GAME REVIEWS

Monday, December 10, 2012

Startling Odyssey


~ STARTLING ODYSSEY ~
RayForce
Super CD-ROM
1993

I played through Starling Odyssey II prior to obtaining its predecessor, and I thoroughly enjoyed the game, but I found myself at a loss when attempting to pinpoint a virtue that accounted for its excellence. The first episode, as I quickly discovered, leaves players looking to identify a defining element in no such quandary, even though it's of the same traditional-style-RPG ilk. This is an affair predicated on speed. A single tap of a button can take you through a number of successive menu options (whether the ride is one you want to take or not) and may leave you rather annoyed when you cast a spell inadvertently or take a swipe at an unintended target. Still, the fact that rumbles can be resolved in relative milliseconds just by revving up the turbo is something to appreciate.

But then, if players weren't able to fly right through combat scenes, the game would be utterly intolerable, as the encounter rate is frustratingly high and practically eliminates the allure of exploration. And that's just one of many problems that plague the early stages of the adventure. The music is absolutely wretched, the cinemas are technically unimpressive and daft content-wise, and the graphics are revoltingly primitive.


Endure the aesthetic torture and you'll arrive at dungeons that are basic, uninspired sort-of-mazes inhabited by riffraff.


Thankfully, SO eventually picks up its game. Later labyrinths are rather large, and dedicated explorers will emerge from them with plenty of nice loot in tow. The plot never quite shakes itself of gratuitous goofiness, but interesting villains join the goings-on, and romantic elements are handled adequately enough.


The encounter rate will elicit grumbles regardless of how far along you are with your adventuring, but at least some respectable creatures ultimately step up to challenge your band.


While most players will view SO as a decent, worthwhile product once all is said and done, it may prove most valuable to those who are novices in the realm of Japanese adventure games. Aside from the first Cosmic Fantasy, this is as straightforward and accessible as PCE traditional-style RPGs come. A couple of potentially baffling spots can be covered here:


Make sure to have the flame sword, thunder sword, ice blade, and gaia blade in your possession but unequipped when you visit this bedridden fellow.


You'll pass through this segment of cavern early in your quest, but don't forget about it. Towards the end, those stalagmites will be replaced by an object the shape of a crescent moon--your sign that you'll be able to pass through a nearby wall.

A little bit of exploration and occasional utilization of the old "push up against walls to find secret passageways" technique will get you past most other potential problem spots. Experienced players who have had their fill of relatively simple quest games can skip ahead to the followup without missing out on anything remarkable, but SO makes for decent fun all the same.

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