Retro Video Game Review: Blackthorne (Sega 32X)

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Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Somewhere in the shadowy past of video game history lies the existence of the Sega 32X: An add-on peripheral accessory for the Sega Genesis that failed to catch mainstream popularity in the wake of the next generation of consoles soon to come. It was a unit that inserted into the Sega Genesis’s existing cartridge slot, which necessitated that a gamer already own a Genesis to take advantage of the improved graphics, sound, and other features.

Throughout its short existence, the 32X released a very limited library of games, some of which were closet classics and others which where colossal clunkers. Somewhere between this two categories is Blackthorne, a loose sci-fi/fantasy adventure starring the titular character toting a shotgun and out on a quest for justice for his people.

Gameplay

The title played like an upgraded, otherworldly version of Prince of Person. It was a two-dimensional platformer with an emphasis on tactical movement across three-tiered levels in varying environments. Rather than a lightning-fast run-and-gun like Contra or similar titles, Blackthorne focused on inventory management, enemy avoidance, and other factors. Falls from a certain height killed the character, along with timing traps and treacherous enemies. But with his trust shotgun, Blackthorne always has a chance to succeed, as long as he does not run out of rounds.

Graphics

This game looked pretty good, like an appropriate bridge between the Genesis and the Saturn systems for Sega company. The worlds are detailed in their differences, from swamp worlds to snow worlds to more cityscape-like environments. The enemy characters are imaginative, and the quick, bloody PoP-style deaths were pitch-perfect for this sort of game. However, considering its limited perspective throughout the adventure, it did have limits in how much it could truly showcase its appearances.

Sound

With effects ranging from the booming shotgun shots to the guttural growls of the beasts, Blackthorne scored well in the sound department. The atmospheric background music was a nice touch, though occasionally (see: ice stages) limited merely to looped effects rather than true composition. Nonetheless, nothing too flashy or gimmicky here, as the audio fits the game nicely.

Creativity and Innovation

As mentioned earlier, the game plays like Prince of Persia with a shotgun rather than a sword. Fans of that series from the era would have found Blackthorne a true hit; otherwise, for many, it is simply not their cup of tea. The storyline was certainly original, and the genre was incorporated well, but otherwise, this was not explosively groundbreaking territory.

The biggest concern of this game was the difficulty level: Though early puzzles could be conquered and bypassed by most gamers, in later levels, Blackthorne relies too heavily on precision timing and command mastery. Later scenes can also be rather arduous, requiring the player to beat them in one try, without a true save-position function.

Other than those issues, though, it is a truly interesting game and worth a look for curious gamers everywhere, especially those who enjoyed the “tiered platformer” style of Genesis-era Prince of Persia titles. For being a solid play for an obscure system, Blackthorne earns three and a half stars out of five.

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