Strahl: Sega Saturn

Strahl: Sega Saturn
Strahl: Sega Saturn

Insert Disk collects Strahl for the Sega Saturn.

Strahl is a unique Japanese anime game for the Sega Saturn. Through a series of quick time events you must save the world. Strahl is today’s retro game review.

Hello and welcome to today’s episode. Today I thought I’d take you one step deeper in to the world of Japanese interactive movie game collecting. What do you get when you combine anime, quick time events and Japanese culture? Well, you get something very much like Strahl. Strahl is best described as an interactive movie. It bridges the gap between watching and playing games and movies. The concept is simple, a movie plays out before you. As you progress through the scenario a direction or action instruction are flashed on the screen. Fail to comply with the action and you lose a life. Manage to hit the instruction in time and the action continues. Strahl had three official releases, the Panasonic 3DO, Sega Saturn and the Pioneer LaserActive. For today’s episode I will be playing the Japanese regional release for the Sega Saturn released in 1995.

The laserdisc editions of the game were available in Japanese and US territories. However, this game never made it to the UK or wider Europe so this game remains largely unknown to most of us living this side of the pond. At this time the games nearest translation was “Triad Stone”. After 1994 publisher “Media Entertainment” published the game for the 3D0 in Japan and the US. In 1995 the game was finally ported to the Sega Saturn, the game now simply being titled Strahl. As you might expect to a game of this nature there’s not a great deal that I can tell you regarding storyline. Altogether the action scenes can be played out in under 30 minutes. As I’m playing the game in Japanese I have had to rely on translations for the story. The game is set up by the hero taking care of an old man who actually turn out to be God in disguise. The old man sends our hero on a quest to retrieve seven magic stone fragments. As the stones are returned the Earth is reborn. This game is near impossible to find out in the wild here in the UK so I had to import this one directly from Japan for around £5, $7, 850Yen. Over recent months this price has been creeping up in Europe due to the low volumes imported.

The game comes in a standard jewel case, spine card and manual. Even with limited Japanese language you will find it easy to play the game. So, is it any good? Whilst most reviews I see of this game are negative I’d like to come out and say that I find this to be a really good alternative to Dragon’s Lair. The animation is fantastic. Although completed in 1985 it was shelved until 1994, so what you are actually seeing is a game intended for early laserdisc technology but resurrected almost a decade later. I’m not an expert on anime but I have seen quite a few if the earlier classics such as Akira, Fist of the North Star and Ninja Scroll. Strahl would fit in stylistically very much to this era. Enjoy here a complete chapter.

The gameplay is of course limited as essentially the game is just one large cut-scene with quick time events. The difficult level is extremely varied. At its easiest you will fly by a whole chapter on the first attempt. For some of the levels though the challenge can only be described as insanely difficult to the point where the game seems broken. Where you have situations of back to back sections of tapping A+B together the game causes quite serious joint pain. I’d also like to address the visual quality of the game. It’s clear that there’s something not quite right here in the Saturn edition. The compression seems to have led to artifacting and the scaling process has made pixilation very noticeable in places. The 3D0 edition does not seem to suffer half as much from these issues.

There also seems to have been some issues in the digital transfer from source at points. An example would be here on the ice based chapter where the saturation has cause colour blowouts over large areas leading to a loss of detail. In contrast to the 3D0 edition, the cut scenes between levels have also been downgraded in to static scenes. This doesn’t take away from the gameplay, it’s just curious why the publisher didn’t take the opportunity to improve on earlier releases of the game. All this aside, I can recommend Strahl if you are prepared to approach this one for what it is. Strahl is a beautifully animated game with a very engaging rock soundtrack.

For the price this game does enough to be worth picking up. For lovers of Japanese animation and slightly obscure titles this is a great game and I hope I’ve been able to introduce it so a wider audience, particularly here in Europe.

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