Genre: Action Developer: Sega Enterprises Publisher: Sega Enterprises Players: 1 Released: 1991
Jewel Master is the story of a fantasy land named Mythgard where the people lived in piece until Jardine, the demon king, came to overthrow the world (Jardine’s got some cool artwork!). There were twelve Jewel Masters who brought together their rings of power consisting of Fire, Water, Earth, and Soul, but their battle failed and only four masters survived. Knowing of their ultimate demise, they passed their souls into the twelve now-lost rings, hoping that one day a chosen one would find them and use their combined strength to take one final stand against Jardine.
You’re mission is to make it through the more than twelve levels and to collect the lost rings, only you don’t really get to search for the rings. Rather, they’re held captive by the many creatures and enemies of the game and are given to you by defeating them. You make your way through each group of levels, and at the end of each one you face the mythical creature that holds one of the rings of power you’re trying to obtain. There are four different colors of rings to obtain. three red, three green, three blue, and three grey. The three red rings are rings of fire. Alone, each one gives you a sword of fire. There is a small, medium, and large ring and each one is more powerful than the last. The blue rings each offer a glowing repelling shield that lasts longer the stronger the ring. The green rings perform mighty earthquakes to stun enemies, and the grey rings make your body perform superhuman tasks. The small grey ring makes you move faster, the second one gives you a high jump, and the third gives you a double jump.
When a game is easy to control and has good production value, it’s what makes me return to it again and again. Gaining each ring makes you stronger and stronger, and each enemy is that much more fulfilling to defeat as they grow bigger and harder. These bosses are quite difficult to the inexperienced novice, but your rings of choice are that extra puzzle-solving touch to the game that take some planning to come up with the right combo needed to defeat the enemy. Once you discover what works best, you’ll find defeating that boss easier the next time around, making it easier to come back again and again.
The joy of using these rings is experimenting with different combinations that unlock different kinds of weapons. A grey ring in combination with any fire or water ring gives you a variation of a fire weapon that shoots rather than brandishes, and becomes more powerful the larger the red ring and faster the larger the gray ring. The rest of the combos are up to you to figure out.
The control of your character is very easy. Jewel Master offers fluid and instant control that makes moving on ground and in mid-air a breeze. The great thing about Jewel Master is that you can never really complain about control or ability because your rings give you the power to overcome any obstacle. Your grey rings allow you to run fast when needed and to jump really high when needed, and your weapon rings give you the needed ammo to blast through secret passages or regular passages that are blocked. You’re able to fit your ring combos in the pause menu and with two hands, you’re able to use two rings or two combos at once.
Presentation is a mixed bag. While the visuals aren’t the best seen on the system, there’s a ton of beautiful parallax that few other games of the era have matched. Sprites animate somewhat stiffly, but move well enough so as to not damage the gameplay. The music and sound are great as well, and the Genesis presents a great soundtrack that’ll have you humming through each level. The sound effects weren’t very interesting, but they always fit the mood of the level just like the music. So you definitely won’t be muting your TV.
The bottom line is that Sega knew how to make arcade games that were fun, and Jewel Master has all the elements of a great arcade game. It has lots of memorable music, fun levels, lots of enemies, even mini-bosses before the big bosses, and an incredibly challenging final level with an ending that leaves you fulfilled. But there’s no getting around the fact that this game is hard. Even though the first levels don’t take long to master, the second half will have you coming back again and again. Those who are easily frustrated should take Jewel Master as a chance to build some character, for it will be a game with some great action, and an ending truly earned! Overall, Jewel Master is a solid side-scrolling adventure, although I would have made it just a little bit longer.
SCORE: 8 out of 10