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Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode (NES) artwork

Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode (NES) review


"You gotta love Duke Togo. As the stylishly attired and jaded looking spook meets his female handler in an airport lounge, she introduces herself as "Maria Lovelette" and we can only imagine her flirtatious giggle when Togo replies with an eloquent ellipsis. Going full steam ahead, she doles out exposition for a painfully long time before arriving at her point -- the entire Red Army is after Mr. Togo because he has been the victim of a gosh-awful frame-up as part of some byzantine conspiracy. The..."



You gotta love Duke Togo. As the stylishly attired and jaded looking spook meets his female handler in an airport lounge, she introduces herself as "Maria Lovelette" and we can only imagine her flirtatious giggle when Togo replies with an eloquent ellipsis. Going full steam ahead, she doles out exposition for a painfully long time before arriving at her point -- the entire Red Army is after Mr. Togo because he has been the victim of a gosh-awful frame-up as part of some byzantine conspiracy. The tired look in his eye seems to say "not again". Yet after being given instructions to go to East Berlin looking for a man who may not exist, with the aforesaid knowledge of a Russian vendetta, he says "I see. Well, I'll give it a try."

As the game will evidence, he is truly a glutton for punishment.

The opening side-scrolling sequence in Berlin starts off horribly wrong. With his modified M-16 still in his check-in luggage, Togo must traverse the treacherous city streets unarmed, where Communist assassins are literally lurking in the shadows like freakishly hairy rats. Not more than ten seconds out the door of the airport, the first Russkie cockroaches begin to emerge! Too bad the only way to eliminate them is with a quite frankly queer looking jump-kick that also leaves you open to return fire from the other roaches which swarm into view just as soon as their comrades explode into juicy orange fireballs. They can fire in a crouched position. You can't. Your jump sends you absurdly high in the air and touching a Communist means you lose tons of life (from infection). The AI is aggravating and random. Once you get a pistol of your own the bullets travel slightly faster than you can run.

These joyous proceedings are sometimes interrupted by "surprise attacks" where you are forced into a first-person perspective and must use the D-pad to line up crosshairs on tiny and swift targets, who can attack from any direction at any time. However you are locked in place so the effect is like operating a stationary and poorly guarded gun turret. Hardly the human Swiss Army Knife known as Golgo-13. This gameplay only gets more ridiculous as your enemies grow in numbers.

Just as randomly, now Togo (under his useless code name) is piloting a personal chopper in a side-scrolling shmup that plays like a retarded and even more boring R-Type with none of the innovations or cool visuals. Just open sky and MiGs swooping in to shoot out some hot pink spurts of destruction every so often. This attempt at a "shooter" makes even an overrated turd such as Time Pilot look cutting-edge. Going through one of these parts, combined with the drone music I had playing over the terrible and long-since-muted audio, caused me to fall asleep briefly only to wake up and find I had completed the level without a scratch. It is boring almost to a hypnotic degree.

The less that is said about the first-person corridor mazes, the better, lest my irrational anger take ahold again.

Now for the part Togo does best: shooting people in the head from a mile away.

Inside the hovering chopper, Togo takes aim through the scope of an M-66 assault rifle and shoots a sniper in a television tower, blowing his head clean off in a millisecond. Cool, right? Not when you're using the NES controller.

The very limitations of the system are enough to kill any ambitions developer Vic Tokai had of this being a successful genre-skipping schizoid. Had this been made on even a 16-bit system it would have been leagues better.

Hell, had they done the sane thing and simply focus on one genre, this could have been at least decent.

Graphically, everything is handled with merely adequate detail, with obvious attention given to the renderings of Togo's numerous foxy female contacts. During the action scenes, Togo is nothing more than a garishly colored blue outline with slicked hair and the Russians usually die so quickly that one is unable to percieve the fine details such as the overgrown beards and bulging guts filled with borscht and vodka. The sniper sequences are so low-res as to be barely playable and the relentless MiGs look like plump jolly vampire bats.

What mattered most to Vic Tokai was maintaining the spirit of the character, hence the detail given to his character rendering and, oddly, his surreal dream sequences involving reanimated skeletons. After the righteous airborne hit, he gives his resistance liaison Cherry an early morning visit because he's just so damn pumped on adrenalin. Naturally she's awake and determined to find out the significance of the number "13" in his handle. Duke Togo is not a man to withhold information from interested parties, especially if the information is hidden down the front of his trousers.

They close the shutters before the hard grinding commences, because a little family-friendliness is always refreshing in a game about a man who blows off people's heads for vast sums of cash.

Afterwards you can bet he doesn't say a damn word.

It's quite disappointing what can happen when a license, which probably cost skid-row inhabitants Vic Tokai a nice chunk of change, is mishandled to the point where most of the game's essential content is not appropriate for the console it's being developed for. Overambition and deep-rooted schizophrenia makes Golgo 13's Top Secret Episode one that should have remained so.

Rating: 2/10

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Featured community review by johnny_cairo (March 29, 2007)

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