This examination of Trojan is the first entry in what is hopefully a long-running and well-loved feature on my blog: Video Game Archaeology. For Video Game Archaeology I will search out games that I am personally unfamiliar with, games that I have never played, never seen played, even games that I have never heard of, and then I will play them. Also, I will try to find out their lineage and their importance, if they have any. I know that many games get forgotten not because they were badly made, but due to mnay reasons that have nothing to do with the games quality, like timing or trends. I hope that in my searches I will find some lost treasures, but more likely, I will uncover lots of junk. Is my knowledge of a game a good indicator of how well known it is? While I do not presume to know everything, I would say I have quite a bit of knowledge on the subject. The games do not have to be completely unknown; I am just hoping to avoid games that are well known.
My first entry is on Trojan for the NES. I found it at a yard sale and purchased it because it was a game for the NES from Capcom, one of, of not the, Kings of the NES, and I‘d never heard of it. That it was unknown to me was probably not a good sign. Capcom made enough great NES games that I have rather made a point of playing most of their games, but somehow Trojan evaded me. It could be some lost classic, but it is more likely just a not too good game that was forgotten for a reason.
First, some background information about Trojan. Trojan was released for the NES in America in February 1987. It is, as most of Capcom’s early games were, a port of an Arcade game of the same name. Trojan is a post-apocalyptic brawler, where after a nuclear war the games hero takes up a sword and shield to stop a new dictator. The title Trojan is a localization invention and does not really make any sense. Outside of a couple of random names, there is no connection to Troy or Greek Myths of any kind. The Japanese title, Requiem for Battle (Tatakai no Banka), is really no more apt or exciting, so I can see why they changed it. Trojan was one of Capcom’s earliest NES games. They had previously published only four other games and three of them had not been developed by Capcom, but by Micronics.
So is Trojan a sadly overlooked classic? In a word: no. Trojan more than deserves its obscurity. While not a particularly terrible game, it does not do anything particularly well either. The graphics are on par with other early NES games, but still on the ugly side of what the system would eventually produce. The music, unlike the unforgettable tunes of many of Capcom’s NES games, is dull and unmemorable. Trojan also does little to distinguish itself as far as gameplay.
Trojan is a simplistic brawler, with flat plane and very short stages. The enemies come from both the front and the back and seem to spawn endlessly. At first this makes the game daunting, having to deal with attacks from both sides, but I soon realized that as long as I kept moving I did not really have to worry about the enemies from behind. There are also very few enemy types, maybe four random mooks that spawn ceaselessly and another handful of constantly repeated bosses. The player characters shambles across the screen, moving about the same speed as in Casltevania but without the well thought out enemy placement and level design. The A button attacks and the B button raises the shield, while jumping is accomplished by pressing Up. This would be a serious problem it the game required more jumping. As it is I wonder why they included jumping at all. Up jumping really suck in anything but fighting games, and in some of those, it is not ideal. The shield button is as close as the game gets to a nice idea, but it is really only useful against a one or two enemies. Sometimes for reasons I do not know, maybe excess blocking, the player will lose their weapons and be forced to fight with fists for a while. There are only six stages and with a reasonable amount of skill the game can be beaten in less than a half hour. In yet anther strike against the game, there is no continue option when you lose all your men, (When looking up information online I discovered that this is not strictly true, if you press up and start you can continue. However, with no fore knowledge, there is no way of knowing that.) so be prepared to repeat the first few stages until you get the game down. Overall, Trojan is dull and tedious. It is not offensively bad in any way, but outside of nostalgia, there is no reason to revisit it today.
Trojan was only Capcom’s 5th NES/Famicom game, so it is no surprise that Trojan does not hold up to the standards of their latter releases. Trojan is definitely not some lost classic. While 1987 is still early for the NES, it is the same year as Castlevania and, as well as other classics. Trojan is just a poor game. It is not even bad enough to make it interesting. Trojan lies forgotten because it is imminently forgettable.