Stockholm syndrome, or how I got high from a mediocre game

Stockholm syndrome, or how I got high from a mediocre game

Anyone who lived through the 90s remembers that it was a “fun” time when we were very limited in our choices and options for buying a new disc or cartridge. There was no Internet, and with it torrents, we got all the information about games either from the cover of the product (remember the design of games for Dendy, it was very informative at times), or from sales outlets, or from magazines. In addition, the economy after the collapse of the USSR was destroyed, and most people simply could not afford to regularly purchase new games. It seems to me that the young game journalism was not based on skill and experience, but with great enthusiasm and burning eyes (take, for example, how the magazine “Great Dragon” was created), although sometimes it looked childishly naive. Despite this, she stuck and sank into the heart, because she had a soul. It was such printed publications that could at least open the door to the world of virtual entertainment for us and advise which project is worth paying attention to. The younger generation will say it was a wild time, but there’s definitely something about it…

With this introduction, I want to explain (and remind someone) that back then we were not spoiled at all, so we very often played with what was available, because we didn’t have much to choose from. Now on the Internet you can find many nostalgic stories about how controversial projects were played, for which a modern gamer can be imprisoned only at gunpoint. And then nothing, they played and even had fun!
As I mentioned, the selection back then was limited – along with the Panasonic 3DO set-top box that I got from family friends, I only had four games. I already managed to talk about one of them in one of my articles. Today I want to share memories of another project for this console, which, being quite mediocre, dragged me and even gave me pleasure from what is happening on the screen! We will talk about the port with MS-DOS for 3DO Interactive Multiplayer – Virtuoso. Yes, the game was not a platform exclusive, unlike Need For Speed or Gexand came out a year before the release on 3DO. But since I first got acquainted with this set-top box, my story will be about it.

Agree, if you did not know that it was released on the 3DO console, seeing the screenshot explaining that it is a console game from 1995, you would hardly believe it. Especially if it happened in the very 95th… Most of the gamers who managed to appreciate it in those days looked at the screen of a pot-bellied TV with their jaws hanging open, and then returned to their once beloved Dendy with obvious reluctance.

But what did this project envision? But this is where controversial moments begin, because there is no clear plot in the game, and everything that happens on the screen looks like a drug trip. In it, we play as a long-haired rocker who goes to the Martian wastelands, to various laboratories, haunted houses, beaches and submarine stations and destroys robots and all kinds of beasts. I can assume that this is some kind of computer simulation in which the main character participates, but this is only at the level of speculation. In any case, it all seems very useless, but whether due to age or lack of gaming experience, it did not catch my eye in those years.

And so our hero with two guns prefers to travel to such strange locations and fight with no less strange enemies. The developers seem to have some phobias in relation to the fauna of our planet or terribly dislike the animal world, otherwise how to explain such a banal choice of enemies? During the game, snakes, bats, crows and seagulls, crabs, giant bees/ants/spiders will try to kill you, and only sometimes the imagination of the authors will make itself known at least a little, and come alive snowmen or a large number of different robots of all kinds colors , sizes and types.

Yes, I understand that forcing the player to fight wild animals was the norm for the industry back then (take Tomb Raider, which came out a couple of years after Virtuoso), but to have SO MANY of them… Also, Lara Croft’s adventures have almost all of these animals were in the natural environment, they can actually be found in those locations where the gameplay of the game takes place. But in Virtuoso you run, for example, on Mars without any spacesuit and meet not unusual extraterrestrial monsters and not aliens at all, as you might think at first, but giant spiders, bats and other similar animals!

Several types of guns will help you to resist these terrible creatures, more advanced versions of which you can find by carefully studying the locations. By the way, for studying them, the game will reward you not only with new guns, but also with upgrades for them, various useful (and not so) finds such as first-aid kits, extra lives, destroying enemies on the screen, and also … bonus glasses (which are necessary, that in order to brag in front of friends.

I will not say that the game is difficult (especially on an emulator with a connected gamepad), but the difficulty, according to my observations, rises due to the increase in the number of enemies, the appearance of turrets and more dangerous animals. But I won’t call it simple either, these are clearly not casual shooters. The levels themselves are either relatively large and spacious maps on which enemies endlessly spawn (in reasonable quantities, which is not too annoying), or narrow tunnels (usually in some caves) with a small number of branches and spacious rooms. But there are also quite confusing levels (like this), in which you can get lost even with a map, but without it, it’s a horror! By the way, before using the map, you will have to find it, and until then you will have to remember the location of the rooms yourself and rely on the radar. True, there are levels where even it is not there at first, so, like the map, the radar will still have to be found! It is good that it is usually located somewhere near the starting area.

The goal of any stage is not to destroy all enemies, as it might seem at first glance, but to find the key and get out of the location, which is sometimes a rather non-trivial task and forces you to wander quite a bit in search of an exit.

The positive side of the game is its audio component. I remind you, it is 1995, the PlayStation 1 will not be released until the end of the year, and most of the CIS players are satisfied with Dendy and Sega, and those who are richer can afford the SNES. Only the sound of these consoles could not be compared to 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, which offered CD quality. So it should come as no surprise that when you play Virtuoso, you not only hear the juicy sounds of gunshots, environments and enemies (which brings some enjoyment to the process), but also full songs for each level! As a rule, fate sounds pretty good, and at some stages I would describe the compositions as post rock. It was really cool, and the music is probably the first thing that pops into my head when I think of the game. You walk through different, quite strange levels, being a cool long-haired metalhead (or rocker), and shoot enemies with a cheerful muson! High!

For the consoles of those years, the graphics were at a very high level, even if it looks quite mediocre now, but then most gamers could hardly have any questions. As I said, I got the console from a family friend and I think you can easily imagine my level of excitement when I first fired up the game yesterday while playing Contra on Dendy!

Completing the first two levels of Mars

Well, let’s be honest, the game lacks stars from the sky: it has very strange level and enemy design, created as if under the influence of hallucinogens, and there is no story. But there weren’t many third-person action games in those years, and let’s be honest, most of you would have been happy to play in 1995!

Interesting fact: Once popular in the west, the magazine “Next Generation” spoke very negatively about the game, calling it a clone of Doom, but without the first-person view and fun)))

5 years ago I turned this game on for nostalgia, and as I remember now, I turned it off pretty quickly. But now I’ve spent enough hours in it to write a review and… no, I haven’t fallen in love. I will not convince you that this is a cool game that everyone should play))) But as a monument of the era, as an unusual game with archaic, but interesting gameplay, cool, juicy sound and music – it can be appreciated!

And to make it easier, I posted both an image of the game and a ready-to-run emulator with my instructions on the “Old-fashioned Gamer” channel.

You may be interested in:

“Will Twisted Metal 2 stand the test of time?⁠⁠”;

“Nostalgic games: Serious Sam”;

“Dino Crisis: is it worth paying attention to today?”;

“Nostalgic Games: Titan Quest”;

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