Confusion: that's usually the first emotion you will encounter upon switching on your N64 with this particular game inserted. For all its hardware prowess, the console didn't have the best sound chip. Needless to say, it comes as a surprise when your N64 sings at you... singing at you in Japanese is the absolute last thing you expect.
The fact that this bizarre pop song is the background track to an introductory sequence featuring a fat man in make up, a female ninja (ninjette?) running along pagoda roofs and a gigantic robot on roller-skates only adds to the confusion, utter confusion.
The game is Mystical Ninja – Starring Goemon for the Nintendo 64.
Released within the first year of the console's life span, Konami built upon the formula of action/RPG they began with Goemon 3 and dragged the traditional setting of Ancient Japan into three dimensions. In what can be described as one of the strangest plots seen in any game ever, a gigantic, peach-shaped spacecraft is seen flying through the skies over Oedo, the hometown of Goemon and his spectacularly camp, blusher wearing, chubby sidekick Ebisumaru. The craft is controlled by a crazy dance troupe calling themselves ‘The Peach Mountain Shoguns,' who are hell bent on turning all of Japan into one gigantic stage by using (bear with this) the instant stage beam, and they blast Oedo Castle as their first target. See? It's far from your normal “princess is in another castle” affair, isn't it?
After investigating Oedo, you embark upon the quest to stop them. This involves traveling across Japan and solving people's problems, negotiating dangerous platforms and defeating bosses, all the while finding yourself climbing mountains, riding dragons and battling gigantic robots from inside Goemon's own mech (but more on this later).
Starting with just the two characters, you meet two more playable characters in Yae: the green haired swordswoman and Sasuke and the little robotic ninja. Each one has his own unique skills that must be used to get past certain obstacles, and picking the right character for the right segment becomes an integral part of the game. It's certainly better implemented here than in the woeful Donkey Kong 64. Yae learns the ability to turn into a Mermaid and can swim to great depths, whereas Ebisumaru can shrink and fit through mouse-sized gaps. It all makes up some excellent progression based gameplay.
So far, so good. Unfortunately, it's not without some obvious flaws.