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Time Gal (Sega CD) artwork

Time Gal (Sega CD) review


"Time Gal is a frenetic romp that’s full of action rather than frustration as you hop back and forth along its chaotic sequence of time periods with our title character likewise bounding to and fro in her skimpy outfit – not that I have any problem with lithe adventuresses who meddle in the workings of time and space, no sir."




“Up!”

“Left!”

“Right!”

“Right!”

“Down – no wait, Left!”


“SPLAT.”


No, this isn’t the tragic account of that portly youth over by the Dance Dance Revolution machine; it’s one of those interactive cartoons of Dragon’s Lair fame (and infamy) that demand quick wits and quicker fingers as one similarly mashes down on the correct buttons at precisely the right moments . . . OR ELSE.

That alone may be enough to turn some of you away, but Time Gal is a frenetic romp that’s full of action rather than frustration as you hop back and forth along its chaotic sequence of time periods with our title character likewise bounding to and fro in her skimpy outfit – not that I have any problem with lithe adventuresses who meddle in the workings of time and space, no sir. This minx in question – let’s call her Reika, which might even be her name – actually happens to be a globally renowned scientist (or at least the trusty assistant of one), but her days of rigorously applied quantum physics and looking pretty are brought to an abrupt halt when their newly developed time machine is callously stolen by generic villain-type Luda and his all too predictable schemes of world conquest. But never fear, naturally the good doctor built a spare device for just such an occurrence (naturally), so there’s only one thing for our comely protagonist to do: recklessly hurl herself into the void and chase after this scoundrel! Thus begins a showcase of inventive settings depicted in the unmistakable style of 1980’s Japanese animation, our sprightly protagonist also sporting a suspiciously familiar look with her hip-trailing emerald hair, midriff-baring top, oh-so-short shorts, calf-length boots – and one standard-issue laser blaster, so keep those grubby hands to yourself, mister!



Of course there’s a simple reason why this game’s art style is so vintage: it was originally a laserdisc developed by Taito in 1985 before being totally converted for this release by Wolf Team. Instead of simply relying on extremely grainy FMVs like a lot of Sega CD games, all the scenes are actually hand-drawn; this makes the resulting animation pretty damn jerky, but the visuals are crystal clear. And while Wolf Team’s translation may admittedly fall short of arcade perfection, it definitely retains not only the original’s distinctive style, but also the hectic design that ultimately makes Time Gal worth owning. The sixteen time periods never become tiresome since they constantly demand your input every few seconds, often requiring you to bust out a series of moves in rapid succession and leaving you without a moment’s peace as you rack up the points and possibly even score an extra life or two. It’s a good thing there are plenty of checkpoints for those inevitable mistakes, and the designers also made sure to keep things fresh by shuffling the levels’ order every time you have to start over from the beginning.

Even if that seems to happen a lot you’ll feel certain that you can achieve victory the next time. In many of these adventures whenever you reach a point of interaction (some more frequent than others), either the correct area will briefly flash or you’re simply expected to know exactly what to push and when to push it, possibly using psychic powers. Here each side of the screen contains a jewel that flashes to indicate the proper direction; when all four jewels light up, it’s time to whip out your blaster and let the Amida Buddha sort ‘em out! Unlike many a game in this genre, blowing one of your lives leaves you no one to blame but your own fumble-fingered self.



It’s not as if all of the changes from the arcade were for the worse, either, as this version features a soothing staff roll composed by none other than Motoi Sakuraba. There really isn’t much else in the way of audio other than all the explosions and assorted sounds of rapidly approaching doom in addition to Reika’s super-shrill English dubbing as she continually bemoans her fate, but you’ll be so busy attempting to avoid said doom you probably won’t notice. Lest your attention be focused on the jewels rather than the calamity-laden action, the correct location does briefly flash a pale yellow on the playing screen itself, indicating where you should jump to – an especially important feature on the hardest (jeweless) difficulty setting, but either way this is solely a test of attention and reflexes rather than one’s rapidly evaporating patience. To that end there are actually three difficulties that determine the strictness of your reaction time, the latter two coughing up a short password whenever you successfully clear a level. Oh, these aren’t for continuing – you have to complete the game from start to finish with only a pair of continues – but for a “visual mode” that allows you to view a perfect run of that area or any of its death animations at your leisure.



But I can’t imagine why you’d want to merely watch when you could enjoy them for yourself in worlds ranging from savage Prehistoric volcanoes to the space colonies of the distant future. Whether crossing blades with a hulking Roman gladiator before sneaking over the coliseum walls straight into the appreciative jaws of a hungry panther, or hanging on for dear life atop a woolly mammoth as it tears blindly through the ice and snow of the frozen wastes, Time Gal nearly always manages to take us someplace interesting. It can be complete fantasy – darting through the decaying husks of lifeless trees in the year 666 with a bellowing apparition of the Grim Reaper in hot pursuit, wicked scythe swinging wildly from its skeletal fingers – or slightly more grounded in reality: leaping from plane to plane as they down each other into fiery ruin via machine gun fire amid the unfriendly skies of World War II!



When thing get really hairy Reika will temporarily freeze the flow of the cosmos with her ability to “TIME STOP!”, halting everything for ten seconds while a trio of possible actions appears on the screen. As only one choice will avoid costing you a precious life and there are generally no clues as to which is the correct decision, this feels like an annoying holdover from its quarter-munching days. Admittedly, I did chuckle when Reika finds herself straddling a flaming biplane that’s about to crash headlong into a battleship; upon electing to “hope for luck,” she kneels down and prays for divine intervention right before the inevitably colossal detonation – this is followed by an adorably chibified shot of her garbed in a white robe and ascending into the sky with feathery wings and a tiny halo. In fact, most of the death scenes are drawn in a cutesy Super-Deformed style to lessen the impact as she’s maimed, squashed, electrocuted, burned to a crisp, and otherwise distressed by the anti-aircraft missiles and (wo)man-eating cats of outrageous fortune. Like most laserdisc adventures these deaths are frequently hilarious and you’ll definitely want to see them all, especially the perverted dinosaur that tears off our heroine’s shorts!



And just in case you should become too confident in your memorization abilities, some of the stages will even become mirror images on subsequent tries, reversing the direction Reika is facing and thus all of the necessary movements. And try you will, to burn rubber (metaphorically speaking) beneath the neon lights of a futuristic city while fending off cyberpunks atop jet-powered hoverbikes, or climb into the cockpit of a galactic starfighter only to be sucked into the tractor beam of a planetoid starbase in a suspiciously familiar bit of space opera. There’s always time to engage in swordplay with a grubby buccaneer captain on the high seas even as cannons smash apart the wooden decks and quickly sink the galleon, and speaking of doomed vessels . . .


“I have a bad feeling . . .”


. . . upon warping into the hull of a lifeless spaceship, Reika finds herself surrounded by heaps of skeletal astronauts right before being stalked by savage web-spewing aliens that emerge from under their clean-picked bones! These are mere glimpses of levels that include hanging ten on a jetboard to navigate through treacherously narrow corridors with an oversized laser-toting robot close behind, or embarking on a wild mine cart ride along rickety rails that hang precariously over bubbling magma – and corpulent bald men bearing whips, provided you can brave the sting of their flogs and repellent fat!

Take a chance and you’ll find that Time Gal is an excellent laserdisc-type adventure – but first scrape that hefty kid off the dance pad, will you? Yecch.

Rating: 8/10

sho's avatar
Staff review by Sho (May 30, 2007)

Sho enjoys classic video games, black comedy, and poking people until they explode -- figuratively or otherwise. He also writes a bit.

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