Saturday, June 19, 2010

VGR Clockwork Knight 1

New Sega Saturn review!

Since I had a fun playthrough this week and finished the game, I decided to write its review while the experience was still fresh in my mind~

VGR: Clockwork Knight
From Sega AM7 (Overworks)
Played on Sega Saturn
Also available on /

Type Sidescroller platformer
Year 1994/95

Clockwork Knight is the typical kind of game the Sega Saturn was designed to provide.
A "modern" side-scroller (well, for 1995).
Afterall, when Nintendo was trying to force the 3D platforming on everybody's mind and Sony going all "2D sprites is the past, we're entering the era of 3D polygonal models!", Sega designed the Saturn as the ultimate 2D videogame system, and that's the reason I love the system.

But we aren't here to talk about the 32/64 bit era nor the evolution from 2D to 3D (maybe some other time).

What is Clockwork Knigh, what kind of game is it?
It is a side-scroller (read 2D platformer) using 2D backgrounds, 3D pre-rendered enemies, real time 3D bosses and a 3D character as well.
Pretty similar to the SNES Donkey Kong country games but a bit more 32 bit-ysh if you want.

Once upon a time, in a toy box...

The game introduces you to a familiar setting straight from our imagination as a child.
While the children are away, all the toys come to life under the magical singing of Clockwork Fairy Princess, Chelsea.
All the toys have their fun and their own lives while the house's empty.
Everytime, the toy soldiers try to win the princess' love, showing off their skills and techniques.
But one day, Chelsea is stolen away by a mysterious toy...
It's up to you, Sir Tongara de Pepperouchau III, aka Pepper, to find your way through the house, find the princess and help her back!

Along your journey, there's Sir Ginger, Pepper rival, another toy soldier.
There's also Barobaro, Pepper's faithful steed and Soltia, which seems to be a decorated perfume bottle, who loves our hero even if he only devotes his whole attention to Chelsea.

Toy's coming to life while nobody looks at them, now where did I hear that before? Toy Story you may say?
Well, this isn't a "rip-off"! Calm down angry kids! (I already saw that written before)
Toy story came out on November 22, 1995 (it only really started the real development around February 1994), the public could have only known about it earlier that year (and even later for a Japanese gaming studio, this was before Internet and information being quickly spread and leaked)
Clockwork Knight came out on December 9, 1994 in Japan (taking probably around 6 months/1 year of production).
CK isn't a rip-off of Toy Story. Nor the opposite. No plagiarism here. This is just a simple occurence, a clear case of coincidence, when some people probably got the same idea at the same time. It often happens. (see the case of the cartoons Rhapsody Rabbit and Cat Concerto)...

 The enemies are various and diverse in your quest to bring the princess back...

The game is very easy to understand and have your hands on.
It only uses 2 buttons of all the buttons the Saturn pad has, a jump and an attack button.

As a Toy Soldier, Pepper is equipped with a key which he can uses to slash enemies.

The game as a very nice level design. The platforming parts are pretty well designed and with its very precise and simple controls, jumping from a moving platform to another one is very easy as long as you play it well.
Most of your deaths will be the player's own fault, it's a well made engine and multiple playthrough will get you better each time.

Pepper can interact with the objects he finds on his path.

There's a lot of enemies on your path, many kind of toys, objects and little creatures who'll try to stop you.
You can attack them, grab them to throw them at the other enemies. Tapping the attack button several times will make Pepper use his key as, well, as a key! This will make toy enemies explode and open up locks on little boxes for exemple.

There's some alternate path, finding them will make your progression easier or harder sometimes.

It's a very fun adventure to have to explore the house.
You'll start out in one of the children's room, go to the other one (a girl's room then a boy's room), explore a kitchen and then the seilling. For a total of ~13 levels (counting boss levels).

Exploring the house from the kitchen to the roof!

You can say there aren't that many levels, but they can be quite difficult at times and will require many playthroughs to master.
Like many Sega games I'd say, it's a much more shorter arcade experience (like Sonic, Alex Kidd,..) rather than a easier numerous multi-levels experience (like Nintendo offered with Mario World, Donkey Kong Country,..).

The game will have you fight a boss at the end of each room before moving on, dying and losing all your lives in any of the 3 levels of the room will make you go back to the beginning of that room. That is, if you can buy another continue. That's right, you'll find money in the levels which is required to buy more continues but if you wanna spend it otherwise, you can play a Roulette mini-game between levels. Soltia will offer you a game of roulette where you can either win lives, life upgrades, bonus points or lose everything!

The story is presented through very nicely done CGi cutscenes for 1994/5. Quite full of life (for 3D toys in a small budget videogame!)

Final important point to me (specially as a Sega fan).
The music is fantastic!
The game has a very nice jazz/festive tone. All the levels have their own musical overtheme, with bosses having a special more epic atmosphere.
There's a vocal main theme and ending theme which are now part of Sega's cult classic tunes (released many times across various Sega compilations). Something you have to check even if you're not interested in this Saturn game!

Overall, it a great experience!

Definitely a classic which helped many decide to go into the Sega Saturn instead of the N64 or PSX.
Not bashing the other systems or anything here, but this was exactly how I wanted gaming platformers to go at the time, instead of the early 3D platformers who seemed to start from scratch (losing everything platformers had evolved into from the 8 bit era to the 16 bit era).

The game is quite challenging, beautiful to look at! (specially with a Saturn plugged into an HD screen - I like my pixels!)

My main problems may be that there's isn't much challenge to go back to when it's over, but it's quite fun to go back to CK once in a while anyway! The music's great, the visuals colorful and well done (specially for a early Saturn game). Controls are perfect.
Oh and the other problems are probably that there isn't that many levels (at least there's alternate paths) and the game ends with what I hate the most in videogames. After the very last final boss (which is easier that some other bosses), Pepper goes back to the princess, and... CLIFFHANGER!!!
I absolutely dislike cliffhangers in videogames!! Sometimes they stay unresolved due to the game never getting a sequel (or the studio shutting down, or losing interest in that game...), see Shenmue 3 for that! Ha!
But fear not, cause Clockwork Knight had a sequel!

Finally, I'll say this game is a must have for any Sega Saturn owner! It's fun, maybe not that original, but well done. A perfect launchtitle for it's unique and 2D-friendly library!

I give it:

2.5 / 3 Segata Sanshiros!


  1. Don't miss, some later time, a review of CK2 as well and a bit of trivia about it's other never released sequels!

  2. The toys are back in town!

    I'll certainly keep an eye out for this. Especially if it ends up with a downloadable release, for one. (And some Nintendo games are pretty tough, especially on the NES. Can't beat Super Mario Bros, no matter what short cuts I take)

  3. For as long as I remember playing it, I always found the Mario Lands, Mario Bros and Mario Worlds pretty easy, finished them plenty of times as a kid and today as well...
    Maybe because I learned to play with the more arcade/challenging ones! :P

    Keep an eye on this one! There isn't any Saturn game on Xbox live or Wiiware, for now, but you'll never know!
    (I could imagine a modern Clockwork Knight looking like that new Donkey Kong Country game, same kind of graphics! If only...)

  4. One of my fave game's on the Saturn! Loved playing this over my friend's house, always admired how creative the levels were inside the house and stuff. Surely needs to be a 4 player version for Wii-Ware

  5. why should it be a Wii-Ware game? I want a full retail new game like New Mario Bros wii or Donkey Kong Country Wii!

  6. I'd say easy access and low risks of bad sales. It's harsh, I know, but it's how things are done in a business stand-point (when you consider disc costs, and the possibilities of it being bought, the budget, draw backs and what-not. In other words, today's gamers are spoilt, and these kind of games would be very bad to them, or something like that)

  7. This is truly good content and enlightening web log; I praise what you’ve carried out right here. I just ordered these consoles at PIJ! I’m excited! I’m going to have these in week!