Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Potentially Frightening Halloween Games: Monster Party (NES)

Grab your spiffiest ape costume, some big fat apples and a bag of delicious razorblades to hide inside them America, because the Great Pumpkin is almost upon us once more!, not Samhain from The Real Ghostbusters. Uh, well, they are related, kind of. It's actually pronounced "Sawain" by the way. See, I'm talking about that Charlie Brown special where Linus stays out all night in the - PUT THAT STEEL PIPE DOWN; there are no ghosts on the way, damn it!

Never mind, you ruined it. It's going to be Halloween soon is what I was getting at. Thanks for screwing up my into.

Halloween is my third favorite holiday, right behind Christmas and Arbor Day, so you can imagine how excited I am to celebrate the season of splatterpunk horror flicks, inappropriate novelty costumes and cheap, extremely flammable decorations constructed with a mildly carcinogenic foam and the tears of thousands of third world children. While TV stations observe the holiday by playing The Exorcist 8,000 times in a row and children celebrate with their yearly costumed begging, I prefer to commemorate All Hallows Eve by digging out the most frightening video games from my collection, turning down the lights and taking on the undead hoards.

Also by drinking heavily.

It's like a normal frat party, only here, you have a slightly higher chance of death.

Monster Party, Bandai's forgotten NES offering circa 1989, is a deceptive and uneven title, both in its presentation and its challenge. You know you have a winner on your hands as the off-the-wall introduction presents itself before the first level. In my mind, this game's intro is tied with Blaster Master's as the shoddiest - and most beloved - Nintendo storyline of all time.

This is Mark, or as the manual calls him, MARK. He's apparently an eight-year-old Japanese baseball player living in America whose mother lets him hang out with his friends far past midnight. As he's walking home from one of his 3 a.m. games, clearly labeled with a giant "M" on his shirt so rapists and aliens will know who he is, he sees a star and simultaneously forgets the rules of proper grammar "While he stared at it."

The "beauty of the star" makes MARKS's eyes moist, a term generally reserved to describe delicious chocolate cake, but used here to imply that staring a bright lights might hurt one's eyes. As you all know, this is certainly not true.

Lo and behold, it's not a celestial body at all; it's a freakish purple birdman alien. His name: Bert, obviously.

"Evil monsters" have invaded Bert's world, and only an eight-year-old Japanese-American baseball player can help! MARK's pretty scared right now and I don't blame him. Just look at the horror (or indifference, whatever) written all over his face!

But thanks to his superior conversation skills (and the fact that he's a HUGE SHARP DEMON) Bert convinces MARK to go with him to another planet and risk his life by pointing out that MARK's got the only weapon capable of stopping the interstellar intruders: a three foot long slab of wood. Apparently, Bert's planet is either highly peaceful or just very behind in national pass times. Or both.

You know, I'm starting to get the impression that Bert just doesn't care who he recruits to try to stop the "evil monsters." He kind of reminds me of a job I once applied to that was way too interested in hiring me. It turned out they were involved in the illegal soap trade and the cops cleaned them out not three days later.

Bert grabs MARK without his permission and flies STRAIGHT TO ANOTHER PLANET without the aid of things like oxygen, but it's okay because MARK's helmet-like hair protects him from burning up upon reentry. Along the way, MARK asks how Bert can help him take down the "evil monsters" and Bert screams, "Like this!" and they... "fuse" together. Then MARK is raped relentlessly by the bird-beaked extraterrestrial, and OH THANK GOD Then MARK and Bert combine their power to become an unstoppable monster mashing machine!

Unfortunately, even after the transformation, Bert remains a very unintimidating shade of purple.

This is how MARK'S adventure began!

I just said that.
Everything starts out fine with MARK bashing enemies' faces in with his baseball bat. MARK can run, jump and crawl like a worm to escape his ememies' deadly attacks, and even knock back projectiles to the sender, producing a satisfying, Megaman-like explosion. Power pills allow MARK to fuse with Bert to become a nearly-unstoppable, winged monstrosity who shoots poisonous quills from his facial area and can fly past danger. The transformation lasts only a few seconds though, so you'd better intimidate as many space priests as possible during that time in order to steal their congregation's cash and purchase some unpurple clothes for your naked birdlike friend.

MARK even runs into a few bosses, like this giant plant reminiscent of Audry from Little Shop of Horrors. Fun fact: Originally, fake Audry was supposed to be singing karaoke, complete with a speaker and a microphone. For some reason, all the accompanying graphics were removed; only the now-pointless stage lights remain. The speaker is still present in the game, however: You can stand on the invisible platform to the right where it used to exist.

Feed me!
Remember how I mentioned that this game has an unbalanced presentation and challenge? Just look at this: Halfway though the level and things are fine. Even the blocks are smiling and nonthreatening. At this point, MARK's probably thinking he has it made; whack a few disembodied legs, collect a few hearts, kill a few overgrown, formerly karaoke star plants, and you're on you way home in time for the next midnight baseball game with all the other unsupervised third graders. But then the player makes the mistake of running past this seemingly innocent tree...

Oh, a giant tree. That doesn't look threatening. Let me keep going...

Suddenly, all those happy blocks turn into bloody skulls, everything that was previously smiling now bears frowns and fangs, and giant eyeballs with tentacles and man-faced dogs join the cast of creatures MARK has to take down. This is when the player knows that he or she isn't playing the average 8-bit platformer. Isn't this supposed to be a kids' game? How did stuff like this get past the Nintendo censors, but a little bit of blood on a zombie's shirt was too extreme for the unreleased MOTHER 1 prototype?

And then there's this guy.

This boss has already bit the dust, so all MARK has to do is stand around and wait for a prize to appear. A minute later, a pumpkin ghost that looks a bit like Samhain (don't start whipping out pipes again please) beats you like Sham-Wow guy does his prostitutes. The incongruent challenge and schizophrenic theme make this one a hard game to peg, but once you get the hang of it, Monster Party is actually pretty fun. It's gotten a bad rap in the past for some reason, but truth be told, it's one of Bandai's best.

There's plenty more wicked wierdness to be found in Monster Party, including a group of Japanese cabaret  zombies who require the player to wait and watch their dance, a giant, skewered shrimp, a punk rocker who attacks with "bad playing music," and a bull who throws small cows at our sandlot savior, but 1.) I don't want to ruin it for you, and 2.) nothing is as messed up as the first level's transformation from harmless NES game to horrific wasteland.

Well, unless you count the ending.

Happy Halloween, and remember: Never trust purple birdmen with strangely average names, because they're probably flying child molesters in disguise. Also, don't play baseball after midnight, or a princess will melt you face.


  1. i think the caption under the picture at the beginning of the post of the pumpkin should have said "BRRR!" no "bwah!" i mean if Jason Vorhees says it so should he right?

  2. excellent im so glad my input is valued!