The Japanese create some great games that unfortunately don't make it outside of their own country. Most of them require a certain knowledge of Japanese culture that can be considered too risque for American and European audiences. The Violinist of Hameln is one such a game but is also one of the Super Nintendo's best.
Developed by Enix (who have now merged with SquareSoft to make Square-Enix) and released in September 1995, The Violinist of Hameln is a platform game based on manga of the same name. The games stays true to the story and lighthearted whimsy of the earlier manga than the far darker issues and anime that were to come.
You are Hamel, a violinist in a fantasy world where music has magical properties. He's a character that is obviously taken from the Gimm fairy tale The Pied Piper of Hamelin, but with a Japanese twist. You and your pet crow named Oboe travel to Hameln which has recently been plagued with a terrible monster problem. The townsfolk persuade you to rid the land of these creatures using your comically over-sized magical violin but not before you request a companion. Flute, a tempestuous young maiden volunteers to fight by your side.
The character of Flute is perhaps the game's best feature. For the most part, she is AI controlled and follows you wherever you go but it is not long before you realise that you can pick her up kicking and screaming and throw her at your enemies. This is in fact encouraged as not only is it more powerful that your standard musical attack, but it will also yield valuable coins on occasion. These coins can be used to buy power-ups and health while in the towns.
That is not the only abuse Flute takes either. Along you're journey you can collect costumes that change her abilities. The first you find is that of an ostrich that can walk over spiked floors, but you'll soon gather many more including a fish that will allow you to swim and an atom bomb that will explode. Thankfully she seems to be invulnerable (as well as constantly irate) so use her as often as you will - the most you'll lose is a few coins. While perhaps a bit misogynistic (though the character herself is a far kinder representation than the usual Japanese import), and likely the reason for it's lack of a Western release, this mechanic is the game's greatest strength.
Each level requires at least one costume change, and later stages do become trickier. It gives the game an engrossing puzzle element as well as it's own personality. The audio also makes great use of the Super Nintendo's sound chip by re-creating classical music to an impressively high quality.
Overall, this is a gem of a title that you should all play. Thankfully, the language barrier has been voided as a rather impressive English translation was released by a fan group call J2E. Their website is now defunct, but their legacy lives on so that we can now all enjoy this lost classic.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses Retroarch with the SNES9X_NEXT core to emulate the Super Nintendo on PCs. XBox 360 controllers supported. To save disc space on solo SNES games from the Collection Chamber, install them to the same directory and overwrite duplicate files. Tested on Windows 7.
The Violinist of Hameln is © Enix Corporation
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me