Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Super Tempo (Red Company, Sega Saturn)

Super Tempo was one of the later Sega Saturn titles, released in 1998 by developer Red Company. A sequel to a Sega 32X game, this is a rare 2D side-scrolling platformer from the age when 2D platformers became persona non grata. Once, these kind of video games were a dime a dozen; then, suddenly, the Sony Playstation dropped like a ten-megaton bomb, and 3D polygons were the new hot thing. Everything else was given a swift kick in the rear and shoved out the door. Sprite graphics were out. Texture-mapped polygons were in.

I'm reminded of the great Genesis action-platformers, games like Aladdin and Earthworm Jim that played like living cartoons, but also games like Castle and World of Illusion, and their masterful level designs. Super Tempo has that excellence in design, the variety in levels, goals, gameplay styles. Most of the action is run-and-jump, but there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes. And everything is presented with an absurdist sense of humor; probably closer to Dave Perry than Treasure.

Visually bold, endlessly clever, and packed with a wicked sense of humor, Super Tempo is a standout title in the Saturn library. It's also a testament against the absurdity of the herd mentality. Who decided that 2D games were suddenly terrible? Look at all those once-beautiful Playstation, Saturn and Nintendo 64 games that have aged terribly. All those gouraud-shaded polygons don't look so hot today, do they? And yet, the more traditional sprite graphics still look lovely. Funny how these things work themselves out.

How many great Sega Saturn games were left in Japan? Far too many to count. This system has one of the deepest software libraries in history. I've been digging for years and I'm still discovering gems. True, not everything out there is a masterpiece, but something like Super Tempo doesn't have to be one. It just has to be very entertaining and very fun. Thank God for Internet Downloads!*

(*Now there's something you'll never read from another videogame critic. Hah!)

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