Genre: Dark Fantasy Platformer
I remember spotting this game at the store, and my parents were hesitant to let me get it in the early 90’s. I didn’t understand why at the time – it looked pretty awesome, with art reminiscent of the Frank Franzetta artwork I’d see on the cheap fantasy paperbacks in the bookstore, or better yet, like Golden Axe. So a few years later, when I had my own paper route, I managed to snag a copy myself from the local game store, and my parents were none the wiser. Now, of course, I realize why – there had been a small bit of controversy about nudity appearing in the game. What is laughable now (some sweet pixelated bare lady chest on fairies) was, back then, a hot topic, and for the Genesis release, Sega actually ensured things would be censored.Originally released on the Amiga, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, DOS and Amstrad CPC in 1989, it received a port from a company called RazorSoft onto the Sega Genesis for the next year from the Amiga version. While the graphics I’ve seen in screen shots for most of the computer versions actually had some decent graphics and what appeared to be a more fleshed out story, the “nudity” that was present with the Fairies was a bit… laughable, and barely noticable. Had I not known about it, I never would have guessed. The cover up on Sega didn’t look out of place, and since it’s the copy of the game I have, that’s the one I took screen shots from.
Graphically, the game looks really nice. It looks like it draws a lot of inspiration from Norse Mythology (I always thought the eponymous Stormlord was Thor, when I was younger). Honestly, it looks like a game programmed by old school metal heads who were just blasting things like Manowar – its grim, dark, with lots of skulls, lightning, old bearded guys and nubile women.
Speaking of music, outside of the pretty decent music on the title screen, the game is actually lacking in a soundtrack. There are sounds in game, but… there’s no music. It’s a little strange, I can’t actually think of many games on the Genesis that are missing music from them. I haven’t been able to find if there was music in the levels of the original game either. I suppose putting your own metal soundtrack to the game will be fitting, and a necessity.The gameplay consists of you as The Stormlord going around, saving Fairies from bubbles before day turns to night. You can see how much time you have left on your screen from a stylized clockface that turns from a sun to a moon. You’ll have to travel back and forth across levels, and fight against a slew of insects, demons, plants, warlocks and skeletons in order to do so. A single touch from anything will turn you into a skeleton yourself, and drain one of your sparse lives. You have two weapons at your disposal – tapping the attack button fires sparks, and holding it down for a few seconds allows you to fire a sword out at your enemies, dealing a little more damage. Your other buttons are jump and item interaction. Items are used to get past various obstacles – honeypots to place down near bees, keys to get into doors, and umbrellas to get by thundering storm clouds, for example. In order to travel around the stage on the Genesis version, you stand on a platform with a skull on it, and an eagle carries you off to the next area (again, it’s so metal). Between stages, there are bonus stages where you rescue fairies being thrown over a wall before they are cast into a pit.
Though it all seems like it would go well from here considering the nice graphics and theme, the game doesn’t flow smoothly. Jumping has no graphic, and just sends you up a random amount. Enemies are varied, spawn rapidly, and can be a pain to get through. If you forget a fairy in the beginning of the stage, you may as well reset – there will be no turning back for the most part from where the eagles carry you.
The difficulty on this game is preposterous. Options for difficulty are Normal, Hard and Maniac, but the Normal level is already nearly impossible. It ends up not feeling terribly fun as much as an infuriating chore. As much as I tried to play this game, I have never in my life gotten past the second stage. It just doesn’t appear to leave you with enough time unless you know everything inside and out. I’m sure there must be a way to do it, but even a prolific gamer like myself who owned the game for many years was unable to do so.Stormlord, regrettably, feels unfinished. It has a nice base and theme, but the game itself doesn’t flow smoothly, has no instruction on what you’re supposed to do, and doesn’t feel like it has a real payoff. There are no glaring bugs or errors, but the games difficulty to time allowed per stage ratio seems way off. To top it off, leaving no room for error on any stage already pushes people away rather than feels challenging. I was hoping to go back and play a hidden gem, but I remember why the game acquired so much dust on my shelf – outside of the controversy, the game had little to offer.
If you’d care to give the game a shot yourself, it can be found here at Archive.org!