Albert Odyssey: Legend of Eldean

Albert Odyssey: Legend of Eldean
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Game Name: Albert Odyssey: Legend of Eldean
Media: 1 CD-ROM (Two Artwork Variations)
Publisher(s): Working Designs
Developer(s): Sunsoft
Genre(s): RPG
Release Date: 24th July 1997
Serial Number: T-12705H
Region: USA

Albert Odyssey ScreenshotOutside Japan, RPGs on the Saturn include Action RPGs, Tactical RPGs, and a couple oddball turn-based RPGs, but only one conventional RPG: a USA release of Albert Odyssey: Legend of Eldean.

Unfortunately, “generic” is very much the operative word when discussing Albert Odyssey’s gameplay, reviewers say this all too often but in this case it really is true, there is absolutely nothing new to the game’s mechanics. In fact, there aren’t even any little-used mechanics stolen from earlier RPGs; if you have ever played a turn-based RPG, you have seen everything there is to playing this game.

Generic can actually be refreshing if the details are well done. Sadly, there’s nothing new in the dungeons, bosses, or towns, and the adventuring party is ridiculously unbalanced. Amon makes the initially cool offensive spells totally superfluous once he joins. Even worse, Gryzz is the best in the party at everything: He has by far the highest Attack, by far the highest Defense, and both his Resist and HP are astronomical compared to the competition. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s the only character to get the best heal spell in the game, and can cast it and a score of powerful offensive spells without consuming MP! And since you can’t switch anyone out of the active party, your battle strategy will revolve around Gryzz from the moment he joins.

Albert Odyssey ScreenshotThe game is also less than epic, running noticeably shorter than RPGs such as Mystaria and Shining the Holy Ark, and completely lacking side quests. This is particularly galling as you eventually get an airship to fly all over the world, only to discover that all those huge unexplored continents have NOTHING on them.

All that said, there are good points to Albert Odyssey. Specifically, everything but the gameplay. Of particular note is the gorgeous orchestrated soundtrack by Naoki Kodaka, who you may remember from Sunsoft’s glory days on the NES. The most annoying thing about the high rate of random encounters is that the bittersweet overworld theme is always cut off right at the start unless you stand still.

Albert Odyssey is perhaps the most graphically primitive Saturn RPG, yet its battles take the longest to load. Embarrassing as this is, once you get into the rhythm of the game it’s not a major bother. And though the graphics are primitive, the soft colors and quaint style are certainly pleasing to the eyes. Moreover, the character designs are outstanding; aside from the rather derivative protagonist, all the characters have striking appearances and beautiful animations. I fell so in love with the monk Leos that I would at times neglect to heal a wounded character just to watch her attack animation for the 50th time.

Albert Odyssey ScreenshotThe story is quite solid as well, with a great deal of originality as video games go and even a few genuinely emotional moments. Even with Working Designs’s uneven translation(which sticks 20th century pop culture jokes into a clearly Medieval setting, often at very inappropriate moments), I definitely felt connected with the characters.

The plot actually consists of two separate adventures: the opening scenario, and a sequel of sorts set several years after. Each of the adventures is fast-paced, so no waiting for something to happen with the plot. And in a unique twist, the romantic subplot is actually resolved – well before the end of the game, in fact.

There are a few assorted nice touches, such as the ability to load a game without returning to the title screen, which make the game smoother to play.

Albert Odyssey Screen shotSo despite mostly weak gameplay, this plain old generic RPG has some genuine charm. It allows you to enjoy a solid story and with lovely music and visuals to help draw you in, and that’s all that many ask for out of an RPG.

Ultimately, though, here’s what it comes down to: Anyone who isn’t an RPG fan will quickly get bored of the frequent random encounters and generic style. An RPG fan, on the other hand, will still draw modest enjoyment from the gameplay and love the story and presentation… but will finish the game in under 25 hours and put it away, likely never to play it again.

Given that, and with so many more interesting and/or replayable RPGs on the Saturn, it’s hard to recommend this game. RPG fans will enjoy it, but should go for at least four other Saturn RPGs before resorting to Albert Odyssey to satisfy their appetite, and everyone else should probably not bother with the game at all.

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