> Zelda notwithstanding, Landstalker is probably the best
16 bit action RPG available. It was Created by Climax (headed by
Kan Naito), co producers of Shining in the Darkness, Shining
Force, and creators of the indirect Saturn sequel Dark
Savior and the Dreamcast RPG Climax
Landers. That explains why certain characters from some of the
former games make cameo appearances in latter game. Some say that Landstalker
put Climax Entertainment on the proverbial map. And some even say
we have yet to behold a true sequel.
> The hero of Landstalker is Nigel, a free spirited elf, skilled
swordsman and seasoned treasure hunter who has a voracious appetite for
adventure. His youthful appearance belies the fact that he's 78 years old
and causes people to underestimate his abilities. How advantageous. Easily
overcoming the perilous trap infested Jypta ruins, Nigel finally finds
his prey, the statue of Jypta. After all, dodging huge boulders and making
death defying leaps across mountainous ruins couldn't be easier for one
such as Nigel. After selling the statue to a collector and becoming 2000
gold pieces richer, he meets -- well bumps into a fairy called Friday trying
to escape her own hunters. She mentions knowing the location of King Nole's
treasure, and with no other words necessary, Nigel swiftly hides her from
her would be capturers. Nigel pays a huge bird to fly them to a distant
island where this long forgotten treasure lies in wait. And although 2000
gold pieces poorer, together they begin an adventure beyond their wildest
> The description action RPG entails jumping platforms, some moving, others
falling, killing endless hordes of armored warriors with a single sword;
prying open treasure chests and solving a myriad of puzzles that involve
moving things around, some inanimate some animate. Well, Landstalker
safely falls into that category but in isometric fashion. You assume the
role of Nigel, visit villages, buy stuff, help locals; explore dungeons,
and hunt for valuable items all towards the same end: finding the hidden
treasures of King Nole. The setting is a stereotypical sword and sorcery
fantasy world where evil comes in the form of monsters and man alike. Slashing
hostile creatures to death yields gold pieces or items. You don't gain
levels in order to sharpen your skills, but rather collect life stock --
golden hearts to increase your hit points, find superior swords and amour
to improve your attacking and defensive capabilities, as well as mastering
Nigel's agility. Amassing life stock not only raises your health,
but increases the power of your sword swipes as well. Don't think Friday
is useless ether; she's always brimming with advice. Plus, whenever you
die she brings you back to life, if you have EkeEke restorative herbs in
your backpack which can be bought and found. The game can be saved at a
church alter which are usually located in towns. Likewise, you can rest
at inns to replenish your health, but not without paying first. Indeed,
gold pieces are vital if you want the greater survival benefits of helpful
items and services.
> Landstalker is a 2D isometric game which means you move Nigel
around in diagonal directions. The graphics are rendered in 2D but the
isometric viewpoint adds depth to any given area. So much so that it creates
the convincing illusion of 3D. Many dungeons are huge, intricate and multi-layered.
The angles will become clear once you get used to the isometrical perspective.
A moving platform might seem difficult to pinpoint but that's all part
of the fun. Plus, such platforms, or any diagonal area can be lined up
with another. The diagonal maps also conceal things behind scenery, redefining
the term hidden.
> Now, I've read a number of negative reviews that compare Landstalker's
graphics to modern games. No wonder they are so negative. Games should
always be compared within the confines of their own time. So, even though
the Genesis has a limited color pallet and can only display 64 colors at
once, Landstalker is still impressive for its time. Everything is seen
close up -- closer than typical top down RPGs. The graphics are colorful,
neat and adequately paint detailed environments (that was a metaphor by
the way). The generic sprites animate well considering how many frames
of animation they have, especially particular enemies (like the huge, burly,
bulky knights). The artwork is very imaginative given its Japanese anime
origins, and every sprite is drawn to accommodate all isometric angles.
Nigel is animated smoothly too, but we should expect nothing less from
an RPG main character. I love his jumping posture, and the way his sword
leaves a trail whenever he swings it.
> Holding down up and right on the D-pad will walk Nigel in that direction.
While he's facing that direction, pressing either up or right will also
continue to move him that way. Holding down diagonal angles is the key
to readjusting Nigel. Pressing A or C will swing Nigel's sword, talk to
people or search things nearby, and B leaps Nigel into the air. Obviously,
the D-pad gives a jump a much needed direction. Nigel is a dexterous rogue
and so he can jump again as soon as he lands on a viable surface. Hopping
platform to platform in quick succession is sometimes necessary. The time
from hitting the jump button to jumping occurs without delay. Good for
timing jumps off the very edge of something. All movement controls are
just as responsive. The attack buttons will pick up crates and such so
that you can stack them and reach higher places, or throw them on switches.
Overall, excellent controls.
> Pressing the start button brings up the screen-sized item/weapon menu.
You can use items via the menu or switch weapons/amour/boots/rings around.
> Combat is constant but battles often require quick reflexes. If an enemy
touches you, they harm you, so avoidance is a must. Hitting the attack
button constantly won't necessarily win a fight. Plus, enemies attack from
all angles, or throw projectiles at you. They lunge at you, strafe and
even teleport. The controls are sensitive but flexible; practice makes
perfect. The most effective fighting strategy is to move around enemies
while stopping to attack, or timing attacks from one angle. The number
of successful hits an enemy needs before being killed depends on how strong
> Apparently, the music was composed by Motoaki Takenouchi, the
same composer who worked on Shining
Force II. Perhaps someone else would be better suited to describe
the music. I can only tell you that the music is some of the best I've
heard on this console (it's easily in the top of its class), and covers
a whole range of themes including dramatic boss encounters as well as changes
of pace. I keep thinking of the music tracks as MIDI-orchestral music for
some reason (an orchestra playing in MIDI format). Maybe because I know
no other way of describing it. The dungeon tracks are the most memorable
in my opinion. How are tombs haunted by undead guardians of the past and
other unspeakable horrors meant to sound like? Certainly not lively that's
for sure. The music matches the mood of each location very well. There's
calm, happy almost relaxing town music, and a main chaotic dungeon tune
you'll hear a lot in your travels as you're raiding all the trap-and-monster-infested
dungeons in the area for treasure, which somehow manages to remind you
that you're not in a safe place and should stay alert, lest you invite
your own death. I can't criticize the music.
> The game sounds mesh with the music and play at the right moments. They
aren't muffled. Damaged and dying creatures make the appropriate screams
and shrieks. Ringing sounds represent Friday's text dialogue, but lower
pitched sounds play during general dialogue. Everything else from jumps
to sword slashes are included.
> You basically move from one town to the next, talk to people, solve a
problem or two, acquire an essential item and then move onto the next area.
But it's never quite that simple. The dungeons are as challenging as they
are rewarding. The Greenmaze, for example, is indeed a maze. I spent hours
trying to find my way out! Many dungeons have similar obstacles to bypass,
like platforms held in mid-air over spiked floors, or bottomless pits,
or boiling magma. Combine those with monsters, locked doors, button puzzles;
crate puzzles, floating spiked balls and bosses, and you'll get the picture.
However, no two dungeons are the same. Plus, the game world is huge and
non-linear. You can always go back to places you've visited and discover
new things, and there are even quests unrelated to the main plot.
> The towns are large and bustling with people, especially Mercator which
is host to many mini games. At Greenpea's Gaming Emporium you can gamble
for wealth by throwing a small boulder on one of three small platforms
moving in the air at different speeds. If your boulder lands on the fastest
platform, you win the most money. Of course, like any gambling establishment,
if you win too many times, you get kicked out!
> The game seems to revolve around item collection, but the innumerable
NPCs instill character into the journey. The main plot is refreshing; there
are no kingdoms to save from certain doom, just you scouring the land for
treasure. However, you get swept up by problems that stand between you
and that goal. There's some good character development in the game: Nigel's
sole interest is wealth, yet he thrives on adventure. His friendship with
Friday grows as the pair venture into the unknown. The two are always interacting
with each other and with the people they meet. Their identities shine to
the point where you feel they actually have personalities of their own.
Even the main villain has his own indomitable ambitions, and is more like
Nigel than he'll ever know. Great stuff.
> Landstalker is an undeniable all time classic. Need I write more?
Geoffrey Duke ~
9.4 | Graphics: 9.5 | Control: 9.5 | Sound: 9.0 | Fun: 9.5