Monday, May 24, 2021

BRIEF: King Kong 2: Yomigaeru Densetsu (1986)

 
This game was never released in English; only through a 2000 patch am I playing.
      
King Kong 2: Yomigaeru Densetsu
"King Kong 2: The Legend Returns"
Japan
Konami (developer and publisher)
Released 1986 for MSX (mostly unrelated to NES action game from same year, although both are from Konami)
   
Today, we're going to coin a new keyword: "hydlike." It describes, as you may guess, the sub-genre of RPGs embodied by Hydlide (1984). You can argue that Hydlide didn't do it first, but I don't really care. Rogue wasn't the first "roguelike," either. Hydlide works better for the portmanteau.
   
The sub-genre is characterized by the following:
        
  • Action gameplay   
  • A squat, childlike protagonist with a defined name and starting attributes. There is no meaningful character creation process.
  • Simplistic combat, either by bumping into the enemy or by using a single attack button.
  • "Character development" through increasing some kind of power statistic, often represented as a bar. 
  • Limited attributes--either just health or maybe strength and health
  • Gameplay across multiple screens in which multiple enemies of the same type move in a random or half-random manner.
  • Limited inventories. You might have a few items (say, weapon, armor, shield) with a handful of obvious upgrades throughout the game. You might be able to carry a few potions that you can use at will.
     
I would consider these the core elements, although I'll take nominations for more. ("Relentless music that you cannot turn off independently of the rest of the sound" might be a good one; it certainly is for King Kong 2.) A game could miss maybe one of these and still get slapped with the label. More than one, and I might consider it at least a hybrid.
      
I kill an enemy while others lurk nearby.
      
Hydlikes tend to walk the razor's edge on my definition of an RPG. Sometimes they make it. Hydlide itself did. It had both a strength bar and a life bar, which increased in maximums as the character's experience did. Combat success was based partly on that strength bar, and it had a small inventory of items. Rambo, although similar, was a pure action game because the "Power" bar's improvement depended on finding food, not killing enemies or solving quests, and combat success was based entirely on the player's skill and the character's inventory (i.e., not on any underlying character attributes). (It gets confusing because I played Rambo to the end anyway, but that's because it was so short I made an exception.) Courageous Perseus had attack and defense scores that determined success in combat, and they increased with experience, but there was no inventory.
    
King Kong 2 is yet another hydlike. It is not a sequel to anything. Rather, it is based on the 1986 American film King Kong Lives, which was known in Japan as King Kong 2. (The film was a sequel to 1976's King Kong, not the original.) The setup follows the basic plot lines of the film. Although King Kong closed with the beast lying dead in the World Trade Center Plaza, we learn in the sequel that he didn't die; he was just badly injured. A government surgeon plans to replace his damaged heart with an artificial one, but he needs a blood transfusion to accompany the procedure, and since Kong is the only known member of his species, they're out of luck. An adventurer named Hank Mitchell agrees to search for another one in Borneo. For some reason, in the game, Mitchell's name is shortened by one l and "Borneo" becomes "Golneo."
         
"Mitchel" arrives in "Golneo" at the beginning of the game.
      
Really, the entire Kong thing is a framing story. In his quest to find Kong, Mitchel fights so many fantastic creatures that the game makes more sense as a fantasy, particularly with the use of "magic points." Gameplay is what you'd expect in a hydlike: you run around from screen to screen, fighting various creatures after you learn their movement patterns. There's one attack, using the SPACE bar, with maybe half a dozen weapons that you can find throughout the game. There are occasional huts that you can enter to find shops and clues.
        
I get a somewhat incomprehensible hint.
         
But King Kong 2 fails as an RPG in a couple of ways. There are no attributes to increase with leveling except maximum health, and I don't generally regard health alone as significant enough character development to meet my first criteria. (There are magic points, too, but these are "found" rather than achieved by leveling.) I don't believe character level influences attack power; only the type of weapon does that. (Every 10 levels, you can increase your movement speed, which has some effect on combat success, but . . . come on.) There is, however, a limited inventory of items, including spells that expend magic power and herbs you can eat to restore health.

The inventory is limited, but it does meet my qualifications under this point.
     
The game is quite hard. Your health doesn't regenerate on its own; you have to find herbs or pay for healing, and both options involve fighting monsters, which could easily leave you worse than when you started. I've seen other sites call this game "grindy," but grinding only works when at least one resource (usually health) is inexhaustible as long as the player is willing to sacrifice time. That's not King Kong 2.
  
The key problem with combat is that you have to be right up against an enemy to strike him. There is maybe a single pixel where you can strike him but he can't strike you. Otherwise, you have to be willing to take damage to deal damage. And then there are creatures that you can only strike from behind, or that only take damage from certain weapons, or that have erratic movement patterns. For instance, an early enemy called "wildboars" lumber along perpendicular to you, then turn to face you, then suddenly rush in a charge. "Grassworms" attack in arcs that seem like they ought to be foreseeable, yet almost always caught me off-guard.
       
I could never find the right pattern for these guys.
        
Enemy AI is also fairly diabolical. It would be impressive if it wasn't annoying. I'm not an expert in this type of action game by any means, but it seems to me that among others I've played, the best strategy is to usually study the enemies' movement patterns, anticipate them, and have the pointy end of your sword waiting when they show up. That doesn't work here. Enemies actively avoid your facing direction and will thus almost never walk into your swing. They know your strategy. If you desperately need them to go left, they will always go right. If you think you've figured out that pattern and thus plan for them going right, they'll somehow figure it out and go left.
    
You could argue that the game is still quite "easy" despite all of this because if you die, you simply have to hit "Continue" to resurrect on the same screen with a full health total and no loss of experience or items. But even here, the game has a final screw to twist.
     
If I had bought this game without knowing anything about it, I'd have been rather unhappy that, except for a few statues, King Kong himself only makes a brief appearance in the endgame sequence. To get to the end, you have to collect clues, solve inventory puzzles, and win at least 15 boss battles to finally find Lady Kong and lure her with some fruit. You bring her to a helicopter pad and radio the helicopter for the winning sequence. (All screen shots after this point are from YouTube videos, not my own experience.)
        
The few moments in which you lead Lady Kong are the only time a Kong appears in-game.
     
If you reach the end having taken fewer than 365 game days and used less than 33 lives, you get the "good" ending in which Lady Kong's transfusion saves King Kong's life, and both Kongs are returned to Golneo to romp around with their new baby. (This ending is quite a bit rosier than the film's.) If you met the deadline but used more than 33 lives, you get the same basic ending but with no mention of Baby Kong. If you used more than 365 days, you return from your adventures to find that King Kong has died.
         
If you take too long.

A shot from the "good" ending.
     
If I played this one honestly, there's no doubt that I would use more than 365 days and more than 33 lives. But then, I'm not great at action games, which is why I play RPGs instead, which this isn't, which is why you got a BRIEF.

57 comments:

  1. For all its faults this game still sounds better than King Kong Lives.

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    1. I didn't even know they had made King Kong Lives... although I tend to be Godzilla or Gamera-centric. The Wikipedia review of KKL gives me the impression it could make many lists of the worst movies ever.

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    2. King Kong Lives: Then Needs A Girlfriend, direct-to-VHS sequel.

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    3. This post made me watch king Kong lives so now that is something I have done.

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    4. No movie with Linda Hamilton is entirely bad.

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  2. "Borneo" to "Golneo" is probably a classic transliteration error. The R/L substitution is commonly known, but I am given to understand that there is a similar issue with "B". Such issues are really common, especially on words that start in non-Japanese, then get translated from Japanese into English.

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    1. You're not wrong that there's issues with B, but it's because it's usually used to replace V sounds in loanwords, not because there isn't a distinct B sound. As for why this replaces a B with a G, I have no clue.

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    2. I believe it's pretty common for Japanese works to deliberately obscure names like that—you're taking your Somy camcorder on your vacation to Gorneo. It's...not always entirely clear why it's being done, in my experience.

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    3. Japan is notorious for its very harsh libel laws (you don't have to prove it's malicious to be libel apparently.) So Japanese media is very well known for scrubbing proper names of places/people/companies to an insane level.

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    4. Yeah, it's much more likely what Lord Seo said, they do that all the time. B does not accidentally translate to G in Japanese.

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    5. I had heard that the Borneo Department of Tourism is a bunch of litigation whores.

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    6. After Survivor Season One they got a bad rap as being chock full of hungry, naked western tourists. Now they defend their brand.

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  3. I'm fairly skeptical about this new genre, it's Zelda, not a CRPG by pretty much any definition, why bother?

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    1. I thought I was pretty clear, but to make it specific: If Zelda had a "strength" bar that increased with every enemy you defeated and was used in calculations of attack power, it would be an RPG under my definitions. Lots of games do exactly that, and I wanted to give the group of them a name.

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    2. In any event, what do you call games that are "like Zelda?"

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    3. To be honest, that was straight from the guts, it's just a lingering feeling that if we corrode the exact definition just enough, nowadays, almost every game's gonna categorize somehow as also an 'rpg'.

      But hey, whatever you feel your time's worth it.

      Cheers!

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    4. And I call games like Zelda action-adventures, like everyone else ;)

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    5. The Zelda games as a series are frequently colloquially termed action RPGs. However, of course, the early ones (at least the original NES game and the SNES Link to the Past—I'm less familiar with other entries) only grow Link's power by collecting items. More heart containers increase his life, a better sword increases his strength, etc.

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    6. The definition is more characteristic of the early Ys games than Zelda, but I think naming it after Hydlide is appropriate because Ys moved away from this gameplay style before long.

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    7. Zeldikes? Hmmm, probably not...

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    8. Hydlide is basically about grinding until you have enough strength to actually explore. From RPGs, it takes that grind and heal loop. Zelda only lets you grind a few resources (some healing, rupees, bombs, brief invincibility), with exploration more consistently the driver of pacing and gameflow.

      (Not that this impacts the genre debate, but Zelda also has a better combat system than Hydlide and the like and is generally better designed.)

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    9. Neither "action adventure" or "action RPG" is specific enough to evoke what I want to evoke when I refer to what I'm calling a hydlike.

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    10. For the record, I think Hydlike is probably a better name for this genre than Ys-ish.

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    11. "Action adventure" is very broad. Yes, zelda-clones are a subset thereof, but so are metroidvanias, and that's a different subset. It looks like "hydlikes" is another different subset of "action adventure".

      (oddly, "action adventures" are often categorized as a subset of "adventure games" but they're really not!)

      Some action adventures are also RPGs, some are not. In particular, the more complex action adventures (which tend to be, but aren't universally, the more modern ones) are usually also an RPG, by the Addict's definition.

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    12. "Ysh" would have been good.

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    13. "Simplistic combat, either by bumping into the enemy or by using a single attack button."

      Might want to revise this one slightly before the next game of this type comes up. Zelda has two attack buttons (sword and boomerang).

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    14. The Zelda games arguably aren't Hydlikes, because they have less limited attributes (e.g. mana meter) and less limited inventory than the list of hydlike qualities would suggest. Also they don't have "relentless" music.

      (of course, it depends on which Zelda game in particular we're talking about)

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    15. Yes, but what you're all forgetting with your hair-splitting, is that "Hydlikes" is an excellent pun.

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  4. Two things by you definition Zelda 2 is an RPG, pretty cool since its my favorite.
    Secondly, I can't believe they made a game about this movie, for years I thought I had imagined this movie since nobody remembered it until I found it online last year. It may be bad but as a kid I loved it, though I don't think I saw King Kong until after it, and the 70s version is the worse version in my opinion.

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    1. Zelda 2 is absolutely an (action) RPG.

      In a similar vein, Castlevania 2 is borderline, one of those games where you can level up but it only increases your health.

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    2. They made TWO games about this movie!

      http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/king-kong-2-ikari-no-megaton-punch/

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  5. The rules you display say you only play RPGs. Ever thought of updating that, and changing the name of your blog? Or else, do as your rules say. I´m telling it how it is.

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    1. You know you don't have to read every entry, right? It should have been pretty clear on this one that it wasn't a "pure" RPG a couple of paragraphs in.

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    2. I'll continue to reserve the right to break my own rules whenever I want, but you missed the entire point of this entry. I didn't "play" this game. I BRIEFed it. The BRIEF explicitly explains why I'm NOT playing it.

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    3. "Very Serious Gamers" will complain if you break the rules and they'll complain if following them keeps you from praising the games they worship. They're a bunch of fickle children I tell you.

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    4. Yikes! Captain Bringdown and the Buzzkills just showed up to tell Chet what's what, eh?!

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  6. A game that's like Zelda is a "Zeldalike", though that's usually used to refer to modern indie games deliberately trying to mimic the top-down Zelda experience (Lenna's Inception, Reverie, Blossom Tales, Swords of Ditto, etc). I'm cool with the name Hydlike for a specific genre that doesn't include Zelda but does include the first few Ys games. (And arguably some later games that were mimicking early Ys, like Lagoon for the SNES.)

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  7. > "Relentless music that you cannot turn off independently of the rest of the sound" might be a good one.

    Thanks for giving the genre a suitable name! Definitely works for me. Your reward, Chet, is the second town music from Speris Legacy on the Amiga.

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  8. It's cool that you've redefined Japanese action RPGs into a little box that you can safely ignore I guess.

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    1. Between this opinion and Martin's above what the hell do you guys want?

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    2. The Addict chained to his desk, eyelids propped open, as game after game is displayed, beaten, and reviewed. No pause, no rest. Just games.

      People somehow forget this is a guy giving us his free time. He can ignore whatever the hell he wants to, this isn't his job.

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    3. Are there authoritarian regimes paying trolls to sow discord on retro gaming blogs? Because that's the only way these people make any sense at all. Who scours the internet looking for reasons to get offended by people that don't unconditionally love JRPGs???

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    4. Heck, Chet even said specifically that Hydlide itself *does* make it over the line into RPG territory. I expect Ys Book I & II, to use the further example that immediately came to my mind (and has already been mentioned by other commenters), will do the same. Lagoon, Crystalis, and Faria also come to mind as further developments on the "Hydlike" concept that nevertheless will likely also count as RPGs. So, I disagree that Chet has done anything like "redefine Japanese action RPGs into a little box" all to be "ignored."

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    5. I mean, I just generally assume all the anonymous comments starting threads to basically the same effect are all the same, sad person, who is clearly very unwell because *gestures broadly to their behaviour*.

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    6. People with greater attention to detail than these trolls will remember that the highest-scoring game of 1987 was Final Fantasy, a JRPG.

      I don't think Chet hates JRPGs all that much. He just hasn't gotten around to playing the ones he'd like yet.

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    7. Suikoden got a windows release in Japan is it enough for Chet to play it?

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    8. It's weird how everyone read that as negative. I'm glad they're mostly gone.

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    9. Because tone is hard online and you came off as a sarcastic troll.

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  9. Well, this comment section took some odd turns. Let me clear up a few things:

    1. Creating a name for this sub-genre is just so that we have a short-hand. It is not a mechanism to avoid playing the games. As I thought I made clear in my opening paragraphs, one of the defining features of hydlikes is that they straddle the line between RPG and non-RPG. Some of them have received and will continue to receive the full treatment.

    2. In relation to Martin's comment, I DO only play RPGs. I didn't play this game; I BRIEFed it. The purpose of the BRIEF is to explain why I'm not playing a game despite that game being categorized as an "RPG" elsewhere. It's a short entry that I can point to so that people don't write asking why I didn't otherwise cover a game.

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    1. The random hostility you face on this blog is so bizarre, I feel like if I was in your place I would tell everyone to just f off. But you always do a great job of engaging and managing the strange turns, which is why the community here is so positive, and which is a big part of why this blog is great.

      This comment is a bit late, I've been behind on entries about a year due to school, but I'm starting to catch up!

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    2. Thanks, Joet. I appreciate the kind words. Fortunately, the "hostility" I face on my own blog isn't as bad as in some other locations.

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  10. Hydlike, how hasn't this been coined before? I wonder if top-down fighting against erratic enemies exists in games that aren't hydlikes.

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    1. Sure, Zelda-likes do it too; Bomberman does it; and I'm sure there's some more erratic Gauntlet clones out there. I don't mean to imply that any of these are necessarily RPGs :)

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    2. Call them early-top-down-soul-like or just go with hydlike it's a good enough explanation.

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    3. I just hydLIKE the new word.

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  11. Hey, does this mean we can look forward to playthroughs of Hydlide II and III to confirm the "Hydlike" hypothesis?

    Acceptable answers include: (a) yes, (b) yes, and (c) I like you, but I don't know if I like-you-like-you, but I'll go to the 8th grade prom with you anyway.

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