Category Archives: Goemonth

Super Smash Step-Brothers: Goemon

Welcome to Super Smash Step-Brothers, Goemonth edition. Today we will be discussing the history, opportunities, and skills of the pipe-wielding Mystical Ninja, Goemon. So enough with the introductions, let us begin!


Goemon is a cartoony rendition of the legendary thief of feudal Japan, Goemon Ishkawa, who premiered in Konami’s arcade game Mr.Goemon. From there, he would develop into his own persona (more like the picture above), as well as his own wacky rendition of ancient Japan. Goemon became well-known in Japan, and was a gaming icon, on par with Mario or Megaman back in the early days of the Famicom and Super Famicom. While his history is known little here in the states, you can read up on some of his gaming history here, as well as in the previous post of Big in Japan: Ganbare Goemon.

As a character, Goemon has seen more change in his portrayal than any of his peers from the early days of gaming. His early depictions were based heavily on the legend and artwork of the period he was from. As more games were made, however, he changed from a common thief, to a more kind-hearted thief, to a misunderstood hero. His appearance changed from a traditional Japanese-style painting, to something a little more Famicom friendly, to eventually the happy, blue-haired punk that would stick with him during the height of his success.

His appearance wasn’t the only thing that changed. Similar to Mario, Goemon was a jack-of-all-trades, being in adventure beat ’em ups, platformers, adventure puzzle-games, turn-based rpgs, and other various game styles. Unlike Mario, most of these are part of his core series, and significant to his development. Even among his American releases, he has dabbled in roleplaying action, and side-scrolling platforming.

As he developed into the misunderstood hero of Edo, Goemon’s demeanor changed. Although not completely above stealing occasionally, he sought out those that wanted to do harm to his home and country — although most of the time his work went unappreciated by the masses. The best illustration of this being in Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon. In this game, Edo Castle is changed into a theater and sound-stage for the villains to sing, dance, and do with as they please. Princess Yuki implores Goemon to undo the spell on the castle. Goemon gathers his crew and sets out to do just that, only for the people of Edo to turn on him because they were enjoying the villain’s shows.

This also illustrates the kind of mood the games had going for them. The Goemon games never took themselves terribly seriously, and the more mad something could be, the more likely it was to be included. The American releases were full of puns and pop-culture references — things that were likely common in the original language as well. Goemon even had his own giant robot he could summon via a conch-shell, which would then progress into Power Ranger’s style Megazord battles. The series tried hard to keep one hand on the controller, and the other on the player’s funny-bone .

This, in and of itself, is the primary reason Goemon would be a perfect addition to the Smash Brothers roster. Super Smash Brothers has never been a series that took it’s ideas seriously — in a game where a giant monkey fights a bald man with a bunch of plant creature pets who fights a anthropomorphic wolf who fights a swash-bulking army general, it’s hard to argue realism to any degree. Goemon fits this by having a great sense of humor, as well as a crazy setting and cast of supporting characters to include.

Moving to Goemon himself, it could be argued that he does not present much in terms of possible abilities. Despite having more diverse library than most, he actually manages to make do most of the time with his trusty pipe, which he uses to bash enemies upside their heads. However, he also does have the chain pipe — originally an upgraded version of the pipe, it was modified in later games to allow him to latch onto star blocks. He also has an alternate form that changes his hair gold and skin red. While in this form, Goemon deals twice as much damage, but also takes damage faster as well. Another odd ability for Goemon is the ability to throw Ryo, or gold currency at his enemies. This can be charged into a flaming version for greater effect. Lastly, of course there’s the ability to use his conch-shell to summon Impact, which would likely be reserved for Final Smash status. While this doesn’t totally spell out his moveset right away, it’s far more likely a designer would appreciate the ability to fill in gaps, rather than trying to cram as much as they could into a single character.

But that brings us to some of the dissenting arguments against Goemon, which are actually not as difficult as some of the others we’ve seen previously. An argument that could be raised is that Goemon’s international fame is not very high; however, that point is moot since Marth, Roy, and Lucas all made it into previous Smash Brothers games without having even released in America at the time. It could also be argued that he is simply too Japanese to fit in with the rest of the cast; however, I would argue that for a Japanese game made by Japanese staff for a Japanese company, the lack of traditional Japanese style characters and stages is mind boggling. I’m sure, if not the players, the programmers and designers would find the influence that Goemon brings a pleasant change of pace.

However, there is one reasonable argument to be had against Goemon, and unfortunately it’s one we’ve covered at least once before. Goemon is property of Konami, the same company that owns Solid Snake. The reason Snake was included in Brawl was because Hideo Kojima specifically requested it, so it’s unknown if this was a deal cut exclusively with Kojima or with Konami as a whole. This puts Goemon in a similar boat as Knuckles or Bayonetta however, in that we still don’t know how many characters per company will make an appearance. If Snake returns, Goemon has a chance as a dark horse secondary representative, but little else. Without Snake or Konami rejoining the fray, Goemon’s chances look bleak.

It also isn’t helping that Goemon has not been particularly busy in the past decade. His last console title launched in 2005, and while he still lives on in slot machines, it’s hardly a triumphant return. Goemon has all but been put out to pasture with the Metal Gear series becoming Konami’s forefront series, and most likely entry to any crossover ideas that cross their desk.

Of the characters I’ve covered so far, however, this is the first that I am reluctantly optimistic on. However, unless there is some piece of information that really changes the field, Goemon’s chances still meander in the ‘unlikely’ territory.

Probability Forecast: Unreasonable

Goemon’s chances aren’t bad if the game includes more classic gaming characters, or if Snake is shelved as a Konami representative. His chances weaken severely, however, if this isn’t the case. Still, I would be willing to put the cost of a 3DS against his inclusion, since he has not been relevant to Konami and video games in general for sometime.

Agree? Disagree? Have more SSSB suggestions? post them in the comments below.

Further Reading:

theNightbizzle’s Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon intro

Enigmaopoeia’s Hyadain – Ganbare Goemon, Goemon – English subtitles

Goemon International’s Ganbare Goemon Pachislot Trailer 1


Goe-fact: Goemon against Sega?

Did you know?  Goemon is one of several franchises that never appeared on the Sega Genesis, or any other Sega system for that matter.  He has, however, appeared on the Xbox 360 with a re-release of Mr.Goemon in a Konami collection on Xbox Live.

Considering Goemon’s hey-day was in and around the Sega Master System/Genesis era, its unclear as to why.  Konami did not appear to have any exclusivity deals with Nintendo, as they did make Genesis games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Hyperstone Heist, Tiny Toon Adventures:ACME All-Stars, and Rocket Knight Adventures.  However, it may be that Konami preferred development and publishing on the Super Nintendo.  While the original Rocket Knight was exclusive to the Genesis, Rocket Knight 2 was eventually ported to the Super Nintendo, under the name Sparkster.


Goemon isn’t alone in this distinction.  For instance, the Megaman franchise remained almost exclusively on the Nintendo and Super Nintendo, save one instance — a game called Megaman – Wily Wars on Sega’s download service ‘Sega Channel’.  Also, the Final Fantasy series, even after Square broke away from Nintendo, remained exclusively on Playstation and Nintendo systems.  Final Fantasy did not go fully multi-platform until the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 era, long after Sega had gotten out of the hardware business.

Food for thought anyway.  Stay tuned, as we wrap up Goemonth with Super Smash Step-Brothers!

Musou Missives Special: Goemon Ishikawa

Welcome back to Musou Missives: Goemonth edition. Here I talk about Warriors franchise games, such as today’s topic Orochi 3, and analyze the characters abilities and movesets in the game and how to build a proper team around them.

Today’s topic is Goemon Ishikawa!

A legendary thief of the feudal Japan era, around the late 1500’s. While historical accounts are scarce, what is known was that he was a thief that committed a crime, possibly an assassination attempt, that warranted a public death of being boiled alive. Many tales were then woven after the fact of who and why and how this all came about.


While we’ll be looking at Konami’s Goemon most of this month, he also appears in the Samurai Warriors series as well. Oddly enough the characterization is not dissimilar. His look, for starters, is very reminiscent of older Ganbare Goemon titles on the original Famicom. With the big hair, round face, and rosey cheeks, he’s a pretty similar representation. Much like his platforming compatriot, Goemon carries a pipe, though sometimes more of a mace, that can transform with a chain connecting the shaft and tip. This Goemon, however, prefers to fire a giant cannon from his back in a pinch rather than throw his well earned cash at opponents. In terms of personality, he’s still very comical, but not as upstanding as the later Konami games made him out to be. Goemon in this game is greedy and that’s about the extent of his character motives.

Unlike characters we’ve covered before, Goemon is not initially available, and must be unlocked.  Much like the vast majority of the cast though, he is unlocked after reaching a certain part of the story — particularly after the Battle of Kyushuu stage in Chapter 2.  After completing the stage, he will be available for use.

So, then, how does the legendary mystical ninja of Edo play?


Unfortunately not very well, Goemon suffers in a number of respects, not the least being his basic moveset. Hailing from the Samurai Warriors series, Goemon features a combo structure similar to other Samurai Warriors characters, such as Hanbei Takenaka. This means that he does not have standard normal/charge attack structure like the Dynasty Warriors, but instead has charge attacks that branch out into their own set of combos. Like before, I’ll be referencing these via the point that charge attacks start in the combo (hitting charge attack being charge1, normal and a charge attack a charge 2, etc.).

Being a Samurai Warrior, Goemon does not have any charge attacks beyond charge 4, so he cannot charge the fifth or sixth attack of his normal combo. His normal attack combo, thankfully, isn’t a terrible option. Goemon essentially walks forward swinging his mace from one side to the other. He doesn’t cover his back very well, and it doesn’t have a great amount of range, but I find it’s really his ‘go-to’ combo most of the time, as it’s his fastest and safest combo to perform; things get dicey from this point on.

His combo starting with charge attack (charge1) has Goemon fire the cannon on his back multiple times. This causes three fireballs to fall in the distance, dealing damage to anyone at that distance or right up on Goemon.  This can be extended for a total of three attacks. Although the distance that the attack hits makes it difficult to use as a long range attack, it can be used to get enemies out of his grill if they’re close enough. However, it does have a fair amount of wind down, so it will not allow him to keep them off very easily or for very long.

His charge 2 and charge 4 combos are the ones that seem the most effective. His charge 2 combo knocks an opponent (usually only one opponent) upward, then pressing charge attack again has him extend his mace while spinning in place — juggling his victim and hitting enemies around him. His charge 4 is similar, but he spins around while moving forward, and doesn’t set up a juggle before this. Both of these would seem like his best combos, since they hit enemies around him, and give him better range with the chain on the mace extended. The problem is both of these have long start up and wind down periods. This means that Goemon is vulnerable to attack both before and after the charge part of the combo for extensive periods of time. Thusly, I’ve found trying to perform these attacks while Goemon is already surrounded incredibly difficult.

His charge 3 is a little different, though it’s usefulness is just as limited.  It starts with a slam with his mace, then goes into a pose that causes a shockware, and then finishes with a blast from the cannon on his back.  The mace attack is far faster than the start up of most of his other charge moves, but the time between it and the next attack is too long, and he’ll tend to get hit from behind trying to perform it.  The overall combo though hits a large area in front of him, so it can be used on encroaching enemy units.

Mirroring his ground attacks, his normal attack while airborne is far more effective than his charge attack as well. His normal attack has Goemon do an effective butt-slam, that has him bounce back up very quickly, which leaves little time to interrupt. He can also perform multiple slams afterward, up to three total, with continued button presses.  You can also switch-cancel out of this attack, making it a way to get Goemon out of a bad situation.  His charge aerial attack has him slam down with his mace, but takes some recovery time to return to a neutral position. Both of these, however, are far more effective than most of his charge combos.

Another saving grace is that all of his combos can be switch-cancelled… if you’re good at timing it. I should probably clarify at this point the difference between a regular swap or switch, and a switch-cancel. Pulling one of the trigger buttons at any time will switch to whichever teammate is displayed to the left or right of your character portrait. This also rotates the portraits around — thusly, pulling the same trigger 3 times cycles through your entire team. A switch-cancel is when the trigger is pulled in time with a combo, resulting in the incoming character to come in with their dash attack, not just standing in a neutral position. This is crucial for continuing long extensive combos in this game.

Unfortunately with Goemon, both his charge 2 and charge 4 combos require very precise timing to get an effective switch-cancel while Goemon is spinning. Most of the time, when I try to switch-cancel in this situation, I still end up with a regular swap, making me restart the combo.

Ironically, however, Goemon has one of the better incoming attacks when switch-canceling from another character to him, as his dash hits in a large area in front of him, allowing him to follow-up with a combo of his choosing — provided your not swarmed.

Musou and Special Attack

So, one might expect that since his regular moveset is very limited, his musou attacks would make up for this. Not really.

Because Goemon is from Samurai warriors, Goemon goes into a musou mode when the musou button is pressed, which will drain the entire bar over time; meanwhile, holding the musou button will perform his unique musou attack. Goemon’s musou attack has him fire the cannon from his back straight ahead of him several times, each time spitting out five fireballs that spread out as they get further. This makes it a little more useful at a fair range, but the spread is too far at really long ranges to be effective. Because it only hits in a cone in front of him, this isn’t terribly useful in situations where Goemon is surrounded, but can be moderately effective against oncoming enemies or officers.

His special attack has him dance to one side, bending just enough to fire the cannon at opponents before dancing to the other side to do the same. This does not fire directly in front of him, does not hit behind him, and only barely covers his sides. It is more difficult to interrupt than some of his other moves, but only just.

Officer Ability

Goemon’s officer ability is Bounty. It’s an ability that increases the amount of gems that drop during the game. Gems are currency used to purchase weapons at the item shop. This is useful as a leveling tool but not as useful once you start getting to the endgame. So, unfortunately, no good news here either.

Character Class

So then, if Goemon were a Power character, he wouldn’t have to worry about being interrupted during his combos, which would make him actually a pretty awesome character. Alas, he is not.

If Goemon were a Speed character, you could jump cancel his moves to avoid being surrounded, a point in which he is at an extreme disadvantage. Of course, Goemon isn’t a speed character.

If Goemon were a Wonder character he could use the Wonder ability to prevent enemies from blocking and just stick to his normal combo. Of course, Goemon isn’t a Wonder character.

Goemon is a Technique character, which allows him to get better damage off of juggling opponents, a skill which only his charge 2 is somewhat effective at doing. This makes Goemon one of the few Technique characters, that actually needs another technique character to setup the juggle for him. This does give him the ability to siide-step while in block as well, though.  So, if nothing else he has some more options when on the defense.

Team and Weapon Fusion Recommendations

At this point we have to stop, because I have said almost nothing positive about this character. There seems to be nothing that Goemon offers that would be of benefit to a player at higher levels, and seems like he would be only be helpful as a bench warmer the rest of the time. Goemon seems to be the counter-example to my “there are no bad teams” statement earlier.  How can anyone possibly build a team around him?

I’ve determined there are three primary strategies to get Goemon to work on a team.  Most effective Goemon teams will keep 2 or more of them in mind.

Strategy 1:

Option 1 is to focus on his most effective combos: his normal combo, and charge three combo. This involves using teammates with Vigor or Fellowship with decent switch-cancel options and possible juggle setups. The goal for this build is to utilize one of Goemon’s combos as an extension into his teammate’s combos.  In other words, starting a combo, switch-canceling into Goemon’s combo, then switch-cancel out of Goemon into the next character to finish the combo up.  For the least amount of use of Goemon, it requires much more familiarity with your team’s movesets.

Weapon Fusion abilities for this option are not really important, save for Agility, which Goemon desperately needs. Brawn will improve his normals more, and Might for his Charge attacks.  Flak will also increase damage if Goemon is hitting juggled enemies.  Elemental effects will likely not come into play if using him in this manner.


Jiang Wei and Yoshisune Miamoto — Oddly enough, this is a team that really does benefit from a combo extender like Goemon.  Jiang Wei uses Fellowship to increase the damage from switch cancel combos, while Yoshisune increases combo damage in general, so they are a good one-two punch.  However, Jiang Wei’s combos do not set Yoshisune up very well, and typically Yohisune will whiff (or miss the attack) on incoming.  Having Goemon come in with his normal combo or the start of his charge 3 combo actually helps get Yoshisune into a position he can start up a combo after a switch-cancel.  What’s more, Yoshisune can end a combo with his special attack to extend his blade to give him more range in a pinch.  Jiang Wei’s charge 3 into EX attack, charge 6 combo, and special attack also serve as powerful combo enders as well.

Zhang Liao, and Nagamasa Azai — This team doubles up on Fellowship for maximum switch combo effectiveness.  Both Zhang Liao and Nagamasa Azai have very easy setups to jump into each other, but adding a quick Goemon combo helps extend it.  They also provide a much larger range than Goemon does, allowing them to pick up a larger number of enemies before swapping to Goemon.  Activate Zhang Liao’s EX attack to speed up his attacks to create much more effective and longer combos.

Strategy 2:

Option 2 is using Goemon defensively, as a character of last resort. Even though his movement speed is terrible, he can still use the side-step technique ability to stay on the defensive while moving about. His jump attacks are also still helpful in knocking enemies down, and his normal combo will help him get away. Since the focus is to only have Goemon out for defensive use, teaming him with two characters with Recovery, or one with Recovery and the other with Regeneration are crucial to reducing the amount of time Goemon has to stay on the field.

When building his weapon for this strategy, Goemon will need Might and Brawn to stay effective, as well as Agility.  Having Lightning or Ice will allow him to stun or freeze enemies in his charge attacks, slowing them down.  Absorption will help keep Goemon alive while his teammates are recovering.


Aya, and Pang Tong — Also known as team mystical ninja, Aya and Pang Tong both have powerful close range attacks that are easy to switch-cancel in Goemon, or their other partner for extensions.  All three also have superb aerial attacks that can be abused in oncoming and escape scenarios also.  Pang Tong and Aya, on the whole are weaker on defense, so switching to Goemon will be necessary on occasion.  Doubling up on Recovery means, Goemon will thankfully be left out for a much shorter time than other combinations though.

Zhuge Dan, and Lu Xun — A similar setup to the other team, but a little more hearty.  Zhuge Dan’s EX does an area-of-effect attack that can help setup a Goemon switch-cancel, as does Lu Xun.  Both also have very good switch-cancels from Goemon’s attacks as well.  Overall, this team is a bit more versatile, and will only need Goemon for rare occasions.

Strategy 3:

Option 3 is using Goemon as an officer killer. That seems counter-intuitive, but I’ll explain. Goemon does not do very well against hordes of enemies, but with his side-step ability, he can wait for an opening and then use one of his combos on the officer.  His charge 3 is especially effective, provided the action remains in front of him. This does mean that Goemon will be sidelined most of the time, but will have a wider array of options once the situation is in his favor.

This option requires special attention to his weapon abilities, since Goemon has a particular goal in mind.  Agility and Reach are crucial, as are Slay and Courage for the increased damage to Officers.  Brawn and Might are helpful again as well, so those need to be considered also.  Flak may be helpful, but depends on playstyle. Cavalier will help occasionally, as Goemon does reasonably well on a horse.  Chances are most players will get more mileage out of Lighting, Air, and Ice combinations to help open up blocking enemies and keep combos going.


Hanzo Hattori, and Musashi Miyamoto—  The combination of Efficacy and Vigor makes every member of this team good at officer killing to some degree, though Goemon is better focused on it.  Hanzo’s charge 4, once performed successfully, will summon clones to help him clear out other enemies on the field.  Meanwhile, Musashi covers much more ground and area around him, and sets up Goemon to charge in and cleanup.  Musashi also has a long dash attack that deals multiple hits, making it extremely effective to switch-cancel into him.  You can also switch-cancel out of this Musashi’s dash to set up another character incoming.

Sanzang, and Benkei— This team thrives on mobility.  While Sanzang’s Impulse ability doesn’t help her or Benkei very much, it improves Goemon’s run speed significantly.  Benkei’s Technique ability increases the teams stats overall, making them all far more effective as well.  Sanzang’s jumping charge attack and Benkei’s charge 3 combo push both of them out of hotspots and into a better position for them or Goemon to startup combos again.

In conclusion, Goemon Ishikawa is a very deceptive character.  While his uses are still very limited compared to most of the cast, he becomes incredibly useful when given a purpose on a team.  Finding a good team for him was far more trying than any character I’ve covered so far, but the feeling when discovering new effective teams has been a great reward.

Look out for new Musou Missives in the future, and be sure to vote in our poll for the next official entry to the series starting back up this Fall.

Enjoy as we continue to celebrate Goemonth!

Referenced for unlocking Goemon:

Goe-facts: Goemon the Anime

Did you know?  Konami’s Goemon appeared in his own anime, titled Ganbare Goemon (the English dub uses the title Legend of the Mystical Ninja).

Out of your TV, and into your living room!

Before anyone rushes off to Ebay to hunt it down, be aware the show isn’t very good.  Goemon and friends are brought into the real world from the game world to fight off evil forces that are trying to take over real world Tokyo.  It’s you’re typical “monster-of-the-day” show, similar to Super Sentai or Power Rangers, having the heroes face a challenge, and culminating in a giant robot fight.

It suffers from a terrible sense of tone, however.  Goemon and friends mostly hang out with kids and engage in pretty tame battle sequences, and the overall setup works well for a kids’ show.  However, the villain, Seppukumaru, is obsessed with committing ritual suicide, particularly after his defeat.  This is treated as a joke, as the character is thwarted from performing seppuku in various ridiculous manners.  While certainly absurd, it’s a very touchy subject to bring up in what is seems to be a light-hearted series.  The other problem is that the team’s mentor, Wise Old Man, exploits Sasuke’s short stature, and has him take up-skirt pictures of women during the episodes.  Again, not exactly an idea that seems to fit with the basic premise.

Even as a Goemon fan, I had trouble just staying awake through the first few episodes, and wasn’t thrilled with the rest.  Only highly dedicated collectors should seek it out.

Speaking of dedication, be sure to stay tuned for more Goe-facts as Goemonth continues.

For a second opinion and more information, check out The Cajun Samurai’s Review

Big in Japan: Ganbare Goemon

Welcome to Goemonth, a whole month dedicated to the Japanese phenomenon, Goemon. But to start off, we need to get everyone properly introduced to the blue-haired thief, so let’s begin with our series Big in Japan.

Similar to our last topic, Sengoku Basara, Goemon takes it’s inspiration from Japanese history and folklore. Goemon Ishikawa was the name of a legendary thief in Japan, most notable for trying to steal from the emperor, and being boiled alive as punishment. Over time, his story became that of a good-natured thief, likened often to the English tale of Robin Hood. Truth or the legend aside, the story as well as the paintings depicting it served as the foundation of Konami’s standard for the next several decades.

Much like his peer Mario, Goemon started out as an arcade game. Using an art style that resembled traditional Japanese paintings, Mr. Goemon was a simple game where the legendary thief Goemon, was trying to escape the emperor’s guards. It was a pretty simple, yet challenging game, that inspired Konami to take their creation to the Famicom. Ganbare Goemon was released on the Famicom (the Japanese equivalent to the Nintendo Entertainment System), though it was more of a side-scrolling action game than it’s precursor. JewWario does a great job of describing the second game for the Famicom, so I recommend checking that out for a better idea of how the Famicom games worked.

Goemon would also release two Japanese-style role-playing games on the Famicom before his move to the Super Famicom. Due to the game’s success in the East, and Konami’s move to the new Nintendo platform, Konami thought to try their hand at releasing Ganbare Goemon internationally, with a retitled game Legend of the Mystical Ninja.

download (1)

Anyone who read my thesis on Sengoku Basara, however, will already spot a major flaw. Yes, the Goemon series was not known by it’s Japanese name when it first came over to the States, but rather was retitled Legend of the Mystical Ninja. Unfortunately, that was not the only translation issue. Goemon and his comrade Ebisumaru, were renamed Kid Yang and Doctor Ying for the American release, as were a number of enemies that appeared in the game. While this didn’t hurt the Goemon series as badly, since the story was silly anyway, it still would present similar issues that Sengoku Basara faced later on.

While the American release faded to obscurity, Goemon continued to thrive in Japan. The Goemon series grew and added to it’s stable of colorful characters. Ebisumaru, who had been introduced as the token player two on the Famicom, was the self-proclaimed ninja of Justice who tended to act strangely effeminate despite being short and fat. Sasuke, introduced in the second Super Famicom game, was a mechanical ninja developed by Goemon’s mentor Old Man. Rounding out the player characters was Yae, a ninja who was typically working for the empire. This stable of characters would team up in two action adventure games, Ganbare Goemon 3 and Ganbare Goemon 4, that were presented similar to the successful Legend of Zelda games — with exploration and puzzle-solving becoming more prominent.

The series would move to the Playstation, where it was met with varied success. However, it would also travel to the Nintendo 64, where Goemon and crew would have another attempt at world fame.

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Konami released an American version of the Nintendo 64 title Ganbare Goemon: Neo Momoyama Bakufu no Odori as “Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon”. This transition was far better handled than Capcom’s attempts with Sengoku Basara. Rather than trying to pretend the renaming didn’t happen, Konami acknowledged it by naming it the same, but putting the proper name, Goemon, still in the title. While they still didn’t explain the Kid Yang and Doctor Ying issue, they still presented the game in a way an American audience could accept it. The game featured the same Legend of Zelda-esque style that the successful Japanese Famicom’s games were, though adopting a full three-dimensional feel. Combined with platforming elements, this made the game more like a cross between Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time, but took place in the strange and wacky setting of the series’ version of Edo.

This leads me to why the series stands out at all to me, as well as others who followed the series in it’s American releases — its sense of humor. While the early games may have lacked this to some degree, the Goemon games never took themselves or anything in them terribly seriously. The characters were over the top, loud, strange, and sometimes a little disturbing. The English translation threw in several movie and pop-culture references, and broke the fourth-wall just often enough to be hilarious. While some games draw you in with their environments, story, or challenge, the Goemon games, and Mystical Ninja starring Goemon in particular, kept you going to see the next crazy event or character appear.

The game was not a smash hit internationally, but garnered enough attention to warrant releasing a subsequent Nintendo 64 title called Goemon’s Great Adventure. This one, however, changed the style to a more standard platforming style, having three-dimensional characters move on a two-dimensional plane. While still enjoyable, I can see how the sudden change from one format to the other might be grating to some.

Aside from the Game Boy titles that released around this time, Goemon’s Great Adventure would stand as the last hurrah here in the US. As I said, the transition from Legend of Mystical Ninja to Goemon franchise was handled far better than Sengoku Basara in the titling alone. But there were at least three things working against the Goeomon games hindering their appeal overseas.

First, the Goemon series was a Japanese series for Japanese people really. Goemon is based on a Japanese historical figure, and little will change that. Considering how many oblivious Americans in the early 90’s could barely find Japan on a map, it was no surprise that the first game did horribly. To add to that, the environments, architecture, items, weapons, and even the supporting characters all carry an air about them that is strictly Japanese. In addition, the main characters act as typical Japanese tropes that were just not as well known in other parts of the world, even in the late 90’s and early 2000’s when the 64 titles released. I suspect this was the reason Konami held this series back from international release for some time. Which leads to the second issue.

Secondly, the Goemon series was too deep in it’s own series to relate to newcomers well. Now, there is little in the way of significant plot points in the series, but since most of the characters are already familiar with each other in Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon, it is a little off-putting to the American audience who may be familiar with Goemon, Ebisumaru, and Kurobei at most from the previous US release. The villain in Goemon’s Great Adventure, Bismaru, is actually a returning enemy in the series, even though Bismaru was brand new to the American audience. This is alleviated, however, by the fact that the games never take even their own plots very seriously, so even an estranged player may be able to overlook it. However, the third issue somewhat seals the deal.

Unfortunately, the games are inconsistent in scope and playstyle. Legend of the Mystical Ninja was an arcade-like beat ’em up and platformer. Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon was an adventure game a la Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, with some platforming elements of Super Mario 64.  Goemon’s Great Adventure was a platformer with a few rpg elements mixed in. This was not uncommon for the series in the Japan. Goemon would often hop from one style to the next.  The original Famicom games played nothing like the Super Famicom games, and even the Super Famicom games changed styles from Ganbare Goemon 2 to Ganbare Goemon 3.  As the series continued in Japan, there would another side-scroller, 3-D platformer, and a top-down adventure title released as well.  Goemon in Japan is a jack-of-all-trades kind of series, which means it’s not particularly spectacular at any one of them.  The lack of consistency also means that someone who enjoyed the exploration in one might hate the platforming in the other.

Perhaps for the best, America wasn’t ready for the cultural assimilation needed to appreciate the Goemon series, and the series was simply too long in the tooth to change itself into something it wasn’t. It’s age, however, would eventually spell disaster for the series as a whole however.

While the Goemon series continued in Japan, it started to flounder. Oddly enough the series made some attempts to adapt to modern audiences. Shin Sedai Shuumei and New Age Sutsudou were an original Playstation title and a Game Boy Advance release respectively in which the setting was moved to the future; this allowed the characters to be redesigned to be more “edgy.”  The Playstation 2 title, Ganbare Goemon: Bouken Jidai Kasugeki, also tried to reimagine the formula, making our hero a young lad and modifying his typical comrades accordingly as well.  None of these did terribly well in keeping interest in the series afloat.  By this time, Konami had a new cash cow in the Metal Gear franchise; therefore, Goemon became less of a priority.

Goemon’s last installment was in 2005 with the DS title Ganbare Goemon: Toukai Douchuu Daiedo Tenguri Kaeshi no Maki.  There is no sign that this title will be seeing any kind of overseas release.  Goemon still lives on in Japanese ‘pachisuro’ slot games, which also have no indication of coming to other countries anytime soon either.  It seems Goemon was only truly Big in Japan.

Research was taken from Hardcore Gaming 101’s Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon page, and JewWarrio’s video review of Ganbare Goemon 2; Video from Dizzy4U’s Goemon Shin Sedai Shuumei (Opening) – PSX Game. I do not own Goemon, Konami or any other product listed here.


Goe-facts: How old is Goemon?

Did you know?  Goemon predates nearly every gaming cultural icon except a few.

Although, not this rendering of him...

Although, not this rendering of him…

More like this.

While Mr. Game& Watch, Mario, and Donkey Kong still have him beat by several years (their first games releasing in 1980 and 1981 respectively).  Goemon’s first outing Mr. Goemon, released to Japanese arcades in May 1986, three months before Samus Aran debuted in Metroid, a year before Megaman, Metal Gear’s Snake, or Street Fighter’s Ryu, five years before Sonic the Hedgehog, six years before Kirby, and a whopping fifteen years before Master Chief.

Stay tuned for more Goemon facts, and be sure to check out Big in Japan starring Goemon next week as we celebrate Goemonth!

Introducing Goemonth! A month of Goemon!

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This month we will be having a theme month dedicated to the Mystical Ninja himself, Goemon!

Both Big in Japan and Super Smash Step Brothers will be discussing Goemon of the Ganbare Goemon and Mystical Ninja games this month.  Also, Musou Missives will be featuring Goemon Ishikawa from Warriors Orochi 3 for analysis as well.

We’ll still be posting on other topics as they come (including a look at Dynasty Warriors 8 no doubt), but Geomon will be the ‘Word of the Day’ around here.  So, stay tuned as we kick off Goemonth with a bang!

Also, be sure to vote on our Musou Missives poll, winner will be picked in September!