Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fiend Hunter

Right Stuff
Super CD-ROM

I often liken Fiend Hunter to Blood Will Tell, a favorite of mine for the Playstation 2. BWT features a dark, compelling theme and solid 3D combat, but its main attraction is its boss cast. The colossus-confronting hero must hunt down and annihilate forty-eight incredible fiends, among whom are club-wielding lion-men, enormous armored minotaurs, bellowing demon ogresses, and a sinister six-armed deity who steals people's faces and tattoos them to his torso. FH's beastly villains aren't quite as impressive as BWT's yetis, golems, and specters, but there are over forty of them for you to engage in hack-and-slash combat, and their respective attack methods are varied enough to require you to devise fresh tactics for each bout.

Squaring off with all those skilled, striking creatures is the unfortunately named Feed Sluster, a lanky, goofier-than-he'd-like-to-admit Earnest Evans emulator whom women just can't seem to keep their hands off.

While Feed takes after Wolf Team's legendary treasure hunter in matters of appearance and temperament, he comes off as a mimicker of the Prince of Persia protagonist in action. Stretches separating fights have him dash, leap, crawl, climb, and ledge-grab PoP style.

Accompanying the hunter every hop, heave, and step of the way is a timid little demon named Exy.

The poor, diminutive fire fiend never seems to want much to do with monster hunting or devil battering but exhibits valor and skill by warding off attackers, illuminating dusky areas, nabbing out-of-the-way items, and flipping distant switches.

Feed himself is hardly a klutz. He's capable of performing myriad flips, swipes, and magic-based attacks in battle, and he controls well enough that pulling off any of his assorted moves is seldom difficult. In truth, the unlikely partners complement each other so marvelously that many of the cheap-tactics-prone fiends can hardly help but end up being clobbered. Stacking the odds further in the duo's favor is the fact that items can be bought in shops, found in niches, and won from villains that strengthen the warrior and his demonic chum in aspects of melee and magic ability.

It's unfortunate that Right Stuff couldn't make Feed animate nearly as well as his Persian predecessor, though the ungraceful manner in which the fellow goes about his business belies the general adequacy of the controls. The fiends themselves aren't graphically impressive, but many of them are intriguing in design, while the backdrops are generally dark but rarely revolting and occasionally look quite nice (particularly those utilized for outdoor sequences). The soundtrack also has its impressive moments, as it delivers both catchy and appealingly wacky numbers and gets serious and dramatic when it really needs to.

Despite the high number of respectable-enough ingredients that went into the title, whatever allure Fiend Hunter has is almost entirely attributable to its cast of creatures. It's never particularly ambitious with its exploratory elements or perplexing with its environment-based conundrums. It isn't aesthetically brilliant, and it can feel a bit rough at times. But the fun that comes with finding and battling distinctively designed devils makes players keep right on questing until the blood of the final fiend has been spilled.

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