Title : Arcus Odyssey
Publisher : Renovation Products
Genre : Arcade Action RPG
Players : 1 / 2 Player
Release Date : 1991
Estimated Value (as of today's date) : $25-$30
During the rise of the 16-bit consoles, a lot of game developers were trying to figure out new and refreshing takes on classic game styles. One of the most common games out were the arcade-style hack and slash. I assume most of these games came from the wildly successful Gauntlet series which was the epitome of dungeon crawler. It was pretty much expected to see companies bombard gamers with this type of game play. But, how do you grab a gamer's interest if it's already been done before?
Enter Renovation Products and Arcus Odyssey.
Take Gauntlet and add a touch of Diablo and D&D and you've got Arcus Odyssey. This game had taken the best of all hack and slash games and lumped them into one epic masterpiece. You even have the co-op game play option that Gauntlet had to offer, but it truly differs in the visual aspect.
The entire game is done in an isometric perspective, which was not wildly used during the time, and when it was it was usually done poorly. This game however, mastered the use of this perspective, allowing the characters to move in all 8 directions, instead of just 4.
Enough intro, let's get into this. Here is Arcus Odyssey.
As with any Action RPG style games, you've got a far-fetched fantasy story to keep you going. Here's the low down. You've got this evil sorceress, Castomira, who was banished by use of a magical sword called, The Power of Leaty.The sword is now kept safe by King Arcus, but you know it's not going to be safe for long. Where would the game be if it was all peaceful in this kingdom? As it turns out, you've got corrupt followers of Castomira take the pieces of the sword and are trying to resurrect her. It's up to the four brave heroes (one of which you will choose) to destroy the followers, recover the sword, and ensure Castomira is banished.
Man, I really love these stories. They're so absurd. But it's the reason I love fantasy.
Much like Gauntlet, you'll choose from one of four heroes on your adventure. You've got a swordsman, an archer, an amazon warrior, and a wizard. Pretty similar, right? The thing that sets this apart from Gauntlet, is that the abilities are a bit more varied between the four. I know in Gauntlet each character had specific attacks and defensive capabilities, but in Arcus Odyssey, you have the the ability to enhance your character with level ups and upgrades. That's where the more RPG element aspect comes in.
Being a dungeon crawler hack n slash, there are two things you'll be doing a lot of. Killing swarms of enemies, and collecting loot. Loot comes in the form of power ups for your character, extra lives, and upgrades. You'll find them scattered across chests that are littered all throughout the level. I really wish this game had the ability to upgrade weapons and armor like Diablo, but I can't ask for much in a game coming from the early '90s.
Enemies are varied and plentiful in this game. You'll never be bored as you rush through each level, and spamming your attack button is pretty much essential at some points. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as this is the type of game where you want to be moving quickly and attacking often. But it's not all mindless, the game requires you to accomplish certain "sub-quests" in order to move in a level. It can be something as simple as finding a key to open a door, or just defeating a particular monster to move ahead. It doesn't really matter, as it's an effective way to mix things up a bit.
You are of course given the opportunity to play this game co-op (which is a hell of a lot of fun) but if you don't there are also NPC characters that will follow you and assist you with your battles. Why they aren't insanely helpful, they offer that little boost that could make fights a tad easier. Not that they are difficult in the first place.
Visually, I'm a sucker for these sort of graphics. The sprite designs are amazing, and there's actually a huge number of monsters in this game. Sure, some of them are just given color make overs, but there's enough variation across the levels that it keeps you surprised as to what you are actually going to encounter.
Boss battles are epic, and really give you a sense of "end-game". The entire level, you are plowing through weaker enemies, getting pumped up only to have more of a strategic boss fight waiting for you at the end.
Controls are probably where this game excels the most. When you look at isometric games, one of the major problems that come along with them are the horrible controls. But these controls are simple, and very effective in ensuring the game play doesn't become hindered. It's only a few buttons, and it does it all. One for attacks, one for blocks, and one for magic. It's that easy. No complication combos to frustrate the hell out of you. This game knows what it needs to do to make it enjoyable.
The one major flaw for this game? It's insanely short, just like most other arcade style hack n slash games. Give yourself an hour, and if you're any decent at this game, you can breeze through it. But, the game does offer enough replay-ability to experiment with other classes that it can be revisited numerous times.
Maybe it's just me, but I really felt like this game was a bit ahead of its time. It had the inklings of being something epic, but due to the restrictions they were probably a bit limited. But it's the simplicity of the game play, and the fact that this game remains so enjoyable is what makes this one of the best Genesis games today.