Wednesday, March 14, 2012

8BE - Banana Prince
Banana Prince?

Banana Prince Boxart
Is that a banana in your loincloth 
or are you happy to see me? Oh... 
it actually is a banana? Yes, 
I know, they're rich in potassium... 
No, I don't want your banana. 
I assure you, this is not a bad 80's porno. There's no feckless pizza delivery boy and no one's cable needs fixing. Banana Prince is a Famicom game developed by Kid Corp. and released by Takara in 1991-92. The best possible review of Banana Prince would be "Inferior Adventure Island clone," but four words doesn't make for much of a blog post.

Takara released two versions of the game, the superior Japanese Bananan Ouji no Daibouken in 1991, and the inferior German Banana Prince in 1992. To make the game more palatable for Hasselhoff/Kraftwerk drones, Kid Corp. slowed the German game and altered its sprites to make the prince a caveman.
2 Princes
German=Bad          Japanese=Good

German, however, being easier to translate than Japanese, leaves English-speaking players a conundrum: play a translation of the inferior Banana Prince, or blindly play the superior Bananan Ouji no Daibouken. Since certain levels involve quizzes, I chose the former.

Stage 1 Boss
I knew the Eggplant Wizard, and you,
Mr. Eggplant, are no Eggplant Wizard.
The first stage gets you used to the game mechanics and powerups. Rings are Banana Prince's currency, used to purchase weapons, health and Bonus Game chances. The Bald Dudes circle the Prince, occasionally killing baddies. Flowers give the Prince a bigger vine (again, I assure you this is not a porno) and the strange-looking Dolls are 1-Ups. Each stage also has a "hidden door" somewhere which will--at a cost of 100 rings--bypass the boss fight and advance the Prince to the next stage. In the early stages, focus on collecting rings, getting weapon powerups and winning the four Bonus Games. The Stage 1 Boss, an angry Eggplant, offers almost no resistance.

Bonus Game 1
Banana Prince hipster: Mario Party-ing before Mario Party was cool.

Certain doors--for a fee of 30 rings--cannon the Prince to a Bonus Island. Bonus Islands are Board Games filled with quizzes and scratch-off games. Move from 'Start' to 'Boss,' avoiding vegetables along the way. Besting the Boss in an inane quiz will give the prince a Banana Treasure and extend his life meter. Be warned, though, the quizzes are often Costanzian-- claiming  the Alps are higher than Everest, for example.

Boss 2
Future ketchup.
Stage 2 ramps up the difficulty a smidge with water hazards and falling platforms, but apparently the Pepper King never passed the memo to his baddies. They constantly drop extra-health and 1-ups. By the end of Stage 2, the Prince should have upgraded to a projectile-shooting sword. If you find yourself low on rings for better weapons, play one of the many casino mini-games and bet on high. I've found it wins more often than not.
With an upgraded weapon, the Tomato at the end of this stage is easy. Stay near the biggest slice when it splits apart, jump as it moves and avoid its projectiles. Slice it like a...well, like a Tomato, and move on to Stage 3.

Boss 3
Hey sexy...wanna see my banana?
What the hell kind of tomatoes do they have in the Banana Kingdom that they're made in a factory?? I can almost hear Michael Pollan crying in agony. Anyway, this level is genuinely difficult. Toxic tomato-goo covers the floors with ladders and moving platforms hovering above. The game's poor physics--especially in climbing ladders--make it near impossible to get through unscathed.
The Boss is some sort of sexy she-devil. Take out as many of her bat minions as you can and avoid the rest. As long as you've upgraded your sword, the battle isn't too hard.

Boss 4
It's not quite correct to call Celery Cave difficult. Annoying is a better term. The baddies remain unchanged, but the terrain is rougher. More water. An annoying Mine Cart ride. Try to refrain from pulling out your hair.

The Dragon guarding Celery Cave is less Smaug, more Puff. Jump when he tries to eat you, run when he doesn't and barrage him with whatever projectiles you have. It's a longish but simple battle.

Gonzo Pepper
Fear and Loathing in
Who likes climbing levels? Who likes three climbing levels? Who likes three climbing levels while being attacked by anthropomorphic peppers who resemble Hunter S. Thomspon? Answer: No one. No one at all. Banana Prince twice climbs Carrot Tower (again, why is this all sounding like innuendo?), only to be booted off by Lilly, the tempestuous bitch of a Level Boss.

Boss 5Climbing Carrot Tower requires the Prince to constantly whip out his vine. Hopefully you've mastered it by now. Be careful with the falling platforms and you should be fine.

The real kick in the banana hammock is that after three inane climbs, we don't even get the satisfaction of banana-smacking Lilly. Nope. The Boss fight is a lousy quiz. Lilly asks such nefarious questions as: "Where in the grocery store would you find bananas?" and "How often is the Olympics?" Bring on Stage 6.

The swimming physics in Banana Prince suck. No matter what you press, the Prince seems to drop like a poorly-coded stone. Ergo, three stages of swimming, with constant baddies and spike-lined passages, sucks.

Thankfully, the warp to Stage 7 is easily reached on the topside of Stage 6-2. I advise taking it, as the Stage boss is a Whale. Shitty swim physics make the battle arduous. Luckily, the Whale moves in a set pattern, so if you miss the warp point, don't fret.

In some games, you reach the final Stage with a shiver of anticipation and excitement--what devious challenges await? Banana Prince is not one of those games. After swimming the Cucumber Sea and riding the mine carts in Celery Cave, Peppers Castle seems over-simple. The baddies don't offer much challenge and the jumps are simple. And despite its name, Pepper Saltzman makes no appearance in his eponymous castle.

Final Boss Quiz
"I want to go to there."
Final Boss BattleAfter "making it to here" the Prince must answer eight inane questions ("what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?") before getting to the real nitty gritty. The actual battle is a bit tricky; the Pepper King releases irksome minions and nasty projectiles. Off the minions to make the battle easier.

After seeding and slicing the Pepper King, Banana Prince players are treated to an ending verging on non-existence:

Banana Prince tries. It really does. The dual sword/vine weapons and the attack powerup system is fun, and the subplot requiring trips to the board game Bonus Islands provides respite from the side-scrolling levels. German graphical changes aside, and despite a one-note color palette (more tan than Snooki!), Banana Prince is nice to look at . The constant quizzes, though, are ridiculous. Partly poor translation, partly a lack of variation, the trivia gets boring fast. The levels also get repetitive. The game reaches a pinnacle of difficulty in Stage 4--the final 3 Stages seem like filler.

The game is fun enough, though, if you have an hour or two to kill (or if you really, really like bananas)...

...I should have stuck with "inferior Adventure Island clone" and saved everyone the time.

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