Sword of Vermilion Review

Sword of Vermilion doesn't offer enough nostalgic charm to excuse its crude, tedious design.

Sword of Vermilion was one of the first role-playing games released for the Sega Genesis, and as such, it gets a lot more credit than it deserves. It's a tedious, ugly, and frustrating game in most respects, but at the time of its release in 1990, there weren't many games like it for Sega's then-new console. Now close to 20 years later, Sword of Vermilion is available on the Wii Virtual Console for the price of 800 points or $8. That's a steep price for an unremarkable game, which most people have either forgotten or never heard of in the first place.

The story about an orphaned prince saving the world from an evil wizard was cliché even back in 1990.
The story about an orphaned prince saving the world from an evil wizard was cliché even back in 1990.

The game takes place in the fantasy world of Vermilion. An evil wizard named Tsarkon and the army of Cartahena brutally attack the town of Excalabria one day, killing just about everyone. King Erik V, fearing for his infant son's life, gives the child to a soldier named Blade, who escapes from the town and raises the child as his own over the next 18 years. You play the game as the young son of the king, and it's your job to save the world from the evil wizard Tsarkon. The story never goes anywhere, and throughout most of the game, you'll just be walking from town to town, exploring dungeons, and visiting with generic townsfolk. The main character has no dialogue or personality whatsoever, and none of the other characters in the game are the least bit lifelike or memorable.

When you're in a dungeon or outside of a town, you'll move around the mazelike pathways from a first-person perspective. In these areas, you'll often randomly encounter groups of enemies, at which point the perspective switches to a side view for some truly awful real-time combat. The battles usually consist of running around the combat area swinging your sword until you bump into an enemy and eventually kill it. Sometimes you'll be fighting 10 enemies, and at other times, you're up against only one enemy. Your puny sword and pathetic swing barely give you any range, so you have to get up close to enemies to hit them. This results in your taking a lot of damage as enemies erratically swarm around you while you're trying to get close enough to hit them. You can use magic in combat, which is usually a small fireball or series of fireballs that orbit your character until they hit something. The battles can be quite difficult, and you'll spend a lot of time dying, getting revived at the nearest church, and then trying to make it all the way back to where you died so you can die a few more times.

Oddly enough, there's an entirely different type of combat for boss battles, but it's just as joyless and awkward as the rest of the game. When fighting a boss you have a 2D side-scrolling perspective with larger character sprites that have a single animation, repeating over and over. You can't use magic in the boss battles either, which makes the fights even more dull and repetitive.

You gain experience for fighting battles, and when you have enough experience points, you'll level up, which makes your character much stronger. You'll have to spend a lot of time fighting monsters to level up so that you'll be strong enough to clear all of the game's dungeons. Monsters also drop money when they die, which can be used to purchase a very limited selection of healing items, weapons, and armor.

You'll fight the same handful of enemies countless times throughout the game.
You'll fight the same handful of enemies countless times throughout the game.

The graphics have not aged well in Sword of Vermilion. The character sprites look like blobs of multicolored goo that jiggles around the screen. You'll also see the same dull dungeons, forests, and towns everywhere you go. The sound is a bit better, with some charming music that sounds good all these years later. The game controls well with the Wii Remote, although casting magic with the A button while moving is a bit of a challenge. The Classic Controller works better than the Wii Remote, but the difference is minimal because you rarely need to use magic anyway.

At one point, Sega actually advertised 300 hours of gameplay in Sword of Vermilion, which must have been a typo because this game will take you a fraction of that amount of time to finish. You can get through the adventure in less than 20 hours without a problem, although why you would want to is anyone's guess. If you purchase Sword of Vermilion for its novelty value or because you're interested in an old-fashioned role-playing game, you'll be sorely disappointed. If you really must play this, you're better off spending $20 for the Sega Genesis Collection, which includes Sword of Vermilion and 27 other games, many of which are actually good.

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    The Good
    Good music
    The Bad
    Lame combat system
    ugly graphics
    extremely difficult, repetitive dungeons
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    Sword of Vermilion More Info

  • First Released 1990
    • Genesis
    • PC
    Average Rating269 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Sega AM2, Sega
    Published by:
    Action, Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Mild Fantasy Violence