The Violinist of Hameln is a side-scrolling platform game developed by Daft and published in 1995 by Enix and is based on the Japanese manga series of the same name. The game was a Japan-only release, but a fan-made translation patch is available to play the game in English.
Like in the manga, each chapter is referred to as a movement, and the world in which the story takes place is a ‘Steampunk’ universe consisting of a mixture of technological advancements and medieval architecture. You control a young Lord, called Hamel, who attacks enemies by playing his violin at them… Which doesn’t sound too intimidating, but it’s original at least. He also has a female sidekick called Flute who he can pick up and throw at obstacles and enemies, and you can also collect outfits and dress her in a variety of costumes that change her form and behaviour. In fact, this outfit-switching feature is a key part of the gameplay and understanding it is necessary to complete most levels. You press Start, then choose an outfit, and Flute will change automatically.
Each movement contains a variety of stages, bonus stages, and a boss battle, and in-between these you return to a village where you can rest to recover lost health and also buy useful items from a shop.
Like the manga, The Violinist of Hameln is full of off-the-wall humour, colourful visuals and bizarre situations. The graphics and music are excellent and the gameplay is challenging and absorbing, with lots of nice details (like being able to catch cannonballs and throw them back at enemies) that make playing it fun.
The Violinist of Hameln is a game that’s not well-known in the West but is well worth playing today – if you can find a copy.