Thursday 17 August 2017

Master of Darkness (Master System review)

Developer: SIMS
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1993

Master of Darkness is an action game that was only released in Europe.

Playing as Dr. Ferdinand Social, your mission is to locate the source of London's midnight murders, and rescue your colleague Miss Arkham. It consists of five rounds (with 1-3 levels each), and your main weapons are Daggers (1 point of damage), Sabers (2 points), Stakes (3 points) and Axes (4 points). Limited-use special weapons are also available in the form of a Pistol, Bombs, Boomerang, and a Projectile that wipes out multiple enemies in its path. The gameplay is very similar to Castlevania (1987, NES), but it does feature a couple of significant improvements. Firstly, the controls are outstanding and I really like how you can adjust your jumps in mid-air, or whilst falling backwards after taking damage. Likewise, you can now leap while climbing stairs which is a massive help in avoiding damage and timing your attacks. Secondly, the level design is some of the best you'll find on the Sega Master System, due to the sheer variety that's been crammed into just five rounds. Highlights include battling along the Thames River while using boats to cross platforms, and the creepy Splatterhouse (1988, Arcades) style screens where waves of enemies must be cleared before you can progress! There's even some vertically-scrolling areas, sections where you jump on a swinging pendulum to reach new platforms, and a maze-like castle where the exit is hidden. It's all very smart, well-executed and diverse, while being an absolute joy to play. The graphics are first-rate too (with little flourishes such as background posters blowing in the wind!) and the music manages to be both catchy and atmospheric.

Some might overlook Master of Darkness as a pure Castlevania clone, but that would be doing it a great disservice. It's a great game in its own right, with lots of improvements to the standard formula, as well as tight controls, fantastic level design and top-notch presentation.

Random trivia: The game was originally released on the Sega Game Gear in 1992.

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