Taito published several games late in the NES' life and surprisingly enough, many of them were fairly solid titles. In many cases, titles developed late in the life of a game console end up to be rushed last minute afterthoughts. Little Samson didn't fall into that category. However, the game wasn't exactly a success either. Being released in very limited quantities, few gamers were able to get their hands on a copy back in 1992 when the game was originally released. Nowadays, the price of loose copies of the game can rarely jump into highly lucrative triple digit values after you factor in shipping and handling from eBay and Amazon. If you look for the game online, you'll usually find a copy or two for sale...so is the game really worth that kind of cash? Nintendo Power praised the game back in the day and the game is seen as an oddity that can be considered as good as it is rare. I'll leave it up to you to decide how much the game is worth after reading this article.
One day, Ta-Keed, the Prince of Darkness, appears and invades the Imperial Forgy. Realizing that the castle soldiers were no match for Ta-Keed's magic, Emperor Hans had little choice but to summon four heroes who possess magic bells that have the power to stand against Ta-Keed and his minions...and so he tells a guard to send each hero a message using carrier pigeons. Kikira the Dragon Lord...Gamm the Rock Lord...K.O. the mouse...and Samson the mountaineering youth. You control each hero individually and they all meet up at the castle. Samson is the one who becomes the leader of the four (though Kikira rejects Samson at first) and together, they set out to dispose of Ta-Keed and save the kingdom. Little Samson doesn't have much of an in-game plot. There is no dialogue in the game and only a scant few scenes where you can figure out what is happening due to what the characters are doing on-screen. I have no idea why one would pair together a dragon with a mouse, but oh well.
Little Samson may not possess a worthwhile story, but it does have some amazing visuals. There are NES games that don't look too inviting when you look at still screenshots, but Little Samson not only looks nice on the surface, the animation is superb. While Samson has one of the silliest jumps that you may ever see, I don't think that anyone who has played this game will tell you that the animation behind his jump isn't great. Many of the enemies have fluid animations and some bosses have a nicely animated introduction. The environments possess a great deal of artistic attention. It's obvious that the developers wanted to make the environments as rich and colorful as possible. You will fight in a tropical forest, inside of a frozen palace, a dark castle, and other locations and they all look rather nice. While the animation and stage design is excellent, Little Samson is most noted for its highly detailed bosses and they are modeled very well. While there are a couple of enemies that aren't as detailed as others, the game as a whole looks stunning.
I wish that the audio was as great as the visuals. The music is upbeat and catchy, but there is a definite lack of variety in the music that is present. Each hero has their own tune that plays whenever you use them, but while they are decent, they can get redundant quickly and it doesn't help matters that you will be hearing their same four tunes for a majority of the game. The tunes that play for each character gets interrupted when you fight a boss (since there is a boss theme), but I found the boss theme to be so-so. It also doesn't help any that the music starts over from the beginning every time you switch between characters which makes it harder to enjoy it. The music wasn't extraordinary enough to leave a lasting impression and the audio left a negative impact once I was finished with the game.
The moment you start the game, the game shows a lot of promise. You are given the choice to select one of four different characters and each character has a different stage that they must complete. Once all four stages a completed, the characters will meet up at the castle where they will eventually join forces...and this is when Little Samson truly begins. The game tried to focus on strategic gameplay and battle tactics rather than giving you tons of power-ups and special moves...a move that was daring, though it leaves me with mixed vibes. Each hero has different strengths and weaknesses and you can change your hero at any given time during the stages.
Samson is the main character and is meant to be balanced. He has the second highest stamina level next to Gamm and can move fast and jump high. He attacks with bells that fly in a straight line when thrown and he can climb on walls and hang from the ceiling. You then have Kikira, who has more stamina than K.O, but less than the other two characters. Kikira can hover in air for a short period of time, doesn't slip on ice, and can shoot a powerful charged shot. Kikira's shoots in a "J" sort of way; the fireballs fire straight at first then quickly go upward as they travel. Gamm is the slow but powerful type. He jumps the lowest, but he packs a mean punch, has the highest stamina and can punch above him and below him as well as straight ahead. He also has the power to walk on spikes. K.O. SEEMS the weakest. He has terrible stamina, but can jump very high, move very fast, get into tiny areas that the others can't, and scale walls and ceilings just like Samson. K.O. sets timed bombs to attack enemies that chase him. However, if you set the bombs really close to a boss, they deal TREMENDOUS damage and can make K.O. the most powerful in a boss fight. It should be noted that Samson and Kikira are the only two who can crouch.
Each character has their own life bar, so when one character gets wounded, you can switch to another character that may have more life. You also only lose a life when one character dies which means that you are given a fair chance since you can switch between the characters. However, when a character dies, you cannot use that character again until you beat the stage (in some circumstances). The exception is with Samson; No matter how many times Samson is killed, you will be able to use him. This can be helpful so that you can use a character you like during the bosses by switching to Samson and letting him take the fall. Once you start your fight on the boss again, everyone (including Samson) is restored to full health. You will want to do that since the stages are fairly long and there are numerous stages.
While this all sounds impressive, the game is actually very simple in structure which may leave fans of action games wanting more. The only three items are hearts to heal you, an item to increase a character's maximum stamina, and a potion that can heal and revive characters that have died. This basically means that you will be using the same moves for the entire game. With the exception of Kikira (who can charge her basic shot), none of the character's weapons can be upgraded. Futhermore, none of the characters get new weapons or abilities either. To make matters worse, the game "forces" you to switch between characters too much just for the sake of doing so with constant climbing segments that require Samson or K.O., spike segments, etc...It is understandable that they wanted to make you use each character effectively, but the constant switching of characters can quickly become irritating. While it sounds as though you will be doing a lot in the game, it quickly becomes repetitive and I was able to soon realize that the game didn't have too much depth.
The concept behind Little Samson was interesting, but the execution wasn't the greatest. The heroes should have had more customization, more abilities, more SOMETHING. As crazy as this may sound, there are games with only one protagonist that have had more abilities than all four heroes of Little Samson combined. Don't get me wrong...Little Samson is fun for the first few stages, but due to the lack of character development, things quickly get boring. It's cool that the game has an easy mode and hard mode that have different stages from one another as well as other small differences (such as different endings), but the game might have pleased me more if it was SHORTER in length. Little Samson has a great visual presentation, fair music, and functional gameplay, but it could have been so much more than what it was. I love how Samson climbs walls and I love how K.O. can kill bosses in three seconds flat with some well placed bombs...I also like how nice everything looks as well as the strategic elements behind the game. Still, the game just feels as if it is lacking in the gameplay department and the game feels a bit generic as a whole. A decent game, but I definitely don't think it's worth what it goes for.- Written by Vyse the determined -