Okay, real talk. I’ve seen The Goonies once. It was in like 9th grade or so, and it was…fine, I suppose. Maybe I’m just not old enough, maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up in a town in Oregon with a legend of a pirate’s treasure floating about, I don’t know, but I don’t have the same love for the film that others seem to. Maybe I have an aversion to Cyndi Lauper. Anywho, you would think that my general apathy for the movie would mean I wouldn’t be interested in a game about the franchise, but we here at JGR are never encumbered by indifference, so we present you today with The Goonies II, by Konami, released in 1987!
Goonies II has you playing as Mikey, ostensibly a member of the group, who has to rescue the other six Goonies and Annie the Mermaid from the Fratelli family’s monstrous estate. You start out with only a yo-yo to defend yourself, and while it performs admirably against the various and sundry NES Logic foes you’ll find yourself up against, you’ll eventually get your hands on better weapons, like a slingshot, a boomerang, and even bombs and Molotov cocktails, as well as increasing your life bar each time you locate and rescue a buddy.
Effectively, this is an early iteration of the Metroidvania formula; you’ll be going from location to location, scooping up useful items like a raincoat to protect you from waterfalls, special shoes that allow you to run faster or jump higher, a transceiver that allows you to ascertain where your friends are being held, and keys you’ll need to unlock their cells or open lockboxes scattered about the area. Of course, you’ll also be doing a heavy bit of backtracking, mostly to reach new areas that are inaccessible without certain items, so it does pay to make notes about where certain spots are you can’t reach so you can remember exactly where they are when you come back that way.However, the biggest change you’ll notice from the way say, Metroid functions and how Goonies II works is that here, there are doors that, when you go through them, change the perspective from a 2D platformer to a POV dungeon crawler look. In these areas, you’ll find most of your items and all of the captured Goonies. They also serve as transitions between one area of the game to another, so often times, you’ll pop in from one cave and exit in another cave altogether.
While this is a nice touch, the game sometimes can bog down in these sections, for a number of reasons. First of all, sometimes, your perspective is flipped, ordinarily, you would push up to go forward, and in these cases, Mikey is “facing down”, so pushing up sends him back through the door he just came in. It’s a minor inconvenience, to be sure, but there doesn’t seem to be any rationale behind it other than to be that minor nuisance. Sometimes, you’ll encounter a lockbox but won’t have any keys, so you’ll go back outside to kill enemies to farm some keys, go back in, open the lockbox, and get a piece of utterly useless advice for your trouble.
The biggest hang-up, however, is that a lot of doors and items are hidden in these areas, and the way to uncover them is to hit the walls, ceilings, and floors to check, which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that you can hit walls with both your fists and a hammer, and whatever you’re looking for only comes out when you hit its hiding spot with the right thing; if something is programmed to only pop out when your fist hits it, hitting that same spot with the hammer does nothing, so it’s entirely possible that you’ll have to try hitting ten spots in the same room to find whatever it is you’re looking for. And this is also assuming that you’re supposed to knock a door into existence, in other cases, you’ll find hidden doors by putting on glasses, and there is no indication one way or the other about which approach to take. Of course, that’s if you even guess what purpose the glasses serve, as you’re not really told what they do, and there’s some guy camped out in some of these corridors that asks you FOR GLASSES.
Aside from that, Goonies II is a pretty enjoyable experience. It handles pretty crisply, most enemies can be dispatched in one whack from the yo-yo, so farming for keys and health refills isn’t a god-awful slog, and while the game world is massive, it’s really hard to actually get lost; most areas have one way in and out of them, so it’s very hard to get going in circles. Much like a Zelda game, you’ll have to drop into a menu to switch items out, but there’s not so many items to switch between, and nothing’s so specialized that you’ll need to constantly flip between two every few seconds to make progress. The pause menu also features a map of sorts, and while it’s far from perfect, it should give you an idea of your bearings if you’re trying to find the way out of an area.
Unfortunately, despite the relatively long length of this game, especially by NES standards, there’s no battery save feature; you’ll have to rely on passwords if you’re not intending to sit down and play through the whole thing in one sitting, and you only get the passwords after you kick the bucket, which is kinda annoying. Of course, if you’re playing on an emulator (which we cannot stress enough we WOULD NEVER ENDORSE DOING PIRACY IS BAD AND WRONG), this probably isn’t an issue, but if you’re playing this on an actual cartridge in an actual NES, it’s something to be made aware of.
Goonies II isn’t a treat for the eyes and ears, necessarily, but it is very functional. The backgrounds are all very distinctive, which helps you remember where you are in the complex, and the sprites are large enough that you’ll have little difficulty figuring out what they’re supposed to be, or picking out quick enemies like the bats against a dark background. The dungeon crawler bits also look fine, but as you would expect for a game from 1987, they’re in the Wolfenstein mode of being all 90-degree angles. Enemy designs are perfectly acceptable, mostly pests like spiders and snakes and such, but there’s also the Fratelli gang members who you can’t permanently kill or the flying skulls that will eat your boomerang if they touch you. The background music is pretty solid as well, changing as you go from area to area, with a mysterious piece that plays while you’re in a corridor section, although that changes to a more triumphant tune if you discover KONAMI MAN!
The Goonies II is a rather enjoyable action-adventure romp that manages to get most of the Metroidvania formula down pat, which is a pretty impressive feat for not Nintendo in 1987. The corridor sections are a nice wrinkle, for the most part, although they can bog the game down at times when you’re stuck trying to find that one damn hidden door that may or may not even be there, and the regular 2D platformer bits are very competently handled. There’s a lot of exploring to do, but it’s also hard to get irrevocably lost, and there’s enough swag to be collected along the way that you don’t feel like you’re going through long stretches of not actually making any progress. I would recommend this one if you’re looking for a rather lengthy NES adventure, and clearly, you don’t need any actual fandom of The Goonies to appreciate it, which helps. One piece of advice, though: DO NOT HIT KONAMI MAN.
Solid Metroidvania-style gameplay, feels a bit more fleshed-out than a lot of NES games at the time.
Wonky password system, and the corridor system, while certainly unique, can be annoying at times because of hidden items/doors.