Review: Gate of Doom (PS4)

Review: Gate of Doom (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One (TBD)
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC (TBD)
  • Arcade

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Gate of Doom
Format: PSN (127.5 MB)
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Original Arcade Release Date: 1990
Publisher: Flying Tiger Entertainment
Developer: Data East / Flying Tiger Entertainment
Original MSRP: $7.99 (US)
ESRB Rating: E

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gate of Doom is packed with all the nostalgia-inducing sights and sounds of the 1990s arcades, but it lacks the depth and variety of gameplay that modern gamers have come to expect.

Gameplay:
Originally released by Data East in 1990, Gate of Doom is an isometric action-RPG that has been ported by Flying Tiger Entertainment as part of the Johnny Turbo’s Arcade series and the quality of the port itself is fantastic.

The game can be played with different effects applied, such as screen styles that make it look like it’s being played through RGB cables, or on a rounded CRT monitor with scanlines. These effects are fun to play around with and they add an extra touch of old-school accuracy to the experience.

There are four playable characters that can be used interchangeably throughout the game: Carl F. Graystone the Knight, Freya Edirne the Wizard, Riger Hawk the Bard, and Kirikaze the Ninja. Each character uses a different weapon and has different movement speeds or abilities.

Review: Gate of Doom (PS4) Review: Gate of Doom (PS4)

The Ninja is quick and has a ranged weak shuriken attack, while the Knight is lumbering and uses a powerful morning star that deals area-of-effect damage or lashes out at a single enemy. The pros and cons of each character are not immediately evident and require some experimentation to find one that fits your own playstyle.

Depending on a level’s enemies or environmental hazards, it may be necessary to switch things up after a death. This constant switching between characters feels a bit shallow and makes it tough to really connect with a certain character and ride them out through the entire campaign.

Gate of Doom can be played with either the D-pad or joystick, but the joystick is really the ideal way to control the 8-way movements of the characters, just as it was in the arcades. Each character has a simple attack with their weapon which charges up a magic ability.

This magic ability varies depending on what page of a constantly changing spellbook is displayed above the charging meter. This strange mechanic takes a while to get used to. Some of these abilities are actually not even beneficial, such as the one that turns the character into a pig.

Review: Gate of Doom (PS4)

Others are fun and effective, like turning into a huge, indestructible metal ball that damages all foes in its path, or becoming a mobile geyser that flings damaging orbs of water in all directions. The special moves do not vary between characters, which is disappointing and detracts from their individual identities.

Compared to modern games, the level of difficulty in Gate of Doom is high. Some players gravitate to these challenging games but if that’s not for you then Gate of Doom may not be either. Enemies can come in swarms, and avoiding damage proves very tough as the red hearts representing your health quickly melt away.

Boss fights are particularly difficult and usually involve avoiding projectiles and a variety of boss attacks while finding gaps in the onslaught to get attacks in. Since Gate of Doom was originally designed as a arcade game, the objective was to get as far in as you could with as many quarters as your allowance and own stinginess allowed you to part with.

The ability to simply press a button on the controller repeatedly and deposit a roll of quarters into this virtual arcade game cheapens the experience. You really have no incentive to do anything but button-mash your way through the game and toss in credits as necessary.

Review: Gate of Doom (PS4) Review: Gate of Doom (PS4)

To classify Gate of Doom as an RPG really is a disservice to the genre. There are objects that can be picked up but what they actually do is puzzling. Some objects simply add points to your running total, others instantly boost your attack or movement speed, while others are stored in slots at the bottom of the screen, presumably to be activated at a later time, though this is unclear.

There is no leveling up, choosing new skills or abilities to learn, or paging through different weapons or armor to don for desired effects. There are aspects of the game that seem stuck in a bygone arcade era, in which a group of players may have crowded around the arcade cabinet to share what they know about how to defeat certain enemies or what objects do, but as a console game this assumed design feature falls flat.

The RPG mechanics of this game are bare-bones at best and utterly pale in comparison to modern games of the genre.

Visuals:
The visuals of Gate of Doom are a lot of fun to behold. Each playable character has a distinct look and set of animations. There’s a huge variety of enemy models and the boss designs are great. One boss is a floating head with one giant eyeball and a gaping mouth filled with rows of shark-like teeth, while another is a classic fantasy dragon complete with scaly red skin and fiery breath.

Review: Gate of Doom (PS4)

The level designs are somewhat dull in comparison to the playable characters and enemies. Many are just an overload of one particular color or texture. The backgrounds are very plain and sometimes even non-existent, as is the case with some of the dungeon levels, which are surrounded by a black void. While this lack of detail in the levels may be consistent with the era that Gate of Doom was released in, it still seems to lack in contrast to the rest of the game’s visuals.

The ability within the port to apply visual effects to the game is a nice feature that caters to the gamer seeking to be transported to their early gaming days. If you’re someone simply looking to spend some time with an old favorite, or play a time capsule of an arcade game that looks good on a modern console and TV, then Gate of Doom may be worth checking out.

Audio:
If the visual style of Gate of Doom isn’t enough to teleport you back in video game history on its own, then the audio is sure to do just that. The mono-channel sound effects are enjoyable, from the tink of the Ninja’s shurikens finding their mark or the cawing of vulture-like enemies as they fly overhead. Even with these timeless sounds effects though, there’s a limit to their variety as many of the sounds are repeated throughout the game to the point of monotony.

The music is solid, with a high fantasy theme that swells with increasingly difficult levels and boss encounters. The pre-recorded dialogue may have been advanced at the time that the game came out, but it sounds oddly muffled and monotone by today’s standards. However, it is a fun touch of nostalgia to hear each playable character announce their class as they enter the game. “I’m the bard!”

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one or two players locally with no online component.

Review: Gate of Doom (PS4)Review: Gate of Doom (PS4)

Conclusion:
Gate of Doom is fun as a trip down gaming’s memory lane at best. At its worst, the game lacks the depth and fun-factor to be engaging by modern video game standards.

Some old games hold up better than others, whether it’s their iconic controls, a memorable soundtrack, or a timeless IP. Gate of Doom checks none of those boxes and lacks a depth of controls and RPG mechanics to boot. It is encouraging to see older arcade games like Gate of Doom live on, but perhaps a revival like this one would be better suited for other titles.

Score:
6.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Brock Arnett

Gamer since the NES days, Boilermaker, Colts and Pacers fan. I can’t wait until my two boys are old enough to play games with me.

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