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SORCERIAN / Sierra / PC
In the late 1980s-early 1990s, Sierra partnered up with Game Arts of Japan to publish five of their games in America. Of the five, Sorcerian is in competition with Thexder for being the worst. It actually has some very interesting ideas and a great soundtrack, but the gameplay execution is all kinds of horrid.
First of all, this is an entry in a long-running series called 'Dragon Slayer' in Japan. Only a small handful of these made it to the U.S. in one form or another, and usually with some random new name for extra confusion. Basically, there's very little plot to the game at all, it's similar to AD&D games of the period in that you can create a large roster of characters, then take four of them out at a time into pre-fab "scenarios" (just large dungeons, basically).
There's a pretty limited set of character classes - Fighter, Wizard, Dwarf or Elf (they just mix races and classes up haphazardly ... all they do is determine your starting statistics and character portrait anyway.) From there, you choose an occupation for your character, and this gets kinda complicated - there's like 40 or so, you have to have certain stats or be a certain character type to access certain ones, and they all either add to or subtract from your stats while paying different amounts of money for each 'year' of game time passed (you can automatically skip ahead one year at any time). I think the original game came with a big chart showing what did what, but if you get the game now you'll probably have to look up a FAQ on the interbutts first, as it is easy to trash a character accidentally while just fooling around and picking jobs that sound cool.
Also, for each 'year' of game time you can have a character train in a skill simultaneously while working their job. This ranges from just improving weapon or magic skills, to learning how to detect traps and mix herbal potions. This is another area where things get complicated as there are stat requirements for most everything that you need to look up before committing a character to anything, as it's easy to screw someone up and waste a lot of time when you don't know the nuances of the system.
Once you finally have four decent characters percolated up, and have earned enough money to get them a weapon, armor and shield, you are allowed out into the "adventure" mode. This is where the game pretty much falls apart. The gameplay is sort of a side-scrolling action game in the style of Zelda 2, except much stiffer, and with much tinier sprites with very little animation. All four characters move together in a train, and execute your commands simultaneously, which makes things tough enough by itself, as in order to get your rear characters facing the right way to attack or shoot spells you have to do a whole lot of needless shuffling about while enemies are charging you en masse. But it's also one of those games where there is no extended attack animation, the characters just kind of flail their weapons in the midst of their sprites, and the spells usually just fly forward stiffly and slowly with no real way to control them. Plus the collision detection is janky and oldschool, with the monsters simply charging right into you and hanging about on top of you to do damage to you, and no way to rebuff them whatsoever.
The game has some neat features - the dungeons are large and have some puzzles to them, characters age and sometimes die randomly when they get old (at which point they create an offspring with their spells and items and stuff, but back to the beginning in terms of EXP), and the various micro-systems of the game are fairly complex, such as mixing magic spells to create spells with multiple effects, or spells that can be embedded in weapons and armor.
Ultimately none of these good points really matter though, because the incredibly clunky and stiff gameplay is such a turn-off that it's not even worth sticking around to see them in play. Check out the music if you like 80s-90s Japanese game rock, but the game itself can safely be skipped with no worries.
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