It’s 1993, and I’m a reasonably normal, if moody, Southern Baptist high school sophmore. I can’t remember and can’t currently imagine how I wound up playing “Exile” (XZR 2) in Japan on the Sega Genesis. I mean, the basic premise is that you are playing a Muslim during the Crusades! Weren’t they supposed to be the “bad guys”?
The game turned out to be an incredibly awesome and innovative side-scrolling RPG-adventure game (my favorite genre of games). It was even cooler when I managed to chase down the Turbografx CD version of the game, with added scenes and less censorship (The main charachter has a cigarette dangling off his lip the whole game! ROXORZ!)
Then I start to learn a little history, and things get weird. Turns out everyone in the game is based on REAL PEOPLE. Roughly.
You play Sadler, who is not only a Muslim mercenary, but an actual Hashishim. You know, the legendary renegade Islamic cult, followers of the Aga Khan sect founded by Hassan I Sabbah, that not only do we get the word “assassin” from, but also where we get the ridiculously innacurate idea that all Muslims believe that dying for Islam will give them a metric ton of virgins to hump.
The fact that Sadler rejected all of that (to the point of killing his leader/father in the previous game, never released in the US or on a system that has existed in 20 years) to become a cynical atheist with a penchant for hallucinogenic drugs (the latter being erased from the American releases as well) makes him, as far as I’m concerned, the coolest video game charachter EVAR.
During the game, you encounter the Templar Knights (as well as their leader Hugh de Payens, another major character), the ghost of Noah, Cathar Monks, Middle Eastern Mystery Cults, renegade Buddhist monk Nichiren… all while chasing this shape-changing MacGuffin called the “Holimax”…
then you are flung back in time to confront Mediterranean Mystery Cults, make allies with Pythagoras himself, and solve the murder of Hiram Abis – leading up to a final showdown in the Garden Of Eden Itself.
In short, twenty tons of historical awesome.
All names in the U.S. release are butchered and distorted, which somehow doesn’t surprise me. I still find it hard to believe this game was ever released in the first place.
Strangely enough, though, shortly after this game was released in the US, a sequel emerged. One that inexplicably resurrected popular characters from the previous game, had legendarily bad play control, and dumped all the religious, political, and spiritual themes of it’s predecessor.
Sometimes I think that the Illuminati infiltrated the company that released it and indulged themselves in making that sequel that totally took a crap on the previous games. It’s the only logical conclusion.