Monday, October 22, 2012

MAME Reviews: Dark Seal

MAME Review
  Since it is October I thought I would review a "scary" game that I found on my mamecade.  Although, once I got into the game it wasn't that scary, but I already played it so I'll go ahead and review it!

Dark Seal
  Dark Seal also known in the US as Gate of Doom, is an action hack n' slash arcade game released by AV Japan in Japan and Data East in the US.  The game has a 2D isometric view and consists of 1 or 2 players hacking and slashing their way through a series of dungeons and other terrain until they reach that level's boss.  Sadly the game tends to drag after the the first few levels and never really picks up steam due to repetition and bland enemies.

Initial Start
  When the game boots up you are greeted with an introduction to the plot, which to sum up is, "when the people of the world become evil, then demons take over, and then four heroes of light will appear to right the world again."  Which to me is just the usual song and dance for an old school fantasy game, since this was released in 1990 I don't fault any plot like this.  Once you throw in your coin you are greeted with more plot dialogue on something of a dark knight stealing a princess, so I am not sure if we are killing two birds with one stone or some type of sub plot is going on, but after this you are then taken to the character select screen

  You have your selection of the four heroes of light, the Knight, the Wizard, The Bard, and...the Ninja, which seems really out of place to me in a medieval European fantasy setting, but whatever, lets go with it.  Each character has a different weapon, and special skill, the Knight has a better weapon that does more damage, the Wizard has powerful magic, the Bard is immune to poison, and the Ninja, like a ninja.  You can see most of these advantages play out as you play through the game, and it does add a small strategic element to the game, but not much.

  The controls consist of an 8-way directional joystick and two action buttons.  One button is for attack and the other is for magic.  Your attacks vary from character to character, with the Ninja and Wizard having projectile weapons (that do not go the length of the screen) and the Knight and Bard having melee weapons that reach just about as far as the projectiles, so there really isn't much difference in attack.  Since all the enemies come out of the wood work to run into you, you are usually frantically trying to fend them off
  The magic works with filling up the magic bar, by attacking enemies, after this you have a book displayed on the upper right or left of the screen switching through icons, once you press the magic button you will use whatever magic the icon on the book is currently showing.  I find this to be a lackluster way of using spells  as when you are in a pinch you do not have proper choice of spells, you either have to hope it is a good spell, or wait for that one to come on the screen.

Level Design
  The level design for the dungeons and other terrain start out well, with varying enemies and traps, but after a few levels it just becomes very repetitious and dull.  I got extremely tired with having the same types of enemies barraging me from every direction that after awhile I just picked the Ninja and ran through every stage.  That is the main problem, there is nothing you have to do to advance to the next area except get to the end and none of the enemies really stop you from doing this.  I realize this is the case in most beat em ups and hack n slash games, but at least most of those A) have a mechanic that stops your progression until all enemies are defeated on the current screen, and B) it is actually entertaining to beat up enemies!

  The game in the graphics department is not too bad.  Nothing mind blowing but it isn't bad to look at it either.  Death animations for normal enemies is nothing more than a pretty explosion, but the bosses and mid bosses do have a neat death animation for each, so that is something...I guess.

  Dark Seal or Gate of Doom, is not an awful game, but it does become awful after a few levels.  All in all it is your standard arcade beat 'em up with a medieval European theme to it...and a Ninja.  If you happen to chance upon it, in whatever fashion you are playing games, give it a go, but don't feel like you are missing out on anything if you haven't tried it.  Until next time, thanks for reading!