Mendel Palace (NES)

Cover from TheCoverProject.net

Prediction

I was looking through my collection for a game to play for a quick review, and I noticed I actually owned a copy of Mendel Palace. I don’t remember actually buying it, and I know I’ve never played it, but I do remember WHY I would have bought it. Honestly, I know nothing about the game itself, but I do know a little something about the developer, Game Freak. You might have heard of them, they went on to make the little known game called Pokémon.

Of course you’ve heard of Pokémon, it’s just the most profitable franchise in the world. Well, before they went on to make that behemoth of a franchise, they got their humble origins with Mendel Palace for the NES. Considering how most NES games are, I’m probably going to have to find a copy of the manual to know what the game is actually about. But from the few pictures I have seen, it’s an arcade style game with some kind of tile element. Beyond that, I have no idea what I’m getting into. So, let’s jump in and see.

Gameplay

As I expected, the game starts without any explanation of what’s going on. It looks like we have 8 different bosses with what looks to be a 9th in the center, most likely after the other 8 are defeated. I have no idea what we’re doing, so I guess we’ll just go with the first option.

When the level starts, it’s not immediately obvious what we’re supposed to be doing. The floor is tiled, some of them stars, and a couple of enemies spawn in the corners. Pressing the buttons lets me slide the floor tiles, I guess. Not sure what that will really do.

Ok, so it turns out if I slide a tile while an enemy is on it, they will fly backwards. And if they hit the wall, they will explode. So, I guess the goal must be to defeat all the enemies this way.

Unfortunately, they don’t fly back very far, so it’s easy to get cornered by them. As expected, touching them kills you. So, keep moving.

As for the stars on the ground. It looks like they can be covered and uncovered by sliding their tiles. But they can also be collected by walking over them. I’m not sure what they do, but they have their own counter next to the lives counter, so they must be important to collect.

Other than that, the next couple levels are mostly the same. The initial star layout is different, and different numbers of enemies. But mostly the same. However, there are occasionally special tiles like this pink wave tile, which sends out a wave flipping every tile in 4 directions to the walls.

I also uncovered this sun looking tile which flips every tile on the board, radiating out from the sun tile. Very helpful.

At stage 6, things changed a little. The color changed to purple, and the enemies changed from green to blue. Along with the color swap comes a boost in difficulty. Now, when I slam the enemies into the wall, they break into 2 smaller enemies that also need to be defeated.

While trying to defeat them, I uncovered this swirly looking tile that ended up launching my character clear off the bottom of the screen.

When we land in the new room, we land directly on a moon tile, which turns the light off in the room. It also uncovers all of the stars in the room, so I guess that swirly tile was a bonus room.

For round 8, the color changed again to an orange, and the blue enemies have been replaced with their smaller clones, who, while weaker, do move faster. Still, this feels like a downgrade from the earlier difficulty. Thanks to a row of wave tiles in the center, they were easily defeated.

Then for round 9 we’re back to green tiles and the original green enemies. I even found a moon tile in the corner, which basically turned this stage into another bonus round.

Upon reaching round 10, we actually get a cut scene. We see a pink princess standing in the room. However, someone quickly drops down from above and drags her away. Not much to go on here.

Following this, we’re returned to the overworld and get to pick a new boss to challenge. I’m sure it will be mostly the same, but more difficult. So, let’s just do a quick spiral around and see what everyone is like. Starting at the top middle we have this guy with a mohawk. Unlike the first boss, he jumps around while moving, making it harder to push him away. You need to make sure he’s actually standing on the tile first.

In these levels, we also see our first instances of bricks blocking our path. These can apparently be broken by the enemies in certain situations. They can also be flipped just like other tiles. In this level it doesn’t help, since there’s just more bricks under, but there will probably be times when they can be cleared away.

Moving clockwise, we have this blue person in the top right corner. Their gimmick is, if they are left alone long enough, they will start making chalk drawings on the tiles. In they are allowed to complete these drawings, those tiles will become locked, and we won’t be able to flip them anymore.

In the higher levels, they can also draw more enemies that come to life off the tiles. We also encounter these green warp tiles from which enemies can respawn. These need to be flipped over as soon as possible to stop the respawning from happening.

Moving down to the brown haired boss, this one has a very simple, but challenging gimmick. They will actively jump when you try to flip the tile below them. You’ll have to time it so you flip the tile again when they land in order to attack them.

Down to the bottom right, and we have the evil clone of our player character. Just like us, they are capable of flipping the floor tiles against us. I didn’t notice it until rewatching for the review, but it seems like they only flip tiles when you do. So, keep that in mind when trying to deal with them.

Heading over to the swimmer, they are, well, a swimmer. They will walk around the boarder of the map, and then jump in and swim across the board, flipping over tiles as they go. It’s not hard to avoid them, since they move in straight lines. However, they move very fast, so it’s hard to actually hit them up against the walls.

Onto the incredibly creepy person in the bottom left corner. It’s hard to show in still pictures, but this boss is apparently a ballet dancer. They will spin around as they move and seem to move exclusively in diagonal directions. Since we can only move in 4 directions, they are a bit difficult to keep up with.

Finally, we come around to this heavy set guy on the middle left. Fun fact, this character can be found in the game files for Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald. Most likely as a place holder character during early testing. Anyway, this guy is, in my opinion, the hardest boss to deal with. The fact that they’re so big, they don’t get thrown as far as the other bosses. But what’s worse is their gimmick. They appear to be sumo wrestlers, so every time you attack them, they do a foot stomp which flips tiles and pushes you back to the wall away from them.

One good way I found out to get rid of them was to get two of them in the same lane. Their counterattacks will trigger each other until one of them ends up killing the other for you. Other than that, I couldn’t find a good way to kill them. With that, we’ve seen all the enemies. I’m sure with some practice we could get through this whole game. But for now, we’re going to have to walk away.

 

Verdict

Price – $14.47

It’s definitely on the cheaper side of NES games. Plus, it’s practically a piece of gaming history. Well worth the price.

Play Again? – Yes, Probably

The gameplay is obviously more of an arcade game, so it doesn’t hold my interest as well as some other games. But it’s got a good balance of simplistic, yet complicated. I would definitely be interested in playing this again.

Total Deaths – 28 Deaths

As an arcade style game, it’s not surprising that I died so much. On the plus side, the game appears to offer unlimited continues. So, an attempt at beating the game appears possible.

Fun Rating – 8 / 10

This was a surprisingly fun game to play. A bit difficult, but not so much so to be off putting. As is common with NES games, the game itself doesn’t really tell you what the story is, so I had to find a PDF of the manual. Apparently, we play as Bon-Bon. Our best friend, Candy, is trapped in her own dreams, and her toys have come to life to keep her there. It’s up to us to fight her toys and free our best friend from her dream world. Quite the interesting story. I’d love to see some of the other in game cut scenes and see how this actually plays out. But that’s going to require a bit of practice.

Game Over. I’ll be seeing those words a lot if I plan to beat this game.

 

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