Give The Sega CD Some Sweet Sweet Lovin’!
This is my all time favorite Sega CD. And if it was up to me, this would be the #1 game right here. Alas I’m also the only person on the team to have played and/or owned it. That seems to be a running trend with the Kliq. My favorite games are ones the rest of the boys can barely pronounce much less know exist. And then I have to harp and guilt trip and bully them into playing. But once they have, it’s all gravy!
So let’s talk about it. The game is about an evil Wizard named Velonese who is trying to raise the dark god to destroy the continent. See, he’s a mite pissed about the whole being entrapped for a long, long time. Velonese is now crazy AND evil and he kills Armer VIII. The Kingdom is terrified and it looks like evil will have its day.
In Dark Wizard you pick from one of four playable characters (2 good, 2 evil) to take control of the kingdom and fight back against the evil. Yes, it may seem odd to have evil vs evil, but each characters back-story makes sense for why they stand up against Velonese.
You have Armer IX, the son of the late King. You have Amon the vampire who assumes the form of the late King to ensure the only Lord of Darkness will be an Undead one. You have Crystal the demonic sorceress who has revenge against Velonese for killing her sibling in mind. And you have Robin, the greatest warrior in the Kingdom and faithful to the dead Majesty Armer VIII.
Not only was it unheard of to have 4 separate playable main characters in an RPG back then, but the game was basically 4 different ones on the same disc. The main plot was the same, but your armies, your sub-quests, your hidden characters, and CGI scenes were all completely different.
To have a game where you can have an army of 36 playable monsters, humanoids, and your special commander is still impressive, even in this day of gazillion bit gaming. Sure Birgadine and Dragon Force did something similar, but those are the rare exceptions. When it comes to a massive amount of turn-based strategy, Dark Wizard is still the king for complexity and time-consuming obsession.
I still have yet to mention the game has a time limit. You have an undisclosed amount of time before Velonese summons the Dark God and destroys the world. You also have a limited amount of money to keep your troops in line. Yes that’s right. You actually have to PAY your guys. Each city you liberate adds to your coffers. And so you have to balance your time limit with the fact you need to raise cash to keep those super high level druids and ninjas from deserting you.
The plots though. Wow. Each one has love, betrayal, intrigue and drama. When Sega made this game, they pulled out all the stops. They created four separate tales defining your main character in a way video games had never done before. None of the endings are happy in fact. At best they are all melancholic. And considering the game you have just beaten has been one big bloodbath with countless lives being lost, it can’t very well be a happy good time musical jug band jamboree, now can it’
But most of all, there’s the music. If you remember back a few months ago when I talked about my favorite video game soundtracks of all time, this was pretty high up the list. And it still is. Orchestral music that blows my mind every time I hear it. Armer IX’s music is probably the best adrenaline pumping classic. Amon’s music is befitting and evil emperor of gloom and doom. Velonese has some of the best bad guy music in the history of video gaming. The music alone makes this game heads and shoulder above, not most Sega CD games, but video games in general.
If you have a Sega CD and enjoy Role Playing in any way, you need this game. Need it like a mother needs a kidney from the black market for her dying baby boy after her first five kids miscarried. THAT BADLY. Yes the turn based graphics can be crap, but it is the voice acting, the CGI, the plot, and the music that allow this game to stand the test of time. It’s still by far the best fantasy war sim out there by any standards. It’s that detailed a strategy game and has so many hidden things, you won’t be able to find them all on the first play-through. An experience with Dark Wizard will make all other games of this genre pale by comparison. No excuses. Just run out and get it. Or I will do another NGPC/Ikaruga rant. And no one wants another of those, do they? DO THEY???
Give The Sega CD Some Sweet Sweet Lovin’!
Or, more accurately, Magical Fantasy Adventure Popful Mail. (Gotta love them Japanese and their overly lengthy titles!) The game is a product of Working Designs, who have shelled out such titles as Lunar: Eternal Blue and Lunar: Silver Star Story in the past.
The game stars none other than Popful Mail, a bounty hunter who travels the land looking for jobs and cash. Yes, Mail’s a chick. I didn’t think up the name. Along the way, other characters show up to help Mail in her quest; Tatt, a mage, and Gaw, a monster-dragon-thing. (Gaw kinda looks like a Pokemon.)
At its core, Popful Mail is an action-RPG in the vein of Faxanadu. The action takes place from a sidescrolling perspective, with anime cutscenes thrown in here and there. There’s also your standard overworld map, for traveling from level to level. Beat the crap out of enemies, and grab the gold they drop to buy more weapons, armor, and items. Though I never quite figured out why, say, a giant spider would be carrying a bag of gold. Then again, there’s sentient raccoon warriors in this game, so the weirdness level fits.
You start out with Mail, but once you get your friends to join you, you can switch between them at any time. Each character has their own lifebar, so if one’s about to bite the big one, you can use someone else to get the hell out of there before you croak. Upgrading your weapons is key; you start with a standard sword, but later on, you can nab daggers and other ranged items. This is handy for sniping enemies off of ledges.
What really makes this game great is the dialogue. The game is loaded with double entendres, puns, and other humor. Mail always seems to be saying the wrong thing; a young man was in trouble, and offered her money to get him out. He even offered to be her companion; perhaps she could teach him how to survive in this crazy world? She wanted “2 million to make a man out of [him].” Draw your own conclusions. Another shocker: the English voice acting actually doesn’t suck. All the voices fit their corresponding characters to a tee. The background music’s great, too. Not too annoying, and each track meshes with whatever level you happen to be in. Sound effects are prevalent, but not over done. The programming team definitely took full advantage of the Sega CD’s audio capabilities.
It may not feature fancy 3D graphics, but Popful Mail‘s beautiful 2D art and excellent soundtrack, not to mention the flawless gameplay, make this a timeless classic. This game is reason enough to buy a Sega CD; the only other release was for the Japanese PC Engine DUO (Turbo Duo in the US), so without a Sega CD, you’re shit outta luck!
Give The Sega CD Some Sweet Sweet Lovin’!
Working Designs may take 17 years to put out an RPG, but every time they grace us with a release, it becomes pure gold. And many Lunar fans were expecting that when Lunar: Eternal Blue was finally released. Could the second Lunar capture the magic of the original?
Well, DUH! This is LUNAR we’re talking about!
Lunar II took what was great about the original Lunar, and expanded it in every way possible. The animated cut scenes were longer, more plentiful, and of better quality. Voices DOMINATE the game, with every major character having one. The graphics were improved, the battle system was improved, the story was taken in a new direction’wow, this game RULED!
Lunar II takes place 1,000 years after the first game. The days of Dragon Master Alex and the Magic Emperor are merely legends now, and peace has reigned since then. Until one day, when Hiro (the hero’heh) and his pink flying cat Ruby happen upon an event at the “Blue Spire’. Hiro, Ruby, and good ol’ Grandpa Gwin set out to investigate, and lo and behold, they find a girl named Lucia in the tower. She claims to have come from the “Blue Star,’ and needs to speak to Althena of a matter of great importance: Zophar is reviving. (This is the first time I made the correlation that “Blue Star’ equals “Earth’. Silly me.)
Immediately, this Lunar shows worlds of difference from its predecessor. Right from the get go, we know something bad is going to happen, and happen soon. The race against time begins in the first act, instead of the second. The story still flows beautifully, however, this time focusing on the relationship between Hiro and Lucia. Where the first Lunar starts with going through adolescence, Lunar II focuses on the rigors of adulthood. The characters are older, and have greater problems than they did in the past. But the main theme remains intact: rising up and meeting the challenges head-on.
Once again, Lunar plays host to a bevy of new characters, each with their own distinct personalities. We meet Leo first, a misguided young captain who is blinded by his own sense of justice. Then we see Ronfar, a former priest turned drunken gambler. He has a heart of gold, as we see during Hiro’s travels. Jean is a carnival performer, with a tragic past. She was forced to use a deadly form of martial arts, but escaped with her life. Lemina hails from Vane, and is the new Premier of the Magic Guild. The Guild’s fallen on hard times, though, so she’s always asking for donations. Each of these characters have their problems, but exhibit the growth and compassion Lunar characters have been known for.
Events in this game are almost beyond belief. The story is built upon the first game beautifully, showing the passage of 1,000 years in a VERY creative light. Even a few people from the original game survived these past years, including Nall and’and’oh, I can’t say it! I just can’t spoil the fact that… well… HE’S back! And if you don’t know who HE is… you’ll probably guess when you read the Lunar I write-up. Needless to say, he’s a welcome addition to an already all-star cast.
There is only one problem with this game that keeps it from scoring any higher: The fact that you need to PAY to save your game. Yes, PAY. Not in money, but in “Magic” Points. You get these points from random encounters, and you use them to either power up your spells, or save. And the cost goes UP depending on Hiro’s level! So munchkining may not be your best friend in this game. Who knows WHAT they were thinking when they added THAT feature.
Still, this game is yet another GRAND experience, and HAS to be played. Beautiful graphics, wonderful cut scenes, nice music, and memorable characters DRIPPING with personality make this game a must own. And make sure you pay attention at the end: the Epilogue won’t play itself!