Labyrinth: The MSX2 Game & Wild Reflections

Star Virgin is an hour long movie from Japan created alongside the little known game of the same name distributed by Pony Canyon. The movie remains obscure, just like it's MSX exclusive! This episode is also available as a blog post: https://agentannk.com/2021/11/21/star-virgin-the-crazy-obscure-game-of-an-even-obscurer-movie/
  1. Star Virgin: The Crazy Obscure Game of an Even Obscurer Movie
  2. Labyrinth: The MSX2 Game & Wild Reflections

Labyrinth is an MSX2 game by Pack-In-Video based on the Labyrinth movie. Labyrinth has a devoted following, and this game is worth checking out if you are a huge fan. I picked up this game a second time to play on my stream because an updated fan translation recently dropped.

Labyrinth was released in 1987 for MSX2 computers only in Japan, but it can be played today thanks to emulation and the use of fan-made translation patches. This game has excellent music that features the MSX2’s FM sound chip that is enjoyable to listen to and features a few popular songs from the movie. Fans will enjoy David Bowie’s colossal portrait at the start, as well as various other references throughout gameplay.

Labyrinth is challenging because you can soft-lock if you don’t have certain items at the start of the game, so be careful! I struggled a lot when I picked this game up, but once you’ve figured out what to do, you can beat the entire game in under an hour.

Before we settle into the hot mess stream I fumbled through, let’s quickly glance at all the Labyrinth’s games that came out around 1986-87. Yes, there are a few that came out, and the most well known is the C64 and Apple IIe/IIc versions. It serves as a go-to game-play template for the scrolling word wheel menu used for the other MSX2 and PC-88 Labyrinth games, though each game is unique with their own content and overall ascetic appearance. The biggest oddity to the C64/Apple Labyrinth game is that you can choose to play as a boy or a girl. The wildest development fact was Lucasfilms Games on-boarded author Douglas Adams from The Hitchhickers Guide to the Galaxy fame to help come up with the game’s plot. It’s also of note that this was Lucasfilms Games first game.

The odd duck of all the Labyrinth games is the Famicom version, which only saw a Japanese release and has its own style of top down adventure but forget that for now – let’s examine at that MSX2 game where I’ll share with you a few tips to help you get the most out of the experience of Labyrinth the game.

Right away when you fire up the game, you should immediately have an FM sound chip enabled. If you are using an emulator such as openmsx, you just need to choose the right machine or ensure you have the Panasonic MSX-Audio cartridge inserted. Once you go FM sound you never want to go back. Labyrinth music is amazing, and it’s fantastic to enjoy the full range of the FM MSX-Audio sound chip throughout Labyrinth gameplay.

Labyrinth MSX2
A boxed copy of Labyrinth for the MSX2

Mash space bar, lets go.

Immediately, we are greeted with sexy face Jareth, the freaking Goblin King himself teasing us with his eyes as he shouts all in caps: “YOU GUYS. YOU WHO ARE THERE! I KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU”

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Well, OH SHUCKS. This translation is off to a great start. When I played this a year ago, the translation was very helpful for the text menu in the game, but a few scenes still had not been fixed. The older translation basically had just the important keynotes translated, so you knew you were on the right path if you got English coming up vs Japanese. Now everything in this Labyrinth game has an English translation, but there’s still a lot that comes across as uncanny when you read it and a few things that I feel didn’t come across clearly in the old English text are still there. Not perfect, but hey, it’s playable and the music is jams.

How to have a better time playing Labyrinth for the MSX2:

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Thing happens.

Don’t be a tuna head, Sarah. You have 13 hours clicking down to find the Goblin King and get your brother back. You can find a lot of items simply by walking around Labyrinth, so don’t be lazy and pick up everything. You’ll need to use these objects in specific situations, and some later puzzles are impossible to complete if you rushed through and didn’t find them, as many early areas will be impossible to reaccess. Without spoilers, you need to find Perfume, a Log, and a Bracelet. Simply explore and take your time, as all these items spawn in the same area.

Try calling friends over. Often you can get something amusing to happen with the talking commands, as you have a “praise” and “insult” option on top of “ask” and you can use the wheel to choose who you are calling out. Try insulting and praising different things to get added text.

There’s a save option built into the game, so start getting used to save-scumming. You can save at anytime, and Labyrinth is one of those games you don’t want to lose progress on. Labyrinth will punish bad decisions with death or game over screens, so make sure you save, save often, and don’t feel ashamed if you made a stupid choice. Labyrinth doesn’t care if you feel bad. Labyrinth will keep on keeping on, so use the save feature.

Look in Sarah’s inventory every now and then and you’ll see there’s a pile of junk that seems well hidden in her 80s style fashion vest. You brought a camera with you because as any pre-teenage girl, Sarah is all about documenting that experience to splash out on Instagram later. Why am I talking about the stupid camera? Because it’s not clear that it’s a video camera. Yes – remember when the movie Labyrinth goes all Lost Highway on you and Sarah turns into the Laughing Man with her camcorder and… wow what a great premise… No seriously, this is not clear and understanding how and what you need to do with the camera is rage inducing. To save you the headache, you need to film a friend in the hedge-maze and apparently this friend only feels comfortable enough there. What you are filming your friend doing in the hedge-maze is all on you, you sick pervert. I want to think you are filming Jereath’s Goblin King Bluge, as that happens in the actual movie.

Another note on Sarah’s wild inventory. She starts with popcorn that she can eat, but she complains as she keeps eating it, which makes me wonder if the popcorn needs to be used somewhere else. Also, you can give items to NPC, which stinks because if it was an item you needed later on… well… There’s a strange part of the game where you can get a helmet, yet the helmet doesn’t seem to do anything but look snappy when you wear it. I would assume you can put the helmet on when a Goblin is on screen to avoid them from catching you. I haven’t experimented with this, as it’s very easy to avoid them. The most important items you want to pick up will be Jareth’s crystal balls as they will be vital for the end game.

The Garden features the BEST music in game, Magic Dance, Magic Pants, so be ready to start your chair dancing. This is also one of the boards where you can get stuck-the-frick-up if you don’t have any money or know what to do. A powerful AnnK tip: You only need to get stuck in the garden once to know it sucks. If you enter the garden a second time, simply load a save and try not to go back there. Places of note where that can happen are in the forest or in the Goblin town, so save before you go into any doors.

The throwing physics in this game is the pits, but mastering it is the progress secret. As you can see in my stream, Labyrinth has a “unique” delay when Sarah throws anything, because it’s not easy being Sarah throwing hot trash from her fashion vest at anything. If any of your throws are off by even a second… well… you made a save, right?

Speaking about the throwing mechanics, they throw those throwing skills right out the window in the final encounter with the Goblin King. I hate spoiling this, but I can’t talk about the game play in this game without having a hot take at this boss encounter. Sarah will always default facing forwards, when you are not touching any keys, which appears a bit weird when you are using items or using items on things. ANNK PRO BLUGE THROW STRATS: Stand by the doors and slap the throw option and wait for Jareth to pop up. Once he’s close, tap in the direction he’s in, and you’ll get a better toss every time. Activate the throw, then decide where its going. That is highly illogical, but oh shucks, it’s just a video game.

THE END OF THIS GAME IS STRANGE

This is where more focus on localizing the translation would help tremendously. As far as I can tell, there are 3 endings depending on the options you are given. One ending, Jareth’s hair goes all funky, one has him turn into an owl, and another he sinks into the bacon world platform. Each of these endings results in the sexy David Bowie face staring moistly into your eyes, saying you did the thing. No mention of getting your brother back. Did we do this right? Well, he’s moist so I guess drink up?

Sometimes, Labyrinth can be frustrating, so keep that in mind. Labyrinth is not a game for the faint of heart or those who need things to go their way on first play through. Labyrinth is ruthless, and Labyrinth will break you down into tears if you do it wrong enough. That’s the charm of games from this era, so if something isn’t clear on your first play through, don’t beat yourself up. Save and save often!

Despite the many disadvantages this game has, there’s a lot of charm and heart here. That’s the best thing about these older retro games, as they are not anything close to perfect, but they can be delightful and experienced today. Labyrinth is not the easiest game to play, but if you’re willing to put in effort, Labyrinth can be a lovely and rewarding experience that you can keep coming back to and enjoy for the graphics, story, and especially the music.

I give this game 8 out of 10 Goblin King Bluges.

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annk526

I am an artist who likes video games and burgers.

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