Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Gauntlet IV for Genesis (1993)

Gauntlet IV printed advertisement

Original ad published in "KC Joe Montana" issue of Sega Force 
(1993, a supplement to EGM).
Press to view or download image in higher resolution.

A great game hampered by a terrible printed advertisement

Gauntlet was a very popular arcade back in 1985. It featured primitive graphics by today's standards, but its gameplay was unrelenting, show-casing unforgettable 4-player cooperation.  Its music was superb, as well as the simple premise of the story: go ahead and plough through hordes of monsters to vanquish evil. That's it. This is dungeon hack-and-slashing in its purest form. Hard-core gamers would have to wait until Tengen ported Atari's masterpiece to the Sega Genesis in 1993 to see a close-to-perfect arcade translation for home consoles. Previously, Gauntlet had been sold on practically every major platform.  Most of them were quite mediocre. But the Genesis received an excellent musical score and featured the all-important support of 4-way play. Very few games outside the sports category received 4-player simultaneous support for the Genesis.  Some have called it the best version of Gauntlet ever. Not bad for Tengen, a company that was closely related to Atari, since the latter could not place its brand on their games for the lucrative console market, due to legal restrictions after the famous video game crash of the 80s. The history of Tengen is obligatory for anyone even remotely interested in video games and marketing.

 One last thing, even though this is called Gauntlet IV, there are no previous games for the series for the Genesis. They chose that name so gamers would not get confused with previous versions of Gauntlet released for other consoles in North America. In Japan, the game was just released as "Gauntlet", probably a wiser decision. 

Sadly, Tengen chose a terrible campaign for Gauntlet. Video game magazines of the day ran the text-heavy ad you see above. The problem with this material is that you can't view it as a natural "Z" design. There is no way to follow the traditional "Z" pattern with your eyes. This is more of a "column based" design, where the text and visual elements are clearly separated. Text on the left, photos and graphics on the right. The problem with this arrangement is that unless there is one photograph that is clear and striking, everything else gets muddled up and saturated. Most newspapers know this, and that's why they rarely feature more than one image per story. Tengen tried to include every possible feature of the game in this ad and lost focus of the incredible artwork everyone had come to relate with the series. By this I mean the artwork inspired by Frank Frazetta's work relating to "dark fantasy", where the company is formed by a warrior (Conan clones) accompanied by an elf, valkyre and wizard to traverse a strange world full of twisted creatures.  The ad has no depth, no volume. Everything is presented in a "flat" plane with dubious background colours. I can't help but think the game could have sold much better if the ad had been better. Oh well.

Gauntlet IV for Genesis print ad copy

The legend continues...

With 4 game modes, a 4 legendary adventures at your command, and 4-player action...Gauntlet IV.

The newest chapter in the ultimate fantasy adventure is also the first game to take advantage of the Genesis 4-player adaptors.

  • Arcade Mode recreates the original arcade hit.
  • Quest Mode takes you--and up to 3 other players--on the adventure of a lifetime. Intense role-playing action leads to the mystery at the heart of Gauntlet IV.
  • Battle Mode pits up to 4 players against each other in nonstop medieval combat.
  • Record Mode is a battle against the clock--hone your adventuring skills as Gauntlet IV stats measure how fast and skillfully you advance. 

Gauntlet IV...Set out on the action-packed adventure of a lifetime. And bring your friends!

First game available for Genesis 4-Player Adaptors

Team Player- Multi-Player Adaptor
4-Way Play

  • Choose your path carefully--that door could be the last you ever open. Boo!
  • You want the treasure...but is it worth the risk? Too bad you couldn't become invisible. 
  • A fire-breathing dragon can really ruin your day. Next time bring back-ups!
  • Grab four buddies and crash a Grunt party. Just watch your back!

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