In December of 2001, Super Smash Brothers Melee made its North American debut. Unfortunately, most of us didn't see it until almost January; we either received it as a Christmas present or bought it ourselves with the cash and gift certificates we got. By mid-January, Smash Brothers fever was in full swing within the Gamecube community. All over the internet, players were trying to uncover every secret and unlockable within the game. It was during that time that the news broke regarding a trophy that was only available within the Japan version of the game. That trophy was Tamagon, an ugly little dragon who appeared in an NES game called Devil World that was only released in Japan and Europe. Because they're paranoid little bitches, Nintendo of America decided to remove the trophy so as not to offend by using the word devil. The situation outraged gamers because it was yet another instance of foreigners getting less game content than their Japanese counterparts. NOA came under fire for creating controversy where none existed and the anti-Gamecube crowd used the debacle to reaffirm their position that Nintendo only made "kiddie" games. As a diehard Nintendo fan, I found the whole situation to be incredibly embarrassing and I have tried to block it out of mind. However, I recently found myself wondering about Devil World. I mean, come on, the game is fucking called DEVIL WORLD and it was never released in the US for fear that it would offend religious groups. With a reputation like that, it must be a pretty amazing game, right? Well no, not especially. I suppose you'd like me to elaborate further though...
Devil World is the story of Tamagon, a fire-breathing dragon who looks a lot like a retarded version of Bubble Bobble's Bub. Since this game predates the Taito classic by two years, it's probably just an unfortunate coincidence. The game opens with an encouraging message: ATTACK THE DEVIL'S WORLD! Before we get to that part, I'd like to take a few moments to talk about the Devil himself. I was raised Catholic and in CCD they taught us that Satan can take many forms. In his most recognizable form, Satan is a red monster with horns and a pitchfork. However, sometimes he's a talking snake. Sometimes he's a guy you meet on your way home from school who wants you to try drugs. Sometimes he's Elizabeth Hurley. And sometimes, the Devil is a bright blue winged creature in red spandex who likes to dance; I guess Lucifer moonlights as a Mexican wrestler.
In addition to the crazyass blue version of Satan, there are four foes who will harass you throughout the game. First, there's Medaman. Medaman is pink monster who appears in every round. When Tamagon uses his fire breath on Medaman, he turns into a fried egg. I guess that means Medaman is a giant egg, but he doesn't particularly look like one. Much like the ghosts in Pac-Man, Medaman will keep respawning no matter how many times you cook and/or eat him. Next, there's Co-Devil. Co-Devil is a smaller one-eyed version of the Devil. Despite this, I'm pretty sure that Co-Devil is not supposed to be Satan's dick. Co-Devil cannot be killed, but fire will cause him to change directions. Then there's Bon-Bon. Bon-Bon starts up in Round 7 and he's more or less a red version of Medaman with horns. He's slighty faster and more aggressive than Medaman, but he can be turned into a delicious fried egg just as easily. Finally, there's ice cream. In the first three rounds, the Devil will occasionally summon ice cream cones to distract Tamagon. Ice cream cones appear in groups of four and spin around in a circular motion. They're not so much an enemy as they are a bonus item and the instruction booklet says that they're Tamagon's favorite treat. They're worth 800 points each. If points mattered at all in this game, that might actually be useful to know. Unfortunately, they don't. Let's move on to gameplay.
Each round in Devil World is comprised of two scenes. In the first scene, you must navigate your way through a maze and destroy the Boa Boa dots which give the Devil his power. When you destroy all the dots, the scene is cleared. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it should - it's fucking Pac-Man. However, Devil World has a few notable gameplay changes that prevent it from being just a cheesy rip-off of a far superior game. In Pac-Man, you can grab dots whenever you fucking feel like it. In Devil World, you need to be holding a cross in order to break Satan's balls. Luckily for Tamagon, there seems to be no shortage of crosses in Hell. When Tamagon touches a cross on the playfield, he gets an even bigger one to carry around. After a short time, Tamagon's cross will start to flash. After that, it will disappear and he will have to grab a new one. The good news is that you can keep grabbing crosses from the same spaces over and over again. The bad news is that Tamagon is defenseless without a cross. Despite being a dragon, Tamagon can only shoot fire while wielding religious paraphernelia. There second difference between Pac-Man and Devil World is that the AI is terrible. Enemies will be pursuing you and then suddenly veer away for no apparent reason. However, the third and final difference more than compensates for this failing: the maze autoscrolls. On either side of the screen, there are giant poles which restrict Tamagon's movement within the maze. These poles force the level to scroll up, down, left, or right. If Tamagon gets stuck between a pole and a wall or between a wall and either vertical end of the screen, he will be crushed to death. This is the easiest way to die in Devil World. The movement of the maze is controlled by Satan himself. Satan will point in one direction and then the maze will move in the exact opposite direction. I'm not sure if this is meant to trick you of if the Medamen working are just fucking idiots. If it's a trick, it's not a very good one. Once you know that the maze moves contrary to the Devil's commands, you're not going to be confused by it. The autoscrolling in this game is really fucking annoying. Abrupt direction changes will often crush you and since they're completely random, you will sometimes be forced to retread old ground over and over again before you can grab the last couple dots you need to clear the level.
After you've collected all the dots in a round, you move on to the second scene. The basic mechanics remain the same: you're in the same maze, it's still moving on its own, and you're still being halfheartledy pursued by badly designed cyclopean monsters. Your mission this time is to collect the four Bibles that float in the corners of the screen and use them to seal the entrances to the Devil's monster machine. This scene is slightly easier than the first one because the Bibles stay in fixed positions on the screen regardless of the maze rotation. Unfortunately, Tamagon can only shoot fire if he is holding a Bible, which means he must work harder to avoid Satan's minions than in the previous scene. This mechanic was reused in The Legend of Zelda, where Link can find a Magic Book that allows his Magic Wand to project fire in addition to the curved white lines it normally shoots out. In the original Japanese version of the game, that magic book is the fucking Bible.
With his magic destroyed and his monster machine sealed, the Devil is defeated. The weakened Prince of Darkness turns into a bat and flies off. After that, Tamagon gets to play a bonus round. In most old school video games, racking up points will earn you extra lives. In Devil World, your score is worthless. The only way to earn an extra life is by finding one in the bonus round. In this scene, you have 30 seconds to grab as many of the six Bonus Boxes as you can. One of them contains an extra life in the form of a green Tamagon egg, the rest contain points. Since Lucifer is not around to move the maze, you can move it yourself by stepping on white direction arrows on the ground. Oddly enough, the maze still moves in opposite direction of the arrow even though Satan's dark magic has been lifted from the maze. You do not lose a life if you are crushed to death in the bonus round. Instead, the round will end.
Despite being released on a home console in 1984, Devil World feels like an arcade game from somewhere between the late 70s and early 80s. It is marked by mindless repetition and bare bones design. There are only three different mazes and they repeat over and over at fast speeds. There is some mild round variation in the enemies, but that stops after Round 10. The game also lacks a proper ending. The European instruction booklet claims that the game ends after 16 rounds, but it doesn't. The game only ends when Tamagon has lost all his lives, meaning that the only reward for playing is the mild self-satisfaction that one might derive from beating his own high score. Fuck that. Your high score is gone once you reset or shut off the game, so what's the point?
Devil World joins Balloon Fight and Ice Climber on the list of early NES games that I have no desire to play. It's not so much that it's a bad game, but it's a bad NES game. Devil World's shallow gameplay is much better suited for the Atari 2600 or Intellivision than it was for the NES. Although the reasons for Nintendo's decision were rather stupid, I'm glad this game was never released in North America. The idea that someone might have actually bought this game instead of Crystalis, Castlevania, or Adventure Island is completely unbearable. That is perhaps the biggest problem with a game like Devil World. Knowing what sort of games the NES is capable of playing, Devil World seems like a waste of time, money, and coding. Fortunately, Devil World would be one of the last games that Nintendo designed using the arcade game mentality. In 1985, Shigeru Miyamoto unleashed Super Mario Bros. upon us and saved us all from ever having to play games like Devil World again. But hey, if you still want that damn Tamagon trophy, you can unlock it with Action Replay or Gameshark. Well, unless you live in Europe, then you're completely fucked.
Posted by: Syd Lexia
ATTACK THE DEVIL'S WORLD!