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Matt Barton's picture

Matt Chat 37: Bullfrog's Syndicate

Here it is, folks, the new Matt Chat--this time on one of my favorite Amiga/DOS games, Syndicate!

Note that I didn't get to show all the ports of this game, but invite you to make a response video if you'd like to show of that footage. I'm very curious about the Sega CD version in particular, since it has a unique soundtrack. I'd also like to know more about Power Monger. Much like Populous, it looks like a game that you can't easily figure out without a manual (a rarity these days and perhaps even when it came out). I've heard there's some connection to Dungeon Keeper there somewhere.

At any rate, I played Syndicate through about three times on my Amiga. There was just so much to love about this game, from the micromanagement to the intense action sequences. The pleasures are very much like a role-playing game in that you build your characters up with better armor (or mods), equipment, and so on. I also loved the graphics and overall ambiance of the game. I was shocked to see how much better the DOS version looked, though. I had wrongly assumed that the Amiga version had the best graphics, but it actually lagged far behind. This is particularly noticeable in the opening cut scene, which on the Amiga is comparatively tiny and lacks most of the color. I'm not sure if that was a technical limitation of the Amiga or just a lack of coding skill on the part of the porters. Then again, I know the Amiga's lack of a hard drive was a decisive issue. Sad to say, I don't see any reason outside of nostalgia to bother with the Amiga version of this game today; makes far more sense to go DOS.

I also wasn't at all impressed with the SNES or Genesis ports. The graphics look too "cutesy" and they seem to have lightened up on the evil bits. You can still shoot people and so on, but I got the impression that these versions were less objectionable from a moral sense. The first mission had you blowing up out of control robots rather than assassinating a treacherous colonel in cold blood, for instance. I don't really know much else about these ports or the rationale behind the changes, so feel free to discuss.

Anyway, hope you enjoy the video! I'm open to suggestions for future episodes, of course. A few that I'm thinking about in the near future: Ocarina of Time (N64), Rogue, Shenmue (DS), Metal Gear Solid (PSX), The Bard's Tale, Might and Magic 7 (or World of Xeen), King of Chicago, It Came from the Desert, The Dig, The Longest Journey, Zork, and Diablo. I've also been asked to cover Ambermoon and Legacy of the Ancients.

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