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   Lady Stalker - Reader Retroview  

Whatís in a Name?
by JuMeSyn

PLATFORM
SNES
BATTLE SYSTEM
3
INTERACTION
3
ORIGINALITY
4
STORY
3
MUSIC & SOUND
3
VISUALS
3
CHALLENGE
Fluctuating
COMPLETION TIME
12-20 hours
OVERALL
3.5/5
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Some games donít make it out of Japan for inscrutable reasons, best understood by the men in dark suits who have made those decisions. Lady Stalker did not cross the Pacific for obvious reasons however: who at Nintendo would have approved a game in which the player is constantly slapped with restraining orders thanks to an uncontrollable need to pursue women? Combat is one of the most painful endeavors ever in this title, because even if the player can defeat a policeman (a very difficult task), more of them will come and use lethal force this time. When the player is a seedy little string-bean of a malnourished man with no combat prowess whatsoever, the game is absolutely impossible to win.

   Or it is, in whatever freeware form that above concept takes on the internets. Lady Stalker is instead the story of, well, one who stalks the earth and happens to be a lady. Taking a break from the usual Sega development, Climax gave the Super Famicom a rather enjoyable action-RPG that probably would have needed a name change to cross the Pacific but otherwise is nothing difficult to deal with for the prospective player.

   Lady is a woman kept penned in her familial mansion by the scholar Yoshio and the cook Cocks against her desire to get out and adventure. One fine day she manages to get out of her room, and Yoshioís attempts to trap her in the mansion result in him burning the whole thing down. Lady escapes thanks to the tumult and makes her way to Deathland Island, seeking adventure and riches. These are to be found in abundance thanks to King Baronís activities hundreds of years priorÖ. The resemblance to some aspects of LandStalker aside, Lady Stalkerís plot is cute and reasonably interesting.

   Combat takes place in action-RPG fashion to a point, since the player runs around smacking enemies while they attack. Fortunately touching an enemy does not result in damage, the enemy must use an actual attack to cause harm. Unlike any other action-RPG I can recall, however, random battles are used here; enemies are not visible until they pop onto the screen. Sometimes enemies fall onto the screen, also, this can be odd if an enemy falls onto Ladyís head. Fighting is reasonably responsive, though the limitation of the screen available for combat can be very aggravating if an enemy runs/is pushed onto the periphery. Running is also impossible unless the player is next to an exit to another area.

   For the early part of the game Lady is on her own, but will eventually reunite with Yoshio and Cocks. Lady is the only character the player can control, with Yoshio and Cocks being governed by one of four different AI settings. Lady has no magic, but these two do Ė Yoshio specializes in attack magic and Cocks in healing. They can be directed to use magic by the player but unless their AI forbids it will be very aggressive with healing anyway. All three characters have charged attacks along with simply whaling on the enemy, which tends to be ineffective because enemies are harmed more from side/back attacks than the front. Experience and money are earned from defeating opponents, with their functions being precisely what an RPGamer would expect.

   Interaction is functional without being streamlined. There is a limit of five on how many of an item each character can hold; particularly in the case of healing items this gets exhausted quickly. Saving and healing usually cannot be done in the same place, requiring respectively a church/priest and an inn. The effects of weapons/armor upon characters can be viewed before purchase, but it takes several confirmations to get into and out of each phase of a shop menu. Items to be used must be in the inventory of the character about to use them, which may result in wasting the effect upon a hale character. There are no enormous problems, but little ones get irritating.

   And in another display of Climaxís infatuation with the isometric view seen in LandStalker and Dark Savior, here it is again. All the usual difficulties of isometric view are present and accounted for, such as not seeing certain paths and finding proper alignment to be difficult. Unlike LandStalker and Dark Savior, there is no jumping in Lady Stalker Ė and one of the most irritating issues in those games is thus ameliorated. Isometric view is still annoying to deal with, particularly thanks to there being no diagonal movement (what would be the cardinal directions if the game was NOT isometric), but without having to judge platform placement it is more easily dealt with.

   Lady Stalkerís challenge is certainly extant; I experienced a Game Over screen multiple times. Combat is fraught with dangerous enemies, and the inability to run from most battles means pain, but there are healing and save points to make it a little less harrowing. Depending upon how the player goes about the game, I suspect 12 hours could be enough to complete it. I needed around 20. Aside from a casino in Death Vegas there is no optional content to come back for on a replay.

   Visuals are pretty good, but definitely display Climaxís familiarity with the Mega Drive. Aside from perhaps a few extra colors I saw nothing that could not have been accomplished on Segaís most commercially successful machine, and as the Super Famicom is Lady Stalkerís home the grade must be commensurate.

   As to the audio, Eri Sugai did a respectable job in the composition. Not much of the music stands out after playing but it sounds good during the game. Some of the pieces are legitimately catchy, also. The sound effects deserve a quick note just for their bizarreness: walking up stairs sounds like a door being knocked upon, and Cocks sounds just like a happy little girl when he casts a spell. Not BAD sound effects, just bizarre.

   Lady Stalker is not an amazing action-RPG every RPGamer needs to investigate immediately but it does manage to be entertainingly diverting. The game being in Japanese isnít too hard to work around thanks to (at need) GameFAQs, though dispiritingly little Katakana is used. And certain situations seen in this game are those I had never experienced before, such as being shrunk and having to navigate a monsterís body to reverse this status, fighting his fleas and body hair on the way. So itís an amusing little romp that is worth a play from anyone still around if the name didnít cause instant aversion.

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