Friday, June 12, 2009

Genesis look: Galahad

Here we have yet another Amiga port for the Sega Genesis. Galahad is actually a slight modification of the game Leander, which is the tale of a young man's quest to rescue the maiden and kill the sorcerer. Speaking of tales this game was developed by Traveller's Tales. You may remember these guys from such monster hits as the Lego videogame franchise.

As expected the folks at Traveller's Tales have a bit of history with making traditional games. Galahad is no different as it's a platformer with fairly light action elements. Though you wield a sword and at times a special ability you'll find that much of your progress is tied to how well you can jump from tiny platform to tiny platform. The game is split into three worlds that are made up of about 6 or 7 stages apiece. Each world culminates with a big boss fight though there's plenty of larger encounters to deal with along the way. 

The hero Galahad(yeah he's not really Galahad but who cares?) has the walking and jumping under control. His sword is also quite adept though initially it's pretty weak. Thankfully in most stages there's a shop where the hero can buy new armor to take more hits, buy more powerful swords(with unique abilities), and bombs for one particular sword. While all of the swords have their uses I'm fond of the Tornado Blade because Galahad becomes this whirling deluge of sword-swings and moves a bit faster, making for more interesting jumps(though quite a bit less safe). Aside from the shop there's many goodies scattered everywhere in the form of coins, healing potions, bombs, and even 1ups(rare obviously). These can be found in out of the way places as well as the corpses of your foes. Although enemies can respawn the treasure doesn't. While the hero can take up to six hits, spiked pits and certain larger enemies can take him out instantly. Though with plentiful lives, a few continues, and even passwords for the three worlds it should be well within anyone's grasp to finish this game.

The levels in this game are rather large though for the most part they're linear. Your goal in each stage is to collect some magic artifact and take it to a teleporter(which is usually located at the other end of the level). The basic idea is that the teleporter is on one end, the artifact is on the other, and you're somewhere in the middle. It's traditional certainly but the levels are paced well enough that it rarely gets very boring. If you're a fan of Sonic games and their ilk however you'll get tired of this game rather quickly. 

The denizens of the land are about as traditional as you can imagine. Soldiers wander around trying to gut you with their spear, goblins shoot arrows or ride balloons while dropping bombs, dogs wander the streets, and so on. The game mixes it up by changing the enemy set every world and even introducing a handful of unique foes you won't find in any other stage(the protagonist from Fatal Rewind makes a cameo towards the end as an enemy!). While most of the foes don't do much aside from walking back and forth they're placed well enough and complement the level design so that you can't simply jump around without incident. 

The real threats in Galahad are the traps. Moving platforms and spikes are a given but as the player progresses they'll stumble into new ones or more difficult variations of past traps. My personal favorite is the moving platform that dips just below the spikes before coming back up. Since spikes are instant death there's plenty to fear from these things. It also doesn't help that in a couple stages the player can't make out what's below them so they could just as easily fall on a bed of spikes unless they've played the stage before and know where to jump. It's not that the spikes are badly misplaced it's just hard to determine if particular jumps are safe. These incidents are rare at least and as the game progresses the level design improves to a point where it's no longer a worry.

The mechanics for this game are rather odd. While Galahad is a deceptively thin target he's also a deceptively tall target. Using the Goblin's bombs for example I was able to determine that his hit box is one line through the center of his body since attacks that hit his hands or other protruding extremities don't count. However things that shouldn't matter like a stray arrow going through his hair(or whatever that stuff is on his helmet) counts as damage. It's not really that big of a worry but it can be an annoyance in some sections where the player has to climb up an area with falling rocks. 

The scoring system suffers a little from the inclusion of respawning enemies. If you think your Genesis could last a month or two you could just find a stationary enemy, turn on an autofire controller, and leave. So yeah if you did something like that I doubt Twin Galaxies or whoever is going to come knocking on your door. The scoring system is well-done as it gives points to a number of factors(like carrying a lot of money and not using any bombs) and it gives some reward to exploration even if the player finds a bunch of things they don't even need.

The direction of this game never changes beyond the first stage. There's no levels where Galahad rides a horse or saves a village from burning by fighting off a wave of goblins. There's no speed stages or huge mazes or huge multi-form bossfights that take ten minutes to kill. This game holds very close to its roots and never deviates. While it can get repetitive there's little in the way of actual flaws. All in all Galahad is a respectable game and it earns my recommendation.

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