Tag Archives: 1994

Eye of the Beholder (Sega CD)

EyeoftheBeholderCoverEye of the Beholder
Sega CD, 1994
Developer: Westwood Studios/FCI
Publisher: Sega

Like Ultima: Quest of the Avatar, Eye of the Beholder was one of those games I just couldn’t wrap my brain around as a young kid. Released in 1991 for DOS PCs and the Commodore Amiga, EOTB was an early first-person dungeon crawler which iterated ever-so-slightly on the the formula established by FTL Games’ Dungeon Master. What, precisely, does that mean, you ask? Well, let me spell it out for you.

In EOTB, you control a squad of up to six heroes on a quest to save the city of Waterdeep from the evil machinations of a beholder named Xanathar. A beholder is kind of like a Madball with a whole bunch of antennae-eyes. As sinister eyeball monsters are wont to do, Xanathar has set up shop in a secret lair deep within the city’s sewers, which, coincidentally, are inhabited by a slew of spider-worshiping purple elves, malevolent bird people and sinister toad men. Kill them all, find your way out, end of story.

Eye of the Beholder Chwat2
Who are you calling a chwat?

While EOTB utilizes a first-person perspective, movement is restricted to a tile-based grid. Don’t expect any fancy modern conveniences like “scrolling” here – Wolfenstein 3D was about a year and a half off. You move and turn your party of heroes by clicking on set of directional icons on the game’s HUD. If you’re used to contemporary first-person camera controls, this can be more than a little jarring, as the sudden perspective changes make it very easy to become disoriented. Back in in 1991, though, getting disoriented was what they called a “feature.” You just sort of assumed you’d have to make a map when you played an RPG, so it was a forgivable offense.

Eye of the Beholder Screenshot 2016-05-15 16-28-03
Wow. Look at Spud Webb here.

Despite its tile-based movement, the action in EOTB plays out in something resembling real time. This means you’ve got to keep your party moving, reacting and attacking at a decent clip, lest they be ripped to shreds; playing the game effectively requires you to nimbly navigate a series of dense (though not unintuitive) menus in the middle of tense situations. Additionally, as its trappings suggest, EOTB is an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons licensed product. This means it reaps the benefits (and occasionally suffers from the quirks of) a well-defined tabletop RPG rule set. Characters can only act a certain number of times in any given “round” of combat, they can only attack with melee weapons if they’re in your front ranks, and spells must be re-memorized after every use.

Eye of the Beholder Game Over Cropped
Looks like someone forgot to pack enough rations.

You can even die of hunger. Seriously – you could quite legitimately argue that “Create Food” is the most powerful spell in the game. In short, EOTB is kind of like playing an actual game of AD&D with a DM who just won’t chill out and wait for you to respond before giving into his thinly veiled god-complex, because GOD DAMMIT DAVE, I JUST NEEDED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO LET THAT TROLL KILL MY CLERIC. CHRIST.

*Ahem.* Sorry about that. Anyway, if that description even comes close to tickling your fancy, I’d give EOTB a shot. And, if you have access to a Mega Mouse (or some questionable gray market alternative), I’d strongly suggest you do what I did, and play the 1994 Sega CD port. The gameplay is all but identical, and graphically, it’s at least on par with its PC and Amiga counterparts. Hell, the addition of cinema sequences may actually give it a leg up.

Eye of the Beholder Necromancer2
Tell me about it. What a bunch of rubes.

But screw the graphics, man. The Sega CD port of EOTB has one thing its source material was sorely lacking: a soundtrack. A glorious, redbook audio soundtrack from legendary game music composer Yuzo Koshiro. While EOTB is not one of Koshiro’s more well-known soundtracks, I’d put it right up there with his work on the Streets of Rage series and ActRaiser. Despite the fact that Koshiro’s EDM-inspired style seems wholly ill-matched to the AD&D license, it somehow manages to be a perfect fit for the haunting isolation of EOTB’s labyrinths. It’s not unlike that time your party’s thief got really into electronic music and demanded that you STOP LISTENING TO POWER METAL FOR FIVE GOD DAMN MINUTES OR ELSE HE WAS TAKING HIS MINIATURES BACK UP THE STREET.

Uh, anyway… here it is in its entirety:

Like Gain Ground SX, EOTB for the Sega CD is noteworthy in that it’s a port that, in many ways, outshines its source material. Regardless, I feel the need to qualify my praise by again noting that you shouldn’t bother playing this game without a Mega Mouse. Simply put, it’s far too much of a chore to navigating the game’s multi-tiered menus with a gamepad is far too cumbersome. you’d be better off playing the PC original.

Eye of the Beholder Screenshot 2016-05-31 22-25-45
You can totally make your party look like a German metal band circa 1988. DO IT.

Should you decide to give EOTB a shot, I hope you’ll accept the following images of the in-game dungeon maps as a parting gift. While EOTB does require you to actually find its maps before you you can access them, they take an annoyingly long time to load on the Sega CD’s single speed disc drive; an external image is an extremely useful convenience. Use them in good health, but try not to deprive yourself of the joy of getting lost – finding your way is half the fun.


For optimal enjoyment, we here at Subspace Briefcase recommend that you play Eye of the Beholder in a dark basement after several dateless weeks. It increases the authenticity of the experience.

Way of the Warrior/Naughty Dog 101

Subspace Brief Facts is back from its brief hiatus! I just picked up a 3DO, and decided to break it in by doing an episode on Way of the WarriorWay of the Warrior is the kind of “bad” that can’t really sustain 10 minutes of content, so I decided to turn the project into brief history of Naughty Dog’s early years. I found this to be an enjoyable exercise – hope you like the end result!

You may note that this is the series’ first foray into 1080p. Probably would have been better to start with something better than 480i over an s-video cable, am I right? Yuk, yuk.

As a bonus, here’s some cast photos and screencaps of Naughty Dog’s old website, which I refer to frequently in the video.

On a totally unrelated note, here’s the introduction to Quarantine, another 3DO game.  I won’t be covering this game, as it is absolutely putrid, but hey, the introduction sure makes me miss the ’90s. No. Wait. It doesn’t.

The 3DO. This thing cost $700.

Corpse Killer (Sega 32X CD)

Corpse Killer (32x) Screenshot 2016-01-13 07-35-19Corpse Killer
Sega 32X CD, 1994
Developer: Digital Pictures
Publisher: Digital Pictures

We round the halfway point on the 32X CD library with Corpse Killer, an interesting, if flawed, light gun/FMV adventure hybrid from Digital Pictures.

If you’ve got a hankering to play Corpse Killer after watching this video, I’d stick to the 3DO or Sega Saturn versions, if you’ve got the means to play them.  The Sega CD/32X simply didn’t have the horsepower to make the digitized zombie sprites look like anything more than a blurry mess – which is pretty amazing when you consider that said sprites have less frames than your average animated gif. My, how far we’ve come!

This one really felt like a long road to a small house. We’ll be taking a brief break from 32X CD games for a bit. For as positive as I try to remain about these games, playing them end-to-end really makes you appreciate the wonders of modern console gaming.  Don’t worry though, I hope to continue in a month or two with either Night Trap or Surgical Strike.

Supreme Warrior (Sega 32X CD)

SupremeWarriorTitleSupreme Warrior
Sega 32X CD, 1994
Developer: Digital Pictures
Publisher: Digital Pictures

Oh yes, I’m going to play ALL SIX Sega 32X CD games. Why? Because I want to play an entire game system’s library at least once in my life, and this is LOW HANGING FRUIT. And on top of that, the 32X CD isn’t really its own system, so it’s kind of like winning on a technicality. We lawyers LOVE technicalities.

Anyway, I played through Supreme Warrior, one of the last gasps of Digital Pictures, quite possibly the most prolific producer of FMV games in the early-to-mid-90’s. Supreme Warrior is simultaneously all that is great about mid-90’s FMV (fantastic production values and surprising fluidity) while at the same time a reminder of why the genre never reached its potential (shallow and clumsy gameplay).

If you’d care to have a look at the differences in quality between the Sega CD and Sega 32X CD versions, I’ve ripped the introductory sequences for both games.

While the 32X version certainly looks prettier, I find myself more impressed by the Sega CD version. It’s pretty ugly, but quite good by SCD standards.

The game’s credits make it clear that the actors who portrayed the enemy fighters did all their own choreography. In my mind, this accounts for (1) why the action looks so good (when you can see it); and (2) why the button prompts are so mercilessly short. Someone needed to tell these guys and gals to slow down for the benefit of the players at home.

I couldn’t recommend Supreme Warrior to anybody but the most devoted fans of FMV games, but for what it’s worth, I enjoyed my time with it; it’s a beautiful disaster of sorts.

X-Kaliber 2097

SNES, 1994
Developer: Fupac/Winds
Publisher: Activision

I remember reading about X-Kaliber 2097 in Nintendo Power when I was in middle school. I remember learning that it would be one of the first games to feature a soundtrack by an ACTUAL recording artist. I remember slotting it into the third tier of my birthday wishlist, just in case my mom couldn’t find the games I actually wanted that year. So when I saw a refurbished and cleaned copy at a flea market nearly 20 years later for only FIVE DOLLARS, I thought, “hey, why not? I remember thinking this would be cool.”

I thought wrong.

[Please be advised that this article contains heavy spoilers for X-Kaliber 2097. If you are the type of person that cares about spoilers for a C-tier action game from 1994, however, you should probably seek professional help]

Criticizing the plot of a side-scrolling action game from early 1994 is a little unfair, but X-Kaliber feels like it was written by a Compuserve chatroom full of home-schooled anime fans.

The intro really sets the pace – Let’s take a trip to the greatest of all generic sci-fi locations, Neo N.Y. What happened to Old N.Y.? I dunno, but it must have been bad, as LIFE HAS GROUND TO A STANDSTILL AND THERE ARE NO MORE JOBS TO GO TO (Seriously, watch the intro). People are just going around doing what they are told or nothing at all. It sounds a lot like present day Detroit.

X-Kaliber RaptorANYWAY, Neo N.Y. is ruled by a guy in a purple suit named Raptor, who apparently works for a “global mob.” In order to “enforce order,” he has unleashed his private army of “Morphs” on the city. One wonders why you need to enforce order when people are doing “what they are told or nothing at all.” Sounds like things are pretty orderly already.

There are only two people that stand in Raptor’s way: A man named Slash (the player character), and his partner Alix. Raptor and Alix are repeatedly referred to as “agents,” so presumably they work for some kind of “agency.” Despite this, there are only two people that stand in Raptor’s way. Maybe that’s like how me and my friend Rob formed a gang that had no other members.

Despite this numbers disadvantage, all is not lost! Raptor has the X-Kailber, a magic sword that can rip through steel like rancid butter, yet can’t kill an enemy in less than two hits. Slash and his sword scare Raptor so much, that he and his subordinate, Kane, formulate a plan to draw Raptor out by kidnapping Alix. Once Slash shows up, they figure that they’ll defeat him, grab X-Kailber, and get back to imposing order.

There's always one fat boss.
His name is KANE. Get it? GET IT?

As you’d expect from a guy with such a rad name, Slash is having none of this. The player leads him on a rescue mission through Neo N.Y., using the titular X-Kaliber to systematically chop down Raptor’s subordinates (who have awesome names like “Chainsaw,” and “Dr. Blast”) one by one.

X-Kaliber 2097 BrotherSo, Slash, uh, slashes his ways through the requisite 16-bit skyscrapers, sewers, nightclubs, and laboratories, all the way to Raptor, only to find all along, that his arch-nemesis, whom he has apparently never met before, is his older brother! This shocking revelation really doesn’t seem to phase Slash all that much, but just as he is about to cut his estranged sibling to ribbons, Raptor lets him in on the shocking truth: Raptor’s entire operation is nothing but a puppet regime, propped up by gangster from another dimension named Krux. Of course, Krux has also kidnapped Alix.

X-Kaliber DogSlash, again, is having none of this. He walks right across the dimensional border, hell bent on rescuing his partner and destroying the looming threat of inter-dimensional organized crime. One would think that you’d aim a little higher than being a “gangster” if you could freely travel across different planes of existence; but I digress. After fighting through the beautiful countryside of Krux’s dimension, which, quite frankly, looks like a sea of floating turds, Slash encounters a gangster named Spuke, who drops another shocking plot revelation on us:

X-Kaliber 2097 Spuke2

My God! Slash somehow acquired X-Kaliber from the inter-dimensional gangsters? How did he manage to do this without learning about the fact that they were propping up the oppressive global mob that’s been depriving people of jobs and imposing order? Did the gangsters maybe just drop it somewhere, leaving Slash to absent-mindedly pick it up off the streets of Neo Hell’s Kitchen? We’ll never know. I’ll post a link to my X-Kaliber 2097 Fanfic Kickstarter a little later down the road, and with any luck, we’ll be able to resolve this as a community.

Spuke is no match for Slash’s magic sword, and Slash moves on to face Krux, who looks suspiciously looks a lot like Satan, or at bare minimum, a Venom album cover:

X-Kaliber 2097 Beast

After several continues, Slash quickly realizes that Krux’s weakness is jumping sword thrusts to the head, and he defeats the great inter-dimensional crime lord once and for all. Slash rescues Alix, and order is uh… renewed? I’m not exactly sure what happens, but a brief post-battle cut-scene advises us that the people of Neo N.Y. are inspired by the example set by Alix and Slash, and begin to live a life that is filled with parks to visit and jobs to go to. And thus, the world is saved.


In 1994, action games weren’t typically known as narrative powerhouses, nor did they typically attempt to be. X-Kaliber 2097, however, aspires to more, and fails miserably. Double Dragon, one of the forefathers of the genre, had the simplest of plots: Some guy punched your girlfriend and walked off with her; go get her back. At its core, X-Kaliber has the same plot: Your partner/girlfriend has been captured, and now you must rescue her. X-Kaliber, however, pads out its narrative with more ridiculous cliches and plot twists than its small frame can handle. When you’re going to be telling a story in less than 500 words of dialogue, less is more, and X-Kaliber 2097 is about 20 gallons of plot in a 5 gallon jug. A story that should have been nothing more than window dressing becomes a notable flaw.

In Japan, this game was released as Sword Maniac. Sword Maniac apparently had an entirely different plot, but with a title that awesome, they could have dispensed with a plot entirely. It practically writes itself: Maniac with sword runs through post-apocalyptic New York and fights Satan. That’s a story I can get behind.


X-Kaliber 2097 TattooPlot aside, X-Kaliber is about what you would expect from a mid-tier action game released in 1994. Graphics are competent, though mostly unspectacular. There are nice little graphical flourishes here and there – spotlights that follow the player during a boss fight, multiple scrolling layers in backgrounds, beautiful 16-bit cityscapes – but nothing X-Kaliber attempts is going to blow your mind, but it’s not unpleasant to look at.

At the time of the game’s release, much was made of the fact that it featured the music of techno/industrial group Psykosonik. Gamers of the era may remember Psykosonik for their contributions to the soundtrack for the first Mortal Kombat film. Internet research reveals that X-Kaliber’s soundtrack features chiptune versions of several songs from Pykosonik’s first album. As a result, the game’s soundtrack is above-average, if not spectacular. Despite this, you can’t help but feel like the sound designers may have been pushing the SNES a little too hard – as good as that sound chip was, it wasn’t going to emulate the sounds of a professionally produced contemporary techno outfit.

X-Kaliber 2097 DrBlastThe gameplay is simple and straightfoward. Slash has four basic attacks: a standard slash, an overhead swipe, a stab, and ranged fireball, which travels the length of the scree but leaves the player vulnerable for an extended period of time. Most, if not all, enemy attacks can be blocked by holding down the X button to assume a defensive stance, but in my playthrough, I found little reason to bother with defense: most enemies stick to fairly avoidable patterns. Bosses are an exercise in exploitation: defeating them is not a matter of mastering any of Slash’s techniques or memorizing attack patterns, but figuring out the one single tactic they haven’t been programmed to deal with (tip: it usually involves jumping and slashing or repeatedly holding out your sword and hoping they walk into it). All in all, the experience is wholly unremarkable.


X-Kaliber feels like it could have benefited from stronger direction. While it has flashes of graphical brilliance, and its soundtrack is well-composed, if not well-executed, the game never rises above the level of “competent.” The occasional song or anime style cut-scene will raise an eyebrow, but the whole package never comes together, and ultimately, the only truly memorable thing about the game is its painfully overwrought plot.

X-Kaliber couldn’t live up to its hype as a new release in 1994, and it failed to intrigue me as a historical curiosity in in 2014. Was it worth five clams? Probably. Could I recommend that you spend any of your precious time playing it? Probably not.

X-Kaliber 2097 Spuke