Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro is one of my all-time favorite movies. Like, not even just anime movies — it’s one of my favorite films, period, up there on the Star Wars and Indiana Jones level for me. I’ve owned it since the first official English-dubbed VHS of it was released in 1992, and have since bought it twice on DVD and once on Blu-ray. I’m even thinking about picking up an old Laserdisc of it just for completion’s sake.
If you don’t know the film, or the anime/manga character Lupin the 3rd — the short version is that Lupin started off as a manga in the late 1960s by an artist named Monkey Punch; had an anime TV series in the early ’70s; his first theatrical film and a second TV series in ’78; and in 1979, the second Lupin movie, The Castle of Cagliostro — the motion picture directing debut of a guy you may have heard of named Hayao Miyazaki — was released. Lupin went on to more movies, TV shows, TV specials, OAVs, and live action movies in subsequent years and remains a popular character to this day.
With that level of success, naturally, a number of Lupin videogames have been made over the years, and of those, three of them have been specifically based on Cagliostro, with one or two more taking liberal doses of inspiration from it. This is the specific subset of games I’ll be checking out in this post!
I am a huge fan of the old laserdisc arcade games, as I’ve documented in the past. Stern’s Cliff Hanger was not only one of my favorites, it also — unbeknownst to 8-year-old me at the time — introduced me to Lupin the 3rd and Castle of Cagliostro. Cliff Hanger was a laserdisc game that used footage from Cagliostro (as well as the first Lupin movie, Lupin vs the Clones, aka Mystery of Mamo), edited in such a way as to create a playable gaming experience (well, the “playability” of LD games has always been a point of contention amongst many gamers — but it’s not up for debate here at RGSH, an LD-game-friendly zone).
I had no idea, as most gamers probably didn’t, that the game was all footage from an existing movie. But when I was getting heavily into anime in the early 1990s, Streamline Pictures released the aforementioned VHS of a dubbed version of Cagliostro, and I said “holy shit — that’s CLIFF HANGER!!” and the pieces finally clicked together for me. I bought the VHS and watched it countless — and I mean countless — times. I couldn’t tell you how many hot summer nights I spent, coming home at midnight from my teenage fast food job, eating leftover chicken sandwiches and staying up watching Cagliostro (or some other anime or kaiju movie) late into the night. That was how I became a Lupin fan, and how Cagliostro became one of my all-time favorite movies.
Cliff Hanger is playable on MAME, if you are able to locate all the correct files. Having gotten it running only recently, and played it for the first time in well over 30 years (although I’ve had a bootleg VHS of the LD footage for decades), I can say that it’s still a pretty cool game. With both films being heavy on action scenes, and Cagliostro in particular ending with a “boss fight” perfectly suited to videogame use, the footage actually does work quite well in the context of the Dragon’s Lair style of LD game design. If you’re familiar with the movies, the footage feels pretty hacked-up (familiarity with the film might actually cause a fan some difficulty when playing the game, because of the way things are rearranged, repeated, and taken out of context), and the renaming of characters such as Cliff and Count Draco was, I suppose, an irksome necessity, but I have such fond memories of playing Cliff Hanger in the arcades back in 1983-84 that I have since reconciled the two in my mind.
It should be noted that Cliff Hanger would not be considered an “official” Castle of Cagliostro videogame. Although one might expect that Cliff Hanger was a Japanese arcade game that made its way overseas, like Cobra Command or Astron Belt, it was not. Stern Electronics, an American coin-op company, created the game, and was probably not expecting the average arcade visitor (which, in the early ’80s, was everybody) to have seen a Japanese animated film from 1979, and they were probably correct in that assumption. Although I believe the footage was properly licensed from TMS, I have no insight into the deal that was struck between Stern and TMS, nor the thought process of the designers. Was one of them an anime fan who had seen Cagliostro and thought it would make a great game to cash in on the brief wave of laserdisc arcade game popularity? That would be my guess. But I have no real information thereunto. It’s one of those videogame mysteries I would love to solve. Perhaps someday I can get ahold of someone at Stern (which is still a manufacturer of the world’s greatest pinball machines, though they left the videogame business decades ago), who may lead me to someone listed in the credits of Cliff Hanger, who can give me the answers to my burning questions. Sounds like a good project for a future blog entry, dunnit?
Castle of Cagliostro for MSX2
The next (actually, the first official) Castle of Cagliostro game was released by Toho in 1987 for the MSX2 computer system in Japan. It’s sort of a side-view platformer with short-ish stages, where Lupin must avoid enemies, find and use gadgets, and find the two rings to escape each stage.
The stages are representative of the locations in the movie, with Lupin escaping from the dungeon, into the castle, through the counterfeit money pressing plant, into the chapel (escaping up and out the window), across the aqueduct, and up the clock tower. Once Count Cagliostro is defeated, Lupin meets Clarisse, and the ending reveals the underwater Roman city. None of this really makes sense unless you’ve seen the movie, so it’s sort of a “for fans only” experience.
The music is the real drag on this game, however, as none of it is anything like the themes in the movie — or in any Lupin anime, really. It’s repetitive and not particularly good. I think with better music, this game would be more appealing. As it is, it’s an interesting piece for fans, one which currently seems to command about a $100 price tag on the collector’s market. (I don’t have this one in my collection, but would love a copy!)
Here’s a link to a tool-assisted speedrun of the game, found on YouTube:
Castle of Cagliostro Reunion for PlayStation
Asmik’s 1997 PlayStation release, Lupin the 3rd: Castle of Cagliostro Reunion, is actually my favorite Cagliostro game. It’s a first-person, point-and-click adventure where you play a visitor to the the country of Cagliostro. You poke around the town until you find a man with a “virtual machine,” which you agree to enter (for fun, or for science, or whatever, I’m not fluent enough in Japanese to have gotten that part). Once inside, you actually meet Lupin himself, and go on an adventure that basically retraces many of the steps of the movie’s characters (all of whom you meet), with a new mystery to solve.
Although it’s all shown in static images, there are fully-animated cutscenes, and it’s actually really fun to explore the castle this way. One of the things I always loved about the movie is that if you pay close enough attention, you’ll notice that the backgrounds are so detailed and well thought-out that they actually line up and the castle layout makes sense. I know this because during one of those obsessive Cagliostro viewing sessions of my youth, I actually took notes and made doodles while I watched the movie, and managed to map out the whole castle just based on the film’s artwork. So when I played Reunion, it was pretty cool to find out that I was right!
With all the text being in Japanese, CoC Reunion may be a daunting proposition for non-Japanese speaking fans. However, with my limited Japanese comprehension (I can read, write, and speak it at probably a preschool or kindegarten level, if that), and oodles of free time (this is a good 20 years ago now, when I was a bachelor living alone with my videogame collection and actual weekends and evenings off), I actually played all the way through this game three times. I even wrote a walkthrough and FAQ for it.
One of the coolest parts of CoC Reunion, though, is after you finish it. Upon completing the main game, you are transported back to “real” Cagliostro (apparently the whole thing was a simulation while you were in that machine thingy), and you are then allowed to enter the “real” castle, which is now a museum of props from the movie. Yes, you can view, select, read about, and watch movie footage of everything from the cars in the movie, to Lupin’s rocket wire, characters’ costumes, everything! It becomes a fangasmigorical virtual database of Castle of Cagliostro stuff, making Reunion the most movie-like and comprehensive game of the three.
Although the above three are the only full games based on Castle of Cagliostro, a few of the other Lupin the 3rd games do feature characters, settings, or other ideas from the film:
Lupin the 3rd SD for Nintendo Game Boy: A puzzle game featuring Lupin characters. Count Cagliostro is included among them.
Lupin the 3rd: Pandora no Isan for Nintendo Famicom: The beautiful package (a Namcot clamshell case) uses key promotional art from Castle of Cagliostro, but that’s about it. Clarisse is in the game, and the first stage is much like Cagliostro castle, with Lupin running on roofs and through grand ballrooms while fighting crouching ninjas.
Lupin the 3rd: Umi ni Keita Hihou for Nintendo Gamecube: A fully-animated adventure game, this one doesn’t use any settings or characters from Cagliostro, but is clearly inspired by Cagliostro‘s style and approach to the Lupin franchise, and seems to want to evoke a similar vibe to Lupin’s most famous caper.
Thanks for reading this long post! If you’re a fan of Lupin and his Cagliostro adventure, these are the videogame experiences you can partake in to complement the film and maybe widen your fandom even more. I do think that the ultimate Castle of Cagliostro videogame has yet to be created, and I’m really hoping someone tackles it someday.
Never seen the movie? Fix that! Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro is available on a beautifully comprehensive Blu-ray edition, as well as on DVD, from Discotek Media, along with many other Lupin the 3rd titles!