Eye of the Beholder, Sega CD

The Sega CD conversion of Westwood Studios‘ classic Eye of the Beholder was developed by Sega of Japan and published by FCI/Pony Canyon in 1994, and it is a surprisingly excellent port of this great game, with unique enhancements that even improve the game over the Amiga and PC originals.

Like the Super Nintendo version, the game supports play with both a gamepad and a mouse (namely: the Sega Mega Mouse, which has three buttons), and also like the SNES version: playing on a gamepad is not recommended. You can change gamepad control modes, and ‘Mode 3’ will snap the cursor to the nearest menu feature, but the Sega CD version doesn’t have the ability to lock the cursor like in the SNES version, so you can’t move using the d-pad. Really, using the mouse is the only way to play this game – at least properly. Playing Eye of the Beholder on a gamepad is for mugs, to be honest. One important thing to note is that the mouse must be set to port two to work with this Sega CD port. For me, it worked perfectly in Fusion (the emulator), although mouse movement is a little over-sensitive and button clicks occasionally lack response.

Interestingly, Eye of the Beholder on the Sega CD does have some enhancements over the original, like a built-in map screen (which is excellent); the fact that each floor has a slightly different colour palette, which adds variety as well as making the levels easier to differentiate; screen shake when you get hit; a rotating compass (which makes it easier to see what’s happening when you step on a tile that spins you around); enhanced cut scenes, and high quality red book audio that plays continually*. These enhancements genuinely add to the game and make the Sega CD version of this classic RPG considerably better than the half-arsed Super Nintendo port.

*= The new music is interesting and well-produced, but at times it is a bit too ‘dancey’ for my tastes. While I like dance music (well, some dance music), I don’t think that it quite fits with this kind of game. I would’ve preferred something a bit more atmospheric, than breakbeats and techno, playing in an RPG. Thankfully the music can be turned off, which is what I eventually did, to concentrate on the sound effects, which are a key component of this game (because they give you an indication of the type and proximity of nearby monsters).

On the downside: the mouse inertia is a bit weird, and it does takes time to get used to (in relation to modern mouse movement), but it’s not a game-breaking issue. Overall: the mouse controls save this game from being a pointless port and turn it into something really good on Sega‘s console.

The developers thankfully resisted the temptation to cram this port with Full-Motion Video (FMV), which was fashionable back in the early ’90s and was featured in many Sega CD releases, and instead concentrated on making the game as playable and as authentic to the original as possible. And, frankly, the Japanese developers did a superb job. As a result, Eye of the Beholder on the Sega CD is great port and one of the best RPGs on the Megadrive/Genesis.

More: Eye of the Beholder on Wikipedia
Steam: Eye of the Beholder trilogy on Steam
GOG: Eye of the Beholder trilogy on GOG.com

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