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Retro Review: Vectorman (Genesis)

Retro Review: Vectorman (Genesis) thumbnail

Vectorman was released back in 1995 for the Sega Genesis. Right from the start, the game shows that it is going to offer a different experience to the player.

Even before the game starts, it is possible to control Vectorman at the “Sega” logo screen, where you can find some of the game’s Easter eggs and input cheat codes.

Vectorman Logo Screen Screenshot

This game features a playable start-up screen.

Another element that makes the game stand out are the graphics, they look amazing and very different from other 16 bit platformers. This is due to the technique used to create the sprites that appear in the game: pre-rendered 3D graphics. The majority of the animations are played procedurally (at least most of the Vectorman’s), giving fluid motions to the characters. Light effects, such as thunders, flares, fake shadows and light cones are all done with masking layers on top of the pre-rendered graphics, making the game look almost 3D. All these elements contribute to giving Vectorman its unique look.

Screenshot showing some light effects

Great light effects!

There are other effects worth mentioning such as explosions and the water droplets on the fifth level. This all means that, the art direction is very good, with graphical elements that not only are visually coherent with each other, but it is aligned with the story of the game.

Level 5 Screenshot

These water drops are animated, creating a very realistic effect.

Since we are already at it, the story of this game is explained with illustrations at the beginning, which goes basically like this: humans leave Earth in the hands of robots, so they can clean up all the pollution left on the planet. But a rogue robot named Raster wants to rule the planet, turning it into a death trap for the humans. Vectorman lands on the planet, and after seeing what Raster is trying to do, goes on a mission to stop him. This means that the objective of the game is to stop Raster an his robot uprising.

To complete his objective and make Earth safe for humans once again, Vectorman has to reach the end of each one of the 15 levels (plus one bonus level). To do that, he will jump and shoot throughout these stages, and these basic actions also correspond to the game’s controls: one button to jump and other two buttons to shoot. The controls are responsive, simple and spot-on. Vectorman can also rely on power-ups scattered through the stages that allow him to reconfigure himself as a drill, as a fish or even a bomb, to name a few. These power-ups also change the way he shoots his energy spheres, making it more like a shotgun or a machine gun.

Screenshot Vectorman transformed as a car

This is how Vectorman looks in his 'car' form.

The gameplay is simple, but it’s where the game starts showing some problems. For instance, the viewing distance of the game is very small, due to the fact that the sprites are very big for the Genesis. As a consequence, you can’t exactly see when enemies are coming, before its almost too late, thus, it’s common to run into the enemies without being able to see them. There are sometimes that you know there is an enemy just after the end of the screen, but fired energy spheres can’t kill it, unless it is inside the screen. It’s one of those games that firmly believes that what you can’t see doesn’t exists. There is also a time limit to complete the levels, but it’s not enough to reach the end rushing to the finish.

However, good aspects of the game makes it up for some of the problems. The level design is one of them, and even with some difficulty spikes here and there, it’s a shame that there is so little time to explore all areas. The levels are filled with secrets, and multiple paths, adding more replayability to the game. At the end of some levels there is a boss battle, that is usually hard, but also very cool and satisfying to beat. Some levels feature a differentiated gameplay, such as the second level, where Vectorman becomes a locomotive, or the bonus stage, keeping things fresh.

Second level Screenshot

This is the second level of the game.

Let’s not forget the sound of this game, which is as good as its graphics. The volume of the music is very low, it is possible to hear it clearly in the game intro, however, in the levels, it serves just as a backdrop, but all songs are all nice and varied. On the other hand, the volume of the sound effects is quite high, luckily, they are all very well composed, contributing directly to the feeling and the diegesis of the game.

With all that said, Vectorman is a game that pushes the Genesis to its limits, with great graphics, sound effects and good level design. It isn’t free of problems that will occasionally make some parts of the game annoying, but the player will get past them, due to the other game qualities. It’s a undeniably hard game to beat, with a steep learning curve, even so, this game is worth playing, although it isn’t for everyone. If you fancy yourself as a hardcore retro game player and/or want to see some impressive graphics on the Genesis, this is the game to play.

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