Friday, April 17, 2009

Mystic Formula

Micro Cabin Corp.
Super CD-ROM

Even though most reviews of it depict it as being lackluster, I'd always found Mystic Formula intriguing before I finally got the chance to play it. Its visuals and apparent gameplay style reminded me of Elemental Master, which is one of my favorite Genesis games. Plus, its characters always look quite cool in artwork and cinema screenshots. As it turns out, MF isn't a straightforward shooter a la EM; rather, it's an overhead-view blaster of Last Alert's ilk. Unfortunately, it lacks LA's cool weaponry, diverse mission objectives, and explorable environments.

My experience with it commenced in wretched fashion. It wasted no time before disappointingly establishing that most of its cinemas would be of the "small window" variety, and said cinemas give way to awful in-game graphics. Gameplay-wise, it came off as a poor man's Last Alert, and it had me fighting vexatious little bats rather than soldiers and machines.

Things pick up a bit after the horrible start, however. The opposing army gets its act together and throws a few reasonably cool beasts and robots your way. You can commandeer enemy mecha and vehicles and grab icons that make allies appear and fight by your side.

But the problem is that the whole game is way, way, way too easy. I beat it the first time I played it and easily disposed of Hard mode the next time. The bosses, though they look kind of cool, are weaklings.

The "toughest" parts come during the first and third stages, when those swarming bats attack you. Beyond those sections, the game is cake. One serpent midboss does absolutely nothing except sloooowly follow you around the screen--even in Hard mode.

Still, the action is adequate if not particularly exciting or challenging. And the music is pretty good--not memorable, but pretty good. That's some lukewarm praise, but in Mystic Formula's case, it adds up to "better than expected." When I first acquired the disc, I happened to be playing through a long RPG, and it did provide a nice-enough break from that lengthy undertaking. But that's probably all it'll wind up being if you buy it: a decent "break" game. It won't occupy your attention for long. Sadly, $40 seems to be the typical asking price for it, and it really isn't worth that much. I got it for half that amount, and I was satisfied with the purchase.

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