Review by SegaSaturn2kX

"Representing the traditional turn based RPG in the US . . ."

Albert Odyssey was brought to the United States courtesy of Working Designs. Typical to any Sega Saturn WD release, the instruction manual is made composed of higher quality paper and is in full color. Unlike some later WD releases, there is only one cd artwork cover. The true brains behind this brilliant game, however, is Sunsoft. AO is a typical turn based RPG where the gamer controls a party of up to 5 individuals to save the world from evil. Apparently the US version was improved upon the original. Load times were improved and the random battles do not occur as often. AO is the only traditional turn based RPG to reach the US and fortunately it is a solid representative of the genre.

AO is the story about an orphan human, Pike, who was raised by harpies. He set out on his journey after his harpy guardian was turn into stone. In his journey, he encounters new friends, the multi-faceted threat of evil, and the history of the world's previous hero, Albert.

I have read that the origins of this game dates back to the SNES, which explains the graphical presentation of the game. Although, its current look could probably not have been possible on the SNES, the small 2D sprites betray those humbler beginnings. The Saturn's graphics chip certainly is not taxed too hard while producing these visuals. Even the magic spells are unable to break the trend and look rather simple in comparison to spells seen in later Saturn games. Nevertheless, I thought that AO is a beautiful looking game. The sprites look crisp and the artstyle is aesthetically pleasing. Unfortunately there is not much creativity in the sprite or background department. Some minor enemy sprites are little more than palette swaps. Many of the towns, and especially the castles, have very similar layouts and appearances.

Whereas the graphics are underwhelming, the music of this game is incredible. Several tracks in the game, including the overworld themes and end sequence themes offer the listener much enjoyment. On several occasions, I paused the game so that I could appreciate the music more. Sound effects are often re-used as minor enemies of different types and sizes groan in the exact same manner as they are defeated. There are very few voice samples, which is a disappointment considering the cd medium.

As mentioned earlier, AO is a turn based RPG, meaning your characters and opponents stand around and take turns attacking one another. Such a fighting strategy defies logic in real life, but I digress. The game is broken up into two chapters. Had the developers wanted to, they could had separated the game into two because Chapter 1 ended most of the storylines. Chapter 2 was almost a completely new story, entertaining the gamer with the resurrection of evil.
There are only a few puzzles in this game that require any thought, mainly in 2 of the final 5 towers that the gamer must complete to finish the game. Another thing that I noticed is that I hardly ever had to use my items or encountered any condition affecting spells until the end. Otherwise the game is mostly straightforward. If there are any side quests, then I completely missed them. Perhaps the game could have been a little more difficult.
Even with WD lowering the probability of a random fight, it does occasionally get annoying while trying to find the next route to take. On a side note, I did not have to walk around in circles too much to level up, which is definitely a good thing. The game never indicated to me the amount of time I spent to beat the game, but I believe it was somewhere between 20 and 30 hours.

Final Thoughts
There is enough charm and a strong enough story to merit at least two run throughs in this game. It is that good in spite of the game's relative simplicity in presentation and difficulty. I wish there were more cut scenes, eye candy magic spells, and voice samples -- characteristics that became ubiquitous in all future 32-bit RPGs. At the very least, this game remains a fantastic collectible to own for anyone's Saturn collection.


Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/17/06

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