While it’s a fact that the Genesis is missing the breadth and depth of the SNES’s RPG library I must say that Sega did a pretty good job overall of at least providing awesome games in the genre for their fans. Action RPGs though were a bit scarce. While I have my problems with Landstalker but it is still pretty damn good and Beyond Oasis is incredible. And who could forget Popful Mail and Crusade of Centy? With that in mind we still missed a few gems like King Colossus. This is the epitome of a solid action RPG that luckily has a fan translation for those who want to understand its story although it really isn’t necessary.
Like most RPGs the story starts out in a less than spectacular fashion. As a nameless youth living with an old man who is a bit of a dick and his daughter you are entrusted with repairing a special sword for unknown reasons. No sooner do you accomplish this task the old bastard decides to sell you off into slavery as a gladiator. From there the game picks up considerably and only slows down its pace once or twice before the finale some 8-10 hours later. This is not the most memorable tale even by action RPG standards but it does a decent job of maintaining its forward momentum and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
I must admit, games like King Colossus are the most interesting to write about. There are no significant flaws to speak of; all of the game’s core mechanics work with a few caveats. Yet it is missing that one spark that would really put it over the top. Like Secret of Mana’s 3-player coop and real time combat, all of Quintet’s creation “trilogy”, or even Landstalker’s viewpoint. To put it simply, it does what it does well but not exceptionally. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
There’s quite the large selection of weapons and armor to find and as a bonus all of it is fully modeled on your character. Weapons fall into five categories: swords, axes, flails, bows, and staves, each with their own range and style of attack. Throughout the length of the quest you’ll come across an assortment in each category and as much as I want to say everyone will have their favorites in reality certain weapon types are so overwhelmingly powerful most won’t ever bother switching. Magic is also present but honestly outside of two spells I never bothered as the MP cost is too high.
Despite the large selection of weapons combat does not make a good first impression and is actually the game’s weak point. Your first weapon is a sword which unfortunately does not have good range. Anyone familiar with Lagoon knows the frustration of trying to hit an enemy 2 inches in front of you. Luckily you can get around this in a number of ways. Leaping attacks are actually the strongest in the game. But I’m sure no one wants to spend the entire game jumping on every enemy like a damn monkey. Ranged weapons are better but suffer from poor hit detection however any morning star or flail is infinitely better. These weapons all swing in a laughably large arc that makes it easy to pin enemies in a corner and go to town. It really is funny just how overpowered these weapons are.
Surprisingly King Colossus can be quite challenging, especially during boss battles. Experience gains are tuned perfectly to the point where I never stopped to grind out extra levels. You can only carry one medical herb at a time however regular enemies routinely drop hearts and full life restoring orbs. However the game’s tough bosses will see you visiting the game over screen regularly. Even spamming the invincible aura shield isn’t infallible. It’s a refreshing change of pace from games that allow you to spam healing spells and carry 99 herbs. Dungeons eventually balloon into massive multi-level towers that somehow are still easy to navigate without a map. Lest you think the game is too easy by the end a large amount of platforming is called for. Its out of place and pads out the game’s length more than presenting a meaningful challenge.
Simple, quick and to the point. I’m pretty sure King Colossus would have done well if some brave third party or Sega themselves brought it West. The fan translation is excellent and even those who want the physical cartridge can work their way through the game with little Japanese knowledge. Either way a nice 8-10 hour quest awaits those looking to check out a Genesis title with a low profile.