A lot of games never make it to the US. There can be a variety of reasons for this, be it licensing issues, lack of interest, or simply poor quality of the game in question. But it’s a damn shame when a genuinely good game remains Japan-exclusive. The Violinist of Hameln is one such game.
The Violinist of Hameln is a Super Famicom (SNES for the unenlightened) game based on the manga of the same name. The series is fairly obscure as-is, having never made its way outside Japan in any form, and even in its home country it has little more than a cult following.
So, being an obscure game based on an obscure manga that was never released outside Japan, chances are you’ve never heard of it. And that’s unfortunate, because this game kicks ass.
At its core, Hameln is a fairly standard side-scrolling platformer. You play as the semi-titular Hamel, who happens to be a violinist.
Being a violinist, Hamel’s primary method of attack is firing musical notes. You’re also assisted by a girl named Flute, who mainly serves as a means of solving puzzles and traversing the environment.
You see, keeping in line with the manga, Hamel’s a bit of a douchenozzle. He has no qualms with abusing poor Flute however he sees fit, in this case using her as a platform to reach higher areas, using her as a projectile to destroy enemies and obstacles, or otherwise flinging her about for his amusement.
To her credit, she puts up with it pretty well, and really only gets annoyed if she’s actively hurt by an enemy or hazard. Making her mad doesn’t have much of an effect beyond reducing your score at the end of the level, though you lose gold every time she gets hurt.
Flute serves an even greater purpose, however. Throughout the game you find costumes that give her various abilities necessary to make it through the stages, as well as further humiliate the poor girl. This ranges from an ostrich costume that can walk across spikes to a robot costume that can punch through blockades. Most are needed to progress, though there are a few optional ones hidden throughout the game.
There are also towns along the way where you can purchase useful items and even costumes to help you in your quest, actually making use of those coins you pick up throughout the stages.
The Violinist of Hameln has a lot to offer, and is one hell of a hidden SNES gem. Why didn’t it come out over here? Fuck if I know. Perhaps it was a licensing issue with the manga, maybe they simply didn’t think it would be marketable. Whatever the case, it’s unfortunate we never got this one. Thankfully, there’s a translated ROM out there that you can go play right now, and even a reproduction cart if you want to add the game to your collection.
So go play it. If you’re a SNES buff, I highly recommend it.