You have to love Data East, you really do. They’re clearly a company from the past who really did have no ideas for themselves. You might remember them as a company who could do no right by virtue of copying literally every major release at the time and turning it into a godawful mess of a game. Take for example the glorious Fighters History. I say glorious. It was actually a pretty substandard rip-off of Street Fighter 2. It was so much of a rip-off that Capcom actually took Data East to court citing infringement of copyright. If anything, they probably should have done the same to the developers of several games at the time.
Look at this obvious Street Fighter-ing. The character select screen, the fighters and their basic rip-offery was rife from the off. It was a tremendously familiar experience. Sadly, Capcom lost the court case and Data East were allowed to create sequels. Not that it mattered. They still sucked. If you wish to play a Street Fighter game that is basically worse in every aspect, you can’t go far wrong with a bit of Fighters History.
And let’s not forget the majesty of Data East’s very own Mortal Kombat clone: Tattoo Assassins. It was a game so botched from the start that it never even saw the light of day. The entire thing was a doomed mess to start with apparently and the whole thing ran off the premise that the game had 2196 fatalities! Did it buggery. Most of those involved dropping something from the ceiling or turning your opponent into a hot dog. It was a hilarious travesty. HILARIOUS. Plus Slash’s first wife was in there. As you do. Claim to fame for your game, people.
ANYWAY. I digress.
Data East had yet ANOTHER go at the no-ideas-of-our-own game and this time took to the Mega Drive to try and do some sort of Sonic the Hedgehog rip-off platformer. They basically wanted a mascot game, like every company did at the time and they tried so very, very hard to get us to like Havoc, the titular hero from their game High Seas Havoc.
Suffice to say it did not work. He never had another game afterwards, the game failed miserably and the entire experience is an unfortunate mess of horrendous proportions. And I won’t be getting that time back any time soon.
So picture the scene: the story follows the discovery of a MAGICAL gem called Emeralda BECAUSE MAGIC and a group of evil pirates who set out to find it as it basically gives you everything you could possibly want and more. Flip over to the other side with Havoc and his sidekick Tide, who looked like a baby version of Havoc, nappy and all, who are having a Jolly Roger old time PIRATE PUN going about their business when they find a girl washed up on the beach and take her back to their home. She tells them that the evil captain Bernardo is after the treasure map she holds and he must not get his hands on it. The map leads the way to the location of Emeralda. OH NO THIS IS TERRIBLE, everyone clearly thinks and so they hide it, everything seems to be going OK and everyone becomes the best of friends.
And then Bernardo kidnaps Tide and the girl and you’re basically off to go get them back.
SO FAR, SO FAIRLY ORDINARY.
However… as a premise and a set-up, it does do a pretty good job. And look at that title screen. Look how epic an impression this tries to give off. It really does try to sound really interesting. The story’s a bit wimpy and threadbare but the whole idea of a platform/action game set on the high seas has a huge amount of possibilities. EVERYONE FUCKING WELL LOVES PIRATES. What could possibly go wrong?
Look at the state of that. It’s not a bad-looking game by any stretch. It can be quite pretty at times. Everything moves well enough and the LOOK of the graphics, particularly the sprites are very nice.
But how boring does that first fucking level look? Jeez. If you couldn’t get any more generic. There’s no WOW factor, there’s no excitement behind it. It’s as if a developer or designer did part of it and told their kid to finish it off for them. They drew the sky. Whoop-de-fucking-doo. Suddenly, the levels of excitement plummet to beneath your feet and it’s ever so disturbing to think that they thought this was OK. It was 1993, after Sonic 2, and after Rocket Knight Adventures, which is the closest thing to this game I can truly think of, and it still pales by comparison. To be honest, the state of the game’s graphics don’t get much better but at least they don’t get any worse. Just more generic and obvious.
Here’s the pirate ship level. Look at that background. It’s basically the same thing but with more sea. Because of course there’s more sea. We’re on a fucking ship. With tiny cannons on it. This ship that we’re on is enormous and pointlessly so. It’s like someone said “MAKE THE LEVEL LONGER” and chose to give the ship twenty fucking sails. WHO’S SEEN A SHIP WITH TWENTY SAILS ON IT? To make a level longer involving a pirate ship… could we not go… INTO the pirate ship? Could we not have had a bit of fun GETTING to the pirate ship? The level seems content to just let us aboard the ship via a very small boat that manages to catch up to it. Was this ship not moving? YOU JUST FOUND A FUCKING TREASURE MAP, GUYS. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOOOOOOOOOOOOR?
So maybe the graphics aren’t such a HUGE drawback after all. The level designs are bland as anything with no real… reason behind anything. Take the pirate ship again as your example. There are loads of enemies parading around the level but there’s no impetus behind them being there. They’re not outwardly trying to get you. They just roam back and forth. You can bypass them easily by just avoiding them completely. The flying bastards can fuck right off. They basically dip down to get into your way wherever you are and they’re an absolute fucking nightmare. Whoever invented those guys needs a spear inserted into their rectum.
And you know what else needs a spear inserted into its other end? THE CONTROLS.
Dear. God. Now, let’s fair here. The controls aren’t AWFUL. Actually, they’re responsive enough all the way through the game. However, the mechanics of the jumping and attacking enemies is SO pathetic, you start to wonder whether you’re even got either of those buttons. You can attack enemies in two ways. You either jump on top of their heads like most platformers would have you do or you can press jump again in mid-air and do some sort of somersault kick that twats your enemies round the back of the head. Only this doesn’t work. Most of the time you need such perfect timing that you really shouldn’t even bother doing that at all. It barely works against the bosses either, even though that’s the only way of actually attacking them properly. Having Havoc attack after pressing jump again doesn’t help either as if you want to jump off enemies after jumping on top of them, you might end up timing it wrong, going into a somersault kick and getting hurt by the enemy, sending you flying backwards. OH MY GOD. WHOEVER INVENTED FLYING BACKWARDS AFTER GETTING HIT IS GETTING A FUCKING SPEAR UP THE RECTUM.
Honestly, that game mechanic needs a massive arse-spearing because it is DIABOLICAL. You might be well on your way to jumping up a series of ledges only to find something untoward at the top and having to start all over a-fucking-gain because you’ve been rolled back down the level like a noob. Well that can fuck right off for a start.
It feels at times as though the enemies in the game have such minute hit boxes that if you’re not pixel perfect, you might as well throw yourself off a cliff in lava or something. It’s ridiculous. But the fact that neither of your attacks works that well makes it an infinitely skippable experience. You don’t even NEED to attack enemies anyway, apart from the bosses, so don’t even bother with it.
Now then. Why is this a NEVER game and not a NOT game? And why that, what makes it worse than just being a bad game? Well… the whole comparison to Sonic the Hedgehog is actually painful. It’s barely even realistic, truth be told. The game has next to no speed at all. Havoc can collect some shoes and go a bit faster at times but here’s the thing, Data East, have you ever heard of a little thing in physics called ‘momentum’? Because you sure as hell aren’t showing it. As you traverse the godawful levels, you have to climb up hills. You don’t go any slower up hills unless you’re on snow levels. However… going down a hill is no better. You go as the exact same speed. Down hills. You travel down hills at the same speed as going up hills. It’s horrific. It’s not even realistic. It’s fucking stupid. And then you’re chase down a hill by a boulder that you CAN’T outrun without the speed shoes, speed shoes you’re not even sure you have until you die and realise “why can I not outrun this boulder now?” and have to jump… over… it… why the fuck am I outrunning a boulder that I can JUMP over? The hell’s the point in that?
The entire game is just a series of “what’s the point in that?” moments. There’s a series of platforms in the undersea level that really take the biscuit to a point where you genuinely have no idea why you’re even playing the game. That ridiculous boulder level (THE FIRST LEVEL) is an example of why just shoving anything into a game is pointless without a reason. The pirate ship level… a level you can basically skip through without even really thinking about it… why even HAVE the level? Where’s the challenge?
I’ll tell you where it is: it’s in the fact you can’t actually attack anything properly and the boss kills you because you attack him and don’t land outside of his hit box and he stabs you in the face.
FUCK. THIS. GAME.
Oh yeah, and let’s forget the ‘tude they tried to bring to Havoc. He looks angry at EVERY waking moment, because of course every protagonist has to. They’re all angry. I mean, yeah, you just had your sidekick and new girlfriend kidnapped so yeah… I’d be a bit pissed off too. But it just looks as though the whole brief of “CREATE NEW SONIC” that Data East got just went a bit TOO far.
Every attack that hits you outside of enemies, brings you some ridiculous animated response. Hit something spiky, water streams out of your arse; hit something fiery, you burn up; hit something cold, you freeze… They almost tried a little bit too hard with trying to be funny like this and less time actually creating levels that make sense, a character that actually handles well or a game that’s actually fun to play.
Now even I’m concerned as to how anyone could create a shitty game based around pirates. How is it possible to make something SO AWFUL from a pirate setting?
I wouldn’t even make this game walk the plank. I wouldn’t want to be accused of animal cruelty.
They get such a bad rep.
This game doesn’t even have sharks in it.
THAT’S HOW MUCH THEY HATE THIS GAME.
Well done Data East, you managed to fuck sharks over.