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Mystic Defender (Genesis, 1989)

SpellCaster 2: Electric Spookaloo

That’s one devious mustache.
Straight to VHS!



GENRE: Action platformer

RELEASE DATE: 11/25/89 – (JP), 01/90 – (US), 1990 – (EU)

SpellCaster really didn’t need a sequel. The Master System title combined action, adventure and RPG elements into a mystical soup that, while filling enough, was considerably more flash than substance. It also felt like a one-off, one of Sega of Japan’s easy to produce, bizarre anime/manga tie-ins. Or so it seemed. Shut my mouth and call me the Peacock King: Mystic Defender is the SpellCaster sequel that really needed to exist. By excising the adventure/RPG elements of its predecessor and doubling down on the action and platforming, the game stands as one of the best early Genesis titles.

Ha… hadouken?

Based, like SpellCaster, on the disturbing manga/anime “Kujaku-O,” you play as Joe Yamato, a sorcerer hero everyman who has to rescue The Supreme Deity’s daughter, Alexandra, from getting sacrificed to the evil god, Zao. We might not blink at that synopsis today, but this story is yet another example (after Phantasy Star II) of Sega not giving a damn when it comes to dealing with mature themes in games. Also, in an earlier incarnation of Mystic Defender, Alexandra is shown completely naked towards the end. The nudity actually made it over to the States (not sure about Europe), but was amended in favor of a ripped pink dress in a later version of the game. Thank God Sega released this game 26 years ago and not today, or the Internet would be crying censorship over their God-given right to enjoy pixelated nudity.

It was around this time that Joe decided to never have children.

Mystic Defender begins in an innocuous forest. Monks and caterpillars attack from the trees, but Joe makes short work of them with his Psycho magic. The latter is both Joe’s offense and defense. He can shoot one projectile at a time or charge up the goods and unleash a three-pronged beam attack. Once Joe makes it to the end of the forest, he destroys a Worm guardian and gains Fire magic. The latter can only be used when charged and acts as a flamethrower. Other types of magic include Sonic, which unleashes several spheres in multiple different directions; and a Thunder attack that clears the screen of enemies with a three-headed dragon (this mighty magic can only be used once per icon collected). Choosing the right magic for a scenario is key to progressing more easily through the game.

Pretty sure that’s an abomination.

As Joe moves deeper into Mystic Defender, his surroundings grow more bleak and disturbed. A rotting Japanese village is home to bouncing blue heads and creepy flocks of demonic babies. Giger-inspired metallic landscapes contain xenomorph heads that spit torrents of fire. One particular volcanic area is riddled with vomitous magma that can kill Joe in a split-second. As strange as SpellCaster was, the game had a lighthearted feel and carried the occasional humorous touch like “The Three Stooges” reference in the stone statues. Mystic Defender is a dark journey from start to finish.

A little spontaneous combustion never hurt.

Mystic Defender doesn’t genre-dabble like SpellCaster, and the game is all the better for it. The action platforming on display is intense, focused, and methodical. You don’t guide Joe recklessly forward into oblivion unless you want to waste the three lives you’re given. Many of the levels are compact. They lead you up and down confined staircases, through tight corridors, and force you to make precise jumps, all while flying goo creatures and flames brush around your hero’s jet black hair. Power-ups are scarce, though almost always necessary. Blue power-ups restore one of your three life points, while red power-ups strengthen your magic. If you die, you lose any magic strength you previously had.

Those fart pods are particularly uncouth.

Special attention should be given to Mystic Defender‘s graphics and animation, which are some of the best yet seen on the Genesis. From the blue-skinned priests that deviously rotate their arms to Joe’s continuous flamethrower spray, the detail is never less than stunning. What’s more is that Mystic Defender is not an arcade port, but an original game tailor-made for the system. Sega may have touted arcade perfection as one of the Genesis’ selling points and good on them for doing so. But Mystic Defender is an early example of Sega creating a console game from scratch and making it look as good or better than their arcade ports.

Joe never saw the sun again.

Like many early Genesis titles, Mystic Defender is often forgotten in favor of more popular titles that came afterwards. In this game’s case, Revenge of Shinobi, which literally debuted a week later in Japan. Joe Musashi might be a more iconic character with a longer lasting series, but Joe Yamato’s sorcerer hero everyman shouldn’t be relegated to the clearance racks of history. Mystic Defender‘s unsettling atmosphere and addicting platforming are a testament both to Sega’s growing skills as a console game developer and their willingness to move down darker paths than Nintendo.


11 replies on “Mystic Defender (Genesis, 1989)”

So, wait, the final boss in the original version is Japanese Freddie Mercury?

I have to agree that this is one of the better early-era Genesis games, and it should have gotten more attention (though the nudity towards the end would have caused a huge stink if it had). I think that’s the shame of Sega alienating me with the “Sega Does What Nintendon’t” campaign-the early Genesis library is quite strong, especially when compared to the Master System’s early lineup.

The early Genesis library was great. Especially when the graphical upgrade was so fresh compared to the NES. I think a lot of the pre Sonic Genesis titles are often overlooked. In fact there was a nice blog (now defunct) about it years ago where this guy attempted to write in depth reviews of the entire pre Sonic Genesis library.

Sadly, he disappeared and stopped well before Sonic. But we have Sega Does! So all is right with the world.

I remember buying this right away in the fall of 89. I had no idea what the game was about. I only found out recently that it was connected to Spellcaster.

But I was pleasantly surprised. This game was sort of dark and me and my friends loved it. It had like crazy monsters and demons and stuff. Plus it played pretty good. I don’t know for a young teenager it was pretty cool. And then when you beat it it had a naked lady. Once again what can you say, I was 13 or 14. You just didn’t see that kind of stuff in games.

Also looking at the screen shot above. What is it with the Japanese and door monsters. How did door monsters get to be a thing? When I think about it there a lot of Japanese games with them. Even Shonobi had a door monster in a way with the second part of the Mandara boss. Is there some door monster mythology or a door monster Yokai?

Mystic Defender was a pleasant surprise. While SpellCaster was neat when I played it, it’s not a game I have any desire to replay. It’s a one-and-done kinda game. Mystic Defender is leagues better. Even though it could be considered a second-tier Genesis game, it plays better than some first-tier Master System games.

There probably is a door monster Yokai out there somewhere. Seems like there’s a million types of Yokai.

Being a fan of Spellcaster and its RPG elements, I was looking forward to playing this sequel with my two boys. Where is the adventure and save system? I think I’ll pass now, but glad to hear it’s still a good platformer.

The companies that made Nintendo games had to sneak their dark and weird crap in, but I’m always surprised with what they got away with on the NES. Like Hitler’s head exploding or whatever the Hell was supposed to be going in some of those Silver Surfer levels.

I didn’t own Mystic Defender when I first bought a Genesis, but I borrowed it for months on end from a school friend, and enjoyed the heck out of the game. I remember being shocked when I beat the game, and saw the aforementioned pixel nudity. I agree that the graphics are really good for an early Genesis game, and the soundtrack is top notch. I have the US box art as the background on my phone, and often have the Stage 2 theme as my primary ringtone, because I just love that song. As an adult, I bought a complete copy of the game as soon as I had the money, and it’s one of my “go to” games on the Genesis.

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