Darwin 4081

 

Darwin4081

It’s evolution, baby.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Data East (port by Sega)

GENRE: Shoot-em-up

RELEASE DATE: 04/07/90 – (JP)

 

Darwin might be dust in the ground, but his theory of evolution is alive and morphing in the Xevious-style shoot-em-up, Darwin 4081. Originally called Super Real Darwin in the arcade, this Japanese Mega Drive exclusive has you collecting Evol bubbles to “Evolve” your ship into unique, more powerful forms. This system might sound forward-thinking, but in practice, it’s only a slightly different take on the traditional power-up format. If you played the game without reading the manual, you wouldn’t know the difference.

 

Darwin 4081 (J) [!]001

Even in the future, giant sandworms remain an intergalactic menace!

 

There are two types of Evol bubbles, both of which are collected by shooting enemies. Standard Evol will transform your ship into a different form with a stronger weapon. The bubbles appear in clusters, and it’s wise to collect as many as you can since your ship can undergo upwards of fifteen evolutions. Any evolutions you undergo beyond your original form will amass in your ship’s DNA, though they are time-sensitive. After a certain amount of time has passed, your ship will revert back to its previous evolutionary state and become slightly less powerful.

 

Darwin 4081 (J) [!]002

“You robot gnats should have gone extinct years ago!”

 

B-evol bubbles are rarer than Evol and transform your ship into beast forms, like a dragon or a spider. The term “rare” often means “better” in videogames, but not this time. Not only are the beast forms not very powerful, but they’ll reduce your ship back to its original weak form once time wears off. B-evol bubbles are difficult to distinguish from standard Evol, so ignore them as best you can.

 

Darwin 4081 (J) [!]005

Illuminati confirmed.

 

If your ship has tentacle-like protrusions coming from its behind, and you’re firing enormous laser blue rings, congratulations: you’ve survived to become The Fittest of the New Darwin Kingdom. Be careful, though. Even in the outer reaches of godless space, pride still goes before a fall, and your Fittest status can be removed as quickly as it came. If you get hit once, your ship reverts back to its pathetic primordial state. One more hit and you’ll explode.

 

Darwin 4081 (J) [!]004

This ancient Pentium processor doesn’t stand a chance!

 

But all is not lost, even after you’re dead. If you collect enough DNA samples from creatures lurking on the ground (seen as bubbles with the letters “DNA” in the middle), after you die, you will return from the boneyard as a slightly stronger vessel. As with the Evol bubble, these creatures – which usually resemble lizards and bugs – must be bombed off the planet before their DNA can be collected.

 

Darwin 4081 (J) [!]007

Tears and fears

 

Many shoot-em-ups circa late ’80s suffer from unappealing art design, and Darwin 4081 is no different. Some of these screenshots notwithstanding, the levels are dull and lifeless, while the constantly morphing ship and robotic creature designs are void of any personality or style. Not every shoot-em-up can have Easter Island heads for enemies or coat a stage in decaying alien remains, but there’s no reason Data East couldn’t have ventured further into Darwinian lore (a stage built atop a mecha-Galapagos turtle?) to create a more vibrant shoot-em-up.

 

Darwin 4081 (J) [!]003

Then again, that pink Casio keyboard is pretty boss.

 

The evolution gimmick is all that distinguishes Darwin 4081 from the overcrowded shoot-em-up genre, so it’s a shame Data East didn’t expand upon the idea. What features could they have added while staying within the confines of the traditional shoot-em-up? Besides more unique creature designs and some background elements, it’s hard to say. Perhaps bolstering the evolutionary system – each creature, depending on their biology, could affect your ship in different ways should you get hit by them – would have slowed the game down and alienated die-hard shoot-em-up fans. As it stands, Darwin 4081‘s conservative approach means it plays less like a genre game-changer and more like an overly aggressive take on Xevious. If you’re a fan of the genre, Darwin 4081 is fun enough, but those desiring a revolution should look elsewhere.

 

C

After Burner II

 

AfterBurnerIIJP

Planes! Missiles! After Burning!

 

AfterBurnerIIUS

Sega put an F-15e Strike Eagle on the cover, even though you control a variation of the F-14 Tomcat in the game.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Dempa (JP), Sega (US, EU)

DEVELOPER: Sega (port by Dempa)

GENRE: Shoot-em-up

RELEASE DATE: 03/23/90 – (JP)

                                             07/90 – (US)

                                             04/91 – (EU)

 

After Burner… II? Sega would like you to think so, but no. This isn’t a brand new entry in the franchise, but an upgrade to the original; like Street Fighter II Turbo was to Street Fighter II. After Burner II adds throttle control, three new levels, more missiles, and considerably more enemy planes. Not enough to warrant the Roman numeral “II”, but the throttle control in particular makes for a better experience.

 

After Burner II (UE) [!]005

Realizing After Burner II isn’t a true sequel, Dempa hides the “II” behind the title.

 

For those who haven’t experienced the original After Burner, you control an F-14 Skycat and your mission is to destroy any plane you see in and around God’s blue yonder. You have two weapons, an unlimited-round Vulcan 20mm cannon that fires automatically and a limited missile trove. You might think that the automatic fire would make the game easier, but this is not the case. Enemy planes bombard you from all directions and many of them won’t go down without a locked-on missile to the face.

 

After Burner II (UE) [!]000

Under a Tang-orange sky, one man tries not to get his ass killed…

 

After Burner was best experienced in the arcade via the infamous sit-down moving cabinet. As you steered the plane all over creation with the flight stick, your seat rotates horizontally while the cockpit rotates vertically. This visceral body jolting was thrilling, and it was also the best way to cover up the game’s limitations. Take away the rollercoaster cabinet and you’re left with a repetitive shooter, hampered particularly by the behind-the-plane camera that hinders your field of vision.

 

After Burner II (UE) [!]004

These Payday bars came out of nowhere!

 

After Burner II keeps the same limited camera view, but the ability to speed up or slow down with the throttle control is a significant boon. You’re no longer forced to watch helplessly as a missile careens toward your weak Skycat shell. While speeding up is usually the best course of action to avoid groups of missiles, Sega doesn’t allow the player to abuse their new powers. There are more planes than ever before in each level, and getting through them requires a mixture of your own missile attacks, speeding away, and/or twisting recklessly through the shrapnel.

 

After Burner II (UE) [!]001

Thanks, Mom.

 

At its best, After Burner II makes you feel like you’re surviving the worst air battles of your generation. Maneuvering foolishly through a dozen planes – all of which have launched missiles at you – and coming out the other side intact will get your heart racing.

 

After Burner II (UE) [!]002

I believe this counts as “The Danger Zone.”

 

That being said, the game does occasionally drift downwards into the Unfair Valley. Even if you’re able to control your janky Skycat with grace, locking on to more than a couple planes at a time is difficult, if not impossible. Later levels also add planes with increasing frequency, giving you little time to lock onto them. You’ll be lucky to get a couple missiles launched before you have to tuck your plane into whirlybird overdrive and avoid the carnage entirely.

 

After Burner II (UE) [!]003

The grass fails to provide a soft landing for your ragdoll remains.

 

After Burner II doesn’t differ enough from its predecessor to earn that “II,” but it is the best home version of After Burner I’ve ever played. The throttle control provides an additional depth that the original After Burner lacked and gives the sense that, if you master speeding up and slowing down at the right moments, you just might come out on top. Clearly the arcade, with its shakes, rattles and rolls, is the preferred way to immerse yourself in a dogfight. But if you’re actually looking to play the game and not just waste your laundry money, this Genesis port will teach you how to fly with the best of ’em.

 

B

Target Earth / Assault Suit Leynos

 

TargetEarthJP

The Glowing Red Eye of Disappointment

 

TargetEarthUS

Boba Fett 2099

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Masaya (JP), DreamWorks (US)

DEVELOPER:  NCS

GENRE: Action/shoot-em-up

RELEASE DATE: 03/16/90 – (JP)

                                             06/90 – (US)

 

Back in the day, any game had the potential to turn into a full-fledged series. To wit: Assault Suit Leynos, otherwise known as Target Earth to US audiences. As was the style at the time, Target Earth was a meaningless title given to trick American gamers into thinking they weren’t playing a Japan-developed game; in other words, there is no Target Earth II. The series continued as Assault Suits Valken or Cybernator on the SNES. After Cybernator, no other ASL games made it to our shores. Assault Suit Leynos II and Assault Suits Valken II emerged in Japan on the Saturn and Playstation respectively in the late ’90s, while both Europe and Japan received an Assault Suits Valken remake on the PS2.

 

Target Earth (U) [!]001

Lousy outcasts, always gumming up progress.

 

Why do I bring up such arcane history? Because there is no way this series should have continued. Assault Suit Leynos is a joyless, awkward mech shooter released on the Mega Drive. Not only is the game itself underwhelming, but the platform it was released on wasn’t popular in the slightest in Japan. And yet, somehow, the franchise persevered into the 21st century. Crazier still, a PS4 remake of Assault Suit Leynos was released only a month ago to moderate acclaim. Perhaps there’s more to Target Earth‘s joyless awkwardness than I realize?

 

Target Earth (U) [!]000

“Only 34 miles to a better game…”

 

You control a shrunken mech otherwise known as an Assault Suit, and you’re tasked with fighting alien forces and defending Earth. Before each level begins, you’re given your choice of weapons: spread shooters, bomb launchers, machine guns, etc. Your mech has six slots for weapons, and in the early stages, you’ll be able to take all weapons with you and switch between them in the heat of battle. As the game progresses, you’ll obtain more weapons and be forced to decide which ones you’ll take.

 

Target Earth (U) [!]002

“Check again, doll face.”

 

Once you’ve selected your weapons, dialogue boxes at the bottom of the screen guide you to your task. These tasks are usually simple: destroy the approaching warship, get to the shuttle, kill enemies for two minutes, etc. It’s keeping yourself alive that’s tricky. While your life bar is relatively long (and can be extended by equipping ARMOR powerups), a cluster of enemies shooting you in unison will destroy you if you don’t take them out quickly.

 

Target Earth (U) [!]003

Walking on brain meat unnerves the bravest of mech captains.

 

Target Earth‘s difficulty is unreal. You only have one life and two continues to make it through eight increasingly chaotic outer space scenarios. In true retro game fashion, the game is only balls hard because it’s so short. Once you get a feel for each stage’s layout, you can clear most of them in less than two minutes. That is, if you can endure the unwavering enemy onslaught.

 

Target Earth (U) [!]005

“Would you guys lay off? I’m trying to destroy your base!”

 

The game has a couple bits of innovation: a regenerating life bar and player evaluation. The latter is given at the end of each stage and is determined by your score. The more points you get, the more armor and weapons are unlocked for you to use in the next stage. Player evaluation is interesting and would become a crucial Japanese game mechanic in the survival horror genre, but I’m shocked to see a regenerating lifebar in a game released in 1990. Originally made popular in Halo, the regeneration isn’t just a neat quirk: it’s imperative for survival. Unfortunately, bars only go up after a couple seconds of not getting hit, and it’s rare for you to have that kind of peace here.

 

Target Earth (U) [!]004

Suddenly, Rambo appears!

 

Surprising innovation aside, Target Earth couldn’t be more mundane. The level design is unvaried (yet another space battle!), your enemies are all bland robots, and your mech, despite being hyped up in the manual as the savior of Earth, is short and weak. The action is intense at times, and it is thrilling to finally fell a boss that killed you dozens of times before, but you can get that sensation from any number of superior platformers and/or shoot-em-ups. God help me, Japan, I just don’t get it.

 

D

Air Diver

 

AirDiverJP

Are you sure this jet is diving, Asmik? Are you sure it isn’t… soaring majestically upwards?

 

AirDiverUS

Oh look, a slightly different jet. Still no diving, though.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Asmik (JP) / Seismic (US)

DEVELOPER: Copya Systems

GENRE: Arcade flight-sim

RELEASE DATE: 03/09/90 – (JP)

                                              04/90 – (US)

 

Developer Copya Systems spared no expense with Air Diver‘s cockpit. Just look at the detail!

 

Air Diver (U) [!]006

 

The cockpit’s immaculately rendered insides might make you think Air Diver is the 16-bit Steel Battalion, but no. The game does not come with its own $200 flight stick, and save for the radar screen, your fuel gauge, and your missiles, the cockpit is meaningless bells and whistles.

 

Air Diver (U) [!]000

None of this means anything either, since the F-119 Stealth doesn’t exist.

 

The emptiness in the ‘pit doesn’t matter, really. The lights and gadgets exist only to immerse you in your role as Joe “Only Fighter Pilot Who Can Save the World From Terrorists and Aliens” Smith. And you are immersed, at least initially. The game’s thrilling sense of speed sends you soaring over areas like the African Savannah or the Australian Outback, and the intense dogfights are leagues better than After Burner‘s janky battles. After destroying enemy jet after enemy jet and avoiding endless missile parades, however, Air Diver feels like a hollow spectacle, as flashy and empty as the cockpit itself.

 

Air Diver (U) [!]004

Sure looks pretty, though.

 

On the main menu, you choose one of eight battle arenas spread out across the world. Each arena is rated by attack, defense, and a mission achievement percentage. The “attack” is, I presume, the amount of enemy fighters that will be unleashed at your jet. I do not know what the defense and mission achievement percentage mean. There’s very little documentation for Air Diver available online, save for a couple stray reviews and the Japanese version of the manual.

 

Air Diver (U) [!]007

If anyone knows what some of this jargon means, please leave a comment!

 

Your goal is to shoot oncoming fighter jets and avoid any missiles fired by them. Because the fighter jets move faster than your jet, it’s best to keep track of them on your radar where they’re portrayed as red dots. Your jet has three actions: shoot bullets, launch missiles once you’ve locked onto a jet, and a speed boost, which twirls your plane 360 degrees. Thanks to the automatic acceleration and the inability to fly in any direction (you can tilt your cockpit in a direction, but you only ever fly straight), you never feel like you have full control over your jet. The 360 twirls help you avoid missiles, but that’s it.

 

Air Diver (U) [!]001

Now that‘s some serious diving.

 

Once you’ve taken down a couple waves of standard fighter jets, a Special Edition fighter jet (usually a different color than the standard army green) comes and rides your butt with a steady stream of bullets and missiles. Basically, Special Edition Bogey is a jerk, and it’s always a crapshoot as to whether you’ll be able to outmaneuver his attacks. I destroyed a couple of these jets during my playthrough, but I just as often got stuck behind them. There’s no function that allows you to slow down and let them pass, and even if you speed boost away until they’re no longer on your radar screen, they’ll always manage to catch up with you.

 

Air Diver (U) [!]005

The bastard’s on my six. Deploy! Deploy!

 

If you can get past those frustrations, you’ll do battle against a large alien ship. The ships only look slightly otherworldly, but the way they slink slowly onto the screen is intimidating. Once the battle begins, you’ll get some hits in, but the foreign alien weaponry is impossible to avoid. I died within a few seconds on all of these battles, thanks to a staggering amount of electrical pulse bullets hurled directly at my jet.

 

Air Diver (U) [!]002

“Alert! You’re screwed!”

 

Should you manage to defeat the alien ship, you’ll be taken back to the transport aircraft where you’re given additional fuel and weapons for your next battle. It’s then back to the main menu for more dogfights around the world. Aliens and terrorists don’t sleep, so you can’t either, I’m afraid.

 

Air Diver (U) [!]003

I think I’ve dove enough for one day

 

In the Options menu, you’re able to turn Air Diver‘s difficulty down to Easy, which I’d recommend if you want to play through the entire game. While this decrease in difficulty certainly eases the pain (there’s also a Hard setting – a big “hell no” to that), it also highlights the game’s lack of substance. Without the extra challenge, the objectives grow monotonous within a couple levels. With the challenge, it’s impossible to progress, and thus, care about saving the world. By the time I finished with Air Diver, I was ready to hand Earth over to the Terrorist/Alien regime. It’s not like the rest of us are doing that great of a job anyway.

 

C-

Sorcerian

 

SorcerianJP

Another stunning Mega Drive cover that shows very little of the game.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Falcom (port by Sega)

GENRE: Action-RPG

RELEASE DATE: 02/24/90

 

Sorcerian doesn’t so much innovate as it does mash disparate ideas together. The game is actually the fifth entry in Falcom’s Dragon Slayer series and is equal parts text-based RPG and side-scrolling action. Start one of the game’s ten quests, and your party fights and explores in side-scrolling mode. When you’re not questing, however, a large branching menu allows you to build party members, pray at the local temple, discuss matters with your elders, train in different skills, and customize your magic abilities.

 

Sorcerian (J) [T+Eng10%_NaflignsEgo]004

I only want to see you slaying in the purple cave. Purple cave… Purple Cave.

 

You can build up to ten different characters for your party, but there are only four classes: Human Fighter, Dwarf, Human Wizard, and Elf (your characters can be either male or female – females have less strength, but usually more intelligence than their male counterparts). After you’ve doled out three bonus points to your stats, assign them a job. The door’s wide open here with up to sixty crazy jobs to choose from: Florist, Midwife, a Stuffed Toy Maker why not. When a character isn’t questing, they’ll busy themselves with their job, which will change their stats and provide additional income.

 

Sorcerian (J) [T+Eng10%_NaflignsEgo]000

Quite the ragtag group I’ve created.

 

Once you’ve assembled your Sorcerian Squad, you have a couple different options. You can gather some of your finest and bravest (no more than four warriors per quest and sometimes three, depending), clad them in the best armor and weapons (or, if they’re Wizards/Elves, the best robes and spells), then choose a quest and hop to it. Or you can hang around the town, boost your skills, and learn how to use the ridiculously complex magic system before venturing out into your adventures. The choice is yours.

 

Sorcerian (J) [T+Eng10%_NaflignsEgo]003

These Crypt Gumbies are the worst!

 

Some of the aforementioned tasks will take a considerable amount of time, in which case, “Advance Time” or “Wait” on the main menu will thrust your party forward an entire year. But just in case you think traveling forward in time bears no consequence for your characters, they will age into dust and die forever if you’re not careful. Humans age the quickest (60 years), followed by dwarves (100 years) and elves (200 years).

 

Sorcerian (J) [T+Eng10%_NaflignsEgo]006

You’ll travel all over the world and wonder what it was all for.

 

The game has ten quests for you to wet your whistle. The quests all have different stories, but the objectives are pretty much the same: kill The Bad Guy, gather loot, explore the area, do it again. Most of the quests have expansive, non-linear areas that require significant amounts of time to parse through. Since there’s no map, you’ll either want to make your own as you progress (bust out that graph paper app!) or see if some kind soul hasn’t constructed their own maps on the Internet; I couldn’t find any, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

 

Sorcerian (J) [!]000

Guess I’ll just cross Papette off of the “Places to Visit” list.

 

If you can make heads or tails of the complex magic system, fighting enemies with magic is the way to go. You can build some powerful spells and, unlike close combat, the spells usually enable you to fight from a distance. The system involves combining different elemental enchantments and seeing what comes from it. Basically, experiment and hope you produce an awesome powerful spell. Thankfully, this system isn’t punishing. Your tampering will either result in stat boosts or, at the very most, your equipment will be fused with the resulting spell. The original game came with a chart that provided some clarity into the magic system, but unfortunately for us Westerners who only know English, it’s in Japanese.

 

SorcerianPoster

Some light bathroom reading.

 

Magic is preferable, since fighting with a sword often results in your party taking damage. Your sword is tiny and hit detection is terrible. There were times where I attacked a creature and swore I didn’t touch them, but my life dribbled down regardless.

The Mega Drive version of Sorcerian only saw release in Japan. The version I played was partially translated by the fine folks over at romhacking.net. The main menu and the town were mostly complete, but any dialogue boxes in the quests are unfinished. Thankfully, the game itself isn’t super text heavy, so if you’re committed, you can work your way through without much trouble.

 

Sorcerian (J) [T+Eng10%_NaflignsEgo]005

Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, a girl weeps for her possessed Bratz doll…

 

Outside of some nice-looking environments and fantastic music, Sorcerian didn’t immerse me beyond the menu portions. The character customization options are fantastic, so it’s easy to lose lots of time building the Ultimate Party. Once you start up a quest and actually use the characters, however, the game loses its appeal. Combat is awkward. The environments, while pretty, are too large and empty. And outside of fighting enemies and trying not to get lost, there’s not a whole lot to do. Falcom’s attempt to blend the contradictory worlds of text-based RPG and side-scrolling action is admirable, but late 80s technology could only take their ambition so far. Sorcerian plays like two games in one, and only one of them is worth experiencing.

 

C

The Sega Does Podcast Is Gone

 

SonicRings

 

Hey everyone.

I hoped to have a new review up today, but alas, work is kicking both my mental and physical buttocks. Friday at the latest, Lord willing.

I did, however, want to clarify something: the Sega Does podcast no longer exists anywhere on the Internet. In my stats, I see clicks to segadoes.libsyn.com nearly every day. I’m sorry to say that site is gone.

Sam put together every aspect of the show, and he also hosted the files on the Libsyn address. Outside of Libsyn, iTunes was the only other place where you could download the show. As far as I know, those files were the same as the Libsyn ones. Thus, the show is no longer available for download anywhere.

Many of you knew this already, and that’s fine. This is simply a note for those that didn’t. For those that listened, enjoyed, and commented over the show’s year-and-a-half run, thank you. I hope the show can come back in some form down the road.

 

DC

A Sudden Turn of Events!

 

SonicWriting

 

Good morrow, Sega friends!

A new month is upon us, and with it comes a massive change in my life. For the next couple of months and possibly longer, I will be working with my dad. Since I live in Austin and he lives in New Orleans, I’ll be commuting back and forth every few days or so. Five days on, five days off, something of that nature.

This is a huge deal to me. My dad and I haven’t been that close for most of my life, due to his job and various life circumstances. I’ve always wanted to be closer to him, but never knew how to go about it. And, if I’m honest, he never really seemed all that interested. Recently, though, he retired and expressed a desire to work on some projects together. Both to make money and to get to know each other better. I of course said yes. Given our history, I’d be foolish not to take this opportunity.

I’m excited for this time, but I’ll be honest: this job will eat into time spent on Sega Does. I’d like to say I’ll be able to work with my dad all day, then play games and write at night, but that may not always be the case. On my days off in Austin, however, I will be writing, so the site will not become dormant or shut down. Though it probably doesn’t seem like it at times, I’m committed to Sega Does for the long term.

I want to thank Taylor Pinson for his LaserActive reviews. I know I’m going out of chronological order by posting them now, but I was never going to cover the LaserActive in the first place. As such, I see them as a welcome change of pace from my somewhat rigid  structure.

There will be more LaserActive reviews in the near future, but for now, I’ll be returning to Genesis/Master System reviews. We’ve got some biggies coming up, including Phantasy Star III. Pray for me!

Thank you – yes, YOU – for continuing to stick with the site. Sega Does is only a little over two years old and it’s gone through significant ups and downs. Extended breaks, on-again-off-again podcasts, etc. I couldn’t do it without your encouragement and support. Y’all the best!

 

DC

* thanks to artist MyLy14 for her Sonic illustration!

I Will – The Story of London

 

In this special series on the Pioneer LaserActive, guest author Taylor Pinson will be discussing some of the games released on the Sega PAC, an add-on for the LaserActive that could play Genesis, Sega CD, and Mega LD titles.

 

I Will

Stock photos tell a thousand stories.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Pioneer

DEVELOPER: CRC Research Institute

GENRE: Adventure (point-and-click)

RELEASE DATE: 08/20/93 – (JP)

                                      12/23/93 – (US)

 

I’d heard I Will: The Story of London was rough, but hoo boy, I was not prepared for this. This point-and-click adventure centers around you helping a couple of scientists (a woman named Catherine, and an unnamed doctor) recover a stolen super-science formula so Unnamed Doctor can present it at an upcoming science convention.

 

1

If pink pastels don’t get you pumped, best get out of London.

 

You do this by wandering around a 16-bit map of London, looking for locations the game will actually let you visit. Once you stumble upon one, you’ll unlock a brief FMV clip where you have to move a small cursor around and click on specific objects and people to help you unlock the next location to start the process over again.

 

2

Where the docs have no name…

 

I know people like to complain about games these days being too linear and having too many tutorials, but I Will serves as a sobering reminder for how games used to be: frustratingly vague and bewildering. I Will throws you into the deep end immediately with little direction outside of “look for some very vaguely defined people” and provides no instruction for how the mechanics work.

 

3

The doctor discusses his conundrum with Catherine and her father, the least helpful policeman in all of London.

 

Much of my time with I Will was spent repeatedly examining the same few locations over and over again to try to advance the plot. I would occasionally seek out hints from Catherine’s police-officer father (which begs the question “Why isn’t he solving this mystery?”), but in classic 90s style, his answers were vague and unhelpful, like “look for a man with two umbrellas.”

 

4

“That’s quite the index you got there, chief.”

 

In addition to the difficulty of figuring out what you’re supposed to do and where you should be going, the game places additional restrictions on you in the form of both a time limit and a limited cash reserve that you’ll spend while you drive around the city fruitlessly searching for something, anything, to interact with. These feel like little more than additional in-game restrictions tossed in by the designers as a way to arbitrarily boost I Will’s difficulty.

 

5

You’re telling me, game.

 

The only saving grace of the I Will experience is the FMV clips. Depending on your tolerance for cheese, I Will is a gold mine of Garth Marenghi proportions. The acting is comically poor, with bad line deliveries, awkward pauses mid sentence, and the occasional glance directly into the camera. The production values come across as extremely amateur, with echoey sound that makes me think they filmed this whole thing in a single weekend with Uncle Gary’s video camcorder.

 

6

This is about as helpful as I Will gets when it comes to dispensing clues.

 

Playing I Will is a painful, unrewarding endurance test that I’m sure was just as awful then as it is now. Check out the cutscenes if you like cheese, but avoid ‘the story of London’ otherwise.

 

F

No gameplay video this time. What I recorded was incredibly dull and not worth showing, so instead I give you this:

Pyramid Patrol

 

In this special series on the Pioneer LaserActive, guest author Taylor Pinson will be discussing some of the games released on the Sega PAC, an add-on for the LaserActive that could play Genesis, Sega CD, and Mega LD titles.

 

PyramidPatrol

Illuminati confirmed.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Pioneer

DEVELOPER: Taito

GENRE: Rail Shooter

RELEASE DATE: 8/20/93 – (JP)

                                  12/23/93 – (US)

 

Pyramid Patrol isn’t a bad game, but it certainly isn’t one you’ll want to spend a lot of time with. It’s the kind of game you’d play at the pizzeria while you waited for them to finish making your food. You’d put a quarter in, play for a couple of minutes to keep busy, and then go chow down on that delicious stuffed-crust goo.

 

p2

Swarms of not-so-giant enemy crabs.

 

In Pyramid Patrol, you control a little space ship flying through a giant pyramid (no, not that one) blasting everything in your path. It’s a first-person on-rails shooter like Star Blade, Chaos Control or the Star Wars Trilogy arcade game. Instead of controlling your ship, you move a set of crosshairs around the screen shooting at things while the ship moves along a predetermined path.

 

p3

Bosses are incorporated into the footage streaming from the LaserDisc instead of being overlayed on top of it like most of the other enemies.

 

You’ve got two different methods of attack. The A button releases a weak, constant stream of bullets, or you can hold down the B button for a charged-up power shot. I mostly stuck to the former, since the charging an attack often took too long to be effective. The crosshairs are a little sluggish, which makes the later levels feel unfairly difficult when you start facing large swarms of enemies that fly at you from multiple directions.

 

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Death by stapler.

 

The enemy designs are pretty generic, and consist mostly of bland looking space ships. The bosses are a little more impressive, but still fairly dull. The game tries to liven up the experience with goofy radio chatter from the other ship’s in your squad, similar to Silpheed on the Sega CD, but it doesn’t really do much to add to the game’s atmosphere.

 

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A pyramid patrolling a pyramid in Pyramid Patrol? Mind = blown.

 

Pyramid Patrol was originally going to be an arcade game, and it shows. The graphics are flashy, the gameplay is shallow, the story is non-existent, and difficulty ramps up quickly. Fortunately, the arcades were spared another mediocre rail shooter, and the game only ever appeared on the LaserActive and as a Japan-only 3DO port in 1995 under the name Pyramid Intruder.

 

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Some amount of damage is unavoidable in later levels.

 

Pyramid Patrol is the best of the three Sega PAC launch titles, and it certainly looks nicer than what was available on pretty much every other console at the time, but the gameplay just isn’t there.

 

C-

 

Footage by Taylor Pinson

The Great Pyramid

 

In this special series on the Pioneer LaserActive, guest author Taylor Pinson will be discussing some of the games released on the Sega PAC, an add-on for the LaserActive that could play Genesis, Sega CD, and Mega LD titles.

 

GreatPyramidFront

Look how great it is!

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Pioneer

DEVELOPER: Pioneer

GENRE: Education

RELEASE DATE: 08/20/93 – (JP)

                                      12/23/93 – (US)

 

One of the big selling points of disc-based consoles in the early 90s was their promise of being more than just a video game machine. Companies often pointed out their console’s potential to help children learn through the use of educational software. It wasn’t necessarily a bad idea, but for a variety of reasons it never really took off.

 

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Time to patrol some more pyramids.

 

The Great Pyramid was one of Pioneer’s first attempts at educational software. It’s a product of a bygone-era when the only viable options to learn about something for most people consisted of reading a book or watching a program on TV or a video tape.

 

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Most material is accessed via DVD-style menus.

 

Viewers can use it to access various video clips about ancient Egypt through a disc menu. Sometimes an icon will pop-up on the screen, giving you a chance to interrupt your current video to check out another one on some another subject tangentially related to what you’re watching. There’s also an interactive map you can putter around on that displays important landmarks and locations.

 

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One of the highlights of “The Great Pyramid” is the interactive map of Egypt made using Sega Genesis graphics.

 

As a product of its time, it makes for a decent showpiece of the LaserActive’s multimedia capabilities, but by today’s standards it’s little more than a gussied-up DVD. From a content perspective, there’s some interesting, if rather dry, material here, but its all pretty simplistic stuff and more than 20 years out of date now. If you really wanted to learn about ancient Egypt you’d be better off just going to Wikipedia or YouTube.

 

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The footage doesn’t look as good as a DVD, and the information is outdated, but some of it can still be interesting.

 

Ironically, the biggest appeal this historical disc has today is as a relic of its own time. If you want to see how far technology has come in the past 20 years, check it out. Otherwise, let it stay in the past.

 

RATING: B for its time.

                     C as a historical curio.

                     D as something you’ll actually want to play today.

 

Footage by Taylor Pinson