I have quite a bit of free time during this week between Christmas and New Years Day and I am using it to get into the groove of playing and writing up one game per day. I think I have the Windows thing locked down but I also have a lot of Sega CD, Saturn, and Dreamcast games to work through. I can’t say I’m necessarily looking forward to the Saturn part of the exercise, for it means that I need to dust off my old Saturn console, hook it up to my ATI video capture card and fight with it until both audio and video come through into my computer, and then hope beyond hope that the old gaming unit still agrees to play the old, used, possibly battered and scratched Saturn CD-ROMs. And don’t even get me started on the screenshot workflow.
But somehow, I managed to get it all hooked up. So here’s the first Sega Saturn game of the Gaming Pathology experiment– Criticom. The game title seemed somewhat familiar even though I don’t remember ever playing it. When I started watching the low-grade, 1995-era FMV, I realized that I had already watched all of the FMV files from this game thanks to my efforts to reverse engineer the dominant Saturn FMV format. So the entire game is already spoiled for me. Everything except for the actual gameplay, that is.
Criticom is a one-on-one fighting game with a sci-fi/fantasy backstory. Basically, there is some crystal artifact (I think this might be the game’s namesake) that is the source of a huge amount of power. This game is about 8 different fighters brawling to decide who gets the crystal.
The option screen explained what the controls were — 2 jab buttons, 2 kick buttons, and 2 ‘special’ buttons. I didn’t pay too much attention since I planned to just mash buttons, as is my custom on games like this. For my first match I chose the character Demonica. Even though the narration explains that not much is known about her, I have to admire her sheer courage for approaching hand-to-hand combat with almost no clothing.
Further, I must give the game credit for fleshing out its storyline and individual characters so well, each with its own animated FMV intro sequence. Even though the narration is read with the same emotion and cadence as you would expect from the narration at an elementary school Christmas production, the creators took pains to give each character depth outside of the fighting ring.
Speaking of the ring, that’s exactly what the combat arena is– a big circle sitting high up, sometimes atop fire or lava. If you fall, it’s match over. There are no rounds; rather, after your fighter’s energy meter is depleted, you get one more refill. And there is a configurable time limit for matches. So, in essence, a match can be won by KO, TKO, or knocking an opponent out of the ring.
So, I’m not very good at this. I mash buttons but don’t get much response from Demonica. She can’t possibly blame it on being too cold due to her ensemble since there is lava just below the ring. I get wiped out pretty quick, into the (hot) drink. That’s okay– there are plenty more characters to choose from. An unusual facet of this brawler is that more than half of the fighters are female (Exene, Demonica, Delara, and Yenji). There are 3 male fighters (Dayton, Gorm, and Sonork), and one presumably asexual robot named S.I.D. (sentient intelligence drone, if memory serves). I try the robot next:
S.I.D.’s intro (as read by the dispassionate narrator) explains that the S.I.D.s wander the land looking to kill carbon-based life forms. You would think that they would be better at it by now. What I’m saying is that I didn’t have much better luck playing him. I think one problem I might have is delay resulting from sending the Saturn A/V signal through my computer for presentation, which would account for the lack of responsiveness from the controls. Still, I think the game could have used a practice mode. I tried my luck with one more character — Yenji, sort of a futuristic ninja lady — and actually won a match, but only because my opponent tripped and fell out of the ring and into the abyss.
I remember using a separate video player to watch all the endings for the various characters. The most amusing one is for the S.I.D. robot. He claims the crystal, runs a robo-scan for analysis, recognizes its practical worthlessness, and tosses it aside.
Now that I have enough data for a MobyGames entry, I can finally do the same with this game.