Genre: Platformer Developer: Data East Publisher: Data East Players: 1 Released: 1993
High Seas Havoc was released in the summer of 93′ by those scurvy dogs at Vic Tokai when they just wanted to jump on the ever-popular mascot game bandwagon of the early 90’s that Sonic made popular. I was very eager to play it when it first came out but never got around to renting it since I was too busy with the other 2 million (Rocket Knight Adventures, Bubsy, Buster’s Hidden Treasure, etc.) platformers available. I just played it a few months ago after I got it for $1.99 at Funcoland. After playing it, I thanked myself for not having wasted all that booty on a rental when it came out.
The plot goes like this: our hero, Havoc (not the one from X-Force), an exploring heroic dog (with pointless shipmate Tide), found a young girl named Bridget washed on the shore. She was also a dog and she recovered and showed Havoc a map to a cave holding the treasure Emeralda, a mighty gem with limitless power. Emeralda was also highly coveted by many villains, like Bernardo, the walrus pirate. Eventually Bridget, Tide, and the map all got abducted. So Havoc had to stop ”living in peace” (though it certainly doesn’t look like it on the picture that goes with that quoted line) and race to the map. He can’t fool me, I know Havoc is just using Bridget and Tide as an excuse to take the treasure!
Havoc has only three moves: he can do a worthless roll move, he can jump on enemies of course, and in the middle of his jump, he can do a Flash Kick like Guile (Terry Bogard to be exact). It last for less time than a half a second and it slows down your jump a bit. But in that half-second, you can hit enemies in front of you instead of under you. It’s also used to clock enemies that can’t be jumped on. I tried pressing all three buttons and ended up with the same result every time! There are only four items on the game; a pair of boots that speed you up a very little bit, an extra life, a small and large chicken bone (like in Castlevania), and gems where if you collect 100 y- oh I don’t even have to tell you!
Havoc moves pretty fast and jumps pretty high but his jumps aren’t too controllable. Speaking of which, this game could really use some more moves- all you do throughout every level is jump on enemies and maybe do a flash kick or two, albeit they’re very unavailing against most normal enemies.
I can’t knock the game graphically. The backgrounds are simply beautiful, with moving clouds and flowing seas on the first level, a sky full of scrolling (individual!) stars on the second, and some vivid ice caps on the fourth level. Most of all, there’s a burning village where the background is fire at the bottom and a bunch of houses at the top. Both the flames and the houses wave back and forth. The game is quite a sight if nothing else. The foreground looks fine too, with masts, street lights, and streams. Overall, the graphics, though not the most colorful, are some of the most elegant on the system.
The animation is impressive too. Havoc has all your basic animations, like the stumble and the ”charred” animation. They’re not too original but nevertheless they’re handled well. My favorite animation is when you pause the game; there he stands with a bored look (eyes half shut) while swinging his legs back and forth. The entrance animations aren’t too bad either, like when the first boss rips through a sail and attacks you. Basically, the animation is fluid and surprisingly well done for a game by a lesser company.
The character design could use work, as Havoc is just a dog with a sailor wrap on his head and very basic red and yellow clothes. The other characters don’t look that good either. However, on the intro, the characters have cool anime-style eyes.
All of the sounds are either average or annoying. The jumping sound is rubbish (even worse than Sonic’s!), bouncing is equally bad and so is the booty-accumulating sound. I can’t explain any of them since they’re so unrealistic (even for platform games). The only even decent sound in the game is when you grab a gem.
The voices be few and rightfully so, since Havoc’s item-grabbing voice is horrific- I don’t even know what he’s supposed to be saying, as is the walrus boss’ grunt. They shouldn’t have even tried. Overall, the sounds and voices be very weak, even for a Genesis game.
The music isn’t like any pirate music like you’d expect- or the platform game music you’d expect (any of it). It’s unexplainable. All I can tell you is that it be like bad mid-80’s action game music. Not really bad, just boring.
Another fairly amusing part of the game is the ”orchestra” mode (sound test) where there are a bunch of musicians with Havoc as the conductor (he even has the metal stick I can’t remember the name of). The orchestra’s playing goes perfectly in sync with the tracks. I gave it an extra half of a point for being creative for once.
For the first half of the game, it’s just jump on this, jump on that, catch the floating platform and avoid the spikes. Later, you get a couple of minor variations like running from a giant flame (think Final Fantasy 3– it looks like the evil flames from there), but most of the levels are the same thing except with more enemies and spikes. Overall, I’ve seen it all before. It even has the factory and the ice cap stage. The enemies are equally shallow- most of the time they’re not even as tall as Havoc. You just fight little sword-wielding dogs, evil fishes, bats and other peons. The bosses are very absurd, ranging from a giant dog that blows lethal bubblegum to a pirate walrus. They remind me a lot of Decap Attack‘s. In fact, the whole game reminds me of it.
High Seas Havoc is probably the third hardest platform game on the Genesis next to Bubsy 1 & 2. You have a fighting game-style health meter, but it’s just for show since you can only take 3 to five hits no matter who you fight. Speaking of health, there are WAY too many cheap hits in every level- whether it’s an enemy just an inch above you that you can’t see until you jump (which is usually too late) or getting hit by the same enemy twice before you can move away, because you only flash for 3/4’s of a second! Another problem is how much they use spikes- after the first level, they’re everywhere! The way you get knocked back whenever you’re hit only makes all of those predicaments worse! This is a game targeted for young ones, but I’d bet my 100+ Genesis game collection that the preponderance of lads will grow frustrated with the constant cheap hits. Chances are they’ll grow sick of it before they beat it.
There’s really not much depth here at all. There’s easy, normal, and hard, but there’s no noticeable difference between them. You won’t find any new ways to beat the game since you only have one and 1/2 attacks. There are no secret levels or even secret rooms! The most covert thing in the game is finding a spring or two to get an extra life. There’s nothing to do with once you beat it either. There are unlimited continues and only five levels (2 parts each), but it will still take a while to beat it, even if you’re an expert.
The graphics are the savior of this game. If they weren’t that good, this would be one of the most average games ever. Instead it’s just perhaps the most average platformer ever; one of the hardest, too.
SCORE: 5 out of 10