perjantai 20. toukokuuta 2011

REVIEW - Beauty and the Beast (1994)

GENRE(S): Platform
RELEASED: July 1994
DEVELOPER(S): Hudson Soft
PUBLISHER(S): Hudson Soft, Virgin Interactive

1991's Beauty and the Beast is one of Disney's most loved animated feature films, but also one of the films in the Renaissance Era of the classic series with the least potential to spawn a video game. Well, back in the mid-90's that didn't matter one bit, especially since Disney games sold so well. One wouldn't have been too amazed to see Pocahontas ripping it up in a platformer. In 1994, Hudson Soft made an NES game out of Beauty and the Beast, which was released exclusively in Europe. A 16-bit version of this game saw an international release, and it's no surprise that it's a very faulty, unfocused and unnecessary game that no gamer would've exactly missed - one of the weakest of its kind.

You will obey the controller! ...That's not a request!!!

Some years ago, a narcissistic prince with no trace of empathy was taught a lesson in humility by an old enchantress, and transformed into a hideous beast. Unless he could love and be loved in return before his 21st birthday, he would remain in his new form forever. The Beast remains in total seclusion from the outside world, punishing anyone and everyone who comes too close to his abode. When the Beast captures the father of the most beautiful girl in the nearby village, Belle, the brave maiden offers herself to be imprisoned in his stead. The Beast and Belle eventually fall in love, but there is one problem: an accomplished, egotistical hunter is also on the market for Belle's affections.

Just keeping in shape.
Beauty and the Beast is a masterpiece. The story itself, written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (Christ, that's a mouthful!) in 1740, is a masterpiece - one of the few good things to come out of France! The way Walt Disney Pictures reimagined this story is just phenomenal. Beauty and the Beast is the most unique, essential and thoughtful love story out of all the films, it has a charismatic pairing of lead characters, and the main villain is not over- or underplayed as usual. There's hardly action in that movie, the character of the Beast himself guarantees some welcome tension to the flick. That being said, it also doesn't have much to go on when we're talking about carrying a full-length video game. Lengthy platforming levels based on things like finding a nice present for Belle from the library (!), weird boss fights such as one against a "Ninja Wolf" (!), and finally, even the snowball fight scene from the movie is translated into a level in which you die if you fumble a certain amount of catches. God damn it, Belle, check those balls for rocks before you throw them at people! Did I mention that the game sucks? Well, I will.

The sprites look decent and detailed enough, but the game itself is a murky, blurry, at times even downright ugly bundle of the most generic level design I've perhaps ever seen in a Disney game before - considering what I have coming up, perhaps I shouldn't speak too early. The level ideas are like they were done by five-year olds in a level editor for dummies, or ripped straight off from the worst of some commercially long-forgotten platformer. At least the music is mostly ambient stuff, not too disturbing, or even that bad.

There are four levels with a varying amount of areas. Naturally, the first level, the Beast's castle, is the longest, since that's where most of the movie happens. That, and its surrounding areas, so you'll be seeing that castle in some shape or form throughout the game. The Beast's only method of physical offense is a short-range melee attack. He can climb straight walls and curtains in the fashion of Ninja Gaiden, his roar (for some very odd, cryptic reason) manipulates the environment to the point of making lifts work, and picking up Belle's books might sometimes grant invincibility for a short period of time. The magic mirror allows you to see what lies a few steps ahead. All the time, the petals of the Beast's rose are falling, signaling a time limit. Those are the basics in a nutshell, now we get to the juiciest part: how does it all work?

Not good. First of all, the controls in this game are God damn weak. You cannot jump forward without taking a few steps for speed. Also, the Beast seems to bounce off sharp corners like a pinball. I'm being completely honest: on more than one, two or even three occasions, the Beast just inexplicably jumped into some random direction without me even pressing anything, like he was stung in the foot by a bee or something. Then, there are jumps in this game you simply cannot make without taking damage from spikes, or whatever's beneath you. Hell, you can't walk without taking damage. In the first level, there are these rats that jump at you and there's nothing you can do about it. They jump at you, chew at your arm, and the only way to get rid of those bastards is to press left and right in rapid succession. No matter how fast you are, you'll eventually take damage - how much, that depends on the difficulty level. The Beast's melee attack is so weak and short-ranged (and it doesn't work on all enemies), that it takes time to learn the one right time to strike, and even that's not always enough. Like The Jungle Book, this game drains your health surprisingly fast. The difference between The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast is that at least the last game was entertaining to some extent. Beauty and the Beast is a cheap, boring, uncontrollable drivel right from the beginning to its very welcome end.

You know, gargoyle, I've watched every single
animated feature by Disney there is. You can stop
pretending to be just a statue.
Luckily it's a quite short game, and if you're truly dedicated of seeing this awesomely clumsy attempt at a quality platformer to the end, you'll do it in a few hours. Of course, you need to cope with the facts early on; the enemies are almost sure to flank you every step of the way and you are not able to dispose of them without taking damage, there are even dangerous platforms that have the potential of dealing damage at completely random intervals, and right there on the bottom line - the controls are simply awful. Good luck in beating this bastard to the hilt, I'm almost ready to guarantee that you won't go at it again.

When I went into this game, I was ready to criticize it for being such an unnecessary release. The material's all wrong, and the movie was already three years old at the time; nobody needed a Beauty and the Beast video game. I believe a lot of even the most dedicated fans of the movie were happier and more fulfilled when there wasn't a game directly based on the movie around. Still, I was expecting a half-decent experience, since the standard was set and I thought game developers, whoever they were, would've even learned something new about the art of gameplay. No, they took several steps back. As a sworn fan of the Beast (is there anyone who REALLY thinks he's "hideous"?), it saddens me to say this, but Beauty and the Beast is one of the most useless Disney platformers there is. Just do yourself a favour and stay tuned for the Beast's impressive resurrection in Kingdom Hearts. Leave this one be.

SOUND : 7.0


a.k.a. Disney's Beauty and the Beast

GameRankings: 69.00%

This wasn't the first Beauty and the Beast video game. Belle's Quest and Roar of the Beast were released back to back on the Sega Genesis in 1993. Both games were developed by Software Creations, and published by Sunsoft.

3 kommenttia:

  1. This is perhaps one of my favorite moves of all time. I'm really sad to see that the game was so horrible for it. A snowball catching scene? Really? And no, the Beast isn't hideous. When he's not all growly he actually looks kind of cuddly.

  2. Yep, and a real frustrating one too! I think the Beast was better off as the Beast than the Prince... which kind of makes the movie lose its point...

    ...Anyway, great movie, yes.

  3. And, I can't wait to sink my fangs into Kingdom Hearts I & II after such a long while. I love the bits with the Beast in them.