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Review by: Chris Harding
Published: October 29, 1999
The role-playing empire known as SquareSoft has ruled the role-playing console market for a near decade. Their juggernaut series, Final Fantasy is one of the best selling line of games of all time, and is regarded by many as the greatest role-playing epic ever brought to the digital environment. Spin offs such as Chrono Trigger and the like have helped establish the style and gameplay as solid platforms, and we knew it wouldn’t be long before someone tried their hand with something similar in the PC arena. Even though last year marked the introduction of the Final Fantasy series to the PC, its release was marred by a number of problems that included a lot of bugs and quality issues, something console owners aren’t too familiar with, but alas something we PC gamers know all too well. Enter Valkyrie Studios and their long-awaited anime inspired role-player, Septerra Core.
Septerra Core is quite similar in look and premise to Final Fantasy (FF), so much so that you could easily mistake it for one of the games in the series at first look. But unlike Square’s popular series, Septerra Core places a much larger emphasis on story and less on combat than FF does. It’s a trade-off I didn’t mind most of the time, mainly because the story in this title is a solid one. To understand its story you must first grasp how complex the setting is. The world in Septerra Core is made up of seven distinct continents, called world shells. These make up the game world, and they all rotate around a central bio-organic spine. The different shells act as a class system, with the Chosen ones residing up above and lower grade commoners down below. In the center resides a bio-organic computer core which has been locked for ages, and is said to house a special gift left by the Creator. Rumored to be the Kingdom of Heaven itself, many search for its ultimate power. As legend goes, every hundred years the world shells align and allow light to penetrate the core, thus activating it. It is at this time that a special set of keys may be used to unlock the core and receive the Creator’s gift.
The story unfurls with the keys to the core being hidden by an angel named Marduk. The ancient texts speak of a time when the world will be in great peril and a chosen one will rise from the depths and save Septerra. It seems this prophecy is destined to come true. Doskias, one of the Chosen, has found the keys to the core. He believes he is the one who was prophesied of. The Emperor of the Chosen and others disagree with Doskias and as such a war is sure to erupt. The struggle for control of the keys to the core has begun. The player enters the world of Septerra Core as Maya, a commoner living on one of the lower shells. Most people in Oasis, the town in which the game begins, are known as Junkers; they collect the junk dropped by the Chosen ships flying overhead. These junkers either repair, recycle, or sell the junk they find in order to survive. Some of the more lucrative businesses smuggle items to other world shells, even though travel between them is prohibited.
While up front the comparison to Final Fantasy is unmistakable, I would not suggest they are entirely similar. Their shared anime backdrop, gameplay style, and combat systems do make them hard to distinguish, especially for the untrained RPG aficionado, but a closer examination will show distinct differences. In Final Fantasy VII, and most other titles in the series, the overall experience is driven by combat with bits of story added here and there. Septerra Core, on the other hand, is a game driven by the storyline with battle thrown in for good measure. Gameplay progression is produced through dialogue; talking to everyone you meet is thankfully, for the most part, an enjoyable experience. There are mega-tons of dialogue in Septerra Core and the voice acting throughout is phenomenal. I found that in order to keep quests coming and the story afloat I needed to speak with everyone I met, and often more than once. Through conversations the player learns of new places that are then uncovered and available to travel to. Traversing the towns and lands is also reminiscent of the FF model, which shows the world from a extremely zoomed out perspective. Unlike most computer-based RPGs, the aspect of exploration is almost non-existent and this was extremely disappointing. Rather than a free-flowing, go anywhere you want to design, Septerra Core opts for a much more linear approach and limits the player to where they can travel.
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