Shigeru Miyamoto is an amazing, wonderful, talented genius who appears to want to make people happy with all of his creations. Except Devil World, because Devil World is the most terrifying thing ever. If you haven’t heard of that, then hello fellow US citizens! This Pac-Man-like was only released in Japan and Europe, which means only people in those regions were able to play one of the most terrifying dot-collecting games in existence.
Players in Devil World are Tamagon, the mighty dragon. Except he’s not so mighty after all. He’s downright useless unless he’s carrying a cross or Bible. Though, this could be because he decided to stomp right into the Devil’s world to bring the hurt to the biggest bad himself. The only way he can actually do anything is if he’s holding a religious artifact. Then, he can eat dots scattered throughout the maze or breath fire to make the Medaman and Bon-Bon enemies extra crispy.
The goal is to consume all dots in the first round of each sections, grab the four Bibles and stick them into the red box with the skull on it in the second, and then leisurely grab reward boxes for points while no enemies are present in the third. The game continues endlessly, cycling through these three kinds of rounds. Sounds simple, right?
Nope. First, needing to always carry an item to collect other items or defeat enemies is quite challenging, You get a few second warning when a cross is about to disappear, but that doesn’t help when the more aggressive Medamen and Bon-Bons are on Tamagon’s tail. There’s also a Co-Devil opponent, but he’s not too terrible, compared to the other stalkers slinking through the maze. Imagine if you were playing Pac-Man, but had to always have the Power Pellet to accomplish anything. Doesn’t sound so simple, does it?
And that’s nothing compared to the trick the Devil has up his sleeve. This is his world, which means he determines the direction in which the screen moves. It’s always moving, and it’s up to a player to navigate Tamagon through the labyrinth’s paths quickly and efficiently. If the minions moving the screen change direction suddenly or you aren’t keeping up, he’ll be squished between a border and a wall. There are no breaks or second chances. Too slow? You’re a Tamagon sandwich.
There’s no reprieve either. When Tamagon respawns after one of these deaths, the maze is still shifting. All you can do is be ready and keep moving. This makes for plenty of “almost done” moments. You’ll see the last few dots. You’ll be right there. But no, it isn’t going to happen. The screen is moving in the opposite direction. You have to play dodge ’ems until it eventually gets back to that point.
It’s fiendish, really. Yet, there’s a brilliance in this diabolical game. With Pac-Man, you’re largely facing the same situations and labyrinths over and over. You learn the ghosts’ particular patterns, develop tactics for each area, and have the time and space necessary to use plans you’ve prepared. With Devil World, you have to think on your feet. What worked the last time in this sort of level might not apply here, due to the movement of the screen, distribution of enemies, and arrangement of dots. Especially since more enemies are continually added as this endless delving into the Devil’s world continues.
Which means it’s more satisfying when you do win. You haven’t put together skills that apply to only one area. The methods you’ve learned can apply to any area in the game, thanks to the way Devil World is designed. Your sense of foresight is heightened. It’s diabolical, sure, but worth it due to the amount of effort it requires from a player. Your investment pays off eventually, as you learn to appreciate the nature of the game.
Sadly, the only way to easily enjoy a copy of Devil World now is via the Nintendo 3DS or Wii U Virtual Console. It was kept out of North America, due to the religious imagery, but has been added to the Japanese and European libraries. Those who happen to import a handheld from Japan should absolutely consider grabbing it for their systems, especially if you love a challenge.