Thanks to KONAMI for the review code
Title: GETSU FUMA DEN
Price: $34.99 (Part of Undying Moon Deluxe)
Release Date: 05/13/2021
Available as an exclusive bonus gift with Undying Moon’s Deluxe Edition, this port of the Famicom Original comes as a separate app, thus getting a separate review.
In this original action game, you take control of the Legendary Getsu Fuma on his quest to defeat an evil demon, by exploring the many islands to defeat his henchmen! There’s little story to this game at all, and outside of a title screen and some stuff NPCs say, it’s very much in the background, though it does take place hundreds of years before Undying Moon.
Being developed by M2, this port shouldn’t surprise anyone who played their Castlevania or Contra collections, as a lot of UI aspects are similar to those compilations, though it does have some differences as well, due to being a single title. The UI offers a variety of options, from the ability to save and load a state (With three save states to use here!), read the original game manual (untouched in Japanese, of course), and changing your controls. There really isn’t that much extra here, so it’s fairly barebones and just gets the job done.
You do have the option to change the screen size and filter options, however it’s oddly through pressing the back right trigger, which cycles between different combinations. You cannot remap this outside of the steam controller settings, so it can be really easy to accidentally bump the trigger and change the screen during gameplay depending on what sort of controller you use and how you hold it, making me wonder why it’s not just a menu option like in the compilations, or why you can’t remap it in-game.
As for the game itself and the emulation quality, it’s 1:1 the Japanese original in every way imaginable. That means every bit of text is in Japanese, and thus you’ll have to either use a guide or use learned Japanese like I did to transcribe what’s going on or what certain things do. It’s not a super text-heavy game by any means, but being unable to read the text and parts of the UI will make certain hints and items harder to understand, and the part that personally irks me is there’s no in-game indicator on what the items you obtain even *do*. All that detail is in the scanned Japanese manual, which is in Japanese, meaning if you want to have any idea what that candle or magic robe you obtained was supposed to do, off to StrategyWiki you go.
While I can totally get why this isn’t in english here (no english version was made by Konami in the 80s, and fan translations cannot be legally licensed for use without a bunch of hoops to go through), it does feel incredibly frustrating knowing that the same team who translated Kid Dracula to english in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection didn’t attempt to make one themselves, or at the very least, throw in an english translation guide so you at least can figure out what to do without external sources. I had hoped they’d tweak this when the full launch of Undying Moon took place, but alas…
Still, the game itself looks pretty excellent, with a super impressive intro cinematic, smooth sprites, and even some neat first-person dungeon sequences, adding to a total of three different perspectives! (The overworld map, the side-scrolling levels, and the first person mazes) It definitely may seem akin to the first NES TMNT in some regards as well, mainly due to a similar overworld system and side-view stages, with even some of the sound effects from this game being reused in that one!
Speaking of sound, this game has a really good soundtrack, with the overworld theme being incredibly memorable to the point it’s been remixed several times, (including in the new game) and the other tracks sticking in your head for a while too. It’s easily a score that should rightfully go alongside other Konami games from the era, and arguably surpasses some of their other NES games like Gradius and Stinger. Pretty stellar stuff all around.
Upon starting the game, you’re thrown on a world map, not unlike that of Zelda II. Here, you navigate the islands in search of the sacred swords, in order to free the land of evil! You can pop by shops to purchase items and upgrades, or do what the majority of the game is, and that’s entering a side-view stage by approaching a shrine gate.
Here, you have your typical jump/attack combination, and can pause the game in order to equip items to the A or B buttons. These range from upgrades to your sword that allow you to open up new areas, temporary items that allow you to cast magic or gain invincibility, or items that can help you in a pinch. Otherwise, you use your sword to attack enemies, and the combat here is pretty janky, with the hitboxes being a little spotty, leading to situations where you might get bumped around by the bigger sprites. All in all, these segments are typical NES action game stuff, even if it’s not the most refined.
However, what makes Getsu Fuma Den stand apart the most from other games like it are the multiple playstyles, since you don’t just have the usual top down/side view combo, but whenever you reach a major area, you go through a first person dungeon, completely changing up the game! These are rather labyrinth-like, containing twists and turns, with enemy spawns showing up for first person battles. In these fights, you can attack with your sword in a variety of angles and jump, with each enemy having their own weak point, that will stun them in place if struck. It can be tricky to tell where your attack lands, and some enemies won’t hesitate to shred through your health bar in no time, but eventually you’ll progress to the main boss guarding the sword, which shifts back to a side-view fight.
Of course, being a vintage NES game, Getsu Fuma Den is pretty tough. Those first person segments don’t pull any punches, especially if you get lost and deal with optional encounters that go through your lives, and some side-view segments don’t hesitate to swarm you with enemies. You can continue as much as you want, but you lose half of your collected souls and get sent back to before the screen you were on, which doesn’t seem like that bad of a punishment, except for the first-person dungeons which will kick you out to the overworld, even if you’ve made it all the way to the boss. Luckily, M2’s save state options are here to save the day yet again, and it more than helps make up for the original game’s clunky password system.
In conclusion, Getsu Fuma Den is a fantastic port of a fun Famicom classic, and while it may be barebones, it still gets the job done super well with excellent emulation that’s on par with the Castlevania and Contra collections. As a free bonus with Undying Moon, this is absolutely worth checking out for those who want to see what all the fuss was about in 1987, but I wouldn’t say it’s worth spending the whopping $35 MSRP just to acquire, and should be seen more as a bonus.
It is a big shame that no english version exists here and that you may have to use a guide for some of the text-heavy bits, but if you manage to get around that somehow, you’ll find a super enjoyable action platformer here that holds up all these years later, and that’ll easily be a hit for fans of Zelda II or other NES action titles.
I give Getsu Fuma Den a 6 out of 10.
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