Publisher: American Sammy
Released: April 1989
US Cartridge ID: NES-M5-USA
Genre: Action Platform
Supported Peripherals: Controller
ROM Size: 1 megabit
Mapper: UNROM (128k PRG)
Amagon, developer Aicom’s first American released title, strands its titular hero on a mysterious island in the South Pacific. Several men have been sent to explore this isle that is rumored to harbor all sorts of horrible monsters, but none have returned alive. When the celebrated Marine war hero, Amagon, arrives on assignment to check things out, the situation quickly deteriorates. His plane crash lands on a beach, and with nothing but a machine gun to protect himself, Amagon must battle the endemic horrors of the tropics and make it to his rescue ship, docked at the opposite end of the island.
Amagon provides twelve platforming stages split across six separate zones, each characterized by their terrain: the plains, the jungle, the river, the rain forest, the mountain, and the beach all host creatures that live to torment the soldier. A large assortment of bizarre enemies fly at the player, including fire spitting wasps, giant lions, bipedal alligators, miniature cars, and aliens. Amagon combats these dangers primarily with his machine gun, but it is very limited in ammo; once the supply of ammo has been depleted, Amagon will hold the weapon over his head and swing it like a club at his enemies. Turning the gun into a slow and weak melee weapon serves to highlight one of the biggest problems with the game – enemies, most of which can respawn, continually hurtle themselves at Amagon from all directions without warning. One hit kills Amagon, and since he is extremely vulnerable during the slow gun swinging animation, the game quickly becomes a losing battle against the player’s dissipating levels tolerance and patience.
There are several power ups that are dropped by killed monsters, like ammo, point bonuses, 1-ups, and the mega-key. If the player collects the mega-key and has a score of at least 5,000 points, the word “GO” will flash at the top of the screen – once this happens, the marine can transform into his alter-ego, a huge, muscle-bound hulk named Megagon (similar to the beast transformations in Sega’s arcade hit, Altered Beast) . Unlike regular Amagon, Megagon has a life bar, allowing him to absorb several hits. How many depends on the score at the time of transformation: for every 5,000 points, Megagon will get one more bar added to his life gauge. Megagon is by far the best way to face each boss, with both a powerful punch and a laser beam at his disposal. Despite the fact that this addition brings some much needed innovation to the gameplay, the game becomes insultingly easy when playing as Megagon, further ruining any semblance of balance in the difficulty level.
Amagon‘s graphics are clear and bright, but most of the anemic sprites are tiny, ugly, and aren’t readily identifiable, owing to the overall lack of detail. The backdrops are mostly uninteresting static images (though the water running throughout Zone 3-1 and 3-2 is a nice break from the monotony), but Amagon stands out well against them, since in the true fashion of the 1980s, his hair, tank top, and daisy dukes are all the same offensive shade of neon pink. The sound is severely lacking – the obnoxious, high-pitched tunes often drop out because of the strange squeak noise that plays when an enemy is killed. Further damning the game are the awkward and imprecise controls: Amagon’s gun can be slow to shoot, making for a lot of wasted ammo, and the speed and arc at which he jumps makes it nearly impossible to accurately shoot an enemy while in the air.
While Amagon isn’t completely broken or unplayable, its shoddy gameplay mechanics and generic aesthetics make for a boring and frustrating time that not even nostalgia can overcome. Though there are worse platformers on the NES, there are also many that trump Amagon in every conceivable way.
American Sammy, 4/1989
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