CLU CLU LAND
RELEASE DATE: 11/22/84 (JP), 10/1985 (US), 02/15/87 (EU)
ALSO ON: Amiga, Famicom Disk System, Arcade, e-Reader, GBA, 3DS, Virtual Console (Wii, 3DS, Wii U), NS Online
Clu Clu Land is a game that most, if not all, longtime Nintendo fans want to love. We’ve played it countless times throughout the years; usually for a few levels at a time before the frustrating control scheme makes us give up. The game has promise, though, and that’s what keeps us coming back. Every time we boot it up, we hope our hands will sync with the controls, and everything will click into place.
The Federal Reserve is a strange place.
You play as Bubbles, a female balloonfish who swims around a series of mazes uncovering golden bars. These bars (the design of which would later be used as rupees for The Legend of Zelda) form an image that, once completed, ends the level and moves you onto the next maze. Hindering your progress are sea urchins known as Unira that emerge from portals intermittently to meander around and get in your way. Bubbles can spit out frequencies that stun the Unira, allowing her to touch them (and splat them into a wall) without getting hurt.
We all live in a stupid submarine…
To uncover the golden bars, Bubbles swings around poles in a series of 90 degree angles. Her movement is meant to be fluid, but the Famicom/NES’ stiff, unyielding D-pad prevents this, making for challenging turns. Also, her turns depend on the direction she’s facing. If Bubbles is swimming east, and you press left, she’ll swing north, but if she’s moving south and you press left, she’ll swing west. This doesn’t sound terribly confusing, but in practice, you’ll get tripped up if you don’t have a keen directional sense.
Pineapples and dollar-sign sacks round out the insanity.
Clu Clu Land’s existed for four decades now and, alas, the experience isn’t any better now than it was in the mid-80s. Nintendo’s never attempted to refine the concept in a sequel (DK: King of Swing does not count) nor have they released a version with analog controls (perhaps the latter would solve the game’s main problem). Nintendo has, however, re-released the game multiple times throughout the years, including for all Virtual Consoles and Nintendo Switch online. If you’re a self-respecting Nintendo fan, you have no excuse not to attempt to enjoy Clu Clu Land over and over again like the rest of us.
Guest cameo by Dr. T.J. Eckleburg.