Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode is an NES title by Vic Tokai, released in 1988, and based off the hugely-successful Japanese Manga, Golgo 13. It is such a strikingly unique title in so many ways, that it’s hard to describe this game unless you’ve played it. I’ll do my best, but it still cannot be done justice without players experiencing it for themselves.
This game is similar to other NES games, such as The Adventures of Bayou Billy, DayDreamin’ Davey, Superman, and Dick Tracy, in that you play multiple game modes and styles to achieve a final goal. However, unlike most other games, Golgo 13 makes it feel like each game is distinctly made, and honestly, none of them are necessarily terrible. This game is comprised of side-scrolling action stages, side-scrolling swimming stages, shoot-em-up autoscrollers, a 1st-person mode where you must shoot enemies, a sniper mode (yes, Sniper Mode, on NES, although this mode is only used twice, to shoot 2 people total), and the polarizing 1st-person 3D maze stages, which are horribly annoying if you don’t use a map or practice like the speedrun does. Although Bayou Billy does a solid job of making its’ 3 modes feel unique and playable, Golgo 13 does so in a much simpler way. Combined with a story that is actually intriguing and mature, this is such a strange game that honestly does feel like a film noir, or a manga.
Pairing this gameplay style with some highly stylized graphics, haunting music, and very developed characters, turns Golgo 13 into an experience more than a video game. This is a game you’ll need to sit down and dedicate an evening or two to, especially if you’re playing casually. This title is directly meant for adults, and plays as such; this is no Kirby’s Adventure. You’ll need to mash, you’ll need quick reflexes, and you’ll have to take notes and pay attention. Enemies hit hard, but you get 52 (!) lives, and the continue checkpoints are overwhelmingly fair. Despite the high difficulty, most players should be able to finish this game in their first playthrough or two.
The speedrun does suffer from repetitiveness, stretches of boredom (not counting the harrowing ambushes, which require you to be quick and accurate), a lack of tech or speed strats, and a VERY long slog that is a painful game to reset. That said, you’ll still feel satisfaction from each run, even when you lose one to a silly mistake in the wrong place. By no means is this a speedrun I’d recommend to just anyone, but the hardcore NES audiences should take a look. If you’re looking for something different in general, you could find much worse than Golgo 13, that’s for sure!