Exile (Genesis) review
"However, I soon realized that virtually everything had suddenly been reduced to nothing more than speed bumps. If an enemy hit me, I didn’t even flinch. My preferred boss strategy was simply to stand in front of the villain and hit the “attack” button as rapidly as I could until it perished. At some point in the game, Sadler learned magic. I never cast a single spell. I also didn’t bother purchasing the stat-enhancing items and only used a total of four healing goods (two during the final boss fight)."
I’m convinced there must be some sort of mysterious connection between Exile and Ys III. The chronology of these games is strangely similar, with both originally released for the MSX in the late 1980s before enjoying a bit of prosperity in 1991 with ports on a number of systems, including the Genesis and Turbo CD. Also, both games are loaded with side-scrolling, action-oriented dungeons full of monsters for their daring, lone-wolf heroes to slash through. The actual connection eludes me, though, unless Exile exists as some Bizarro World counterpart to that third Ys game.
While I found Falcom’s Ys III to be a solid fantasy title dealing with heroic Adol’s desperate attempt to save a small village from the evil machinations of a diabolical wizard -- I’m not sure exactly what was going on in Exile. Originally made by Telenet and ported to the Genesis by Renovation, I’m guessing this game must craft an equally noble reason for main character Sadler to do what he does, but it apparently was lost in translation.
NOTE: Which might be for the best. According to an Internet summary of the extremely obscure MSX original (horribly translated to English by Google), I think Sadler originally was an assassin sent to eliminate his father, a caliph, for reasons involving Islam. He also temporarily was able to enhance his stats by ingesting heroin, cocaine and other drugs -- but had to be careful, as utilizing those "jolts" could result in certain negative side effects....like death. Maybe it's for the best the Genesis version was so vague about details....
So, instead, we Americans received a kinder, gentler Sadler who just says no to smack-induced patricide, preferring to ingest wholesome, family-friendly items like “Heartpoison”. This "cleaned-up" incarnation isn’t particularly assertive, needing help to leave the game’s opening village. Try as he might, our hero cannot exit the town until he has enlisted the support of cute chick Rumi and two guys. I can't remember the names of the two fellows and honestly don't know why it was so essential to recruit them, as they leave the party a short time later and never reenter the story.
They’re replaced by Yuug de Pane, who’s one of those enlightened chaps with a strong desire to put an end to wars and make the world a better place. Viewing that as an admirable goal, Sadler becomes Yuug’s muscle and many grand adventures are had as the terrific twosome search for artifacts called mandalas, find a mate for Yuug’s sister, meet Pythagoras and generally have the time of their lives going around the world.
At least I’d like to think they had a good time. With the shoddy translation, I didn’t understand what was going on for much of the game. Any description of the few elements I partially grasped would ruin the game's big surprise. Then again, even if I didn’t care about spoiling things, I’d still have a bit of trouble, as I know what events caused that moment to happen, but haven’t the foggiest as to WHY they had that effect. I must admit, Exile did a better job of keeping me in the dark from beginning to end than any other English language game I’ve ever played.
And that's saying a lot, considering that other aspects of this game are extremely predictable. Exile is divided into a series of chapters, each one taking place in a new region of the world and opening in a town viewed from an overhead perspective. After talking to folk, upgrading equipment and possibly purchasing some medicine, Sadler and entourage will eventually find their way to a dungeon of some sort. Being a man’s man, our hero explores these places alone, as Yuug, Rumi and others are forced to humor themselves while awaiting his triumphant return.
While the overhead areas are bland, blocky and look pretty out-of-place on a 16-bit system, the action portions of Exile are beautifully drawn and are loaded with large, detailed foes for Sadler to hew through with his blade. A desert cave that serves as the opening trial is inhabited by unending hordes of insects that skitter and fly towards the player, not giving him a moment’s rest. Unfortunately, this might be the only challenging portion of the game. Most dungeons in Exile have at least one spot where Sadler can stand and kill enemy after enemy as they endlessly charge him from off the screen -- a process that makes building levels a painless proposition.
Initially, I looked at this as a good idea, as the first boss proved to be somewhat challenging. However, I soon realized that virtually everything had suddenly been reduced to nothing more than speed bumps. If an enemy hit me, I didn’t even flinch. My preferred boss strategy was simply to stand in front of the villain and hit the “attack” button as rapidly as I could until it perished. At some point in the game, Sadler learned magic. I never cast a single spell. I also didn’t bother purchasing the stat-enhancing items and only used a total of four healing goods (two during the final boss fight). And the sad thing is, I never felt I’d excessively power-leveled. Every once in a while, when confronted with an “endless supply of enemies” area, I’d stop and kill stuff for a couple of minutes before going on my way. Doing this broke the game, making child’s play of every obstacle.
I’ve heard plenty of good things about the Turbo CD version of Exile, but I can’t give this port much more of an endorsement beyond calling it “dumb fun”. I did have my share of mindless enjoyment running through the pretty dungeons watching foes get crushed by my might, but there was no depth to that experience. It didn’t help that most of those areas were short and possessing of no challenge beyond guessing which of any given room’s multiple doors would bring Sadler closer to the boss. And since I never really got a firm grasp on exactly why I was doing all of this, I have a hard time recommending this game. Exile might have its moments, but the overall experience isn’t particularly fulfilling.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (August 03, 2006)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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