Known in Japan as Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru, this intriguing monochrome adventure game was developed by Nintendo and Intelligent Systems and released on the original Game Boy in 1992.
While it never got a release outside of Japan, a fan translation into English was released in 2011, finally making the game playable for non-Japanese-speaking gamers.
For The Frog The Bell Tolls is a Zelda-style adventure that pre-dates The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on the Game Boy (that came out a year later, in 1993), which – in some ways – makes it something of a ‘prototype’ of Link’s Awakening.
The game actually plays a bit like the second Zelda game – Zelda II: The Adventure of Link – in places. In that: there are side-viewed platforming sections – as well as the usual overhead Zelda-style overhead exploration sections. These platforming sections are fun. The main character (you; The Prince of Sable) can look up and do a neat ‘high jump’ type move, plus other subtle actions (like ducking), which helps make him feel nimble and alive.
Combat is a bit weird: it’s initiated by touching an enemy, and then simply a case of watching the fight, rather than participating. And, while that might sound dull, it’s actually not too bad. Winning certain battles (usually the ones blocking your path) mostly becomes a search for the right weapon, and making sure you have enough health to beat your opponent. If you fail and ‘die’, you don’t really die, you just end up in the hospital from where you can continue your adventure.
Of course For The Frog The Bell Tolls is a relatively simple action/adventure game – handheld adventures like this generally are – but… it oozes the usual Nintendo quality, charm, and detail, and is absorbing to play because of that.
If you like cute Japanese adventures, and have never seen For The Frog The Bell Tolls, then I highly recommend that you find it and play it.
Note: this game is sometimes referred to as: The Frog For Whom The Bell Tolls, although I’m sticking with the title as decreed by the team who did the unofficial English translation. If Nintendo ever releases an official translation of this game (which they should), then I might change my mind.