Rated PG-18 -
There are times when I play games today and just get pissed off simply by looking at who I'm controlling. Games like Final Fantasy XII and many of the newer Castlevania titles in particular feature some of the most girly male characters anyone has ever seen short of the 1980's British Invasion in pop music. Part of the problem, besides being raised on '70s blaxploitation action movies and professional wrestling, is a combination of my assumption of these characters' sexual preference and the fact that they look like I would knock them over with a yawn. Another part of the problem is my completely jaded expectations of what manliness is all about in gaming since the early days, and especially since 1988, when American gamers first got introduced to Duke Togo in Golgo-13: Top Secret Episode for the NES. Needless to say, by 1990, upon release of the sequel, The Mafat Conspiracy, people expecting real men in their games were taken to the point of no return.
The clever "hiding behind the fire hydrant" technique is useless once he gets bored and decides to stand up.
Known as Golgo-13: The Riddle of Icarus in Japan, The Mafat Conspiracy was the second Golgo-13 game developed by Aicom and released by Vic Tokai for the NES. It's hard to tell by the storyline whether or not either of those titles properly describes the actual game, but it doesn't really matter. This game might as well have been titled Golgo-13: The Spy Who Kills People and Fucks Lots of Women While Smoking. That definitely would have sold me on the game for lack of any other compelling reason. Besides, there's really not a whole hell of a lot else to it. Regardless of gameplay, storyline or graphics, the Golgo-13 games are actually cleverly disguised instructional tools designed to help you become a pick-up artist. Sure, this time he only had sex with one female operative this time around (I don't consider that a spoiler since we're talking about Duke fucking Togo) when he banged two different broads within the span of the previous game, but we have to consider percentages here. HE ONLY INTERACTED WITH ONE FEMALE. That's a 100 percent success rate, just from concise conversation and the ever-seductive "...." word choice. Duke Togo might be a man of mystery with no known nationality, but he's everything an American man can aspire to be. Sure, a few lovable losers might achieve some level of success with women and life by learning fromDavid Deangelo, but let's compare the results with just living like Duke Togo:
The "Double Your Dating" Subject - "My self-esteem has improved dramatically, I'm the envy of everyone at the clubs, and I've had sex with my hot new girlfriend 3 times this week, and it's only Tuesday!"
The Duke Togo Subject - Did not arrive to test center, 100 percent likely due to an inability to get himself out of the pile of recently-fucked international supermodels and the entire U.S. Bikini Team in time to report results.
If you turn your back like a little bitch, Duke will make you pay... in FIST DOLLARS.
Ah, but Duke doesn't just go around like a mack without a purpose. The Mafat Conspiracy is a game featuring a heavy and deep adult-themed storyline full of intrigue, betrayal and surprise. An international terrorist revolutionary group known only as Mafat has apparently kidnapped renowned scientist Dr. Barrows and is using his research to knock satellites out of orbit. Thus, the CIA turns to Duke Togo to solve the problem through fucking women for more information and blowing people's brains out. While smoking. This time around, Vic Tokai tells the story through cinematic cutscenes similar in nature to the Ninja Gaiden games, interrupting gameplay every now and then to fill us in on how events are unfolding. Ultimately, everything is revealed at the end of the fifth stage, although you have the option of skipping the entire storyline outright if you just want to get to the killing. Just remember, you might miss some clever plot twists and even sex, so use discretion.
Gameplay is very much like the first Golgo-13 title, featuring sidescrolling action, 3-D mazes, and sniper scenes. The number of gameplay elements has been reduced, however, and the horizontal flying scenes, underwater exploration and first-person shooting have been removed in favor of a few driving sections in this version. Duke still maintains godlike fitness level, with the same 40-foot vertical leap and kicks that, with any contact, kill a normal man. Duke hardly even breaks a sweat, either. In fact, he just casually strolls down the streets of Paris in his hands in his suit pockets until some idiot decides to pick a fight, at which point he kills him with a 40-foot dropkick. But don't think that's going to dissuade knife-throwing ninjas, other guys in suits, or boomerang-throwing Afghans. They've got a death wish, and they'll take it to you and end your life quickly if you don't adjust to their attacks. This game even boasts the unique appearance of the World's Fastest Scorpions, so be ready for a little challenge. On the other hand, the game itself is relatively short in comparison to the original, and there are only a handful of bosses, who go down easily by juggling them in the corners with a flurry of fists. The mazes aren't quite as challenging as the original game, but you'll find yourself exploring as early as the first stage, so mapping it out or having the instruction booklet handy will be essential, especially when there are a number of times when you'll only have a few minutes to escape. There are two driving sections in the game, which consist of reaching a target within the time limit while other cars attempt to block your path and toss grenades at you. You can also throw grenades, but they're next to useless, and just sticking with keeping in third gear and anticipating turns should suffice. One of the most impressive yet frustrating aspects of the game involves sharpshooting. You must deal with wind and keep a steady hand to hit your targets at exact points, otherwise you'll find yourself repeating certain scenes over and over, including the final stage, which features one of the most difficult jumps ever on the NES, and one that only Duke Togo or a superhero could pull off.
Be prepared to see lots and lots of this color scheme.
The graphics in The Mafat Conspiracy are unquestionably a step above the first title, as Duke now has a walk with more than two frames and the European and Asian backgrounds are richly detailed. The cutscenes even rival Ninja Gaiden in quality. Unfortunately, the mazes are all of uniform color, so get used to gray and black for a long, long time. Also, for some reason, the designers seem to have added frames to Duke's walk at the expense of moving frames in the mazes, meaning you'll need to rely on sound when you take a step, and pay close attention to the compass, since you can easily end up passing a door or set of stairs. The music quality is improved from the first game, as well. The classic Golgo-13 theme is as prominent as ever, and the other tracks fit the mood quite nicely. Chances are, even if you don't pay attention to how far you've progressed, you'll know you're at the end when the music picks up.
The Mafat Conspiracy continues the pattern of exploration, strategy and action that made Top Secret Episode so appealing. If you're a real man like Duke Togo and can manage to balance the NES with your now heavily active sex life, go find it.
If you ever board a plane and see the guy ahead of you get his head blown off out of nowhere, just call it a day.