Gotta Protectors: Cart of Darkness was one of the best games released last year, and I’m kicking myself now that I didn’t write about it when I bought the game at release. Cart of Darkness is a sequel to Gotta Protectors on 3DS, which is itself a sequel to Protect Me Knight, a game that makes me mourn the closure of XBox Live Indie Games every day, as that was the best game on the service by a mile. This is a series developed by Ancient. Yes, as in the company founded by Yuzo Koshiro’s family. A company responsible for games like the Master System version of Sonic the Hedgehog, Robotrek on SNES, Beyond Oasis and Legend of Oasis for Mega Drive and Saturn, and some no name indie title called “Streets of Rage” or something like that. So there was a pretty big pedigree behind this game, and I was looking forward to it.
CoD is this fun little game. This top-down action game where you play as this cast of colorful, wacky characters that fights all types of monsters. While fighting said monsters, you also escort a princess on a castle mounted to some tank treads so that she can ram an opposing castle until it is destroyed. If I had to do the dreaded Elevator Pitch, I would say that this is like Gauntlet mixed with a Team Fortress 2 payload map. God, remember Team Fortress 2 before Valve completely fucking killed it? All of the playable characters have their own individual abilities, strengths, weaknesses, attack range, and so on, as to be expected in a game like this. They all have unique personalities as well, but there’s one character in particular I want to talk about:
For most people, you look at this guy and think, “oh this is some ‘lol randum’ humor! The Ninja isn’t wearing any clothes!” But for the rest of us who are educated and cultured, we know better. We know that Ancient threw us a bone and had a character that was a walking Wizardry reference. See, in Wizardry, Ninjas gain a natural improvement to their armor class if they level up without any equipment on. This has led to a lot of naked ninja jokes, particularly in Japanese fan circles, which is why the Ninja is barely clad here. So if nothing else, I appreciate the fact that Gotta Protectors is appealing directly to my weird tastes. The second best Wizardry-related moment of 2022, right behind all of the official scenarios in Five Ordeals being localized at once.
Cart of Darkness is extremely goddamn fun. Running around in this 8-bit world, fighting ever growing scores of monsters who want to make damn sure that princess does not reach her destination is exciting, and very rewarding when you finally nail a good strategy for clearing out seemingly impossible odds. Maybe you used the effeminate Prince and his screen-filling magic. Maybe you used the Amazon and her massive ass and titties (this is both a major character design and me being a pervert) to clear out sections of enemy squads while moving the princess to a safer location. Maybe the Oracle’s ability to summon ghostly allies? The Mage’s uh, magic. The Fighter or the Old Man building barricades and support turrets? There’s quite a bit of planning that goes into mashing the attack button. An old advertising slogan for Gotta Protectors, back when it was still Protect Me Knight, was “Kill Fucking Demons.” One, that’s awesome. Two, that really does describe this series to a T. You kill Fucking Demons. It’s simple, but it works, and it works really well.
Should go without saying that Yuzo Koshiro did the music for CoD. He didn’t just do the music, he redid every single song in multiple sounds chips. The music was done using the Famicom’s sound chip, but would you like to hear it through the Famicom Disc System’s sound chip? What about the VRC, the chip responsible for Castlevania 3’s music? What if you got to hear it through the PC-88 chip? The Mega Drive’s FM chip? The Super Famicom chip? How about the Game Boy chip? What if you wanted to know what this game would sound like if you played it on the motherfucking Wonderswan? Those are all options available for you to listen to in-game. Granted, this is all paid DLC, but this is paid DLC that’s actually worth it. Sadly, for reasons I’ll get to soon enough, trying to actually find any of this music outside of the game is impossible, so all I can do is link to a YouTube trailer.
I should also bring up the dialogue in Gotta Protectors. This is not a game that takes itself seriously at all, if the Ninja was not already a dead giveaway. And damn if the game isn’t pretty fucking funny most of the time. There are a few lines that are trying a little too hard and get the “oh BROTHER” reaction out of me, but by and large I’m a fan of the humor. Certainly better than that dogshit Ricky and Morty shooter that came out recently. Yes, I am taking “High On Life” down a peg from atop my ivory tower. Suck on my dick and balls, whoever made that terrible game. Anyways, the localization for CoD was done by 8-4, the team who did Metal Gear Rising and Nier Automata, and they don’t fuck around with good localizations.
A complaint that I have, which will probably be going for the rest of this piece, is that there are levels that can be way too fucking overwhelming for a solo player. This can be mitigated through playing co-op. As a lonely curmudgeon, I cannot play this locally, but maybe the internet can help?
No it cannot. The online for this game is a complete ghost town. For as fun as this game is, for as good as it looks and sounds, and as funny as the dialogue is, nobody played this fucking game. Some of you are hearing about Cart of Darkness for the first time right now, which is a shame. There’s maybe a handful of videos about the game on YouTube, and most of them don’t even go a full thirty minutes. Really, just a tragically overlooked and quickly forgotten title that absolutely should have a massive, thriving community behind it. Astro Boy: The Edge of Time, an online collectible card game that was so beloved that it was shut down and delisted less than a year after release, has more of a playerbase than Gotta Protectors. It’s also much easier to find Akira Yamaoka’s soundtrack for that game than it is for Yuzo Koshiro’s work for this one. That’s pretty fucked up, right? That this really good game by the Street of Rage team has gone virtually unnoticed all this time? You can get the game and all of its various DLC for less than thirty bucks, and you should! More people should be playing Gotta Protectors!