From the moment I placed that 16-bit cartridge into my Sega Genesis, I knew that Arkagis Revolution (2020, Arkagis/Mega Cat Studios, MSRP $14.99) would be an experience I wouldn’t soon forget. When the opportunity fell upon my desk to review a game I could actually play on my Sega Genesis, I was only too happy to comply. After all, it’s been nearly twenty-five years since I last felt the thrill of playing a new “Sega” game. What’s even better is that I didn’t have to blow the dust out of the cartridge. Any kid who ever owned a Genesis remembers what it’s like to buy a new game and sit in the living room, playing it until your parents had to pry you away from the television, threatening to ground you so they could watch reruns of Home Improvement. If you weren’t lucky enough to buy, you certainly remember Friday night trips to Blockbuster or Hollywood Video, with a quick stop at Pizza Hut on the way home. Point being . . . the ’90s were such a great time to be alive, and when I turned on Arkagis Revolution, I could feel it all come rushing back in a flood of pixelated light, button smashing, and stories that never quite made sense.
I loved every minute of it.
Arkagis Revolution is a game developed by Mega Cat Studios, a company that makes everything from arcade cabinets to console games to retro cartridges. They are a studio of many hats . . . or cats? Finding acclaim for their pixelated adventures, they’re a studio that boldly goes where no studio has ever gone before . . . again. Their latest adventure, Arkagis Revolution is a top down, multi-directional flight game that puts you in the shoes of a Lyn, an Arkagian rebel with a tragic past and the coolest blue hair you’ve ever seen. Her foe is an evil dictator, set on oppressing and enslaving the good people of Arkagis, or so they thought. Like in all science-fiction stories, nothing is ever what it seems, as Arkagis’s true enemy quickly reveals itself to be the very force that set them free. This force is none other than the military might of the United Space Colonies, the “most powerful country in the 27th century, thanks to their economical and military strength. They pride themselves on “freedom”, but in reality they’re always meddling in every other country to entrench their own power.” It’s your job to fly an experimental space ship with the power to take on an entire military . . . and possibly protect your planet’s oil?
While the story certainly has some issues, it doesn’t ever detract from the game itself. If anything it lends to the nostalgia, pulling you in by making the “missions” you undertake worth the time and the boss fights worth the frustration. Arkagis Revolution features rotating fields at full speed, a speedrunning timer, cut scenes with voice acting, 60HZ/50HZ speed correction, and various forms of controller support to help make it accessible to any kind of gamer. As I was playing on the Sega Genesis, I used a three button control layout that utilized the d-pad for moving side to side and back and forth and the A and C buttons to control which direction I moved. While it took me a while to get used to the map layouts and the enemy attack patterns, I soon locked myself into a groove that felt both exhilarating and nerve-wracking at the same time. Arkagis Revolution suddenly became everything I loved about the Sega Genesis and something more.
If I were to wrap my experience with Arkagis Revolution up in three words, I would say: I loved it. That being said, there was one thing about the game that I really disliked. For as fun and smooth as the combat feels, the experience itself felt unbalanced. I could easily fight my way through the mazes and waves of enemies, but again and again I struggled with the boss fights. The regular enemies were certainly challenging, but the boss fights were disgustingly difficult. A few times I was so frustrated, I wanted to stop playing. I actually reached a point where I had to stop playing, because I wasn’t good enough to go any further. This is something I’ve noticed with a lot of indie titles, bringing back retro style gameplay. There’s this belief that aspects of the game have to be punishing. I do enjoy a good challenge, but it took me almost an hour to beat one boss, and I only stuck in there because thinking about it had kept me awake the night before. I remember games being difficult when I was a kid. You really had to be good at video games to finish them (especially since there weren’t any memory cards yet), but you could always break through that wall eventually. In Arkagis Revolution, it felt like those walls had many layers. Though, on a more positive note, breaking through those layers brought me satisfaction I hadn’t felt since beating Ghosts N’ Goblins on my cousin’s Nintendo.
Despite the difficult boss fights, Arkagis Revolution is a most welcome return to the simpler days of gaming. Though the real world beckons from 6am to 5pm, placing that cartridge in the console and hitting that power button made me feel like a kid again, as I sat there mashing buttons in the dark with dreams of defeating a space empire and watching E.T. before going to sleep. I commend Mega Cat Studios on creating this addicting piece of nostalgia, and the first game I was truly incapable of finishing since The Lion King.
Played On: Sega Genesis
(Please note that for this review, Pop Culture Cosmos/Game Source did receive a review code/model/sample from the company/developer/public relations firm responsible for distribution to the press.)