A young elven boy with toothpicks for ears and giant feet goes out to search for his fortune.
Format: Sega Megadrive/Genesis
Original Release Date: October 1993
Synopsis: Our hero – the very macho-ly named Nigel – is a treasure hunter. He scours the land in search of golds (yes, golds, not gold), navigating traps, dangerous pitfalls and bizarre control schemes. In a stroke of fortune, Nigel encounters a mysterious fairy girl named Friday, who tells him all about the mysterious, legendary treasures of a chap named King Nole.
Thus begins Landstalker, a isometric, top-down RPG for the Megadrive/Genesis with probably around 20-30 hours of gameplay, depending on how long it takes you to get up to speed with the crazy control scheme. Expect a seamless action battle system, tricky platforming (seriously tricky) and some questionable scenes which are totally not about a brothel (but really are).
In this video, all four members of the Factory Sealed crew play the first 20-30 minutes of Landstalker separately. Somehow, we manage to say almost the same thing repeatedly, struggle with the controls and manage to produce some truly hilarious footage.
We also covered Landstalker in Episode 102 of the Factory Sealed podcast. Listen to Ep 102: Landstalker and Ballet Brothels, now!
Landstalker is a game of two halves. On one hand, you have a truly unique RPG for a console that didn’t have a lot to offer in the genre, but on the other hand, you have a somewhat frustrating game marred by its control system.
Your enjoyment of Landstalker will probably come down to your patience level. There is a massive learning curve to get to grips with this game’s controls. The main problem with it is the decision to present Landstalker as an isometric, pseudo-3D game; by doing this, and deciding to regularly involve platforming sections, the developers have made the game a lot trickier, and a lot more frustrating than it has to be. This particularly comes to the forefront towards the end of the game where absolute precision timing are a must to complete certain puzzles.
However, if you can get past that, you’ll find a lot to like here. Landstalker takes you on a sprawling quest through several memorable locations, has a decent realtime battle system (you can jump and slash when navigating the world) and a decent storyline which doesn’t get too bogged down in the confusing elements many RPGs of this era have.
Unfortunately the level design, particularly in the second half of the game, becomes quite frustrating too. As well as the platforming sections you’ll also have to contend with confusing, maze-like dungeons where you’ll need to do a lot of backtracking. This can lead to several hours lost in one location, simply because you couldn’t spot a doorway amidst the scenery. Or maybe I’m just an idiot. One of the two.
This issue with the level design is particularly true in a section which is made up entirely of a maze made out of trees; half the time you can’t see what you’re doing, and half the time you’ll fall off a ledge and end up four screens back, with no idea how to get back on the path you were on.
Landstalker has a particularly memorable scene which involves you sneaking into a mysterious ‘ballet school’ where weird, older men go to practice ballet. In short, this is because in the original Japanese release, it was a brothel. Instead of rejigging the game, they simply removed the references to a brothel, and thusly made us think it was a brothel even more because a ballet school sounds far too suspicious for its own good.
- Elf dude with massive feet
- Sprawling, open-ish world with plenty to see and do
- Real-time combat system
- Extremely frustrating control system
- Difficulty spikes dramatically towards the end
- Confusing level layouts, with plenty of regular backtracking
Look past the controls and somewhat annoying level design, and you’ve got a decent RPG for the Megadrive/Genesis. As I said previously, your ability to stick with this game is entirely dependent on your patience level.
We played through all of it to the bitter end, and I have to say I came away with more enjoyment than frustration overall.
- OH MY GOSH, A MAN!
- Nigel – Best. Adventurer. Name. Ever