Post by grolt on Aug 8, 2008 4:09:31 GMT
Golvellius: Valley of Doom
GOLVELLIUS: VALLEY OF DOOM was first released in 1987 for the MSX home computer system. Developed by Compile, the same company that would also bring classics like POWER STRIKE and its sequel, R-TYPE and GHOSTBUSTERS to the Master System. When Sega bought the rights to GOLVELLIUS, the game was overhauled and redesigned for the Mark III in 1988. Better graphics, redesigned dungeons, et al, it didn’t really matter much, since the game was totally overshadowed by higher profile games like PHANTASY STAR and YS.
I happened upon similarly without much resolve when it came in a lot on eBay I was chasing because of ALEX KIDD: THE LOST STARS. I filed it away, never thinking much of it as I indulged in all the great RPGs the SMS is known for. After beating the bulk of them though, and after really getting into GOLDEN AXE WARRIOR, I decided to try what looked like the perfect derivative. What I found though, was a game of great detail and polish, and while it may live in the shadow of PHANTASY STAR and GOLDEN AXE WARRIOR, GOLVELLIUS stands proudly as one of the best games on the entire system.
Those familiar with the action-RPG will know what to expect. You traverse the titular valley of doom in search for Princess Rena, who was lost trying to find a herb that would cure her ailing father and restore peace to the land. Dubbed simply as “a wandering youth”, you’re Kelesis, and with the help of various characters throughout the game, you’re outfitted with a sword and shield, given shelter, supplies and money in hopes of defeating the evil Golvellius – a mad dictator with a black heart. So how do you do it? Well, you swing your sword at random rocks and enemies in hopes of finding underground caves on the world map, taking you to helpful healers or dungeons that will bring you one step closer to defeating Golvellius!
There’s a lot to really like about this game. What will captivate right off the bat are the impressively detailed introductory graphics and sound. The game features a very thorough introduction rife with beautifully rendered storybook pictures and an epic tale. There’s even more in the manual too, with a bulky three pages of back story. One thing I never liked much about old school RPGs was the lack of story. It seems more like an afterthought in most games to make sense of the programming, rather than the other way, where the story dictates how a game is made. I’m a fan of the latter methodology, and thankfully GOLVELLIUS really takes the time to establish a strong and involving tale, with a full cast of characters along the way to aid you through your journey.
There are six major characters you find and talk to along your way, and what I like about the way the game is setup is that they follow you from map to map, so you sort of develop a repartee with them in the dialogue. It’s cute. Then there are eight different bosses, and over twenty five different enemies. Variety certainly isn’t one of the game’s weak points, with a huge cast of characters that really gives, erm, character to each world you come upon.
Character in this game is achieved in a multitude of ways, and I really think that’s what gives GOLVELLIUS the edge over most action-RPGs of the time. The graphics are detailed and complex, and the scripts they recite are far better than the usual elementary Engrish that befalls these sort of games. The element that stands out most, and is most responsible for character though, is the amazingly robust, distinctive and diverse soundtrack. Every character screen you come across has its own thematic tune, and not only that, but every time Kelesis is upgraded, the game’s tune changes for him as well. Then you get different boss, start screen, intro and ending music to cap off a truly epic soundtrack. All things told, it’s over 30 songs long! It's truly epic. I can’t think of another SMS game with a bigger score, and considering the quality of each and every outing, I can’t think of a better score on the whole. The music for GOLVELLIUS is just awesome!
To download the score (courtesy of SMS Power), click here.
One other thing to mention about the game is its fine blending of different modes. For the outer map, the game uses your typical overhead perspective that games like PHANTASY STAR and GOLDEN AXE WARRIOR rely upon. But each time you reach a dungeon, the game changes to a hack and slash side-scroller (or, in a few cases, vertical scroller) with bigger sprites, more detailed environments and a lot of platforming challenge. There’s really no shortage of variety in the gameplay, and the control is so sharp, and the collision detection spot on, that the game really plays like a dream. With such quality, how could a game like this be overlooked?
So whether you’re in it for the expansive story, the detailed graphics, the epic score or the exciting gameplay, GOLVELLIUS really is the action-RPG to please them all. It’s a long game, thankfully with a password save (you heard me, LORD OF THE SWORD), but don’t think you won’t be rewarded for your troubles. While it’s tough to match the philosophic grandeur of the ENDURO RACER finale, GOLVELLIUS comes awful close with a truly beautiful finale. Again rendered in wonderful storybook form, it wonderfully concludes that epic story it so carefully created, and even promises more. The final frame ends with “To be continued”, and each day I hope that Sega or Compile will follow through with their promise.
GOLVELLIUS is a masterpiece. It’s an action-RPG par excellence, and one of those rare games that just gets everything right. While I initially came to acquire a Sega Master System for the great platformers the system offered, I’m finding the longer I have the system the more I am appreciating all the great RPGs the system had to offer. GOLVELLIUS is one of them, and it’s one of the ones you’ve probably overlooked in pursuit of the bigger named games. It’s a true gem that deserves a lot more fanfare.
I hope you all will give this game a play, those who have in the past reviving it for new pleasures, and those who’ve never played it to embark on a truly defining gaming experience. It was one of the first games I ever got, and now it’s usually one of the first I look to play.
It’s great to be finally able to post a game of the week, finally giving GOLVELLIUS its due. Enjoy!