Saturday, June 4, 2011

Psychic World

Like Legacy of the Wizard, Psychic World was also originally an MSX game entitled Psycho World (but really they mean Psychic). The anime screenshots are actually taken from Psycho World, although Psychic World has some cutscenes in it as well--almost an industry standard by 1991 (upon it's North American release), but still a novelty in 1988 (in Japan). I suspect it was a bigger deal overseas because from 1988-1991 gaming technology developed rapidly; Psychic World might be fun, but it wasn't ever noteworthy. Sega ported it to their Master system and Game Gear, but the game has remained relatively obscure and the franchise was never picked up again. You play as Lucia, daughter of Dr. Konvak. You dad was into genetically mutating flowers and demons, and the divine will sets these monsters lose upon your family. If you can kick enough ass, the curse on your family's honor will be restored. Or something.

Your one super power: an ESP booster capable of telekinetic and elemental super powers. Not bad. As you progress through the game some cool abilities because available: flight and invincibility being the most enjoyable. The only problem with the controls is that the player is required to switch in real time (no pause-menu switching) and the command to switch powerups is down+jump+2 directions to select and activate, say, invincibility. Monsters drain your health quickly -- Lucia gets NO frames of invincibility for free upon being hit. These quirks make the game much harder than it needs to be.

If the player can overlook these shortcomings, the game truly is quite solid. Check out the box art, doesn't this look like the type of game you'd play?

The jumping physics are great, similar to Journey to Silius. However, unlike JtS and Mega Man, Lucia can run really fast if the player walks in one direction for about 2 seconds. It's a strange running system, and I've never played anything quite like it. You can not double tap a direction to start running, and you don't build momentum like Mario. All of a sudden your character just starts hauling ass. The levels are built around this concept at times, like the running parts of Super Metroid.

Now the game is noteworthy as an enjoyable and obscure underrated gem. I can't beat the third stage, but I'm getting close. Beating a stage truly feels like an accomplishment because every time you die it's back to the beginning of the very, very long stage. Almost every game out there features checkpoints, and not having this cushion admittedly makes the gameplay more exciting--but painfully difficult.

What's also exciting is mapping the console reset button to the normal "select" key so you accidentally reset 15 times while playing. This adds another layer of difficulty you simply cannot achieve on the home console.

If you have a Master System, I can't imagine not owning this game. Despite the flaws, the music is good enough to keep the player interested long enough to get hooked on the gameplay. The enemy and level design are both original, and from looking at some youtube videos of the later levels, the game gets even better in Stages 4 and 5.

The Game Gear version, while extremely similar, is a different game and not as good as the Master System version. I haven't played the MSX game, and typically games got better once ported to the Famicom or SMS, but this is not the case. Many features are missing in the Sega version, and the levels were modified from exploration-focused into a slightly more action-platforming focus. Psychic World definitely feels like an MSX adventure, which is a difficult thing to describe. Hit detection, gravity, music, colors, and enemy AI feel similar to other MSX games perhaps.

Psychic World is great, and it's a wonder people can even play Alex Kidd with gems like this sitting around on the SMS. Psychic World features great, action-packed gameplay, with zero downtime. You'll always be running or fighting or dying. Beating a stage in one life really isn't that bad; it's just good gameplay. This game will demand a moderate amount from the player, but once mastered stages become extremely fun to play through again. You won't feel bad about turning the game off/on for a 30 minute break/gameplay session.


Bryan Ochalla said...

Sigh. I've had an on-and-off obsession w/ owning a Master System (or the Japanese equivalent -- can't remember the name) for a while now, and this review is causing it to be "on" again. Anyway, sounds like a very interesting game!

The Dread Pirate Guy said...

I don't ever remember this game coming out. I loved my Master System, though. They had some great games on it.

8bitcity said...

I need to get a Master System as well.

I had the Game Gear growing up, but no Master System. Neighbors/family had some, however, so occasionally I'd get to play one.

Matt Dickinson said...

I like this era of "girl power" games, like Valis, Sailor Moon, etc. Now everything has to be sexed up.