Genre: Shmup Developer: Rocket Science Publisher: Rocket Science Players: 1 Released: 1994
Oh boy, here we go with one of my absolute gaming nightmares, a game which also left me wondering where to even start with writing this review. Loadstar: The Legend of Tully Bodine was one of those games that I seemed to live in mortal fear of. I’ve owned this game for some time now, and every time I’ve tried to play it I’d get my behind handed to me so mercilessly that I swore I’d never play it again. That’s saying a lot coming from me, as I’ve managed to beat some brutally difficult games in my day – Battletoads, Ninja Gaiden, Double Dragon, Chakan, Marble Madness. None of them even scare me a bit, and I can blaze through them no problem, but Loadstar left me in an almost nightmarish state because of how difficult it was to play.
The closest way to describe my relationship with this game is to look at the X-Men’s Wolverine. None of his opponents scared him, even Magneto, an enemy he knew he had no possible chance of ever defeating, but he bravely fought with reckless abandon. Then along came Cyber, a villain very similar in physical traits to him who struck fear into his very heart.
I fought with this game miserably because I knew I had to conquer my fear of it, and I spent hours of endless pain and agony doing what I knew I had to do. Now, I can finally say that though I haven’t conquered Loadstar yet, I’ve finally conquered my fear of this game just as Wolverine eventually did with Cyber. Now let’s dive in head first into the shallow end of the gaming pool that is Loadstar: The Legend of Tully Bodine, a game that I’ve come to consider my “Cyber.”
Before I go any further with this review I have to start out by complimenting this game. Loadstar has a very well done FMV intro that’s several minutes long and is full of that wonderful ’80s campy space sci-fi. I really like it. The game also stars two respectable acting talents, Ned Beatty and Barry Primus as the two main characters. Their roles are purposely campy, but they carry their parts quite well so they were always great to watch, even after having to watch them several times over when I died so much.
In a nutshell, the story is about Tully Bodine, a smuggler, who has picked up a load of goods and is trying to outrun the law when he realizes that he’s been framed for a crime he didn’t commit. He has to navigate a large space railway network with his smuggling vehicle aptly named Loadstar. While you play the game, Tully interacts with Loadstar’s navigation computer named Mort(em) who is basically depicted as an animated Joe Smiley and is basically the game’s comic relief.
The game is basically Sewer Shark in space but much harder. During each of the four stages there’s an object in the background such as a satellite or a building. It acts as a focal point for the direction that you have to follow, and it grows larger the closer you are to your destination. There is also a heading indicator which is basically a 360-degree compass, and the higher the number is on the indicator means you’re further off course. As you navigate the railways you point your cursor in the direction you want to turn, and it also acts as your firing crosshair. One of my complaints is that it’s very hard to hit enemies and choose a direction to turn at the same time, and I can remember countless times that I missed turns trying to kill enemies to save myself from damage. There are two different shields that you have to learn to use efficiently as they can run out very fast, and they do take a long time to recharge.
My biggest complaint with Loadstar, and the one that almost cripples the game completely, is the fact that it’s just way too hard and way too long for its own good. This game is mind-numbingly hard. No matter what you do you will never be able to avoid all of the enemy fire since it’s a rail shooter, and later in the stages you will be almost constantly pummeled by endless waves of enemies leaving you at the mercy of your shields (while they last). After that you better hope you’re close to the end of the stage. Each level is a test of your endurance, as most of them take about seven to eight minutes a piece to complete. On top of that, you’re racing a timer, and even if you complete the stage after you run out of time you still have to restart it. This game literally wore me out mentally by the time I was done playing it, and no matter how hard I try I doubt I’ll ever be able to finish it any time soon.
Graphically Loadstar is pretty nice to look at. The entire game, including the FMV scenes, are all in full screen and have a pretty high resolution too. Each of the stages are nice to look at for what they are, but since the levels take too long they become boring by the time you’re done. Your targeting crosshair is pretty lame too, and unlike the PC version, where you can see your gunfire, you can’t see it here. When you move your crosshair over an enemy and fire at it, it just rotates a bit and the enemy explodes without being hit by any gunfire. Honestly, it looks pretty stupid.
Loadstar’s audio is a mixed bag. The voice acting is really good and a lot of fun to listen to, but the sound effects are pretty bad. The sound of the Loadstar’s gunfire is really generic and sounds like it’s been recycled from every other generic FMV game, and it kind of made me mad. The music is also pretty generic too. It’s kind of a blend of all of that early ’90s garbage noise rock that I’ve come to hate over the years, and even when played through a stereo connection it only comes out mono, which is also a disappointment.
I can honestly say that the programmers tried to make a good game here, and I’m sure it took a heck of a lot of effort to finish. However, I think their effort was too misguided because we’re left with a game that’s just not a lot of fun and too much of a mind drain to enjoy to completion. If you are one of those FMV fanatics that just has to know everything about this game then you may want to check out the PC version for a comparison, as well as to see the extra level that was cut from the Sega CD version due to disc space restraints. Then if you still haven’t gotten enough of this wonderful title then you can find a code to allow you to play a mini game called Mort Pong which is essentially just Pong.
Thankfully I’ve conquered my fear of this game despite never finishing it. This is still one of my least favorite Sega CD games, and I know that most of you know that I hate it and probably want me to trash it. Even so, I’m going to give it an unbiased score and will even admit that it’s far from the worst FMV game on the Sega CD (hello San Diego Zoo Presents: The Animals!. Yeah, I’m talking about you!). I will say this though; if you’re not a diehard – and I mean DIEHARD FMV fan – than this game this game isn’t worth your, mine, or anyone else’s time so just forget it exists.
SCORE: 3 out of 10