Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Action RPG's #2

Golvellius: Valley of Doom (1988)
By: Compile Genre: Action RPG Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System
Also Available For: MSX, MSX2
Download For: iOS

Most gamers over here in the West know the Compile name well. This is most often down to the splendid shooters they produced such as Zanac and the much loved Aleste series but they did also conjure up a fair few RPG's. Sadly, not many of these made it to our shores but one that did is Golvellius. It first appeared on the MSX in '87 where it... wasn't great, quite frankly. Happily, a much nicer redesigned version was soon ported to the Master System, swiftly followed by another version, again redesigned, for the MSX2. It's that MS version that most of us know though - even if we didn't own it, the screenshot showing a green squiggly background and large worm/snake-thing could be found on pretty much all of the MS's promo flyers and adverts. Indeed, it was a pretty well-known and liked game, but how does it hold up all these years later?

Remember this classic screenshot?
As explained in the back-story, the Golvellius of the title was an evil king who destroyed his kingdom and disappeared a thousand years ago. The land of Aleid had since known a golden age of peace and prosperity, but in recent times some strange creatures have been spotted and people have started going missing. The most recent such disappearance was that of Princess Rena who went in search of a medicinal herb to treat her sick father, the noble King Aleid. Then, however, a 'wandering lad with green hair and a taste for adventure' known as Kelesis arrived in town, heard their stories of woe and, after seeing a picture of the princess and deciding she was a bit of a hottie, set out after her, presumably hoping to earn her favour in the form of an all-access pass. Seems like rather a lot of effort for a bit of presumed rumpy-pumpy but who am I to judge?

This is the best spot to grab some gold at the start...
A good place to begin this search is in the rather conspicuously-named Valley of Doom. I think if I lived near a place with that name I'd steer clear but it does (perhaps unsurprisingly) seem to be the source of the disappearances. To get there Kelesis must first brave the 'intro' dungeon which is the green snake-infested place of so many promo flyers, but defeat the ghastly snake and thereby conquer the short side-scrolling area and he'll gain access to the overhead-viewed overworld around which the game is based. This is presented in a flick-screen fashion as opposed to the more common scrolly type and also seems quite small at first - only three screens by three. From here you can visit a cantankerous granny, a scantily-clad sno-cone-loving fairy, the helpful and generally awesome Randar, or Winkle (snigger!), the keeper of the passwords, for help, advice, and certain items you may need, and the other dungeons can also be accessed from here.

Randar is the greatest :)
The items offered by the old crone require gold to purchase and this can be obtained by killing monsters (which isn't immediately apparent) who are found on all screens but the first, appearing randomly and without end. Kelesis has a basic sword with which to strike them down, though this and some other equipment - including offensive, defensive, and special magical items - can be replaced with more powerful equivalents later on. The monsters include smaller snakes, bats, bugs, bees, frogs, and various other terrors wrought upon the arid land by the heinous Golvellius. Kelesis can only take a few hits before his energy bar is depleted but it can be replenished by certain items or by visiting Randar or Enny. Once you get used to everything though, and work out what to do (and probably once you've started over a few times too!), you'll soon start opening up new, larger areas.

This type of dungeon scrolls automatically upward...
Indeed, for although the game may seem rather small and basic to begin with, it's actually a pretty large and exhaustive adventure. It is quite varied too, with its mixture of side and vertically-scrolling dungeons in addition to the more open flick-screen overworld which ends up being way bigger than it initially seems. However the action is presented though, it's about as action-orientated as any action-RPG I've played and could perhaps be more accurately described as an arcade adventure. Either way, it is a fairly linear game in structure, as I suppose most were around this time, but should last a good while, with a speed-run by an experienced player still clocking in at over three hours. The only thing I can see that might stop you from wanting to do just that is the amount of back-tracking that will be needed for all but the most highly skilled of players.

This yeti is the first boss - he's easy to take out though...
This is down to the monster/gold system the game employs which basically gives you an infinite supply of gold - as long as you are willing to keep cutting down the irritating monsters every time you want to buy something or need to fund a visit to Randar to refill your energy reserves (which will be often if you're anything like me!). You do have a gold limit but this can be increased by buying bibles (for some reason) from the old hag who keeps turning up to flaunt her wares. The monsters on each screen of the overworld reset each time you leave and return to it which gives you a handy (though brief) retreat option, but you'll have to face off against all types of enemy at some point or another as most screens feature a cave/dungeon entrance, and it is almost always revealed only by killing a few monsters first, some of which are right pains (stupid bats and bees!).

This graveyard can be accessed after the second boss...
There aren't many negatives here though. The graphics are splendid, featuring colourful, detailed, and varied sprites, and some really nice backgrounds, all showing very little flicker, and the audio is just as good too - the effects are great and the music is superb (the fairy's jingle is particularly catchy). It could even be a top ten MS game from an audio/visual point of view. Actually I guess it could be from any other point of view too. As mentioned, it does seem a rather limited and potentially irritating game at first but it opens up and pulls you in just like any good RPG, action or otherwise, should do. The gameplay is of course very 80's in style which won't appeal to everyone these days - control of Kelesis can be a little 'sticky', for example - but Golvellius has to be a contender for the most enjoyable Master System game of its type. There might not be too many candidates on Sega's humble machine, admittedly, but it's still a corker all the same!

RKS Score: 8/10

Gameplay Video: here's a video of the whole game being played by one of the talented fellows at World of Longplays (check out their great channel here). Don't watch if you want to avoid spoilers though!


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