Monday 7 September 2015

Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode (NES review)

Developer: Vic Tokai, Seibu Lease
Publisher: Vic Tokai
Released: 1988

Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode is an action / spy game based on a popular Japanese manga series.

You play as Duke Togo and your mission is to investigate a helicopter wreckage and track down a stolen CIA vaccine. To attack you can either use your flying kicks or fire your gun. The gameplay is varied with the majority of the action taking place in side scrolling stages that are reminiscent of Rolling Thunder (1986, Arcades). However, your character can't shoot while crouching (even though bad guys can) meaning your pistol is useless in most situations as your shots fly straight over their heads. Jumping is also difficult as there's a slight delay with the game reacting to your button presses. The helicopter shoot-em-up stages lack any excitement or action as you only need to blow up the occasional plane. In the underwater swimming areas you dodge and shoot bad guys and the controls are much better than the infamous stage in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989, NES). The 3D maze areas are done in first-person mode as you move through corridors and blow up walls in an attempt to find the exit. Technically it works well but it's easy to get lost or find yourself falling down a trapdoor and having to work your way back up. The maze is Rio is particularly annoying as it's almost impossible to beat without a walkthrough. The light-gun style stages are the most fun where you're given a set number of enemy vehicles to destroy in order to advance. Overall the music is awful with repetitive bass tones and the graphics lack detail, especially in the character sprites and animation. There is a complex and intriguing story though and it's really the only reason to keep playing until the credits roll.

Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode is a frustrating experience, mainly because if it had tighter controls it could have been one of the top-tier games on the NES. The variety is a great idea but unfortunately the gameplay is so awkward that seeing it through to the end is a real test of patience.

Random trivia: Despite Nintendo's strict censorship policy on the NES a number of adult themed references made it into the game including sexual innuendos, smoking and even swastika symbols!

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