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Video Game / Popeye

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Popeye is an Arcade Game from 1982 by Shigeru Miyamoto and Genyo Takeda based on the namesake character. It was later ported to several consoles and computers. It is one of the few Licensed Games to have been made by Nintendo.

You play Popeye, trying to collect hearts, musical notes, or letters of the word "HELP" from Olive Oyl, who walks back and forth at the top of the screen and sends them floating down. Each of the three levels has four platforms, broken in places and connected by stairs or ladders. If a heart/note/letter reaches the bottom of the screen, it lands in water, and you have a limited time to get it before you lose a life. Collect them all and you advance to the next level. Unusually for a platform game, Popeye cannot jump, except in one corner of level 2, where Wimpy is standing on a seesaw.

Standing in your way are Bluto/Brutus (called Brutus here), the Sea Hag, and on level 3, her vulture Bernard. Brutus chases you around, trying to kill you with Collision Damage, and throws bottles at you. He can jump both up and down through platforms. The Sea Hag appears on the sides of the screen when you pick up something from Olive, and throws bottles at you. Once the game starts repeating, on level 1 and level 2 she also stands at the top of the screen throwing skulls. The vulture on level 3 has carried Olive to the top of a pirate ship's mast; hence the "HELP" letters. It flies across the screen swooping up and down. You can punch bottles, skulls, and the vulture.

Spinach is available once per level on the side of the screen, but it keeps teleporting to different platforms. This is the only way to deal with Brutus.

There is some interesting history here, in that a Popeye game is what Nintendo wanted to make when they made Donkey Kong. They couldn't get the license, so Miyamoto came up with a love triangle that mirrored the Popeye universe. The three characters became Mario, Donkey Kong, and Pauline. After Donkey Kong, they got the license, and did this. Popeye was designed by Miyamoto, and his style is easy to recognize here.

Assets from the Nintendo Entertainment System version were recycled for Popeye no Eigo Asobi, an Edutainment Game for teaching English to Japanese children.

Lesser known Popeye video games include; the Technos title Popeye: Ijiwaru Majo Seahag no Maki, which translates to Popeye: The Tale of the Sea Hag, only released in Japan for the Super Famicom; a Game Boy title by Sigma Enterprises released only in Japan followed by a sequel which saw worldwide release; and Popeye: Rush For Spinach by Namco for the Game Boy Advance, released in the US and Europe. Tropes below do not apply to any of these titles.

Popeye provides examples of:

  • Adapted Out: Wimpy isn't on the seesaw in the NES port, so it appears that you're being launched by thin air.
  • Airborne Mook: Bernard the vulture is the only flying character in the game, and Popeye can take him down with one punch without the benefit of spinach.
  • Ambidextrous Sprite: Popeye. Not really noticeable, until you start wondering which side of his mouth is holding his pipe...
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore:
    • The Japanese and EU arcade flyers features Popeye happily winking at the viewer while holding a can of his trademark spinach. The American flyer features an angry-looking Popeye in the middle of throwing a punch.
    • Oddly inverted for the NES port: the Japanese and European box art have Popeye slugging Brutus in the face, while the US one has him reuniting with Olive.
  • Attract Mode: Leaving the arcade or NES versions alone causes them to show some sample gameplay, though their play is unskillful even for an attract mode.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Chasing down Brutus when you are spinach-charged is a waste of time. The tokens' fall is halted during the spinach phase, and you're better off using the time collecting them while your enemies avoid you.
    • Plus, Brutus is back in two seconds anyway: aside from negligible bonus points, all punching him really does is moves him down to the lowest tier.
    • Note that this echoes a similar dilemma in Pac-Man: do you use your powerup time to get revenge, or do you use it to clear the stage while the enemy is off your back?
  • Collision Damage: Getting too close to Brutus causes Popeye to fall. The Atari 5200 version also includes collision from Popeye punching Brutus, as that playform seems to use sprite overlap.
  • Brutus is a Cheating Bastard: Maybe not technically cheating, but Brutus certainly isn't playing fair by the rules of most platforming video game villains (see next entry).
  • Combat Pragmatist: Brutus is a relentless foe. You aren't safe when you are on different levels: he'll do dirty little tricks like jump down levels, swat at the level below him, and punch upward the level above him.
  • Cutscene: Such as they were in the 1980s. There are three: a character introduction when the game starts, Olive being carried onto the Sea Hag's ship by Bernard at the start of level 3 ... and, if you allow one of Olive's thrown items to sink off the bottom of the screen, an extended death sequence of Olive reading Popeye the riot act.
  • Determinator: Brutus will always return from getting knocked out.
  • Doo-Wop Progression: The main gameplay theme does this.
  • Endless Game: It gets harder after the first round, that's about it.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Within Nintendo's oeuvre, Popeye is unusual for being a Licensed Game rather than an original property.
  • Every 10,000 Points: Or rather, 40,000 points, an extra Popeye.
  • Floating Platforms: A sliding platform runs across the highest deck on level 3; it also moves on its own, sometimes just as Popeye is about to step on it.
  • Game Levels: Three: the street Popeye and Olive live on, another city street with a teeter-totter on it, and the Sea Hag's ship.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Brutus could throw beer bottles at you (up to four at a time), and the Sea Hag could also throw wine bottles at you (she'd appear on both ends of the level you were on); you had to punch them out of the air before they hit you.
  • Ground Punch: Brutus shakes the screen when he falls.
  • Invincibility Power-Up: Spinach. Popeye flushes red, his theme music plays, and Brutus runs like a scared little bunny rabbit. Anything that tries to hurt Popeye is destroyed and you earn double points ... for a couple of seconds.
  • Kidnapping Bird of Prey: Every third stage, Olive gets kidnapped by Bernard, and Popeye needs to collect letters that spell "HELP" to build a ladder to rescue her.
  • Level Goal: Collect everything Olive Oyl throws.
  • Musical Gameplay: The music changes when something from Olive is sitting in the water, and Popeye's theme plays when you eat the spinach.
  • Music Is Eighth Notes: Variation: the second level has Popeye collecting sixteenth notes from Olive Oyl.
  • No-Sell: Brutus is not harmed by punches unless Popeye ate spinach. Consequently, it means Brutus is not going to be slowed down if he's approaching, leading to collision damage.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Touching anything hostile without being juiced on spinach knocks Popeye out instantly.
  • Painfully Slow Projectile: The bottles thrown by Brutus and the Sea Hag. You still need to time your punches carefully, but it's at least possible to do so.
  • Platform Game: Popeye can't jump up whenever he wants, but he can jump off platforms onto lower ones, get catapulted up with Wimpy's help, and ride a moving platform in level 3.
  • Power Up Letdown: The spinach ultimately just gets Brutus off of your back for a few moments once per level. Skilled players may value the spinach primarily as a score multiplier.
  • Power Up Motif: Cans of spinach! What else would power up Popeye?
  • Respawning Enemies: Brutus and the vulture, almost immediately.
  • Ring Out: Touch Brutus while under the effect of spinach and you'll slam him so hard he bounces off the side of the stage and falls into the water at the bottom!
  • Rube Goldberg Device: The first level features a simple trap: A punching bag sits at the top level; when punched from the right-hand side, the bag will fly toward a bucket, which immediate drops on contact, hopefully on Brutus' head.
  • Scoring Points: Even a novice player can run through the game's story just by beating all three levels, so score is the only way to measure skill.
  • Side View: The game's environments are shown as cutaways.
  • Songs in the Key of Panic: The music immediately shifts from upbeat to distressful should anything Olive drops reach the water at the bottom of the stage.
  • Spring Jump: A seesaw on level 2 with Wimpy standing on it.
  • Timed Power-Up: The spinach lasts for a limited time.
  • Time Stands Still: While it lasts, the spinach also stops everything Olive drops and doubles their point value. On level 2, it also doubles the 500-point prize for reaching Swee'Pea.
  • The Unfought: The Sea Hag, for obvious reasons. All bets are off with her pet vulture Bernard, though.
  • Video-Game Lives: One life is lost when Popeye is hit, allows one of Olive's tokens to sink offscreen, or runs out of time.
  • Wrap Around: One platform each on levels 1 and 2 allow this, marked by a "THRU" sign.