Good side-scrolling action games weren’t exactly overflowing in the Genesis’ early years. While the likes of Mystic Defender were passable classics like Revenge of Shinobi were practically events.Renovation, one of Sega’s biggest supporters in those days tried to fill that gap with El Viento and while it doesn’t reach the heights of Joe Musashi’s adventure it still provides many hours of platforming greatness.
Combining modern day (well 1928) with elements of fantasy is a strange mix but if it works for Indiana Jones why not El Viento?In the 1920s a religious cult seeks to resurrect the evil god Hastur.Hastur’s bloodline passed through the generations giving its owners magical powers.One such descendant, Annet seeks to use the powers his blood has granted her to stop him from being reborn.
The second in an official trilogy of games, El Viento fares much better than its predecessor, Earnest Evans.Rather than the gimmicky animation technique that ruined that game Renovation has instead gone for a straightforward action platformer and the game is much better for it.The ties between the two games are minimal so anyone can preferably jump in with this game rather than that POS.
The name El Viento means the Wind and the game lives up to its namesake.The game moves at a brisk pace; Annet is extremely fast, her boomerangs are pretty much retractable bullets, and enemies have a tendency to “rocket” in from nowhere.Aside from running you are equipped with a peculiar crouching dash that is actually useful in tight spaces.The action isn’t so fast that you’ll be at a loss to react however.While the controls are somewhat loose it never gets in the way of the action.In addition to the boomerangs Annet will learn up to five spells that are unlimited in use but need to be charged first. It’s a great way to balance power over practicality in my opinion and makes their use more strategic.
Making the most of its setting the locales you visit are varied and large in scope.One minute you’re dodging mobsters in the streets of New York then you’re whisked away to South American ruins.There’s even variety within the same level; level 3 begins on the upper levels of Chicago, progresses to the sewers and ends in a subterranean cavern full of Ice Dragons and a gelatinous cube boss.It’s a bit absurd and reminds me of Shadow Hearts which also takes place in a similar period.The mixture of fantastical elements and real world motifs ensures you’ll never get bored with the levels.
Graphically El Viento is a mixed bag.This was an early Genesis game and it shows.There’s a great amount of detail in the backgrounds and there are some nice animation touches but the overall presentation is dark.By 1993 Sega and most of its partners were able to squeeze more out of the Genesis’s color palette but those early years were a bit rough, of which El Viento is a member.The animated cutscenes are on the same level as Valis but suffer from literal localization, meaning the dialogue is stilted.While I like many of composer Motoi Sakuraba’s works this isn’t one of his more memorable soundtracks and at best doesn’t offend your ears, that’s the only praise I can dish out.
El Viento is the strongest action game in the Genesis’ library and it is one of the few from its earlier period that still holds up today. With only one life and 3 continues this will take longer than one evening to finish and can be found dirt cheap.There’s no reason not to give it a try if you’re even slightly interested in the genre.