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Blackthorne (Sega 32X) artwork

Blackthorne (Sega 32X) review

"It doesn't take much for a great game to be overlooked. Lack of marketing, release window too late in a console's life... just one snafu can make an excellent and potentially successful game disappear from gamers' minds. "

It doesn't take much for a great game to be overlooked. Lack of marketing, release window too late in a console's life... just one snafu can make an excellent and potentially successful game disappear from gamers' minds.

Blackthorne had several things working against it. That it was a 32X game virtually assured no one would really play it. It was also a port of an SNES game that received very little attention, and less praise than it deserved then as well. The marketing for 32X games was pretty puny, and even lesser so for 3rd party 32X games. Blackthorne never triumphed over these hurdles and thus was swallowed into the abyss that claimed other classics such as Comix Zone and Burning Rangers.

The Game

You're Prince Kyle Blackthorne, heir to the throne of a kingdom overrun by an evil, mutated version of your own people. These jerks have run out of their own resources after branching from Blackthorne's more benevolent clan, and they've taken up residence in your land, enslaving your people and looking pretty damned ugly too. You've been raised on Earth to be an ass kicker, and now that you're old enough, it's time to head back home to destroy the menace and free your people.

Blackthorne is a side-scrolling action-fest of the highest degree. It delivers a shotgun shooting great time with a decidedly Terminator style pace. Ever play Flashback? The game moves similarly; it works in steps. This means that Kyle can only occupy a series of positions across each screen; take a step forward, and he'll move ahead about three feet. Another step, move forward another three, but you cannot move less than that three feet. All motions in the game work like this, in variables of that three, from jumping to running. This gives the game an almost strategic element with its positioning, and solidifies the pace the developers worked hard to achieve.

You carry a shotgun, limitless in bullets, and can unload it without repercussion on anyone, friend or foe. You must push a button to pull your shotgun out, and must push that button again to holster it should you want to jump. This also adds to the Terminator-like pace; while it may seem cumbersome at first, it is part of the game's quality when you've played it for an hour. It makes it seem like it is really important that he is drawing or holstering his gun. Kyle Blackthorne is not Sonic the Hedgehog; he's Arnie Schwarzenegger and Ron Jeremy rolled into one.

The game plays out through a good number of levels, and some good level concepts, although you'll find yourself backtracking a little more than the comfort zone allows. This is balanced by the excellent layouts of enemies; every time you enter a screen full of the ghastly creatures, you'll find that there is a successful way through them and an unsuccessful way. It's not hard to find the proper killing path, but it does make you stop and think and is definitely a refreshing design concept.

As mentioned earlier, you can shoot your own people. As far as I can see, there is no penalty for this, as the explanation was ''mercy killing'' last I checked. Often you'll find one of your race sitting there in chains, just WAITING to catch some crossfire from you or a mutant. If you forget to take the slave out first, you could catch him when trying to shoot the captor, and end up taking a shot because of this oversight. Luckily, you can duck into the shadows, where you are not vulnerable to enemy fire. Several of the enemies can do this as well, so firefights usually turn into a ducking/timing duel reminiscent of action movies or a game like Time Crisis.

Whenever you pass a ''level,'' you're given a password and your inventory menu is wiped out. While this seems unfair at first, it's not; all the supplies you need to complete each area are found within the area, and assures you'll be able to complete the game from any point without having to backtrack 4 levels to find some bomb. This password system is great, as it allowed the developers to design the levels more as a series of trials than just areas until the final boss.

The Delivery

The SNES version was pretty sharp, but the 32X version hosts several improvements, major and minor. Prince Blackthorne looks significantly better; he has a much better resolution, and looks more realistic. The levels received touch-ups more than drastic revamps; the water looks a little better, the screens you run across are higher res and the colors are sharper. It's a good looking game, but there is no parallax, nor any other effects we all love of our 2D games. Since the game just swaps screens whenever you run to either end, there could really not be parallax, but it would have been nice to see a little something extra from the 32X version, with its excellent rotation/scaling abilities. Still, the overall look is very smooth and attractive.

The sound is barren, however. While it is a pretty good track, there is only ONE background song that plays continuously throughout the game. It doesn't become annoying, and eventually you don't even hear it, but it's obvious the programmers had no one on the team interested in making music. Some sound effects, when applicable, scatter throughout the soundscape, but some of these could have been captured better. The shotgun sounds, although not bad, a little more like a rocket taking off than a shotgun. Again, these guys built a great playing game, not a great sounding game. Aurally, this game finds the holes in its cheese. Luckily, it doesn't hamper the game at all.

The Truth

Everyone hates it when one of their beloved games gets no respect, but Blackthorne never had a chance. It's a hell of a game, and could have been the start of a damned fine franchise. Blizzard (developers) moved on to other pastures, and struck gold with some game called Diablo, and some other game called Starcraft. Needless to say, Blackthorne is now a memory to them, left to be hollered about by people like me with nothing better to do.

Get a 32X. Get Blackthorne.

ethereal's avatar
Community review by ethereal (March 14, 2004)

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