Logo for Rod Land

There's so many fun and cute little Famicom games that never came to the West. There's a smaller handful of said games that did go west, but not as far as North America. Rod Land is in the latter. It's the port of a one of those single screen arcade games that were all the rage for the longest time (think Donkey Kong and Dig Dug). Rod Land did come to Europe, but like Gimmick before it, it never hit my home continent. Unlike Gimmick, Rod Land isn't quite the super well known hidden gem. It's not even in the top 100 Famicom games. It's just a cute little arcade platformer that is near and dear to my heart.

I first discovered Rod Land earlier this year (the hell year of 2020) when I...acquired a large collection of Famicom releases. I was going through these games that didn't have any English patches that I knew of, many of them obscure rpgs that I couldn't really play since I don't know Japanese, and eventually I came across it. Yousei Monogatari Rod Land. I sat at the title screen for a few moments as the game's character's, Rit and Tam, danced around on the tops of some kind of ugly mushrooms as this lighthearted little loop plays. I didn't really know what to expect other than maybe a pretty subpar little platformer, but it turns out it's totally servicable! High praise, right?

The title screen of Rod Land

Not exactly awe inspiring, I know.

Upon hitting the start button, you're presented with some kind of story in Japanese. The pictures are of a fairy in prison and then the Tower of Babel? It's all very confusing but I don't know how important it is because this is just a silly little arcade game. Afterwards, you're presented with the first level. There's platforms. There's enemies. There's flowers you can pick up. What more could you want.

A picture of the tower of babel mentioned earlier

And lo, the fa'ries didst buildeth a toweth'r to Heaven and God Themself

So basically, the goal is to defeat all the enemies in each stage to progess to the next one. You do so by using some kind of star whip to grab enemies and flail them back and forth, repeatedly smashing them into the ground until you turn them into an item that can wreak further destruction upon your foes. These items include things like a bomb, which releases an explosion in place, dynamite, which sends a blast wave horizontally in each direction, and a super bouncy ball that just kinda bounces until it hits an enemy.

A gif of the player's attack

Just brutally slam those fuckers against the ground.

The other way to progress is to collect all the flowers. Doing this turns all remaining enemies into these weird little droplets of blood or some other crimson liquid with arms and legs. Defeating these enemies will produce one of the five letters in the word EXTRA. Each letter that drops will cycle through, so you don't need to worry about randomness too much. Collecting the full word EXTRA will send you to a screen with a fairy that matches the art style of the story sections. She wears a disinterested face as the letters in EXTRA spin around her then form into a small rotating group in her hand. She says something in Japanese then sends you a couple levels ahead with some extra lives as a reward.

A picture of the extra lives fairy

Not sure why she looks so ungrateful. I gave her letters!

The game is pretty easy and continues on like this for a little while, introducing new enemies like sharks that occasionally stop and lob an arcing shark tooth shot at you, and wasps that fly and every so often fire a burst of stingers in a downward-diagonal direction. The levels remain pretty straightforward, though every so often add new mechanics like balloons that you need to ride to the higher parts of the stage that aren't connected by ladders. Then you run into the first boss. It's a bunch of alligators that send little baby alligators at you. This is where I usually lose most of my lives and continues. These fuckers are a bitch to kill.

A picture of the alligators boss

I love alligators but these guys are assholes.

I managed to get to the second boss once but it was so long ago that I don't remember what it was. A big frog maybe? A fish? I honestly haven't a clue. Still, despite how weirdly hard it gets very suddenly, I keep playing Rod Land. It's not the greatest game in the world. It's not a stellar hidden gem on the Famicom that everyone who loves retro games needs to play. It's just a cute little arcade platformer that shows its quarter muncher roots pretty early on. Will I ever beat it? Probably not. Do I care? Definitely not. Rod Land doesn't need to be more than a fun little time waster, and that's what it is for me. I'm not even really writing this to recommend it or anything, because it's nothing to really write home about. I just think it's neat.

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