Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

#136 – Amagon

Not to be confused with Amazon.

Either Amagon is huge or his plane is tiny.

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 10/5/19 – 10/12/19
Difficulty: 6/10
My Difficulty: 6/10
My Video: Amagon Longplay

The process of reviewing games after I beat them is interesting in part because my opinion can fluctuate all the way until the end of the game. At first blush, Amagon is a solid, but uninspiring platformer. It quickly becomes quite a challenge. As I’m battling through, a few neat surprises show up improving my disposition toward the game. Then the crushing difficulty settles back in and I make no movement ahead. Finally, all of a sudden, the game clicks with me and it almost becomes trivial to complete the entire game. If I reviewed the game after playing only a little bit, I would have dismissed it as frustrating. Instead, I have more measured thoughts on what this game accomplishes. Let’s get to the bottom of what Amagon is all about.

Amagon appeared only on the NES and Famicom. The Japanese release, named Totsuzen! Machoman, arrived in December 1988. The NES release had the name changed to Amagon when it came out in April 1989. The game was developed by Aicom Corporation. The Famicom version was published by Vic Tokai, while American Sammy took publishing rights for the NES version. This game hasn’t seen a re-release anywhere, so the only official way to play this game is with the actual cart.

The story is a simple one. Amagon is a marine sent on a mission to check out a strange island from which no one has every returned. Amagon flies to the island only to crash land his plane on a beach. At the opposite end of the island is another beach where his rescue ship is located. Armed with only a machine gun, Amagon makes his way across the island to secure his mission and return home safely. His journey covers six geographical zones, each containing two stages each. The game is won once all twelve levels are completed.

Spiders and mushrooms, both typical game enemies.

Amagon is a run-and-gun game with simple controls. Use Left and Right to walk around, press and hold Down to duck, and you can jump with A. Jumping is rather stiff. Amagon jumps very high but doesn’t cover much horizontal distance. Amagon wields a machine gun with B. Bullets are only fired straight ahead and reach about half of the width of the screen. He begins with 300 bullets as indicated at the top of the screen. Once you run out of bullets, he will hold his gun over his head and you can only use it as a short-range melee weapon with B. The Start button pauses the game.

Enemies can drop powerups that help Amagon. Bullet packs add 20 bullets to his ammo. The always appreciated 1ups give you extra lives. A powerup showing a flexing man is called the Mega-key. This powerup doesn’t seem to do anything at first glance, other than to sometimes display “Go!” at the top of the screen. The rest of the powerups increase your score. Clearly marked powerups increase your score by 500, 1,000, 3,000, or 5,000 points. A crown gives you 10,000 points. As you can see, most of the powerups are only for increasing your score, and there’s a good reason for that.

Amagon is a fragile character. A single hit from an enemy or an enemy bullet will defeat him. The key to getting far into this game is to use the Mega-key to transform into Megagon. To use the Mega-key after you collect it, first you need to have scored at least 5,000 points. This is what causes “Go!” to display at the top. Then press Select to become Megagon. Now you are a bulking behemoth of a man that can both deal tons more damage to enemies and also absorb damage from enemies with his newly acquired health bar. You trade 5,000 points from your score for each unit of his health bar. Megagon can have a maximum of 14 health points if you have 70,000 points or more. You remain as Megagon until either you run out of health, you reach the end of the stage, or you fall into a hole. Running out of health transforms you back into regular Amagon. Reaching the end of the stage also puts you back to normal, though your leftover health converts back into score for the next level.

Megagon pummels even strong enemies with ease.

Though Megagon is very powerful, there are some tradeoffs to assuming his form. The controls are the same for both characters. You trade your machine gun for a punching attack. The hitbox for this attack is incredibly generous. While it doesn’t hit too far in front of him, punching has a very tall range. You can punch low enemies while standing while also reaching enemies just above your head. Punches are eight times as strong as Amagon’s regular attacks, so this is the preferred way to fight big enemies and bosses. Enemies defeated while you are Megagon do not drop powerups, which matters if your score is low or if you could use an extra 1up somewhere. Megagon has a special laser beam attack performed by holding Up and pressing B. This is a tall wave shot that tears through enemies and is twice as strong as his punch, but at the cost of one health point. You can’t use this if you are out of health either.

The different zones in the game all have a similar structure. You begin on the coast, then you travel through the jungle, river, deep jungle, and the mountains before finishing at the beach on the opposite side of the island. Each zone has two stages. The first stage usually ends in a fight with one or two of the larger enemies in that zone’s enemy set. The second stage culminates in a boss battle. These battles are pretty weird as you fight things such as a double-sided lion head and a walking tree.

Amagon has a continue system and you get unlimited continues, but there’s a catch. First off, the continue system only kicks in once you reach Zone 4. When you run out of lives and have the opportunity to continue, you can only resume play from one of the zones you’ve already cleared on that credit. For instance, if you continue from Zone 4, you can only choose from Zones 2 and 3. From there, if you lose in Zone 3, you are forced to restart from the beginning. You keep your score when you continue, which helps a little. Continuing almost isn’t worth it if you have a low score, since that limits how far you can get as Megagon.

This game has goofy bosses and I am here for it.

This was my first time playing through Amagon. I have tinkered with this game a bit before and I always failed out in the first stage. I am glad to have finally figured this game out since I did enjoy my little time with the game. This is an affordable cart at around $5. I have had a few copies of this cart during collecting. I actually owned a copy of this game that did not work. The cart itself was in great shape, the pins were nice and clean, and the circuit board looked to be in good shape. It just wouldn’t do anything inside the NES. I ended up keeping the shell and swapped in a good circuit board before offloading the other copy as broken in an eBay lot.

I pretty much summarized my experience playing through Amagon in my introduction to this blog post. This game is tough to get started. Falling spiders get in your way. Flying birds move quickly and are tough to react to. Jumping is more helpful in the vertical than the horizontal. You fall fast so you don’t cover much distance, meaning gaps are tough to cross and enemies aren’t so easy to jump over. Wasps fire bullets in a spread pattern and I needed a strategy to cope with them. You don’t get a Mega-key until near the end of the stage and everything is out to get you before that point. This part teaches you how to be effective as normal Amagon while allowing you to build up some score for your upcoming transformation to Megagon. Getting to that point however is pretty challenging, especially for the early part of the game.

Falling snails are no match for Megagon.

The game does get easier once you clear the first stage, but while progress was steady for a little while, I really struggled once I got to Zone 3. That’s the river zone, which provides dangers like leaping fish and logs floating on the river. I had many runs die out once I got this far, and it never really felt like I was learning anything about the patterns and enemies coming up. The solution to all this was really quite simple: Be Megagon every possible chance you get. I was focusing too much on progressing as Amagon because I didn’t want to miss any extra life drops and I wanted to keep my score high for later. I’m also a powerup hoarder in games by nature. I do well enough from playing that way for the most part, so I suppose that’s why I was hesitant to give in to becoming Megagon more often. Many levels give you a Mega-key very early in the level so there’s big incentive to use it right away. I did well as Megagon so I always traded back extra health for points at the end of the stage, and I never came close to running out of score. I did play more early game as regular Amagon than was really necessary, the parts that I learned anyway. A bit of a buffer is always nice just in case. I more or less breezed through the rest of the game once I embraced the Megagon strategy.

Amagon is a solid NES game, but I don’t think it presents itself very well overall. Graphically the game has a cartoony look that is more simplistic in nature. The music in the game is just okay, mostly unmemorable. The ending theme is awful and not a suitable reward for finishing this tricky game. The controls are responsive. The stiff jumping makes things tougher than they need to be sometimes, particularly during the small amount of necessary platforming. Playing as Megagon is pretty fun, ripping through enemies and bosses with relative ease. The better you play, the more time you’ll have as Megagon. For me that meant the game became more fun once I got better. The boss fights were a pleasant surprise that I was not expecting to see in this game. I think that was because the overall presentation of this game feels like a game from a couple years earlier than when it was released. NES games were getting quite advanced and polished by 1989 and Amagon feels dated by that standard. I classify it as an average run-and-gun style platformer, though as usual, I had fun with it.

#136 – Amagon

Posted In: Finished
  1. J Allred

    I remember renting Amagon and quickly writing it off as frustrating, so it’s interesting to read about the game becoming more rewarding the more you put into it. I had no idea about the score being related to Megagon’s health. Great review.

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