Almana no Kiseki
Many 80s and 90s video games were rip-offs of popular action movies – Golden Axe was Conan the Barbarian, Contra is basically a combination of Rambo, Aliens, and Predator. Few were quite as blatant as Almana no Kiseki (sometimes called Arumana no Kiseki, translated as “The Miracle of Almana”), though, which hews closely to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It tells the story of an Indian village, whose sacred stone is stolen by a mysterious force, turning all of its inhabitants to stone. The only one who can save them is an outsider named Kaito, who, as one would expect, wears a fedora. The main draw here is the grappling hook, which is used to get around the game's sprawling, multi-directionally scrolling stages. In this way, it seems like the developers were inspired by the whip-swinging of Indy's adventures, but wanted something to set it apart, both from the movies and Konami's more popular Castlevania series. Taking a cue from a concept in Roc'n Rope, an earlier arcade game also from Konami, the hook is tossed diagonally upwards – if it latches onto something, then you can climb upward onto higher ground. This actually predates Capcom's Bionic Commando, though its implementation is a little off. It's not always clear which pieces of scenery you can climb through and which ones you can't, due to the odd collision detection. Certain obstacles also become very difficult thanks to the infinitely spawning enemies. The hook travels with your character movement, too, which doesn't make sense. This means that instead of jumping and throwing a grappling hook to reach a high area, you need to toss it and then jump. The hero has an assortment of weapons, all limited in use – knives, a pistol, bolas, bombs (mostly used for blowing open hidden passages), and an item that destroys everything on the screen at the same time. However, new weapons are in constant supply, and there are lots of bonus items to hunt for, including pendants to expand your life gauge. The boss battles are varied, too, including one where you fight a gigantic river dragon while riding on a raft. There's also the ubiquitous mine cart stage, no doubt owing its existence to Temple of Doom. While the physics are a little dicey, Almana no Kiseki is still pretty decent. Traversing the levels with the hook is rather fun when you're not dealing with the numerous hidden traps or irritating enemies. It’s better than the actual Temple of Doom arcade/NES game, at the least. The music, by Castlevania's Kinuyo Yamashita, hums along perfectly, too, with the main tune putting the extra FDS channels to good use. Rough around the edges, but still one of the better games on the platform.