Monday, January 28, 2013

"Young Merlin", SNES, 1993.

Kids these days think they invented graffiti? Here's someone kickin' it oldschool style -- roughly hewn from the living stone!
We don't need twee rhymes and alliteration to pander to your minuscule attention span! No catchy slogans! Instead, we will just sway you with the sheer epic, uh, epic-ness of it all. Look upon my brand, ye mighty, and weep! Westwood Studios was known for lush production values and those took them far to differentiate them from competitors. FTL's Dungeon Master solidified its genre but you could have bowled me over with a feather the first time I saw and heard the intro to Eye of the Beholder -- a feeling only extended in their own Lands of Lore. Maybe there were one or two RTS games before Westwood's Dune 2, but looking and sounding as good as it did, it made the argument far more compellingly. If it hadn't looked or sounded as good as it did, the Legend of Kyrandia would have been a sub-Roberta Williams graphical adventure game, full of an unlikeable combination of randomness, arbitrariness and walking dead-ness. Instead it's a fond memory of a likeable but flawed attempt -- likeable enough to parlay out into a trilogy!

Most of their success was on home computers. They did branch out, occasionally, to home consoles as they do here (and on their heartbreaking final title, where you can practically count EA's tread marks on their face), but the results weren't always, to paraphrase another company's name, PF Magic. Still, better an interesting failure than a boring success, and if you end up with a zero-for-two boring failure it can at least be a handsome one. Sometimes it can almost fool you. (And rest assured be failure here I just mean "fails to distinguish itself and rise above the competition" -- it's not a fatally flawed work, the SNES just had a large library.)