Thursday, 7 April 2011

Left? When? Now?...Awww I Pressed Right...Are You Sure I'm Controlling This?: Game 0003

So tonight I rigged up the sleekest looking console set up in living history, the Sega MegaDrive/Mega CD Mark 1 combo, to take a look at one of the strangest European localisations from the 90s. Its seems in 1993 the suggestion of redubbing and localising an obscure Japanese Laserdisc arcade game featuring a teenage anime Barbarella type who displays all the cute of a Sanrio tea party and travels through time (without explanation) dusting off dinosaurs, Nazis and robots barely raised an eyebrow. The only rationale I can muster for this is that for Wolfteam and Sega it was another chance to show the west the full motion video capabilities of the Mega CD and boy did they love to do that.

Time Gal is fun. Mainly down to the super responsive load times of the game's full motion video, meaning you do feel sporadically but always instinctively in control. The controls are simple and represented on screen by four dots (top, bottom, left and right) that overlay the edges of the FMV action. If any one of these dots flashes pressing the corresponding direction on the D-pad will evade the on screen enemy, trap or pitfall. If all four flash at once, the A button will provide a really rather satisfying laser blast to the onscreen enemy's face, or, trigger a 'time stop' event in which you must choose your next action from a list of 3 suggestions before your 5 sec counter runs down. Its simplistic, yes. But the game's charm doesn't emanate from its 'Simon Says' control scheme but from Toie Animation's rainbow coloured anime romps through history, realised in some of the best quality FMV on the system. The sound design is just as kitch as the visuals, blending J-Pop themes with sixties sci-fi sound effects. An excellent English dub of Time Gal's voice rounds out the audio design, retaining much of the overexcited Japanese delivery and fleshing out Time Gal as a loveable video game heroine.

Much like Limbo, Time Gal wants to kill you, just to show off its myriad of largely funny death animations. Miss the QTE style prompt and you could find yourself sliced in two by a Gladiator, smashed on the head with a rock, or in one unfortunate instance: at the bottom of the ocean, rammed to a bone crunching death by a giant prehistoric turtle. Head First. Weirder still is that in all the death animations Time Gal shrinks to her chibi/childlike self before being lethally pulverised.

Short but often sickeningly sweet Time Gal, to the uninitiated, may sound like nothing more than a 20 minute QTE, but to those who remember the spectacle of the classic Laserdisc arcades Time Gal won't dissapoint.

Favourite moment: Flying through the air, Pteradactyls attack from both sides, a timed push of the A button fires two laser blasts left then right in quick succession, As the prehistoric birds are blown apart, our heroin backflips to reveal the inevitable anime panty shot. Well done Japan.

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