Retro Weekends – Whomp ‘Em

The Native American. A people that have long been the center of government screwing. But in entertainment, they’ve been seen as those guys in Westerns that always seemed to mess up the good guys. But sometimes, the helped out. Other times, the were sidekicks. Native Americans in videogames? Well, they… well, one, was fodder for being raped in front of a cactus by a dead cowboy dodging arrows. Yeah, Natives weren’t quite painted in a positive light. But hey, there was one game that would try and fix that a bit. Whomp ‘Em is the next game in NES MAY after the jump.

That Was Some Journey

Videogames, mostly early one, are not strangers to edits and removals of certain elements in the game. Religion, nudity, and ultra-violence were usually the victims of edits (except for some). Very rarely would you see something changed for cultural reasons, like Alex Kidd’s riceball being changed to a sandwich. But in one such case, culture was the very basis of the change to what would eventually become Whomp ‘Em. In Japan, this game what originally called Saiyuuki World 2 and was based on the Chinese novel Journey to the West. So in that version, you controlled Son Goku (the monkey king) and defeated enemies with your magic staff. But that wasn’t the case with the game made its literal journey to the west.

Here, the game was based (very loosely) on Native American lore. Your main character was not Chinese monkey king named Son Goku, but a Native American named Soaring Eagle. And instead of a magically extending staff, you had a (magically extending) spear. Along with this change was an edit to some in-game assets, like changing pandas to grizzly bears and pickups to more Native cloths and headdresses. But why were these changes made? Well, adaptations of Journey to the West had a chance in the U.S., most notably Dragon Ball and its obscure NES game Dragon Power. But people probably didn’t realize that these were based on an old Chinese novel (but kids liked them regardless). So to Jaleco decided to change the game to make it more relevant to U.S. audiences, and they decided on a Native American theme. Looking back, it makes you wonder why they bothered changing anything to appeal to a U.S. audience. The game released five months before the SNES launched in North America.

One thing most people noticed immediately was its similarity to the Mega Man games. Like Mega Man, you could choose which stage you played, you acquired new abilities from defeated bosses (called Totems), and when you beat the stages, you faced the final stage and boss. Whomp ‘Em was the first game though to put you through an intro stage before Mega Man X did it. And unlike Mega Man, you expended no energy using your abilities (although the last one, Death Branch, consumed your life energy). It was a knock-off of Mega Man, but it was a good knock-off.

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