Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Shadow of the Beast (Amiga)

As requested/suggested, I'm finally playing Shadow of the Beast. Or just 'Beast' according to the title screen.

This seems to have been released for almost every game system at the time, (except for the SNES and PC surprisingly). But I'll be playing the original Amiga version, seeing as it was an important game for the machine.

I love the classic Psygnosis logo (I definitely like it more than their current SCE Studio Liverpool logo). It's shiny and stylish and has an extra floating owl head for no reason. In fact it looks a lot like it could have been designed by fantasy artist Roger Dean, mostly because it was.

I was surprised to find that Psygnosis only published this game, with the actual development done by Driver/Stuntman/Brian the Lion creators Reflections. It still got the standard issue Roger Dean cover art though, as is Psygnosis tradition.

The intro doesn't really explain anything about who I'm playing as or what I'm aiming to do, I guess that info is safely locked away inside the manual (or on the back of the box). Though it does point out that to the east is a vast empty plain, and over in the west is a thick forest where a thousand pairs of despondent eyes gaze out of the mist.

I dunno, west sounds like a laugh and everything, but I'm leaning towards heading east.

Hey that ain't so bad looking for 1989, the art seems almost airbrushed. There's a lot of parallax scrolling going on, with an endless line of broken fences speeding across the foreground whenever the screen moves to add depth, and it's all very slick. I can see why this was used to showcase what Amigas were capable of in computer shops. Well okay the animation on the hero sprite isn't the best I've seen, but it works. Nice music too, very atmospheric.

It seems I really can walk off in either direction, so I'll head east to the plain.

Damn, I've already got another difficult choice to make. Do I keep walking on by, or give in to temptation and obey that alluring red text.

I couldn't resist. I gotta know what's down there.


EVENTUALLY...


Well that was a total waste of time. And now I gotta climb all the way back up again.

I feel like it should be playing the MGS: Snake Eater theme music in the background.


LATER.


Well that's more interesting. These balls have started circling around me and I have to punch a hole to get through, while spikes randomly shoot up through the ground. Wait, did I just say 'interesting'? I meant 'annoying'.

It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't such a pain in the ass to get my guy standing in exactly the right place for his punches to connect without getting balls in the face. I've got 5 hit points left though, I can handle it.


ONE SHORT JOURNEY ACROSS THE PLAINS OF THE EAST LATER.


Okay that's too much for me to handle now. I keep trying to dodge the enemies coming up behind me because turning around and punching is just a little too slow, but that never works.

I actually managed to avoid getting killed by any of the enemies here, dodged the falling bomb, and then got caught by the last few frames of the explosion because I thought it was safe to start walking over.

And that's it, no saves, no checkpoint, no lives, no continues. I have to start a new game and sit through all the loading again.

Oh well, I was probably going the wrong way anyway. I'll try heading left instead next time.


SOON, DEEP WITHIN THE THICK MISTY FORESTS OF THE WEST.


The path through the forest wasn't so bad, though I lost a few hit points to diving bats and some mysterious bouncing boulders that tried to sneak up on me. And I think I lost an extra hit point stepping on a drawing pin or something.

I decided to obey the red text again and go inside. I just hope this treehouse works out better than the well did.

I don't believe it... the handrail on those stairs just shot a fireball at me. So far I can't say I'm 100% satisfied with my decision to come in here.

And then I lost most of my health falling off a ledge into this maze of ladders.

It reminds me of when I was stuck in the caves in Prince of Persia 2, feeling miserable and quickly losing interest. It's demoralising because for all I know I'm heading straight towards a dead end, or I've walked past a switch I needed to flick, or maybe I'm just walking around in circles. Wherever I go it all looks the same to me.

At least there's no enemies around right now.

Well I found the enemies. At least now I know I was probably going the right way. Not that I'll ever remember which way that was.

It seems I have to step right up into these guy's faces before I'm close enough for my punch to connect. And that extra step gave them all the time they needed to slide a knife into my poor dude's ribcage.



SOME LOADING LATER.


What the fuck... THAT'S the trap I stepped on the first time around? What the hell were they thinking?

There is no possible way any player could have seen that, and even if they had they couldn't have known it was going to snap closed and steal one of their 12 precious hit points. Especially when they're focused on being ready to hit the 'punch' button the instant another bat flies onto the screen.

This time I decided to see what would happen if I walked right past the door in the tree and carried on through the forest. And of course the answer is... that I get sucked into the ground without warning and lose. GAME OVER.

I even tried coming back and jumping over the part that killed me, but the tree is an impassible barrier. Which means that they already have a reasonably sensible means of stopping me wandering off. So they pretty much just instakilled me there for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON.

Back to the loading screen then, yay!


LATER, DEEP IN THE TREEHOLE.


Look at that, I'm still not close enough to kill this guy. These things seem to spawn infinitely, and I have to slowly push forward through them down the corridor, making progress a few steps at a time. Walk, duck, punch, walk, duck, punch, walk...

Hey it's a suspicious fizzy blue potion, sitting in the bottom of a cave. If video games have taught me anything, it's to drink unmarked bottles of liquid immediately. Though now that I think about it, Prince of Persia taught me that blue potions are poisonous....

Fortunately this one turned out to be the best potion ever, giving me back full health! And then just as I thought I was making progress, I realised I was in a dead end and I had to turn back. Drat.

Hey, I found a key! And now I guess I have to 'FIND the door it opens'. That's a really helpful message, thanks for that. Also, this is another dead end.


SOON.


BOSS FIGHT!

Actually wasn't much of a fight. He sat perfectly motionless and occasionally breathed fire, while I jumped up and down trying to find a weak spot to hit. No luck though.

Back to the start again then. Of the entire game.

BOSS FIGHT 2!

I couldn't kill the first guy, but I stole his ball to give myself hadouken power! I had no idea this game was going to start turning into Metroid. Now that I don't have to get in the exact right position to hit anything down here the game doesn't seem so bad any more.

Those bastards took my hadouken away after the boss fight! Now I'm stuck with punching again.

Though to be fair after a few runs of these caves I've started to get the timing down. Now my main problem is with turning around in time to punch the enemies coming up behind me.

Bouncing eyeballs? Why not!

This game really does feel like an 8-bit game with 16-bit graphics sometimes. It's like some ZX Spectrum or C64 game that got a really nice looking port. It seems that they've tried to make interesting patterns of enemies rather than making them individually any fun to deal with.

Awesome, I found another key! Wait... shit, I forgot to pick up the first key this time around. Why do I get the feeling that I've just lost?

It's things like this that really kill the game for me. I don't want to worry that perhaps I've failed just because I walked past a key or a switch in some dead end side passage I never knew about. Perhaps it's possible to backtrack and get that other key, but it's not like Metroid, I can't grab health from enemies along the way.

Sadly I never even got a chance to use the first key. I was ducking to hide under this worm's fireballs, when a blue demon dropped out of the ceiling and landed on me.

Well, I'm finally done with this game then. Oh right, yeah I should probably check to see what the other versions are like.

ZX Spectrum
The Speccy version seems like a solid port actually. Sure it's got bright purple backgrounds and will burn away your eyesight, but it's also got the parallax scrolling and giant bosses, and it stays very close to the original's gameplay. Also it has a border of snakes for absolutely no reason.

Amstrad CPC
The Amstrad CPC version keeps the snakes, but seems to take more liberties with the gameplay and enemies. Recommended for fans of bouncing eyeballs. All the damn time.

Commodore C64
The C64 version also looks pretty impressive. In motion. It seems that everyone porting Shadow of the Beast realised that the graphics were the selling point for this one, and went out of their way to show off what their game systems could do.

Commodore 64
For instance, on the first level they've pulled off multiple scrolling layers despite... huh, Pysgnosis? Something don't look quite right there.

Atari ST
Apparently Shadow of the Beast leans heavily on the Amiga's particular strengths, so despite having a similar spec, the poor Atari ST just can't do the music or visuals justice. It's basically the exact same game otherwise though as far as I can tell.

Damn, how many ports did this game get?

Genesis
The Sega Genesis version is slick enough, and they've added a score! But to be honest I think I liked the original art better.

Mega Drive
Weirdly the game was redrawn for the Japanese release, with more definition on the trees, more lines on the blimp, and a brand new sprite for the hero with better animation.

FM Towns
The FM Towns version has brand new art, slicker animation and a fantastic CD soundtrack. Plus it reveals at the start that our monstrous purple protagonist used to be human. So there's something else to have not been explained.

Atari Lynx
The Lynx version looks ridiculously good for a handheld game made in 1992. They've even added continues, and moving platforms, and swinging from ropes, and... stuff. They've made an effort to change things around to presumably fix the gameplay, but I'm not sure it works any better as a game.

Master System
The Sega Master System version also has extra lives, but unlike the Lynx version it looks like ass. Plus they liked that near invisible trap in the original game so much that they added more of them. And took away the trees.

It even uses 'up' to jump because they've used the other button to bring up a totally useless inventory screen. And if you should use an inventory item in the wrong place then sorry mate but that item is GONE FOREVER. I accidentally used up a key that I needed, and not even dying brought the thing back.

PC Engine CD
And finally the PC Engine CD version. The graphics aren't the best looking, but it's got the better animated version of the hero sprite, and the CD music from the FM Towns version, and extra lives like the Lynx version and... damn, I think I'm actually liking this one. It's still mostly true to the original, but he seems to punch a little further, turn a little faster, and I'm getting my ass kicked far less. Plus the loading times are way more bearable.

In fact I'm almost tempted to put it on and play it some more.

4 comments:

  1. someone once said that using savestate in this one is not cheating! I must agree kkkk
    I wonder if someone finished this game without saves & other tricks......

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Someone probably had it beat during the first week after release, people are awesome.

      No matter how ridiculously challenging or absurdly unfair a game is, there will be always a person out there capable of beating it, speedrunning it, writing up a full walkthrough, and then whining online about it being far too easy, and that no one makes difficult games anymore.

      Delete
    2. I finished the game a long, long time ago. The Amstrad CPC version.

      You should note that then, without Internet and cheap Steam games, you had fewer titles available to play. So, the ones you get, you played for hours and hours, until..., well, you finished the game or the game finished you. Of course, today I have not the patience to try again.

      Shadow of the Beast was pretty for its time. But also very hard and sometimes infuriating. Trial-and-error gameplay without lives or continues, so much fun...

      PD: These captchas are nearly as hard ;).

      Delete
  2. Yeah......
    When you are proud after beating a game on hard mode, a crazy guy apears with a "no power ups challenge on very hard" :O
    I do not know if it is motivating or discouraging XD

    ReplyDelete

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