Genre: Action/RPG Developer: Brainbusters Publisher: Sega of Japan Players: 1 Released: 1992
The internet definitely has its uses. Recently, Sega-16 forum member David J. informed us of a project to patch King Colossus with an English translation. Quickly, I headed over to the site and after some finagling (with the help of some nice posters!) I was able to get it to work. After giving the game several hours of playtime, I can honestly say that we were robbed of a great action/RPG.
I have to say that I’m quite surprised with King Colossus. When I initially played it for our Left in Japan article, the language barrier prevented me from getting farther than the first two dungeons. Now, with the English patch, we can finally enjoy the game the way it was meant to be played. I don’t have to emphasize how important it is to know what’s going on in a game like this, so I’m very thankful to the people that worked on the translation. For those of us that wish to preserve the legacy of the Genesis, such efforts are important historical events to document. Now all we need is a translation of Sega CD Shadowrun or Surging Aura on the Genesis and I can die a happy man.
This isn’t just a basic translation job either. There have been several bug fixes, making for a tighter experience that’s as smooth as an actual cart running on real hardware (more so than usual). If you’re interested in playing it in the original language, MIJET has also preserved the original Japanese text, which can be accessed by switching your emulator’s regional settings to Japan.
The luxury of playing in English is a definite bounty that allows for instant access, and once you begin, you might feel a sense of déjà vu overwhelm you, even though you’ve never played before. There’s a good reason for that. Let me put it this way: if anyone were to ever accuse Sega of copying Falcom, King Colossus would be exhibit A. It’s about as close as you can get to a Ys title without a redheaded hero. Wait, he is redheaded! Ok, so Sega went all out in their imitation of one of the premier action/RPG titles in gaming history. Can you blame them? These are the types of games that appeal to both the gamer who likes jumping and swatting things with his sword, and the one who loves tons of items and equipment. The only thing Sega didn’t get right here was the decision to leave King Colossus in Japan, an error that has been wonderfully remedied with this patch.
As a young hero charged with guarding a special sword, you are angrily sent by your elderly guardian to retrieve it after you foolishly let it be stolen. This sets off a domino effect of events that go from saving a weaponsmith’s daughter from sacrifice, to ultimately saving the world (as if you didn’t see that one coming). The dialogue in the new translation is excellent and error-free for the most part, giving a game that was somewhat difficult to play without knowledge of Japanese new life for a western audience.
As I said earlier, there’s definite inspiration from Ys here, though I’m not sure it was exactly intentional. Dungeons are large and require often several keys for progress, and the enemies range from the overworked slime to some nasty insects of all sizes. You can see the Falcom influence in the level design and RPG dynamics, and even the menu bar is practically the same.
Thankfully, you don’t need to run into enemies to kill them like poor Adol had to. A single swipe is all you have, but it’s more than adequate enough for eliminating bad guys. The only real problem I have with the combat is that you practically have to be on top of a foe to score a hit, since your blade doesn’t extend as far out as it should. This isn’t an issue later on, however, as you access some cool chain weapons and axes that have some decent range. Furthermore, once you get a decent amount of levels, most foes go down with two or three hits.
Comparisons with Mr. Christian’s adventures aside, what we really have here is a rock solid game that does a great job on all levels. The presentation is consistent, with clear and crisp graphics (this was a 1992 release, remember that) and a pretty darn good soundtrack. Character sprites aren’t too animated, and the environments lack some detail, but overall the game does its job visually. There is some cool parallax scrolling and an intelligent use of color. You don’t have to worry about enemy fire blending in with the background or a switch or chest being masked by the scenery. I would have liked for the hero to have been a bit more athletic, as he takes too long to turn around and strike, but it’s not enough to make combat problematic.
While King Colossus easily handles most of the criteria required for an action/RPG, it’s not without its flaws. Beside the shaky hit detection of some weapons, your character has a nasty habit of dying too easily. It’s no coincidence that you can save wherever and whenever you please, and soon you find yourself having to reload your game over and over. This is especially annoying at the beginning, since you’ll spend the first few hours with the same defensive equipment. Even leveling up doesn’t really change how much damage you take, though it does reduce the amount of hits needed to dispatch opponents. Eventually you come across some decent armor, but even then it still seems like there’s a big bull’s-eye on your back. For instance, the bats in Gryuud’s Tower latch onto your head as though hauled in by gravity. A single bat can leech off a quarter of your energy in a single attack, and most rooms are filled to the brim with them. Only when you attain the Haken chain weapon are they no longer really a threat.
Don’t think that the game is cheap because of this; it isn’t. Once you get over this minor (yet irritating) difficulty hump at the beginning and level up a few times, things do get easier. None of the bosses are especially tough either, and foes tend to leave plenty of hearts behind when they die. Some even drop orbs that replenish your entire life bar! I’d say that after about level six, enemies start to become less of a hassle, and you are more worried about solving the latest dungeon’s puzzles and moving on to the next area.
So if you’re looking for that next adventure to tackle after Beyond Oasis and Crusader of Centy, Sega has another quest waiting for you. It’s a shame they decided to make you wait so long for it, but hey, some things are better that way, and such fan translations as this ensure that a new generation of gamers will get to experience something many older gamers missed out on. MIJET made a great choice for a conversion, as King Colossus has aged nicely where it counts. Whether you’re a action/RPG nut or just looking for something new to try out on the Mega Drive, you’re sure to enjoy the 10 or so hours it will take to play it through.
SCORE: 8 out of 10