perjantai 11. marraskuuta 2011

REVIEW - Fatal Labyrinth (1990)


Fatal Labyrinth was among the few games released for the Sega Meganet in Japan. Sega Meganet was the first online service for a home console, ever. It was very expensive and awkward to use and it was discontinued in just a few months into its launch. Fatal Labyrinth was also among the few games that were remade for the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis for standard use. This roguelike RPG, partly influenced by Gauntlet, gained somewhat of a cult following that has lasted to this day. It has been re-released for three platforms of the current generation, and promoted as a bonafide Sega classic. Please, someone give me the definition of "classic" again. This game is God damn horrible.

Labyrinths usually have exits, you know...

Ghouls residing in the dark castle of Dragonia have stolen the Holy Goblet, an artifact which is used by humans to maintain the balance of darkness and light. It is now under the guard of an evil dragon. A villager named Trykaar bravely enters the castle to confront the dragon and save the world from eternal darkness.

I hate Gauntlet. I've always hated Gauntlet. It's one of the most overrated pieces of shit ever made. Although Fatal Labyrinth is a very different game, it reminds of me of Gauntlet in many ways, for example in simply being as horrible as it is. I had a bad feeling about it from the very beginning, but I was able to deal with it and press the Start button when (finally) prompted. Within a matter of minutes, I was convinced that whoever thought this game would be a fine subject for just one re-release must've been seriously high.

Actually showing equipped armour and weapons is a nice graphical detail, but that's the only remotely impressive graphical element of the game. Fatal Labyrinth must be one of the dullest looking games I've ever seen. Level design cannot even be spoken of, since the game is famous for being one of the first that had a random level generator - which makes it kind of an interesting title to start off this "marathon of the random" with. So, it's all about repeating textures in different orders. I'll tell you the best part in a bit.

As you can see, this random level's got an exit...
The music is simply unbearable. There's this one generic tune that goes on throughout the game, and it's bound to drive you nuts. The sound effects are equally horrible.

The idea of the game is extremely simple. You must make your way to the 30th floor of the Dragonia castle, by killing every monster you see (read: can), collecting items and equipment, and searching floors for a way upstairs. The best part of the level design I mentioned is that some of the floors do not have exits at all. Don't adjust the screen, you read absolutely right. Apparently, whoever designed the random level generator forgot to add the term of every random floor having at least a set of stairs. There's no way out, except death. If there are no enemies, dying is not possible, unless you just leave the game be until your character gets hungry enough to die of starvation (shades of Gauntlet, right there). If you don't have the patience to wait for that moment, you've just got to start the game over; simple, right? Maybe next time luck will be on your side. Hell, maybe next time you'll play a game that's worth your valuable time.

The item menu is extremely irritating. First of all, you have no stinking clue what any item does before you've used it. Also, you have no stinking clue of a weapon or armour's strength points before you equip 'em. Each time you equip or use something, you're just unceremoniously thrown out of the menu, back into the game. The inventory limit is more than unforgiving. All weapons of the same type look exactly the same on the field, and just as the levels themselves, they're generated at a complete random. You'd like to think that at floor level 26, you'd find a better axe than on floor level 1. Since you have run out of space for weapons, you throw away your large battle axe, just to find a small, pathetic rusty piece of shit that you couldn't even use to chop down the smallest tree. I have no idea how to use ranged weapons, and the game doesn't really help me with my problem.

Enemies' strength and agility seems to vary at a complete random. You have to find a sweet spot to hit the more challenging enemies from, or else 95% of your attacks will either miss or be parried. That's quite reasonable on paper, but you must take into account the fact that some enemies follow you around. If you walk into a narrow corridor with a dead end (which you can't be certain of before reaching the end of the corridor) with an enemy like a Ninja or a Robot on your tail, you'll be trapped in there. There's no way to get past the enemies except killing them, and you especially can't attack these enemies from the front. Tough luck.

...While this random level doesn't. Plus, I'm
starving to death, and I'm chased down by
a robot drone from the future. I'm fucked.
The game is saved - for the duration of one single game session - between every fifth floor. Reaching the fifth floor does not mean you couldn't fall back down into the fourth one through a hidden pit in the ground. I'm quite serious, the game has those too, to drive you further into the PIT of insanity. What could be done and dealt with within a boring hour will most likely take you another boring hour or two because of many instances of mandatory suicide, floors without any types of exits, and finally, those damn holes in the ground. It takes surprisingly lot of patience to play through a seemingly measly amount of 30 short levels.

Collecting gold in this game benefits you none, as there are no merchants, or shops, or anything. The only thing you accomplish by collecting gold is a better funeral. Yes, once again I'm quite serious; the more gold you have, the more people there are gathered around your grave (some damn rock) in the Game Over screen. What a shitty joke.

Fatal Labyrinth was awful when I first played it, but it's even more of a chore than I remembered it to be. It's playable for a few minutes, if you have absolutely nothing else to do, but as a commercial product, it's totally devoid of both value and point. It's like a demo of an independent game rather than a full-fledged Sega product. It's considered one of the greatest cult classics of the Sega Genesis by many people who like to consider themselves different from the masses, but in reality, it's got to be one of the worst Genesis games ever made.

SOUND : 3.0


a.k.a. Labyrinth of Death: Shi no Meikyū (JAP)

GameRankings: 46.67%

The game is considered a spiritual successor and update to a Sega Master System game named Dragon Crystal, which was released the same year.

The game is one of the 49 games included in Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in early 2009. The game was also released on the Steam service for home computers in late 2010.

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