Dr. Franken, When Your Girl Goes to Pieces

drfranken-snes

I got The Adventures of Dr. Franken for my SNES back in the mid-90s and played it quite a bit. I discovered in more recent years that this is actually part of a series of games based on the character, with nearly the same plot in each game. One way or another, your girlfriend Bitsy winds up in pieces and you now have to find and reassemble them all (some women just can’t keep it together). You play the character of Franky, a take on Frankenstein’s Monster, who was created by Dr. Von Frankenbone (which makes the title of these games a bit out of whack, since the doctor himself never even appears in them, let alone has any adventures).

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In the SNES game your character wears sandals, a neon orange shirt, surfer trunks, and some snazzy shades. The sprite design is fun and has a lot of charm, with a giant head (or is it his body that’s undersized? *shrug* ) and oversized hands and feet, his movements are pretty smooth and he has a fun animation when you lose your last health. The sound effects and music are also quite good, and help to create a unique atmosphere. This is by far the most cheerful and goofy game in the series, the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously is part of what makes it so enjoyable to play, even if you get stuck on the same stage for an eternity you still enjoy the experience of being sucked into its world.

The SNES game adds several attacks and controls that the other games lack (due to the fact that the other games only exist on 2-button systems, leaving just one attack and a jump), you can do an upward spin kick, a right or left side kick, throw powerful energy bolts that destroy almost any enemy, and throw light energy arcs which stun enemies. The R button launches the stun bolt, the L button launches the energy blast, and the top three face button kick in their own directions (ie, the top button kicks upward, the left one kicks left (no matter which direction you are currently facing), and the right one kicks right), the bottom button is your jump button. This control scheme makes it easy to attack enemies approaching from behind without having to turn first plus it gives you an additional attack (if you attack the same direction you’re facing it’s a side-kick, but if you attack the opposite direction it’s a spin-kick with a bit more force), but takes a bit of getting used to. You can jump up on many objects which appear to be in the background (such as bookshelves) to reach higher places and you can jump down through holes in the floor by crouching before hitting the jump button. Enemies will sometimes drop batteries that restore some of your health.

The plot of this game is that you and your girlfriend are taking a trip, but she lost her passport. Being the callous green monster that you are, you solve the problem by disassembling her and stuffing her pieces in boxes, after you ship them to your destination you plan to put them back together. Too bad for you she got lost in the mail. Now you have to wander around the stages finding pieces of her and of her passport in order to put her back together and go on your vacation. The first level starts out in your home castle, but then you travel to other parts of the world to find her pieces (at some points you can even choose what order to tackle certain levels, and can change your mind because you get sent back to the map every time you lose a life or complete a level). Other levels include a bus/train station, an underground cavern, a ruined temple, and a Mayan setting, to name a few.

I particularly remember playing this while watching a marathon of Dukes of Hazzard on TV.

While the SNES game was the first that I played (by far), it was not the first in the series. The first and third games were on the original Gameboy. The first game also has Franky finding and assembling his girlfriend Bitsy, but this time it was the other monsters in the castle who took her apart and hid the pieces. In addition to Bitsy’s parts you also have to find key items that will open new areas for you, such as a book which you have to return to the castle’s library. In this game you only have energy bolt attacks, and these can’t even hit some of the monsters, all you can do is dodge those monsters. The graphics take a more serious tone in this game, with Franky having more conventional proportions and not wearing shorts or shades (instead he’s wearing striped pajamas). This game is rather challenging, trying to figure out what items you need (there are no clues anywhere, you just have to find items that are out of place and take them, hoping you’ll figure out what they do or where they go), then where you need to take them, often backtracking many times to get back to former dead ends. In addition to that, the castle is a maze all by itself.

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The first game was followed by the SNES one, which was in turn followed by the second one on the Gameboy (which, despite being the third game, is titled “Dr. Franken II”). The plot of this third game yet again has you trying to put Bitsy back together …well…. sort of.. This time it’s actually some golden tablet depicting her image. The castle has fallen on hard times and you need to sell the tablet to pay the bills. This game is truly a sequel to the first Gameboy one, with the same degree of frustration in trying to find items to unlock areas and find your way through the castle’s maze. The graphics are mostly similar to the first Gameboy Dr. Franken game, except that Franky now has shorts and a t-shirt, akin to his wardrobe in the SNES game.

(note: These two Gameboy versions don't actually have colors, the emulator I use allows you to set custom colors.)

(note: These two Gameboy versions don’t actually have colors, the emulator I use allows you to set custom colors.)

There are only the three games in this series. ….Sort of. It turns out that they had planned to have a version of the original game for the NES and one for the Sega Game Gear, but neither was ever released. There is an apparently complete prototype of the NES game which can be found online. This game is nearly an exact copy of the Gameboy one, but with color and with the stats being displayed on the main screen:

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There is also a playable demo of the Game Gear one floating around the web. The graphics in this game are notably different (though still familiar) and the layout is different, but it is largely similar to the first game. The major differences between this and the others boil down to the fact that it’s merely a demo. You cannot be killed, there are some bugs (such as not being able to jump and fire at the same time), and there are less than a dozen rooms to explore. When you have visited the last one, the game simply ends. It’s a shame really, this version had the most potential.

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There is also apparently a game by the same name for iOS, but that game is completely unrelated to this series.

Drahken

Team Retroist Chief Nostalgia Psychic...

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