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Secret of Evermore - Retroview

The Land Before Sanity

By: The Glutton


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 9
   Plot 5
   Localization n/a
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

10-20 hours

 
Overall
7
Criteria

Title Screen
 

   Though largely overlooked, Secret Of Evermore - henceforth to be called SoE in this review - represented something truly unique. It was a console action style RPG developed in the United States. Action RPG's generally aren't the U.S. developer's area of expertise, nor are console games for that matter.
   SoE had the distinct advantage of being produced by the U.S. branch of Squaresoft - possibly the crew that went on to become Crave - and thus having access to existing RPG technology to produce this new title. They went with the tried and true engine of Seiken Densetsu 2 - better known to us as Secret Of Mana. What could be better for an SNES action RPG, they reasoned. Did it live up to its' technological forebear?

   Combat is simple. You move about the field and battle enemies in real time, your attack power determined by a gauge, character stats, weapons, and experience.
   Just like Secret Of Mana, the gauge is your friend. Every attack you make drops your attack power temporarily to zero effectiveness, but jumps back to 100% like a rocket, ensuring maximum monster-smacking potential. As your proficiency each certain weapons rises, you can charge an attack by holding down the attack button. The guage will slowly rise above 100% and glow. The resulting 'power' attack, though not generally useful, has a number of effective uses against bosses that are best put down with a charged Spear, or Dogzooka.
   The other half of the battle system is the potent "Alchemy System". Throughout the game you can purchase, or your dog will sniff out, valuable alchemy ingredients (Water, Oil, Iron, Ethanol, Feathers, and the like) which can be combined to create potent magical spells. For Example: Root + Water will produce the basic healing spell. Much like SoM's elemental magical spells, Alchemy level up as you use them, thus becoming more potent. Occasionally, the Alchemy system will goof up, and the effect will pause as long as ten seconds before activating. But it's rare enough not to be a worry.

   SoE's interface is supremely 'adequate' and precious little more. It used the fabled SoM ring system to navigate menus, making it simple, and effective. Menus can be accessed at any time, except during dialogue, and sport large pictograph icons showing the option/item/alchemy's function. Nothing new, but SoE's system is rock solid and has very few flaws other then being from a previous game, and certainly none that will hold up to intense scrutiny... Although sometimes I find that I forget what menu is closer by going up, or down, or accidentally open the dog's menu instead of my own.


Whadaya mean, you don't accept Master Card?!
"Whadaya mean, you don't accept Master Card?!" 

   SoE will more than likely be ridiculed for its sound track until the end of time. This is primarily, however, mostly due to ignorance. It doesn't have a sweeping symphony or grand operas like other RPG's do, so by default many will say "it sucks". This is by-and-large, a load of bullsquash. I have a simple math equation. Variety = Good. Of course, variety 'can' be bad - like Shadow Madness - but not in this case.
   SoE has a great variety of music, all with distinctly atmospheric flavors. From the primitive tribal "Boss Battle" music, to the haunting and thought evoking tune of "Ivor Tower", this game has a little of everything but the traditional grand RPG music. This isn't a bad thing, since this isn't a traditional RPG. Ambient insect chirps and bird calls blend with soothing pan pipes or rain drops (insiders will know these rain drops were digitally sampled from Squaresofts leaky men's room sink) to create a cacophony of sound.
   Its' sound effects were no slouch either. Plenty of unique and original sounds serenade the ears as you traipse through The Bug Muck, or the Old Space Station. Though not as good as the music, SoE's sound effects are excellent, especially for an untried U.S. development team.

   Ultimately, it cannot be called a very original game as far as the engine and controls are concerned. They're virtually duplicated from SoM. However, the game itself is so radically different it can be called at least fifty percent original. The game sports nifty elements, like the Dogs transformation into different forms, a prehistoric wolf, a sleek desert hound, a poodle, and a cyborg. The locales and NPC's are all relatively imaginative as well.

   The plot is an intriuging Saturday morning cartoon approach to an RPG. A "Bath Water Fantasy" like the popular old school titles Dungeons & Dragons and Land of The Lost. Though perhaps not creative on the whole in and of itself, as an RPG, especially a console RPG, SoE took virtually virgin territory and planted a big Square flag in it (Sorry about the pun! Honest!).
   In the city of Podunk U.S.A., in the fall of 1965... The scene: an abandoned mansion on the hillside. An experiment came to its' conclusion, and four citizens disappeared from the face of the Earth without so much as a trace, leaving the mansion to fall into ruin. Thirty years later, a young man and his faithful dog had just finished watching a seedy SciFi movie at the Bijou Theater when the dog decided to fill his obligation to the genus Canine and set off after a cat like a bat out of hell, forcing the boy to chase after him. As coincidence or plot device would have it, after losing the cat's trail, the dog ran into the abandoned mansion. Following his 'pupster', the lad finds a hidden passage and several unusual artifacts, chief among which, an immense electronic device resembling a object from one of his beloved movies. 'Pupster' returns and promptly chews wiring, causing a surge of energy from the machine which makes the machine go haywire, thus tossing the dog through a rapid series of transformations ending with its' disappearance. Just as quickly as the first, a second bolt of electricity grabs the boy as well, and poof! Trapped on another world, your adventure begins.


Boy, and I thought the kid in Flight Of The Navigator had a cool ride!
"Boy, and I thought the kid in Flight Of The Navigator had a cool ride!" 

   Though I can't see myself dusting off a cart every month, or even every six months, it's a game you'll eventually want to play again, and perhaps again. It's a good time killer if it's nothing else.

   SoE isn't what I'd call breathtakingly beautiful, but the visuals are on par with any other title of the day. 3D rendered boss monsters, lush forests, tattered seaside thieves' dens, and grimy sewers all come to life extremely vividly considering the graphical style. Spell effects can be particularly nice. Omnitopia is a refreshing change of pace from the typical "High Tech Final Dungeon", and Crustacea will always have a place in my heart, for the amusing design and all the crusty barnacles that dwell within.

   Secret of Evermore is rather an easy game as, with enough preparation almost any boss or dungeon can be conquered by a well-stocked hero. By-and-large, boss battles amount to utterly beating the tar out of a giant monster with alchemy spells until it drops dead. A few of the dungeons will actually stump you for good fifteen or twenty minutes, but nothing truly mind-boggling.

   SoE is, sadly, short. I'd have liked it much better if it was half again as long, with more areas to explore, and more funny looking shapes for the dog. But for an action RPG, it's a decently sized game... Just no SoM by any stretch. In particular, I'd have liked to see a world vaguely like reality, a Pleasantvillish place, or a post apocalyptic world; with the quirky humour already in this game, such places would be bound to extend gameplay as well as broaden the palate of the game.


Boy, this is ominously like the gate in Jurassic park.
"Boy, this is ominously like the gate in Jurassic park." 

   On the whole the game isn't worthy of being displayed in the Smithsonian, but it's certainly a piece of work - definitely worth investigation to those who can still find it. All you red blooded North Americans owe it to yourself to see how our take on the Action RPG, of the console variety, holds up. I'll even offer a tip. For the love of god, whatever you do, leave the lights off in the Omnitopia hydroponics garden!





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