Released on 3/5/93, published by Sunsoft
Western gamers may be familiar with Albert Odyssey from the Sega Saturn game. That was actually a "gaiden" title that was a normal RPG, in contrast to the two strategy RPGs released for the Super Famicom under that name. This is the first strategy RPG on this blog, so I will start with my own criteria for distinguishing a strategy RPG from a regular simulation or strategy game. I consider two factors important:
- There must be a narrative you play through, and not just win conditions.
- At least some of your force must be individual, named characters that can develop through levels, stat increases, equipment, etc.
All of the previous strategy RPGs use the same technique of having individual maps that you clear in succession. Shining Force added some normal RPG style towns and exploration but basically stuck to the formula. Albert Odyssey's big change is that there aren't separate "chapters" or "battles" -- instead the entire world map is one large battlefield. There are bosses, usually placed in your next destination, but defeating a boss doesn't end a chapter or a map or anything like that. You just move on to the next place.
|The world map|
This is an interesting change, but it slows the game down a lot. Even if there are no monsters around, you have to move each character individually, turn by turn. Your party is much smaller than the other games -- only 4 characters at a time, with the option later in the game to switch out the main 4 for three other characters. Even so, moving all 4 characters one by one is tedious when you're not actually battling. Entering a town is frustrating -- you have to move one character in, then go to the party screen to switch back to the outside map, see the battle data, then move the next character in, etc.
|A battle sequence|
It also makes it really important to know where you are supposed to go next, because if you go the wrong way you're in for a lot of wasted time. Unfortunately the in-game directions are vague, and the map in the instruction booklet is very rough, making it hard to tell if you're on the right track. In most towns you can buy "Memories of [Town name]" to return there later, which does help a lot.
There isn't a whole lot of story, which is disappointing for a strategy RPG. Your characters never talk after the opening until the ending scene. The villains are barely sketched; they try at some sort of tragic backstory for one of the bad guys named Sin, but it's hard to feel anything since it's so abrupt and undeveloped.
|Part of the opening|
It starts off promising. The instruction booklet tells the story which is then shown in an opening cinema. Oswald the magician revives he magic of an ancient kingdom called Globas, and uses it to bring forth a bunch of monsters and take over the world. But after he kills the parents of a girl called Sophia in front of her, she calls on some mysterious power to defeat Oswald instantly. 10 years later, he's back, and trying to find the crystal he needs to call forth Globas' power again. Albert, who is descended from a hero (sigh) has to go find the crystal in order to save the world, along with Sophia, Noiman the priest, and a warrior named Slay. There's more backstory in the manual than actual story in the game, though.
|Noiman the priest|
The interface and gameplay have a lot of annoyances. The map constantly rotates around while a character is moving. You can't see what equipment does, and the instruction booklet actually says "Make sure you save before you shop since not everyone can equip each weapon or armor." This is unacceptable. Levels raise your stats so much that equipment barely matters. You can't walk through hexes that your characters are in, which is a huge annoyance.
|A town protected by enemies|
|Globas, the final boss|
|The King congratulates you|
|Albert: "What! What's happening?"|
So this is another disappointment. I swear there will be good game eventually on this blog. The next game I'm playing (after my detour), Metal Max 2, is highly regarded by Japanese fans so hopefully that will be a winner.