Thursday, 30 January 2014

Soleil (Genesis/Mega Drive) - Replay

Super Adventures in Gaming Replay 2014 - Game 1

Super Adventures is three years old today! I don't know if that's a cause for celebration, but it's definitely cause for a brand new (hand-pixelled) logo.

Though really I should probably pretend those first few months never existed and move the birthday along a little, as the site was pretty terrible when I started off. Games were lucky if they got more than a handful of screenshots and a teaspoon full of commentary back then, as I hadn't yet gotten my head around the concept of taking the time to give them a fair chance. Actually better yet, I could do what I do at this point every year and replay a few of those games and maybe see if they get any better after the first 20 seconds.

Soleil Mega Drive title screen
First up is the game known in Europe as Soleil, though back when it first appeared on my site on February 2nd 2011 it was under the US title of Crusader of Centy.

Most of the time I try to keep my screenshots 100% true to what came out of the game, but sometimes I can't resist editing a few together.

The game begins with an intro explaining that in the early days of this world before sunlight was invented, 'monsters' were free to frolic around in the darkness. But their age of constant night was eventually cut short by a crisis of apocalyptic proportions: the introduction of daytime.

This was bad news for monsters, forced to scurry underground away from the harsh rays, but great news for all the plants and animals who were now able to spring into existence and eventually evolve into cute bunny rabbits and trees. Humanity was especially keen on this new arrangement as they never liked those creepy monsters anyway.

But... the monsters did not become extinct. Well that's basically the entire story so far then.

CUT TO:

INT. PROTAGONIST'S HOUSE - MORNING.

Our hero stands in the center of the only room in his house, looking at the cake his mother has prepared for his birthday. His three friends sit around the dinner table in front of empty plates, eager for their share of the cake, while his mother walks over to hand him his birthday present: a sword and shield.

Uh, sorry for the extended dialogue box. It was either this or an animation and I figured you'd want to sit waiting for the next block of text to scroll up even less than I do.

"Happy 14th birthday kid, have this present! Actually I don't want you to have this present, as it's your dead father's sword. He died in battle, and now you have to go off and fight as well because that's the law."
Gee... thanks Mom. This is already turning out to be the best birthday ever.

Actually that's a point; his mother is called 'Mum' in this, but she was 'Mom' in the American version. In fact the text is phrased differently as well, like the two versions were translated independently by different people. One thing that isn't different though is the soundtrack. It sounds oppressively cheerful... like elevator music, and if I remember right I'll be stuck in here listening to it for a while.

"You can't leave yet... this isn't our floor!"

Yep, I have to finish my birthday party before I'm allowed out, which basically means talking to everyone I guess. This must have been what inspired the start of Fallout 3.

Oh by the way, the official name for this guy is Corona (the game likes its references to the sun it seems), but seeing as I found nothing but a blank space waiting for me on the 'enter your name' screen I decided to go with the name the developers probably wished they could give this guy instead.

I mean seriously, this game wants to be Link to the Past so much, and so it should. If you want to make a decent game it's wise to build it upon a solid foundation.

Those clouds drift by in the actual game but I had to freeze them for the sake of the filesize.
Man, look at that dog surrounded by a swarm of spinning flowers. The poor creature must be terrified to go outside. Still, his kennel looks like it's a basically a miniature house, so I'm sure he'll be fine in there for now.

I've got bigger things to concern myself with, as Link's been sent out by his mother to tell 'his Highness' that he's reached his 14th birthday, but she forgot to tell me where the guy lives, so now I've got to go exploring!


SOON.


Well my pet dog wasn't called His Highness and neither is this rooster. So far the search isn't going well.

Obviously I should be heading straight for the castle, but of course my character has lived in Soleil town all his life so even if I could ask where the King lives, no one would take me seriously. Instead I have to check every path in turn until I find the one that takes me where I need to be.

Man I really wish I had a quest arrow about now.


LATER.


Alright, I have spoken to the King at last and I've been given a clear objective: go to Rafflesia training ground and study to become a Hero. Though he can't tell me where it is though as that'd be cheating. No directions, no quest marker, and absolutely, positively, no bloody map.

Hey, leaving town brought up this a world map and there's Rafflesia School at the end of the northern road! Man it's nice to know exactly where I'm going for once. I could go left to check out Dahlia Valley as well, but I think I'll stick to the plan for now.

I can only travel from point to point here, no straying from the paths, no random battles. No heroic overworld theme either though sadly. I'm really trying to give the game a fair shot this time, but the music's going on mute if it keeps this up.

Whoa, every house in this world is identical, even down to the symmetrical books on the shelves. I wonder if that's a law in this country as well. I can't interact with anything in these rooms by the way, it's all just scenery.

I found this place on the outskirts of the training ground and invited myself in, thinking it was where I was supposed to start my tutorial. But it turns out that it's the office of a very specialised teacher of the art of sword throwery, and unfortunately I cannot afford his training just yet. So I'll have to add 'collect 20 coins' to my list of things to do. My mental list that is, there's no journal in this that I'm aware of.

Just past the house the road branches into three, each leading to a different course: Intermediate, Beginner and Expert. I've been told by an NPC that each course has a medal at the end and collecting all three of these tokens entitles me to a free gift! But I haven't yet learned the arcane art of lifting both my feet off the ground simultaneously, so everything but Beginner is a dead end to me right now.

Oh that's awesome, thanks for that. That devious sign just told me to go over and hit the red stone with my sword, which I dutifully did, only for the spikes to erupt from out of the mud. The bad kind.

Well I've learned my lesson here. Even when the game is clearly telling me where to go and what to do it could well be luring me into a pit of spikes. Not a huge setback though, seeing as I came here with a full set of eight health apples. Seven more of these pits though and there might be a problem.

I've been told that the cash I need is hidden in the bushes, Zelda-style, but my character's sword only wants to cut stuff that touches the blade, so I have to step back a little to hit them. You can see here how he's continually hitting the row of bushes one space away but missing the one he's standing next to. I hope that's not going to become an issue when the enemies finally show up.


A SHORT WALK LATER.


Well that wasn't so bad. I learned that I can hit bushes for treasure, hit crates for treasure, hit bushes for treasure, but that hitting pots is absolutely pointless. I can't even pick the things up. I also learned that fire is bad, at least when it's a jet of flame coming out of a rotating lawn-sprinkler trap.

You know what I didn't learn though? The jump move I need for the intermediate course! Plus the exit up there just takes me back out to the start again and this medal is apparently useless on its own until I've completed the other two courses.

I went back to the sword thrower and paid him twenty coins to learn his boomerang sword throw technique, then went right back through the entire beginner course again looking for a place to use it. No luck.

I honestly have been paying attention to the text the best I can this time; I've interrogated every stranger I've met in the street, broken into people's houses just to have a chat, harassed the King's royal court, but I've still got no clue what the game wants me to do next. My pride demands that I struggle onwards and figure this out for myself... but I do have other games to play this week so I'm hitting a walkthrough instead.


SOON.


Okay, it turns out that I was supposed to go to the inn and talk to every NPC until one of them told me that his sister is in Dahlia Valley and he wishes that he could go home, but can't because he never learned the sword throw technique. The thing is though... I did go and visit that guy earlier. He never actually mentions that his home is in Dahlia Valley and in fact I'd assumed otherwise, but the walkthrough says that's where we need to go.

I probably should be cutting these guys up as I go, but it seems I can run right past them just as well. I don't wanna hurt the lil' creatures if I don't have to.

I've finally reached the top of the hill... and now I'm getting the impression I made a wrong turn somewhere along the way seeing as the only thing up here is a rabbit and he ain't talking. By the look of those rocks it seems I won't be coming back up here until I've learned how to jump.


EVENTUALLY.


Nope, this ain't working out either. I tried pushing the boxes over to make a bridge, but they stopped at the edge and wouldn't drop into the toxic acid-sewage. So I tried using my new sword throwing technique against the wall on the other side by holding down the attack button until it was charged, then releasing it like a boomerang, but that didn't work either. Finally I just waded through the stuff only to discover that there's nothing on the other side I can activate yet.

Right, the walkthrough says I'm supposed to be looking for two blocked doors behind impassable rocks. I just have to use my sword throw on the doors and they'll release a stream of water to wash me back down the hill.

Well that explains why the guy at the inn didn't just spend 20 coins to learn sword throwing to get back home; the landing's a bit rough. Fortunately the solid wooden roof managed to break my fall without breaking my back and from there it was only a short drop to the ground. Plus I even get to refill my health apples from those creates before going in.

Shame there's no save point around, as that would've been awesome right about now. Or at any time really.

Hey, I can save the game any time I want! Well SA/E the game, whatever. What's important is that I don't have to worry about the fact that I haven't seen a save point any more.

Sadly the 'Take off' buttons have nothing to do with launching unmanned attack drones. Probably.

So there ARE different looking houses in this game! Things are getting a little bit Red Riding Hood in here, though this time instead of disguising himself as an old woman, the wolf's gone and dressed up like Dracula.

Aww shit, the wolf's found a way to weaponise the Loony Tunes birds and stars spinning around his head! As long as he keeps hitting himself with that mallet these things are going to be orbiting the room, and nothing I do to him seems to be hurting him!

Oh, wait, he does have a tiny health bar under my own, so I was actually harming him. He just didn't react to being hurt, and if he was yelping in pain I didn't hear it as I muted the sound a long while back.

He doesn't seem like he'll be a tough fight after all, though I will have to fight through the Dahlia Valley all over again to get back here, as my save game put me right down at the other end of the level. Also, there's no continue screen. Running out of apples basically resets the game back to the intro.


SOON, AFTER I EFFORTLESSLY WHOOPED THAT WOLF'S ASS.


Well that's got to be the creepiest looking flower I've found in the game so far and I've seen some strong contenders. All the other plants are happy to be dancing in the breeze, but this thing seems to be talking to himself, using his petals as a mouth. That just ain't right man.

The man's sister in the cabin earlier pointed me towards this fortune-teller camping out near a playground and fortunately I had a good idea where to find it already so I can put the walkthrough away now. Hopefully her powers of clairvoyance will be powerful enough to locate some kind of a storyline for me to latch onto.

Wow. No pressure then, huh?

The fortune-teller tells my hero that there will soon be a change in him and that he must control his future, though it may be difficult. She doesn't tell me what to do next though, that'd be cheating!

I don't get why it's so hard for some of these older games to give me clear instructions about what I'm meant to be doing next. It's not like this is a living breathing world that I can get immersed into here; I can't do anything except run through the town, training area and valley talking to everyone I meet and throwing my sword at things until something eventually works. I mean I can't even ask people things.

Alright then, time to go press A on every living creature in the area again. I wonder if that flower knows where I'm meant to go next.

...

I really WAS meant to talk to the flower? The thing tells me that the fortune-teller has gone to Iris, and explains that if I can talk to flowers, then I should be able to speak to the other animals now as well. I didn't have the heart to tell it that it's actually a plant.

Same to you mate!

It seems that this new-found power to talk to plants and animals has taken away my power to talk to humans... as they apparently don't count as animals in this world. Damn, now I'll never be able to give my three medals in and get an awesome sword as a reward.


EVENTUALLY, AFTER TALKING TO THREE CHICKENS AND A COW.


My dog's going to join my party! In retrospect I probably should've come back here the second I realised I could speak to animals, but I honestly forgot that my character even has a dog.

I had to talk to this guy twice by the way before he joined up, and there was no indication at all that he'd change his response the second time I talked to him. For everyone else it seems I get the one reply and that's it.

That's interesting, I was just thinking that I could use a biter on my team. Though I'm struggling to make sense of that portrait. I *know* that he's a dog, but my brain can't quite find a dog's face in the pixels I'm looking at.

Actually I suppose it makes sense if his left eye is hidden under his fur, but I can't help seeing it like this:

The true hidden face of Johnny the dog. Or Mac the dog, if you're playing the US version.

Hah, that's awesome! The dog doesn't follow me around, he floats directly behind me as I go. Look at him bobbing up and down, there's no way that's accidental.

Oh by the way, I should probably mention that despite what the animation might imply, I can can actually smoothly turn and walk in eight directions. In your face Link to the Past!

Alright bunny, talk. I know you're the one who can tell me where to go next, as you're both the hardest creature around here to reach and the only one I haven't spoken with yet.

The rabbit had no interest in helping me at first as humans are untrustworthy, but my dog was able to convince him that humans are animals too, and therefore should be treated like any other creature. Good job I brought him along really. The rabbit seems satisfied by this argument, and shoves me into the water, where I instinctively learn the courage to jump!

So okay, a fortune-teller gave me the power to talk to animals so that I could convince my dog to come up to the top of a hill with me and tell a rabbit to push me into a lake to give me the courage to learn how to jump? Video games, man.

Now that I can jump I'm able to go back and complete that intermediate training area at last. The shallow bit is safe, but I don't want to land in that deep water if I can help it, as my poor guy can't swim and I'm all out of health apples.

He's got a really floaty jump by the way. He hangs in the air for what seems like two whole seconds each time.

See if you can tell where the developers have gone wrong here. These are beautifully pixelled tree branches no doubt, but they're kinda blocking my view right now. I can barely see if I'm lined up with the logs.

I gave it my best shot, but overshot my landing log a little and got booted straight back to the intro sequence again. Man, I really hate it when games do that, as it makes me feel like the game can't wait to get rid of me. It's hardly inspiring me to give it one more try.


ONE ATTEMPT LATER.


I'm sure there's a trick to these bouncing things, but it's going to take me a whole lot of apples before I figure it out. I wouldn't mind so much if I didn't have to replay the level to get back here every time I hit zero.

Still, at least my floating dog survived. The creature seems to be basically invulnerable.

Eventually through perseverance and skill I finally passed all the tests and made it through this obstacle course to my reward! So now I've got my second medal and I'm back to not knowing what I'm doing again. I guess I'll start asking animals again.

Hey Sonic, any idea where the fuck I'm meant to be going next?

Actually now that I think about it, Sonic the Hedgehog speaks one of our human languages right? So will I even be able to communicate with the guy in my current cursed state or will I get a message box full of symbols like when I speak to humans?

Soleil Crusader of Centy Sonic the Hedgehog sunbathing beach
Well there you go, it is confirmed. Sonic the Hedgehog can also speak 'hedgehog'. He's also a dick, but that much we knew already. Okay this seems like a reasonable place to turn the game off.


CONCLUSION


Alright, has my opinion of Soleil AKA. Crusader of Centy changed at all after giving it a second chance? Well seeing as I basically just dismissed it as being "painful" first time around without actually getting anywhere, I'd have to say... yeah. I can only guess I must have been in a really miserable mood at the time, because as Zelda clones go this seems like a pretty well made game.

Maybe it was the music and the childish dialogue that gave me a bad first impression, as there's been no effort to hide the fact that this was aimed at younger teenagers. Immediately asking me to go speak to the King was like pouring salt in the wound. But the thing is, the gameplay actually seems to be very solid and fluid, and it's only been getting better as I've acquired new skills and gone up against more devious obstacles. So far I've been mostly been able to ignore enemies and concentrate on the much more interesting fight against the level itself; pushing blocks, jumping spikes and throwing my sword at triggers.

I think in the end it pissed me off just as much as it entertained me and I'm not a fan of games that require me to have a walkthrough open just to tell me what I'm supposed to be doing. But I found I wanted to keep playing just a little longer... and then a little longer after that, purely because of the gameplay. I kept going well past the end of the screenshots in the the end, so I have to give it a star really.

Shout out to all the people who've left me comments over the last three years. When I first turned comments on I was pretty sure that I'd soon regret it, but you guys have proven that wrong time and time again with your wit and sanity. So keep on commenting plz.

11 comments:

  1. Happy Internet birthday and many happy returns to the best talking-about-videogames-with-screenshot-website around (that I'm not in charge of)!
    As for Soleil, an important question: can you hit Sonic with your sword? Because I was thinking about playing this and if I can bash the world's smarmiest hedgehog then so much the better.

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    Replies
    1. I was hoping that rings would spray out of him or something, but nope he stubbornly refuses to acknowledge any of your attacks.

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  2. The best part of life is that you can look back on it and see how your past reflects on how you think today. Sometimes we cry, sometimes we laugh, but the past is past and that is the best part of it.

    If I had a cake, I'd throw it at you, but I don't think that's possible in our modern wacky digital world. Here's to another three years.

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  3. Happy birthday to Super Adventures in Gaming =D

    Your vision of the dog's portrait is just the best XD
    And that bouncing part..... it would be great if that flying dog could give us a hide!!!

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  4. Happy Birthday, and keep up the great work!

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  5. A few years back you barely started the games.
    Now you play them for quite a while.
    Does that mean that in a few years your articles will retell your experiences through entire games?

    Also, that's exactly what I saw in the dog's portrait.

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    Replies
    1. Yes. It is my goal to eventually finish a game in its entirity by 2025.

      Delete
  6. Your portrait of the dog was incredible! XD Did you draw that?

    Also, I had to do a double take to make sure I really was seeing Sonic sitting there to sunbathe in this rpg. I thought it was a sprite edit you'd made, but he's really in the game?? And... taller than a human boy.

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    Replies
    1. I did draw the portrait, but he's basically just traced over the original art and painted in the original colours. I didn't have to change much!

      And yeah that really is Sonic in the game, I didn't edit him in I promise. I did a double take myself when I found him there on the beach, being all gallant. I guess he was hiding out to avoid having to make an appearance in Knuckles' Chaotix.

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    2. Screw you, Knuckles' Chaotix is awesome. Its haters are all lone losers who have no friends and have thus only tried its lackluster single player mode.

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  7. Ah Soliel, One of my favourite Megadrive games. It really is brilliant.
    Thinking about it, I did struggle working out what to do on my first playthrough.

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