Mendel Palace

Mendel Palace USA Mendel Palace NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotDeveloper: Game Freak

Released: October 1990
US Cartridge ID: NES-6H-USA

Players:  2/Simultaneous
Genre: Puzzle
Supported Peripherals: Controller

ROM Size: 2 megabit
Mapper: MMC3 (128k PRG, 128k CHR)

Requires Flash10

Mendel Palace was the first game ever produced by Game Freak, headed up by Satoshi Tajiri, who would become a superstar of the videogame world with the release of Pokémon (Gameboy, 1995). In Tajiri’s premier work, Bon-Bon has to save his best friend, Candy, from a dream. Falling asleep while thinking of her dolls, Candy finds herself trapped in her dream, a captive of her possessed toys. These dolls have locked Candy away inside of Mendel Palace under heavy lock and key; in order to rescue her, Bon-Bon has to make his way through 100 stages Mendel Palace USA 001 256x224 Mendel Palace NES Nintendo Review Screenshotin this unique action puzzler.

At the outset, the player selects which of the eight initial levels they’d like to tackle first from the main map screen (think Mega Man), all with an image of the level’s boss standing in front of their castle. Each of these areas have ten themed stages, concluding with a fight against either a major enemy or a group of six lesser ones. After finishing each of the eight levels, Bon-Bon is then allowed access to Mendel Palace, and can begin the final leg of his journey to save Candy from her nightmares.

Mendel Palace provides a unique take on the action puzzle genre from its peers. Though it evokes a similar kind of challenge and feeling to classics such as Bubble Bobble and Kickle Cubicle,  the game certainly doesn’t make any attempt to ape gameplay mechanics from its successful contemporaries. Each stage takes place on a 7×5 grid of square tiles, the object being to smash all dolls on the playing field. Mendel Palace USA 015 256x224 Mendel Palace NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotThis can be accomplished by slamming them either into a block tile or the wall. Bon-Bon can flip tiles to push each of his enemies into solid objects in an attempt to kill them, though most of them won’t go down easily: some dolls can kick the player into a wall, some jump so that the flipping tiles won’t affect them, and some even draw chalk cartoon characters on tiles that come to life, providing yet more foes on the playing field. Many of the tiles have items on them that will grant extra lives, points, or will flip several tiles to shake up the board. Occasionally, a bonus square will appear that when used will transport Bon-Bon to a bonus stage to collect items and stars (100 of which will grant him an additional life). There is a fair amount of strategy and forethought required to be successful when contemplating moves, and thankfully the game doesn’t provide any ridiculously obtuse puzzles to figure out, as some games of the era were apt to do.

The controls are clunky and unintuitive. Though they are simple (move with the directional pad, flip a tile with A or B), Bon-Bon doesn’t instantly change directions. If he is to turn to walk in another direction, he must first turn to face the way the player wishes him to go. This becomes problematic when a horde of angry dolls areMendel Palace USA 040 256x224 Mendel Palace NES Nintendo Review Screenshot close behind, since the delay often allows the enemy to catch up to and promptly dispatch Bon-Bon. Acclimation to the game’s style will make up for much of this, but it never feels truly intuitive and natural, especially in the difficult later stages. Despite the awkwardness, however, the controls never threaten to undermine the fun of the game.

The graphics are colorful and excessively cute in the Japanese tradition, and the music is light and catchy. As a hugely underrated NES classic, Mendel Palace deserves consideration from any true gamer.

screenshot icon w text Mendel Palace NES Nintendo Review Screenshot40 Mendel Palace NES Nintendo Review Screenshot

flag us Mendel Palace NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotMendel Palace
Hudson, 10/1990
flag jpn Mendel Palace NES Nintendo Review Screenshotクインティ (Kuinti) /
Namco, 6/1989