GANBARE GOEMON 2 / Konami / SNES
Goemon 2 is a general improvement over its predecessor, which was released as Legend of the Mystical Ninja in the West. You can now choose to play as Goemon (Kid Ying), Ebisumaru (Dr. Yang), or the robot ninja Sasuke, and the strictly linear progression of the previous game has been dumped for a more Mario 3-like map that allows for taking multiple paths, and backtracking to replay levels.
The game mostly plays like the side-view action sequences of the previous game, but with more creative and visually impressive levels. You still encounter towns here and there where you can buy equipment and rest up, but the mini-games have been filed down to only a small handful. Also, there are no more enemies in the towns (unless you attack a townsperson, which summons an endless wave of red-faced guards to attack you).
One major new addition is the introduction of Impact, the giant Goemon robot with whom you sometimes take on bosses. These battles begin with a side-view level that has you trying to run over and destroy as much stuff as you can with Impact in order to raise his overall health, then progressing to a one-on-one duel with a boss robot done in a first-person style and playing something like a bizarre rail shooter.
Generally speaking, the game is a lot of fun, and the levels are great. While I enjoyed the goofy towns of the previous game, trimming out the enemies and some of the shops and activities actually seems to work out better. The game is more smooth and fun to play. You're also no longer hampered by some ridiculously long password system, but can save and restore between levels, and can choose a new character to play as every time you restore your game.
One thing about it, though, is that it is very difficult. Most of the levels are hard, with a lot of jumping sequences over pits and whatnot, and the new 3D boss battles tend to be long and require crackerjack timing in order to counter the attacks of the enemies. If you're not much for action games, it can get pretty frustrating. However, I really enjoyed it in spite of the high difficulty - it's one of the top platformers on the SNES.
* Gameplay video