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['Parallax Memories' is a regular weekly column by Matthew Williamson, profiling classic '16-bit' games from the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and other seminal '90s systems. This week's column profiles Wolfteam’s action platformer: El Viento, released for the Sega Genesis in late 1991 in the U.S. and Japan.]


A Tale of a Wind Gypsy

What happens when an anime-themed development team decides to create a game after reading some H.P. Lovecraft? Apparently El Viento. Annet, a blood descendant of Hastur, is shouldered with the responsibility of saving all humanity using the power of nature magic.

Developed in 1991 by Wolfteam for the Sega Genesis, and released by Renovation in the United States, El Viento follows the mold of outrageously sexy late 80’s anime. Much like other efforts of the development team (Valis), style is emphasized over control and design.

viento-octo.gifTerrors of the Deep

This game is outright, silly in retrospect. While it may have been taken more seriously at one point, fighting a horde of New York gangsters in the 1920s who are controlled by a mob boss being paid to stop Annet from preventing the resurrection of Hastur is just the start of this train wreck. However, the plot is not the only problem. The background scrolls horribly, seemingly with no connection to the foreground. The building designs, while they are modern apartments, feel very similar to some of the later Castlevania action games, and the style is even further replicated in the Grand Canyon level.

The music is fairly bland and forgettable, and the sound effects are outright inappropriate. While I normally enjoy playing games with headphones to appreciate the subtleties of sound, this game has no need for any special attention. That is, unless you have some over-taking urge to make your ears bleed in terror. Then comes the terrible sprite scaling: the worst offenders being explosions and a certain octopus-squid thing.

After New York, things get even stranger. Hastur's followers need to be destroyed, and not only in New York, but; Mt. Rushmore, The Grand Canyon, caves under New York, and even on a blimp. In these locations are: piles of logs that explode for no reason when you step on them, cacti that float in the air and used as platforms, prehistoric cave men and giant caterpillars under the streets of New York--and these are just a few of the more ridiculous items.

elvie-1.gifCthulhu fhtagn!

I can’t tell if the designers wanted to throw in homages to H.P. Lovecraft of just ran out of ideas, but I am hoping for the former. The first sign of Cthulhu Mythos turns up with the mention of the evil god Hastur. Then the game goes on to make more subtle references in the forms of a Byakhee as the helper of Restiana (your misguided nemesis), and the boss of a later level is a Mi-Go. Because of the appearance of the Mi-Go as a metaphorical ball-under-the-cup sleight-of-hand trick, I am leaning towards the Wolfteam running out of idea options.

Overall the game is a little wacky, has floaty controls, head-scratching level design, and insane locations with no relation to the time period. The animation for the main character is pretty nice, and some of the enemies have nice touches to them. The game did not age well at all though. It spawned the sequel, Ernest Evans, which is (believe it or not) even worse than El Viento. All is not completely lost, as it is definitely good for a few laughs.

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[Matthew Williamson is the creator of The Gamer's Quarter, an independent videogame magazine focusing on first person writing. He has been featured on MTV.com, 1up.com, Chatterbox Radio, and the Fatpixels Radio Podcast.]