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Mystaria - Review

Mystaria shows signs of being half finished

By Martin Drury, RPGamer Writer


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7.5
   Gameplay 7.0
   Music 6.0
   Originality 7.0
   Plot 7.0
   Replay Value 6.0
   Sound 5.0
   Visuals 7.5
   Difficulty Easy-Moderate
   Time to Complete 25-30 hours 
Overall
7.0
Criteria

   Mystaria, a first generation Strategy-RPG for the Sega Saturn suffers all the typical problems associated with first generation games, while also showing signs of an overall poor design. Still, I must admit, at times I did find the game enjoyable.

   Mystaria's graphics are a mixed bag of semi-brilliance and downright pathetic. The CG stills that appear in the game are smoothly rendered, and have a quality that makes one wonder what happened to the rest of the game. Some of the 3D battle backgrounds are inspiring as well, a stark contrast to the battle animation itself. In battle, the characters are reminiscent of Granstream Saga for Playstation, but with faces. The animation of the attacks harkens back to the 16 bit era, with fuzzy explosions and dithered effects, and is the first hint that the player receives that the game is less than ideal. The overworld graphics are secondrate as well, again more suited for the 16 bit consoles.

   The music of Mystaria is one of the more disappointing aspects of the game, but the main problem with the music has to do with something non-music related, the length of battles. Music that sounds good the first few times, gets irritating during 45+ minute battles.

   The battlefields are one of the bright spots in the game. They are similar to Vandal Hearts or Final Fantasy Tactics, but without the "squareness" of the environment, a definite plus, and increased realism. Even though the characters move via square tiles, the environment is rounded and well designed. The size of the battlefields is also a plus, though poorly utilized through most of the game, resulting in long, tedious battles (45-60 minutes) on several occasions. Together, these two factors help to provide some immersion into the battlefields, but is often spoiled by the overhead camera view.

   The battle system of Mystaria varies from the traditional Strategy-RPG somewhat. Each character in the game is limited to a single class, but most defensive and some offensive techniques are available to each class. Also, characters can have up to 9 techniques in their action menu at one time, but these can be changed during the battle, with no penalty. Mystaria has the usual assortment of close, ranged, and special attacks, as well as magical attacks. During each round, a character can move a set number of spaces, however, the more spaces they move, the more energy is used, and some attacks become unavailable for that round, since the character has used up its energy.

Holy Avenger
Beware the Holy Avenger.  

   Unfortunately, the battle system is also the target of one of my largest complaints about the game. It is, in a word, unbalanced. At the start of the game, the battle system is okay, and there are a few battles that are very easy to lose. Bosses are difficult, and require strategy to defeat at first. About 10-12 hours into the game, however, the tables begin to turn. This change would come sooner, if it was not for the fact that money is difficult to come by at the beginning of the game. By the end of the game, in most battles you can throw caution to the wind, charge in with special, ranged, and magic attacks, and destroy most opponents with little need to worry about dying. In fact, by the end, its possible to kill most bosses in no more than 2 rounds of battle. A few other minor annoyances infect the battle system as well. Unlike most games, the undead in Mystaria are not effected by fire, but are vulnerable to ice attacks, a contradiction to the norm, and another minor flaw.

   The plot of the game is a bit cliché, but still could have provided a basis for an excellent game, if not for one small detail. The designers were addicted to plot twists, which would sound like a good thing. However, they spoil almost everyone of them, for instance, in the first 5 minutes of the game, when several characters are introduced and described, a plot twist is given away in some of the character's descriptions. Although most of the plot twists are only moderately spoiled, by about halfway through the game I became convinced their sole purpose was to prevent the game from being only 15 hours long. There are also 2 side quests, one of which becomes accessible 3/4 of the way through the game, and the second one near the very end, though it is repeatedly hinted at from almost the beginning of the game.

   The translation of Mystaria is yet another disappointment. While most of the dialogue is okay, with only minor errors, at one point, near the end, the lead character changes gender! If anything is unforgivable in a translation, that would be it. The translation is better than Final Fantasy Tactics, for instance, but not by much. The dialogue suffers from some non-translation problems as well. Characters often repeat themselves, which is not a bad thing if you take a break from the game and come back after a while, but one conversation sticks out as an example of over doing it. Even with not reading the text and pressing the button for the next page, it last well over a minute. Conversations like that one are not meant to be repeated, and only lead to annoyance.

    It is extremely rare when one can complain about the control of an RPG. Mystaria's overworld provides the player with an opportunity to do just that, with an image of the character cruising along at about mach 5, it is possible to trigger events such as reading the sign posts, without intending to, but luckily the designers put yes/no questions at town entrances and country borders.

Battle Menu
A well designed menu  

   The game is moderately entertaining, but has little replay value. It is definitely a title to be rented instead of purchased, unless you can find it used. Being able to take a 1/4 of a boss' HP in a single attack is quite satisfying for anyone who has ever been butchered time and time again by Ruby Weapon, but even that tires quickly. The Battlum side quest brings some replay value to the game, but it serves as little more than a distraction from the main plot of the game.

   Overall, Mystaria is a bright light covered with soot, a game that definitely falls into the "could have been great" category. Its strong point is its graphics, with elements that put even Vandal Hearts and Final Fantasy Tactics to shame, but at the same time, other elements of the graphics are extremely lacking. Mystaria reminds me of my father's car, with some time and effort, it could have been a contender.


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