Any Port in a Storm: Mr. Gimmick (NES/Famicom)
Welcome to "Any Port in a Storm", where we discuss games in dire need of a port in order to remind the newer generations of what they're missing.
Today's topic is the Nintendo Entertainment System and Famicom cult-classic known as Gimmick! (or Mr. Gimmick in all territories outside of Japan).
Developed and published by Sunsoft, Mr. Gimmick was released in 1992 for the Famicom in Japan, and in 1993 for the NES in Scandinavia. Due to its limited run, as well as its untimely release during the rising popularity of 16-bit gaming with the new Super Nintendo and established Sega Genesis, Mr. Gimmick got left in the dust and fell into near-obscurity.
It wouldn't be until years later that people would discover through the magic of the Internet what they had been missing out on for all those years. Yet despite the game's now cult-classic status and following, it is still relatively unknown and unpraised for its quality.
It's about time that changed.
While this article functions partially as a review, it is more a proposal for why this game deserves to be ported.
If you want a more in depth look at how the game plays, as well as all the amazing details it has, click here for an in-depth review by Pat the NES Punk (after you've finished this article of course).
Mr. Gimmick is the kind of game that, were it released in all territories worldwide upon its initial launc, or even if it had been made today by either a AAA developer or indie developer, it could have had the potential to be forever remembered as an all-time 2D Platformer classic.
Let me tell you why that is.
Mr. Gimmick is nothing short of a true technical achievement. It is crammed full of back-of-the-box selling points from the modern era of gaming, that you would be hard-pressed to find in most, if any other, NES or (even SNES) game of its time.
The story is simple and very cute, and does its job well enough as a framing device for the in-game events. But it pales in comparison to the jaw-dropping feat of programming and heart that is Mr. Gimmick's gameplay.
For starters, every enemy in the game -- including bosses -- has intelligent and responsive AI, and all these AIs behave differently from one another, which makes every encounter an actual thinking challenge.
Gimmick himself has momentum-based movement, which creates a unique and absorbing method of simply moving around. He walks before he runs, and slides a bit before stopping when landing after a jump.
The level design itself is full of slopes and curved edges, all of which Gimmick struggles to climb, and speedily slides down. The physics aren't completely realistic, but they are still impressive, and possibly the best that the NES/Famicom ever managed.
Speaking of the level design, there's not much to fault. The platforming challenges, enemy placement, and occasional puzzles are all varied and provide a mild enough change on the established gameplay to keep things feeling fresh to whole way through.
While we're talking about variety, it would be remiss of me not mention the games art-style, graphics, and music.
The chosen aesthetic for the game is bright, cheerful, and extremely colorful in a manner that suits the intended Toy-Box feeling very well. The character designs in particular being very simple, yet at the same time very distinct and cute, giving them their own Mr. Gimmick flavor.
The music in particular deserves mention. The Famicom version of Gimmick! utilized a special sound-chip placed in each cartridge that allowed for the use of additional sound channels that the system did not usually have access to.
Every track in the game is upbeat, memorable, and generally more complex and intricate than most other NES tracks. Listen for yourself if you aren't sure you believe me.
That being said, with all of these great elements and unique game mechanics in place, the game adopts a truly punishing difficulty.
The momentum-based movement and intelligent enemies work in tandem against Gimmick and his default two hit points of health, which can only be raised to four hit points by finding a temporary item in each level, and then resets at the start of the next level (think along the lines of Super Mario Bros. 2).
In addition to that, in order to access the final level of the game, and even get a chance of beating the final boss and getting the good version of two possible endings, you will need to collect all of the special items in each stage, all of which are hidden, or otherwise blocked by immense platforming challenges.
Oh yeah, and despite having unlimited continues, if you continue even once during your playthrough, you dash your hopes of getting the good ending, even if you manage to collect all of the special items in each stage. So that's pretty harsh.
Despite all of these facts, Mr. Gimmick is still worth playing.
If you don't want a challenge, then steer clear, because this game is not for casuals, despite its cute exterior. But if you're the kind of gamer that loves a short but tightly-designed burst of difficulty, all wrapped in a pretty and heart-felt package, then this game was made for you.
And I really do mean tightly-designed. Just ask AGDQ.
This game has already actually seen a port of sorts, but it was still localized within Japan only. The Japanese version of Gimmick! was re-released on the Sunsoft games compilation PSX title Memorial Series Sunsoft Vol. 6. However, again, it was only released in Japan (Scandinavia didn't even get a piece of the pie this time).
I want to make my final point as clear as possible. This game is great, was great, and deserves to be preserved as it is. Mr. Gimmick does not need a remake. Mr. Gimmick needs a modern-day current generation re-release.