Another World: Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis

Another World: Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis
Another World: Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis

Insert Disk collects Another World for the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis.

Today’s retro game review is Another World for the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis. This retro gaming classic is the vision of Eric Chahi. Another world / Out of the World sees a particle experiment go wrong and transport the young scientist Lester in to Another World. Its an action packed game of puzzles and platforming with a very distinct style of its own. Now considered a masterpiece by many gamers Another World is definitely worth a second look.

Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. Gaming history is full of games that either pushed the boundaries for their time or just looked to stand out from the crowd with a distinctive feel. Today I’m taking a look back at a game which is, innovative, ground-breaking and a source of inspiration for later game developers. Welcome to a game that’s Out of this World or should I say, welcome to Another World?

I’m looking at the Sega Mega Drive and Genesis versions here today but it is worth noting that the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST were where the original source code was written. Overall the Amiga version is still the best version in my opinion although the console versions did enable the game to reach the masses. Firstly I’d like to clear up the issue of the games name. Here in Europe the game is widely known as Another World by Eric Chahi. However, due to naming conflicts with a US soap opera of the same name it was felt that the alternative name of Out of this World was needed in North American territories. Just to add in some more regional naming fun the game translates to “Outer World” or アウターワールド Autā Wārudo in Japan. Since this one is of French origins I’ll be running with the Another World title in this episode.

The introduction sequence sets up the game perfectly. One night a young physicist called Lester decides to run an experiment on a particle accelerator. The animation has become iconic in the world of retro gaming. Right from the very first time you see Another World you’re aware that this game is something different. Not just a gimmick but truly something different. It’s the story telling, it’s not at all rushed and builds to a meaningful climax to bring the player in to the narrative. As with most classic science fiction there is a small mishap at the lab and the accelerator malfunctions leading to Lester being transported in to Another World.

The game gives you minimal help and is purposely designed to have no heads up display. There are no menus or fancy pickups, there’s only what you can see on screen. In this respect the game very much holds up to the ideal of a true cinematic experience. Once you’ve worked out that you can kick, run and jump that’s about all you have to get out of the initial scenario. Quite often Another World is not about fighting back but surviving by any means necessary. Although you will tackle enemies head on there’s a lot to be said for a clever defence. During the opening you’ll very much feel exposed to the planet, everything wants to kill you and you’re very much at the mercy of the planets aggressors. Things do soften a little for at least a few moments, you’ll wake in a cage with another detainee, one of the locals. Most sources cite his name as “Buddy”. Buddy is a master stoke of moving the plot forward and giving Lester a reference point in the world. In essence Lester and Buddy are on the same journey. They come from different worlds but share an instant bond of understanding. Between them it’s their goal to escape their captors and find freedom.After escaping the cage you’ll quickly tool up with a laser gun. The gun has 3 main functions, regular shot, force field and high beam blast. You’ll need to master all 3 modes to complete the game.

Part of the joy of Another World is its ability to create tension. Even though it’s early on in the game you really feel the pressure to keep the shields up whilst buddy deactivates the sealed doors. It’s the waiting and not knowing how many more prison guards you’ll have to fend off before you have a chance at escape. It’s then not long before Another World really shows its hand. This isn’t an easy game to play. You’ll escape via tunnels and then look for ways to escape in to the open. I found that this phase of the game made up the bulk of the early action and really tested my memory from when I first played the game back in the 90’s. You’ll need to master jumps across spikes, know the timings of falling boulders, know the order in which to destroy elements, how to avoid certain enemy attacks and activate certain traps to help you. The entire sequence is really engaging. It can be frustrating at times but when you finally perform the whole sequence and flood the underground passages you really start to appreciate how great the game is. Not just as a game that tells a story but as a game that really tests your puzzle solving skills. From there you won’t be safe for long. You’ll encounter buddy again trapped in the air vents as you look for a safe route out of the complex. It’s dangerous and incredibly tense as a gaming experience.

You’ll end up solving problems under water and then attempt to escape by using one of the local transports. This part of the game is particularly tense and cinematic at the same time. Hitting the correct sequence of buttons to activate the ejector seats is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a game. There’s no instructions, you’ll simply have to work out which is the power button, then another button to activate a second panel and then to hit the correct buttons and finally the flashing white ejector button. You have to ask yourself, would a developer be brave enough to put this type of obscure puzzle in a game today? Of course things then really start to kick off as the action escalates. There are the inevitable shock moments, even more challenging fight sequences and an epic finale.

As I mentioned earlier the game did have two main English language release names and this is also reflected in the packaging. The European Another world and the North American Out of this World. The UK packaging features a really atmospheric painting worthy of the game. The North American version, well, let’s just say it’s not my favourite. It’s much more in your face and not exactly subtle. I’d happily take the European artwork any day. As you might expect both feature the standard Sega black cases and matching manuals. Here in the UK a mint boxed edition is likely to run around the £10 mark. However, this one has been creeping up in price year on year. The North American version typically sells between $20 – $30 mint in box. As with the UK version though this price is at least holding year on year. You may also want to consider the 15 year anniversary edition and also the 20 year anniversary editions. Yes, Eric Chahi pulled a bit of a George Lucas here with several remasterings and special editions of the game. To be fair though the HD remake is truly stunning and I clearly how the game was originally envisaged. We just needed the technology to catch up. It’s partly this vision that has kept the game alive for so long with collectors. Around the original release of Another World traditional 2D animation was very much the standard. Sprite based and reasonably flat.

Another World uses several methods of motion capture along with rotoscoping to give the game its distinctive look. In some cases it’s very clear that the game has been given a movie feel to the animation by using this method, particularly in the cut scenes. Of the early editions I’d certainly opt firstly for the original Amiga version of the game. Without doubts the sound and graphics are the best of the bunch followed by the DOS PC version. The Sega 16-bit editions are faithful to the source material with only minor changes, most notably in the title screen.
You can also find Another World on the Super Nintendo. Expect some absolutely atrocious artwork that makes the North American version look like a Rembrandt. With both the Sega and Nintendo 16-bit ports expect a less detailed version than the original Amiga release. Several elements have been changed such as the original soundtrack and the removal of some of the more graphic blood and nudity. Both the Sega and Nintendo ports are said to have been ported via the DOS PC version of the game. However, mot versions of the game are exceptional and it’s not difficult to see the lasting appeal of the game.

Another World is a game that I really enjoy and respect so it’s no surprise that I’m going to suggest that you track down a version of the game. However, there are a few issues with the original releases of the game (some consequently fixed in the later revisions). Firstly the style of game play. Having revisited this one I’d forgotten just how stiff the controls were. In sections where you need to perform running jumps or turn quickly to face an enemy I did feel that things weren’t quite as smooth as I had remembered. Secondly is the game length. It’s obvious that much attention was lavished on the aesthetic of the game and methodology to create the end product. I can’t help but feel that this resulted in a game rather shorter than probably first envisaged. From end-to-end the game can be completed in under 30minutes. It is a great 30 minutes to watch on a walkthrough and highly unlikely that you’ll complete this game on your first sitting. The complexity of the puzzles means that in practice the 30 minute run time of a speed runner is greatly expanded for the casual gamer. These small quibbles aside Another World holds up well as one of the classics. Eric Chahi’s vision has been strong enough to ride out the small imperfections of the game.

The story progression, varied puzzles and excellent presentation all make Another World a great game. Ultimately though it’s the relationship between Lester and Buddy that makes this game unforgettable. You’ll work together throughout the game. You’ll save him and he will save you. It’s a fascinating pairing unlike any other.

The game will no doubt leave you with some strong feelings after playing, its ending is still very much talked about and the “What happens next?” is very much alive. If you ask gamers here in the UK, “What was the sequel to Another World?” you’ll likely hear answers such as Flashback followed by Fade to Black. That’s because we were missing the next instalment of the series. There was in fact not just a spiritual successor to Another World but a true sequel. Released only in North America for the Sega CD this rare game has escaped the radar of many a collector outside of the region. In the next episode we take a look back at a rather rare mint collectible in Another World 2, “Heart of the Alien”.

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