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Aztec Adventure Review

Developer: SEGA Publisher: Tonka
Release Date: 1988 Also On: None

Back in my early years, when the NES was frequented day by day, there were several titles that always stuck with me and which still give me fond
feelings of old times. Titles such as Wrecking Crew, Kid Icarus, Load
Runner and the like, always bring vivid memories to me anytime I think about
them. For the Master System I’ve thus far discovered a few early games with
this certain “flair” and, at first, Aztec Adventure presented as such. In
fact, it is a decent game, starting out strong, but it ends on a rather
disappointing note.

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The graphics I found excellent to begin with; very colorful with plenty of
detail. The intro sequences are nice, as is the character introduction
screen. In the game proper, you find more of the same, a splendid scheme
overall. It looks as though the programmers may have even researched local
plant life in South America to make this game look and feel like you’re
really in Aztec country. What’s left of it anyway. The enemies and
characters are wonderful and some of the bosses, such as “Ranbaike,” are
quite detailed; lots of interesting scenery to move amongst, at first.

This is the key, because the game repeats itself after five levels, making
all of these interesting features a bit tiresome. Now, I’m well aware that
games such as Wrecking Crew, which I mentioned above, repeat different
things here and there. However, they do so while remaining original in
concept and design. Aztec Adventure just repeats, the later levels look
just the same as the first five and are thus boring. Still, I won’t drop
the score too low for this, but it did affect my overall feelings about the

In addition, the final level, though different than all the rest, seems completely rushed with a final boss so pathetic I nearly puked from
laughter. In fact, the layout of this stage is essentially all pink/purple
with the same enemies you’ve faced before, these stupid cloud things, and,
to top it all off, line drawings on the ground. Let me explain. If you
remember the “Chariot of the Gods” myth that aliens had UFO landing strips
in South America, that’s what these are. For a bit of history, they were
ritualistic dance paths used by the Nazcan culture. You heard me, Nazcan,
not Aztec. Thus, considering the title, these designs make no sense because
the Aztecs didn’t create line drawings. I’ll get to this more later. This
is all somewhat salvaged by a decent ending, but it almost went down to the
floor in my opinion.

The sound, however, I found to be very good. If you’re familiar with my
reviews, there’s no need for me to go over the Master System’s poor sound
chip again. Regardless, the songs are excellent, they really stuck with me
and I find it easy to uplift my mood now and then by running a few verses of
the first level through my head. Sound effects are cute, and thus very
fitting to the overall “cartoony” scheme to be found here. High marks, even
considering the sound in the final level, which is still good.

Aztec Adventure has some interesting gameplay. Essentially, you, as El
Nino, are off to find the “Aztec Paradise,” with as much wealth as you would
ever need. To get there, you have to go through eleven levels: the cycle
from forest, to waterway, to desert, to marsh, to ruins, to desert, to
waterway, to ruins, to forest, to marsh and then to the final level,
“Phantoms’ Shadows.” In each level, you have to destroy a number of larger
creatures to exit, which are essentially the bosses. They tend to take more hits and are obviously much harder than your normal run-of-the-mill enemies.
Most of your attacking is done using a sword, and I have to mark down
slightly here because the collision detection while using the sword seems a
bit off. You always have to get so close to hit enemies and sometimes just
get hit in the process when you do everything in your power to avoid it.

In addition to the sword, you have eight special weapons you can pick up
along the way. One of them is special to each particular level, others can
normally be found in every level. You’ll find things like tornado power,
fireballs to eliminate brush and many others. Nothing beats
having plenty of options in a game like this and when they’re generally
given to you at the right times, it makes for a fun game.

You can also use money bags you find along the way to pay off three
different characters, who will then follow you and help you attack! One
costs a single bag, another costs two and the most powerful costs four.
They seem to have the same attack power, but last longer depending on who
it is. You can have up to three at once and they really help later on, as
well as adding a very unique aspect to Aztec Adventure that I can’t say I’ve
really seen anywhere else all that often.

The repetition of this game kind of ruins the gameplay, but it is highly
creative, at least at first. As I said, the levels repeat after you get to
the fifth one and some players may find it boring in the long run. Plus,
the final boss is just absolutely horrid. As I mentioned above, the line
drawings on the ground in the last level are not Aztec, they’re Nazcan,
which is why the game was released as “Nazca ’88” in Japan. Something tells
me Sega assumed other children across the world wouldn’t know who the
Nazcans were, so they used a more familiar title with hopes that no one
would notice the complete mix-up in the final level. Sorry, I totally
caught that one the second I saw it.

In addition, the last boss is a living
Nazcan line drawing. Oh my god, what? I’m not kidding. It has to be seen
to be believed, it is one of the most worthless things ever, not to mention
the fact that it only takes like five hits or so with your puny sword to
kill it, posing no challenge at all. This being said, the creativity drops.
One, they repeat too much, and two, they didn’t do their homework or at
least hoped too much that you didn’t do yours.

As far as Aztec Adventure’s game length is concerned, I’d have to say it’s a
bit too long. Due to the repetition, you’re not missing anything in the
later levels, so you might as well figure out the level select code and skip
to the final round after you’ve played the first five. Seriously, there’s
no reason to play the others unless you really care about proving to
yourself that you stuck it out to the end. I assure you though, no one
cares. As for replay value, I’d have to say I would probably play this game
in the future. I wouldn’t play it the entire way through, just a few levels
here and there to remember it, skipping to the end to see the credits,
because they’re pretty nice. Still, it’s not really on my list of things to

In conclusion I’d have to say that Aztec Adventure presents well and ends
poor. They really could have done so much more with this had they taken the
time to add a little more variety to the levels. The gameplay is pretty
solid, and were it not for the repetition, it may have been incredible. Of
course, that depends on what they would have done with the final level if
they came to their senses. Just, wow. A living line drawing?

Graphics: 6
Sound: 10
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 3.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 4
Final: 6.1
Written by Stan Review Guide