Exile is one of the Turbo CD games I wanted to play the most. Why I became so obsessed with it is a bit of a mystery. But if I had to guess it would probably be the cool screenshots of its cutscenes in gaming publications. It looked like the coolest game in the world with its Middle Eastern setting and bad ass protagonist but it would be many years before I would get my hand on it. After years of anticipation and a Sega Genesis port I found it to be a solid action RPG. In the end that was good enough for me.
Exile is actually the second in a trilogy that originated on the PC-88. The first in the series was never localized however the introduction offers a brief recap of its events. After defeating the Caliph Syrian assassin Sadler investigates rumors of strangers lurking near his hometown. Soon enough Sadler and his party come into conflict with the Klispin Crusaders, who seek the Holimax to unite all peoples under their religion.
The game’s story is pretty interesting and was controversial back then due to its heavy religious theme. So much so that many of its references to historic and religious figures had to be changed at the request of NEC. The Klispin Crusaders are obviously based on the Christian crusaders and the Holimax is almost certainly the Holy Grail. Those are the most obvious. There are references to Bacchus, the God of Wine and Ninkan, the founder of a sex cult. Even the numerous drugs had to be renamed. In spite of the localization changes this version is uncensored, meaning the town full of burning villagers and the naked wine festival are present in all their 2d glory.
The game is split into two halves. In the overworld you explore towns, buy items and speak to townspeople for advice and to unlock new areas. Although you’re technically travelling in a 4-man party the other characters are there to, I don’t know, keep you company. You do not have free reign to explore the world and are limited to whatever location the story currently dictates. That also means you can’t back track although there isn’t any need to.
Entering caves or castles leads to Exile’s action component. These side scrolling areas are rather large, with numerous doors that teleport you all over the map. It can be confusing at times but it does spice up what is a simple game at heart. Your attacks are limited and the game is so easy that magic is wholly unnecessary. In fact I forgot it was even part of the game. As much as I found the action sequences enjoyable I will admit that they are serviceable at best. You’ll push on just to see the next cut scene.
Overall Exile is incredibly easy and you’ll blow through the game pretty quickly. Working Designs tried to raise the difficulty to present some manner of challenge but it makes little difference. In any dungeon you can easily sit in one spot and grind out experience from infinitely respawning enemies. Even bosses pose little threat. I never once bothered to use magic and only bought healing items twice through the course of the game. There are only two bosses that might pose a threat. And that is due to tedium in how long the fights last than any sort of challenge.
The easy difficulty also means you’ll notice that the game is incredibly short. Things move at a brisk pace and although the dungeons can become tricky with their maze of doors its nothing you won’t figure out in minutes. Part of the reason the game is so short is the portion of content cut from its original PC incarnation. These areas took place in the future and looked out of place considering the game starts in the year 1104. It says a lot that the game still feels complete despite missing content.
In terms of graphics this version of Exile is nearly identical to the Genesis title when it comes to the overworld and dungeon areas. The color palette might be slightly higher but you would need both games side by side to notice. Where it wins out is in its cut scenes and sound. The CD version has longer and more frequent cinematics that move the story along. These are also aided by extensive voice acting which is okay at best. Combined with its redbook audio soundtrack this is the version to own.
Exile was not the mind blowing experience I had built up in my mind but it is still a solid game overall. The story is far more involved than you would expect and while the combat is simple it is still engaging. A good game and overall better than its Sega counterpart thanks to a better localization and production values due to its CD status.