Xena: Warrior Princess: The Talisman of Fate
Developer: Saffire | Publisher: Titus Software | Release Date: 1999 | Genre: Beat ‘Em Up | Website: n/a | Purchase: Amazon
During an epic battle between Xena and Despair for the Talisman of Fate, both lay their hands on it at the same time. Since the person who controls the Talisman controls the fate of the world, the Fates intervene and decide that the winner will be decided through a contest. Now Earth’s greatest heroes and villains (plus Joxer) has to battle each other.
It’s as unlikely a story I’ve ever heard but then again I’m not a big fan of the TV show so I can’t really comment on how this contest ties in with the plot. Fans of the series will lap up any excuse for a fight however especially if it features all their favorite stars.
The full roster includes Xena, Caesar, Ares, Gabrielle, Ephiny, Valesca, Callisto, Joxer, Lao Ma, Autolycus and of course main baddie Despair. Most of the characters I recognized from the few episodes I did watch so I guess everyone that matters have been included. Since Beat ‘Em Ups aren’t exactly the N64’s strongpoint don’t go expecting a Tekken or Virtua Fighter beater when you buy this game. The graphics are strictly functional and while the characters resemble their small screen counterparts some of them look a little dodgy. They all suffer from a lack of polygons and some of the animation’s are on the wrong side of bad. Just look at Gabrielle’s victory dance to see what I mean. All of the arenas are a little sparse on details as well and some more color wouldn’t have gone amiss either. Still At least there are some attempts at special effects with fires blazing in the background and weapons leaving light trails in their wake.
Yes you read right, all the characters have wisely decided to bring some weapons to the fight and so you get to see Gabrielle with her trademark staff and Lao Ma with her fan. You can still kick an opponent and each character also has a couple of long range attacks like Xena chucking her chakra around or Gabrielle throwing you with her staff.. Some characters take things a bit too far with Caesar ordering his men to shoot you with arrows or even a giant boulder! To be honest the weapons doesn’t really make that much of a difference to the gameplay and this is about as far removed from classics like Soul Blade that you can get. Everything is in full 3D however (well almost everything) so you can run circles around your foe and even do a wall jump and surprise them with a boot to the head.
The game has a practice mode where you can get to grips with the controls and hone the rather limited set of moves each character has. No move list like in Tekken either sorry. Vs mode allows you to square off against a friend or the computer while Quest mode is where you fight opponents in sequence until challenging the might Despair. With a name like “Quest” mode I was expecting some dialogue before fights or anything to flesh out the basic fighting but no such luck. You simply beat your foe to a pulp before moving on to the next. Don’t hold your breath for any cool endings either (ah Tekken you’ve forever spoiled endings for other games). The audio is a mixed bag with reasonably good tunes but nothing good on the sound effects side. Somehow I don’t think that halfhearted self conscious scream Xena utters when she wins was done by Lucy Lawless. Others like Callisto sounds like she’s in labor whether she won or lost but then again I’m not a fan of the show so maybe she always sounds like that.
On a system like the PSone with its vast catalogue of good Beat ‘Em Ups this would have been laughable but on the N64 it’s a different story. If you’re still left playing Killer Instinct waiting for something good to come along you might as well give this a try. It won’t win any awards but at least it’s reasonably entertaining especial against a friend.
*Review originally published 1999.