Mr Gimmick review
It came out in Japan and Europe, seemingly both including special chipsets for enhanced music. The game was also planned for an American release, to the point where it got a prototype that was pretty much ready for release. It had a few minor changes, specifically to the music so that it could play it without needed special chips in the cartridge.
The prototype was eventually found, and the folks at retrousb.com went and made a reproduction cart for all to play. So is it as good as people have said? Read on and see!
Date of Release: sometime in 1993 in Europe, sometime in 2011 from Retrousb.com
Genre: Side-scrolling Platformer
This is one of those games that pushes the NES to its limit. Frankly, some parts just blow my mind presentation-wise, and it was sort of developed thinking about things they could do for the lulz. Those of things were made just because they could. The water in the second level is a prime example, it’s animated just like real water. An underwater screen where you’re in a cool-looking tube with fishes swimming around it? It’s completely pointless, just a transition screen with nothing to do in it, but why not? Again in the second level, you could go up on the boat, or you could go to the other screen on the right to see seagulls flying in the background. Each level has small moments like this which are there just for fun, and frankly that’s pretty cool. The developers really just had fun with the NES’ hardware and did a lot of cool stuff with it visually. You know what’s crazy though? All this stuff going on in every single screen of the game, and there’s never any slowdown.
As for the actual style, it’s fun. Super colorful, cartoony graphics, very nice and soothing. You play as a green dinosaur plush toy, the titular Mr Gimmick, on your way to save a little girl who was kidnapped by her other plush toys and brought to a fantasy land. They kidnapped her because they were jealous of Gimmick. It’s completely random and fun and just the overall crazyness you’d expect from a retro video game, and IT’S A TRAP… but I’ll talk about that later.
The music is great. It’s not annoying so that’s a great plus since, and it’s actually very well composed and fun to listen to. The sound effects are nicely done and a good indicator of what’s going on in-game.
If you thought I meant the game took full advantage of the NES’ capabilities just because of the graphics, you’d be wrong. The gameplay is fairly basic side-scrolling platformer stuff. Run and jump, attack enemies, deal with various obstacles. It’s what the NES was best at. But there’s some quirks.
Gimmick attacks by summoning a star from his horn. You can hold that star there as long as you want. When you let go of the attack button, the star is sent downwards and bounces around until it loses all its momentum, and, after a second of not moving, it disappears. This is where it gets interesting. You see, the star is actually controlled by a physics engine! Not something you’ll here often from the NES, right? Yeah, depending on what you’re doing when you shoot the star, the way it bounces changes, as it does if you make it bounce off slopes, or if it’s sliding down or up on a slope. There’s actual working physics determining the star’s movement at all times, and it’s all very well-done and rather surprising. Alternative modes of attack require picking up items like bombs and… pink balls? Or something? … Pressing up and holding the attack button makes you use those weapons. You can hold up to 3 items, and you switch between them by pressing down on the d-pad.
On the platforming side of things, the star is actually a very useful tool. Shooting a star against a wall and jumping on it (this is kinda hard to do, BTW) can enable you to access hard-to-reach areas, or to skip over certain areas. Those physics that affect the star also affect Gimmick, which is mighty useful during platforming. Some jumps are super incredibly long, and the only way to do them is to slide down a slope to pick up speed and find the right timing to jump. The physics can work against you though, as not reacting properly to being on a slope can mean falling to your doom.
On the enemy side of things, they’re actually pretty fascinating. The enemies actually have AI. Usually NES enemies are just obstacles with set patterns, but here enemies will actually try to kill you. They’ll attempt to follow you around, trick you into getting hit, and they actually have to deal with the same obstacles and physics you do. Yes they have patterns, but they’ll actually change their behavior depending on what you’re doing… At times it’s pretty crafty.
Holy crap this game is hard. Don’t let the super happy graphics fool you, this game WILL kick your ass. A lot. Part of the difficulty comes from dealing with an unconventional weapon and crazy physics, but there’s a bit more to it, what with the enemy AI being a bitch and the bosses being insane and the level design being super crafty. Oh, the first boss won’t give you any challenge, but afterwards? Figuring out how to even hit them is pretty challenging, and figuring out how to trick them to be able to hit them some more is even worse.
But that’s not all! The game features multiple endings! To get the good ending, you have to find a special item in every level (some require crazy jumps, tough obstacle courses, or having a certain item available). But that’s not all! You must get all the items and beat the final boss with only one continue. Lose a continue? Start the whole game over! Missed an item? Start the whole game over! And then you actually get an extra level and another final boss to beat. Dang
Such a great game. It’s quite a shame it never received an American release, it surely would be remembered as one of the best NES classics.
Graphically it pushes the NES to its limits more than anything else, it does really cool things in regards to gameplay what with the physics and AI, and it’s just crazy fun to play and super challenging. Definitely a must-play. Check it out at retrousb.com
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