January 18, 2013 by Ezekiel Garcia
There is a game that exists where you can choose from a street thug that can increase his head five times his size, a ninja that can only throw ninja stars while jumping, and a barbarian who uses a lighting torch as he would a sword. There is a game that exists where you turn into a sheep and throw smaller, bouncing sheep at your enemies. There is a game that exists where you fight zombies, a bouncing sun, and a Colonel Sanders lookalike, in which upon defeat, a bird flies out of him in the same level. This game is called Trio the Punch – Never Forget Me. And I never did.
Trio the Punch is a game that challenges the player’s sanity. To play this game is to undergo government experimentation. There is not a single moment in this game where you will have the opportunity to understand what’s going on. You will raise your arms higher and shout WTF? louder with each passing pixel. However, there is an interesting story here, and it’s one that probably make things about this game even more surreal.
In 1990, Data East released “Trio the Punch – Never Forget Me” to a limited selection of arcades across Japan. It is what many critics and gamers alike categorized as a Kuso-ge, or Crap Game, but it wasn’t necessarily scathing remark. In the context of American society, players could describe this as a Troll Game, a game intended to be bad to either infuriate or even give the player a good laugh. In Trio the Punch’s case, it could easily be said that it is trolling the unfortunate souls who play it to the point of psychosis.
The gameplay itself is out of its mind. For starters, no two levels are the same length. The levels range from a minute-long journey towards a boss fight to fighting two enemies, then a boss fight. It is unpredictable that way, save for the boss fight in every level. All of them have the same objective: collect hearts with the words “help” flashing over them, and defeat the level’s boss.
Not even the physics make sense. Players will bounce on fire balls, they’ll get forced to crouch after taking a hit, and the player can only perform certain attacks when grounded or airborne. Sometimes, the player will be shrunken for no apparent reason. The wackiness out of this game comes from the unexpected instances where things happen that really shouldn’t happen in any other video game. For example, there is a stage where, during a ninja fight, the message “Weebles Fall Down!” appears randomly. Whenever it happens, the game freezes, only to disappear and reappear.
Another reason you can’t forget Trio the Punch is because the music will get stuck in your head. The three selectable characters each have their own theme music. It sounds standard, and the tracks are pretty funky cool for the most part, until you realize: it will be the only music, and it will constantly play throughout the entire game from start to finish.
The enemies in the game are just as widely ridiculous. Most of the grunts consists of ninjas, robots, and miniatures of the character Karnov (for those not in the know, Karnov was a somewhat iconic figure in video games, in his self-titled game to practically becoming the face of Data East.) The weirdness really begins with the bosses.
The first boss is, get this, a statue of Karnov being carried by smaller Karnovs, and it must be punched until it is destroyed. The statue itself is for some strange reason incredibly bouncy. It gets better! There is also a tiny robot with a hammer ten times it size, swinging it in a single frame.
This game defies classification despite ultimately being a run-of-the-mill beat-em-up. It is sold on its weirdness and unpredictability.
Playing it once will probably break the player, but playing it again will unlock their third eye. It really is something to behold: a game that was terrible by design, has many, many oddities, and plays like a bad platformer. That is why it is still talked about, like an urban myth, except it is a very real, playable game.