Pirates! Gold

Rating: B+

OK, to clear up some confusion: this game is not "Pirate's Gold", as in the plunder of a pirate. It's "Pirates! -- Gold Edition." Pirates! Gold is basically a souped-up version of a game that first made it's appearance on 8-bit home computers and video game consoles such as the Apple II, Commodore 64, and NES. I myself played Pirates! for the first time on a Commodore 64, and before I had tired of it spent hours and hours trapped in a fantasy world of buccaneering on the Spanish Main. And I wore knee-high black boots and a bright red cummerbund, and fancied myself a swashbuckling hero. And though trapped on board a crowded, smelly ship for months on end, I had no homosexual thoughts whatsoever, and dreamt of marrying the fine piece of woman that was the Governor of Jamaica's daughter. And eventually, I did. I married her. Of course, I first had to amass a fortune and gain a somewhat respectable reputation -- as does any man who desires a trophy wife -- and after a few bloody years of fighting and plundering and murdering Spanish captains and their crews I was able to do so. And along the way the Governor was so happy with my ransacking of enemy ships and towns that eventually he made me Fleet Admiral, and awarded me slaves and gold and countless acres of rich, virgin land. And finally, at the old age of 34, with my teeth rotting and kidneys giving out and my crew ready to string me up at every turn, I retired from my career as a pirate and settled down to enjoy what few years of life I had left, though that's kind of hard to do when you have syphillis, consumption, and a missing leg. And my wife wasn't so pretty anymore. In fact, she was a shrewish nag. And my slaves dreamt of murdering me in my sleep. And soon after, I and my glorious career were completely forgotten by the rude and wretched folk of the Caribbean.

Welcome to the life of a privateering adventurer in the New World. Fun, no? But, unlike the Commodore 64 version of Pirates!, the Genesis version has been brightened up quite a bit, so that piracy in the Spanish Main seems more like a child's storybook adventure--like maybe you are on a Disneyland ride or something--and instead of rape and butchery you are seeing something that looks more like a kiddie's Saturday morning cartoon. OK, so the Commodore 64 version didn't have rape and butchery either, or not much at least, but it wasn't light and whimsical looking like the Sega Genesis version. For one, the portraits of the inhabitants of 17th Century colonial Americas didn't look like characters out of a Disney production. And what happened to all the wonderful JS Bach music? Now we get Popeye the Sailor Man.

And how is any of this relevant to a video game review? It's not, I guess, at least to you. So if you've skipped down to the last paragraph to just catch the summary I will say this: make sure you have the map, make sure you have the instruction manual. Make sure that you understand that this is not an arcade game, though it does have action elements. Also, be aware that unless you are fortunate enough to find this game sitting in a local thrift shop (where the people don't know a Pirates! from a Bimini Run), you will be paying about $20-$40 US for it, which makes Pirates Gold one of the priciest Genesis games around. But hey, if you've got the money to blow then why not. That's still a fair price to pay for one of the best games of all time, even if the Genesis version of Pirates! is a little too cutesy for me to stomach. But I'm sure that most people wouldn't even agree with me on that, or find fault in all the petty things that I do, so forget about all the bad stuff I said in this review -- except for the part about what it takes to get a trophy wife, because all that was more or less true.


reviews index