Ah...I love me a good shooter every now and then. The genre isn't particularly my favorite and I tend to shy away from purchasing a lot of shooters for numerous reasons, but I still grew up playing loads of them anyway and they have a special place in my childhood memories. I remember I bought the strange shooter, Wings of Wor, from one of my friends for a mere quarter because he was growing out of his Sega loyalist phase and wanted to try something different. It was one of the first Genesis shooters I ever played and it's one of many reasons why I love shooters today. I guess it doesn't help that the Genesis is one of the best systems to get if you want great shooters, so I guess you could say I got lucky. Many years later, I've come to know a lot about games. For example, heaven help you if you don't know about TechnoSoft and you're a huge shmup fan. TechnoSoft made lots of excellent shooters and games. Remember Herzog Zwei? Remember Thunder Force? Remember Reverthion? If you remember all of those, than you're honestly a bigger shmup fan than I, but I'm not too shabby...two outta three ain't bad.
A few years back, my bro stumbled on another TechnoSoft gem, Elemental Master. It was made during the early ninties and was one of the best shooters for the Megadrive beyond a shadow of a doubt. The game tells the tale of Laden, a powerful magician who must stop the lord of darkness, Gyra, from gaining control of a mighty power known as "The Elemental". It's soon after meeting Gyra and his two most trusted accomplices, the voluptuous Salome and the terrifying Clauss, that Laden comes across a fairy known as Neena, a reincarnation of The Elemental! As fortune smiles upon Laden, you now have the power to match the lord of darkness himself and so you must journey to meet him and have the ultimate shodown. Succeed and become admired by the people of the land...fail and the world will be veiled in darkness. All in all, it was a fantastic game that remained a Japan-only release for three long years. It was finally released as one of the final games that Renovations, the distributor of numerous games in the U.S. mostly from Telenet Japan (Laser Soft in Japan), would release. Whether you like Renovations and Telenet or not, their intentions for the gaming community were always good, but one has to wonder; Was it too little too late?
Elemental Master offers some truly great visuals. The game moves fast, the action is furious, and the game never skips a beat. The game has a few decent cutscenes throughout the game...you at least gotta love Salome's one appearance. The enemy and level designs aren't particularly ingenious, but the level of detail payed to the bosses in particular is very evident and when you combine that with all the flashy abilities at Laden's disposal, you have a game that's hard not to like, at least when it comes to the graphics. Of course, there are several silver linings for those looking for something to use against this game. In the case of the visuals, the level design is pretty lacking. There's a lot of rocks, occassional grass and water and not much else. It probably offers more diversity than, say, your typical mediocre space shmup, but a few more obstacles and objects would have been nice. The audio is also great. There are a few adventurous tunes that really suit the theme of this game and one or two might even tempt you to strum the air guitar. Whether you're marching through a volcano or fighting your way through a monster infested valley, the music never becomes a hindrance.
The main draw of this game, of course, comes from the gameplay. While Elemental Master doesn't exactly have the all the qualities of a quintessential shooter, it's good in its own right. The first half of the game involves Laden building up his powers. He starts off weak, but by battling Gyra's minions and finding Neena, he can become a master of the elements. Beating the four primary levels will unlock most of Laden's true power and give him the confidence he needs to take on Clauss, Salome and Gyra. The second half involves Laden traveling the land to defeat the lord of darkness and the rest of his followers. Neena will allow you to unlock your ultimate potential to defeat the evil three...even though there is an oversight in the story. While you are supposed to use your ultimate power of light to defeat Clauss, Salome and Gyra, Clauss will be defeated the first time before you unlock this ability...oops. No biggie...all of your powers are pretty ultimate in their own right, so I personally don't care which one you use to destroy the evil three...but it's still kinda bothersome.
Each weapon can be shot either in front of you or behind you and all five of Laden's powers can be charged by holding down the shot button(s). You'll also collect other things to help you on your quest such as berries that restore life, a mirror to enhance your firepower, a purple orb that protects you from harm, and a trophy to increase your maximum health. When you consider all these things, Laden has more than enough abilities to ploy through this short game with. While we're on the subject of short, the game is also pretty easy. Most bosses can be taken down almost instantly. In fact, Laden's holy beam is so powerful, it only takes two direct hits to take down Salome and Gyra's different forms! This game can be breezed through with relative ease even on the highest difficulty setting, so this one is pretty easy to pick up and play. My big gripe with the game is that it feels a little rushed, as if something was truncated just so the game could get put out on the market. While I can't exactly put my finger on it, this game might have benefited from a few more cutscenes and one or two more levels.
Ultimately, Elemental Master is a pretty good Genesis shmup, but I wouldn't call it the best Genesis shmup. It was impressive back in 1990, but the Genesis proves that all it takes is a year or two to weed out the competition. Vanquishing evil and having a female companion who seems a little bit like a stalker may have had a much bigger impact if it was released back in 1990, so it's awkward when you play games that many would consider largely superior in the U.S. like Gaiares and M.U.S.H.A. that were released years before Elemental Master. As is, Elemental Master is a good game that certainly shouldn't be passed up if you can grab it for cheap, but it's not a top priority game.
- Originally written by Vyse the determined -
- Revamped by Bel Cain The Eternal -