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by Aaron Vark - March 5, 2016

Tail 'Gator / Shippo de Bun (しっぽでブン) - Game Boy (1991)

American Game Boy Cover

Japanese Game Boy Cover

Developed and published by Natsume, Tail 'Gator is a likeable sidescrolling action-platformer for the Game Boy. As the story goes, a dragon warlord known as Basso Gila teleported his castle and armies to the peaceful kingdom of Moberry, which is populated by anthropomorphic beings. Basso Gila intends to destroy Moberry and extend his power, but the council of elders of Moberry send a highland alligator named Charly in order to stop Gila and his forces.

Charly's main method of attack is his tail. He also has an HP meter consisting of up to seven hearts (with five at the start of the game and after every continue used), as well as a power meter. When the power meter is filled up to seven P's, Charly's tail whip gets a projectile shockwave for a limited amount of time. The game is composed of five "areas", the first three of which contain four levels within. The player is free to choose which of the four levels in each area they want to finish first. These four levels are arranged based on environment, having Air (sky/clouds) on the top, and Land (hills) below that, Cave below Land, and Underwater below the Caves. One of these levels will have a boss. The first area has the boss in the caverns, the second area has the boss in the underwater section, and the third area has the boss in the mountains section - these take on the forms of a frog, fish, and otter.

The levels within areas are divided into rooms, which have various enemies as well as treasure chests. Most enemies take one or two tail whips to take out, but some take more. However, enemies respawn after a short period of time, forcing you to move forward. Breaking treasure chests can yield one of four items: a B ball that gives the player bonus points, a bomb that destroys all enemies on screen, a P object that fills up Charly's projectile meter (and extends the duration of the projectile tail whip if collected when the tail whip is in action), and a heart which refills Charly's life. The last chest opened will yield a key to unlock the door to the next room.

The first area really only has two types of enemies except for the underwater section, but more enemies are introduced as the game progresses. These rather silly enemies include snakes, birds, fish, cattle troops with spears, fox troops, mermaids, and several other types. The game also introduces different kinds of water currents and air gusts that move the player, as well as platforms that disappear and reappear. The final two areas of the game are basically regular levels, but are in a castle setting rather than the landscapes of the first three areas. The game includes a password system too

The graphics are very cartoony and cutesy, and fairly detailed considering their size. The music is also quite upbeat and catching, and probably the most distinctive aspect of the game. It sounds reminiscent of other Natsume-developed games for the NES, such as Shadow of the Ninja and SCAT, so it's in good company. It was composed by Iku Mizutani, who was also the sound programmer on assorted Natsume titles, and composed the music to Shatterhand. The game is pretty easy, though some of the later levels can prove to be a slight challenge.

While Tail Gator is relatively decent for a Game Boy action-platformer, especially considering that it's not part of any larger franchise, it does feel kinda generic. Still, when compared up against other older similar games for the platform, it holds up pretty well. It certainly would have been a good holdover until the release of Super Mario Land 2 the next year. Strangely, it was actually released in America first, in 1991, then in Japan the following year, where it was published by VAP. So in the end, Tail 'Gator nothing special, just a solid game starring an original character, with a pretty decent soundtrack. Additionally, it has obtained some notoriety for being featured on a great number of pirate cartridges, where the name is sometimes translated as Crocodile.

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Tail 'Gator (Game Boy)

Tail 'Gator (Game Boy)

Tail 'Gator (Game Boy)

Tail 'Gator (Game Boy)


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