In 1991, Nintendo’s EAD team and Pax Softnica co-developed a text-based adventure game called “Time Twist: Rekishi no Katasumi de…”
The game was published by Nintendo for the Famicom Disk System (NES), and Shigeru Miyamoto was listed as a superviser on it according to the Kyoto Report. You may remember Pax Softnica for working on games such as “Mother”, “Earthbound”, and “Pokemon Snap”. The Japanese title of “Time Twist” has been translated as both, “Time Twist: The Corners of History” or “Time Twist: On the Outskirts of History”. The game is divided between two floppy disks that were sold on the same day. Also, before music composer Hajime Hirasawa composed music for Star Fox (SNES), the first game he ever composed music for was “Time Twist”.
When I recently discovered the existence of this game, most people told me they never heard of it. That is no surprise since the game was only released in Japan. Even in Japan, Nintendo never promoted this game on television. Therefore, I figured it would be fun to discuss this Nintendo published game which is really more like an interactive graphic novel. Perhaps they didn’t have much confidence in the sales, but the game is pretty rare to find for the most part.
There are a few reasons why this game was never localized outside of Japan. For one, the SNES had released around that same time period so there wasn’t much of a point in localizing an NES title. Secondly, some of the themes in the game are definitely not suitable for Nintendo’s family friendly audience. Some of the adult themes present in this game would be a minefield of controversy if Nintendo tried re-publishing it on the virtual console today.
According to Wikipedia, the plot/story of the Nintendo published “Time Twist” is the following:
“The year is 1995, and the impending turn of the 20th century is instilling fear and uncertainty in mankind, and fortune telling shows have become popular. On September 25, 1995, a young boy living in Tokyo hears on a fortune telling show that he will meet the girl of his dreams in a museum located outside the city limits. He visits the “Devil Museum” and meets a girl inside, but a sudden earthquake cuts their meeting short. The boy recites the incantation from the fortune-telling show said to “capture the heart of the girl of his dreams”, but the incantation destroys the seal on a vase containing the devil. The reanimated devil takes control of the boy’s body, leaving the boy trapped in the devil’s decaying body. He chases the devil to the house of Dr. Simon, a physics scientist hiding from the media. The devil has stolen the scientist’s time machine called the “Time Belt” and uses it to travel back in time. The young boy’s soul is also pulled back into the past by the Time Belt.”
The plot almost sounds like something from an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Throughout the game, you are able to possess the minds of animals and people, and you also have access to other menu commands as well. The goal of the game is to try to stop the devil from wrecking havoc on important events in history. Time Twist has you visit historical locations and time periods based on real events.
For example, your character transports to the year 1944 and visits Southern Germany concentration camps where Jews are being exterminated. Kotaku says this game even has a scene where you can beat up (or possibly kill) Adolf Hitler.
Your character also travels to the Civil War era where you visit cotton plantations in Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve read on a few message boards that there’s a scene where a Klu Klux Klan member shoots an African American woman, and that it’s one of the few instances of violence in the game. It’s interesting to see Japanese companies trying to tackle a dark chapter in American history.
Toward the end of the game, you will also visit Nazareth and Bethlehem around 100 B.C. for the Nativity of Jesus Christ. This is one of the last places you visit in the game.
During this scene, we witness Baby Jesus jump out of the Virgin Mary’s arms and become possessed by the devil. As baby Jesus flies around trying to create chaos, it’s your job to beat the devil out of him. The protagonist decides to electrocute Baby Jesus so the devil will leave his body. After successfully destroying the demon, Joseph and the Virgin Mary thank you for your help and walk away. You can check out the Jesus scene in the video below.
Today’s Nintendo wouldn’t touch a game like this with a ten foot pole, and I doubt you will ever see this game on the Japanese virtual console. When looking back at Nintendo’s early history, you can see how Nintendo of America still hasn’t changed much with their censorship policies. For example, you may remember Nintendo rejecting The Binding of Isaac for the 3DS due to religious themes, and “Imagination is the only Escape” was rejected due to themes about the Holocaust.
Gameplay footage from Nintendo’s Time Twist: