Fresh out the box! Stop, look, and watch! Ready yet? Get Set! It’s Fantasy Shooter Month!
Game: Elemental Master
Console: Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
Publisher: Renovations, Inc.
Release Year: 1993
There’s not much to Elemental Master‘s box art. It’s just a dude about to get snagged by some hands or some shit. Pretty dull, really. It’s a shame, considering the game is so colorful, creative, and fun. The discrepancy between the box art and the in-game graphics was the worst part about gaming in the early 90’s. North American box art always looked muted when compared to its brighter Japanese counterpart. I guess US publishers thought kids didn’t liked cartoons or something. Valis 3 on the TG-16 is probably the worst offender.
Who’s the dude in the bra?
Unlike its box art, Elemental Master has anime-style cutscenes, which was always a treat when I was a kid because anime was so hard to come by. The game begins with one of these cutscenes setting up the plot. It’s unique in that it doesn’t only grace you with long-winded exposition, but it also defies narrative conventions by giving the player/audience the plot’s twist without allowing the prerequisite time and investment needed to become familiar with the characters, settings, and story. Genius, game! Brilliant! Let’s just get right to the shooty parts!
Why? Is he your father or something?
Turns out Roki is the brother of Laden, the game’s protagonist. Roki has succumbed to the dark side, and this surprises Laden. I don’t know why; the game just started. Maybe Roki used to adopt old ladies and help orphans cross streets? Whatever Roki’s spotless past may be, he’s now decided to resurrect an ancient demon to destroy the world. Because what else do fantasy-genre villains have to do? Therefore, Laden must… I don’t know… go to four different places and kill monsters, I guess. Sure, why not? Here’s the level select screen.
A gripping tale with so many choices!
There’s the fire level, the canyon level, the forest level, and the water level. Nope, not breaking new ground with any of these environments. But that’s okay. They’re fun to play, and they look pretty good. There are actually three more levels after you clear these, but you don’t get to pick which ones to play.
Anyway, you pick a level, and then you start shooting shit! Two things you’ll instantly notice: 1.) The shooting sound is relentlessly piercing and annoying, and 2.) It’s one of those dumb walking auto-scrollers. I’ll never understand these. Did your dude get cursed, and he just can’t stop walking? Is there a wall directly behind him following his every move, ready to crush him during that split second he decided to let his guard down? That would be amazing! That wall should be the boss of the game!
I’m about to go Reagan on your blocky-ass!
You constantly move toward the top of the screen, and you can shoot up and down, though I kept forgetting I could shoot in a direction other than up because it was so revolutionary and avant garde I couldn’t wrap my tiny brain around it. After playing so many shooters that only let you shoot in one direction I kind of got used to it.
Me being an idiot aside, Laden’s trek to the top of the screen is great fun. There’s always something to kill and tons of obstacles and traps to avoid while doing so, like spears shooting out of walls, spinning balls and chains, or lakes of lava. All this crap on the screen pretty much ensures that you’re going to take damage, but you get multiple hits, bringing the difficulty and frustration to a mild simmer. There’s also a bunch of power ups you can get to heal you, protect you, or give you mirror images of yourself that act like options a la Ninja Gaiden 2.
Extra wizards > Extra ninjas.
Of all the game’s I’ve played for FSM, Elemental Master is the game that truly feels like I’m playing a fantasy game. The environments are generic by video game standards, but they convey that essential fantasy tone sufficiently, and the enemies look like they were all ripped right out of the pages of D&D. Gargoyles, centaurs, stone golems, beholders, lizard men, shadow monsters, skeletons, other wizards, dragons: They’re all here!
You eyeballin’ me, boi!
They also have my favorite monster of all time (behind Frankenstein’s Monster, of course): Mummies!
They’re like zombies but with curses and golden cats!
Laden has quite a few ways to dispatch of all these abominations, and they all involve magic! And he can switch spells on the fly! He can annoy monsters to death with his aurally-offending blue beams, burn them to death via a steady stream of fire or a flaming ball, and conjure lightning. Because I don’t know any other instance where it’s okay to use the verb “conjure” outside the context of wizards and lightning. Laden can eventually charge these attacks to do some cool stuff, the coolest involving him exploding.
I wish David Blaine and Criss Angel would explode.
You get the ability to charge after you beat certain levels. You also get a fairy to join your team eventually for some reason. She attacks things, so it’s cool. I’d say I’d rather have something more manly, like a dragon or a tank, but I’ve seen Tinkerbell get pissed, and she gets vicious. And she’s the jealous type.
You think Peter Pan was always played by a woman? Only after he pissed Tink off, if you catch my drift.
You ultimately find out that the fairy is actually a legendary ring, and she’s been waiting for someone like Laden to slip his finger in her and be the Elemental Master.
Nope. Ain’t touching that joke. Continue reading.
Whatever perverted implications and images this reveal conjures (and not a wizard or lightning in sight!), it’s forgiven because the ring gives you the greatest and most powerful spell in the game: The Death Beam!
Mummies be lining up to see this shit!
The bosses in this game look pretty sweet. They’re big and detailed, but they’re nothing spectacular or original. And they’re freaking pushovers, especially after you get the Death Beam. Most of them die after a couple of shots from it. I know this because there’s a boss rush before the final boss, who obviously has multiple forms. What final boss doesn’t? Not a legit one, that’s for sure.
This is technically another form. Dr. Robotnik = Legit.
After (easily) beating the game, I immediately played through it again. Like, right after the credits, I started another game. Just because I had that much fun with it. It’s short and easy yet challenging enough to be engaging. I think I beat it the second time in forty minutes or so. Also, the Death Beam makes you feel like Death himself! I didn’t really give the game a shot when I was a kid. There was no particular reason I passed over it other than I had the Sega Channel and forty-nine other games to play that month. And if Mutant League Football or General Chaos were available, then no other games were getting play time! You guys that grew up with a Genesis/Mega Drive know what I mean!
Thanks for your Playing! I know the post has come to an end, but don’t cry! Fantasy Shooter Month continues! With October still in full swing, you’ve much to look forward to!