When we think of vampire heroes in the gaming industry, we are faced with a small, yet dependable, set of options. We have the grim and accursed Alucard of the Castlevania series who made two separate appearances, each time defying his father and helping mankind instead of his own evil blood relations. We have the ghastly and just-plain-evil Raziel of the Soul Reaver series, fighting against an even more evil cause for his own reasons. And although you may not know it, even the children get a vampire for a hero. That's right, I'm talking about Spike McFang, the top-hat-wearing, magic-trick-performing, cape-twirling vegetarian terror of tomatoes that appeared in the game named after him, and here is my review.
The islands of Vladamasco are completely foreign to the human race, and not a single trace of evidence of their existence can be found. These three islands are each separately ruled by three equally powerful leaders, the wise Dracuman, the lovely Vampra, and the cunning General Von Hesler, who lived in peace with each other for centuries. On one dark and fateful day, however, a change came over Von Hesler, and he immediately built an unstoppable army of evil magic zombies to conquer the other lands and imprisoned the other leaders. Only two problems remained for him. The first was Camelia, daughter of Vampra, who managed to escape from Von Hesler and his carnage. The second was Spike McFang, son of Dracuman and warrior extraordinaire, whom Von Hesler was unable to find. After much searching, Camelia finally found the caped entertainer on Fighter Island and informed him of his parents' fate. Spike is the only hope for the land of Vladamasco. Let's hope his warrior lessons paid off.
Spike McFang is an extremely linear adventure RPG that was obviously aimed for younger audiences. Spike travels through the different cartoon-like isles of Vladamasco, using his cape, his hat, and a deck of cards to save his world. Most of the game is spent in battle, collecting coins and experience, but there are a few calm moments in towns where you can upgrade your hat and buy new cards. There are few different hats to buy, and the cards are only nominally useful, with a few exceptions. Once you leave one section of the game, you can never return to it, but there is very little exploration to be done and no items to be found in the outside world whatsoever, unless you count the keys for doors that you have to find.
The battle system is nothing revolutionary, but it's still fun. You have two physical attacks, the cape spin and the hat throw, throughout the entire game, as well as a collection of magic card spells. When you buy a new hat, the offense remains exactly the same as the old one, but the way the hat is thrown changes. While your first hat gives you nothing more than a cheesy boomerang attack, the final hat in the game is a path clearing homing missile of pain that still makes me smile. By the way, the only method of increasing your offense and defense is to level up, but unlike most games, doing this doubles your stats instead of the usual three or four point bonus.
Magic is cast through cards that you can buy in the shop or the casino. The shops have healing cards that you can pick, while the casino randomly gives you an offensive or effect card. Each spell has its own, unique use from the others, adding some extra interest in the game, but there are only about twenty or so cards in all. The enemies are easy enough at first, but you need to do a lot of training to survive near the end.
Bosses provide a good amount of challenge, and unless you can memorize their attacks quickly you will probably wind up coming around for another try for almost every one of them. You could always spend some time training until you are vastly more powerful than them and then just crush them beneath your shiny magician's shoe, but that's more of a back up plan.
There are no puzzles of any sort, no interaction with unnecessary characters, and a huge army of fiends for you to do battle with. This is an Action/RPG for the mentally groggy or for those who just don't feel like thinking at the moment, but it's still fun, giving it an 86% in Gameplay. It was a little short though…
Like Earthbound, the graphics are all bright and cartoony, but the quality of it is slightly improved. All characters are slightly deformed sprites that stand out quite well, and the enemies were creative and original for the most part. They even included the Python Bunny of death for all you British comedy fans (Death awaits you all, with big, sharp, pointy teeth)! The game begins with several still screens of the cast in order to show you the story, and I thought that this wasn't that bad at all.
The enemy attacks and spell effects were good, but not spectacular. In fact, nothing in the game was really record breaking visually. The only drawback to the game was that none of the areas you went to were really unique, using the usual castles, caves, deserts, and so on, but you should expect that from a child's game. The Graphics were good for the most part and get a 90%.
The music of Spike McFang could not have been done much better than it was. Each area's silly feeling is expanded by the night-club-act music playing in the background. Although none of the songs will stick with you, they manage to fit perfectly for the moment, adding an extra layer to the game. There weren't many songs to hear, and they are all similar, but they have some sort of subliminal effect on you so that you shouldn't get annoyed. As for the sound effects, these were all high quality for the time, but there isn't that much you can say about this subject. Let's just say they worked, and move on to give Sound/Music an 85% for a satisfactory job.
Storyline is probably the biggest problem in the game. In the very beginning, you are told everything that I mentioned at the top. The rest of the story consists of you saying, "Let's go to Dog Town and kill the evil Dog King!" or, "Oh no! We have to go rescue the villagers from that guy over there carrying the big club!" Neither of those are actual quotes, but they do represent the entire game pretty well. If you threw in a witty line or two, you'd have the entire thing down perfectly.
There is no character development, no love story, no side quests, no reasoning, and very little dialogue at all. This is all because the game was meant for children, but unless you enjoy playing a game for the game's sake and not for the plot, you won't like Spike McFang. Storyline gets a stinky little 50%.
The control in SMcF was responsive, but something was missing. You could attack without any problems and jump easily enough, (Well, he doesn't jump very well, but there aren't many things to jump over in the first place) but there just wasn't enough variety involved. Battles consist of dodging attacks, rushing in, and seeing how many spin attacks you can get in before you get dizzy. If there were any special attacks involved, the game would have been a lot more interesting, but things were good as they were. Controls get an 80%.
When I first saw this game, I thought it would be an Action Earthbound, but it was honestly much different. The outer wackiness is still there, but the insane amount of variety is gone. Spike McFang was made for a younger audience, but that doesn't mean you won't enjoy it. Play it if you want to waste some time or if you need to boost your confidence after getting stuck in a game and giving up on it, because it seems to be too simple to stand on it's own. Overall, Spike McFang gets an 82%.
By the way, if you get stuck, check out my FAQ at www.gamefaqs.com! If you're really bored, you can enter the contest I included and win fabulous non-existent prizes! Even if you don't have the game, it might be a good read for all of you.
Gameplay - If only you could saw the enemies in half. 86%
Graphics - It's even got half naked assistant women! 90%
Sound/Music - I can't remember it, but I'm pretty sure it was okay. 85%
Storyline - There was a storyline? 50%
Controls - Just a bit too repetitive for my tastes. 80%
Overall - Thought not required. 82%