Okay, so if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, it’s been established that I’m a geek for laserdisc games. With that said, I recently dove back into that rabbit hole and came up with something interesting: a game I had never heard of, hidden in plain sight.
Perusing my Instagram feed one day, I happened across a pic showing a Pioneer LaserActive unit with the Sega Genesis module installed. A piece of kit to be envied for sure, earning the photo an automatic double-tap from me. But along with the console was shown a MegaLD title that I was unfamiliar with: a game called Triad Stone. So I looked it up, and wound up on another one of those journeys of discovery that I love so much about classic gaming.
Triad Stone turned out to be an “FMV” anime game in the classic ’80s laserdisc arcade style of semi-interactivity, along the well-known lines of your Dragon’s Lairs and Space Aces and Time Gals and whatnotall. A top search result was a YouTube video of the entire MegaLD version, played from front to back.
Triad Stone was released for the LaserActive MegaLD format in 1995 in both Japan and the US, and also ported to the 3DO (JP and US) and Sega Saturn (JP only) under a different name, Strahl, with some changes. So at first I thought perhaps it was a laserdisc-style game, but not actually an LD arcade game, like BrainDead 13? But that idea didn’t sit right with me, because crotchety old anime fan that I am (as a rule of thumb, I don’t like much anime made after 1999), I could tell right away that the animation was not made in 1995; rather, it looked straight out of the mid-’80s. This led me to wonder if the game had been released in the arcades back in the day, perhaps in Japan only, and had somehow flown under my radar all these years.
A little more digging revealed that the game was originally titled Chantze’s Stone, and was in fact developed (under the tentative name of Cashing Stone) as an arcade laserdisc game in 1985, but was never released.
This led me to the resource I probably should have just gone to in the first place: the Dragon’s Lair Project, the exhaustive website that has been covering laserdisc game fandom and research for decades now and is still running. Chantze’s Stone is not included in their main list of games, because it never came out; but checking the site’s Laserdisc Prototypes section, there it is! Not only the basic information about the game, but photos of the prototype laserdisc itself (with a misspelled title of “Chantz Stone,” technically bringing the number of names by which this game has been known up to five) and a full video of the LD gameplay.
So let’s recap, because this is the kind of thing that I get all jazzed about in this hobby: Chantze’s Stone is a lost laserdisc arcade game that was supposed to come out in 1985, but went unreleased, which is intriguing enough to me; but thanks to its resurrection a decade later, we actually get to play this relic. I mean, what if we found out that, say, Sea Beast, the undeveloped fourth Don Bluth laserdisc game (after Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace, and Dragon’s Lair II), had actually snuck out on some console in the ’90s right under our noses and we somehow missed it? Chantze’s Stone should have been in the arcades right next to Cobra Command and Road Avenger, but it wasn’t; instead, we get it at home. Cool!
So, now I know all about Chantze’s Stone/Triad Stone/Strahl, right? Well, of course not — after all that, I had to experience the game myself. Without a LaserActive (way out of my price range, but damn do I wish I had one — donations of funding or hardware always welcome here at RGSH HQ, btw) or a 3DO, that left the Saturn port as my only viable option. Luckily, Strahl for the Sega Saturn is not exactly a hot title, and can be easily found from online sellers for under 30 bucks shipped. I found a good looking copy for a fair price, and a few days later, I had my hands on a “lost” laserdisc arcade game.
So how is it?!?
As Alexis Hawkwind, you have four directions to move, a sword button, and parts of the game that require button-mashing to fill up a power meter, usually used in a scene that requires you to grip, push, pull, etc. The action is similar to Time Gal or Dragon’s Lair, with Alex fighting monsters and maneuvering through obstacles.
Arrows and sword icons tell you where you’re supposed to move, which is sort of necessary as the animation itself doesn’t indicate that particularly well, unlike DL or TG with their flashing scenery or weapons that give you hints without hitting you over the head with directions. The stages are fairly lengthy, and one wrong move sends you all the way back to the beginning. At the end of each stage, Alexis reaches a magical stone, which gives him his power. Apparently, this game has 48 — yes, forty-eight — different endings, depending on things like the order you play the stages and how many lives you use. I’ve only finished it once so far. I don’t know that I’ll do it 47 more ways.
Unfortunately, your character, his environments, and the story are not particularly engaging; to continue with the comparison to other games of its ilk, Chantze’s Stone seems to have been an attempt at a more violent and surreal LD game, and as such, doesn’t have much in the way of charm, appeal, or humor, unlike Time Gal’s cute and lovable heroine, Reika, or Dragon’s Lair’s bumbling underdog, Dirk. Which is probably a good part of the reason why, after being brought back to life, the game still didn’t make much of a splash, and ended up forgotten once again.
Perhaps Chantze’s Stone went unreleased because it was too similar and/or not as good as those games. Perhaps it didn’t come out because by 1985, the laserdisc arcade game fad had already burnt out. Who knows; regardless, sometime in the ’90s, someone obviously must have said “hey, we have this old LD game lying around that’s already finished, and the LaserActive could use some more software; let’s put it out.” And somewhere in there, they decided to convert it to 3DO and Saturn too. (Side note: From the footage I’ve seen, it looks like the 3DO version is better than the Saturn version.) I dunno what the true story is; I’d love to find out, but I feel like we’re already lucky enough to have the information on this game that we do.
Still, you know I have a soft spot for these old laser games, and to me it’s super cool to have just discovered one more that I hadn’t heard of.
Guess you could say it got…a second Chantze. #dadjokes