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Phoenix 3 was a somewhat ambitious attempt at evenly blending two distinct game genres (space shooter and platformer) History has shown though that games taking this approach rarely work as intended. Demolition Man for the 3DO was a surprising exception, mixing a sizable four game types! But how many others can you think of that pulled off the juggling act effectively during that time? (Die Hard Trilogy perhaps?) Anyway, the lesson seems to be clear ... don't bite off more than you can chew. Sadly, Phoenix 3 is left with it's mouth full.
Aliens are on the attack?!? No way! I've never seen that before, especially on my 3DO ...
Yes, it's true ... this plot is so commonplace on the multiplayer. Oh well, at-least I can tackle them in two ways. I wasn't very excited about the flying sections as this is a style of game already well represented on the 3DO, with some true gems. Still, this part seemed to be rather highly regarded based on some reviews and feedback I'd read. The platformer segments I did have high hopes for. Overly optimistic admittedly, but the 3DO's offerings in this genre (though great) are limited and I wanted more. I even remember thinking Phoenix 3 would present a 'Flashback' type experience, since the two games do share a passing resemblance in look. (I was wrong )
First, let me talk about the sections where you are in the ship (lamely named 3) Frankly, I'm baffled how this could be talked about so positively. While mostly passable, it doesn't even come close to touching 3DO's crown jewel Wing Commander 3 which it clearly is trying to imitate. Graphically it fails to impress, with weak looking explosions, an unattractive hud display, and boring space backdrops. Cosmetics aside, it suffers from artificial intelligence that seems highly suspect. Enemies routinely fly by without attacking, and seem to be in heavy need of some aggressiveness training (maybe the Kilrathi could tutor them )
A few other disappointments include weapons, audio, and slowdown. Not only is your arsenal s-l-o-w to change, but the bulk of the firepower I found simply ineffective. As to the 8 second loop of rock music that blares at the eardrums, the less said the better. And though I didn't encounter it until later missions slowdown is annoyingly present.
My biggest complaint with this portion of the game is that every mission felt identical! 'Hold them off for two minutes' ... and what a long two minutes it repeatedly proved to be. There was one level, and only one, that truly felt different. Temporarily eliminating the poor combat, focus was strictly on navigating. It moved quicker and was more pleasing to the eyes. This is hardly a strong endorsement though, as this lone level was still pretty dull. I was quite anxious to get away from the lackluster ship missions and into the platforming sections.
An improvement? Yes. (thankfully!) But not without numerous faults. In fact it is near crippled at points by errors that, in my honest opinion, could have and should have been fixed with relative ease.
Error #1 - No checkpoints
What purpose does this serve, except to artificially lengthen already needlessly long levels? It would have been so welcome, especially since backtracking seems to be the rule of thumb with this game. Way to make each level drag guys!
Error #2 - Broken save system
Why oh why do I not have control over when I save? The way the game handles saves (automatically after each level) is just plain garbage! If you struggle in one of the later levels and lose a couple of tries, forget it. You are done unless you lunge for the reset button before the system registers it's auto save. This is much more annoying than I am making it sound, trust me! I smell a combination of limited play testing and holiday rush job. Boo!
Error #3 - Platforming cliches galore!
Why, on a 32-bit console, did the designers find it necessary to adopt the worst of the worst of archaic 8-bit platform games? I'm not just talking about things like cheap enemies (remember back in the goo d'ol days of the NES when the AI really did cheat?), but I'm talking stuff like unseen pits and mazes. Oh, the mazes (let me rant about them for a second ... new paragraph needed)
First, this is easily one of my most hated things ... not just in this game, but any game that is lazy enough to use them. Yes, it is a laughing stock how any game designer not suffering from dementia can honestly think these are fun. They aren't. Whether it is my early memories with King's Quest V, my 3DO memories with Daedalus or later memories with games that can only be retrieved under hypnosis since I've blocked them so ... mazes in games are almost universally COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY AWFUL! Of course, Phoenix 3 goes out of it's way to dump salt on this festering wound with it's absence of the aforementioned checkpoints. Memorization is required, and even then expect repeated plays of these lengthly levels.
One other area to point out is the control. Flashback this aint! Things you'd expect to be able to do you can't, and things you are allowed to do are clunky (ex - shooting diagonally) I noticed a lack of responsiveness, and you pay for it with all the moving platforms and flying projectiles (cue creepy blank death stare) Owners of the Flightstick Pro may be happy to know the game accepts this rather rare perhephrial, but I've yet to test my own copy with it.
This is a tough game ... but not for the right reasons. Thankfully it is made a bit more manageable by a regenerating life bar and the ability to use rapid fire. Still, the above mentioned flaws make it a formidable task. It would take really strong graphics and sounds to mask them but, like the flying levels, the platforming visuals won't turn heads.
The opening full motion video is very grainy ... inexcusable for a later release. The later clips alternate in quality which is peculiar, especially since it doesn't seemed to be based on how fast or slow the on screen action is. The cheap looking sets and second rate acting scream low production values. I should point out thought that (in spite of this) the movie segments did grow on me, and the lead character gave an effective (though not great) portrayal.
I didn't find the enemies very exciting, although their chunky explosions may have limited appeal. I did like how when you walked over downed ones you'd often kick up debris like metal scraps for instance The lead character also lacked in excitement. He could have been animated better to take advantage of the 3DO hardware. Instead he, like much of the game, seems like a slightly enhanced Sega Genesis graduate.
The music is yet more generic rock that seems to be a staple of the 3DO library (it is an improvement over the flying levels though) The opening track, and the eerie tunes of the White star outpost were the only ones I personally enjoyed in an otherwise unmemorable score. The sound effects? Run of the mill. The yells of the main character quickly got on my nerves (and he yelled a lot as damage was often unavoidable)
Maybe we missed something back there
Despite the boastful statements on the box that lay it on thick, none of the key parts of this game seemed done well. Re-cap ...
- Cliched story
- Average graphics
- Grainy fmv
- Below average sounds
- Limited control
- Poor challenge
Had the focus been solely on one genre (and it should have been the platformer, as that had more potential .. the flying levels were too far gone) this game could've been something. Small portions of the platformer levels actually did hint (albeit it ever so briefly) at the great NES and Genesis platformers of the early 90's. But that raises the question? If Phoenix 3 offers nothing you couldn't find elsewhere and in better forms, why bother ...
I stuck with Phoenix 3 (thank you Game Guru!), but this speaks more to 3DO's small library of platformers than it does to the strength of this game. Then again, when the choices are as good as Flashback, Gex, and Soccer Kid ...
A few good points, but a below average game overall. One that I wanted to like more than I can.
Last edited by Trev on Fri Mar 02, 2012 3:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.