We love quasi-regular features!
This month's(?) Random Nintendo Game is a weird little gem called Little Samson. This game, published by Taito in 1992, follows the adventures of a young man (maybe he's just a boy?) and three other random warrior characters as they try to save a kingdom from some dark prince. The story really is that generic.
Here's how the game starts: A king sends out four identical soldiers. A green wizard shows up and blasts them. Then, the king sends out four...birds, I'm guessing. Next thing you know, you're choosing between a human, a dragon, a golem, and a mouse. (You will eventually play as them all) What I've put together is that the birds were apparently sent out to gather these four warriors, and the first level is you taking each of these guys and getting them to the castle, because at the end of each stage you meet another identical soldier (They all look so much alike in this kingdom. It's creepy), and in subsequent levels you can choose between all four characters.
This is a basic MegaMan-style action scroller, control-wise. What makes it interesting is that each character is so different. You have Little Samson, who can jump better than the other characters and shoots what appear to be jingle bells pretty quickly, but they're not terribly strong. He can also climb on walls and ceilings, which comes in handy. Your dragon character can fly for short periods of time and shoot fireballs that curve upward slightly. The fireballs are also chargeable for more damage. Your golem is really big and slow and he can't jump far, but he doesn't take as much damage (invulnerable to spikes? Unheard of!) and his stretcho-fist attack (kind of a cross between Reed Richards and Johnny Storm) is mighty! Mighty, I say! And then there's a mouse who, as you would expect, is really useful for getting through very tight spaces. And is otherwise pretty useless.
The introductory levels are pretty much designed to get you used to using all four characters and identifying their strengths and weaknesses. It doesn't matter what order you go in. When everybody gets to the castle, a Sputnik-looking orb shows up to beam your heroes to another location. First the mouse goes into the ship, then the golem, and then...wait, what's this? Uh-oh, the dragon doesn't wanna go! And now you have to fight it! But why? Well, you never really find out why, because there's no dialogue in this game. Nevertheless, once you beat the snot out of the dragon (it's actually not very hard; just stand directly in front of it and wail away), it's like everything is instantly forgiven, and the dragon and Samson both get on the ship.
Now, the gameplay is pretty simple because, for the most part, it's so familiar. I mean, how many games featured run, jump, shoot, climb, fight bosses? But let's face it: we didn't love NES games for their complexity. The levels here aren't redundant though they're not terribly original. The enemies in this game are bizarre. There are these bulbous greenish things that shoot bubbles and turn into miniature versions of themselves if you don't shoot them fast enough. There are also big thingies that climb on ceilings and shoot downward at you from their backs, I guess. Look, I know all NES enemies are strange, but these guys really take the cake. Then again, you're saving the world with a guy, a dragon, and golem, and a bomb-laying mouse. (Did I mention the mouse has bombs? No? Well guess what. The mouse has bombs)
So, you finish this second level and face your first boss. Who, surprisingly, is the green wizard from the intro. I assumed that guy was the last boss. He's not, he's the first boss. And you kill him, and you get all excited, and then he turns into a cyclops and wails upon you, because you totally weren't expecting that! Then you calm down and do it again, and eventually you move on. Also nice: this game gives you passwords, so you can come back and just pick up where you left off.
I probably will, too. Cuz this game is sorta fun. There are skulls and aliens and flowers that shoot feathers and monster bubbles and kamikazee Zelda II skeleton ripoffs. But in the end, it's a fun new twist on a formula that worked. I don't know what the heck is going on. But I'm okay with that. Reminds me of work sometimes.