It’s been another long wait between posts. My absence this time can be mainly blamed on the Mass Effect series which I decided was long overdue for a playthrough. As fun as that was, the unfortunate truth is that I really haven’t got the time to play games that long these days and I’ve had to catch up on all the things I should have been doing since finishing them. Also, the now infamous ending put me off gaming for a while which may have been just as well.
I’m likely to be a little more active now as my IIGS is fixed and on its way back. A big thank you to Ian at Mutant Caterpillar Games for sorting it out. I’m still missing the vital memory expansion I’ll need to play Ultima I which will probably be in the country in a day or two but take another 3 weeks to clear customs going on recent experience. While I wait, I thought I would have a go at Crusader No Remorse on the Sega Saturn.
This port was released back in 1996, a year after the PC original. Crusader was, in my eyes at least, one of the better games to come out of Origin. I always liked the combination of strategy, action and exploration and I’ve certainly never come across anything else since that plays the same. The formula probably didn’t offer enough variety to justify too many clones but with that never happening this still stands up well today. Ancient DOS games did an episode on it a month or so back which is well worth a look. I think Kris was overly harsh on the controls myself as they work fine once you are used to them but I can definitely accept that can take some time.
A new port possibly offers a chance to make those controls more user friendly and the Saturn offers 3 preset control schemes which admittedly don’t look all that simple at first glance. I opt to start with the default of these since I don’t know any better. All these schemes can operate using either relative controls to rotate the silencer around the spot and run backwards/forward or in an alternate mode where I can run in the direction I choose on the d-pad. That would be easier in some ways but only offer 8 compass points to face so I’ve stuck with the former throughout.
Things start out with the regular intro and FMV segments and I would be hard pushed to spot the difference to the PC game. The controls also prove to be every bit as tricky to get my head around. My silencer spends the whole first level unable to run straight down a corridor and instead weaves around drunkenly crashing into every wall. Luckily the auto-aim is extremely forgiving so I can still make progress without too much difficulty.
The graphics are perhaps not quite as sharp as on the PC, at least on the old TV I’m using, but this port does have the advantage of relatively smooth scrolling of the screen. The PC original just centred the screen every time you got to the edge. This is similar but scrolls instead of flicking. I’d love to have seen a version of the game with the silencer always centre of the screen but the scrolling isn’t smooth enough for that to be desirable here so I’ll settle for this.
The audio uses the same MOD tunes as the PC but they definitely don’t sound quite the same. I suspect they may have been converted to streaming audio instead. I think the PC music edges it for me but I almost always feel like that with the version I heard first in games. It’s still a great soundtrack whichever version you pick.
The biggest changes in this port become apparent towards the end of the first level. When Wizard contacts me the little video showing him talking is reduced to a couple of static images and a voiceover. Other sections of the game just show the character walking around in the game engine with audio and skip the FMV entirely.
On the PC, the player got to walk around the rebel base inbetween missions talking to all the rebels in delightfully cheesy FMV sequences. It was a typical Origin touch and the sort of thing they did in many of their games once the formula premiered in Wing Commander. These are almost entirely gone now and the rebel base is just a static screen where I can pick a room to read email, buy weapons (but with no appearance of Weasel) or get my next mission briefing.
The email does add a new element not previously seen in the game. Some of the emails are substitutes for the missing FMV but others are entirely original including a long running spam thread about a joke involving a butcher beating chicken to make it weigh more. I have definitely seen this before somewhere outside of the game but I can’t remember where for the life of me. I’m not so sure it wasn’t a real thread from one of the Ultima groups back then. At any rate, this must be one of the earlier games to even include email.
After struggling through that first level, I did find that I was in far more control of my Silencer in level 2. It’s just a case of getting the timing off to be able to turn the right amount without having to think too much about it. I still wouldn’t say I’m using the roll commands as much as on the PC, tending to prefer charging straight into most situations. Despite this I’m finding progress quite easy on the Weekend Warrior difficulty level. I’m not so sure this isn’t a bit easier than the PC but having not played it in about 5 years I’d have to go back and check.
Having got about 2/3’s of the way through, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this version of the game. The box even mentions a couple of new weapons and deaths but I’ve not spotted these yet. I am missing those FMV segments but the extra email does go a large way toward making it up so I’m not really missing it. The Saturn is clearly capable of having all the FMV so I can only assume it got skipped for the sake of not having to pack in an extra CD-ROM which is a little stingy. Everything is there that needs to be though and I’m certainly been having a great time playing through it again. The Saturn port may not be better than the PC but it’s close enough for me not to care.