RGotW: Growl takes the fight to the poachers!
Welcome everyone to the revival of the Retro Game of The Week segment. This time round, I’ve picked a game that sort of reflects something that just happened and made headlines — the killing of Cecil the Lion in Africa. So keep that little current event in your heads as we explore four-player arcade game Growl by Taito!
The year was 1990. Music sat at that odd spot between songs like the famed Humpty Dance [Come on and do the humpty hump. -ed] and Madonna’s Vogue. The world seemed simpler, as I remember it, and the NES was still king — although it was about to be blown over by the SNES and Genesis.
The actual world was going through even bigger changes. We had Iraq start their wasps' nest by invading Kuwait, and East and West Germany were reunited with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile in the arcades we were seeing a massive influx of new game technology and 16-bit graphics.
Hot on the heels of Capcom's Final Fight, the side scrolling “beat-'em-up” genre was all over. You couldn’t walk past more than two or three machines without finding some other thing to pound on. I looked for the odd games with an interesting story.
One day I came across Growl. It was a four-player side-scrolling beat-'em-up where you played as one of four different park rangers. (There was also a two-player cabinet.) At first it's like 'who wants to play a park ranger or DNR (Michigan term) officer, right?' Well, when you saw animals in cages and evil smugglers and poachers beating on them you just had to join the fight!
What really got me was that two of the rangers the were spitting image of Indiana Jones. They had whips, which was AWESOME. So I sorta put the whole 'helping animals' concept off my mind and pretended I was playing as Indiana Jones in some off-shoot movie.
The game was set in the early 20th century. You set off to beat the ever-loving heck out of poachers in large numbers and gather special weapons along the way — pipes, whips, swords, revolvers, rocker launchers. Even the animals you saved would help you for a bit on the same screen. Each weapon had a special attack that would execute when you pressed attack and jump at the same time. My favorite was the whip. It would whip the guy in front of you and behind you and looked hilarious.
I never did beat it in the arcades, though. It wasn’t until the emulation scene started supporting arcade games that I was able to finally sit and beat the game.
On a challenge level it’s around a 6 or 7 out of 10 but as a kid in the 90’s it was rather hard. The game had seven stages or rounds and a bonus game for a total of eight stages. We moved from an old rundown African town to a moving train, a boat, jungle and cavern, and finally the poachers' hide outs. Despite the scenic changes, Growl didn’t vary much though in the enemy department. It only really gave you six types of enemies, excluding the final boss that had two forms.
Eventually the game found its way to homes on the Sega Genesis, with what I remember was a fairly good port that nevertheless suffered slow downs. Eventually it was re-released for PS2, Xbox, and Windows (I have not played this version) as part of the Taito Legends 2 pack.
So all in all if you're a fan of beat-'em-up games similar to the more popular Final Fight, X-Men, Ninja Turtles, or Simpsons fare, you should enjoy this game. The backgrounds are interesting and like I said it’s easy to think you are Indiana Jones — heck just look at the poster!
So coming back with RGotW I wanted to bring out an obscure title that many may never know existed. I hope to bring this column back on a regular basis. And hopefully you all enjoyed it. If you’ve played this or remember seeing it back in the day please share your comments. This is all about keeping the classics alive!