|28-01-2008, 03:35 AM||#1|
Released back in 1991, The Immortal is a game that centered around the quest of an old wizard, out to rescue his mentor, Mordamir. Through eight dungeons, you have to journey to find out what happened to him, and come face to face with trolls, orcs, giant spiders, and other unsavory creatures. As you trek to the end, friends will be made and lost, and unexpected alliances will be formed... and it all leads up to an ending that throws a final twist into the tale. The game earned itself a reputation for being graphically well done, and brutally hard with its "trial and error" gameplay. But like so many other tough games, people kept coming back to it so they could try and get past that one spot just one more time. It got a good following, and received quite a few ports when it was released. For this review, I'll be looking at three of those ports...
As you can see, the graphics for the time are quite nice, with lots of little details in nearly everything on the screen. Whether it's the characters themselves that move with a nice fluidity in eight directions, the swirling whirlpools and flickering torches on the walls, the explosion of an enemy's head, the sparks that fly off of fireballs as they hit the walls, or the debris that scatters as giant worms burst up from the floor, a lot of little touches were put into the visuals. The end result is wonderful pixel work and animation that was surely eye catching at that time.
Of special note, are the inclusions (or lack thereof) of close up battles. These come about when you meet up with a monster that you have to fight. In the Amiga version, they don't exist. You stay in the far view for seemingly the entire game. However, in the DOS and Genesis versions, you get these close ups. The characters become several times larger on a black background, and you go at it. They too look good for the time, with plenty of details in the shading, clothing and bodies. But that's not all. In the Genesis version, you get something extra... death animations. When you beat the monster or person, they're done away with in dramatic fashion. Be it lopping their head of, making their head explode, or splitting them in two length-wise, your enemies go down in style with an almost unsettling attention to visceral detail. And when you go back to the far view for exploring, you get a smaller version of the end result. The DOS and Amiga versions have the dead enemies laying where they fell in the far view as well, but the Genesis game gives it that extra touch by having what's specifically left behind, and not a simple dead body.
All in all, a graphically well made game on all fronts given the time period it arrived.
Here's where the game stumbles a little. The music isn't going to grab you and say, "LISTEN TO ME OVER AND OVER!". The Genesis version has the typical EA sound of that era... that is to say, like it was recorded while being played a bit too loud. This likely came from the compression techniques EA liked to use back then. But, it also has more music in it, and the music itself isn't too bad. It sets a mood as you play, but does little to leave a real impression on you beyond a tune or two. The Amiga version has a little less music that sounds rather different from the Genesis and DOS versions (also not too bad sounding), and the DOS version also has fewer tunes that come off sounding a bit better in spots thanks to using the SoundBlaster cards. So really, there's not much to get excited about in area of music, regardless of which version you play. There are a couple nice tunes in each version, but they're the bright spots in an otherwise "not bad, but not that memorable" soundtrack. It should be noted that if you want to DOS version to sound better for the most part, use the Roland setting for the music. Some of the songs suffer a bit in this mode, but others sound noticeably better.
The sound effects is where the Genesis takes the lead. The DOS and Amiga versions are rather quiet, with the Genesis version having the most sound effects. The slashes, grunts and groans of the characters in the close up battles, the various effects going off in the dungeons, and so on, give the Genesis version a bit more life as you journey through. If you were to play the DOS and Amiga versions afterwards, you'd notice a distinct lack of sound effects as you walk around... especially in the battles. So again, the Genesis comes out on top in an unexpected area.
The sound effects themselves are pretty good. They get the point across and fit with what's going on. Fireballs being shot, people getting hit... they do the job well enough, but don't excel at it. The Genesis version has the extra splatter effects from the added death animations, which sound appropriately juicy, and this helps to give the Genesis version another edge.
Amiga music/SE- 6/4
DOS music/SE- 6.5/4
Genesis music/SE- 6.5/6.5
This is where the game will make or break you as a fan. There is a lot of trial and error in The Immortal, and the end result is a very hard game. It's not an unfair type of hard, but rather one that came from unfamiliarity. You have to learn each level, and know where you can and can't go as you walk or hover around. Some levels have rooms that are littered with death traps, others have puzzles that must be solved, and others still have areas that you must get through before a spell wears off. On top of that, you'll find spots that have combinations of those things. As if to get the point across that you could die anywhere at any minute, the Genesis version even has a death trap in the very first room you start the game in (stand on that darker square). That's some brutality to be sure.
Another trait is that you get various spells and such to use. However, they are meant to be used in a certain area, and only there. If you use a spell like Fireball someplace other than where it's needed, you won't have it for where you really have to put it to use, and you'll either get stuck, or you'll die. This makes the game a bit more strategic, as you have to make sure where you need that particular spell, or where you need to place the rock so it becomes a gem.
As for the fighting, it's kept simple. You have a life bar, and so does your opponent. You both stand in place, and the goal is to kill him/it before they get you. To do this, you press one button/key and the directional pad to swipe to the left, right, or stab forward, and hold a different button/key to dodge left or right to avoid getting hit. Of course, they complicated it a little by adding a fatigue bar that slowly climbs as you keep swinging. The less fatigue you have, the faster your strike. So you have to balance it out, especially in the later battles where the enemies have life bars that surpass your own.
It should be noted, that the Amiga version's set up is not as good as that of the DOS and Genesis versions. Because you stay in the far view the entire time, the battles are made unnecessarily more frustrating thanks to not being able to see your enemies as well. Why the Amiga version didn't use the close up battles is a mystery, but it gave a black eye to that version.
DOS and Genesis- 8
There's really not much to say here. The controls are simple, with really only one or two buttons used (depending on the version). The arrow keys or D-pad move your guy around, and the controls themselves are pretty crisp and responsive with little to no lag.
You'd think after beating this game, you'd never want to see it again. And it's true that once you've gone through it all, you've seen basically everything there is to see. Though there is a second ending that differs ever so slightly from the main ending, there's not much of a reason to go through it a second or third time. However, despite how hard it is, the game's also not that long. Its eight levels are tough, but once you know what to do, they can be gotten through pretty quickly. So from time to time, you might find yourself playing it just for the fun of seeing everything again.
Amiga, DOS and Genesis- 4
-=In The End...=-
Over all, this is a classic. It's brutally tough, but wonderful. It takes bits of puzzle, action, fighting and RPG elements, and puts them together into a well crafted, though a bit flawed, package. Some of its shortcomings are more apparent today due to the advance of technology, but if you take it for what it was in 1991, you'll find out why it has a bit of a cult following. The Genesis version wins out, as it has the most in terms of music, sound effects and gameplay additions, while still having good, if slightly dulled, graphics. The DOS version, though it lacks some of the extras of the Genesis version, is very playable and nearly as good on all fronts (with some nicer sounding music). The Amiga version however, though it has a better and richer color palette, also has a battle setup that makes for an annoying situation when trying to fight. This puts it in last place. It's still fun during the rest of the game, but the battles hurt it.
Amiga overall- 6.5
DOS overall- 7
Genesis overall- 7.5
Anyway, feel free to share your thoughts, experiences, and disagreements, or to point out a mistake I made.
Last edited by The Coop; 06-04-2008 at 07:56 PM.
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