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Undead Line

version: jp - year: 1989 - developer: T&E soft- publisher: T&E soft- format: msx2, 1 disk - condition: near mint- rarity:very

 

Select the wizard, the ninja or the warrior

 

Complete the 6 stages in any order to access the uber-hard last stage "The Fortress"

 

Never stop shooting to uncover hidden chests and fairies which will allow you to increase your stats

 

The warrior is the best character to finish the game with, as it is the most balanced

 

This level is full of lethal dead ends

 

Face death in a Castlevania-themed boss fight

 

Say hello to Cthulhu!

Review - Why on earth in the XXIst century would someone want to play a game on a 3.5” disk, on a dead 8 bit computer system?

We live in the era of XBOX 360, and soon PS3 and Nintendo's Wii. Cutting edge technology is already taking gaming to the highest level of sophistication ever. Maybe digging into video-gaming's past is a bit like appreciating classic music from the 60s or the 70s? Maybe not, because you don't see the same kind of obsolescence with music. So maybe a more fitting example would be watching a movie with special effects before the digital revolution. The original Star Wars trilogy surely has some awkward effects compared to what we are used now. But somehow, the old Star Wars trilogy is still regarded as a masterpiece despite it being technically outdated. The same could be said for videogames.

Undead Line probably was a technical achievement in 1989. What keeps on shining, even today aren't the graphics but the overall atmosphere it manages to recreate.

Anyways,what we have here is basically a quality fantasy-themed vertical shooter with RPG elements. After a pretty nice intro sequence, the game let's you choose among three distinct characters.

The warrior is good at throwing axes and knives and can use his shield for protection from bullets.

The wizard excels in the manipulation of elemental spirits and Ice and can perform an invisibility / invincibility spell to dodge bullets (but not enemies). While using the spell, he can't move though.

Finally, the female-ninja is specialized in using Fire and the Boomerang and she has the ability to jump. The choice of the character is really important because each plays very differently and each should have a dedicated ending sequence.

After trying to go through the game using the wizard, I gave up because I found him too slow. I then switched to the warrior and things got much better as he seemed to have the perfect balance between strength and speed. Anyways, by repeatedly picking up the same weapon, it levels up and this is very important to kill enemies faster. Unfortunately, by picking up a different weapon, you'll have to level it up again from scratch. And here lies one of the greatest source of frustration! Pick up the wrong weapon and you are probably better off restarting the game from…the beginning!

To give you an idea, I was able to finish the game only by picking up the same weapon over and over (the axe) and by knowing exactly which chest to look for. Chests are scattered throughout the levels, some of which are hidden. They hold a variety of different items ranging from weapons to health potions, armor etc.

Also, in each level there are 3 fairies hiding so you'll need to move a lot and shoot everywhere to try to find out their location. By collecting them, you'll be granted experience points to increase your attributes after completing each level. I managed to finish the game using only 1 life just because I knew exactly which chests to open and where most of the fairies were hiding. Gameplay is addictive, clever and very tough.

The difficulty doesn't seem to be excessive initially as you'll probably be able to finish a couple of levels in a row without problems. Trying to beat the first six levels is another matter though, and it will require a lot of practice, determination and memorization. The player can choose to play the six levels of the game in any order and this is a good thing because it allows to learn the enemies and the bosses patterns more quickly. Completing them successfully will give you access to the last stage which is by far the hardest also because you'll have a harder time learning it since you won't be able to select it from the start.

Even if very challenging, Undead Line is so playable that it made me go back at it over and over. Every time I played it, I made additional progress until I eventually was able to see the ending. The last stage in particular is littered with all kinds of sadistic traps and vicious enemies and it made me curse, scream and kick things around in total frustration like no other game, but it was definitely worth it!

 

 

 

Graphically, Undead Line has simple yet smooth graphics with colorful backgrounds and varied enemies. The vertical scrolling works great and doesn't show any sign of jerkyness although when too many things happen on the screen at once, there is some noticeable slow-down and sprite flickering which can be annoying. Also, sometimes it isn't immediately clear what part of the background represents an obstacle and if you get stuck, your energy bar will quickly be drained. This can be offset by learning the levels though.

Maybe one of the best levels is the one set in the ruins of what looks like a cathedral. Upon approaching the desecrated altar, Death itself will materialize while a beautiful Castlevania-like music will be setting an apocalyptic gothic atmosphere.

What really stands out in this game is the quality of the music which is literally outstanding. It is hard to believe that music so inspired sounds so clear on the MSX hardware…

Undead Line is an overall exceptional package, which has been taken care of in every department. The awesome color artwork in the manual, the lengthy intro, cut-scenes and ending sequence, the outstanding music, the functional graphics and the engrossing gameplay, all converge to create a true timeless classic. The fact that it runs on a disk (and not on cartridge) should not shy you away also because loading time is not intrusive and has been optimized.

To conclude, this is not only one of the best games in the MSX library but actually, it is so good as to justify by itself the purchase of an MSX computer!

Bottom line: the game you want to own and play on your msx machine until you beat it or pass out trying...10/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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