My brother recently to some sort of retro game expo, so I told him to bring me back something cheap that he's never heard of. This is how I came into possession of The Mafat Conspiracy for the NES. I had never heard of the game either, but as it turns out that it is the sequel to Vik Tokai's Golgo 13: Top Secret Mission. In Japan, that title was called Golgo 13 Episode 1: Twilight of the Gods, and this one was Golgo 13 Episode 2: The Riddle of Icarus. While the original game is fondly remembered for being relatively Mature for an NES title and for generally being strange, it must not have sold particularly well for Vic Tokai to have decided to remove the Golgo 13 branding from the packaging. It's not surprising considering the obscurity of Golgo 13 in the US.
The Mafat Conspiracy is a strange title for an NES game. To me it sounds more like the name of some sort of action/thriller movie, but the game obviously aspires to be like a spy movie. If you don't now anything about Golgo 13, he's an assassin that flies around the world, kills people, sleeps with women, and generally does secret agenty stuff. He started out as the titular character of a manga in the 70's and sort of became the prototypical badass for Japan. I recall renting the Golgo 13 movies from Family Video back when there were building where you could go to check out videos on these things called VHS tapes.
The most surprising thing about The Mafat Conspiracy is how cinematic it is. It's not that it just tries to tell a complicated story in an NES action game, but it actually does it in a dramatic way. Sure, the game came out two years after Ninja Gaiden made putting in cinematics cool, but this game actually tells a mature story about the KGB and CIA and the Mafat terrorist group. Even before the title screen there is a good bit of text and some cinematic animations.
When you finally get to the part of the game where you play, it's a pretty sparse action game. You can walk around, jump, crouch, and perform melee attacks during any of these movements. The best part of this portion of the game is Golgo's badass casual walking animation. Jealous of his saunter, guys in suits will walk up and try to punch or shoot him. This whole portion feels mechanically similar to the later released Dick Tracy game for Genesis in that you can duck and jump over the slow moving enemy bullets. I take this as another sign that I need to write about that game.
A little further into the game, you get a revolver to more easily combat the guys in suits, some of which get better weaponry than before. To make things even more exciting, you even end up fighting ninjas. Another ahead-of-its-time feature was infinite continues that allow you to retry from beginning of the short section you died on. I was liking the game at this point, but then I hit a Goonies 2-style wall in the form of a first-person maze portion of the game. Apparently this building I entered was the most plain and most gray building ever. The there were no transitions between movements, so if you are walking down a long hall, like the one at the very beginning of the level, the only way to know you moved was to listen for the sound.
This part killed the game for me. I walked around for twenty minutes, occasionally shooting some ninjas, until I ended up walking out a door way right next to the ones I originally entered. Fuck that, I'm not going to get out some graph paper for a Golgo 13 game. Apparently there were three other types of levels that I didn't even get to see. I'm not too upset about missing a driving section, but I wish I could have gotten to the sniping section. I mean, sniping is what Golgo is known for.
I sort of want to use a FAQ or something to get through the game because the story seems interesting and I feel like I missed out on some things that could have been fun. I just really don't like first person dungeons, and they are even worse when there isn't really any items to discover or exciting fights to be had within them. I might have been able to put up with the maze stuff if there was an in-game map, but this is an NES game and that just wasn't something that was done often. I was having a decent amount of fun until this derailed it completely.