Golgo 13: Top Secret Agent was a terrible but unforgettable game for the NES system that was released in 1988. It had one of the most confusing starts, terrible gameplay mechanics and terrible color scheme. On the other hand, it was one of the most fun I’ve ever had playing a video game.
Golgo 13 is a single player game based on the Japanese Manga of the same name. The Manga is about a assassin for hire named Duke Togo, and featured a lot of violence, sex and action. When I played this game for the first time years ago, these facts I did not know, but rather, I played through the game not having any idea what the game is, how to play it, what to do in it or even how it ended up in my possession in the first place. At that time, many of us kids would be swapping and borrowing NES games with others at school and around the neighborhood on a regular basis. With myself, my two brothers and cousin all working together, we’ve had opportunities to play countless games that we did not own and shared our games with many others. Golgo 13: Top Secret Agent was a game that just ended up in our collection with no knowledge of who traded for it.
Golgo 13 gives one of the worst first impressions ever in a video game. The game begins with a cutscene of Golgo and some woman talking about something, as if you are expected to know something that the game failed to tell you. After some lengthy dialog for an NES game, you get to the side scrolling portion. The buildings are all the same color and pretty low quality. Your character can jump 20 feet in the air for no apparent reason. You loose health by just walking and, though you have a gun and the ability to duck, you can not duck and shoot. Pressing the fire button will have your character stand up and fire. All the other NPCs look the same. Some are allies that you can’t hurt, some are just pedestrians and others try to kill you by pretty extreme means for an average street corner. All the enemies have guns that they shoot at mid-level, so you cant duck under them. The only way to avoid them is to jump over. You have a jump kick that looks like it came straight out of Kung-Fu flick and is near impossible to land due to crappy hit detection. That’s all within the first 2 minutes of playing the game.
Pushing past this first part of “what the hell am I playing?” actually revealed some serious surprises and rewards to those who pushed forward to figuring out this game. The first was the first person, 360 degree, shooting gallery mode that is triggered when you reach certain areas in the gameplay. The game goes first person as you focus on a target in the middle of the screen. You spin around in a circle as the enemies approach you from all sides. There is no defending, just pure shoot first, shoot quick, shoot accurately. These parts are really fun as the difficulty ramps up to include helicopters, jet planes, submarines and more.
There is also side scrolling vehicle shooting sections which are also fun. The game also features a first person mode which has you navigating corridors and shooting the occasional soldier along the way. Being completely blind sided by this game play mode, this part surprised me and made the game an instant classic in my eye. Even though this part of the game also looked bland, it added another element of variety to the game. These parts, just like the whole game, is brutally difficult and will cause many people to just quit and not deal with the B.S. Along with the side scrolling vehicle sections, the side scrolling walking sections, the first person sections and the 360 degree sections, the game has underwater sections that are also painful to play.
The story of Golgo 13, though very confusing at the start, is mature for a video game at its time. After getting past the slow start of the game and beyond a couple of assassinations, the game starts to take the action approach of storytelling with deception, lies, backstabbing, sex, big enemies reveals and more. What starts out as a completely confusing mess turns into a cool mature spy story, especially for the NES at the time. In this game, as a major surprise to me, Golgo 13 manages to get some late-night lady action, twice. In both cases, your energy level completely refills as you’re treated to a little scene of the female character running up to a male in a hotel window, and the room light dimming. It was an awesome shock that made me realize that Golgo 13 isn’t just any assassin, he is an outright bad-ass.
I suffered from section to section of bad gameplay to horrible gameplay. After making it through one of the most confusing first person sections that really should have had a map and through extremely difficult sections that are really unfair and ultimately completing the game, I felt the desire to play through this game a second time. This time, my progression was much faster and far less painful. There was something about this game that made enduring the punishment and crappy gameplay worthwhile with all the game variety. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget and I thank whomever it was who managed to get this game into my NES collection.
Here is the first part of a walkthrough from Insufferable Gamer’s youtube page just to show how bad the game is yet, how great it is also.