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Old 12-01-2004, 11:45 PM   #169
Joe Redifer
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Denver, Colorado
Posts: 20,109
Magician Lord
SNK Neo Geo

The supa-huge cartridge came in a supa-huge box.
Even 40 meg Genesis games weren't any bigger than usual.
I think that SNK was compensating for something else.

Back when the Neo Geo was first released in the US, Magician Lord was one of the first games available. Believe it or not, it is still far and away one of the best games available for that system. The Neo Geo didn't offer much at all, so good games like Magician Lord really stood out. At a whopping 46 megabits, Magician Lord had memory to spare. Back when the Neo Geo was first available, I had an argument with so-called "Game Lord" Chad Okada with the information he wrote for SNK's ads. He was firm in the belief that Neo Geo games were measured in megaBYTES, not megabits. He and I went back and forth on the issue a few times until he told me to take a Neo Geo cartridge to any technician, have them crack it open and they can tell me that a game like Magician Lord is, in fact, 46 megaBYTES. Well I don't know what a technician would be able to tell by looking at a few ROM chips mounted on a board, and also I am a technician (film projection and sound) and that had no relevance to the cartridge size, so ANY technician just wouldn't do. I remained firm in my belief that Neo Geo games were rated in megabits. But guess what? The ROM for Magician Lord is 5.1 megabytes, which equals 40.8 megaBITS! So not only was I correct all along about Neo Geo games being rated in megabits, but it turns out that SNK "rounds up" a bit on their games. Ka-ching! But I digress. Don't let that make you think that Magician Lord isn't a great game, because it rocks!

Freakin' awesome 2D graphics!

Those flying thingies on the left CONSTANTLY
annoy the hell out of you throughout the game.

Graphics: 9/10
Graphics didn't get much better than this at the time, that's for damn sure. Many of the backgrounds looked like paintings because they were so detailed and colorful. Much of the artwork had a wavy, swooping style which can be seen quite abundantly in the clouds. Each new level bombarded you with colors and fine detail. The animation on the characters was pretty good for the day, and the characters themselves were quite bright and colorful. There could have been a larger variety of enemies, though. There is a lot of scaling in the game, especially on many of the rather large bosses. Seeing these bosses on my TV at home back in the time when the Genesis first started to gain footing was just amazing. I was absolutely blown away. But even today the graphics are outstanding, as many of today's current games lack the artistic style or attention to detail that Alpha Denshi provided here.

You can become a sweet ninja, but
you can't become a kick ass pirate.

Look out Mr. Magician! A giant
golf ball is about to destroy you!

Sound: 9/10
They didn't stop at just having great graphics, but they went ahead and made sure this game had fantastic music as well. The Neo Geo is nothing more than a glorified Genesis in every respect, and that includes the sound chip. The sound chip is identical, in fact, with the exception of many more PCM channels for voice and digitized sound. But Magician Lord relied mostly on the FM side of the sound chip, so it really sounds like a Genesis for the most part. But hey, I liked the way the Genesis sounded when it was done right. The music is awesome, and there are a lot of digitized sounds and voices as well. The voice quality isn't too great as they added a bit too much echo for my taste. But the "Engrish" is fantastic! Before you fight the boss of each stage, the final boss of the game comes onscreen and says something completely nonsensical for absolutely no reason at all. Japan surely has no respect for the English language at all, yet they complain when we screw up speaking Japanese. Asswipes.

Oh really? Then why are you
putting up such strong resistance?

Gameplay: 8/10
They didn't stop at just having great graphics and sound, but they went ahead and made sure the game was actually fun to play as well. This is a novel concept for a Neo Geo game. It's a basic platformer, but it's a trip worth attempting. I say "attempting" because the game is not exactly easy. In the day of unlimited continues, this was one Neo Geo game that really offered a substantial challenge. You'll have to work damned hard to get past this game. And I am proud to say that I beat it. You can morph into many different characters, such as a sweet-ass ninja who throws swirly-flames at enemies. Or maybe a fire breathing dragon-dude who burns enemies to a crisp. Or how about that Poseidon dude who is fairly useless, but hey... he's there! Sometimes you'll want to pass by a morph power-up just because the character you're using is the best one for the spot you're in and it would be unwise to change. Get hit a few times and it's back to being your old flaccid magician self again. Unfortunately the game never EVER gives you a break. Ever. You can't even stop and rest. There are constant flying thingies all around you trying to shoot you, and it's often hard to avoid them and it gets really annoying. There is also a part in stage 2 where you are falling down a pit and it's almost impossible to avoid the random spikes that are placed everywhere. Ouch! Oh well. You'll get used to it and eventually get past the trouble spots. Control is average, I'd say. Good times are to be had with this game!

This level smells like rotten fish.

Wrap up:
A game for the Neo Geo that is not only good, but it's actually an exclusive as well! Alpha Denshi did start work on a Magician Lord 2, but then they realized that people did not want good games for their Neo Geo, but cheesey-lame fighters instead. So instead of a fantastic Magician Lord 2 we got the wimpy World Heroes. Yay us.
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