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Milon's Secret Castle (NES) artwork

Milon's Secret Castle (NES) review

"My guess is that the presence of the word "Secret" in this game's title is rooted in the fact that virtually every room here holds hordes of secret rooms and items. You aren't expected to just fire your weapon at enemies (that quickly respawn), but at EVERYTHING. You'll be breaking blocks like crazy. You'll be firing into blank, empty air. You'll be constantly flooding the screen with bubbles because any single location in any single room just might hide a doorway leading to something you need to clear the game."

If there's one Overdrive Story of Glory my best friend has gotten beyond sick of hearing me tell over the years, it's the epic tale of how I beat the skeleton boss in Milon's Secret Castle. It's never stopped me from telling it, exaggerating it a bit more each time, but, yeah, it's definitely gotten old for him. So, you lucky people are the new recipients of this dazzling story of one bored teenager, a hot summer Saturday and the greatest moment in the history of.....well, anything!

It would have been back in the early 1990s. I had a Saturday completely to myself, so like any normal, socially active kid, I decided I'd barricade myself in my room because this would be the day I finally beat Milon's Secret Castle. An action platforming type NES game released by Hudson, this game was tough in all the ways you'd expect bad old games to ramp up the difficulty.

In this one, you'd be exploring these big rooms inside a castle for items and keys and whatnot, so you could access other big rooms. Occasionally, you'd fight a boss, which always was some creature bouncing back and forth on a platform while randomly shooting projectiles at you, while you returned the favor with the oversized bubbles the stupid-looking kid you controlled could somehow manufacture. As you progress through the game, those bosses take more damage and their attacks come quicker and have more range. Of course, you'll also be able to take more damage and improve your weapon, as well.

If only it was that simple. My guess is that the presence of the word "Secret" in this game's title is rooted in the fact that virtually every room here holds hordes of secret rooms and items. You aren't expected to just fire your weapon at enemies (that quickly respawn), but at EVERYTHING. You'll be breaking blocks like crazy. You'll be firing into blank, empty air. You'll be constantly flooding the screen with bubbles because any single location in any single room just might hide a doorway leading to something you need to clear the game.

And so, I had to allocate an entire day to play Milon's Secret Castle. I didn't really like playing this game, but I did want to beat it, so I had to be sure I'd have enough time to blunder through each and every room, find all the items and make it to the top chamber of the castle where some evil wizard was hiding with the princess he kidnapped. I definitely didn't want to make it close to the end, but have to turn off my NES, causing all my time and energy to be wasted (no battery or password).

With that in mind, I blundered through the game with the skill and savvy of a bull rampaging through a china shop. Still, despite my worst efforts, I found myself progressing further than I'd ever been. And suddenly, I could feel my skill kicking in. I HEROICALLY scraped past the game's sixth boss, pelting him with repeated bubble shots with no room for error. He'd got the best of me early in the fight and if he hit me just one more time, my next life would have a long, annoying trip back to his secluded chamber. If you'd been in my room for that battle, you would have seen a golden aura surrounding me as I moved like I'd never moved before, dodging gazillions of enemy attacks on my way to claiming the victory!

Now, all I had to do was enter this one room I couldn't access before, which would take me to the top floor of the castle where the evil wizard awaited his comeuppance. Taking a deep breath and girding my loins, I opened the door......and waiting for me was a great skeletal beast (Remember the skeleton? It's a review about the skeleton.). Well, technically, it looked just like a couple of the other bosses would have if they were skeletons, but it's my story, so it was a great skeletal beast with blood-drenched fangs and razor-sharp claws; 20 feet tall and capable of killing a man with just one sideways glare out of its black, soulless eyes.

And it killed me. Fortunately, when one dies in Milon's Secret Castle, they just are teleported to outside of the castle with all their items intact AND there are unlimited continues (assuming you ALWAYS remember to hit the right buttons on the control pad). All I had to do was enter an early-game room and kill enemies until I'd regained all my life and then scale the castle to return to the great skeletal beast's room. And it killed me again. And again. And again. This went on for a good three hours, but I eventually persevered and truly became a man that day!

I was ecstatic! My hard work had finally been rewarded! Now that I'd beat the great skeletal beast, nothing could stop me! Why? Because the wizard was essentially little more than a regular enemy who could take more damage. In his chamber, the main "challenge" was finding which of the four wizards was him, as the other three were weak doppelgangers easily smacked around. Which I found out two weeks later when I finally beat Milon's Secret Castle. You see, apparently having this game playing in my NES for nine straight hours wasn't good for the machinery, as it crashed right when I started to fight one of the fake wizards. Really took the wind out my sails, it did.....

The worst part of it all was that I was forced to replay all of Milon's Secret Castle just to get to the anticlimactic final battle with the wizard and the letdown of an ending. It just wasn't fun trying to remember where all the stupid secret doors were at so I could get through rooms a bit more quickly. It really wasn't fun fighting seven boss fights that are all essentially the same, except that the latter ones are quicker and more aggressive. And, as a final testament of how little fun I had with this game, after I did finally beat it, I only tried to play it once more for about 30 minutes before putting it away forever.

But, if there's one positive I can take from this game, it's that in beating the great skeletal beast I had a story that I can tell until the end of time! And I will.....

Rating: 3/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (September 03, 2008)

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

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honestgamer posted September 07, 2008:

That was a great review! I would say that it's one of your most memorable. I liked how you wove all of that gameplay dissection into your overall narrative about the battle with the great skeletal beast.

Though... I didn't catch the Alice's Restaurant reference. That is one longass song!
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overdrive posted September 07, 2008:

Thanks a lot! I forced my friend in question to read it last night and liked it too, especially since it jogged his memory on how my game DID crash after I finally beat the skeleton after an ungodly number of attempts. You reviewed this you remember that frickin' thing and how it just shelled the room with his bullets? And you fight him right after that tough boss (the sixth one I mentioned for one paragraph) that you have to descend through the ice corridor where the tiles melt under your feet and you have to pray you don't lose too much life waiting to hit the bottom.

Oh, as for the Alice's Restaurant reference, a good ways into the song, he mentions Alice and ad libs "Remember Alice? It's a song about Alice", which was funny because while the song was named after her, he'd gone minutes without mentioning her. So, since I started with talking about the skeleton, but hadn't mentioned it for 4-5 paragraphs, I found it fitting. Even if Arlo never really mentions Alice again until the end of the song, while I deluge readers with non-stop skeleton references towards the end!

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