Back during the days of the Dreamcast's launch hype, a title by the name of Climax Landers was in development. Due to the success of the developer's(Climax) past titles which included popular favorites such as Landstalker and Dark Savior, Climax Landers was a highly anticipated game that promised adventure, excitement, danger, and killa' graphics. Even though initial impressions of the game stapled Climax with creating it's first stinker, further play of the title shows that Time Stalkers(the name chosen for the SOA localization) does indeed warrant some characteristics of a lovely and thoroughly enjoyable game, and the monsters just plain rule.
Time Stalkers is the story of an unlikely hero with an attitude fittingly named "Sword". Sword, who dawns puffy clothes and the most colorful cape this side of NYC, gets lured into a fantasy world by a strange old man apparently looking for heroes. In this world, Sword must either choose to adventure or face the consequences of his cocky actions. When I first examined screen captures of the world of Time Stalkers, I mistakenly imagined the 3d world would contain beautiful, colorful sights of which I could gaze upon for hours(yes...like my beloved Lisa Marie Scott), but once the graphics engine kicked in I started to wonder exactly what the game was doing on my Dreamcast. Graphical complaints aside, the world still looks colorful, and just so I don't give too much of the story away, I'll only say that the mixture of all the landmasses in the game is an amazingly creative and wondrous way to include needed humor.
The gameplay of Time Stalkers mainly consists of dungeon exploring, and this is where its strongest aspects certainly arise. Besides the typical RPG battle system, the game also includes a sweet monster capture feature. At any given time, you as Sword or the other five main characters, can capture almost any monster in the game. Yes kiddies, your beloved Pokemon fad has seeped deeply into the roots of every developer imaginable, and in this case I'm actually glad the feature was included. A negative side to this is the inability to play as more than one of the main characters. To make up for it you can let two monsters tag along with you in the dungeons, and because the designs of the enemies are so cute and lethal at the same time, I developed this sick humor for watching cute goblins slash up the vermin(no not Vernon... "Vernon the vermin" *shudder*) of the world. Personally I think being able to name these monsters and take them along with you on your dungeon quest is just absolute fun in a bottle.
A harshly criticized addition to Time Stalkers is the infamous leveling system. Although it works like almost every other RPG level system, you lose all stats whenever you leave a dungeon, practically stripping all of your hard work away. The robbing of all stats tends to either make or break the gameplaying experience, but since the characters do improve in the class and skill levels, the experience was tolerable enough for me to enjoy it.
Sound is an aspect in games that many reviewers tend to leave out, so I'll try to do my best to explain the aural delights of the game. The sound effects are nothing to shout out loud about, but the music is just so magical. More than anything, the tracks accompanying the six main characters are the real gems in this game. Sword's song has an incredibly adventurous feeling to it, Rao's music has a barbaric sense to it, and so on. Of course many will credit the game for having "cheese" music, but for an adventure like this you almost need a nice slice of cheese to make the game taste better. Do you think the ham and cheese sandwich exists because cheese does not taste good? I think not. Even commericals say cheese has power.
One more thing about the game I'd like the mention is the replay value. For an RPG, I've never seen as good a reason to replay the game(sans Chrono Trigger). There are six different endings, hordes of weapons, and many different skills and spells to uncover. There is a even a character that pays you to go on individual quests. Add the monster feature and you have one replayable game. The only negative comment I can add about the game's replayability is due to the somewhat short length of the game. If the game were slightly longer, the skills and spells of the characters would come more into play.
I know this review sounds mighty negative, but the truth is that I absolutely adore this game. While the translation, graphics, and level system annoy, the monster catching feature, world design, and score(yes you can't deny the power of music...and cheese) certainly makes Time Stalkers loads of fun for the starving RPGer. Now if only I could capture that friggen wolf again. Has anyone seen my puppy? He won't bite. I swear.
Sega of America
4 - High
"Loads of fun for the starving RPGer"