Today, we look back at FMV games like Time Gal or Road Avenger and scoff at them. We make fun of them and give them all the blame for the Sega CD’s early demise. And, while they certainly played a part in the platform’s problems, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to take on a slightly more objective perspective. After all, there must have been something to them—there must have been some sort of demand for hardly interactive fiction, for prototype Quick-Time Event orgies like Time Gal.
So let’s just take a quick look at the game itself. The main character is a bikini-clad, green-haired Lum-lookalike called Reika who travels through time to stop the schemes of some bad person called Luda. The action takes place in a moderately large window in the middle of the screen in form of a full-motion video. It’s the usual Sega CD fare: Few colors, choppy framerate, low resolution. Every once in a while, you have to press the D-pad in the proper direction or hit a button; time freezes, and you have to make a decision. If you do it right, the video continues. If you mess up, you are treated to a short (but at least halfway funny) death sequence and left to resume at the last checkpoint. That doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but let’s be honest here: Today’s typical AAA shooter isn’t that much more complex, is it?
What nobody will believe today, however: Many players wanted Time Gal; the esteemed members of the press praised it; and Wolf Team, the studios responsible for the port, did their best to recreate the Laserdisc machine from the arcades on the humble Sega CD and added a mode where you could watch all the scenes without the button prompts. Composer Motoi Sakuraba, who seems to score every second RPG released in Japan these days, even wrote a new soundtrack. Time Gal was anything but a cheap port.
But time marches on, and people quickly grew tired of the old-fashioned laserdisc-mechanics. The warm reception Time Gal received was soon forgotten, and nowadays the game is hardly more than a whipping-boy for people who have an axe to grind with the Sega CD, its line-up, and the early ’90s in general. When I think back on my time with the Sega CD and Time Gal, it’s hard to be too critical. After all, these were the days when Japanese animation gained a first foothold in the West, and the prospect of travelling through time with a half-dressed girl with green hair was actually quite enticing.
Of course, the game is rather ugly today, and the gameplay remains one-dimensional. But I’m afraid if someone were to re-release Time Gal for one of the many download platforms, I might just be tempted to spend some money in order to spend some time with Reika. She even had a sort of comeback recently as a bonus-character in Elevator Action Deluxe and Castle of Shikigami III. It’s nice that original developer Taito didn’t forget about her. After all, they put her through her first adventure.
Article by Nadia Oxford
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