Lagoon - Staff Retroview  

Creature from the Mediocre Lagoon
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

Mostly Easy
8-10 Hours


Rating definitions 

   Lagoon, developed by Zoom Inc. and published by Kemco, is a game that most people haven't ever heard of these days. This action RPG for the SNES was released in the early '90s around the time of The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past and fell into obscurity partly due to that unfortunate timing. For those gamers that were able to round up a copy of this title, they were treated to a decent, yet flawed game. Lagoon did bring some interesting twists to the action RPG arena, but it is far from being memorable.

   Gamers play the role of Nasir, a young boy on a quest to restore the country of Lakeland back to life. The country has been plagued by muddy lakes and rivers that are making everyone sick. Old sage Mathais tells Nasir that it is his destiny to go out and restore order, and so begins the quest. The overall plot of Lagoon is rather shallow. Each area that you venture into is more of a side quest as you work your way through the game. These areas, such as Elf Field or Dwarf's Desert, are secluded from one another and have their own little mini story to complete in order to progress to the next area. In the case of Elf Field, Nasir must wake the sleeping inhabitants of a town by recovering three lost tablets in order to progress to the next area. The tablets have nothing to do with the plagued waters from the beginning of the story, however, they are just filler. None of the game's areas really tie together, so progression through the game often seems pointless.

   The control setup for Lagoon is rather cumbersome. Nasir's abilities are limited to attacking with a sword or with magic, using items, or jumping. There is no dash button, so wandering around rather large towns looking for a specific NPC becomes irritating quickly. This is especially frustrating because of how slow Nasir moves and the fact that two buttons on the SNES controller are used for nothing. It would seem plausible that those could have been used for dashing or maybe a special attack. Sadly, they are just overlooked. The game's option menu consists of an item usage screen, a menu for equipping weapons and armor, one for configuring magic, and a save menu. Also viewable from the option menu are Nasir's stats such as level, experience, HP, MP and gold. There are no remotely deep options for customization.

Anyone home?  Doubtful.Anyone home? Doubtful.

   Combat is extremely simple. Nasir can attack with his sword or cast magic. There are no special moves for attacking with the sword, just one button combat. Players have the possibility of obtaining only five different swords, five different shields, and five different pieces of body armor throughout Lagoon. The only bonus obtained from upgrading weapons and armor is the attack and defense bonuses they provide. There are no fire enchantments, no speed boosts; the equipment gives you nothing of interest. This makes spending time hunting money or upgraded equipment quite dull. The magic system is slightly better. Players can equip one of four staffs, Earth, Sky, Star, and Moon, each increasing in strength. With these staffs Nasir is able to pair up one of four different crystals, Fire, Wind, Water, or Thunder, for unique effects. Pairing the weak Earth Staff with the Thunder crystal allows the firing a thunder ball where as equipping the stronger Star Staff with the same crystal causes a large thunderbolt to damage all enemies on screen. While the magic system isn't extremely deep, when compared to the weapons and armor setup, it is a welcome change.

   There is little about Lagoon that can be considered original. With the limited weapon and armor selection, basic menus, and simple combats, there is nothing that hasn't been done before and usually done better in other games. That said, Lagoon did help bring the standard RPG concept of gaining experience and leveling up into the realm of action RPGs much in the way that Zelda II attempted to do. Nasir gains strength, defense, hit points and magic points as he gains levels. In the Legend of Zelda world, action RPG characters only progress by finding new items and gathering life pieces, so this helped shape a new idea in the action RPG world.

Nasir readies Yellow Yarn Attack. Nasir readies Yellow Yarn Attack.

   Lagoon is not a fancy title, but the areas available for exploration are unique and varied: Atland, a dry, desolate area; Elf Field, a lush, wooded area; the icy cold Gnome Plains; and the cloudy area near Phantom Hill. It may have been easier to keep them varied since there are such a limited number. Character sprites, however, are rather simple, with most NPCs differing very little. Some NPCs are not even shown on screen; they are just shown in the dialogue window. The character interaction visuals are also very bland. Sword combat is very basic looking and magic spells look extremely cheesy. When attacking with a sword, Nasir does seem to move fluidly, but his attacks always look the same. When casting a thunderbolt, it looks more like Nasir is throwing a ball of yarn than casting a spell. Visually though, Lagoon is a decent looking game for its time despite the flaws.

   While the game's sound effects are just the basic grunts and smashes of the SNES era, Lagoon's music is rather catchy. The intro piece is fast paced and gives off a sense of urgency. It is not one of these tracks that has the gamer pressing start as fast as possible to bypass it. The Atland theme is uptempo and not repetitive like a lot of town themes in RPGs. The Elf Field theme is really exciting as well; it's a peppy piece that will make things more enjoyable while exploring the rather vast area. These few tracks are just a sample of what Lagoon has to offer. The classic MIDI soundtrack is one of the more tolerable of its time.

   Lagoon is easy. Most of the enemies encountered in the world of Lagoon are not challenging as most take just a couple of hacks with a sword to down. Some of the later bosses though are problematic. It's not that they are hard, just cheap. Bosses are almost impossible to hit without taking some damage. In addition, there are times that the player will have to fight multiple bosses in a row without time to recover or save. This wouldn't be as bad if magic could be used in boss fights, but for whatever reason it is not allowed. Despite its downfalls, Lagoon is simple to dive into and play.

   As far as action RPGs go, this is not Zelda quality, but it wasn't really meant to be. It was a good starter game in the action RPG realm at the time of its release, and it served that purpose well. Lagoon will not go down in the record books as a classic title, but at the time it gave gamers a taste of the action RPG genre and that taste was not completely bitter.

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