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Phelios (Genesis) artwork

Phelios (Genesis) review

"Artemis looks and acts much like your standard damsel in distress with her long blond hair and scant clothing barely covering her SWEET rack as she begs for Apollo to remember their time together and come save her. Well, while that was all I needed to see before leaping into action, according to the actual legends, Artemis was more of a butt-kicking tomboy type who likely was a role model for young Greek lesbians."

As someone who’s loved Greek mythology for most of his life, I’ve always wondered why so few games have focused on its characters. I mean, I can’t turn around without getting whacked over the head with a handful of games detailing China’s Han Dynasty/Three Kingdoms period, but (with a notable exception or two) I really have to search to find Hercules, Zeus or Achilles in a game.

And then I played Phelios -- a Genesis port of an arcade shooter that made me happy there are so few games based on the Greek legends. It’s not that this is a notoriously horrible game, like Athena, for example, but is it too much to ask that designers actually have some knowledge of the characters they use?

Phelios tells the story of Apollo (sun god) as he endeavors to save Artemis (goddess of hunting) from the clutches of the demonic Typhon. Artemis looks and acts much like your standard damsel in distress with her long blond hair and scant clothing barely covering her SWEET rack as she begs for Apollo to remember their time together and come save her. Well, while that was all I needed to see before leaping into action, according to the actual legends, Artemis was more of a butt-kicking tomboy type who likely was a role model for young Greek lesbians. Oh, and she was Apollo’s SISTER....not romantic interest! Come on now! Did anyone involved with this game actually know anything about Greek mythology -- or did they just think the names sounded cool?

Anyway, I had to put all of that out of my head. Obviously, I’d wind up looking pretty stupid if I spent hundreds of words ranting and raving about mythological inaccuracies only to wind up proclaiming this as the best shooter I’d ever played with nary a discouraging word about any facet of its gameplay. So I watched as Apollo mounted winged steed Pegasus....who actually was ridden by the heroic Bellerophon....and took to the skies to shoot down all manners of beasties.

What I encountered wasn’t a great shooter, but one that proved to be quite inconsistent. Phelios has a number of moments which I found to be both inventive and enjoyable. It also is full of areas that are annoying, frustrating and just plain dull.

Apollo doesn’t have the best weaponry I’ve ever seen in a shooter. His sword fires a tiny fireball that can be charged up to a more powerful blast. By picking up icons, he can add two option ships to Pegasus, allowing him to fire up to three fireballs/blasts. Very rarely, he’ll find an alternate weapon, which tend to be very useful. Unfortunately, they also disappear after a certain amount of time, meaning that I had to rely on generic and weak attacks for nearly the entire game. This basic attack is unable to hit enemies attacking from the sides or rear, which is too bad, as Apollo goes up against more than a few foes who aren’t shy about coming up on him from inconvenient angles.

One of those times proved to be arguably the most memorable moment of Phelios, though. In the third stage (of seven), Apollo is suddenly assailed by a horde of griffin riders who enter from the bottom of the screen and chase him through a pathway. Fortunately for me, not only did these guys resemble Apollo in appearance, but they also had to play by the same rules as my godly hero -- meaning that they’d be killed upon contact with the pathway’s walls. This created an exhilarating chase, as I zigged and zagged in an attempt to lure my pursuers into walls, while darting back to pick off the more persistent ones. Other moments also provided their fair share of thrills. Some of the boss fights, such as that against the three Graiae sisters and Cerberus were well-designed, while much of the first level was a fun romp above the countryside.

Ultimately, those moments weren’t enough to sustain my interest, as much of this game simply isn’t that enjoyable. The fiery fourth stage was ugly, boring and repetitive; while the icy fifth level was nearly identical to the second stage, but with the difficulty ramped up. Speaking of difficulty -- as I got closer and closer to Typhon, it seemed that Namco shot the challenge factor through the roof. Scylla, the boss of the fifth level, proved to be nearly impossible for me to beat, as I not only had to dodge a fast-moving circle of tightly-packed heads that expanded and contracted, but also a seemingly limitless number of icicles fired from the walls.

And that monster seemed to be a walk in the park compared to the sixth level, where Apollo was assaulted by green guys fond of rapidly flooding the screen with rocks if not IMMEDIATELY dispatched. In my favor, Apollo could take up to four hits before dying and it seemed that most every checkpoint in this game is very close to some speed-up and option power-ups -- but, still, I just didn't have any fun whatsoever for most of the latter portion of this game.

For the most part, Phelios is a solid old-school 16-bit shooter, but when I was finished with it, the negatives outweighed the positives. While some parts of the game were quite enjoyable, I found myself remembering how inconsistent things were. Some stages were wonderfully drawn and pretty original in appearance -- others looked ripped from an eight-bit game and were woefully generic (does every shooter need “fire” and “ice” levels?). Some levels had fun challenges -- other seemed almost unfair in their difficulty. All in all, I can’t see myself playing this game again. I had some fun with it, but not enough to induce me to endure everything I disliked.

Rating: 4/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (December 15, 2006)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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