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randombullseye avatar 7:53 AM on 07.13.2009  (server time)
Old School Games: Buck Rodgers Countdown to Doomsday

In about 1991, I played SEGA at a friends house. He had a broke leg and we went over to cheer him up, I got to play Sonic for the first time. Time passes, and my mom finally bought me my very own Genesis. Three games with it too. Sonic, Junction, and Buck Rodgers. It wasn't until my half brother started staying with us that I understood how to play RPGs, that you have to pay a little bit of attention, math is involved, and my favorite part of role playing games: thinking. Yes, you have to think a little to play an RPG. Plan ahead. strategize.

Gameplay is the greatest around. You make up a team of characters, six maximum. You've four job classes and three races to pick from. Also gender. You have a dice icon at the bottom to re-roll their stats, I know I rerolled over and over as a kid trying to get better. Usually I make two warriors, a rocket pilot, and two medics. Occasionally I'll use a rogue, but I like the two medics to keep everyone alive. It's possible to fully die in the game and have to make new dudes, it happened to me once as a kid after many deaths.
You walk around the world with this blue guy as your visual guide as to who you are. Random battles occur everywhere but spaceports and take you to the battle screen. Here you characters have a set amount of move and attack range with their guns or swords. You take turns fighting until you or the enemy die. Then you can rob the enemies after battle. If you press the C button, you can easily target enemies and switch between them. It's much more fun than it sounds, if you're into this type of RPG.

Later on you can have spaceship battles. The space battles are so much fun. You can close range on an enemy ship. If you get in the right distance, you can even ram their ship. I don't know about you, but I loved ramming the enemy ship. You can also board an enemy craft if you take out their engines. Their you get a quick dungeon to run around in. I used to do that over and over.

Some backstory on the game itself. Ever hear of the goldbox? It was a series of RPGs for the computer by a company called SSI. Mostly D&D games, but two of them were based on a famous sci fi hero. I say based on, but ultimatley you're just in his world. It's like those roleplaying books you can buy, it gives you the setting and occasionally you'll run into the main characters, but it's your story. Not the name heroes. You make a party of characters, play like a strategy RPG moving your dudes around attacking, some talking, and that's that.

From the second the game comes on, the music blasts out. Once I get that in my head, this tune will stay there for days. And everyone else around will also get a good listen. I'm not one to talk about music or sound, but play this game. Watch a video even and just hear what happens. The sound effectts are hilarious too and must hears for fans of that. But the best is the music. I can't get over how loud it is.

The first game was put out on the Genesis and somehow I got it. And it was years until I got into it, and even more until I beat it. But I did it. Without the guide book. In the all or nothing days certain games came with guides, my brother read the manual for this game and got into outer space, which totally blowed my mind. Free form exploration was crazy. I've searched for that book around the house and I can't find it. He had it and he got into space without beating the game. I did it without him and without a guide book. All on my own. It was around 1995 when I finished up the game and I've since finished the game several times. I don't know what it is. Maybe I want to out do him. Maybe I wanted to prove to myself that I could beat this game.

As an adult, I found it easy to play through. Structurally, you've several missions you have to complete. First you're on a planet under attack, then on a space ship thats covered with evil aliens and machines, then you get into space. From space you can pick where to go next, but the order to go in is to go to an odd shaped rock in the astroid belt. Do some things there, then a pirate ship kidnaps your crew for an awesome piece of game. It's worth playing just to play that part. Then I usually go to Mars, Venus, and then Mercury to finish up the game. Mars and Venus have a lot going on and could take quite some time to play. Mercury has you running around a final area. When I first got to it, I didn't know what to do. I felt my chest do that thing it does when I get near the end. That feeling that you're about to win a game. That you're going to save the day. Nothing else can give me that feeling.

Am I going to replay this? That's the question I'm asking. It's one of those games I could fall into and not stop until I've finished. I've decided not to. Sometime soon though, I'll do this and then find the sequel on DOS. I want to play those versions, but I can't get over the way you move around.

Is it worth your time? Depends on if you like computer RPGs from the 80s and 90s. The graphics will set many away, but use your imagination. Some of the character models are hilarious. A black dude with a lightsaber, a nude person with a spear, what appears to be an old man with a racket. Areas are usually bland and basic and some are maze like. In fact, on the PC version things are first person. Fortunately the genesis version isn't. If you've the time to put into it, go for it. You can use a guide now if you want, gamefaqs is the place to go for that. Try it out.

Oh god, I'm knee deep in ten other RPGs. I work 40 hours every week. I don't have time to play this. I keep telling myself, its awesome, but you've beaten it ten times already. The sequel Matrix Cubed or the original PC version of Countdown I would play. Countdown's original version had a few extra character classes and aliens you could be, but the first person stuff kills it for me. Same as the other "gold box" series of RPGs. The two Buck Rodgers games are spin offs of Dungeons & Dragon's series by the same developer. If you're into this type of gameplay, check them out. Pool of Radiance, Curse of Azure Boots, and Secret of Silver Blades, and eight others. I tried a little of the first one and liked it, but didn't have time to get into it. I don't know what I did with my copy of these, so If you happen to have a copy of ANY of these games, please e-mail me. Home of the underdog used to have them, but the site doesn't work for me anymore. Last few times I tried there, nothing worked for me. Any games like the gold box series that you want to suggest for me too, that's why I love the comment system and e-mail. By all means mention similar games or your own thoughts.


One last story, my half brother that played the game and got further then me as a kid had the manual that came with the game and read through it telling me all about it. For years I've scoured my house looking for that manual. I think it's one of those old guides that came with RPGs in the old days. I just can't seem to locate my copy anywhere. Sorry to end on a bummer.

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