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.
DEVELOPER: Premier International Corporation
RELEASE DATE: 12/22/94 – (JP), 1995 – (US)
In Don Quixote – the LaserActive’s first ever RPG! – you play as the titular knight, tasked with rescuing the princess and finding seven magical crystal balls. These balls are necessary to defeat the villain who has usurped the throne and restore peace and prosperity to the land. Fans of the book might be upset that Premier completely changed the story, but I’d be surprised if that audience is paying attention to the details of an obscure LaserActive game.
You explore towns and other areas in a first-person perspective similar to Phantasy Star or Ghost Rush. As in Ghost Rush, the areas you wander through are all identical corridors pulled from FMV footage. Unlike Ghost Rush, there’s a map to prevent you from getting lost. Wandering around towns looking for people to talk to or things to do is already one of the dullest aspects of an RPG, and the stilted FMV footage only slows down the process.
When you do find someone to talk to, instead of the traditional text box found in other RPGs, you get a quick FMV clip of a person talking. The clips are usually short and filled with cryptic and useless information. You can’t skip through the clips, though, so each conversation ends up taking much longer than it needs to. Something that would maybe take 5 seconds in a game like Phantasy Star ends up taking upwards of 30 seconds or even longer in Don Quixote.
Don Quixote‘s biggest draw for me, at least initially, was the nice-looking hand-drawn animation prominently displayed on the game’s packaging. Alas, nearly every scene you see is basically just a still image of a person with a mouth that alternates between open and closed to make it look like they are talking. I understand why they did it that way – this game wasn’t made by some massive animation studio with tons of money to throw around – but the end result still looks pretty lame.
Combat begins and ends in a menu, where you navigate through a series of commands to decide what happens. FMV has once again replaced the traditional pixels/sprites, and you at least get to see some decent animation here.
The music sounds like your typical Sega Genesis soundtrack, and it becomes very repetitive and irritating if you spend enough time wandering through the same areas. The game’s voice acting is also not very good, though, to be fair, it’s on par for what was showing up in other games at the time.
I applaud the game’s creators for trying to incorporate new ideas into the traditional RPG framework, but the end result is hogwash. The FMV bogs the game down most of the time, and the effort that went into drawing all of the characters would have been better served by making the game actually fun to play.
If you’re hungry for an RPG on your LaserActive, Don Quixote is your only choice. It’s also worth pointing out this is one of the handful of LaserActive games where region matters. The US release only contains English audio and text, and the Japanese one only has Japanese. For everyone else, this is sadly another clunker not worth hunting down.