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   Beyond the Beyond - Staff Retroview  

Beyond Hope
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Easy-Medium
COMPLETION TIME
20-25 Hours
OVERALL

1.5/5

Rating definitions 

   A relatively young boy leaves home to save the world from a group that is trying to rekindle an ancient war. Along the way he meets many companions and goes on a fairly cliched quest. Beyond the Beyond may not sound horrible at first, but the implementation is horrendous. Any potential it has is ruined by the incredibly high encounter rate and poor design, especially where the battle system is concerned.

   At first glance, the battle system seems like the average run-of-the-mill system with nothing special. This is, however, one of the first RPGs to use a timed hit system. Sadly, timed hits are triggered by mashing the controller rather than actually timing anything. They also seem to be random and sometimes activate themselves when no button has been pressed, so it's difficult to say if they're truly useful or if there's some glitch that causes them to activate randomly. The other major difference, and perhaps the largest flaw in the battle system, is the fact that HP is split up. Max HP is lower than in most games, but when a character runs out of HP, they simply fall unconscious and will wake up with most or all of their HP fairly quickly. This isn't free of course, and it will drain the other meters. When they run out, the character is dead, and they won't revive without a special item or spell. This generally makes things very easy for players as they rarely have to worry about reviving their party since actual death is a rare occurrence. Sadly, this system can also result in a sadistic loop on occasion. Due to low max HP, if the enemy has a speed advantage, is large in number, and has magic that hits all allies, they can knock out the entire party every turn until they run out of MP or they attack physically instead. Fortunately, events like these are rare, but they can be very annoying.

A lot of time will be spent in battle A lot of time will be spent in battle

   Despite the fact that characters can get stuck in an endless loop of unconsciousness, that's just about the only thing that can actually kill the party except for bosses. The amount of exp given per fight is low, but so are level-up bonuses. It's possible to beat the last boss fairly easily without wasting any time leveling up at all. Since characters recover consciousness on their own, few life-restoring items are needed and they can be saved for any emergencies that arise.

   Timed hits activating randomly seems to be an interface issue. The manual states that they may not activate when the buttons are pushed, but say nothing about them activating on their own. Other than that, the interface is decent aside from dealing with items in the inventory. It's a pain to transfer items from one character to another, or to and from storage. The localization also isn't too bad, but doesn't stand out either as there is very little dialogue in the game to translate.

   As one would expect from a game with little dialogue, the story is very short and lacks detail. There are over a dozen characters, but character development is minimal. The story does pick up a little near the end, but not by much. Overall, the storyline is poor, but it could have been worse.

More fighting... More fighting...

   The story is also the cliched tale of a random hero saving the world from an evil kingdom with minimal twists and turns. Needless to say, Beyond the Beyond isn't very original. The only original concepts are the changes in the battle system, especially the altered HP system.

   Despite the short story, this particular quest will still likely take between twenty and twenty-five hours to complete. This can almost be completely attributed to the high battle encounter rate. Every few steps in a dungeon will result in a battle, though the rate isn't too bad on the overworld. Another thing that adds to playtime and detracts from fun factor is the fact that some dungeons must be completed several times. While most of these dungeons need only be completed twice, a particular sewer dungeon must be completed roughly half a dozen times over the course of the game.

   There really isn't anything special about the background music, but since the game is so short they don't really become repetitive either. The sound effects are also average and don't really stand out.

   The visuals are also fairly average overall, but vary drastically in and out of battle. Out of battle, the character sprites and landscapes look like something out of the SNES or even the NES aside from a few 3D effects. While this isn't impressive in the slightest, there's a dramatic change in battle. There are several allies and enemies on the screen at once and all of them have large, detailed sprites. The background appears 3D and will shift as different characters act and shake as spells are cast. Sadly, there is a lot of palette-swapping as far as enemies are concerned.

   Though it isn't the worst RPG ever made, it comes close. Any fun the battle system might have had is ruined by an absurdly high encounter rate and poor implementation. The poor story and the fact that quite a few dungeons must be completed multiple times don't help either. Unlike most bad games, Beyond the Beyond doesn't try to cover it up with good graphics or excellent music either. The fun factor just isn't there, and the game doesn't work as a whole.

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