Mace: The Dark Age (N64)
Mace: The Dark Age is a distinctive game and clearly the leading Nintendo 64 fighter to date (Well, Mortal kombat 4 is ok). A product of Atari Games and Midway, Mace does much to compensate for disappointing previous releases like Mortal Kombat Trilogy. While there is much to recommend about Mace, the game nevertheless arguably falls short of its potential. In the end, Mace: The Dark Age is the best fighting game currently available for the N64, but its throne is by no means secure.
The story of Mace: The Dark Age in a nutshell involves a quest among ten medieval leaders (plus four additional bonus and hidden characters) to repel evil by capturing the remarkable Mace of Tanis, which is sort of the Ginsu Knife of its era. ("It slices! It dices! It restores order from chaos!") Unfortunately, a not-at-all-nice guy named Asmodeous possesses the Mace of Tanis, and is misusing the magic artifact to the general annoyance of everyone. So instead of teaming up to defeat the powerful Asmodeous, these leaders naturally decide to hack one other to bits for the right to fight the guy.
Far more interesting than the Mace storyline are its characters. Compelling characters are a must for any good fighting game, and Mace offers significantly more character development than most N64 fighters.
Take, for example, the Executioner. Here's a guy who would make a fascinating dinner companion. He apparently works in a blood-drenched arena, where his clever interior decorator has stretched bloody corpses from the ceiling. His workplace would probably not pass the latest OSHA standards, as it contains inconveniences like giant whirling spikes and swinging razor pendulums. But in case of emergency, he keeps a couple of spare human heads tied to his belt. The Executioner is a compelling character that gamers are certain to remember...no matter how hard they try to forget.
Another highlight of Mace: The Dark Age is its outstanding graphics. The backgrounds in this title are highly detailed, and undoubtedly push the N64's polygon-generation capability to the max. And not only are the background graphics picturesque, they are interactive. Those whirling spikes in the Executioner's stage, for example, are more than just eye candy. Indeed, when touched they produce a slight stinging sensation, which is often followed by a grotesque bloody dying sensation. These interactive backgrounds are a welcome addition to the fighting environment.
The level of graphic detail extends to the character animations as well. Mace offers some of the best looking polygon-based characters around. Fine details like the Executioner's spare human heads are well implemented. It may be, however, that Mace achieves its detail at a significant cost to gameplay. Mace is simply not the fastest fighter on the market. At times, the animation can be a bit choppy, probably because of the ambitious visuals.
Mace: The Dark Age is bloody. It makes the Mortal Kombat series look like The Sound of Music. Gamers are certain to wince in pain when witnessing these brutal maneuvers. Mace contains graphic scenes of extreme violence, and is thus not recommended for impressionable psychotics with easy access to high- powered weaponry. Everyone else will probably enjoy it. For the squeamish, Mace offers an option to turn off some of the blood.
Despite the interactive backgrounds, gameplay in Mace: The Dark Age is about what one would expect. There is no dramatic gameplay innovation in this title. Mace plays like most fighting games, with the notable but unremarkable 3D component. While the 3D environments look spectacular, the 3D gameplay primarily consists of a single sidestep maneuver. Unlike most so-called "3D" moves, the Mace sidestep maneuver actually appears to be useful from time to time.
Mace: The Dark Age is a quality N64 title. It offers plenty of profoundly blood-soaked action and outrageous characters to keep gamers happily hacking away at one other for some time. While by no means the definitive fighting game, Mace is the present leader in this genre for the N64.
Overall 8.1 out of 10