Lagoon (SNES) Review

Click here to view the Lagoon (SNES) description page for walkthroughs and more information.

Quick Review 

~Review by tankMage (March 2020)

Score: D

Here’s a short breakdown of Lagoon’s strengths and weaknesses, scroll down if you wish to read the full review.

Pros

-Awesome music.

-Combat, especially with bosses, requires skill.

-Wide range of areas to explore. 

-Nasir wields a variety of spells and magic rings.

Cons

-Sword has a short reach.

-Bad graphics and animations.

-Sluggish NPCs that follow you around for certain quests.

-Overly long transitions between menu screens.

-Excessive backtracking.

Full Review

Kemco made an oopsie.

    Lagoon isn’t a completely failed game and I kind of liked it, but it’s a terrible port; hence the D. Much of what’s wrong with this game is the fault of Kemco who really botched porting this title to the SNES. That said, Lagoon is still fun enough to warrant playing if you do not want to try to get the translated X68000 version. In fact, this game does have its fans and there are certainly a few things worth admiring about it.

    Lagoon is essentially an action RPG that was meant to play a lot like Ys. Players could draw their sword and walk into enemies to damage them or “bump” them away with their shield. This gameplay style may sound simple, but it’s quite fun and can be challenging. There are the usual towns and dungeons to explore, as well as bosses to battle. Nasir, the hero, can even learn spells and obtain magic rings. This game also adds the ability to jump to the old Ys formula and Nasir will need to hop over pits and enemy projectiles.

Good luck hitting anything with the toothpick this game calls a sword.

    From the description I just gave, you’re probably thinking “This game seems fun.”. Well, it should be, but as I said before, Kemco screwed up and replaced the original combat system with a stubby little sword players have to swing. Nasir’s reach with this sword is maybe four or five pixels, so fighting enemies is difficult to adjust to and generally unpleasant. I spent much of my time playing Lagoon pondering why Kemco made this disastrous change and the only conclusion I could reach is that they wanted to make the game feel more like Legend of Zelda, but kept the sword short to maintain the difficulty of the original game. Unfortunately, they failed and the combat mechanics suck. As the old saying goes “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”.

    As far as much of the gameplay goes, it’s alright if you can get accustomed to Nasir’s 3 inch “sword”. Most of the bosses are good for a challenging fight, though the devs did some cheesy stuff to make them more difficult, like turn off magic casting and health regeneration in boss rooms. There are also plenty of enemies to do battle with and you’ll rarely see recycled monsters, though most of them behave in similar manners. Nasir’s magic is also entertaining and it does a good job of making up for the horrible sword mechanics, since you can just blast monsters with fireballs most of the time.

    Certain events in the game were also altered and not for the better. While I’m not an expert on the original version of the game, the SNES port is overly backtracky and often forces players to bounce between the towns and dungeons for no reason. Even worse, there are two instances where NPCs “join” Nasir and follow him through certain areas. While these NPCs can’t be killed, having to escort them is a rather miserable affair. It takes an NPC forever just to travel from one side of the screen to the other and the player is forced to stay in the same general area as them. They also have terrible pathing and often get hung up on corners, which makes baby sitting them even more unpleasant.

Nasir running from a giant turd.

    For the most part, SNES Lagoon looks inferior to Sharp X68000 Lagoon, but I’m not sure Kemco is completely at fault in this case, because the X68000 was certainly more powerful than the Super Nintendo. Still, Lagoon doesn’t look all that great even by SNES standards. At least there’s a lot of variety to the monsters and some of them are cool looking. The bosses were also interesting thanks to the manticores, demon knights, and strange octopus creatures the game throws at the player. Nasir’s magic effects were also kind of good, which makes me wonder if Kemco had ambitious plans for this game and ran out of budget or something.

   This game’s story didn’t make a lot of sense to me. The premise is simple enough, the water from Lagoon Castle has become tainted and Nasir must investigate the problem, but a lot of the plot related events felt like they came out of nowhere. Out of curiosity, I watched a video of the English patched X68000 version and, wouldn’t you know it, a lot of dialogue was cut from the game. While some of it was almost certainly cut to adhere to Nintendo’s “family friendly” policy, a lot of innocuous, yet important dialogue was also removed. In fact much of the story was changed and it’s hard to say why. This is especially true for the ending, which is almost entirely different than the original ending, though I must admit, I like the SNES ending a bit better.

    If there’s one thing they did spot on, it was the music. Just about every piece that plays is very good and there’s a nice selection of songs. Of course, the SNES couldn’t match the X68000’s sound capabilities, but the port still sounds good in its own way. Too bad the same can’t be said for the sound effects. All in all they’re ok, especially the howling sound dying bosses make, but some seem to be missing. The most notable missing sound effect is the one Nasir should make when he gets hit. I’m not sure why it was left out, but an auditory cue to remind the payer Nasir is being harmed would be nice.

    Kemco also did an acceptable job on the controls…mostly. They even seem to have improved Nasir’s jump mechanics by making his jumps more floaty than in the original. The port’s jump mechanics make more sense from a lore standpoint as well, since Nasir is supposed to be an apprentice wizard and it makes sense that he would be able to slow fall. Of course, they had had to screw up something with the user interface, so they made it take forever for the equipment screen to display. Ok, it doesn’t take forever, but it does take about a second for the inventory screens to display after you select one of them. This gets really annoying, because there are a number of boss fights where players may want to micromanage their rings and having to wait that extra second for the menu to come up really ruins immersion.

Final Thoughts

    Maybe I’m being too hard on Lagoon, but Kemco could have made it so much better just by sticking to the original version more closely. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to the fact that I enjoyed the game to a certain extent, because it was certainly fun exploring the various places Nasir visits and the boss fights were pretty good. It also seems like Kemco took a few creative liberties near the end of the game that worked out for the better. However, the awful melee combat, constant backtracking, and sub par graphics (I don’t even care all that much about graphics, but they could have tried harder) were enough to mess up a game that would have gotten a B or even an A- otherwise. 

Recommendations 

I can’t really recommend Lagoon unless you really love flawed, quirky games or have some kind of sentimental connection to it. For everyone else, go play Soul Blazer or Ys if you’re looking for a good Japanese ARPG.

This review of Lagoon (SNES) is property of RetroMaggedon.com, ©2020

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