For those reading one of my Genesis review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
I already reviewed a bunch of SNES games, so its natural that I am going to review the games of its prime competition. Does the SEGA Genesis stand a chance against the legendary SNES library?
My review series is based on the top 100 list of Retro Sanctuary
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the Retro Sanctuary list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.
Without further ado, here is:
Genre: Action Adventure.
Developer: Climax Entertainment.
First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.
Made by one of the early stars of Sega's development teams, Landstalker was Sega's answer to the Legend of Zelda. The fact that nearly the only similarity between the two is the fact it stars a blonde elf is a significant positive for Landstalker.
For better or worse, Landstalker is not a middling Zelda clone. It confidently goes forward as its own thing, warts and all.
"Woe and death unto those who step into this land..."
Right off the bat, it is surprising how much character and plot the game manages to put into a 1992 cartridge. Starting with an opening credit sequence where Nigel (the main character) does his best impression of Indiana Jones, the game continues on with a theme of adventure and comedy that it manages to retain throughout the game.
Usually, at that time, it was enough for a game to have a story, regardless of quality. Some narrative that pushes the player forward. Landstalker was not content with that. Instead, it manages to actually be a really good story with genuinely funny lines.
Lines like this one
Nigel suddenly stumbles into the Wood Nymph, Friday. This chance encounter propels him into a search of the Treasures of King Nole in an island nation. While the game doesn't do naything revolutionary with this setting (why should it?), it doesn't lazily rely on it. It does manage to introduce some funny characters, throw in some comedic situations, and generally be far ahead of anything else at it time.
Good Story and Setting: +5
Genuinely Funny Sometimes: +3
"I keep sending scouts there, but somehow, they don't seem to return"
The world of Landstalker is basically an over-world littered with dungeons. Nigel can move, carry and throw things, and attack. In addition to the limited utilization of some items, that is basically what the gameplay consists off.
All these elements depend on the, let's say, unique way movement is handled in this game. Because the game takes place in a "3D" isometric space, the traditional directional buttons do not work well in the game. Instead, two directional buttons need to be held at the same time to move Nigel the way you want to.
It is not immediately obvious how it should be done, but it soon becomes second-nature once you adapt to it. Movement in an isometric field basically dominates how you approach combat in the game.
I guess he ran out of berries
Nigel's attack is one basic forward horizontal swipe. Later, with more swords, he get access to some area of effect magic attacks, but that does not change thing much. Fundamentally, combat is about positioning yourself where you can hit your enemies and where they cannot hit you. Since your attacks push them backwards, you must always move and attack.
It is by no means a deep combat system, but its frantic and fast enough to be engaging. Due to the number recovery items you can hold, its rarely difficult, but if you neglect movement, its easy to burn through those berries.
Simple b Engaging Combat: +3
Isometric Movement Executed Well: +3
Multiple Dungeons: +2
"Nooooo! Now we are dead ducks"
Unlike with combat and basic traversal, movement becomes a significant issue in platforming and platforming puzzles. The game's worst moments are easily related to its more obtuse platforming challenges.
It is actually surprising that an isometric game even attempts to cram in as much platforming in it. Imagine the imprecise and annoying platforming of Super Mario RPG on the SNES, but actually add in a lot of penalties to it, and you have Landstalker's platforming sections in a nutshell.
Isometric maps are not real "3D" space, and they therefore have little indication of depth and position. This is why, when the game asks you to jump perfectly into floating one-space blocks, its actively wasting your time.
Now I need to go ALL THE WAY UP TO TRY AGAIN
Several times, especially nearing the end of the game, Nigel is required to go through platforming sequences that are made more difficult due to the isometric view and non-conforming control scheme.
Mostly, this adds more time and frustration to the game. Coupled with the labyrinthine late game dungeons, this makes the last quarter of the game a slog to go through. In one dungeon, the designers thought it smart to have a number of doors sending you back to earlier parts of the dungeon; requiring you to repeat the same area more than a couple of times.
Terrible Platforming: -4
No Map Feature: -2
"Going off to defeat Mir, eh? Hope your mama's got something black to wear!"
Besides the platforming flaws related to the isometric view, Landstalker does little wrong regarind its presentation. In fact, it may be one of the best looking isometric games of its time. That is mostly due to the detailed and colorful sprite design.
Everything, from the background objects to the player character, is well-drawn and animated with experience. Its not exactly an outstanding result. Character models have something off about them; a smurf-like quality that I didn't particularly enjoy. However, it is all made in such a way to compleent the game world, and of consistent quality.
The colors POP out of the screen
The same can be said of the music, which while lacking in iconic tracks, is of an almost uniformly very good quality. Tracks range from the playful to the adventurous, and they compliment the tone of the game rather well.
Ultimately, the visuals and sound of the game are highly professional and well-executed, even if they do lack some edge.
Good Graphics and Character Design: +3
Good animation: +2
Good Soundtrack: +3
Landstalker was a surprise to me. Mostly because I didn't expect a game of its time to actually have a consistently good story that manages to make me laugh. Also, I didn't expect a game to manage so much in the isometric space.
True, the platforming is a major pain, and there are any limitations and flaws.
However, by being its own thing, and not a clone of another well-known action game, Landstalker earns its place among the best games of the Genesis.
There is a lot happening in such a small island
1- You should look for Lifestocks (to increase your health) all over the place.
2- Stock up on health item when you go to the later dungeons.
3- Use the dahl to retun full-health, as the berry should be utilized for revival emergencies only.
4- Wear the Health shoes (if you find it) and walk around to regain some health.
5- Always wear the latest armor you find.
6- A good way of dealing with enemies is trapping them against a wall and rapidly slashing at them.
7- The greatest defense is slashing like hell.
While its not in the same level as A Link to the Past, Landstalker is by far the best Action Adventure game of the Genesis library. It actually surprised me by being genuinely funny.
Next game is known as Treasure's finest Genesis game at #3 in the list. Gunstar Heroes is a well-known colorful shooter game. I didn't particularly enjoy the Treasure games, and I am going into theis one with some reservation. Hope I am finally converted.
For Previous Genesis game Reviews:
For More Screenshots: