Review by skunknuts
Fans of old school RPG goodness won't be let down...much
MIGHT & MAGIC for Sega Genesis
The Land of Cron is experiencing tumultuous times, and things are only threatening to get worse. It's up to you, the player, to create a party of up to six characters and set out to right the wrongs. The story will scarcely make itself known as you play though the game, and it's quite possible to become completely and hopelessly sidetracked. The game will simply loose your warband upon Cron with little or no direction - the world is yours to discover. There is a minimal plot out there, but you're more likely to find it through random exploration than from in-game hints. This would certainly intimidate some, but for others, this is what it's all about - the meat and potatoes. There are no boundaries, save the weaknesses of your characters. You can easily stumble into a band of foes who far outclass you if you stray too far from the road. Trial and error is sometimes necessary. Sound interesting? If not, go read a review for Dance Dance Revolution. If yes, then read on, and find out how the nuts and bolts come together.
Graphics - 6
The visuals are underwhelming, considering what other RPGs of the time had to offer. Everything is experienced in the first person, and although there are a variety of environments to explore, there are only a mere handful of textures used (although most are nicely drawn). The party is only able to see a few steps in front of themselves, and areas of interest are not even apparent until you "pop" into the tile in question (there are no forward, backward, or turning animations - you simply "pop" from square to square of the game's map, which can be disorienting). There are a nice variety of enemy sprites, and each is slightly animated, but the further you push into the game, the more you'll notice that they are recycled quite a bit. That orc you're getting ready to skewer looks suspiciously like the boar warrior you dispatched a few hours ago. You'll also notice as you proceed to skewer that orc that the combat itself is in no way animated, nor are there any visible spell effects. Visual immersion was not the developer's intent here. I would guess that much more could have been included graphically, but possibly at the expense of the game's grand scope. Most of the game's more interesting bits don't even appear in pixelated glory - they are described in text. Although this may be a major turnoff to somebody who's used to feeding on a steady diet of eye candy, I found this to be quite refreshing. The player must use their mind's eye to see. Those who grew up playing table-top pen and paper RPGs should appreciate this, as all of the text is clever and well-written, and it rarely fails to spark the imagination.
Music & Sound - 7
Might & Magic's music has a rather unique quality to it. Although sometimes tinny and repetitive, each song has a distinctly human touch to it. Each piece sounds as if it's being performed, instead of having been programmed it into a computer, note by note. Most tunes have a nice little flourish here and there, and each fits its respective situation well. Some of the melodies are humm-able, but I think we can all agree - the battle music is obnoxious. The sound effects are almost an afterthought. There is the "duf duf duf" as you move about though the map, the "RRRRR!!" if you bump into a wall, and the "WAaAaAagh" as you teleport, but n'erry will you hear the clash of swords, the creak of a dungeon door, or the slurp of your barbarian finishing a bowl of "Soup de Ghoul".
Playability - 7
Once the game has begun, it is easy enough to navigate about and discover your surroundings, although you'll find it's rather easy to become turned around. Thankfully, an auto-mapping function becomes available early in the game (you must earn it), but every square must be stepped on to completely fill out the map for each area. With the exception of using the direction pad to move, all of the action takes place in menus. No matter if you're fighting, picking the lock on a treasure chest, or paying to have your dead gnome resurrected, you'll handle it all in a similar fashion. Navigating these menus is generally simple, but the character screens can get a bit messy. Beginners may find the manual useful, but after several hours with the game it'll be second nature. You might redden your thumbs with the multitude of button presses needed, but you'll know what you're doing. Battles will also require much button pushing, and are turn based in nature. Combat is interesting at first, but after your characters gain some power, fights usually turn into menu navigating routines. There are opportunities for slightly altered strategies depending on whether your party is indoors or outdoors (some spells and magic effects are sensitive to the party's location), but generally you just pick the best attack and execute, no matter who or what you're battling. Should the battle turn out in your enemy's favor, you'll die and be whisked back to the inn, which serves as the games only save function. You'll also be whisked back to the last time you stayed at that inn, losing any treasure and experience you've accumulated since then. There is no "save anytime" feature, so frequent trips to the inn are a sound idea.
Might & Magic: Gates to Another World is a game for a niche crowd. It has an almost total lack of a guiding storyline, the graphics are mediocre (the varied enemy sprites are the highlight), and the game has an overall "clunky" feel to it. Despite these aspects, the patient and imaginative gamer will be rewarded. There is a wide world to explore out there, and the above-average descriptive text will truly give the feeling that there is more there than meets the eye.
Overall - 7 out of 10
By the way, if you can get the original packaging with the cartridge, I highly recommend it. The game was packed with a 170 pg. manual that is well worth some extra coin.
It features color art, full lists for spells, equipment, and enemies, and has maps and descriptions for every area in the game. Very useful.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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