Some time ago, I purchased a box of 25 unidentified Sega CD games from a seller on eBay. The games were in questionable condition, but the price was right ($30 for the whole bunch), and I was eager to put my recently acquired Sega CDX to the test, so I took the plunge. Most of those games turned out to be terrible early ’90s FMV games, which sat on my shelf, unplayed, for months.
Fast forward about a year, and I’m looking for a game to play so I can get some practice slapping our shiny new logo (courtesy of my brother, the very talented Dave White) on some video captures. In an attempt to justify the amount of shelf space dedicated to Sega CD games in my throne room, I randomly chose Time Gal as my test case. I’m glad I did – this game is worth far more than the $0.83 I paid for it.
Time Gal is an arcade port of a Japanese laserdisc game from 1985 – think of it as the Japanese equivalent of Dragon’s Lair. For the uninitiated, that means that the game is ostensibly a collection of what we have come to know as “quick time events:” the player watches a series of animated sequences (not unlike a cartoon), directing the protagonist through occasional button prompts. Failure to properly respond to said button prompts results in failure. That’s it and that’s all – there’s no direct control of your character. If this doesn’t make any sense to you, I suggest watching the videos at the end of this post; it will all become clear very quickly.
In Time Gal, you control… uh…Time Gal, a time traveler from the 41st century, who is out to save the universe from this guy –
– who has apparently stolen a time machine in an ill-defined scheme to alter history and seize control of the universe. The plot isn’t really important – it’s a convenient excuse to send the player on a tour of recorded (and unrecorded) time’s most adventurous eras.
You’ll battle prehistoric sea monsters!
You’ll battle both man and beast in the Roman Coliseum!
You’ll fight your way through the giant skeleton invasion of 999!
Hell, you’ll even square off against hover bike gangs in the apocalyptic future of 2001!
Historical accuracy (or prognostication) isn’t Time Gal‘s strong suit, but its levels are varied, colorful, and filled with action and humor. When a game amounts to little more than a series of timed button presses, setting is perhaps more important than ever, and Time Gal knocks it out of the park.
While the Sega CD version of Time Gal may seem primitive by today’s standards, it looks quite good for a “full motion video” game from 1993. Rather than simply compress the laserdisc video from the original arcade game, the developers opted to re-draw and re-color key frames, in an effort to make the game look as good as possible for the home CD ROM market. One need only compare the game’s introduction, which contains compressed footage from the original arcade game –
– to a video of the game in action:
While the gameplay loses some of the fluidity and detail of the compressed video, it’s far more vibrant and colorful. I’m fairly certain this approach kept load times down as well. Time Gal simply looks and plays better than other FMV games of its vintage.
There’s not much else I can say about Time Gal that hasn’t already been said. If you’d like to learn more about the game’s history and legacy, I would strongly suggest that you read Neil Foster’s excellent writeup over at Hardcore Gaming 101.
In closing, I offer you a playlist of all of the game’s stages, arranged chronologically, for your viewing pleasure – with most of my failures intact. Enjoy!
Played on original hardware, upscaled to 720p through a Micomsoft Framemeister. All footage and screens captured through an ElGato HD60.