Saturday, May 2, 2009


AIC / NEC Avenue
Super CD-ROM

There's an old Twilight Zone episode that tells the haunting tale of a man who stopped for gas in a small town and later realized he would never be allowed to leave. Scarred for life by this story, I'd kept my distance from small towns until I unwittingly fell into the trap set by AIC's Basted. While it's considered an "RPG" by most (if only in the loosest sense), Basted is truly the realization of my deepest, darkest fears.

All was okay at first. Your typical RPG field was where I became acquainted with Ryeza and Anita, my two-troop party. A band of kobolds (who looked like walking teddy bears) assaulted the heroines, at which point I was introduced to a rather neat real-time combat system. After selecting a member of the dirty pair to do my damage with, I slaughtered my assailants with sword swipes and charge attacks.

A short time after crushing the kobold militia, I arrived at a small town. This is when alarms should've gone off inside my head--but no, I foolishly believed that this town would be like, well, every other darn town in every other RPG: you know, a place where you can talk to the locals, stock up on equipment, down a few at the tavern--the usual good stuff that you do in a "first town" before the quest proper commences. I was just... "stopping for gas," if you will.

Hours passed.

Days passed.

My hair turned white. My face became wrinkled. My source of protoculture had been fully depleted.

And I was still in the same freakin' town.

At this point, I was scared out of my wits. But I eventually realized that I wasn't really "stuck" at all. This one town is simply all there really is to Basted. Not that there aren't plenty of recreational activities to participate in, such as...

1) ...talking to the townspeople! Of course, every townsman here speaks Japanese. Have no fear: the game plays a little jingle each time an "important" discussion takes place--just to let you know you're making progress! During your "journey," you will partake in HUNDREDS of conversations... and hear the jingle exactly three times.

2) ...going to church, where you can head upstairs and challenge THE AMAZING KARATE EXPERT to a fight! Lose to him and you'll fall through a trapdoor and end up back in the chapel. But beat him and he'll give you... a rather disgusting pornographic photograph!

3) ...having one of the townspeople play her violin for you. She knows only a single tune, and it sure ain't "The Bard's Song" from Ultima, but it will be a welcome change from the banjo strumming that otherwise accompanies your "adventures."

4) ...looking inside the dozens of barrels scattered about town. I bet there's something valuable inside one of 'em!

5) ...beating up the bouncer outside the bar, walking into said bar, and having your girls dance and expose their breasts for everyone. (This is not a particularly unpleasant prospect.)

Of course, "STOP PLAYING THE GAME" will probably be a more attractive option than any of these. Basted is a very short and mostly dopey one-town nightmare that rarely lets you make use of its interesting battle system, as those kobolds at the beginning, some knights at the end, and sporadic "bosses" comprise the entire enemy "legion." Heck, you won't even be allowed to leave the town save for two brief excursions. One of these trips has you climb a mountain, dash through a cave, and rummage through an entire castle--and during all of this, you have to win only TWO fights. I never thought I'd be wishing for random battles, but man...

There are no additional techniques to learn or weapons to acquire. No experience points to earn. No money to save. No mazes to traverse (unless we count the "final dungeon," which is essentially a forkless road to victory). No real puzzles to solve. Nothing...

...except for CINEMAS! Yes, Basted serves up cinema after cinema after cinema... and we're talking beautifully drawn, full-screen masterpieces here. Blood, destruction, nudity, melodrama, crazy Thunder Force III swirling effects, swords being plunged into women's chests--you name it, Basted's intermissions have it!

The cinematics are so well executed, in fact, that it's easy to comprehend and become involved in the tale the game is telling even if you don't know Japanese. It's an initially simple story of an exiled prince hiding out in an old, abandoned shack, a prince whom our two female rogues agree to aid in his fight against evil. But it becomes much more than that.

I can't help but chuckle when Ryeza reveals her plan to hustle the young nobleman.

I can't help but feel pity for a beautiful adversary who ends up bloodied and beaten and utters her final few words as a majestic track reminiscent of Ys' best temporarily replaces the banjo racket.

And I can't help but be moved when tough-girl Ryeza finally lets her guard down and begins falling for the prince. (My desire to find out if they'd end up together saw me through to the game's conclusion.)

Basted is an ingenious creation in a certain twisted way. With one town, one "maze," and COUNTLESS cinemas, it can be viewed as a parody of today's story-heavy, gameplay-light RPGs, even though it was produced long before the modern fluff-fests! You'll want to pick it up if only to see some fine Turbo animation; the cinematics alone make taking a trip through the valley of the shadow a worthwhile endeavor.

(A Basted strategy guide by yours truly can be found here. )

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