In 1998, in time for the Halloween season, Sony Computer Entertainment published MediEvil for the Original PlayStation, introducing the world to Sir Daniel Fortesque, an unlikely hero, at best, in a hack and slash adventure that has stayed in the minds of gamers many years thereafter, myself included.
I have a lot of memories about the original MediEvil and its many splendors and occasional plunderers. I own a copy of the original port that I played as a kid, and I later chose to revisit the classic title through the PlayStation Network later on. Although the character and series may not have received the mainstream acclaim as titles like Spyro and Crash Bandicoot were met with, I consider it as a series worthy for the Hall of Heroes, so to speak, at least in-terms of the nostalgia I have for it.
Originally developed by SCE Cambridge Studio, I was excited when Other Ocean Interactive was announced to be concocting a full-fledged remake of the original game, bolstering new and improved graphics and serious quality-of-life touch-ups.
I have to admit that the new MediEvil might, surprisingly, be more malfunctioning than the original release over two decades prior.
Those who played the original PlayStation game can vouch for saying it is a fun but flawed game, and that’s doubly true for anyone who has played it recently, like myself. MediEvil was released at a time when developers hadn’t yet fully grasped 3-D animation and its implementation, and it would often show its age as a result of that.
MediEvil is filled to the brim with charm and personality to spare – as prefaced, you play as Sir Daniel Fortesque, who has been resurrected to once more defeat an evil sorcerer named Zarok. Or, at least, that’s what the history books would have you believe! In truth, during their last encounter, Dan was shot with an arrow on the battlefield and committed none of the heroics attributed to him. Now, absent an eye, he is brought back from the dead and tasked with stopping Zarok for real, and thus, truly earning his place among the heroes. The humor is fun and enthusiastic, filled with bad puns and dry wit, which carries from the loading screen to the dialogue and the way Sir Daniel traverses the Kingdom of Gallowmere.
Speaking of the way Sir Daniel traverses the Kingdom of Gallowmere, the platforming and maneuvering leaves a lot to be desired to say the least. This is because MediEvil is one of the glitchiest games I have played on modern consoles. So often, I would find myself walking and then find myself stuck inside of a wall, forced to restart in-order to continue on, or I would jump on a springy web and find myself shot off into the clouds. Sometimes I would laugh it off. It was funny until the very moment it wasn’t.
MediEvil has a level system. The levels themselves are relatively short and can have varying degrees of difficulty to them. Something that adds to each level is the Chalice you have to collect by the end of each level. Basically, by eliminating enemies or completing a certain task, you fill the chalice. Then, after each level, when you’ve collected the chalice, you enter into the Hall of Heroes, where you are rewarded for your accomplishment (be it a new weapon, monies, or a new health vial).
I like a lot of the mechanics implemented in MediEvil, to be certain. I like the health vial system, even if I think it could use some modification, and I like the fighting mechanics, even if I think they are a little simplified. These are aspects that helped MediEvil really stand out as an Original PlayStation game back when. The chalice system offered a new dimension to an otherwise straightforward concept and offered a new depth and challenge that would have been missed had it been absent.
The issues I had with MediEvil didn’t keep me from trying to enjoy myself or from offering it a chance to redeem itself with some of its better traits. I completing the campaign for MediEvil (the remake) roughly two-and-a-half times. I collected all of the Chalices, I collected all of the Lost Souls, and I eventually received the Platinum Trophy. This isn’t what I would call a difficult feat, really. Although I would consider MediEvil’s difficulty as “above-average,” most of that is derived from its flimsiness and frustration that succumbs you to. For instance, in-order to unlock the Chalice (in each level), you have to complete the level.
And, even if you unlock said Chalice, if you die prior to completion, that Chalice is gone from you. The same can be said for when you collect the Lost Souls (a nice thought, but otherwise meaningless addition that has you backtracking to every level allover again for little to no new content).
I am not necessarily complaining about having to complete the tasks themselves, but the longer I was exposed to MediEvil, the more apparent and frustrated I was by all of its many pitfalls. The glitches became so overbearing and abundant, and even when, at times, I had burned the levels into my brain, I found myself having to take a leap of faith that the game itself would honor my progression. Often, it didn’t. Sometimes, MediEvil feels broken, other times, it feels very broken. Less often, however, does it feel functional.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge its better qualities, of which, there are many.
The weaponry you can choose from is varied and ambitious, especially for an original PlayStation title. The music is spooky and offers a vibe that really harnesses the Halloween spirit. The characters and the lore embedded into the game-play feels like it is fleshed out surprisingly well and weaves an impressive tapestry to build upon. The graphics and visuals are atmospheric and thematic, serving up clear influences from Tim Burton and A Nightmare Before Christmas, and doing them justice, all while etching out its own unique identity. It all comes together to create a wonderful gateway aesthetic into macabre, and I am really appreciative and grateful for that.
It can be disheartening to revisit a classic and find that it doesn’t meet the expectations your rose-tinted glasses had of it. But, in truth, I didn’t think that was my experience. I played MediEvil and, more-or-less, found it about on-par with the experience I had on the PlayStation, only this time, I played it for around fifteen hours instead of four. Where I found I could revisit Crash 2 on the original PlayStation and still find it really good, and then, better all across the board with the N. Sane Trilogy, I found that MediEvil’s remake is about exactly the original, but spruced up visually.
The remake does a wondrous job of redoing the look and sound, but does little to improve on the substantive problems that plagued the original. I found that glaringly apparent, in-fact, and that glare distracted a lot from everything else. MediEvil has good in it, but it asks you to wade through a swamp to appreciate the good – a very clunky wade through said swamp, as well.