Gimmick! Special Edition Review

The Japanese hidden gem finally gets a North American release

By Paul Hunter

Mr. Gimmick from Sunsoft is one of the rarest NES titles having released in 1992 on the Famicom, as well as a small pressing in Scandinavia the following year. For decades the game has remained a well-hidden treasure but that all changes with Gimmick! Special Edition, out now on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and PC.

Gimmick originally came out late in the lifespan of the NES and by that time Sunsoft felt gamers had already moved on to the 16-bit consoles and marketing an 8-bit game would be challenging. But that's the past and now we have the Special Edition on modern platforms which features numerous quality of life updates that enhance the overall experience.

Sunsoft has lovingly crafted this re-release that revives the charm of the original NES title and lets a whole new generation experience the joy and challenge of this classic platformer. Its updated features include new game modes, trophy support, online leaderboards, a rewind function and quick save/load functions.

Let's dive right in and see what Gimmick is all about, here are three things I liked about it...and one I'm mixed about.

Liked: Physics-Based Platforming

In Gimmick, you play as a small green creature named Yumetaro who was accidentally given to a young girl as a toy. After her toys come to life and whisk her away to another dimension, Yumetaro follows to save her.

Making your way through the game's six stages and battling six bosses is no easy task because the physics engine adds depth and complexity rarely seen on the NES. Everything from your character's slippery movements to his physics-based star shooting power takes time to learn and master.

Levels are meticulously designed with some of the best platforming ever seen on the NES and requiring precise jumps. Every leap can spell disaster if you don't factor in Yumetaro's momentum that can have him careening off a ledge before you can yell "no!". You also have to consider the time it takes to summon his Star power and how it bounces around the screen using realistic physics. The amount of bounce your star will have depends on the type of terrain you're on, how fast you're currently moving and whether you're on the ground or jumping.

Often time it takes some thinking to figure out how to defeat enemies, whether that's moving to a higher platform or jumping to adjust your Star's angle and bounce. It's a very difficult game with a steep challenge but with time and a little patience, you might end up figuring out combos that take out multiple enemies at once.

What's neat is you'll discover that you can actually ride your charged star and that opens up the creativity. You can bounce around on your star to take out enemies or use it to cross otherwise treacherous platforming segments. For completionists, the star allows you to reach hidden areas you can't otherwise get to. In fact, to get the true ending you'll need to discover all the hidden rooms in every stage and find special items. Nabbing all these hidden items provides a great sense of accomplishment and rewards you through exploration.

Liked: Modernized Features

Gimmick! Special Edition successfully modernizes the game with great new features without compromising its original nostalgic appeal. This updated version includes a rewind function that lets you redo sections to correct mistakes or experiment with different strategies without having to replay the entire level. It also features a handy quick save/load menu with three available slots in case you need to pause your experience and resume it later. Both of these quality of life improvements are very much appreciated but also completely optional.

This re-release also includes three different game modes depending on which kind of experience you're looking for. Normal mode is the default and it gives you access to the accessibility features I mentioned like rewind and quick save. There's no limit to using either, so you can rewind gameplay as often as you want and creating a save state can be done in mere seconds.

If you're wanting to replicate the original game's steep challenge there's Serious Mode, which disables the assists while also adding the ability to earn trophies. This ultimate test of your skill gives you a hardcore challenge and is for the most dedicated players. With no safety net provided by the modern updates, you'll need to master the game's mechanics and boss' attack patterns. It's a true test but worth it since most trophies are locked behind this mode.

Finally, there's Speed Run Mode which places a timer on screen and keeps track of how much time you spent on each stage. For those who like challenging friends and other players, there's also an online leaderboard to see how you stack up.

Liked: Art Gallery and Graphics

Included in the Special Edition is a bonus art gallery featuring scans of the Japanese and Scandinavian versions, both in their original languages. It would have been nice to have these translated, not just for interest's sake but also to help you learn the actual gameplay. It was only through playing for a while that I realized that pink and orange potions heal you, while red orbs can actually be used to launch a fireball at enemies.

Looking at the game's graphics, being a late NES title it really takes advantage of all the hardware has to offer. The bright pixel art is beautiful and there's a nice variety of biomes across the six worlds. This version has been slightly enhanced to look a little more crisp and vibrant on modern displays, ensuring both new and returning players can appreciate the charm of this game world. The original soundtrack featuring a range of styles including pop, jazz and hard rock jazz fusions, has also been faithfully preserved.

Mixed: Steep Learning Curve

I have no problem admitting that I liberally used the rewind feature, which I thought was convenient and a great time saver. But going for the true ending that requires you to not use a continue and reach the six challenge rooms takes a serious time commitment. And even with time, I'm not sure I could do it: this game is brutally hard. To put it in perspective, I genuinely think this game is harder than the original Battletoads.

Naturally, the good news here is you can access the rewind feature and quick save/load. I had a great time playing through the game using both assists and still felt accomplished. What does suck though is since most trophies are locked behind Serious Mode, it'll take a gargantuan effort to grab this game's platinum—although it'll feel ultra-rewarding if you can get it.

The Verdict

I'm really glad that Gimmick! Special Edition exists as it's such a fantastic game and deserves a wider release. Whether you're a fan of the original or playing for the first time, this is a must-play game for retro gamers. With its physics-based gameplay and wealth of secrets, it was ahead of its time and really is one of the all-time best NES platformers.

Final Score: 8.5/10 - Great

Gimmick! Special Edition details

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Developer: Sunsoft
Publisher: Bitwave Games
Genre: 2D Platformer
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

A key was provided by the publisher.