In life, the Genesis was dominated in the RPG category by the Super Nintendo. In death, however, the console has seen quite a few RPGs, something the SNES can’t boast. Much of the credit for this goes to Super Fighter Team. Headed by Brandon Cobb, SFT obtains legal rights to distribute classic games. They began with Beggar Prince and Legend of Wukong, both Chinese in origin. Their third RPG release is also their first Japanese creation. Originally known in Japan as Blue Almanac, Star Odyssey was developed by Hot-B, most known for their fishing games, and in Japan, the infamously-bad Famicom RPG, Hoshi wo Miru Hito. Also involved is Starfish-SD, founded by former Hot-B employees. Interestingly, Hot-B continues to exist, although their last published game was Graffiti Kingdom in 2005.
Star Odyssey was meant to come stateside, but never made the jump until a prototype for the game was discovered, and Cobb and his team went to work on finishing up the game. Is it as bad as that other Hot-B RPG, or is there some semblance of a decent game in there?
The answer to this isn’t overly clear, but at least it doesn’t feel like the game is about to fall apart at the seams. The game is definitely, however, mired in the sensibilities of the 8-bit era. A prodigious random encounter rate is coupled with often unclear objectives, leading to a lot of grinding, a seeming hallmark of these games.
As an early-to-mid-life Genesis RPG, the game is a mixed bag graphically. The actual overworld, while not overly flashy, is at least somewhat aesthetically pleasing. Phantasy Star is an obvious inspiration, and here, at least, seems a reasonable facsimile. In battle, however, things suffer. The player sprites are quite large, but are poorly animated, and seem a bit skewed in perspective. Spell effects are mostly unimpressive. Enemies are a mixed bag, equal parts creative and uninspired. The music won’t set the world on fire.
The twist that Star Odyssey brings to the table is the Force system. Your characters actually cast spells not from a list, but by combining different elements to form spells. As your characters grow more powerful, they can combine more elements, eventually up to three. This, however, is where the game really could have used a macro system to save spell combinations, although the manual is kind enough to give all of the combinations, partially defusing that complaint.
So, if the game is a brutal grindfest with not much to offer except to those that are looking for an old-school challenge, then why play the game? Well, the story. The game has a very sci-fi bent, much like its inspiration in Phantasy Star, but the plot is rather odd, especially for the time period. It’s very well-told, owing a great deal to the excellent work done by SFT. It’s the high point of the game, and while it’s a slog to get to it, there’s some compelling stuff here. The characters also stand out, if not in battle, at least in origin, some having very intriguing backstories.
As a game, Star Odyssey doesn’t quite stack up with the classics of the genre. But as a piece of history, it’s a worthwhile purchase. And given the game doesn’t work in emulators, buying the game will be the only way to experience it at all, so pick it up while it’s still available for a reasonable price.
GameSpite Journal 12: Star Odyssey