Welcome to another installment of Retro Weekend, the weekly feature where I play a classic game and write whatever I want about it! This week, I played Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru, also know as For the Frog the Bell Tolls, for the Game Boy. Using the same engine that brought us Link’s Awakening, For the Frog isn’t your typical top-down adventure. The unique battle system definitely turned my head, but I really enjoyed the transformations and its fairy-tale vibe. In fact, if this game were a children’s book it might go a bit something like this…
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, two princes competed with each other every chance they could. Prince Richard of the Custard Kingdom always tried to get a leg up on the Prince of Sable. One fateful day, in the middle of a sparring match, news spread that Princess Tiramisu had been kidnapped by the evil King Delarin! Hoping to best his rival, Prince Richard quickly fled the sparring ring and boarded the only available boat to save the princess. The Prince of Sable, left behind, watched the boat sail away, his spirits beginning to sink.
As the Prince started to turn away, he spotted a boat on the far corners of the shore. His spirits began to skyrocket as he began to imagine speeding towards the kingdom of Mille-Feuille, busting down the castle doors, bopping the evil King Delarin, and rescuing the fair princess Tiramisu. But as he began to step foot aboard the ship, the owner stopped him dead in his tracks.
“This boat ain’t for sale, sonny.” The man slurred as he spit towards the ground.
“Surely this will suffice?” The Sable Prince plopped down a giant sack that overflowed with money. The man, awestruck, accepted his offer, and the prince began his journey.
Landing in Mille-Feuille, the Prince fought many dangerous creatures. However, to his surprise, he merely had to walk up to an enemy and a battle magically unfolded. The Prince barely had to pay attention. It was like some unseen force had compared the strength of his blade to the power of the beasts and the winner simply appeared. “What a strange land this is,” mused the Prince.
Before long, our hero ended up in front of the castle, but lo and behold, he couldn’t get in! A passerby saw the distraught Prince and told him to seek out the witch Mandola. With her mighty and mystical powers, she’d surely be able to help him get into the castle.
So the Sable Prince crossed through the forest (after buying some saws, of course) and soon ended up in front of the witch’s hut. A strange aroma lingered in the air, and the Prince thought it smelled like coconuts. With a deep breath, he entered the hut and what he found was not quite the scary witch he expected.
Instead, the Prince met a fat, old lady wearing the biggest set of glasses he’d ever seen. Out of the corner of her mouth, resting on her chubby cheeks, was a long snaggletooth that looked straight of out of a comedy book. She had the hat of a witch, but not the demeanor. With a chuckle, she spoke, “…And you would like to enter the castle to save the fair Princess Tiramisu, would you?”
“Y-Yes, sir, I mean, ma’am. Yes, please grant me the power to enter the castle!”
“Hmm. Well? Okay. Take this potion. Close your eyes and count to ten. Now jump on one foot in perfect circle. Now clap your hands. Okay now drink the potion?” The witch let out a sly grin as the Prince followed her every instruction.
By the time the potion was finished, the prince realized something was very, very wrong. Looking down, he no longer saw a hand, but a green foot. Suddenly, he noticed his size. He was looking up at the witch who now towered over him like a giant beanstalk! He tried to speak, but all he could let out was a simple, “ribbit.”
This is just the first part of For the Frog the Bell Tolls and if you’d like to see how this story plays out, I definitely suggest playing it! It’s been a very fun take on a classic fairy tale with a really basic combat system and plot that constantly keeps you moving.
The part I’ve enjoyed the most is transforming between a human, a frog, and even eventually a snake. These three forms all come with their strengths, and they’re all really fun to play around with because the game plays to their strengths and not really their weaknesses.
When the Prince is stuck on land and too scared to swim, transform into a frog and you’ll be free to explore the watery depths all you want. You’ll also be able to reach much greater heights as a frog. What was once a ledge completely out of reach, will soon be easily vaulted over by the green amphibian. As a frog, bug enemies become cannon fodder as you simply eat them right up! The biggest downfall to being a frog is that you can’t use items or interact with any humans in the game. After all, who can speak frog other than frogs?
Later, you’ll get to transform into a snake. The first area you get to do this in is right outside of a valley in which snakes completely cover the fields and will tear apart the Prince of Sable if you try to fight them. It was awesome just transforming into a snake to talk to the creatures that used to be kicking my butt. Talking to snakes is definitely cool, but as a snake you can sliver around caves, getting into areas that were once unreachable as a human or a frog. Snakes can even climb up the sides of walls for a bit, making it much easier to reach new areas.
For the Frog the Bell Tolls is a really charming, cute, fairy tale of a game that was never released in the West, and I can’t figure out why. The look automatically reminds me of Link’s Awakening due to the use of the same engine, but other than that it’s a story based on the tales we all heard growing up. I mean, how many Princes have turned into frogs in our fairy tales? I’m guessing at least 32. On top of its story, it’s incredibly easy to pick up and play. It’s an RPG with barely anything to really manage, one menu, and simple dialogue. And above all else, it’s fun! In a perfect world, I’d love to see Nintendo give this game a chance with a Virtual Console localization or maybe even see a new game come out based on it. But alas, that thought is probably nothing more than a fairy tale.