An afternoon with Lupin.

After playing through a couple of rather dark PC games, I was going to give the Saturn action RPG “Magic Knight Rayearth” a try.  I own the thing twice over, after all – I bought the domestic version when it was released and then couldn’t resist buying the Japanese version when I found it for $4 in a used game store.

I decided that I’d give the Japanese version a try.  Not only would it give me much-needed language practice, but it would prevent me from having to grit my teeth through another Working Designs “translation”.

But, in the process of digging it out of the Saturn games box, I got distracted by a different title, a Lupin the 3rd game that has been patiently awaiting its time in a console for well over a decade: “Lupin the 3rd: The Sage of Pyramid.”

I bought this thing because it looked like, well, a Tomb Raider knockoff with everyone’s favorite thief in place of Lara, and that seemed like a pretty good concept for a game.

Looking at the disc, with Rayearth in the other hand, I decided that I’d give it a quick google and see if it was worth moving to the front of the stack – and I was rather startled to find an English-language review, from which I will quote the following excerpt:

“the entire game could easily be finished in an afternoon if the player so wishes”

That sounded promising.  It wouldn’t have been a selling point if I’d paid Y5800 for it back in 1998, but it seemed like a good amount of time to run around stealing things, while at the same time not wearing out its welcome.

I played through the first five levels in less than an hour, decided it was Right and Proper, put it aside to get some sleep, and finished it off in another 2 or 3 hour play session this morning/early afternoon.  It’s a very short game, and it’s quite shallow – you run through mazes looking for keys and occasionally fighting guards, you steal ancient treasures from tombs and have to run to an exit before being caught, there are maybe seven enemy types in the entire game, there’s no swimming and the platforming is pretty basic.

Nothing really much like Tomb Raider at all.

It does, however, have some nice anime sequences which serve to move the plot along, it begins and ends each level with some Fujiko eye-candy, and – shallow or not – it was still fun, with lots of music and sound effects from the show.  It looks horrible – even for a Saturn game, it doesn’t seem like the developers were trying very hard – and the control scheme just proved that, for all the lousy effects Sony had on the videogame industry in general, at least they gave us the analog twin stick… but I was apparently in the right frame of mind for mid-90s 3D, because it didn’t really bother me all that much.

I’ll get back to MKR next, honest.

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