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Sword of Vermilion (Genesis) artwork

Sword of Vermilion (Genesis) review

"Sword Of Vermilion is a rarity. Not because it flawlessly combines a sleek RPG style with an action-adventure scheme and not because it was nearly as massive a task as Phantasy Star II but because this monster of an RPG never quite got the recognition it deserved. Matter of fact, I don’t remember it getting any. Much like Shining Force, Lunar and Last Battle—all of which I’m a huge fan of—Sword of Vermilion stumbled into my collection by a chance encounter and a brief “back-box” reading. Though ..."

Sword Of Vermilion is a rarity. Not because it flawlessly combines a sleek RPG style with an action-adventure scheme and not because it was nearly as massive a task as Phantasy Star II but because this monster of an RPG never quite got the recognition it deserved. Matter of fact, I don’t remember it getting any. Much like Shining Force, Lunar and Last Battle—all of which I’m a huge fan of—Sword of Vermilion stumbled into my collection by a chance encounter and a brief “back-box” reading. Though the back of the box—as well as any review—never really did this marvel justice, so I’m going to.

If this game had ever reached legendary status, it may be in part to the graphics. On the world map they are a bit simple. Your screen is split into three smaller components. One is an overview of the land you’re traveling, the other is a first-person view of you traipsing around and the third is a dialogue box. All of these are a little choppy and need to be tightened up, but part of Sword of Vermilion’s glory is when you enter one of two battles. The first is a random encounter and much like Shining The Holy Ark, the enemy appears in front of you and you are then drawn into a fight. Your character—as well as the enemies—in these battles takes a step or two up in the graphics department. They become cleaner, more defined and more balanced. The second battle goes even beyond the first, pushing the detail even further and portraying the enemies as even more decayed and gruesome; your knight more valiant and stern.

Oh, so you want to know about the battles? As I said, there are two kinds: One is a random encounter the other is a special boss fight that you only get at certain times. The first one places you in a top view looking down on your knight and your enemy. These are completely random in every sense; sometimes you may find yourself fighting one slime or one kobold, other times you’re surrounded. The premise is simple: Pressing C slashes your sword; if you’re close enough to your enemy they fall down…eventually. It sounds easy enough, but when you’ve got countless slimes working their way towards the middle—which is you—it’s going to take a bit of strategy. This game takes on the action-adventure style I spoke of by pitting you in a free-roam, non-turn based battle. You have to move, hack and dodge if you want to stay alive. By moving to either side of the screen and out of the frame you can even run away, but you may have to do a little work to get there. The second battle is a simpler, but a lot harder. This one takes place in a side-scroll and there is always only one enemy—the boss. Back and forth is your only option of movement now, but don’t think a tiny range is going to be any easier. The enemies will swing at you and even spit fire to try and stop you. You must advance, however, and time your movement appropriately. This view gives you a little more range with your blade as you swing upward in a pretty decent arc, but you are still going to have to get close enough to hit them. There’s no running from these battles either, so if you want to pursue the story even further make sure the bad guy doesn’t get up.

Now you want to know about the story? Fine. It’s huge. I can’t put it any simpler; this game is a mass of countless adventures shoved into a tiny little cartridge. There is an underlying theme here, as you are a knight and—unbeknownst to you—the prince of a long since decayed kingdom. The kingdom’s bravest knight, Blade, raised you; though he has taken on more humble origins. Blade was asked by the king himself to take his only son—you—and leave the destroyed city. His only parting gift for you was the ring of wisdom, which you have carried for 18 years. Leading you to the day where the story takes off, Blade recalling all events to you and giving you the task of gathering the other rings so that you may finally put an end to Tsarkon—the evil king who dooms the land and left your home in a wreckage so many years ago. The story isn’t that big of a deal; rings, evil king with a weird name all sounds familiar to me. It doesn’t really take off until you find yourself on the actual adventure. Each town has a different Monarch with a varied personality as well as some sort of plague. Sometimes you find yourself trying to cure the entire town of an “old-age syndrome” other times a very cute but very devious little girl has framed you for a crime. Every new village leads to something different, and it’s fair to say this game is abundant in the adventure department; making for an incredible fun factor.

Is this game fun? Of course it is. While pushing through a first-person perspective and drudging through huge caverns can get a bit redundant, the games adventure lies in not knowing what comes next. Everything in the first person view appears in front of you, and you don’t know until the last step if you’re walking into a dead end or a well-hidden treasure chest. Even the enemies and villagers only show up when you’re—said in the cleanest way possible—right on top of them. The RPG style itself adds a wealth of entertainment if you don’t mind reading the dialogue. Nothing is laid out for you, so that means you have to talk to every single person to gather information, certain items and even maps to new areas. The maps are a huge help, as you can’t see too far around yourself without them. Don’t be afraid to chat it up, even if you can’t hear it.

You will hear a few things though as the sound is fair in this game. Every time you stumble onto a new enemy a short little musical blurb plays to inform you of such. And when in the battle, the music comes across as simple but well placed. Following suit with the graphics, the sound is stepped up in the boss battles, generating an intensity and gloom all with a few notes. Even the simple things are worth recognition: Your sword swings with volume and the hacking sound is unforgettable after so many years.

So I have two opinions as to why Sword of Vermilion did so poorly: Bad advertising or a bad system. I’m leaning more towards the first, as Sword of Vermillion isn’t the first quiet Goliath Genesis had and it sure as hell wasn’t the last. It’s still a classic in its own right though. A massive adventure with a long, rich story and polished, mesmerizing graphics that only evolve the further the game goes. Few games may be worthy of the time taken to drag the old system out, plug it in and go one more round; Sword of Vermilion is one. If you have it, hold onto it. If you find it, take it and if you fall in love with a next generation action/RPG give props to the games like Sword of Vermilion that helped pave the way quietly, but memorably.

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Community review by True (August 16, 2005)

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