January 14, 2011

'R' You Good Enough For The Goonies II?

If you were growing up in the 1980's, then you probably hold the Spielberg/Columbus/Donner movie The Goonies somewhere on your list of favorite films. Like every other youngin' from that era, you've probably been excited about news of a potential sequel that's been making the rounds on and off again in recent years. Usually accompanying that news is a followup story about how cast members or staff involved with the original saying that, although they'd be willing to participate, other matters would prevent such an occurrence from happening. It's mostly a matter of concerns about whether or not they could do the franchise justice with another iteration. The prevailing premise for the sequel, if it ever does come to fruition, is that it stars the kids of the original cast members, who would also make appearances in the movie, and their own adventures in the vein of their parents' famous trek for One-Eyed Willie's "rich stuff".

Anyway, back to the "being a child of the 80's" thing. You probably owned a Nintendo Entertainment System as well, didn't you? Then you most likely forgot that you had access to, or maybe even witnessed yourself, a title called The Goonies II. Let me remind you of what you had, or what you may have missed, whatever your case may be. The video game known as The Goonies II was not made to be a sequel to the 1985 film, but as a follow-up to a game titled simply The Goonies. Not too many Nintendo playing Americans realized there was a predecessor to the second game and thought The Goonies II was meant to take place after the movie it was based around. The first game was only released on Famicom (the NES's name in Japan) consoles, although it did make an appearance in American arcades. Both of these games were made by Konami, who you may also know as the company that houses both the Contra and Metal Gear franchises.

The Story
At the end of the first game, or movie if you prefer, The Goonies helped put the crooked Fratelli family behind bars. But as everyone knows, it's impossible to keep a Fratelli behind bars for long, and they have escaped with payback on their minds, as opposed to turning over new leaves as contributors to civilized society. Mama Fratelli, with her sons Jake and Francis in the background, appear on TV, either commandeering the airwaves or via video tape, and tell The Goonies that they have kidnapped a mermaid named Annie. This new character is apparently acquainted with them and is never seen in either the previous game or the movie. As The Goonies attempt to rescue their aquatic friend, most of them are also captured by their adversaries and locked up in various points of One-Eyed Willie's catacombs, which were taken over and renovated by the mob family. The player begins the game as Mikey Walsh, the sole Goonie who evaded capture, and sets out on his biggest adventure yet to save his friends and stop the Fratellis once and for all!

Field Guide
You'll traverse very different level types as you progress, meeting the increasingly tougher enemies that populate them. You'll meet spiders and snakes in every one except the last two listed, with the latter baddie increasing in speed the further you go. A constant nuisance are the members of the Fratelli clan. The men are all decked out in blue mobster suits with fedoras and shades, and can jump about three times their own height. That's higher than Mario can. Something most of them have in common is that they can't be killed, only temporarily stunned. You'll run into Jake the most, firing a bullet from his gun about every five seconds. Then there's Francis, who resembles his brother except for being a bit thicker, and he'll shoot arrows that split into three as they fly towards you. Can't forget about Mama Fratelli, who will only show up in one of the later restaurant sections, but she certainly makes an impact with her appearance. That's because she'll toss an endless supply of bombs and takes quite a few hits to upend her. New to this adventure is the pint-sized cousin Pip-Squeak Fratelli, who doesn't do much except zip around and make quick hops. Unlike the main members of the family, he can be killed.

The Lighthouse Lounge- This is where you start your mission, among the tables and dusty crates of the Fratellis' restaurant hideout that serves as the secret entrance to the underground maze. You'll pop up to other parts of the diner during your mission, and you'll almost always run into a member of their family every time. Even more dangerous are the ghost knights and skeletal warriors!
Cellar- Directly beneath the diner is a dusty stone cellar with numerous ladders and elevators to navigate the multitude of platforms. Watch overhead for Hitchcockian crows! As you go deeper in the basement, you'll run into a quartet of ghosts that merge into one specter and lumbering gray beasts who take more hits than any other creature in the game.
Caverns- These dark and spooky rock-scaped caves are home to H20 hazards such as waterfalls and geysers. Beware of the mutated scorpions as they fire poisonous projectiles at you and the leaping winged skeletons! Bats, the absolute most annoying enemy in the game, will also be a common sight. As you delve deeper into the earth, you'll have to leap across rocky columns jutting out of lava beds while you avoid being sauteed by miniature fire-breathing dragons!
Bridge- This crumbling wooden bridge, held in suspension by ancient ropes, links both halves of the "front" of the maze together. The challenge isn't the numerous jumps you'll have to make in order to cross this dilapidated structure, it's avoiding the floating fanged skulls that swoop down and steal your awesome boomerang weapon from you! Other than noshing on your favorite toy, they are harmless to you.
Ice Cave- A new set of enemies harass you in this slippery ice hole. Pissed off penguins, vicious walruses, dancing polar bears, and even a hatchet chucking Eskimo will make you feel as unwelcome as possible. You'll also meet a harmless Eskimo inside a passageway, but unlike his brothers, he serves no purpose and will even admit to that fact.
Underwater- Strap on your diving suit, float around, and skewer the tropical sea life with harpoons. Piranhas, crabs, octopus, jellyfish, and sharks will try to hinder your efforts down here, and the only secondary weapon you'll have access to is your bombs.

Yo-Yo- Your default weapon, it'll extend a couple of feet in front of you to strike your enemies. Pretty puny, but if you're a quick button tapper, you'll be able to stun your target with successive blows until he expires.
Boomerang- The yo-yo was fine for taking out pesky spiders and snakes, but you'll want this long range weapon in order to protect your health bar for as long as possible. You'll never want to use the 'yo again with this in your pocket. Losing this item to the floating skulls of the suspension bridge is disheartening, but fortunately you can obtain the boomerang again by returning to the same place you found it.
Slingshot- A useful weapon that is hard to come by. It has limited shots, but unlike the boomerang you won't have to wait for your bullet to return (obviously) before firing another. Ammo is so incredibly rare that you'll probably manage to find only five refills throughout the duration of your game. You'll probably hardly ever use it in an effort to conserve ammunition for a tough encounter you'll worry about facing, but never happens.
Moltov Cocktail- If you're facing a strong baddie who is getting way too close for comfort, lob one of these explosive bottles of fire and kerosene at them.
Bomb- A dual purpose weapon, you'll probably be better off using it as a tool as opposed to offense. You drop it at your feet and it detonates about a second and a half afterward, and you'll take damage if you're near it when that happens. It's more useful for dropping in random places and hoping you'll reveal a hidden doorway. However, it does deal out more damage than the Molotov cocktail, so if you can time it right, you'll send your target of choice to kingdom come.
Key- The staple of every adventure game, this item allows you to open up safes and set your Goonie pals free from the cells the Fratellis have imprisoned them in. Used only in passageways.
Hammer- Your fist is fine for knocking items out of their hiding places, but you won't be able to punch portals through walls, ceilings, or floors without this heavy duty tool. Used only in passageways.
Ladder- There are a lot of holes in the ceilings and floors that you can't access without this handy ladder. Used only in passageways.
Glasses- A pair of spectacles that will cure Mikey's apparent far-sightedness by allowing him to see doors and wall safes he couldn't before. Used only in passageways.
Candle- Several of the rooms you enter will be pitch black, so using this will illuminate your surroundings. You can still navigate doors, hit walls, climb portals, and pick up items without it, but this makes it less of a hassle. Worth getting, but you won't need it to beat the game. Used only in passageways.
Transceiver- Admittedly, I never discovered this item during my numerous playthroughs, at least, not that I can remember. So that means, yes, you can beat the game without it. Apparently it can be used to communicate with the trapped Goonies and Konami itself. Talk about breaking the fourth wall!
Waterproof Coat- Slip this on to guard you from the damaging effects of the waterfall and geysers. While you can beat the game without it, it's still worth having for protection, plus you'll be able to find a hidden door to Konami Man behind one of the falls easier with it on.
Bulletproof Vest- Having this on your person will lessen damage taken from the bullets fired by Jake Fratelli and the mutant scorpions. Each shot normally reduces half a life bar, but this will cause it to take only a quarter. Not needed to finish the game.
Helmet- Cover your dome with this yellow piece of plastic to deflect the icicles that occasionally rain down in the ice cave. Wholly unneeded to complete the game, as its only purpose is to protect you from a hazard in the smallest level type in the game that are easy enough to dodge on your own.
Diving Suit- Lets you dive underwater and skewer the edible denizens of the deep with harpoons. There are a couple of Goonies to be found in the underwater caves as well as Annie the mermaid, so I'll leave it up to you to figure out whether or not you need it to complete the game.
Jumping Shoes- Lacing up these blue shoes will propel you heights that even pro basketball players wouldn't be able to reach. That's because each has a pair of springs embedded in the soles. Not only will you be able to reach high locations you could only stare longingly at before, they're quite ideal for saving you trips up ladders and evading enemies.
Hyper Shoes- If you put on these red winged shoes, which bear a striking resemblance to the company logo of The Athlete's Foot, you'll leave even those lightning fast serpents and speeding bullets in your wake! Great for covering more ground a lot faster than before and jumping across wide gaps.
Key Holders, Bomb Boxes, and Fire Boxes- Increases the carrying capacity of your keys, bombs, and Moltov cocktails respectively. Several of each can be found.
Magic Locator Device- Finding one of these will highlight the location of a Goonie on the map screen. I guess the Fratellis had them tagged.

Your playable character Mikey begins his grand adventure armed only with a yo-yo for making short range strikes at the weak foes you'll encounter early on in his mission. Your starting health consists of two bars, which is fine when you face the easy "one hit to kill" enemies at the start, but quickly becomes a headache when you go against the faster and stronger enemies that you meet pretty early on.
The hideout is made up of two sides of platforming style "action scenes", a front and a back, that are connected via "adventure scene" passageways you navigate in first person. It is inside these passages where you discover a majority of the items, and where you mostly use them as well. You'll find wall safes, which have to be opened with a key, that contain either an item or a clue. Just be sure you remember which ones you've already exhumed, because they will be closed again the next time you see them and you'll waste another key to discover a whole lot of nothing. You will also meet up with several bizarre, Engrish-speaking characters who will either offer you hints, equipment, or an energy refill. These include ancient monks, blind elderly women, the colorful Konami Man, and a Gill-man apparently on vacation from his black lagoon. It is inside these adventure scenes that you will rescue your Goonie comrades, and doing so adds an extra bar to your health meter.
The gameplay is solid and controls very well, but what else would you expect from Konami? Seeing as how this game wasn't rushed out to be released alongside a movie hitting the theater, a problem that today's licensed games suffer from, they were allowed to take time with this one. The play style is similar to the Metroid series in that it's non-linear, and you'll have to backtrack in order to access areas you were unable to reach before you grabbed a significant inventory item. You'll see holes in ceilings that were unreachable before finding the ladder, and when you nab the glasses you'll most likely want to revisit old passageways to see if you missed any invisible goodies the first time you passed through them. It's rewarding to finally be able to cross a long gap that you passed and cursed at so many times before when you finally strap on the hyper shoes late in the game. The game music is awesome and truly establishes the mood of your location, including an 8-bit instrumental of Cyndi Lauper's "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough" playing through the restaurant sections. When you get a game over, you end up at a screen where Mama Fratelli, with an excessively animated face, asks whether or not you wish to continue. If you choose not to, she helpfully provides with you with the kind of scrambled password that every NES player is most likely familiar with in order for you to continue thwarting her scheme in the future. If you do want to continue... she wishes you luck. I even think she is genuine about it.

In game, Mikey is sporting quite a punky style with his blazing hot pink hair and matching sweat pants with a navy blue muscle shirt. Cyndi Lauper has not been a good influence on him. The other Goonies all look identical, except for slight differences in hair and clothing style between genders. This means that Brand and Chunk share the same sprite. They all look like chubby midget clowns in blue overalls/dresses, with red hair, shirt, and shoes. Yes, even Data. One of the most lovable characters from the movie, Sloth, makes absolutely no appearance at all. How could you not figure out a role for this strong and loyal defector from the Fratelli clan, even if just as a cameo in one of the passageways to hand you off an item? Speaking of notable omissions from the film, none of Data's inventions make it in. You'd think things like belts equipped with spring loaded boxing gloves, suction cupped darts that reel in those out of reach items, and novelty teeth grappling hooks would be no-brainer and useful additions to your inventory. You'll also acquire two kinds of shoe upgrades, but absolutely no slick shoes.

-A map is imperative for this journey. While there is an in-game one, it is made up of featureless white squares that is of little help. I highly recommend making your own so you can scrawl notes on it. Then again, now that I think about it, I never used a map when I played in my youth. I actually completed the game multiple times, sometimes in one sitting, with my own memory guiding me on where to go. Let me rephrase: older folks like myself with decaying brain matter will need to make a map.
-Most enemies spawn via a morphing cloud and take a couple of seconds to emerge. Use this as an opportunity to strike them the second they finish forming.
-You'll receive a message inside a safe about how you'll only find some doors by dropping bombs in appropriate places. It's not worth the effort of placing explosives after every few paces you take, as the only things these doors will contain are 1-ups or Konami Man. Useful sure, but not worth the effort of spending hours finding bombs and wasting them minutes later.
-Several times throughout your adventure, you will come upon several women sitting in rooms and wailing about how they can't see anything without their glasses. You'll probably take this as a cue that you'll need to find a pair and give them to her in return for a valuable item or clue. Don't waste your time, as their only purpose is to hint that, when you find the glasses, you'll be able to use them to see things you couldn't without them.
-Do not punch Konami Man. Not because he might kick your ass, which he could, but because he will return the favor in a much worse manner: He'll refuse to refill your life bar whenever you find him for the rest of the game. Everyone else in the game can safely have their jaws jacked. There is even one person in particular where this is actually a necessity in finding an item. You'll know who it is because they'll pretty much make you want to pound them.
-Don't sweat game overs. You'll restart in the same region you died in, with the only penalty being that your bombs, Molotov cocktails, keys, and slingshot ammo will be gone. These things can easily be recovered by spending a few minutes attacking the endlessly respawning spiders and snakes.
-If you make it to Annie the Mermaid's holding tank before rescuing all The Goonies and/or without having a key on hand, you might think you're stuck there with no visible exit. Even pressing down on the control pad won't let you escape. What you have to do is put the diving suit back on in order to do so, but you may not realize this since, unlike other times you enter the underwater worlds, there is no visible water hole in the floor.

This is one of my favorite games from my childhood, and the odds of it ever seeing an official re-release as a downloadable title on modern consoles are slim to nil. In order to do so, Konami would need to obtain the rights to The Goonies license and most likely permission from Lauper's record label for the main theme. There was no other Goonies game after this one, although Mikey did make an appearance as a playable character in another Famicom game released exclusively in Japan called Wai Wai World, where he teamed up with Konami Man, Simon Belmont, a ship from Gradius, King Kong, and a few others to take on the aliens from Contra. If the fabled sequel to the movie ever does see the light of day, how great would it be if they referenced the events of this game as having really happened? Also, just to mess with our heads, call the movie The Goonies III! Include a flashback sequence to show how they met Annie.

"Thank you to Konami and The Goonies!"

As a reward for making it through the entire review of this 20-year-old game, lay your eyes on the custom map I created to complete the game recently. Please do not attempt to utilize it yourselves or you will become even more lost than you would be without it. However, use it as a general rule of game map-making. Create it in a way that's most convenient for you to understand, not anyone else. Let them make their own damn map.