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Amagon (NES) artwork

Amagon (NES) review

"When Nintendo released Super Mario Brothers, a new age of video gaming began. Players controlled the cheerful plumber as he traveled on land, in caves, underwater and through castles in his quest to rescue a beautiful princess from the foul dragon Bowser — and loved every glorious second of entertainment that game provided. "

When Nintendo released Super Mario Brothers, a new age of video gaming began. Players controlled the cheerful plumber as he traveled on land, in caves, underwater and through castles in his quest to rescue a beautiful princess from the foul dragon Bowser — and loved every glorious second of entertainment that game provided.

Ever since that shining moment, action-oriented “platform” games deluged the market, all featuring their own lovable mascot. Sonic the Hedgehog, Donkey Kong (and his family), Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon and countless other crazy characters all endeavored to challenge Mario (who popped up in a few sequels of his own) as the king of platformers. Good news for avid gamers, as the truckloads of quality games ensured they wouldn’t have to do anything overly foolish like actually expose their skin to sunlight. It should have been paradise.

Sadly, those quality titles weren’t the only ones saturating the market and that potential paradise slowly vanished beneath truckloads of horrid platformers thrust upon the market to capitalize off the hard-earned popularity of the jovial plumber. These games just didn’t have the fun gameplay and wholesome charm of a Super Mario Brothers. Hell, they didn’t even have a beautiful princess in need of saving.

Just take a look at Amagon, a low-quality offering belched out by American Sammy in 1988. Gaze at the title screen and watch the brave hero Amagon stare blankly back at you. In the background are the ruins of his plane, which apparently took a nosedive right into a beach on the north side of a vast island. Unfortunately, Amagon was able to escape the wreck unscathed, so unlucky players will have to go through hell to take him from one end of the island to the other, where a ship awaits. You’ll contend with an unlimited supply of enemies, shoddy graphics, bland music and cheap deaths in your quest to save the day....if you’re capable of that ''lofty'' goal.

Despite apparently being some sort of elite soldier who was sent to this island to investigate paranormal happenings, Amagon spends much of his adventure impersonating a mama’s boy. One hit from anything will kill him, even if it’s from some non-threatening beast, such as a small bird or a random insect. Hell, you’ll watch Amagon even fall victim to moles and turtles as they assault him with the ever-so-deadly attack known as “running into his legs”.

And you’ll be putting up with nonsense like this for six levels, each divided into two fairly lengthy stages. Well, to be honest, I’m not sure how long the stages actually are — they just feel long since you’ll have to move at a snail’s pace thanks to the chaotic tendencies of enemies and the limited range of your gun. That weapon, which will be your sole source of offense for much of the game, can never be upgraded and only fires a single stream of bullets directly in front of you. Not the most effective weapon, especially since monsters tend to come at you from every direction EXCEPT straight ahead.

Early on, you’ll find yourself besieged by flying insects that constantly hover just in front of you, forcing you to go through a painfully slow routine of taking a couple of steps, stopping to fire a couple of bullets at the bugs, taking a couple more steps, firing a couple more shots and so on. While they might be the most annoying foe, those insects aren’t the most frustrating. With interesting jumping and flying habits, even weak birds, fish, turtles and other foes will constantly challenge you as you lead Amagon through grasslands, forests, rivers, mountains and beaches.

To make matters worse, all those weak foes have some muscle backing them up. Most stages have some number of larger (Amagon-sized) monsters that can take a licking and keep on ticking. From the boxing lions of the first stage to a motley horde of elephants, gators, dinosaurs and spacemen, you’ll run into no shortage of foes that take a ton of damage and aren’t shy about aggressively pouncing on a lone human explorer.

Making those beasts look like pushovers are the actual bosses located at the end of each level’s second stage. Not only do a few of these foes actually look like more than five seconds went into their design (making them the exception to the rule in this clunker), but many of them are simply not going to fall to Amagon and his pop gun.

Your hero, much like Mario (or He-Man), has a trump card to play against these enemies, though. Every once in a while, killing a normal enemy will give you an icon symbolizing a muscular man. Use this item and Amagon will transform into Megagon — the paragon of manliness. Casting away his machine gun, Megagon casually dismisses enemies with a swing of his mighty fist or a brutal shock wave (think of Guile’s Sonic Boom attack in the Street Fighter games). Even better, this beefier alter-ego can take multiple hits (depending on how many icons you’ve snared), making him a merciless killing machine, as compared to the pathetic waste of flesh that is Amagon. With Megagon leading the way, those tough gators and elephants fall after two punches and bosses can only absorb slightly more punishment. Whether it be the multi-faced lion of level one or the laser-shooting alien mastermind at the end of the final level, you’ll find all the boss encounters to be far easier than the trek to reach them.

Unfortunately, you can only use Megagon for limited periods of time. You’re not going to want to switch to him as soon as you’re capable, because his much larger size makes him very vulnerable to those pesky bugs and critters that make your life miserable. And, after completing any stage of the game, Megagon will revert back to his puny form to start off the next one. Whether you like it or not, you’ll spend a good deal of your game stuck with Amagon, watching the little twerp valiantly attempt to shoot down tiny, fast-moving foes before they either collide with him or drill him with a projectile of their own.

Sadly, getting killed was the most entertaining part of this game. Upon taking a hit, Amagon leaps into the air, only to land on his back with his feet pointed toward the screen. It’s a whimsical, cartoonish way to pass away that actually brought a smile to my face....

It’s a pity that nothing else in the game had that effect upon me. Endeavoring to survive the levels of Amagon’s island is a chore that only the most masochistic of gamers could enjoy. To make matters worse, when (or if) you finally finish the game, the only reward the cartridge gives you is the knowledge that Amagon made it off the island — which (to be honest) does nothing to make the pain of playing the game seem worthwhile. Maybe if American Sammy had given Amagon a princess to rescue, things would have been better.....but probably not.

overdrive's avatar
Community review by overdrive (June 17, 2004)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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