon
- In-Universe Game Clock: Featured in a few games - tougher monsters appear at night, and some side quests are available only at certain times of day.
- It Can't Be Helped: The party's reaction to Goemon being forced into doing a certain sidequest in Goemon's Great Adventure, but only if you're playing with a friend.
- Konami Code: One NPC in Legend of the Mystical Ninja explicitly tells you that nothing will happen if you input it.
- Laugh Track: Used in both Ganbare Goemon 3 and Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon.
- Level Goal: The tanuki statues, which break open to reveal a cache of coins or an entry pass.
- Miyamoto Musashi: One of the bosses in the "New Age" games, except as a girl.
- 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..)
- Nintendo Hard: Legend of the Mystical Ninja is certainly hard, but much of its difficulty comes from how unrelenting the game is, with the player not even able to take a break in towns due to Everything Trying To Kill You (as well as the fact that Continuing Is Painful.)
- No Swastikas: The star blocks in Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon and Goemon's Great Adventure were originally adorned with manji marks.
- One-Winged Angel: Interestingly, Dochuki is the only villain to have done this in the series' 23-year run.
- Technically, Kabuki did it as well.
- Shout-Out: The obligatory references to other Konami games. Simon Belmont was even a Guest Star Party Member in Ganbare Goemon Gaiden 2.
- 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.
- Skip of Innocence: Ebisumaru is a Rare Male Example. Some games (The Super Famicom ones mainly) have him skipping as a walking animation.
- Stalked by the Bell
- Unexpected Shmup Level: Uchū Kaizoku Akogingu
- 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.
- Villain Song: Three words: Gorgeous My Stage.
- 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.
- All Men Are Perverts: It's to be expected when Hiroshi Obi also produces Ecchi and Hentai...
- 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.
- Love Chart: Ganbare Goemon 3 has one.
- 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.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: The fate of anyone who witnesses Ebisumaru's "Heroine Technique." Its first usage triggers a Vomit Chain Reaction from friend and foe alike!
- The Anime of the Game: One television series and two OVAs.
- 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.
- Green Aesop: The entirety of Chikyū Kyūshutsu Sakusen.
- Happily Married: Yōko and Junichirō Ishikawa (Tsukasa's parents).
- Love Hurts: Protein falls for an oblivious Sasuke, but they're on opposite sides of the conflict. Later, the same happens to Dr. Mudanashi with Tsukasa's mother.
- Power-Up Food: Omitsu's ohagi in the TV anime only works for Goemon if it's made by her, thanks to The Power of Love.
- Real World Episode: Goemon and company have the ability to freely go back and forth from the game world to the real world in Anime.
- Rich Bastard: Noboru Mejirodai in Anime.
- You Have Failed Me: In Anime, Makuamuuge tires of Seppukumaru's constant screw-ups and sends him down a Trap Door to make way for newcomers Dr. Mudanashi and Mr. Protein.