Ok, let’s begin!
Trojan is a side-scrolling beat’em up made for the NES by Capcom and Romstar in 1986 and directed by Piston Takashi (Takashi Nishiyama) the man basically behind most of today's modern fighting franchises Street Fighter is a notable example. Original Trojan was designed for the arcades but was ported to the NES in the same year as well as being ported to DOS and a ZX Spectrum Version was also programmed but unfortunately was never released.
So the official plot for Trojan is very limited and as there are no in-game cutscenes or text scrolls we can only go off the manual, so what does it say?
“You are TROJAN warrior, master of the martial arts. With your sword and
shield you must fight through 7 different screens and defeat the brutal
ruling King of your enemies.”
Wow... I mean can’t fault them for being direct and to the point, but clearly, this is about as small and as generic a plot for a game I’ve seen up until now. I’m also not really sure about the whole 7 screens thing I mean it’s kind of fourth-wall-breaking and if you were to take the levels it's more akin to a two-act structure similar to Sonic 3 where you have one zone with two bosses except for the last screen which is a fight with the King, Achilles, more on that later.
Now I say this is the official plot but I know what you're all saying what about the box cover it has the plot on the back! Well yes that’s the weird thing the box cover was technically written as part of a fan competition for fourteen year olds so though it’s official it’s also kind of fan fiction, it reads:
“Prepare yourself for the exciting confrontation with the ancient evil army.
You are at the controls. The fate of throngs of suffering people held hostage
by the brutal king's troops await freedom by Trojan!
Release your imagination. Grab hold of the controls. For you are Trojan.
Happy. Light-hearted. Spirited. Yet, often considered irresponsible.
But Trojan...you are a superb physical being who's mastered the martial arts.
Fated with relentless energy and determination, you muster courage,
embarking on the challenge of invading the enemy's territory to rescue the
captives from the army of the evil empire.
You manipulate the controls, creating movement of Trojan's protective
armored shield and the wielding of his shining sword.
As Trojan, you battle knife throwing enemy troops. But watch out, for if
you are hit with your opponent's weapons, you would lose your shield and
sword, and would fight with your bare hands.
Can Trojan and you successfully defeat the enemy and rescue the people of
the world? You control their destiny!”
Which I’ll grant you gives us some extra details such as the evil we are fighting is now an ancient evil army, even though we're clearly in a modern-ish setting, but considering what happens in the game that’s not an impossible thing as it turns out the king is named Achillies so... maybe? We also learn that our hero is a merry, joker who takes life in his stride despite being seen as irresponsible. I really like that the competition winner actually gave Trojan a sorta bad personality trait, it suggests a better understanding of character writing than a lot of fan fiction. The rest of the story however just describes what you’ll be doing as you play rather than world-building. This however doesn’t actually end the story of Trojan because it was an arcade port we actually have another narrative found on a Trojan flyer for the arcades it reads as follows:
“At the end of the century near the close of a nuclear war, there was a world which was ruled by an evil army led by a brutal king. The people of this world were suffering under the oppressive methods of this evil army. You, who have mastered all martial arts, have been requested by the people under this oppressive rule to bring peace back to this world again so you must destroy this evil army.”
So yeah plot-wise we are basically a happy-go-lucky, carefree, spirited martial arts master/warrior/mercenary. We live in a post-nuclear war world and have been petitioned by a downtrodden society of people to save some hostages, which by the way we don’t do because no in-game footage has us finding any such hostages, and the enemy in question is an ancient evil army which judging by the king of said evil armies name could go as far back as the Trojan War with the Achaeans (Greeks). Well, I can tell you now that it goes without question that there is some fan fiction out there about this game.
Trojan has very good controls in fact my one gripe about it is that you have to press up for jump which is usually considered a bad idea to do but in this case I can forgive it as the two main buttons on the controller each serve a function, that is attacking and blocking. Since your opponents can attack from multiple directions as well it's actually kind of cool that you can block above you, left, right, and even while crouching it adds a little more strategy than just walking right and punching.
Trojan sprites are clear and colourful along with their level backgrounds and because the gameplay pace keeps you moving forwards you hardly notice the repeats as you're too busy fending off attacks. I can honestly say that the game itself, while not what you’d call pretty, didn't have me bored or confused as to what things were.
Trojan is a two-player, as in one player plays until they die and then the other player takes over. A fairly common occurrence at this point in two-player gaming but what it also has is a player vs player combat arena where you face each other in a typical fighter tournament style. You can’t select any characters, player one is the standard Trojan (Blue Jacket) that you play in the game's single-player, and player two plays the enemy also known as Trojan (Red Jacket). It's not very complex or enthralling, but nevertheless, I've got to give a game of this generation props for giving you not one way but two ways of playing with a friend, which is better than what a lot of modern games provide these days.
Trojan has no in-game plot and to all conventions doesn’t really have much of an official plot either. This means that even if you pick up a fully boxed copy with a manual you're going to have to come up with your own headcanon. Now you could argue that games at the time were so primitive that you didn’t need a story but I’d argue there were more primitive games on Atari that had stories written for them and even the Vectrix game Spike has a cutscene of his girlfriend being kidnapped so to say you didn’t need it isn’t the point. The point is that you need the manual to know how the game works anyway, so the least they could do is actually give you some official story to be invested in which isn’t just the most bottom-of-the-barrel generic martial arts master fights evil dude. Hell, I made a better story combining the official story, the competition story, and a random Capcom flyer story.
Trojan and its hidden items. When I first played Trojan I found certain power-ups and items in the game and for a good few days, I thought there were only three of these power-ups. The boot that makes Trojan jump higher, the Heart that restores all your health, and the key which is necessary to progress through certain levels. Then during one play session, I happened to randomly swat my sword around in the air, and low and behold I found a completely new power-up just there, didn’t have to break anything or hit anything, no indication at all that it was there. So I stopped and decided to actually look up a playthrough of the game and the game's manual, turns out there are eight power-ups or pickup-able items, only four of which are not hidden as in completely invisible not acquired by killing an enemy just acquired by swatting at the air. This is why you need the manual because of this crap and yes I know other games have this in and it's dumb there as well but at least most games don’t make the majority of their power-ups completely invisible. Even Castlevania which hides life-giving meat behind walls at least has the majority of your power-ups hidden behind items you're liable to attack like enemies or the many candelabras illuminating the hallways.
Nerd O Metre Rating
Low 3 out of 5
As much as I rag on Trojan about having no story or these invisible power-ups it can’t be denied that the actual gameplay itself is quite fun, fast-paced, and engaging in the sense of challenge. The game itself as well although challenging doesn’t come off as terribly unfair either, other than the invisible items. Every challenge is manageable and every boss with some practice can be defeated. Its downside of invisible items is annoying but if you bought this game back in the day with the manual then you would at least know about them and the manual itself does give fairly decent clues as to where you’ll find said hidden items. In the end, I can only really mark Trojan down for the game's presentation, poor storytelling, and slight overuse of boss sprites which could probably have been solved by making the game a little shorter. The game's music isn’t the greatest but wasn’t an 8-bit offence to the ears either, so should you buy Trojan. If you're interested in the early annals of side-scrolling beat’em ups, tournament fighting, and the NES library as a whole I’d say yes it might not be the most memorable title on the NES but it’s still fun to play and there are far worse examples of this kind of game out there on newer platforms.