On its surface Yume Penguin Monogatari seems like a standard platformer for the early 90s NES. It features a charming hero, colorful surroundings and a catchy chiptune soundtrack from old Konami masters. But beyond all that, this classic side-scroller is also so outspoken, overtly fat-phobic, that I couldn’t help but laugh as I went through half a dozen levels.
Yume Penguin MonogatariA Dream Penguin Story was released for the Japanese company Famicom in early 1991. Starring a cute blue penguin named Penta who after appearing in earlier Konami games like Antarctic adventure and Penguin Adventure, was considered something of a mascot for the company. He even has a story that links him to the Shoot Them franchise. Parodies; penguin from this series, Pentaruobviously the son of Penta, but I digress.
Yume Penguin Monogatari begins with Penta’s girlfriend Penko reproaching him for his weight as he happily drops a huge bag of chocolates.
“I hate fat guys like you, Penta, so instead I decided to go on a date with smart and stylish Ginji.” Penko says, according to fan translation 2006… “If you really love me, come to me when you lose weight!”
You see, Ginji wears a fuchsia top hat and dark sunglasses, which seems to be the pinnacle of fashion in the penguin world. Dude is real hot bullshit in Antarctic social circles.
This is how Penta’s adventure begins. After this short video Yume Penguin Monogatari introduces you to its basic gameplay idea, which revolves entirely around the meter representing the weight of the Penta. Hitting or eating tasty, food-grade projectiles increases the penguin’s mass, while consuming “diet” drinks scattered around the level and dropped by defeated opponents will cut it down.
While the Penta gets slower and harder to maneuver as it grows in girth, it also has different attacks based on its size. In its thickest state, the Penta can only belly plop down on enemies, but as it grows thinner, it also gains access to kicks and even its own projectiles for ranged attacks. This extends to the horizontal shooter segments in the game as well: the Penta plane gets better weaponry when it loses weight.
At the end of the stage, he summons Penko, who makes a verdict based on how much weight her potential lover has lost. If you fail to reach a certain level of thinness, she will immediately reject it, which will lead to the end of the game. It doesn’t really matter in the first five levels, it just sends you back to the beginning of the stage. But skipping the weigh-in after the last level means starting the game completely.
As someone whose carnal prison has straddled between Husky and Big Man for most of my life, I probably should have been more offended by Yume Penguin Monogatari than me. His general message that no one will love you if you are over a certain weight is shortsighted, cruel, and potentially even harmful to more impressionable players. But the way the game conveys this message is so over the top that it’s hard for me to get too angry.
Yume Penguin Monogatari – a relic of a bygone era, both shocking and charming. Sure, this probably shouldn’t have gotten the green light, even in the less enlightened atmosphere of the early 90s, but watching a cartoon penguin plop the belly of hapless enemies after accidentally eating too many sweets is delicious. If the in-game fragments were removed in which Penko treats Penta like shit, it could be an equally fun adventure without all the weird bits of shame.
Penta, my penguin friend, no one should blame you for putting on a few pounds, especially in the cold Antarctic. Fat or thin, you are a charming little guy.