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Old 07-15-2010, 12:52 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Summertime Retro Recollection: Trojan for the NES

As the summer drags on and the days get hotter and thermometers burst and spurt mercury (okay, not really), I continue to think back on the summertime hijinks of my youth.

In all honesty, there weren't many. Summer's too danged hot for hijinks.

There was, however, plenty of gaming. I had my own stable of games, but sometimes I'd visit a friend to mix hot and cool summer fun. What's better than splashing around in a pool and then retreating inside to play some Nintendo games? Now that I'm an adult who frets over her figure in a bathing suit and stresses over time management while on dry land, a lot things. But when I was a kid, that kind of simple pleasure was enough to convince me that a decent God ruled over Heaven.

One pool-possessing friend I visited often over the summer also had a substantial collection of Nintendo games. One of these was Trojan, by Capcom.

Trojan was an odd game, and I suitably had an odd relationship with it. First came mockery. I started with the title's cover art.

Of course, I was young and lacked the taste and foresight to recognize the artistic brilliance of Capcom's NES-era cover art. This is vintage '80s stuff. City burned to waste under the fire of the Apocalypse? Check. Tight leather vest with cut-off sleeves? Check. Humankind's regression from nuclear arms to swords and shields? Check. Red-eyed villain leering at the hero from behind an iron mask? Check. Denim jeans swaddled so tightly around the hero's thighs that a boa constrictor would blanch in shock to see them? Oh baby, check.

Making fun of the game's cover art felt strangely empty even when I was an ignorant kid, so I moved on and puzzled over the game's story. The Earth has gone kablooey, as usual, but with an interesting side effect: Spirits of vengeful war lords have taken advantage of humanity's weakest moment and possessed a few "chosen" bodies to wreak further havoc. Necessity breeds a hero, the "Trojan", who is immune to possession and trained in the martial arts. The Trojan must wend his way through ruined cities, forests, and factories to confront the evil Achilles in a showdown that will determine mankind's fate.

What this basically translates to is a beat-em-up game that's steeped in cyberpunk memes. Your Trojan pal walks from left to right and dispatches all takers with his sword. "A" slashed his weapon, and "B" brought up his shield, which was very effective for blocking projectiles and even some melee attacks. "Up" on the d-pad was jump.

The game's enemies were a curious bunch,which further mystified me as a child. Knights in full armor came after the Trojan wielding maces, but were easily killed with one hit. Tougher minions commanded guns and sometimes popped out of manholes or threw bombs out of ruined windows. If the Trojan dared to take a detour into the sewers that some levels offered, he'd fight particularly nasty animal hybrids, like a bomb-chucking troll or a hedgehog-man with razor quills. Going out of the way to take care of the underworld's vermin wasn't necessary, but it could yield valuable power-ups that let the Trojan jump high, walk fast, or attack more fiercely.

Trojan originally showed up in the arcades around 1986, where it didn't hang around too long before being ported to the NES. The flyer for the cabinet boasted a diverse fighting system: If the Trojan lost his sword and shield to an enemy, he'd have to resort to fisticuffs. Supposedly enemies in the NES adaptation could similarly yank away the Trojan's weapons, but it never happened to me.

Yes, I finished Trojan. I borrowed it from my friend and stuck with it until I beat Achilles. Make no mistake, I was making fun of the game the whole way through, and not in a teasing manner. I mocked the hero, the story, the gameplay, the enemies. But I kept on playing, and I can't even use summertime boredom as an excuse. Deep down inside, I dug the game's unique environment and distinct soundtrack.

No. I didn't just "dig" Trojan. I loved Trojan. I was just too frightened, too proud, to admit it to myself.


Pictures fromNES Guide and Console Classix
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