REVIEW: Sword of Vermillion

Not caring about Square, I consider the Genesis the supreme 16-bit RPG system. There’s Phantasy Star 2, 3, and 4 (classic), Shining in the Darkness (old school), and Shadowrun (excellent), but also numerous PC ports and American games: Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday, Might & Magic: Gates to Another World, Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun, Faery Tale Adventure, etc. Yet one of my favorite Genesis RPGs is the neglected Sword of Vermillion. Genesis fans don’t like Sword of Vermillion’s homely graphics and repetitive structure, but if you have patience for Phantasy Star 2, you may dig it.

Sword of Vermillion follows the same unwavering structure throughout. Explore town. Explore countryside. Enter dungeon. Find dungeon map. Defeat boss. Repeat. Lots of RPGs share this pattern of repetition, but for Sword of Vermillion it’s a mantra. I find the process meditative. You’ll never be stuck. There is no exposition. It’s a simple and relaxing. I have similar sentiments about lots of games: Knight Quest (Game Boy), Great Greed (Game Boy), and Lagoon (SNES).

Sword of Vermillion’s components will be second hand to genre-fans. Levels, equipment, and (mostly meaningless) stats are gained in the standard way. The view is in first-person (with an overhead map for easy navigation). During the action-based combat you’re transported to a single overhead screen where you battle a posse of like monsters with sword and magic—although, interestingly, bosses are fought in side-view. There is no micromanagement (or technique) required.

This is probably why Sword of Vermillion leaves many cold. Maybe it’s too simple and familiar, and full of old school JRPG tropes: few monster types, no customization, no challenge (unless you count grinding), no story, and arbitrary statistics. Barring it’s action-based battles, Sword of Vermillion could be Phantasy Star 1. But if you’re looking for a classic (some say hackneyed) experience then you’ll feel comfortable—and I can’t really rate that, other than saying, “I like it.”


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