I have a number of valuable games in my collection. Some I acquired through lucky timing, others I?ve actually shelled out for, but all of them are the result of questionable priorities. None are as valuable as my copy of Little Samson.

As of today, Little Samson is worth more than two months of rent for my small, one-bedroom apartment in a nowhere town. That?s really depressing because it both illustrates how ridiculous the collectors market is for video games and how ridiculously expensive it is just to afford a roof over my head for a fraction of a year.

But I don?t collect games to pretend I have some sort of valuable asset. I collect them to play and appreciate. And to demonstrate this, I put Little Samson in my NES. Then I kind of wiggled it around a bit to get it to display properly because I really need to replace my console?s pin connector.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Son of the shining path

Little Samson comes to us from Takeru, also known as Sur de Wave. The company was pretty short-lived, which is a massive shame. In total, they only did about four games, and Little Samson is the only one that came stateside.

It?s hard to find much information about Takeru, but another game they made for the Famicom, Cocoron, was helmed by Mega Man creator Akira Kitamura. As for Little Samson, the director here was Shinichi Yoshimoto, who was one of the designers of Ghouls ?n Ghosts. Real Capcom royalty.

Given the company?s pedigree, it may be unsurprising that Little Samson is a good game. Perhaps not the maximum utmost, but it is Duck Tales good. It?s Super Mario Bros. 2 (US) good. Beyond that, it?s an impressive game for the NES. The graphics are solid, and the character animation has an anomalous level of detail. The characters move with a fluidity that seems almost impossible on the console. It flaunts it, too, with Samson doing a full twirl in the air every time he jumps. It?s practically excessive.

Screenshot by Destructoid

The clouded mind

From the outset, Little Samson gives the impression of heavy Mega Man influence. The game opens by allowing you to select from four levels, but really, this just allows you to select what order you play through the character tutorials.

There are four playable characters in the game that you can usually swap between during gameplay. Each one has different abilities and uses. Samson and the mouse, K.O., can climb across walls and ceilings. The dragon, Kikira, can fly and can charge her shots. The Golem, Gamm, has the most health, can walk on spikes, and has a punch that does a lot of damage. K.O. has the smallest amount of health but drops bombs as an attack. A single bomb placed well can do catastrophic damage to a boss.

Little Samson gives plenty of reasons to switch between characters. Rarely is a segment of level traversable by just one of them, but there are sometimes alternate paths that the right character can take. I don?t believe bosses have weaknesses, per se, but you can sometimes work out strategies with a specific character that can make encounters easier.

They all have their own individual health bar as well, but if a character dies, it functions as a death for the whole party and kicks you back to the beginning of the stage you?re on. However, unless it?s Samson who dies, that character is eliminated until the end of the level. So, there?s a lot of swapping characters to try and preserve their health bars.

There are also branching paths, though I don?t think this is extensive. The only one I really know how to replicate is falling down a hole during a particular boss battle. This takes you to a sequence where the bell that all the characters live in gets stolen from Samson and you have to ride a giant crab to a boss to get it back.

However, this time around, I wound up completely skipping an ice level midway through the game. I?m not entirely sure how I pulled that off. Nintendo Power Issue 40 says you skip the area if you haven?t maximized Samson?s life bar, but I?m pretty sure I did. Maybe not.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Acting under orders from above

Little Samson is an all-around good time, but there are some questionable design decisions. Most are minor. But the one that sticks out most in my mind is the fact that, when you die while playing as any other character than Samson, they?re unavailable unless you either have a potion in their inventory.

Potions are essentially like E-Tanks from Mega Man 2. You use them to completely restore a character?s health. However, each character can only carry one. The potion goes to the character that picked it up, and you can?t trade between your party members. This means that if a character is knocked out and they don?t have a potion, you can?t use them until you finish the level or hit a Game Over screen.

If Samson, on the other hand, dies, then you just get kicked back, and everything is fine. If you lose a character on a boss battle, you?re forced to retry the boss battle without that character. This can be fine in many instances, but on the last gauntlet of levels, I found myself expending my lives to hit a Game Over screen and resurrect my party. That?s really annoying and shouldn?t be necessary. Have some sympathy for Samson.

Screenshot by Destructoid

More like Son of Sam

As for why Little Samson is so valuable, that?s a good question. While it?s no doubt a scarce game, Nintendo had a minimal print run for the NES, which former Nintendo of America President, Howard Phillips, recalls was about 10,000. Even if Little Samson was only produced in that amount, it?s not the only game on the console that was.

The answer is probably merely that it?s sought after because it?s always been sought after. The value of a game isn?t a mathematical equation. The concept of supply and demand only goes so far when explaining it. Before the collector?s market was really tracked and established, Little Samson was already considered valuable. So regardless of how much circulation the game has, it?s probably always going to maintain a reputation for being expensive, and that reputation alone is going to keep the price high. Especially to people who collect as an investment, which is such an aggravating concept to me.

Ideally, Little Samson will get a re-release at some point. I?m actually surprised it hasn?t yet. Folks like Limited Run Games and Retro-Bit often do reissues of rare and expensive games, and Taito (now a subsidiary of Square Enix) has been delving into its back catalog and partnering with people to have them resurrected.

It?s possible that the rights stayed with Takeru, and no one knows who owns them now, but that?s just speculation. Hopefully, we?ll see Little Samson again sometime. 1992 was an easy year for an NES game to get overlooked, and it?s a crime that it didn?t get more attention.

For other retro titles you may have missed, click right here!

The post Little Samson on NES asks how much you’ll pay for a gem appeared first on Destructoid.