Thursday, 4 June 2020

Geograph Seal (X68000)

To be honest, I should really have written about this game years and years ago, and it barely even counts as obscure anymore: along with Cho Ren Sha 68k, this is easily one of the best-known X68000 games, and since Cho Ren Sha has a Windows port, it's definitely the best-known X68000 exclusive. Of course, for a lot of people, just being an X68000 exclusive alone is enough to be considered obscure, so let's just get on with it, eh?

Now, the most obvious thing to say about this game is that it's by the developers of the much-loved Playstation series Jumping Flash, and it acts very much as a genetic forebear to those games, too. It's got similar weapons, the same super-high triple jump, even some of the same fonts are used in its GUI. While those more famous games focussed heavily on the dizzying heights available to the new world of 3D platforming, Geograph Seal is more of a straight first person shooter, where you also happen to have the ability to jump really high. This makes sense, though, as the short draw distance (yes, even shorter than Jumping Flash!) means that any platforming would have been unfair and confusing.

Draw distance aside, it's an incredible-looking game. Seeing it in motion, it's hard to believe it's running on a 16-bit machine from the eighties. Pretty much everything is a 3D model, when they could just as easily have used sprites for the enemies and items, it all moves a lot more smoothly than its console contemporaries like Starwing or Virtua Racing, and even though none of the models are textured, the background is, and even that small thing adds a lot to how the game looks. I remember when I first played this, back on my first PC, on a much earlier version of the emulator xm6, and the backgound images were plain black, and the models weren't even filled in, so it was wireframe on a black background, with no GUI. Even then, it looked pretty good, but now that we can see the game in its full glory, it's on the level of some of the 3D arcade games Namco were putting out in the early nineties, like Cyber Sled and Starblade.

Geograph Seal isn't just a game that was ahead of its time technologically: it's clear that the devs at Exact had a clear view of the direction in which action games were going to go over the following few years, and they were right. I don't know what the reaction to it was on release, but I can only assume that people must have been blown away by a fast, exciting, full 3D game of this quality. It's definitely a game you could have looked at in 1994, and said "this is the future".

I don't really think there's much more for me to say about this game. Yes, you should definitely play it if you haven't already. It's excellent.

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