Why did I play this?Why did I play this?

Posted on May 31st 2014 at 12:37:07 AM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under RPG, sega, saturn, sunsoft



Albert Odyssey is one of those pesky Working Designs games for the Sega Saturn. It is a classical styled turn based RPG which is actually a departure from earlier titles in the series. The Albert Odyssey series started on the Super Famicom, developed and published by NES favorite Sunsoft. These are tactical, strategic RPGs in the vein of Fire Emblem and Ogre Battle mostly. There was also a sequel made for the Super Famicom, but both of these were never released outside of Japan. Albert Odyssey: Legend of Aldean began development for the Super Famicom as a side story to the first two games, but that version was cancelled and ported to the Sega Saturn. In Japan this game was released as Albert Odyssey Gaiden ~Legend of Eldean~, and was developed and published by Sunsoft as usual.

In comes Working Designs, finally moving beyond the limited audience of the Sega CD and onto Sega's new system. This audience would also be quite limited, and the Saturn's short life would eventually move the company onto the juggernaut Playstation. But before that happened the company managed to localize and release 6 games for the Saturn. Albert Odyssey is the first one that I am playing.



First off I want to say that graphically this game is a slight upgrade from its Super Famicom roots, but it certainly feels like it would be right at home for that system. As a result of the Saturn's strong 2D capabilities the pixel count is much higher than you would see on any Super Nintendo game. There are little bits of 3D perspective on the world map that the Saturn was able to soup up a bit, but these would have looked fine with the Mode 7 capabilities, much like Final Fantasy VI's airship traveling. The music is all Sega Saturn though, with nice CD quality audio and high quality, crisp voice acting from time to time. There's not much voice acting in the game, but what is there is quite enjoyable and fits the characters rather well. Not susprising since Working Designs was one of the first to utilize voice acting for their CD games.

What really bugs me about this game, and this was also a complaint from reviewers when the game released, is the localization. Its not a direct translation with a few cultural phrases, superstitions, and such changed so the new audience would understand them, oh no. Some of the dialogue, especially NPC dialogue, is a poor attempt to garner laughs, chuckles, and such, but it is poorly executed and a vast departure from the original Japanese script. I even saw on the main characters say "Holy Sh-nikes" to which I replied, "Holy 90s localization!" Another NPC blatantly breaks the fourth wall by saying she doesn't remember her lines in the script. This was the furthest thing from funny I've seen. Everybody calling Pike, the main character, fat gets really old, really quickly. Its because of games like this that have RPG fans so adamant about the differences between translation and localization. This is an example of a localization that just went too far and Working Designs is the prime reason for this.


See what I mean?

The story is a typical save-the-world from big evil bad guys scenario at first. Later on however, there is a twist where you must go on a manhunt, again looking for a big evil bad guy because kidnapping and such. At least this is a bit different. You not only have to save the world from certain conquest and destruction not once, but twice! I wonder what would happen if you failed in taking down the first threat, would the two bastions of evil then decide to fight it out to determine who shall be the supreme evil overlord of all beings of this world? Would they enter some sort of endless using pawns of little evil underlings for various schemes and maneuvers? That would be some Baatezu vs. Tanar'ri style warfare there.

One feature I do enjoy about Working Designs games of this time period is a section of the manual where they explain what changes were made to the gameplay. Some of the things they did included cut down on the encounter rate while increasing experience gains, decrease load times, fixing diagonal movement, and adding shoulder button support to change between characters in the equipment and magic menus. I really can't imagine why a game would originally release without shoulder button support for character switches but hey, they were still kind of new in 1996, by five years. This at least gives you an idea about some of the changes, and helps you realize how some minor changes like L + R button support can shave a lot of time off of menu navigation.



Overall this game is quite easy. It starts off impossible to lose but does increase in difficulty as you get stronger and add more members to the party. It never gets overbearing though, and you'll only really grind for about 10 minutes here and there to squeeze out an extra level or get a little bit more money. The characters are quite interesting from a narrative standpoint, with Pike being one of the most boring ones. He was a child when his hometown was invaded and destroyed, so he was raised by peaceful harpies and carries a magical sword. Eka is a beautiful singer who joins Pike and the two end up getting married and living happily ever after. Leos is a charismatic priestess who becomes renowned for caring about all the people and races of the world, and going above and beyond to help them. Gryzz is a Dragonman who joins after the party saves his people from certain death, he's young but is a bastion of honor and the party's heaviest hitter. Amon is a metrosexual Birdman who joins because he's hot headed and tired of the personal politics of his tribe, so he joins the group without even really knowing them too well. Kia is a young magician who joins the party for their second quest. She has the power of the teleport spell and adds a rather naive young voice to the party.

The gameplay is solid, yet simple. This game is quite short, so if you're looking for an RPG that you can sink your teeth into, play casually, and beat without much of a time investment then I would recommend this game. If you're somebody who wants more value for your buck then I would pass on this game, as it regularly sells for over $80 nowadays. The packaging is quite solid and beautiful, with shiny lettering and a much higher quality manual than most Saturn games received, so this game has a crossover appeal between RPG fans and collectors since it looks so good on a shelf.




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Comments
 
Working Designs has always been one of my favorites. Games like this remind me of how much I missed out on owning a Saturn, but only ever coming across about 6 games for it over the time I played it.
 
I love this game, as well as the era of JRPG gaming that his game represents.  It has great visual, good music, and an intro that has stayed with me despite the years it has been since I've played it.  Overall I think the game has aged well, as there has been a sort-of 16-bit JRPG renaissance, so if it was rereleased I think it would do well.  Maybe they can do something about the horrendous loading times that I remember.  Walk, load, battle, load, walk, load, etc.  Speaking specifically to the translation, I was never a "Japanese purist" when it comes to this genre, so I was usually in favor of what Working Designs was doing.  Hmm.  That's it, I think.

Thanks again, SirPsycho.  You made me remember a game that I thought I had forgotten.
 
@bombatomba: The loading times weren't that bad in my experience. I've since started playing another Working Designs Saturn game and the loading times are much worse in this second one.

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