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Vol. 2, Issue 5
December 9, 1999

The Top Shelf:

Septerra Core

by Noel "HB" Wade




ere’s an interesting concept: take one world, and split it up into seven continents – all on different levels. Connect all seven with a biomechanical spine, and put some kind of super-computer at the center. Add in some prophecies and legacies, make it an RPG, add in some heavy anime influences - and you have the background story for Septerra Core, a game by Valkryie Studios, TopWare Interactive, and Monolith (being a publisher this time around). Let me begin by saying that I’m not a huge CRPG fan. I haven’t been since I was about 12 years old, banging away on my Commodore 64. However, the concepts for this game sounded cool enough that I was awaiting this game since I first heard about it.

At first glance, the introduction shows off an interesting mix of scenes – both full-motion CG scenes, and also in-game sequences. The choice for this back-and-forth transition seems unclear to me; although the CG scenes are fairly impressive. Sadly, the beauty of this game ends mostly there.

click to enlarge!

The old dude and his prophecy (90k)

Graphically, I find the game to be acceptable. I’ve seen some other review sites blast the game based on its 640x480 resolution; but to me that seems fine. I would have preferred an 800x600 mode; mostly because much of the artwork seems high quality – and would’ve been even nicer in that mode. However, 640x480 doesn’t make for an unacceptably ugly game at all. It does occasionally make items a little hard to see in a few cases, but I’ll get to that later.

Sound-wise, I’m alternately impressed and disappointed. Some of the music and background pieces are wonderful – and if you have a sub-woofer, you’ll definitely be rewarded with pounding sound effects in some cases. But, some things get repetitive; and the combat sounds, while fairly appropriate, didn’t impress me in their variety. And when the combat is as long as it is in this game, you crave anything new.

Since I’ve mentioned it, let me segue into the topic of combat. Arguably, this is the worst feature of the game. Every time you get involved in combat (which can happen simply by walking a little to close to an animal), the map moves to some open ground – and you and your enemy (or enemies) do a big leap into the center of the screen. From there, combat works out in “real time” mode. Some games have managed to do this successfully; but I don’t feel that this game pulls it off. Characters must wait as their timing/initiative/action (slash whatever-you-want-to-call-it) bar crawls up through three stages (signifying weak/medium/strong attack). The problems start to arise here – since you can’t select your attack until the proper “stage” has filled up, you must ready your mouse (or hotkey) to hit the proper option at the exact time it comes available. If you don’t, the next “stage” of the bar starts to fill, and over several rounds of combat you will find yourself feeling like a lot of time has been wasted – because computer controlled enemies are always very precise in their timing. Which is also another quirk of the combat system: If you select your action but the enemy somehow does their action at the same time, your key-press/mouse-click isn’t accepted. You have to wait through the attack, and then repeat your selection. Once you do get an attack off, you’ll watch your character make a big leap forward (or sometimes not, depending on the weapon/combat-type), make their attack, and then jump back. Then you wait again – and wait, and wait. Your enemies will do the same; but the computer doesn’t have any boredom circuits, does it?

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Credits: Illustration © 1999 Dan Zalkus. This review is © 1999 Noel Wade. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, goldarn it.