Pirates! Gold
Box Shot
Pirates! Gold
Platform: Genesis
Publisher: Microprose
Designer: Microprose
Genre: Strategy
Players: 1
Published Date 1993
Reviewed by: Red Baron

Pirates! Gold is the remake of Sid Meier's Pirates!, a game that, like this one, didn't fit in any particular genre. It mixed strategic battles with many aspects of sims and RPGs, and was fun as hell to play. The goal of it was to find buried treasure, build your reputation as a big-shot (both literally and figuratively), raid and pillage, and get laid. Then, after an initial run that turned out to be rather popular, Microprose did what any 'smart' company would do: They bought the rights to it and remade the game, with better graphics, and some extra stuff thrown in. The result is pure gold (no pun intended).

From the very start, you can tell this isn't your average sim. You get to pick the time period you work in, your nationality, your name, and the skill that you begin with, ranging from fencing, to gunnery, to wit and charm. I'll say the latter is the best. If you want, you can even do a Sim City Scenario- style game, taking the lead of a famous expedition. In any case, you begin the game with a mutiny of your current ship's captain, and regardless of the outcome, you get control of the ship. From here, you go wherever the wind takes you (and yes, it sometimes does that), but if you're smart, you'll stop by the governor's mansion of the town you're in to get a letter or marquee, or to find out what's going on politically. Hopefully they'll be at war with someone, so you won't be out of work. Recruit some thugs at the tavern, and set off on a raid. Out on the open sea, there are "random battles", where your sailors will spot a mast on the horizon, and if you choose to pursue, you'll get a picture of whether you'll want to attack the ship or just sail away (please, for the love of god, don't attack your allies' ships!). Plunder a few towns, reap the benefits, and get a better lip positioning on your governor's ass (and hope against hope that his daughter's a hottie).

In that last paragraph, I made the game sound kinda simplistic, and not fun. This ain't so, as Gold has a mile of depth to it, because everything is affected by diplomacy. IE: If you keep on harassing Spanish towns, they'll send out an armada of warships to silence you. If you rescue the son of the governor of St. Kitts (English town), then maybe England's allies will be less inclined to retailiate if you hurt them. Whatever you do will add to your reputation, and keep in mind there's plenty of people who are just itching for an excuse to disembowel ya. Your other long-term objective is to keep your crew happy, and I tell you from experience, THIS IS A HELL OF A MUCH EASIER JOB IF YOU HAVE A SMALL MILITIA. Bigger army = more gold needed per person = more raids on bigger and insanely difficult places; and a sobering, noose-weilding crowd is much more likely to mutiny than a drunken, happy one. Though if you're lucky enough to catch the Silver Train or the Treasure Fleet, both of which only stop off in Spanish towns, your crew will be liking you for a while. And please, for the sake of everything good, keep them well fed.

"Yeah, whatever," I hear you murmuring, "I just wanna kill stuff!" Feel content that Gold's gotcha covered. During a sea battle, you're pitted head to head with an enemy ship, where you can attempt to board the vessel and duel the enemy captain, or you could batter it with your cannons 'till the white flag raises. If you attack a town, and that town has a fort, you must beach your ship as close to the fort as possible while dodging its cannon fire, so you can scale the walls. But if you attack a fort on foot, it'll switch to an RTS-wannabe battle, where you have to sneak in a party of your soldiers into the fort, while trying to keep hidden from enemy cavalry 'n all that. Whenever there's a duel, it turns into a fighting game, in which precision blocking is stressed. You should also keep an eye on the number of soldiers fighting bravely next to you in a duel, for if it gets into the single-digit numbers, your screwed. Nevertheless, all these forms of combat all boil down to one rule: You win, you get supplies, a ship (none for fort raiders), and maybe a couple unruly crewmembers. You lose, your ass is thrown in jail.

And, of course, there's the extra stuff you can do. Every once in a while, a governor of a friendly town will ask you to do an odd job, most of them require going to a town to rescue/deliver a person/note. You can also search for lost family members, hunt down imfamous pirates, even go looking for lost treasure. If your crew gets unhappy with you, even though you have a lot of gold, you can divide up the plunder at a bank, and either retire, or start a new expedition; useful for quitting while you're ahead. Last but not least, you and a governor's daughter can get hitched in your spare time. Just make sure to avoid the really homely ones.

The graphics, while weak in some areas, are nicely done in others, most notably the cutscenes. The music and sounds fit for a game about pirates... well, sorta. Controls are kinda whacked, though, as you'll spend a lot of time memorizing and mastering all the forms of combat (see above).

Overall, Pirates! Gold reminds me of snowflakes; pretty and never the same twice. Get it if you can find it, that is... I mean, I only recently found a copy, after 3 @!$#!ng long years of searching; it put me out of $50, full price that it went for when it came out. Ridiculous. A week later, I stumbled across the ROM. Now excuse me while I go hit my head against the wall... *BIFF*