N64 Connoisseur

N64 Review #10 – Mace: The Dark Age

Once upon a time, a little game called Mortal Kombat was born. It was the king of fighting games because it did things no other fighting games had done before. People were drawn to its shocking violence and for some reason captivating characters. Like most good ideas, a lot of people flat out stole it. This began an age of Mortal Kombat clones, most of them bad. Enter in my 10th N64 review, Mace: The Dark Age.

The game opens with this description of the plot which is far better than any way I could describe it:

“For centuries an impenetrable darkness has shrouded Europe, Arabia and Asia, with countless victims succumbing to the ravenous hunger of unchecked pestilence and war. In Asia, Khan’s ruthless Golden Horde wages a war of terror from the shores of Japan to Europe. In Arabia, the legendary Assassins’ Guild asserts a bid for power, toppling sultans and kings. Europe, once a promising glimpse of humanity’s potential, has become a well of despair under the despotic rule of a handful of feudal lords.

Many great kingdoms have been devastated, but a few have grown more powerful. These comprise the Covenant of Seven – lords who have allied with Asmodeus, a practitioner of the dark arts who wields the fabled Mace of Tanis. The Mace is imbued with necropotic energy, offering those who wield it a tantalizing promise of ever-lasting life and unbridled power. With this power comes a terrible price: Asmodeus must feed off despair, disease, and poverty. In limited doses, Asmodeus grants the Seven the power they need and crave. In return, they expand their kingdoms with bloody battles and torment their peasants. But Europe can no longer sustain Asmodeus’ ravenous appetite. He now reaches East into the Orient, to find new lords who yearn to sample the dark powers.

But there is rebellion. Each of the Seven, addicted to the corrupting power of the Mace, dispatch their best warriors to kill Asmodeus and steal his power. Leaders from the East sense Asmodeus’ plottings and strive to destroy him before it is too late. Heirs to kingdoms long since vanquished seek revenge on Asmodeus and those who wield the dark energy. They are the fiercest fighters in the world, and they all have one thing in common: they each must possess the Mace.”

Therefore, fighting. Lots of it. Everyone is fighting. In fact:

The story is pretty weak. That is all you get of it, actually. There are no cutscenes showing Asmodeus getting overconfident growing into nervous as you climb the Kombat combat ladder, there is nothing. There is never a sense that you are accomplishing anything. It is just fight after fight. There is not even that very satisfying visualization of your progress that you get in Mortal Kombat. Good thing, too. Wouldn’t want the games to appear too similar.

They didn’t even try to hide the fact that they were ripping off Mortal Kombat and even that would be ok if they did a half decent job of it. The fighting mechanics are just stiff and hard to use. You can find a list of moves online and I am assuming in the manual which I do not have but good luck pulling any of them off as the game laughs at your every attempt to pull off a combo, special move, or (and you’ll love this part) an “Execution.” That’s right, folks. You see, this is not Mortal Kombat because Mortal Kombat features Fatalities while Mace: The Dark Age features Executions. Totally different things.  Most of the time you find yourself resorting to button mashing and praying that something useful happens.

Why the hell would I want to do that?

Why the hell would I want to do that?

The characters in this game are boring. Very boring. There is an executioner, a Viking, a blonde Chun-Li, a demon, and a bunch of other stuff that was haphazardly pulled off of a list of gaming’s greatest overplayed tropes. That brings me to my greatest problem with the whole thing: I didn’t care about any of them. None of the characters made me care in the slightest if they lived or died or if they succeeded in overthrowing Shao Khan Asmodeus. Normally, a game gets difficult and I power through it based on the fact that I deeply care about the character I am playing, the world I am playing in, or the story on the whole seeing a solid conclusion. In this case, the game got difficult and I powered through for no reason other than this review.

Now, before we ride the “Eff this game” train all the way back to the station, I do have something good to say about it besides that fact that I never have to play it again. It is a really good looking game, even now. I was very surprised by this actually. I had a vision in my head of what this would look like coming into it, and the game far exceeded it. It kind of makes it even sadder that the rest of the game is total garbage.

I usually try to find the good in most retro games, but at the end of the day there just wasn’t much good to find here. A good looking game with awful, unresponsive controls, a terrible story, and boring characters leaves more than little to be desired. If you are in the mood for a Nintendo 64 fighting game, do yourself a favor and play anything else. As for me, the next time you see the Connoisseur, you will see him with review #11: