Konami’s second Ganbare Goemon game to be localised for the West was also the eponymous ninja’s first outing in 3D.
Upon first playing Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon it’s immediately apparent why the series has predominantly remained in its homeland: it’s incredibly Japanese. While that’s certainly not a bad thing – in fact, it’s what makes this title and other games in the series so endearing – it was never a game that was going achieve mainstream appeal on par with that of Super Mario 64 or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
That said, Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon sold nearly 200,000 copies worldwide, achieved decent enough review scores and was followed by a sequel, Goemon’s Great Adventure, which was also localised and released in the West.
The game’s wacky premise will especially appeal to Japanophiles. Set in Feudal Japan, the plot of this Goemon game is anything but vanilla. The blue-haired ninja and his friends must undertake a dangerous quest across Japan in order to stop the Peach Mountain Shoguns, a nefarious gang hellbent on the most diabolical of schemes: to transform Japan into a Westernized fine arts theatre. Yes, it’s utterly bonkers.
Of course, such a setting paves the way for a lot of creative freedom, giving Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon a very distinct identity. It’s stuffed full of modern-day anachronisms and giant clockwork robots (which you get to control), and incorporates elements of Japanese folklore as if they were true.
The end result is a 3D action-adventure and platforming game that takes place across a variety of fantastical settings, such as a sushi-filled submarine and a toy-themed castle that’s haunted by ghosts. The game features high-quality musical samples – including three recorded songs – and as a result uses a 16MB cartridge (which was unusually large for the N64 at the time).
The game was originally meant to ship with a two-player mode, but this feature was scrapped months before the game’s final release.