Saturday, February 6, 2021

Matter of Import 020: Girl's Garden (SG-1000, 1984)


We've made it to 1984 with our twentieth Matter of Import retrogame, Girl's Garden for the SG-1000. It's an action game that also serves as a sort of primitive dating sim, where you control a young girl named Papri as she tries to collect flowers to woo Minto and keep him from being lured into the arms of your rival Cocco.

Despite the cute sprites and music there's more than a little problematic about the relationship dynamics – in the world of the game there's nothing to it but Minto threatening to leave until you buy his affection with enough flowers. It's no Custer's Revenge, but... yeesh.

Technically the game is impressive by SG-1000 standards – every stage you run around your garden collecting flowers that have fully bloomed, and avoiding the... get this... angry bears trying to eat you. I don't know what kind of game Minto's slinging here, but Papri evidently finds it worth it.

The bears are fast and home in on you better the closer they get, so as a defensive option Papri can drop jars of honey that will distract the single closest bear until they've finished it. You only start with five, though, and you only get a single new jar every round, so smart play is to use them sparingly.

The flowers themselves go through several stages of lifestyle until they're in full bloom – immature flowers don't help your goal, and picking a dead flower costs you half of what you've collected so far. Dying by getting eaten, falling into water, or collecting a skull also costs you half what you've grabbed so far.

Skulls are one of the objects dropped by the bee that flies overhead – along with fruit, which give you points, clocks, which give you time, and extra lives. Time? Oh that's represented by the image of your beloved Minto walking inexorably towards that thot Cocco as her feminine wiles continually erode whatever passes for his fidelity. Seriously, Papri, you can do better.

As soon as you've collected ten mature flowers, you can return to your cottage to present Minto with a bouquet that he clearly doesn't deserve. The very next day he's out again, beginning his inevitable march towards Cocco's charms, and all you can do to salvage your codependent relationship is brave the bears – faster now – for more flowers, the one thing keeping his boots under your bed.

Every few stage you undertake a challenge round that consists of a platformer style sequence of jumping over rows of bears as they march your way. It's not easy, but at least if you get got you don't lose any lives.

It's a good game, but that's not surprising considering that it was the first project that Yuji Naka – creator of Sonic the Hedgehog – came up with. Definitely one of the most playable covered in Matter of Import so far... and an example of a game where a lack of depth isn't to its detriment. I give Girl's Garden a B.

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