When it comes to original PlayStation games, titans such as Crash Bandicoot and Spyro are usually the first to appear, drifting out of the fog of memory. Others fell to the wayside or were overshadowed by giants; of the latter the late Sir Daniel Fortesque comes to mind and several forays into a dark yet humorous world. While it’s true MediEvil (1998) never had the popularity of other games of that era, it’s quirky, eccentric plot and hack and slash gameplay solidified a spot as a true PlayStation classic. The visuals bespoke an almost Tim Burton vibe, taking on heavy themes of death and retribution with a lighthearted and irreverent comedy. The gameplay was revolutionary for its time due to use of the dual shock controller and camera work that while occasionally clunky surpassed any in its peer group. MediEvil rightfully earned its platinum title and almost 18 years later is still worthy of a play through.
MediEvil’s dark and gothic world was a treat to explore, the detailed maps a journey in of themselves, consistently offering the curious player hidden areas and treasures. A system of collectibles that led into a weapon discovery system were critical, they gave the game a feeling of momentum that kept players pushing forward. These days such a mechanic has become commonplace in almost any hack and slash, but it was yet another unique offering at the time. Attention to detail did not just stop at the maps, as a large variety of enemies, bosses, weapons and collectibles stand as testament to the developer’s level of care. No two areas felt alike and it truly seemed like a surprise lurked around every corner. Nothing felt rushed within the world of MediEvil, patience and awareness offered the player a chance to really experience a depth that was sorely lacking in games of the era.
The gameplay itself delivered a real challenge, even if health potions and fountains were for the most part fairly placed. Boss fights at the end of stages ramped up the action and added to the general pacing of the game. While its true combat possessed the trademark clunky camera that became a hallmark of the original PlayStation, it still managed to feel fluid. We can chalk that up to good button mapping and expert level design. Looking back at MediEvil it becomes obvious that today’s modern hack and slash games borrowed from concepts first seen in successful titles such as this.
For a hack and slash protagonist Daniel Fortesque is surprisingly well rounded, showing signs of fully fleshed out character development. He is more than a faceless slaughterer with a blank slate of personality, which is what man titles of that era had to offer. The story was a cut above the rest, showing influence from many different sources but ultimately proving its originality. Voice acting and sound track provided a surprising well of emotion and thought to a game that at first glance, doesn’t seem to take itself seriously. A player might find themselves plodding forward not just for gameplays sake, but to find out the fate of Sir Dan.
MediEvil’s success did spawn a sequel, a worthy successor that kept the spirit of the original alive while introducing several new weapons and concept. It also birthed a remake for the PSP that faced mixed reviews. Sadly it seems Sir Danial Fortesque was finally laid to rest, as there has been no sign of him since. However, nostalgia has assured our fateful hero lives on, if only in the memories of those who knew him. Some even wait for his resurrection, while others agree that sometimes dead is better. In any regard, the quirky plotline and low res graphics are what endears MediEvil to players. To see Fortesque rise from the dead as a 1080P, high resolution brawler, might be more than most fans could handle. The young faces that watched his first ascension from the grave have now grown older, while new players might not understand nor appreciate Sir Dan’s odd mannerisms. Yes, perhaps its best MediEvil lies silent and sleeping like a restful titan. Only to be conjured and appreciated as fond memory, if only for a moment.