GOLGO 13 / Namco / Arcade

Golgo 13, the man who commands a million dollars per shot. The best assassin in the world, he'll work for anyone (provided it doesn't compromise his personal moral code) and has a flawless record to justify his high price tag.

Golgo is the dark cousin to James Bond, a longstanding manga icon who debuted in the 1970s and still has comics coming out today. In spite of his enduring popularity, in the nearly four decades he's been around Golgo has not made very many successful cross-overs to other forms of media. There's a couple of live-action movies from the 70s, a couple of animated films that had limited success, and then a small handful of computer and video games (most of which were pretty bad). Out of the few games Golgo has made an appearance in, I'd have to say the arcade game released in 1999 is easily the most fun to play, and also the most faithful to Mr. Duke Togo's manga roots.

The game is similar to Konami's Silent Scope. The player uses a life-sized M16 rifle, which "zooms in" on the screen when you look through the scope. Golgo undertakes a series of missions which usually involve killing a tough-to-reach target with only one or two perfectly placed shots.

The missions come in blocks of five, and you can choose what order you want to tackle them in. Instead of lives or a health bar, the game gives you a "professionalism rating", which drops sharply when you botch a hit. Miss a target completely and you'll lose about 80% of your rating; hit a non-vital area and you'll lose more like 40% or 50%. Pulling off an assassination refreshes your rating, however, and the closer to the ideal kill zone you get (usually the forehead or heart) the more your rating is boosted. Thus, it's actually possible to fail a mission or two in this one, and yet still progress through the game.

I assume the missions are drawn directly from old episodes of the manga, as they are set up and told by what look like scans of old comic panels. Some of the artwork is really quite beautiful, even if it is filler to pad out a game that actually doesn't have a huge amount of content (20 missions that last about ten seconds each on average).

The game was only officially released in Japan, though I've been reading that some have been spotted along the west coast of the U.S. as well as in other locations. Thus it is, of course, only in Japanese, though knowledge of the language really isn't necessary to play. If you don't happen to have a spare 20 grand or so to buy one and have it shipped overseas, the game is now emulated in MAME - though at present the emulation is not perfect (the sound is a little jumpy and off), and of course you don't get the sniper rifle experience. Golgo fans will want to check this one out though, as it's easily the best quality of his games.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video