In their entire shitty history as a video game company, Bandai has released very few video games that I would ever even think about playing. With a roster full of craptastic games that includes Gilligan's Island, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Street Cop, and a several dozen mediocre games based on anime, it's not difficult to understand why Bandai is so oft-maligned. While Bandai's products have marginally improved over the years, they only made one NES game that's really worth talking about: Monster Party. It suffers from many of the same problems that other Bandai games have including pedestrian level design, limited animation, ugly sprites, and a completely nonsensical storyline, but somehow it still works. At least, it works for me. If you're the type of person who has played hundreds of video games, you'll probably find this game to be easy and boring. Perhaps it is. But as someone who played this game when I was still an impressionable young gamer at a time when graphics didn't get all that much better than this, I have a soft spot for Monster Party. Besides, you get to fight giant monsters with cheesy taunts; isn't that worth a look?
Our story begins one night with a young boy named Mark. Mark was walking home from a Little League by himself. This was a common situation within poor Mark's life because his parents didn't love him enough to come to his games. No, by 6 o'clock his dad was piss drunk and his mom was halfway across town banging her boss in some cheap motel. But tonight Mark would be offered an escape from his dreadful home life. Instead of the nightly horror of listening to his dad rape his fourteen-year-old sister in the next room, Mark was about to experience a new type of horror. As he walked home on that frigid evening, he spied a bright star in the sky and he wished that his life were different. Suddenly, the star fell to Earth and landed in front of Mark. It was not a star after all, but instead a horrible purple bird monster. Most ten-year-olds would have shit their pants and run away, but not Mark. Mark immediately assumed that monsters from outer space can speak English and boldly approached the strange beast:
"Who are you?" Mark asked.
"I'm Bert!" exclaimed the monster.
"What's up?" inquired Mark as he fought the urge to ask where Ernie was.
"I'm looking for help," said Bert.
"Evil monsters are out of control in my world," he explained with an unnecessary set of new quotation marks.
"Come and help me," he demanded, once again showing a total disregard for proper quotation mark use.
Then Mark yelled "Fuck yeah!" and off they went. Oh, if only it were that simple. But it's not. No, instead of doing the decent thing and accepting Bert's invitation. Mark decides to drag out the intro and cut into precious game time with more text.
So yeah, the intro just keeps going and going. Mark whines that he's "afraid to fight the evil monsters", but Bert grabs his hand and makes him go anyway. Oddly enough, it is only after kidnapping Mark that Bert decides to ask him his name. Someone really should have explained to the translation team that in a written dialogue where the two speakers are not constantly reestablished, every new set of quotation marks is supposed to represent a transition between the two speakers. Instead, they seem to think that every fucking sentence needs its own set of quotation marks. Damn you, Bandai and your dubious grasp of English punctuation. If you didn't read the harassing animated GIFs, you didn't miss much. The plot is rather inconsequential. All you really need to know is that game takes place on a planet called Dark World and that the main characters are a bat-wielding boy named Mark and a winged monster named Bert.
Actual gameplay kicks off with this screen, which shows skeletons floating in a lake of blood while more blood oozes down from the top of the screen. While this is rather sterile by today's standards, it is quite possibly the goriest thing that ever made it onto the NES. On an interesting sidenote, this game was developed in Japan but only released in the US. The few screenshots that exist of the Japanese prototype indicate that it was going to be even more gruesome than the version I'll be covering here. Unfortunately, the prototype cartridge has not yet made its way into the hands of internet pirates, so we may never know just how much more awesome the game could have been. But as you can tell from the screenshot above, this game doesn't fuck around.
Or not. Apparently that whole thing with blood was just a ruse. For a place called Dark World, this is a pretty happy place: happy trees, happy bricks, even happy doors. Not only that, but Mark's outfit has inexplicably changed from red to green. Your enemies in this level will include a goth kid with a creepy yellow aura and some douche who got the interesting half of his body stuck in the ground. After fighting a couple of lame baddies, you'll encounter a door. Inside it, you'll meet your first real enemy...
This first boss that you'll encounter is the Man-Eating Plant. The Man-Eating Plant is a bizarre amalgamation that talks like Audrey II, looks like Jay Leno, and fights like those cute little dinosaurs from Bubble Bobble. Why exactly does this thing spit bubbles? Fucked if I know. Maybe it makes sense in Japan, or MAYBE THE GAME DESIGNERS WERE ON CRACK. To beat this carnivorous plant, you must deflect its bubbles back at it with your baseball bat. Try not to forget that, because this stratagem can be used to defeat almost every enemy in the entire fucking game. Although the Man-Eating Plant is the first boss character that you fight, he takes at least 20 hits before he dies. After you finish this unnecessarily tedious battle, the door opens and Mark can continue on his quest.
Sometimes, an enemy will drop a pill when it's defeated. Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but when I see unmarked prescription drugs on the ground, I shove that son of a bitch in my mouth and dry-swallow it quick as can be. And that's why I'm not allowed outside of my house without written permission from the county sheriff's office. But while eating strange pills can get you into a shitload of trouble in the real world, it's a great idea in the Dark World. Whenever Mark pops a pill, he is briefly transformed into Bert. Now here's where I take major issue with the game's plot. Bert supposedly travels to Earth to find someone to help him defeat evil monsters who have taken over his home planet. This plot worked well in A Boy And His Blob, mainly because Blobert was absolutely useless without The Boy to boss him around, shoot falling cherry bombs, and solve rudimentary puzzles. The problem with Monster Party is that Bert doesn't need Mark at all. Bert is better than Mark in every conceivable way: he can fly, he can shoot projectiles, and his attacks do more damage than Mark's. We may never know for sure why Bert enlisted the help of a human boy, but I suspect he may be mentally retarded. While the whole Mark/Bert fusion thing makes no sense from a storyline standpoint, it was necessary from a gameplay standpoint. When you're Bert, the game is so ridiculously easy that it's almost sad. Going into Bert mode is pretty much the equivalent of obtaining a temporary invincibility item in other games. The difference is that you can still die as Bert, but only if you totally suck.
As you continue on through this stupid happy world, you'll encounter two more rooms. The first one is empty. Yes, in your quest to fight giant evil monsters, you will sometimes encounter rooms that serve no purpose other than to disappoint you. But in that second room, you'll find a boss. Cower in fear, brave gamer, for thou has stumbled upon the nefarious Giant Spider! Are you man enough to slay him? Too bad, because he's already dead. That's right, the second boss in the game takes NO FUCKING EFFORT WHATSOEVER TO DEFEAT. This game seems fairly disappointing so far, right? Well things are about to get a little more interesting...
After "beating" the dead spider, Mark continues forward on his quest to help Bert become the gayest gay in all of Gaytown or whatever the fuck it is that they're trying to accomplish. But just when things seem to be irreconcilably bad, they suddenly get better. As Mark passes a particularly saccharine topiary monstrosity, things suddenly get a little hazy. When your sight finally clears, you find yourself in an 8-bit version of Hell replete with skulls and blood. That's what you get for eating strange pills, you fuck. The first couple times that I played this game, the graphics change scared the bloody fuck outta me. These days, it just seems kinda cool.
The final boss of Level 1 is the Pumpkin-Ghost. Although his name may imply it, Pumpkin-Ghost is not the ghost of a pumpkin; that would be totally gay. Instead, he is an abominable hybrid of pumpkin and ghost. After begging Mark not to pick on him, Pumpkin-Ghost proceeds to throw aborted pumpkin fetuses at him, effectively ending any chance of an amicable resolution. To defeat Pumpkin-Ghost, you must whack him in the head. You can either use your bat to deflect the little pumpkins back at him or you can get up close and wail on him. I'm not a very patient man, so I highly recommend the second method. Sure you'll sustain some damage, but your life will refill once the round ends. Or if you want to take the easy way out, you can find a pill somewhere and fight this guy as Bert.
After beating the Pumpkin-Ghost, you'll be awarded a key. That is, unless you're a total retard and somehow missed one of the bosses. If that happens to be the case you'll have to backtrack and find the baddie your stupid ass missed. But assuming you do have the key, just keep pushing forward and you'll arrive at the level exit. For completing the level, you'll be given extra health as well as a password that allows you to continue with your score and health total intact.
It would be pretty hard for the game's programmers to top the creepiness of the second half of Level 1, so they don't. Level 2 is called Dark World Dungeon. I guess in Dark World, the words "sewer" and "dungeon" are somehow interchangeable. In this level, you'll fight fish heads, purple alligators, and something which I can only assume is a blood-belching vagina. So now you have some background information on the level. But honestly, who fucking cares what the level setup is? The fun part of this game is the gigantic boss monsters.
The first boss you'll encounter in this level is called Snake In A Bad Wig. No wait, it's Medusa. Now personally, I had thought Medusa was a humanoid creature with snakes for hair that turned people to stone with her icy gaze. Apparently I was wrong. Medusa is a giant snake with snakes for hair who doesn't move at all. She does, however, throw some sort of projectile at you. As best I can figure, they're either turtles or pregnant snakes. Either way, you wouldn't want them thrown at you.
Next up is one of the most truly bizarre bosses ever to be featured in a video game: Shrimp Attack! Shrimp Attack is pretty fucked for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it's somewhat of a misnomer. Shrimp Attack is a series of three giant food items that bounce around the screen: a fried shrimp, an onion ring, and a miscellaneous third item which I presume to be fried scallops. These bosses don't shoot any projectiles, so if you're playing as Mark, you're going to be doing a lot of the hit and run. On the bright side, they can't hit you if you duck. So do that and you'll be fine.
The final boss in this level is the Haunted Well. The Haunted Well is many things: it's a well, it's cursed ground, and it was almost Baby Jessica's tomb. One thing that it is not, however, is a dishwasher. One of the most obvious indications of this is that it throws silver plates at you. Some people might try to convince you that those plates are actually giant silver coins, but they're wrong. Unless this game's programmers were exceptionally inept, they would have been able to render slightly more convincing coins. Oh wait, they WERE inept. At any rate, once you send enough of those damn things back the well, you'll obtain the key to Level 3.
Level 3 is a cave and conveniently enough, it is called Dark World Cave. This level is home to skeletons, umbrella bats, and floating ghost things with claws and pointy ears. This level is also home to the second unexplained Mark costume change. Between the prologue and Level 1, Mark's outfit changed from red to green. Now it has changed from green to pink. Why? I have no fucking clue.
Level 3 brings us Giant Bull Man, an evil minotaur who implores Mark to "mooove it". As if that pun weren't bad enough, Giant Bull Man also enjoys hurling bovines at Mark. Actually, this guy is kinda cool. I don't really know quite how much upper body strength it takes to be able to toss a cow at someone, but I imagine it's quite impressive. And besides, they are so adorable. I usually end up losing to this guy because I just can't bring myself to hit those poor defenseless cows.
Next up is a transparent mummy known as the Guardian of the Giant Sphinx. This name displeases me. I mean, come on, that sphinx isn't really giant. It's certainly not bigger than the only other sphinx that I have to compare it to, which is The Sphinx. I'm also confused as to who is actually taunting you here, the sphinx or its guardian. Up until this point, it has been the bosses themselves who have spoken, but "MY LEGS ARE ASLEEP" makes slightly more sense coming from the sphinx than from a clearly mobile mummy. Another interesting point is that the instruction booklet says the Guardian of the Giant Sphinx shoots ectoplasm, but it clearly shoots bandages. Other than that, this guy is just one more jabroni who's just begging to have his projectiles deflected back at him.
There's one more boss in this level, the Giant Spider. The Giant Spider is very good at being giant, but he's a total failure at being a spider. First of all, he only has six legs. And then there's his attack. If a spider were to have a projectile, you would expect it to be something like web strands or dead flies, right? Well, you're a fucking idiot. As everyone who works for Bandai knows, spiders often defend themselves by throwing the letter X at people. Hey, at least it's less retarded than The Haunted Well, right?
The game's fourth level is officially known as Dark World Castle Ruins, but it is most obviously a pyramid. In this level you'll fight enemies that you might expect to see in a desert but not in medieval Europe, such as scorpions and crocodiles. Also, I don't recall ever seeing a fucking castle with hieroglyphics on the walls. If I were capable of independent thought, I might point out that Guardian of the Giant Sphinx should have been the boss in this level instead of the last one. But luckily for Bandai, I'm not.
So what sort of enemies should you expect to fight in this pyramid? How about this Giant Samurai? Only it's not a giant samurai, it's a giant suit of samurai armor that is somehow walking on its own. Oh well, at least it throws samurai swords at you. I guess we should be grateful for that.
After you beat the Giant Samurai and wander around some more, you'll eventually encounter a giant kitty in a large wooden crate. As she looks at you with her big brown eyes, you think maybe this won't be so bad after all. WRONG! As it turns out this cat has a mean streak the size of Montana. Giant Cat is so incredibly ruthless that it throws its own kittens at you. Back in the day, I had thought the cat was throwing miniature witches at me. That would have been a pretty clever juxtaposition, but this game isn't a product of intelligent design. In actuality, the cat's projectiles don't really look like witches or kittens. But the instruction booklet says they're "miniature cats", so I guess I'll back them on it.
To complete Level 4, Mark and/or Bert will have to defeat one more boss: Punk Rocker. Punk Rocker is an evil musician with no legs, no neck, New Wave sunglasses, and a red mohawk. According to the instruction manual, he "attacks with bad-playing guitar". That's Japanese to English translation at its finest right there. I'm not sure why Punk Rocker hates our heroes so much, but I think it has something to do with that washing machine in the corner of the room. Maybe he was pissed because he didn't have enough change or something.
After the unfortunate demise of punk rock, Level 4 is over. Coincidentally, so is Part I of this Monster Party feature. Now you can stop here, or you can continue onto Part II where we'll endure four more levels of bizarre bosses and the game's surprise ending. If you stop, you're going to miss out on dancing zombies, evil pants, and Mark soup. So please, read on. Don't be a little bitch.