written by Incognito
Medievil was released in 1998 so for those gamers who have been playing or can recall two decades ago, Medievil may sound familiar to you. The story’s protagonist is Sir Daniel Fortesque, a century dead “hero” who has never actually done anything heroic. While Sir Dan was he told tall tales of his great deeds to the king who seems to believe him completely. The king goes on to make him the commander of his army. Reminiscent of Beowulf, with the exception that Sir Dan didn’t yell his name every time he killed something.
The game’s villain is a wizard named Zarok. Having grown tired of performing party tricks as he was first hired to do, he began to experiment with black magic. He was exiled and so began plotting his revenge and practicing his evil laugh. He returned with an army of undead only to face Sir Dan and the king’s army in retaliation.
Legend has it that Sir Dan reached Zarok and waged a great battle with him. Zarok used a cheap shot and stabbed Dan in the eye. With his final breath, Dan managed to strike Zarok down and kill him. He was praised as a hero and given a special crypt to remember him. Ironically, what actually happened is Dan was struck in the eye by a stray arrow on the first charge while he was pretending to tie his bootlaces.
Zarok returned once again and even after a century couldn’t think up a better battle plan than to raise the dead and kill everyone. Unknown to him, he also raised Sir Dan, although Dan is now in a deep state of decay and so can only grumble. He exchanges words with some strange talking statues on the wall before deciding to avenge his honor and defeat Zarok once and for all.
While the plot is fairly unimaginative, this was during a time when most games had trouble even creating the most basic context for themselves. As such, we need to judge Medievil by slightly different standards. In 1998 you could say Medievil was an awesome game despite the fact that the combat was little more than pressing the attack button as fast as you could until the things in front of you died. Adding to the weirdness, the characters can somehow talk without moving their mouths at all. (Oh my, aren’t we modern gamers spoiled.)
Just like Abe’s Oddysee, in which you fart to communicate with your fellow mudokins, or the humorous exchanges between the Prince and Farah in the widely acclaimed Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, this game makes up for a lot with just one thing: it’s charm. There’s something almost pitiful about watching Sir Dan rip off his own arm and throw it like a boomerang. It really makes you respect the character for attempting to make the most out of a really terrible situation. However, I must admit that the first game was not my favorite, as the sequel went on to improve so much.
The sequel was pretty much the same in terms of gameplay. Press the one attack button as fast as you can until the zombie that thought Sir Dan may still have some brains left in his empty skull stops moving and falls to pieces. However, it enhanced so much in terms of the characters and the charming nature of the game. In the sequel, you’re required to rip off Dan’s head and place it on little disembodied hands in order to solve puzzles. You’ll find yourself giggling every time you make Dan dash around little rooms like it’s a scene from The Addam’s Family.
Speaking of which, just like The Addam’s Family, it is rather difficult to tell if the game is trying to be comedic or scary. When I began playing, I was only 8 years old and even I didn’t find the game particularly frightening. As such, I decide to claim it as comedic. After all, what’s funnier than having to chase a homeless bum monster sitting on a tram. He sprays green acid at you during the fight, at the end of which you cut off his head. All so that you can use said head as your own for a boxing match.
In 2005 a remake was produced of the first Medievil to be released on the PSP, Sony’s first attempt at a handheld console. I never played it, so instead I decided to watch the cinematics on YouTube. The game is exactly the same, except that they actually built upon the characters. Being more than just a re-release of the same title, they made the entire thing even more charming and the characters more interesting to talk to, reinforcing the game’s strengths. What’s more they actually gave Dan a reason to run around the places that he did in the original other than just “find the conveniently shaped key to progress”. Some characters were reduced to predictable stereotypes but I don’t really mind as they were always kinda like that. Essentially, the remake did a rare thing and brought the series back from the dead. (I apologize for that pun, I just couldn’t resist)
There’s really not much else I can talk about. It’s the sort of game you actually need to play to understand what I mean when I say it has charm. Of course, if you haven’t played it already then you probably never will. If you want to buy a copy, good luck. You might find it either in a secondhand, preferably one that deals in old games, or for rent in an old video store that still thinks games are on the verge of a breakthrough to go 3D. If you do manage to start this game, you’ll find yourself finishing it several times over before you can put it down. What’s better than fighting fat, bearded ladies clad in tutus while they laugh in high pitched voices before you flatten them into pancakes? Not much.