Albert Odyssey

GameFan September 1997

Albert Odyssey is one of those 'long awaited' titles that creeps-up on you, just as you begin to forget it's still coming out. Announced over a year ago, along with Rayearth, Lunar, and a Sega Ages pack, Albert Odyssey is the first of the bunch to make it to the shelves. And while the future of other Working Designs Saturn titles is still up in the air, Albert odyssey is here now, ready to provide the classic RPG gaming that Saturn owners continue to crave.

Classic is the word, really. In all of its components, AO is an old-school RPG. After all, it was originally designed as a Super Famicom game some 3 years ago, only to be scrapped a few months before completion. Later it resurfaced, announced on one of the Saturn's earliest coming soon lists, but even that was wrong. The game finally appeared in Japan last year, at which point WD announced the translation. Now, in a day and age where FFVII is considered to be the modern progression of the RPG (and rightfully so), Albert Odyssey represents the return, nay, the preservation of the classic RPG. There might not be too many more like this.

Albert Odyssey follows the sad tale of an orphaned boy, Pike. After witnessing the slaughter of both his parents by a vicious band of Goblins, Pike is rescued by a Harpy, Laia, and raised happily in the Harpy Forest. One day, on his way to the Harpy well-spring, Pike encounters a man riding atop a huge red dragon. He demands to know Pike's identity, that of the village, and where to find the "Power Crystal." Dumbfounded and scared witless, Pike can only mumble a few unintelligible words, enraging the mysterious man to no end. As the villain prepares an unknown incantation, Laia arrives and runs to Pike's side. Suddenly there's a flash, Laia launches herself in front of Pike, and: and the rest is petrified history. The quest to remove the spell of stone begins:O.K., time to get into some hard-core game observations:

I have to tell you, Albert Odyssey may be one of the few Saturn RPGs around, but it isn't one of the best RPGs available. This has nothing to do with the translation; AO is just wholesomely average as an RPG. The quests and mini-quests are uninspiring, the battle frequency is horrendous, and the fighting itself is mind-numbingly slow. To Working Designs' credit, however, the quests are spiffed-up by an interesting plot, and the battles (which used to be almost dysfunctionally slow in the import version) have been sped-up with tolerable loading times. It takes far too long to get through even the simplest of battles, but you're still way better off with the US version. I guess the major contributor to this sense of disparity in the battles is the slow command sequences. You have to confirm attacks for each character individually, after which they immediately roll out their melee and magic. Trouble is, There's nothing "immediate" about it. The characters and enemies alike move slowly, attack slowly, heck, they even die slowly, and often what should've been a quicky turns into a monotony of button-pressing and waiting. And since battles are triggered every 8 to 10 seconds, no matter what, get ready for a lot of forced powering-up. Sadly it looks as though Working Designs were helpless in this area, cause the game progresses in such a way that you need to level up constantly, and the original designers simply chucked in the battle overload to keep the game balanced. A lame, required play-mechanic, complicated by poor execution. Onward we go:

Albert's graphics are 16-bit quality for the most part. The colors in certain backgrounds are beautiful, and various Mode 7-type background and spell effects are very nice. The main map is also a Mode 7 showcase, although it's been retouched since its 16-bit days with lush 32-bit. The sound is just brilliant! Except for grating battle tunes, the towns, dungeons, and especially the maps are gifted with superb music, both redbook and PCM. And every character has cool Japanese voice when attacking and casting spells. Props to WD for leaving 'em in.

Mmn:the plot unravels really slowly, but the story does take on 'save the world' proportions eventually. And while it starts weak, play 'til the second part of the game and you'll be treated to a much deeper, much more rewarding storyline. Female villains are treated especially well, such as the Silver Vixens from part one. They're a specialized three-woman mercenary team, led by the arrogant Miss Kris

Seed, with a well-written, spiteful personality. Unfortunately, Working Designs went a bit berserk on the townsfolk. In my opinion, the 'wacky' modern humor is completely out of place in a traditional RPG setting. You'll see talk of Ebonics, marital issues, using the can, and what RPG would be complete without mention of "yucky-poos"? It's all very sad, seeing as how the dramatic moments are so very well written.

Well, this novel must come to an end. Despite my criticisms, I played Albert Odyssey all the way through, and yes, it was worth the 20 or so hours. If you're playing AO after Shining the Holy Ark (as I did), or if you're expecting an epic 32-bit RPG, you will be disappointed. If you have time for a solid traditional RPG, however, Albert Odyssey will do you just fine.