Monster Party – NES
Release Date (NA): June 1989
Developer: Human Entertainment
Publishers: Bandai, Shensei
Nerd Rating: 6 out of 10
On a recent hunt for…whatever it is I hunt for, I’d made my decision about what to buy. The guy came over, opened the case, and I grabbed Primal Rage for the SNES and Wolverine for the NES. And then, just as I was about to pull my arm out of the case, I suddenly couldn’t resist the label of Monster Party. There’s Dracula and the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Medusa and some plant thingy…with my background in horror movie enthusiasm, how could I say no? So I grabbed it and tacked the extra $9.88 onto my purchase.
After a ton of fighting with the cartridge – I’m talking like opening the cartridge up and scraping black shit off the contacts with a wire cutter – I got underway. In many ways Monster Party is like a lot of other horror-themed games: early Castlevania installments, the Ghost’s n’ Goblins series, Monster in My Pocket, and others. You run around and take out monsters. The weird part isn’t so much the gameplay, but the premise and the backstory surrounding this title.
You assume the role of Mark, some normal kid who sees a bright star and then his eyes get moist (no joke!) and he doesn’t notice that the damn thing falls and lands in front of him. Then some kind of gargoyle/dragon thing pops up and enlists Mark’s help. Gargoyle is named Bert, by the way. So they’re off to Bert’s homeworld, which has been taken over my monsters. Mark only has his bat, so to compensate, Bert fuses with him, or some shit.
Apparently, this was supposed to be a pretty graphic game with all sorts of blood and scary monsters, but much of it was tamed down. Monster Party has become a popular target for NES “hackers,” who sift through the code to see what might be hidden underneath. A pumpkin-headed monster was originally supposed to be an ape from Planet of the Apes, and the cat in the box is speculated to have been a gremlin from the eponymous film. Blame copyright issues for the changes. Even with whatever changes that were made, there is still a good deal of dark imagery, and even the world “hell” printed onscreen.
The game is simple. Mark walks around killing shit with a baseball bat. Despite what the cover may have us believe, most of these monsters aren’t immediately recognizable. Some are just scary humanoids, while others are generic skeletons, lizard-ish creatures, and the like. Regardless, there’s a ton of variety, so at least it’s interesting. Few creatures are recycled from level to level and even though they may not be recognizable, they look good.
Monster Party contains some unique features that are worth mentioning. First of all, each level contains a door every so often. In this door there might be nothing, or there may be a creature. A certain creature in each level will yield a key, which is necessary to enter the door at the end of the level. Another cool feature is that Mark’s baseball bat isn’t totally arbitrary. Besides beating the hell out of alien monsters, it can also bounce back projectiles if times correctly. Should the projectile hit something, it’ll actually harm it. Plus, the objects bounce off the bat at all kinds of different angles instead of displaying the exact same behavior each time. It isn’t a huge deal, but it is nice touch for an NES game. Finally, Mark has the ability to transform into Bert by picking up powerups shaped like a pill. For a limited but generous time, the player plays as Bert who uses a projectile attack that’s more powerful than Mark’s bat – plus, he can fly!
I do appreciate the novel mechanics and structure of Monster Party, but make no mistake, it’s extremely difficult. With the way that enemies move and the way that Mark moves, dodging foes is difficult. The “Guardians” (bosses) range from super easy to insanely difficult. Some of them can easily be dispatched with the bat and others it’s pretty easy to knock all their projectile attacks away and eventually kill them. However, several move in ways that are literally impossible to avoid. Yes, I gave this a shot without the Game Genie. No, it did not last long.
Graphically, Monster Party is one of the livelier NES titles I’ve seen in a while. Each level is distinct. The first one is one of the coolest. Allegedly it was supposed to be a creepy mountain range, but the final product is a little more ambiguous…to me it looks like something between a cemetery and a forest, and actually reminds me greatly of the first level of Haunted Castle. The skulls and blood work to great effect. Other levels include a cave, what I assume to be inside of a pyramid, a house full of a maze of doors, and a final stage in the clouds. The detail put into even the smallest sprites is impressive, and rarely do creatures have that muddy, blocky appearance common to the system. The Guardians are typically large and vary in quality; I assume this is because of whatever last minute changes were made. For instance one boss is a giant fried shrimp – for the record, I had no clue what the fuck this thing was when I fought it. It was only reading up on the game afterwards that I realized what sort of mysterious alien monster I’d been up against.
And this brings me to my main complaint. I know I shouldn’t judge a book (or a game) by its cover, especially back in the 8-bit days, but there was something so awesome about the Universal Monsters-esque label. Unfortunately, Monster Party doesn’t deliver. I guess it has to do with copyright infringement, but I’m still disappointed that I didn’t see anything I thought was a vampire or any sea monster resembling the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Oh well. I just keep telling myself that they were going to (or already had) put all that stuff in the game when they made the label and then had to go back through the code and edit it out. Still, it is a little misleading. The cover gives us the impression that we’re up against standard horror movie type monsters, and though they do appear to an extent, I think a lot of these critters better fit the “alien” category…remember, this isn’t some dark castle or a world of gothic superstition…the game is taking place on a whole different planet.
I won’t spoil the ending, but it is kind of cool, and a little more fleshed out than most NES games.
In summation, Monster Party is a fun but flawed game. The 6 out of 10 may be a tad harsh, but I’m standing my ground when it comes to insane difficulty and a somewhat misleading premise. But even so, there’s plenty to like about this game. It’s quirky, it looks great, and it features some non-traditional gameplay elements that ought to be refreshing for the 8-bit enthusiast. I would say don’t let the cover art fool you should you see this lying around, but then again, it’s worth playing if you’re looking for quality on the NES. I have my reservations about Monster Party, but I also wholeheartedly recommend giving it a shot!
|Game Genie Codes|
|Take no damage, except from Guardians||
|Take no damage from Guardians||
|Start with boosted energy||
|Start with super-boosted energy||
Reviewed by The Cubist
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