It’s time for another walk down Nostalgia Lane. We’ll come back to the Atari 2600 in some later posts, but for now I’m going to jump ahead in time to 1988, and the second of my electronic childhood companions, the Sega Master System. Ah, the upgrade to 8 bit glory. I can’t remember whether this was a Christmas or Birthday treat, but I do recall that it arrived after transitioning into high school, when Transformers and Legos were no longer cool. Ah, foolish youth…Legos are ALWAYS cool. But I digress.
One of the first Sega games to absorb my time like Borg with a bad habit was Lord of the Sword. A simple side-scrolling adventure, Lord of the Sword featured a young man by the name of Landau attempting to complete three Very Important Tasks, while presumably lording over his sword.
Prepare for 8 bit glory, children!
The tasks must have been named by the Fraggles, I think: find the Tree of Marill, subdue the goblin of “Balala Valley”, and destroy the very, very aptly named “Statue of Evil.” And while the goblin wasn’t singing “Oh, you touch my Balala”, he did have some wicked flaming skulls, if I recall correctly. And whereas the statue was the Statue of Evil, and not merely the Statue of Slight Annoyance or the Statue of Jaywalking, it was a worthy target for annihilation.
Lord of the Sword had some fairly freaky enemies, from floating eyeballs to mutant armadillo badgers to flying devils, not to mention the ninja warriors. The ninjas would stalk you, disappear, and then fall out of the fucking sky to stab you in the back. They were, however, the weakest enemy in the game, and could be defeated with one simple strategy: just keep walking. Dumbest. Ninjas. Ever. (Side note: keep walking away from a pirate, and he’ll shoot you in the fucking back.)
Stupid ninja summons batscorpion. It is super effective.
You’d stop in various villages, earn various rewards, and kill various enemies. Seriously, I mean various enemies. In addition to those mentioned previously, there were also wolves, pterodactyls, scorpions, skeletons, caterpillars, bursting seed-pods, and more. It was as if the game designers had rolled through an old Fiend Folio or Monster Manual and decided it was the perfect roster for their own evil kickball team.
Always picked last for Kickball. Always.
Boss fights were enjoyable, including the swamp spirit, a twisted version of the Great Pumpkin with a rotating mirror for a body, which you had to shoot with your bow, while knocking back an invincible samurai before he cut your face off. (The before was the hard part.) Then there’s the Beast of Fire who looked like Harvey Birdman’s stunt double, or the giant Pirate with a sword for a hand. (Scoffed at a mere hook, he did.) Come to think of it, somebody was definitely smoking some meth on the design team.
Things we've all seen while smoking meth.
But usually kicking the little angel off our other shoulder.
The final battle consisted of a throw down with the evil Ra Goan, a name that sounded suspiciously like the sound you’d make after losing the fight for the 853rd freaking time in a goddamn row. Eventually, though, I did beat the big bastage, and thus won the crown of the kingdom. A final story board progression told the tale of your peaceful reign, and finished off with the words “The End”. How quaint. And vaguely anticlimactic.
While fun, this game would fail to inspire my imagination as much as other games I'd played before and since...I didn't really want to BE Landau, I just wanted to beat the game.
The 8 bit revolution improved gaming a great deal, bringing story and conclusion to games, where Atari titles had typically just featured “get a good score before you die” as their plotlines. And I’m not going to lie, Marge, I spent a lot of time wiggling my thumbs on that controller, and didn’t put the controller down willingly…until the 16 bit revolution came to call, invading the peace and quiet of Nostalgia Street.