Sunday, 28 August 2016

Legend of Galahad (Mega Drive)

The Legend of Galahad is a port of an Amiga game called Leander, and I'm reviewing the port rather than the original for two reasons: firstly, it's the version I remember seeing in magazines as a kid, and secondly, I'm going to assume that the original has some terrible control scheme where jump is mapped to up on the joystick, and I don't have the patience for that kind of nonsense. Anyway, it's clearly a British attempt at making a Monster World-esque action platformer, andin some ways, it's a pretty good attempt. In other ways, not so much. Unfortunately, it's the important parts it messes up on.

I'll start on the positives, and specifically on the biggest positives: this is an incredible-looking game. It's got that Roger Dean-inspired airbrushed look that a lot of the higer-profile Amiga games had, and it's very effective. The world in which its set is a kind of mix of northern Europe, with a few mildly stereotypical asian influences thrown in, as well as the aforementioned prog rock album cover style. It feels like the entire game is set among the mountaintops, and the graphics do an amazing job of evoking that, to the extent that you can almost feel the fresh, cold air in your lungs, even in the stuffy humid heat of a British summer (the conditions under which I was playing this game). Another positive is that Galahad himself controls really well. Walking, jumping and attacking all feel good, and he swings his sword as fast as you push the button.

Okay, so then there's the negatives, first of which being that the combat doesn't feel very good at all. Almost every enemy takes multiple hits to kill, and most of them won't make any acknowledgement that you're hitting them: they'll just keep walking back and forth while you impotntly slash at them with your sword. Furthermore, there's other enemies with certain weak spots, that are often in positions that makes them impossible to hurt without taking damage yourself, and example being the giant bugs that appear in some of the cave segments. An even bigger crime is that the rules of combat are applied inconsistently: every few stages, there'll be a dragon. The dragons aren't bosses in the traditional sense, they aren't at the end of stages or anything, though they are unique and they do appear in places that mean they have to be defeated before you can get past them. The problem is that a single hit from a dragon will take a life from you, no matter how much health you have remaining. A dragon can just poke you with the end of its nose and you lose a life straight away. It feels unfair, and it's just a terrible design decision.

The other big negative is the stage design. I've already mentioned that some enemies are placed in positions that make taking damage inevitable, but there's other things too. Like the massive amount of leaps of faith there are: you're often asked to blindly jump into the ether, without any way of knowing what traps await, or where they are. There's also a certain kind of trap that drops a heavy object on the player, killing them instantly. The problem is that its effective hitbox is its entire sprite, so if it's already fallen and you walk into the side of it, you lose a life. Again, lots of terrible, unfair design decisions.

It's easy to see why Galahad (or rather, Leander) would have been a big deal on the Amiga, where there weren't a lot of Japanese-inspired action game, especially ones with such great production values. But on the Mega Drive, the early 90s home of arcade ports? It's got a lot of stiff competition, against which it never had a hope of standing up.

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