Thursday, 3 August 2017

Devil Zone (MSX)

Since I've recently been playing more Famicom games, I've grown a strong affection towards the single-plane beat em up, as a genre. The nice thing about the genre is that it's so simple at its base that developers only need to have one or two mechanical additions to make for an interesting and worthwhile entry. The one positive thing I can say about Devil Zone is that its developers definitely weren't short on ideas, and they were actually ahead of their time in some ways! Unfortuantely, not only are the ideas they had not particularly great, they weren't really very well executed, either.

So, as expected from the genre, you walk from left to right, kicking monsters in the head, until you reach the stage's boss. Now, I have to admit that I only had the patience to get as far as the second boss, but in my defence, this is a game that relies a lot more on luck and patience than it does skill. The main ideas that the developers added to the skeleton of the single-plane beat em up are magic items and a weapons shop. The magic items can be stored until needed, and have various different effects, like invincibility, killing all onscreen enemies, stopping time, and so on. The weapons shop itself has enough weird idiosyncracies surrounding it that it gets a paragraph all of its own.

Firstly, you can access the weapons shop at any time. Secondly, the currency you use (red stars) is, like the magic items mentioned above, randomly dropped by enemies. The third, and strangest point about the weapons shop is that there's another set of randomly dropped items that cause the prices to fluctuate when collected. There's three orbs than can appear: a green one that reduces the prices, a red one that increases them, and a blue one that returns the prices to their defaults. Such a strange idea! Anyway, the weapons are completely essential to defeating the bosses.  More specifically, the last three weapons are projectile weapons, and without one of these, you'll face extreme difficulty in fighting the bosses. The best one, oddly, is the second most expensive one, while the two cheapest weapons are melee weapons, and are so slow that they'll probably get you killed rather than help you in any way.

So, to sum things up, what Devil Zone brings to the table are two things you've seen me complain about many times before: skill/weapon shops, and an emphasis on luck over skill. Another thing that kills it for me is that if you do save up enough stars to buy a decent weapon to fight the boss with, and you die, you lose your bought weapon, and with no weapon and slim chance of building up a stock of stars to buy a new one before you get back to the boss, you've probably gotten as far as you're going to get on this run. Needless to say, Devil Zone is not a game I recommend seeking out and playing yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment