In general it’s probably bad form to introduce something by talking about its negative qualities. After all, if you’ve already played today’s game, Monster Party, then you probably clicked this to read about a game you enjoyed, and if you haven’t, starting this article by bashing it makes the following praise sound hollow. But hey, we love being unconventional almost as much as we love mixed metaphors here at On the Stick, and personally I’d rather sweep the dust under the rug and keep on truckin’.
Monster Party is a great example of the plethora of mediocre platformers that came out during the heyday of the NES: games made by people that wanted to make a Super Mario Bros. but didn’t quite know how, or games made by people that wanted to make a quick buck off of the Mario craze and didn’t care how. Whichever category Monster Party falls into we may never know, but the fact of the matter is when I say “obscure NES platformer” you probably know what you’re getting into here: weird jumping physics, occasionally frustrating difficulty balance, not the prettiest girl at dance, etc.
But hey, whatever. I’ve played far worse platformers, and I’m sure you have, too. It’s a passable NES game with a great wrapping, and honestly, if you’re still reading then that makes it worth 5 minutes of your time. More importantly, now that I’ve given you that warning and gotten my damn conscience off my shoulders, I’m free to talk about how awesome Monster Party really is.
…pretty dang awesome, let me tell you!
Monster Party’s real claim to fame, as it were, is its horror-inspired theme. The enemies and bosses all draw from classic horror tropes, from mummies and spiders to zombies and vampires. Of course, as I type this, I realize all these things were in Castlevania, too, and that came out a few years before and was (mostly) a much better game, but…uh…well, I guess the best way to put it is that Monster Party was more lighthearted about the whole affair. It had the good to not be so serious all the time, unlike those fascists over at Konami! (Author’s note: I love you, Konami.) This is no more apparent than with the bosses, who range from the aforementioned horror tropes (often with a twist – such as dancing zombies) to truly bizarre (like a bouncing piece of friend shrimp). Heck, early on there’s even one – a dead spider – who simply says “SORRY, I’M DEAD” and ends the battle. I rest my case.
Monster Party is also an NES archaeological oddity, of sorts, because it somehow snuck a lot of content – like skeletons hanging out in massive pools of blood, or your main character’s flesh melting – past Nintendo’s infamous censorship policies. There’s evidence floating around in that vast internet out there that some content – like the blood in the title screen – was censored, so how some of the later hellish imagery made it through is a mystery. Maybe the mediocre gameplay was too much for the censors, who knows. (Again, please ignore any snarky comments that may give you pause about wanting to play this. It’s totally rad, promise.)
The point is, Monster Party was fuckin’ cool, especially if you dig classic horror aesthetics. I’m not typing “fuckin’ cool” just to be lazy, either; I explicitly mean that’s what you’ll say when you try to describe Monster Party to another human being. If nothing else, the off-the-wall bosses and crazy dialogue are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. Oh, and the title screen music is pretty sweet, too, and you can totally scare a cat if you randomly start singing it at the top of your lungs. (I know, I just tried it.)
So, ah…yeah. Celebrate the spookiest month of the year and go play Monster Party. It’s the best horror-themed NES platformer you’ve read about in the last minute.
- Released: 1989
- System: NES
- Publisher: Bandai