Some fundamental standards have been established in terms of how to make a game. Throughout the years, many studios have experimented with different ideas to figure out what works and what doesn’t. The best way to make as few missteps as possible is to learn from others who have made similar works as yours. However, when you are making one of the first games for a brand-new console, that isn’t really an option. That was the unfortunate case for Lagoon.
The Role You Play
You play as the chosen warrior of light named Nasir. There is no explanation of how he achieved this title, but he lives up to the title throughout the game. He mainly fights with a sword, though it has a rather short range. He can also combine the effects of staffs and crystals for different spells. Each spell has a different element and strength depending on the components you have equipped. The spells work well, but there are not many opportunities to use them effectively.
Lagoon’s opening cutscene shows the titular Lagoon Castle rising into the air on a jet of water. Similarly, there is news that the drinking water in the kingdom has turned muddy and undrinkable. There have also been demons arriving on the outskirts of town Nasir must rise to the occasion and go on a quest to find the cause of the muddy water and bring pure water back to his people.
Lagoon has a top-down action-RPG combat system. You explore through maze-like dungeons and battle enemies along the way to gain experience and get stronger.
You occasionally need to find a key or other similar item to unlock doors and progress further. There are also sections where you have to jump over holes and gaps in the floor. Failing to do so can result in taking damage or dying instantly.
Lagoon is an extremely linear game. Every character you interact with will give you very straightforward instructions on where you are supposed to go next. The main impediment to your forward progress is the bosses. They can be challenging but most of the time, you can get past them with some perseverance, finding better items and equipment in the dungeons, or by just grinding experience incessantly. Overall, Lagoon can take anywhere from 4-7 hours to beat.
The music is very basic, even for what you would expect on a Super Nintendo soundtrack. Every song sounds very synthetic as if everything was played on a synthesizer. Most of the tracks have a melody and a bassline and little else. The tracks do a decent job of conveying a tone, but they don’t always match well with their surroundings. It all sounds rather interchangeable and each track could be easily swapped out with one another without making much of a difference.
One thing that is impossible not to notice when playing Lagoon is how small your sword is. It makes combat beyond frustrating, especially when your character is so large by comparison. It’s incredibly easy to try and approach an enemy and collide with it.
This is even worse with the bosses. While you can practice and gradually adjust to the smaller enemies, when you face the bosses it’s a whole different story. You not only have to avoid getting hit, but it can also be a struggle to find out how and where to specifically hit the boss with your sword. You are even further hampered by your peculiar inability to use magic spells during boss fights.
The Talking Parts
There is plenty of dialogue in Lagoon, but it is nothing special. The only real purpose it serves is to move the plot along or to provide information about quests or quest items. It carries no emotional weight or provides any worldbuilding of any kind.
There are a few more detailed cutscenes in the game that show off the Super Nintendo’s capabilities. However, these scenes are sporadic, they have no dialogue, and they really underdeliver.
Z…We’ve Reached the End. Anything Else?
Lagoon came out very early in the lifespan of the Super Nintendo. As a result, It is easy to see that it does not have much to take inspiration from. There are some pretty clear design flaws. The game lags when the screen becomes overcrowded with enemies. The proportions between Nasir and his sword are not great. These seem like simple design errors and anyone who has played a similar game that came out afterward would know to avoid making such mistakes. Because Lagoon came out early, it may have served as a cautionary tale for other developers to avoid making the same kinds of mistakes, and those games were better for it.
Lagoon feels like the Super Nintendo RPG that walked so others could run. It’s very easy to look at it, point out its flaws, and then point out another game that did the same thing better. It does have some historical significance, especially for being an early SNES RPG, but it doesn’t have anything more to offer than that.
Final Score: 3/10
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