Video Games
He-Man: Defender Of Grayskull
Series: Masters of the Universe - Modern
Country: United Kingdom
Producer: TDK
Language: English
Year: 2003
Platform: Playstation 2

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TDK Mediactive brought the MOTU franchise to videogame consoles for the first time with "Masters of the Universe He-Man: Defender of Grayskull" in 2003. "Defender of Grayskull" was available on Playstation 2, Xbox, and GameCube.

The game's story opens with the kingdom of Eternia in turmoil. He-Man's arch-nemesis Skeletor has beseiged Castle Grayskull once again, and this time he's done it while Prince Adam happened to be away on an errand in Snake Mountain. Without He-Man around to defend the Castle, the Sorceress of Grayskull must pull back all of her power reserves to stave off Skeletor's legions. Unfortunately for He-Man, that means that he's going to have to set out as lowly Prince Adam and slowly regain his strength over the course of the game. It's a clever plot device by the developers that starts the player out with a limited set of abilities and gradually increases them in each level as he gets closer to Grayskull (don't worry, it's not far into the first stage before Prince Adam turns into He-Man). He-Man soon gets word from the Sorceress that there's trouble at Grayskull, and he must battle his way out of Snake Mountain and traverse Eternia, ultimately reaching the Castle where a showdown with Skeletor awaits.

The style of the gameplay is pure third-person action, with an emphasis on the creative variety of combat moves used to defeat enemies. As He-Man fights his way past familiar bad guys from the show, such as Beast Men and Shadow Beasts, he adds new weapons and techniques to his repetoire. At the outset only the two-handed power sword is available, but later he can swing a one-handed sword and shield combo or wield his mighty battle axe. Each weapon set has three basic moves plus nine special moves apiece, giving players a wide range of choice in how to take on the opposition. Certain attacks are more effective for different types of enemies.

There is a limit to even He-Man's power. Players must keep an eye out for two gauges at the top of the screen: the requisite health bar and the Grayskull Power bar. The health bar functions like any other game's - if He-Man takes too much damage and it reaches empty, the game ends and Skeletor's forces have prevailed. Fortunately, the developers made sure to scatter frequent save points throughout every level, so you never have to fight too long without being able to check your progress. The Grayskull power bar represents the energy you have left to perform special attacks with your weapons.

Game developer Savage Entertainment has made good use of the supporting cast of characters. Instead of just being a person to rescue, the Sorceress of Grayskull actively helps you during the game by telepathically communicating gameplay tips to He-Man. If you get stuck, chances are that the Sorceress will have a hint or two to nudge you in the right direction. This keeps the game flowing smoothly and the focus on action with a bit of light exploration. Teela, Man-at-Arms, and Battle Cat all make appearances as well.

Boss enemies in the game are plucked straight from the cartoon, so you can expect epic battles with Skeletor's lackeys like Tri-Klops, as well as brand-new original game characters such as the Sphinx. Some bosses even become He-Man's allies after being defeated and fight alongside him in combat.

The loading screens during level transitions also display the controls for any new techniques you've recently learned - a nice touch. The Battle Cat levels have great potential because he's a force to be reckoned with. Riding Battle Cat offers the flexibility to either recklessly dash into enemies for a claw attack, or to sit back and pick them off from afar by launching missiles from his tiger armor. While riding Battle Cat, you still have limited control over He-Man and can strike from side to side with his sword - a key component since enemies often swarm in from all angles. Altogether there are thirty-five to forty unique combat moves expected to be in the game, including Battlecat's attacks.

The many level locations include lava-filled caverns ("Escape from Snake Mountain"), mountain-top cliffs ("The Gathering Storm"), and one called "Skeletor's Trap". The graphics are colorful and attractive, and all the actors from the 200x television series voiced their respective characters (longtime cartoon voice actor Cam Clarke reprised his role as He-Man).

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