Review by Captain Nemo
"Worth playing to pass the dry summer months"
Looking for the next great epic, in an era where RPG's not only line the streets but pour from the skies?
This isn't it. But it's not a worthless venture either, as long as you don't have anything more important to be playing. (Which is, honestly, unlikely --- but if you blaze through games then maybe you need something new)
The story begins with Pike, an orphaned human who is raised in Harpy Village. Because of his lack of wings, he is mocked by the other young children. Of course (since the game would be pretty dull otherwise), Pike is eventually forced to set out from the town and the adventure begins...
In some ways, the graphics look quite nice. They certainly don't fail to perform their task. Unfortunately, the developers apparently forgot this was a Saturn title as, outside of reasonably pretty still pictures, this game has little to offer graphically.
Spells in battle are generally unimpressive, and animation on characters is low. Resolution is decent and color is actually used nicely (especially at the halfway point of the game, some of the dungeons look very nice).
Aside from the color, this is nothing we haven't seen before. The overhead map is okay (a bit jagged), but one thing that is very lacking is parallax. That's not too unusual (there are several Playstation RPG's that lack parallax) but that's exactly what I'm saying --- the graphics are nothing out of the ordinary. The main problem is the choppy character animation. This is not Alundra or even Wild Arms quality character movement.
The music is not stunning, as it takes more of the ambient approach. However, it IS good. For those who have seen the Arislan anime, it sounds very similar in style to the music from that series. It is very heavy on wood and reed instruments, as well as (synthesized) violin. It's a nice change of pace from other games. The only problem was the lack of any truly memorable tunes.
This is the death knell for this game. Problem one: lack of character animation. That isn't so bad, but it only exacerbates problem two: loading times. This is terrible. Every time a battle starts, you're in for several seconds. The worst is that whenever you do anything in battle, it loads. WHAT is it loading? If the animation were amazing it would be annoying but understandable. I don't like waiting 1 second to see Pike leap across the screen and say ''HA!'' as he hits an opponent.
That aside, there are some interesting abilities here. The dragon-man can breathe various gasses, one girl is a sorceror, another is a monk, and the spells are indeed varied. The problem is that, really, not many of them are useful or even needed, other than the healing spells.
Actually, having sorcerors and monks isn't unusual at all. And the worst part is most of the spells look bad: they're either feeble in appearance (ice darts, wheeee) or something like poorly-animated lightning bolts. SNES Final Fantasy games and current games like Lunar 2 have much nicer-looking 2D spells.
The only spell that was remotely cool was heal, because it summoned a naked woman. Wow cool!
Oh before I forget to mention it, battles are random encounters. Moderately frequent. More often than Wild Arms, less often than Cosmic Fantasy, if those comparisons help. If the battles had been more interesting I wouldn't mind, but all things considered, battles were too frequent.
This game has a few sidequests which aren't long, but they're easy to miss if you're not looking. Which means someone who really pays close attention, will gain more from this game (thus adding positive points to the depth score).
Unfortunately, the lack of any real need to use magic spells hurts. The other killer is leveling: once you start fighting bosses, the amount of experience gained is ridiculous. Working Designs did this to help reduce the time spent on leveling-up: the problem is that when boss encounters give SO much experience, that fighting anything else becomes a hassle. I found myself running from battles a lot because (aside from being slow and boring) they were unnecessary.
This all sounds very negative. Perhaps it's a matter of disappointments. Well, prepare for more! Cutscenes? Who needs cutscenes? Nope, all you get here is an intro and text bubbles inside the game. But! Sometimes, you can pick what you say in reply to others. It doesn't affect the outcome, but some of the replies are more humorous/mean/interesting than the typical RPG ''conversation choices''. The translation is pretty good. If there's any fault, it's not with Working Designs. It's just difficult for me to heap praise on translation of an uninteresting product. Dialogue was more interesting than Shining Wisdom at least!
Why on earth did I even say this game is worth passing the dry summer months with? Because in the absence of any other RPG's, it has some interesting dungeons. This isn't a brainless game. Albert Odyssey is just completely lacking in spice. I want to rip into it, but it's not that bad --- bland, but not bad.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 11/29/05
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