There was a time when Bandai, before it became better known as the other half of Namco Bandai, didn’t have that great of a reputation in North America when it came to publishing games under their label in the late eighties to early nineties on the NES. Dr. Jekyll and Hyde, anyone? Or how about Dick Tracy?
On the other hand, they had a pretty eclectic mix of games flying beneath their banner ranging from arcade favorites like Xevious to adaptations of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. They’d even publish this action game developed by Tose for the NES in 1990.
This take on the Frankenstein story took place after the novel with the monster dead and apparently buried in his own plot. But evil never lies still for long, and the monster has come back to unlife to wreak havoc on the nearby village smashing windows and kidnapping Emily, the beautiful daughter of the village elder, for…some reason that only an undead tapestry of pieces that he can understand.
And Frankestein’s monster is now some kind of magician able to hide within a place known as the “Dark Dimension” from where he directs his army of monsters to end your journey. Death was really good to this guy.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t that good of a game. Even back then, it wasn’t that great, especially when played next to Konami’s polished Castlevania series, though you can’t blame Bandai for trying to find something to add to their published library to go up against it. Frankenstein wasn’t all bad, though. The intro was actually neat and the music was alright, though horror-wise, it wasn’t scary at all.
Gameplay was simple and to the point – you controlled a guy (who you could name) equipped with only their fists and feet at the start, but the monsters you attacked would drop weapons like clubs (that kind of looked like huge turkey legs) that could be upgraded to shoot. Healing items, magic power ups, and even keys to secret rooms were among some of the things you could find along the way.
He also had a health meter represented by a gauge made up of balls on the left hand side of the screen. Potions and hearts restored it whenever he was beat down by beasties and it was upgraded as he continued on through the adventure.
Control-wise, though, this was a bit clunky around the edges but enemies could drop weapons and power-ups to give you an edge in combat. There were also a number of boss fights against a variety of monsters including the Grim Reaper who you had to fly kick to “death” in every level. The game also has a password system as finishing a level awarded you with a password you could use to pick up from where you left off.
It’s not as well known as Bandai’s other titles, but Frankenstein is an interesting side-trip for the legendary story that Mary Shelley probably would never have imagined her monster taking. Then again, look at what Castlevania has done for Dracula.