Friday, 4 January 2019

Sword of Sodan (Mega Drive)

This is a game whose title I'd always seen in lists of Mega Drive games and never bothered to take any notice of, assuming it was some boring, ugly western-developed RPG or something. Then I learned that in 1995, the final issue of Beep! Mega Drive magazine had it listed as the lowest rank Mega Drive game of all time, by Japanese Mega Drive owners. The fact that a western-developed game had gone pretty much entirely unnoticed in the west, while enjoying such notoriety in Japan got my interest, so I investigated. Turns out it's not an RPG at all, but an ugly, boring single plane beat em up!

You start out picking from a nameless hero or heroine, and then you set out to awkwardly shuffle forwards, swinging your sword at everyone that crosses you path. The game was apparently originally released on the Amiga, though since it uses all three buttons on the Mega Drive pad, plus the start button, it must have been even worse on a system whose controllers had one or maybe two buttons available at best. Anyway, the C button attacks (and you also have to press it in conjunction with the d-pad if you want to change the direction you're facing), B does a little jump that's totally pointless until a few stages in, when you can use it to try and jump over the massive, invisible instant death pits, and the A button drinks potions.

The potions are probably the most interesting thing about Sword of Sodan. There's four different potions to collect, and you can carry up to four at a time. The twist is that when the game is paused, you can pick two of the potions in your inventory to mix together for various different effects, from extra lives, to flaming attacks, to pointless self-poisoning. Otherwise, though, you mostly just shuffle along, hacking at enemies, and hoping you don't get torn apart by the traps in the stages, which are near-impossible to dodge with your incredibly unathletic warriors. Another little point of interest is that some enemies do require a little extra technique to kill, for example, the giants that start to appear at the end of the third stage: press C and up to slash their faces until they take a knee, then you have to stand at he exact right distance to them, and press C and up a couple more times to behead them.

I don't think Sword of Sodan is the worst Mega Drive game of all time, but it is a very bad game, and it's not one you should waste any time playing. It's not really a surprise, but that's how it is sometimes.

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