Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
This is a story of romance, violence, more violence and even more violence still. Happily not too weighed down with plot here are the bare essentials: you, Rastan. Them, bad guys (with or without tans remains unknown). You hang tougher than the New Kids On The Block would even attempt. What's this you hear? The King’s daughter has been kidnapped and taken to the seamier side of a land called Semia. What's this other thing you hear as well? The King is offering a reward ('Wonga!' goes up the cry). So without further ado, Rastan sharpens the old barbarian sword (which is fairly wimpy compared to the other weapons available), and trots off into battle. And the rest is history... or are you?
The path through Semia follows a twisty, turny route as Rastan walks through forests, leaps across rivers, swings on hanging vines, climbs ropes and generally 'goes' from one side of the landscape to, erm, the other. The scenery slides along in the background as Raz (to his friends) lopes along on his mission to reach the manacled queenette.
(Image caption) Uuueergh! This lion's just been sick all over me best furry boots...
There's little else to do but hack 'n' slash in this game. Probably the best way to handle all the deviants who are thrown at you along the way, is to perfect the old straight up jump and downward thrust. That gets 'em nearly every time. But this is when you are armed with the sword, the mace or (every barbarian's best friend) the axe. Once you get hold of the jolly old fire-sword you're really hacking with a vengeance, since this beast is a cross sword/blaster which lobs out death-dealing fireballs! The only trouble with these babies is that they hang around in the air - and unless you've become master of the jump 'n' dump, they'll stay there!
There are also plenty of objects to pick up along the way , such as shields, armour, medicine to give you life, bad medicine to take it away plus a variety of trinkets for extra points.
(Image caption) Thunder, Thunder, Thunder, Thunderca- oh. Wrong game. Sorry.
But valuable as these things may be, don't be tempted to hang around anywhere for too long: even though the large green chaps with the brown sticks might act like wet cabbage addicts and are good for clock-ing up points, don't stand around all day whacking ’em out. As night falls, the flying creatures come out in force (haven’t you been told about the bats and the bees?) and they are more irritating than sand in your undies. The big ones are easy enough to handle if you manage to -hem, hem - wing them in the heart! But the bees swarm around you, and afore you know it you’ll have a brand new Rastan at the start of the level again!
As you move through the different rounds, you comes across a selection of psychotic boss creatures which are a bit unimpressive, but do you over just the same. And aside from the foes already mentioned you've also got the odd falling boulder, spitting stone, poison water and collapsing bridge to contend with. Nah problem really if you just keep on moving and fighting. As a final tip, which was passed down by a wise old one-eyed stumbling Mexican plug vendor - if it moves, have at it!
What with the treacherous landscapes on the road to Semia, the choice of weapons (none of which last long enough) and the continual hackin' action, this one should keep you going for months to come (if it doesn't you’re cheating).
Once again, there are no pass codes which can be a pain in the bum when you've just about cracked a puzzle in the fifth round and your sister claims the telly because Young East End Neighbours' Doctors is on. There are, however, plenty of continues for a sustained attack (for as long as you can lay claim to the gogglebox!).
Rastan is really kind to the ears with some eery renditions of the coin-op soundtracks, and some definitely un-Sega sounding scores later on. Background sounds are pretty good, too, with a nice slicing sound (sickola) and some tinkly spot effects. Pity about the jumping sound, though, which sounds like someone popping a very small cork.
The graphics are of a reasonably high standard with smooth multi-way scrolling, detailed scenery and a great nightfall sequence- Shame about the titchy sprites and slooooow motion swinging vines bit.
However, all this is secondary to the gameplay which is a stormer. Stonkingly good with tons of moody atmosphere (especially after dark), loads of good puzzles as well as non-stop action. A definite thumbs up - and off if you're not skillful!
▲ Gorgeous views of Semia scroll past like a dream
▲ The flying gorgons look great
▼ Vine-swinging is slow and jerky
▼ End of level guardians are nothing to write home about
▼ Animation is all pretty minimal
▲ Varied soundtracks are some of the best on the Master System
▲ Effects more subtle than usual
▼ Full of beans Rastan makes a when he jumps...
▲ Different creatures require different tactics to beat
▲ 21 contrasting scenes to battle through
▲ Huge playing areas to explore, with several routes to the end
▲ Mixture of physical puzzles and beat 'em up action keeps reflexes and brain ticking over
▲ Tough quest will keep you hacking well into the night
▲ Varied action and graphics sustain your interest to the very end
▲ Continue option makes sure that your sword arm doesn't seize up!
A superb conversion from the arcades, and a bostin’ game in its own right. Not for anyone who is deadly dull or fancies a quiet life.