Before DreamWorks made an obscene amount of money with the Shrek franchise and its spin-off Puss ‘n Boots, the latter’s origins go way back. The oldest known written text can be traced to Italy in the mid-sixteen century, and although there have been a good number of influences, adaptations, and incarnations throughout the years, most people simply associate it with the Mother Goose or The Brothers Grimm fairy tales. The story is of a miller’s son that gets a clever, talking cat as an inheritance and although he isn’t terribly impressed by owning the world’s only speaking cat, he goes along with said feline’s plans to gain power and influence. Nice story, but it has little to do with the game that the team at Shouei System developed for the Famicom which was based off an animated film by Toei Animation in the mid-70’s. Released in June of 1990 by Electro Brain, Puss ‘N Boots: Pero’s Great Adventure is a cute little side-scrolling action platformer that is a heavily revised version of the Japan-only release Puss ‘N Boots: Around The World in 80 Days. Not terribly popular, Pero’s Great Adventure often gets tossed by the wayside when it comes to games most loved or memorable.

Just a small sampling of Puss ‘n Boots (Pero) through the years. He’s even the logo for Toei Animation in Japan..

There was also a live-action film version from 1988 starring Christopher Walken (it’s as awesome as it sounds)

As the game’s story goes, Pero the cat is hired by piggish Count Gruemon to kill a mouse that has invaded his palace. In a bout of empathy, Pero spares the trespasser but is then immediately put on the Count’s hit list. Simply firing Pero isn’t enough as Gruemon and his aide, the wolf scientist Dr.Gari-Gari, go the extremely impractical route and decide it best to send Pero through time where he must fight battles all over the world. To make matters worse, showing mercy to the mouse violated Cat Kingdom law, so now endless assassins from that order have been dispatched to whack Pero as well. Deploying a wet works team of murderers might be a tad bit excessive when simply writing a negative Yelp review would do. The time travel element isn’t really present in the game as where ever Pero travels to, it’s pretty much always the early 1900’s.

The challenge is generally minimal as Pero comes packing for this mission with unlimited bombs and bullets as well as a boomerang. Aside from the vehicle levels where you must use whichever weapon the vehicle is equipped with, you can alter the difficulty a bit by trying to make it through with only one weapon or another. The last level ramps it up a bit; an old factory in New York with assassins, fire traps, conveyor belts, pitfalls, fake doors that warp you all over the place, a mini-boss, and a final battle will test your skills more than all the earlier levels combined. At the end, Gruemon and Dr.Gari-Gari come at you full force, zooming back and forth like they’ve never heard of decaf, all the while littering the room with bullets…

Gangsta.

Composed by Mitsuyasu Tomohisa (Fist of the North Star, Conquest of the Crystal Palace), the music for Puss ‘n Boots is campy, charming, and fits the game perfectly. For example, level one in The Old West has a variation on the theme of the nursery rhyme Five Little Speckled Frogs. Other levels match music with the locations or moods, capturing the spirit and ambiance. All in all, it’s a pretty decent soundtrack.

Composer Mitsuyasu Tomohisa

On an interesting side note, DiC Entertainment and the writers of Captain N: The Game Master actually made an entire Puss ‘n Boots episode that premiered in November of 1990 entitled “Once Upon A Time Machine.”  Some of the worst adaptations came from DiC Entertainment; they’d be condescending to the audience and throw cannon and continuity out the window. It could even be argued the writers never once played some of the games they composed stories for.

For example, take The Elven King from the beloved NES hit Faxanadu (L) and DiC Entertainment’s version, King Melvis (R).

Considering the odd creative choices and excessive liberties that show was known to indulge in, it’s pretty surprising that they’d pick this episode to stay extremely on point with though. Characters and motivations are left in tact and there are numerous accurate references to the game. Irony of ironies, among the massive catalog the NES had to offer, they select this obscure title to get everything right with – though they did throw Link and Zelda into the mix, but that’s kind of a bonus.

By today’s standards, it may seem like it’s solely for kids and beneath most gamers. But in a time of games consisting of heavy extensive story lines, huge online multi-player campaigns, or disturbingly dark themes and graphic violence, sometimes it can be nice to brush the dust off some of the older cutesy titles and remember a more innocent, albeit rudimentary, time.

On a very personal note, and without going into excessive detail, a horrific event happened to my family and me one day at the end of Summer in 1992. Later in that same day, and in a sort of haze, I found myself at my friends’ house alone in their family playroom. It was a loft over the garage that had slanted ceilings, a treehouse feel to it, as well as that “new house” smell, like the lumber section of a Lowes. I had spent countless hours there in earlier years playing, pouring over Nintendo Powers and various games with my friends, and just being a kid. That day though, by myself in that suburban sanctuary, as dusk slowly crept in through the window, I went through the motions of playing through Puss ‘n Boots. It was a well worn token game of all the wonderful times spent there. The cute innocence of it was contrasted moreover by the gravity of such a dark time. I had written to the good folks at Electro Brain, thanking them for the dose of sweet escapism and, as a reply, they were kind enough to send me a poster which I’ve kept to this day.

There are times when you want to play video games, and then there are times when you need to…

<3

Michael A. Jones     nerdsintheburbs@gmail.com     www.nerdsintheburbs.com

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