The fantasy world has definitely given us an interesting collection of moral compasses. For example, where else is it perfectly normal for you to simply stroll into somebody else's castle; fight your way through all their staff; in some cases, killing all the people that work for this person in order to steal their stuff? The mantle of hero has essentially meant that if you were a really top-class mugger you could wander through other people's homes and call it questing. With that in mind, here is Allumer/Taito’s 1986 beat-em-up, Gladiator.
First of all, I would like to call bullcrap on what he's doing. Gladiators fought in arenas, for the amusement of a cheering crowd. This blue-eyed, blue-armoured tonsil is traipsing along the longest corridors I've ever seen, fending off the armed response units of whomever he’s robbing's home security system. The first thing that struck me and my Gladiator (whom I have named Gary), are the spears, fireballs and whatever other random detritus they can throw at you in order to kill you. If you manage to knock one of the spear tips out of the sky, you can crouch down and get 2000 extra points. So not only are you a burglar, you’re also a scrap collector. Movement is rather daunting: you never stop moving forward you see, so you can hold your shield at the bottom, middle or top depending on what you want to deflect. One of the secret moves you can do was quite amusing in a masturbatory sort of way: If you wiggle the joystick up and down really fast, you create an energy shield that lasts about ten seconds.
Side note: these glowing blue balls hang about in the halls and if you manage to hit them with your sword, it turns your blade red - clearly it's dying from embarrassment at being seen with Gary. But, it also makes it indestructible... because your weapons can break too. Wheee! Working your way through four levels - because this is a discount castle - you fight knights and archers and fire-breathers, oh my. You stab their asses twice which unlocks Mauve mode, where they return wearing a garish colour of armour and their skin has turned to taupe. It’s like they went off to a tanning salon and got roasted for their trouble. Combat is a little silly: if you hit your opponent, that piece of armour flies off. Hit them there again and you win… regardless of where struck them. This means a shot to the head is as effective as a shot to the ankle. Sure, if your opponent was Achilles. He must have opened a school. One-hit-kill anywhere? Who are you fighting, the Italian football team?
Another wrinkle is that the female warrior's armour tends to malfunction. In the Japanese version (why Japan, why?), the female knight hasn’t had the sense to wear her Mithril bra under her breast plate. I was shocked and stunned. So much so I didn’t even screen-grab the incident… officially. At the bottom of the stairs, you fight a gent sans armour but breathing fire. Karnov, is that you? By the power of stabby, you advance to a new level… that seems to be under construction… Red brick and Egyptian statues… How very… medicated. Suicide bricks leap up at your tenders along with the usual array of spears to impale your appendix.
Your next opponent is a rather large fellow with a spikey shield, because evil, and a club. Again you dispatch him to the tanning bed and he returns, only to be shown the meaning of smite. Once you’ve beaten him, you also steal his club… because douchebag. You must then face the cricket pitch roller of DOOOOOM! No really. A giant metal roller barrels down the hall as though a demonic baker’s rolling pin just escaped. Then, a hail of arrows come cruising towards you. But nay-nay, tis not Legolas, tis his sister and she learns the fate of all freelance archers: stay in the castle because you have no armour. Or get stabbed, you clothy twit. Where she hid the arrows, I have no idea. I’m sure Japan has an explanation if you gave it half a pixel.
It's now time to do some remodeling! There’s no door at the end of the corridor, so Gary smashes a hole through it. Really? A club that can break down walls but loses to a sword. NO! Stop it. Stop thinking… Oh look, attack boomerangs. Your next enemy is apparently a Spartan warrior but I disbelieve. My research (Frank Miller’s 300) shows that Spartans only run around in their underpants and this guy is clearly wearing armour. Oh, I see. He was supposed to be an archer but then turned out to have a talent with a sword instead. Either way, once you’ve clonked his bonkers and killed his tanned version, in lobster red armour and pink helmet no less, Gary shows off his homophobia by stomping the guy once he’s down. Seriously dude, you deserve to get pinioned in the pancreas. Just to add insult to injury, they send out a B-team Spartan with two big sticks and little armour… So… what? You were on your way to light the Olympic flame and got lost?
We’re close now! You go through a door and you are on the moon…? Yup… Um… We’re on the moon. How long was that stairwell? Onward! You get attacked by asteroids and sonic beams before you face the wrath of the Golden Warrior! But he apparently didn't read the Minecraft walk-through and soon learns gold armour is as useless as it is tacky. Your final opponent is a shy skeleton. I say shy because wherever you hit him, that part disappears, including his sword. And so you’ll die… a lot. This must be the Spartan’s boyfriend come for payback. But one head-shot later, and he crumbles to dust. Behold, in the distance a castle shimmers in the red glow of an 8-bit sun. Are we on Mars? Inside, you meet a naked woman in a cape and tiara. DAMMIT JAPAN! Also, there’s gold! The object of your crime, uh, quest! And the game announces:
Congratulations! Welcome to the Treasure Place!
Comedian, Writer, Actor, Voice-artist. Host of the Urbane Myths podcast, Co-host of GeekXP's 'Release The Geek'. Opinionist Purveyor of Wanton Meanderings. And above all, Geek.
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