Friday, February 20, 2009

Exile: Wicked Phenomenon (Exile II)

Riot / Telenet / Working Designs (US)
Super CD-ROM
1993 (JPN: 1992)

Exile II starts off in exciting fashion with an excellent opening cinema. Granted, said cinema basically just shows off the four main characters, but it makes them look like badasses, and the music accompanying it is absolutely fantastic. The scene at the end of the game depicting an unexpected dilemma for returning-hero Sadler is also pretty damn cool.

But look between those two extreme points and you'll find a very short, very easy, very average action-RPG. It's a lot like the first Exile but even more linear: the "adventure" is actually no more than a straight line from town to battle scene to town to battle scene. This is nice in that the language barrier won't become a factor if you opt for the cheap import, but it doesn't make for great questing.

The action plays out poorly, but it doesn't matter in the Japanese original because you're way too powerful for your adversaries to handle, regardless of how many hits they get in. If you choose to purchase the much more expensive and notoriously "difficult" US rendition, Wicked Phenomenon, you'll find that Working Designs made the enemies hardier and capable of dealing greater damage. This isn't nearly the big deal that many make it out to be; you just have to do a little more leveling and pay a bit more attention to boss patterns (and endure some horrible voice acting as you proceed--they really sissified Sadler). WP can feel more rewarding than its Japanese counterpart since it actually requires players to pay some attention to what their foes are doing; but it can also be a lot more irritating, as it frequently makes players hack away at slow, dimwitted roadblocks who pose absolutely no threat but refuse to go away until they've been hit a few million times.

Some of the WP bosses aren't quite as weak as the complete chumps in the first Exile, but they're still pushovers; and the stage design is worse here, as the original's levels are larger and more labyrinthine. Offering a few different characters to play as doesn't make up for these deficiencies. Plan to have this one beaten in a day (yes, even the "impossible" WP), and don't plan to make any return trips once you're done.

The opening sequence is superb, but it's all downhill from there...

...except, of course, when you get to watch subsequent solid cinemas.

The decent-looking backgrounds and character sprites are the most noteworthy elements of the in-game experience.

Town scenes are uneventful.

You shouldn't have to break a sweat when fighting the bosses... or at any point at all, really.

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