The Space Adventure Review

Title: The Space Adventure
Alias: Cobra: The Legendary Bandit
Original title: コブラII―伝説の男― 寺沢武
Release date: 1991-06-07
English release date: 1994 (NA) / 1995 (EU)
Developer: Hudson Soft
English publisher: Hudson Soft (NA) / Virgin Interactive (EU)
Platform: Sega CD / Sega Mega-CD

"The Space Adventure"  is actually the second part of a duology of video games based on famous manga/anime series about an uncatchable space pirate known only by his alias Cobra. Sadly, the first game never made it's way to the Occidental part of the world and thus "Cobra II: The Legendary Bandit" got renamed "The Space Adventure". Luckily the storyline is self-contained and you are not required to play the first part to understand everything, even if some small references to the events a few years back are made in the beginning.

The game was released in Japan on PC Engine (known as TurboGrafx-16 in the West), but reached us as a port to Sega CD / Mega-CD. It's all well though, as there arises no problems while playing the game on the emulator.
Introduction of the babe.
There are two best acclaimed Sega Mega-CD emulators that you can use to launch the game: “Gens” and “Kega Fusion”. You will also need to acquire BIOS files separately as downloading them is an illegal act. I personally used Gens to play through the game and didn’t encounter any problems, even though KF is considered a better program by some. Using the program is very easy, thus I won’t bother to provide instructions. Let’s just dive straight into the game.

“The Space Adventure” is a very old school visual novel, using retro command-based, instead of a choice based, interface. Rather than using the later Look/Talk/Pick-your-nose interface, commands are more varied and create a dynamic look to the game. That helps to combat the linearity as TSA has only one ending, in essence being a glorified kinetic novel. Natheless, I don’t consider that a bad thing, as I have never considered linearity a draw-back. Contrary, an excessive branching can be detrimental to enjoyment (I look at you “Kagetsu Tohya”).
Milk is a true man's drink.
The plot of the game concerns a certain infamous space pirate Cobra, whom everyone considers dead after the events of two years ago (probably referring to the first game). At the start of the novel, he is supposed to meet his cyborg partner Lady in a remote countryside bar. The events turn the unexpected way and Cobra is forced to flee the place from the Pirate Guild together with a tattooed woman named Jane. Believe it or not, the tattoo on her back is one of the three parts of the map, that points to a hidden treasure and the Guild wants some of that pie. Cue murder, arson and jaywalking. Did I mention, that her two sisters have the other tattoo-maps? So starts an epic adventure to outsmart the guild, undistress some damsels and get the treasure.
I'm seeing triplets.
Yeah, the plot just screams 80’s and is as cheesy as it can get with larger than life heroes, badass villains, damsels in skimpy clothing and lots of coincidences that guide our heroes toward their goal. It’s a good thing that the game fully realizes that it’s a B-movie (or in this case anime series) incarnate and presents itself with the tongue firmly in cheek. Just listen to Cobra shouting “I’m an indestructible man!” or “Feel the rage within me!” and you will either facepalm or will feel a nostalgia how they don’t make the movies like that anymore. I know which camp I fall in. :-) The setting is just as goofy as the characters. Just imagine a character from planet Duck, who is a duck and whose name is Duck, because everyone’s name on planet Duck is Duck… Yeah, brain assplodes.

It somehow shocked me that such a game pulled a GRRM. Anything goes in this game and despite a goofy setting, the universe is quite grim and gritty too. Even the main characters are beaten, tortured and, yes, even killed. Some of the events were foreshadowed:
» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «
Others took me completely by surprise.
Just call me Duck...
Cobra himself is an archetype male. He is so GAR, that he bends metal bars with his bare hands and has a cannon for his left arm. Every man wants to kill him, every woman wants… him. He is self-assured, cocky and quite smart with bigger than life goals and personality. Once he decides to do something he never wavers and ploughs forward like a tank towards his destination. Cobra is supposed to be the coolest protagonist evah and to some extent he is, but we never hear his mental ruminations  - he is like a Greek theatre figure with a mask. We rarely glimpse his inner thoughts and it is ultimately hard to identify with him and thus there is always some distance between the player and Cobra. That distance might be justifiable, though, as it is hinted again and again that Cobra might not be a human being at all. Despite his flaws I would take him any day over any of those personality-less protagonists from generic VNs and it’s rare to find a proactive protagonist even in the best of them.

It’s funny that Cobra never lets a cigar drop from his teeth and is a walking talking smoking advertisement (hell, you can even heal him by smoking cigars). It’s clearly a game of different era as only two years later US release of “Resident Evil” cut out all the smoking…

Sadly, female characters are less characterized than Cobra. I find that especially grueling with Lady. She is an intriguing character, but we find nothing about her bond with Cobra or about their backstory. While that might have been developed in the first game (I cannot know that), I felt that in this one Lady was unjustly relegated to the sidelines. Jane is alternatively a strong fighter and a damsel in distress. Obviously authors wanted to appeal to both categories of men: those who like strong women and those who want to coddle and protect them. In the end I think they failed to cater to either. Still, that doesn’t mean that either of those characters are badly portrayed, they are just under-realized.
» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «

True warrior maidens need no armour.
On the other hand, there are just enough of funny side characters to liven up the setting. For example, the aforementioned Duck is a great comic relief as is doctor Light (no relation to Light Yagami). There are also loads of villains to hinder our heroes in their quest. It’s disappointing, that the Big Bad comes out of nowhere at the end of the game and is not really memorable. His Dragon, however, is a great villain and a Blood Knight that hinders our heroes throughout the game and treats Cobra as a worthy opponent. Cobra quips: “Here lies Cobra – he was worthy”.

Previously I mentioned healing and fights and that is true. There are some gameplay elements to TSA: map movement and battles. And, yes, you can die during those fights. However, the game treats you very fairly and you will be immediately restored to life prior to the event that resulted in your demise. Additionally, the game has an easily accessible save/load function and you can save practically anywhere, so that you don’t even need to use savestates provided by the emulator.
Map movement.
Graphically the game looks great even today. CGs and backgrounds are crisp and colourful and lots of animations are added to enliven the world (including some fully animated cutscenes). Surprisingly, TSA is a very un-Japanese looking game in its presentation. Japanese just love including Japanese personages into every game, even if it’s not set in Japan. Not so in this case. Everyone is distinctly Caucasian looking (in many cases blonde with blue eyes) and everyone has proper Western names. Moreover, that is not a feature of localization, as such was the case even in the original Japanese version.

The next aspect of the game sadly gets many negative points. The music… it’s shit. I put it bluntly, but frankly Sega was never known for its good musical performance. When comparing the same game released for Sega and SFC, Super Famicom console usually has better music. There are only a handful of uninspiring tracks and they get boring really fast. That is not even the biggest crime, for the music plays at the same volume even during the character speech and obscures the dialogue. Moreover, there are no options to lower or increase the volume of SFX, BGM and Voices. While there were no instances where I wouldn’t hear dialogues, sometimes you really needed to strain to filter out the undesirable BGM.
Crystal Boy - an apt name.
Dialogues get a special mention as they are dubbed in English. While I usually hate the dubbing, here it suits just fine the cheesy atmosphere. It’s not to say that the voice acting is good, but more in line with “so bad, it’s good” and adds some of that 90’s charm.

Finally, I have to bash the finale. At first creators added lots of unnecessary fights to extend the ending and then the ending itself is abrupt and unsatisfying. It’s like the director said: “O.K., folks, let’s wrap it up. The game’s been goin’ for too long already anyway”.

In the end, I think that “The Space Adventure” is a very solid adventure visual novel with a great presentation and likable protagonist. At the very least it’s not just another moe moe rabu rabu high-school barf-fest and probably one of the only four good games released on Sega Mega-CD (the other three of course being “Snatcher” and “Lunar” duology).
Hollywood wants to make a movie about Cobra. Should I laugh or cry?..

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official Japanese site
Get the ROM for the game at: Romnation, CoolROM, Emuparadise.
Get the emulator of your choice: Gens, Kega Fusion.
Get the associated BIOS: here or here or here.
Video walkthrough: on Youtube or download link.

Final verdict: 79%


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