Exile - Staff Retroview  

Off the Beaten Path
by Mike Moehnke

Click here for game information
Less than 20 Hours
+ Fast-paced and effective side-scrolling action
+ Unique Arabic setting lends a distinct feel
- After the first area, pretty easy overall
- Attacking in the air stops forward motion
- Overly ambitious story for 1991 is loony by the end
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   Telenet Japan was responsible for a large number of RPGs in the early 90's that are poorly remembered today. Exile had the additional disadvantage of being a sequel to XZR, a game that was only released on the MSX console, naturally removing any chance of its localization. Whatever references exist to the prior game will be lost on non-Japanese players, but at least Exile remains a quick, engaging mix of RPG and platformer that will entertain during its brief duration.

   Exile's story begins with Sadler, hero of the aforementioned XZR, gathering information prior to an assault upon the aggressive troops of Luciel. After fighting free of a trap in the desert, Sadler enlists the aid of Yuug, an ostensible Luciel commander who is disillusioned by that nation's inability to deliver true peace. From a beginning in the environs of Persia, events progress to the Indus Valley, Thailand, Japan, and the Mediterranean. Though these areas in the game look almost nothing like their real-world namesakes, the focus on regions seldom seen in the RPG world is still interesting.

   For a fairly short game, Exile has quite a bit of plot, and this is not a good thing. It bounces from locations quite abruptly at times, gives most of the characters who join up with Sadler inadequate development, and near the end starts to throw extra ingredients into the story that feel unnatural. The sudden introduction of time travel, in particular, is never explained and will prompt plentiful head-scratching from the audience. Renovation's localization mostly makes sense but is full of typos and a few odd turns of phrase, though by the standards of other RPGs in English from 1991 it works adequately.

This boss hits hard but has horrid defense.  Watch it die with a couple of hits. This boss hits hard but has horrid defense. Watch it die with a couple of hits.

   Sadler has a number of people tagging along for plot purposes as the game progresses, but when the action starts he is left alone to move through platforming stages. Sadler uses a sword to fight the numerous enemies that spawn through these levels, which he can use on the ground or while jumping. As a platformer Exile is far from perfect; everything moves quickly and Sadler's sword has a good range of attack, but he cannot turn around while crouching, and any time he attacks something while jumping all his momentum is sapped and this usually means he has to jump again to reach the ledge. These issues would be more serious if they amplified difficulty, but Sadler is usually able to kill enemies with one hit, and can take quite a few before death.

   During the platformer segments, the RPG facets are present but downplayed. Items can be used to increase Sadler's offense or defense temporarily, and to heal him. As the game progresses magic also becomes available, including a fabulously useful healing spell that automatically replenishes HP until no more MP are available to do so. Sadler also gains experience and money from killing enemies, with each level gained making a noticeable difference in his combat aptitude.

   Throughout the game, anyone who has played other Genesis RPGs will be nonplussed by its reversal of the usual button combination. In almost every other game on the system, the A button confirms and the B button cancels, but that formula is turned on its head here. Leaving that oddity aside, the menus are quick and effective without being progressive in the slightest. The effects of equipment are listed in the manual but not in the game itself, though this is balanced by the ability to save at any time except during the platformer levels.

Don Don't get too excited, the early Genesis visuals are no substitute for a Mediterranean vacation.

   The first platformer level is fairly difficult because escape is impossible. Later levels are much easier, since Sadler can leave at any time to restock supplies. Leaving a level replenishes him fully, making this tactic even more helpful. There are a few puzzles that require finding the right item, but the real challenge is found in the side-scrolling combat. Exile can probably be finished in three or four hours by someone familiar with its intricacies, and most definitely will not require a substantially larger time commitment to complete.

   It is not one of the greatest soundtracks in Sega Genesis history, but Exile sports a good variety of music that is never unpleasant, and is often quite catchy. Its visuals are not so easy to espouse, though the size of sprites in the side-scrolling areas is impressive for the time. Enemy variety is lacking, not many frames of animation are used, and while each environment is distinct it also becomes repetitive quickly.

   Exile is a quick and fairly easy game that does not overstay its welcome. The regions it takes place in are uncommon sights in the world of video games, though the game doesn't do as much with its locations as would be desirable. Relatively unknown even at the time of its release, the game is no hidden masterpiece, but is nevertheless better than others that have attracted far more attention over the years.

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