Monday, April 8, 2013

Blood Gear

Hudson Soft / Red / Westone
Super CD-ROM

Noting that it was designed by the estimable Westone and that it boasted awesome cover art and one of the coolest titles in gaming history, my brother Duomitri (a venturesome prospector of video-game gold) took a chance on Blood Gear before practically anyone else had even heard of it. The game didn't remain obscure for long after that, as Duomitri raved about the effort, often comparing it to Zelda II, an amazing old-school action-RPG in its own right. Indeed, BG not only succeeds in providing satisfying combat and questing elements but also presents a thrilling story that revolves around the strike-and-counter rivalry between a diligent, likable hero and a memorably malicious antagonist.

Like The Adventure of Link, Blood Gear places heavy emphasis on sidescrolling action scenes. But rather than having you assume the role of a scrawny elven lad brandishing a tiny blade, BG provides you with giant mecha capable of wielding lightsabers, mega-bazookas, shotguns, and a wide variety of other devastating arms. And instead of poking around mere woods and palaces, you get to explore factories, tundras, storm-lands, underwater bases, mechanized caverns, and the depths of outer space.

You even eventually pay a visit to a strange little village inhabited by phantoms.

Like Exile's, Blood Gear's town sequences represent a departure from its action scenes in that they're viewed from an overhead perspective. While they do ask that you partake in the usual RPG acts of commerce and clue garnering, they often also have you perform amusing little tasks, like breaking out of a prison and subsequently stealing an enemy soldier's uniform to engage in a bit of espionage.

Found in most of the villages are factories in which you may strengthen your mecha. You begin with a slow, clunky trash heap of a robot and end up with an absolute killing machine (and you decide on the manner in which to power it up, as you earn points for upgrading by slaying your adversaries). Even after your robotic warrior has attained god-mecha status, you won't simply be able to plow through the enemy forces; you'll have to plan as you proceed, switching up weapons when necessary and even pulling some acts of chicanery to fool a few awesomely powerful contraptions that'll bust you up in no time if you attack them head on.

Said contraptions (especially the largest ones) and most of the backdrops (particularly the ones boasting multilayer scrolling) are very detailed and colorful and look absolutely fantastic.

The last boss is an insane two-screen-tall terror machine, and right before you can attempt to deal with it, you have to annihilate a huge starship hovering about in space.

It's a fantastic conclusion to an adventure that never slows down. Don't expect all the fun to be backed by red book brilliance, however, as the tunes are mostly chip fare. The tracks are excellent, though, and very memorable, particularly the invigorating primary action-scene tune, a swingy composition reminiscent of certain Final Fight numbers, a dirty dungeon dirge, and the sentimental town theme.

I've held Blood Gear in very high regard over the years, viewing it as one of the twenty or thirty best video games I've ever played. Amazingly, it proves whenever I revisit it to kick even more ass than my memories tend to indicate. It's absolutely outstanding, one of the greatest Duo products of all time and a must if you enjoy adventure games along the lines of Zelda II, The Legend of Xanadu, and Exile.

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