Saturday, 4 August 2018

Strahl (3DO)

There's a lot of FMV games on the 3DO, but as far as I can tell, most of them are of the later, more complex variety that have you switching between multiple cameras and setting traps, and so on. In fact, I think Strahl might be the only old school Dragon's Lair-style game on the system (if I'm wrong on this, please let me know, of course). If anyone reading this somehow doesn't know how these games work, you watch a nice-looking cartoon, and "control" the action through a series of what would later become known as QTEs.

There's not much out of the ordinary in Strahl, mechanically speaking: It uses the four directions of the D-pad, as well as the A button when some crossed swords on the screen, and unusually, when a line of dots appears onscreen, you're expected to quickly tap the B button until they're all gone. The other big difference between Strahl and other games in the genre is that you get to choose the order in which you play the stages, so even hopelessly inept players can see a decent amount of different animation. (At the start of the game, you get 3 stages to pick from. After completing one of them, this opens up to six stages, and after them, there's a final seventh stage.)

There is actually a third difference between Strahl and its genremates: it's by far the easiest of these games I've ever played. The button prompts are actually pretty sparesly placed, and there's sometimes long stretches of onscreen action where you're not asked for any input at all. Furthermore, they're very forgiving, too: not only do you get a generous amount of time to press the button, but you're also not penalised for mispressing, as long as you do make the correct input before the prompt disappears. As a result of this, I finished the game on my first attempt, without continuing.

Strahl is only about twenty minutes long, but it's a nice twenty minutes. It looks and feels like the kind of 1980s OAV that would have been dubbed and released in the west as a kids' video on the cheap, no matter how inappropriate that decision would have been, like Birth, or that bizarre Marvel Dracula anime. I say it's worth a play if the sound of that appeals to you. One last note: I've read up a little bit on this game's history, and it was apparently originally made for arcades in 1985, but went unreleased until the 1990s, when it got ported to the Laseractive, the Saturn, and the 3DO, and apparently, all three versions play slightly differently (though I have no idea how).

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