Sword of Sodan (Genesis) review
"Sword of Sodan is a bad game, but that doesn't mean it has no value. It's not an unplayable, glitch-ridden mess like Dark Castle, and it's not an exercise in inanity like Budokan. The game's an ambitious spectacle of failure, full of crazy and hilarious scenarios — only a few of which I've documented here."
When sidescrolling hack-and-slash Sword of Sodan hit the Amiga in 1988, critics showered it with overwhelming praise. The game's lead designer — a fellow known as Sodan — compared its positive reception to winning an Oscar. I won't pretend that the original game still holds up well today, but its string of memorable encounters does present a unique atmosphere uncommon to games of the era. With its emphasis on telling a story through experience instead of exposition, Sword of Sodan could be considered an early example of "games as art".
The team that ported Sodan to the Amiga's console cousin, Sega's M68000-powered Genesis, displayed plenty of their own ambition. Blessed by the wisdom of hindsight, Innerprise cut some of the goofier obstacles (such as deadly dripping water), lengthened the stages, and greatly increased the number of enemies. This is aptly demonstrated in the stage called "A Passage Deep". Originally, the player fought three flying hornet beasts. Now, there are many more to contend with — and they attack from both sides, instead of just the front. This never-ending onslaught of oversized insects is a far cry from the Amiga's countable few! In the four-megabit remix, Brodan and Shardan's quest to slay the dark wizard Zoras transformed from an invasion upon a fortified village into an all-out assault against a nefarious army of doom.
Unfortunately, the Genesis game is HORRIBLE. My stout reviewing brother Dark Fact and I used to argue about everything — women, games, writing — until we both stumbled across Sword of Sodan. On this we agreed: when you cram the bloated, oversized cartridge into your virgin Genesis and turn on the power, it's too late; you've fallen into the developers' diabolical trap and sullied your system forever! However, unlike the majority of forgettable clunkers, Sodan's misguided ambition makes for a hilarious romp full of fond memories.
Before invading the Castle Craggamoor, you'll need to select either the studly male warrior or the sexy female warrior. Internet lore speaks of the female's physical advantages, which is surprising for a game born during the male-dominated decade of Swords & Sorcery. I asked HonestGamers legend Lilica for her thoughts on this:
|The female's physical prowess is an arbitrary reversal that fails to further
female representation in gaming. Even the staunchest opponents of gender
discrimination in entertainment would admit that Conan was stronger than Red
Sonja. A superior method of differentiation would have been to grant the female
swifter speed or alchemic skill. Such advantages would accentuate females' heightened
dexterity and intelligence . . . reducing the male's attack power only makes him appear weak
and sexually undesirable. I doubt any gamer, male or female, would be attracted to such a character. The value of
such a design decision is spurious when viewed from either a marketing or moral perspective. Nonetheless, I applaud the developer's desire to
tread dangerous ground in an unfriendly arena. The evolution of dissolution in stereotyping is not a road without its potholes . . .
Staff review by Zigfried (Date unavailable)
Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.
If you enjoyed this Sword of Sodan review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!