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Elemental Master (Genesis) artwork

Elemental Master (Genesis) review

"While running between cliff walls, you have to watch out for the punks on either side that are trying to roll boulders on your head. But then a gust picks up, creating a wind tunnel within the canyon so now you've got to fight not only the boulder-bums and spitting plants, but you've got to fight the wind at your back as well!"

Elemental Master has a lot going for it: Constant action. An awesome D&D theme. Inventive gameplay. Memorable music. The sight of a grown man crying.

Okay, so that last one falls under "pathetic" rather than "cool", but four out of five isn't bad!

It all begins with a showdown between the thunder magician Laden (shouldn't it be Rayden?) and the big bad hombre, the King of Darkness Gyra. Just as the battle is about to begin, Gyra removes his Griffin-esque mask, revealing himself to be none other than Laden's own brother, Roki! (Shouldn't it be Loki?) According to the instruction manual, he also sometimes goes by the name Aryaag, because writing your name backwards is the perfect disguise as long as you add some extra "AA!"

Adding further fuel to the fire, Gyra-Roki-Aryaag kidnapped the Good King Lorelei (isn't that a girl's name?) and imprisoned him beneath the earth, along with a couple hundred loyal retainers. Just as Laden finally gets up off his bum after being dumbstruck by the dark lord's brotherly declaration, Gyra-Roki-Aryaag snaps his fingers, beckoning two generals to his side: the demonic ogre CLAUSS and his twisted sister SALOME (but doesn't that mean "peace"?)

Gyra-Roki-Aryaag's revelation and taunts leave the heroic Laden in dumbfounded shock. And dumb is exactly how Laden looks at this point in the anime introduction. The lightning wizard shockingly gathers his wits to utter one of the manliest lines in history:

Laden's ferocity is so unexpected that the evil trio runs away, even though they could have totally kicked his puny, un-powered-up ass.

God help us. That's one of the worst openings I've ever seen and you'll see more of it by the time the game's over. HOWEVER, in between the cinematic lunacy, you'll be treated to one sweet and inventive vertical shooter!

Fire up the first level, and you're immediately beset by the resonating melody of Blazing Dance. As volcanoes hurl glowing chunks of FIERY DEATH, you might notice this wizard dude isn't flying, he's walking! I can hear you now: "BIG FRIGGIN' DEAL." It is a big deal, because the ground-based mechanics allow the game to throw walls at you (to impede your progress), pools of water (to slow you down), and traps such as spikes and lava (to inflict HURT! HURT!). Few shooters feature this much environmental interaction, and it's a nice change of pace.

In one early scene, while running between cliff walls, you have to watch out for the punks on either side that are trying to roll boulders on your head. But then a gust picks up, creating a wind tunnel within the canyon so now you've got to fight not only the boulder-bums and spitting plants, but you must struggle with the wind at your back as well!

Elemental Master demands a ton of full-screen attention. This stems from one big gameplay gimmick: Laden's ability to hurl magical bolts either forwards or backwards (one button assigned to each direction). This lets you take on a spear-chucking centaur from the front, and instantly turn and wipe out a battalion of vampire bats from behind! Technosoft took advantage of the player character's versatility and made sure to offer up plenty of situations where enemies come at you from both sides. Pea-green demons descend from the front, and if you don't wipe them all out, they turn around and come right back from the rear! Mummies rise from the ground behind you, as enormous statues slowly amble from above. Do you wipe out the faster but weaker mummies, or do you focus on the slow but durable golems waiting up ahead? It's a nonstop swarm of intricate intensity, leading straight to an enormous boss.

The bosses, while insanely cool, are also insanely easy. They dish out plenty of firepower but they're so pattern-based that, given two or three tries, you'll be able to whoop most of 'em without taking a hit. For the most part, the bosses didn't even try. They just kept up their staid old routine, firing at the right side of the screen . . . even though I'd long since moved to the left. Fortunately, a few do come tougher than the others (such as a giant segmented water dragon and Generaless Salome).

Even though the bosses aren't particularly exciting, beating them still feels meaningful. You see, when you send an Elemental Demon to its death, you gain its power! So suddenly you can do more than just pull a Zeus and hurl lightning bolts, now you can hurl diagonal fireballs or summon huge torrents of water that coat the entire screen!

Once you've gained one of these new weapons, you've got it forever, and you can toggle between them (up to five) on the fly. There's none of this Mega Man "pause the game, stop the action, and switch your weapon" jazz, it's just fast-paced shooting action. Each weapon comes with an Overpower, such as the fire element's flamethrower (a huge gout of fire that swirls around Laden). The variety of firepower gives me shivers; Technosoft spared nothing that could be considered cool.

You'll need these powers when General Clauss comes out to fight. The guy struts out to the beat of some wicked thrash music there's no denying the game's got style.

That style unfortunately does not always work to Elemental Master's benefit. Its nonsensical introduction and traumatically overwrought ending sequence (that bizarrely segues into a sappy-happy pop song) are ridiculous. If ever a case could be made for a game being worse through the addition of cinematic sequences, Final Zone 2 would be it, but Elemental Master wouldn't be too far behind.

But considering the action itself is awesome from start to finish . . . I'm not gonna let some lame cinematics stop me from enjoying the adventure.


And then it gets better. Hit that Reset Button, pop open the hood, and crank the difficulty up to EXPERT. Try out the first level again . . . and whoa! A hungry fire dragon shows up and chases Laden's wizardly ass that wasn't there before! EXPERT mode doesn't just up the damage and the enemy's stamina, it actually adds new foes to the fray, allowing for an even greater interplay among attack patterns than ever before! A sweet game just got even sweeter.

So hell yes, I recommend Elemental Master. Head on over to eBay and pick it up. Gyra-Roki-Aryaag madness aside, it's easily worth the four bucks.


zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (April 16, 2005)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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