Genre: Graphic Adventure Developer: Hudson Soft Publisher: Hudson Soft Players: 1 Released: 1994
When it comes to intergalactic bad asses, no one is bigger than Cobra, the Legendary Bandit. As the most wanted man in the galaxy, he’s been playing dead for the past three years, biding his time until things cooled down. Now, it’s time to make his move and head back to his partner, the “Armored Lady” who’s supposed to meet him in a bar. After a brief scuffle with some of the bar’s nastier patrons, a bounty hunter named Jane Royal bumps into Cobra as he’s waiting for Lady. She follows him back to his ship in an attempt to uncover his true identity. Unfortunately for her, the Pirate Guild and its leader, the notorious assassin known as the Crystal Boy, has followed them both. It turns out that the Guild is after Jane, who has the mother of all tattoos on her back. Supposedly, she and her two sisters each have one, and the three tattoos together form a map to a massive treasure. Cobra helps Jane escape the Guild and agrees to help her find her sisters and the treasure.
As Cobra, players are tasked with helping Jane find her siblings and solving the mystery behind the three tattoos, and this journey takes them to several different locations. The Pirate Guild is always one step behind, and Crystal Boy is even more determined to find them now that he knows Cobra isn’t dead. It seems our hero erased his own memory and had plastic surgery before going into hiding, and though he was able to evade his enemies for this long, someone who loves action as much as Cobra won’t stay hidden for any significant amount of time. Now, his emerging memory has fueled his need to return to his former life, and for better or for worse, his decision to help Jane has catapulted him back into the galactic spotlight.
Not a bad plot for a game, is it? And this is only the first 15 minutes or so. Space Adventure tries very hard to live up to its name, and no one can fault it for failing to deliver a grand saga of action and intrigue. Hudson Soft has done a darn good job of turning Buichi Terasawa’s classic anime series into a video game, relying on the graphical adventure format to carry most of the weight. This isn’t surprising, considering that Terasawa himself was involved in development as graphic supervisor. One might initially think that an action game, perhaps in the same vein as Rolling Thunder, would have been more apt for this type of character, but the there’s a surprising amount of meat to the digital comic, and the story and characters, the true stars of this series, are better able to shine through than with a standard shooter.
Space Adventure seems to be targeted squarely at male gamers, and the copious amounts of T&A sprinkled between the action sequences testify to an attempt to keep gamers enthralled with hormonally-charged anticipation of the next cut scene. There’s never any actual nudity, but there’s no attempt to be subtle either. Whether it’s Jane showering (is that almost a nipple?), her new costume- complete with G-string, or the many references to her breasts, legs, and even feet; it feels as though the developers went out of their way to make the game seem like a ’70s exploitation film. I was half expecting Pam Grier to make a cameo.
Of course, there simply cannot be this much goodness without flaws. In my eyes, Space Adventure only has two, and only one can actually be considered to be major. No, that’s too generous. It is, in fact, a whopper of a fault. I am, of course, referring to the often cringe-worthy dialogue and voice acting. With such a wide set of characters, a cool story, and great visuals, it boggles the mind that Hudson Soft could have botched the audio to such an extent. I know that mid ’90s voice acting was generally horrible, but Space Adventure wins whatever trophy can be given for such an offense. The voice-overs are laughably bad, as is a lot of the dialogue, and it not only reflects just how little thought developers of the time gave to this aspect of game design, it actually detracts from the overall presentation in a big way. Here’s a sample of some of the worst offenders, and though the game’s audio isn’t this bad all the time, it really shouldn’t be this bad AT ALL. Did Hudson suddenly run out of money by the time the voice-overs came around? Did it just lose interest and want the game out the door already? I’ve spoken to quite a few people about Space Adventure (and its ridiculous eBay prices) and it saddens me that the poor voice acting is what most of them remember first. There’s a good game wrapped around those voices, damn it!
The other flaw, one that is actually part and parcel of the genre, is the overall linearity of the game. Players will basically just click on each option until they find one they haven’t seen before, watch a cool new cut scene, and then repeat the process. Those who accept this reality will see nothing of note here, but for newcomers, patience is a virtue. The game isn’t really challenging, and it’s over fairly quickly, but there is a ton of neat animation and dialogue (as bad as it is), and seeing Cobra’s Psycho-gun in action is always awesome. The rewards for sticking through to the end is a great rendition of a classic story, and anyone who has played similar Sega CD titles, like Snatcher and Rise of the Dragon will know just what to do. There are few instances where anyone will get genuinely stuck, and for those, we thankfully have the internet.
When it all comes down to deciding whether or not Space Adventure deserves a place on the shelf, two important factors must be considered. First, it’s a graphical adventure, which means it’s slow-paced and linear. Second, it’ s outrageously expensive. A complete and minty copy (like mine, ha ha!) can fetch over $100. If these two faults can be balanced out against the great story, characters, and cut scenes, then there’s another title to feed to hungry Sega CDs. One simply has to evaluate just how pressing the need to play a game like this really is, especially when there are better examples of this type on the system for the same or less money.
SCORE: 6 out of 10