Golvellius: Valley of Doom Review

Developer: Compile/Sega Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1988 Also On: MSX

Do they make games like this anymore? I remember going to the old mall when I was younger and purchasing The Legend of Zelda the day it came out. Quite a day and one of the most legendary games ever, it completely revolutionized the industry. Of course, Sega being Nintendo’s only major competitor during the 8-Bit era, had to come up with something to compete. Later in the life of the Master System, they would release Golden Axe Warrior, which though a duplicate game in many respects, was much more expansive than Zelda and slightly more innovative in certain areas. However, even before this Sega made an attempt to create an adventure game with RPG elements that would fill the void for SMS fans. They decided to port a title released for the little known MSX in Japan, updating the graphics and layout significantly. Of course, it’s clear Zelda was the influence here, but don’t be fooled, Golvellius is a great title that any SMS fan or even Zelda fan will enjoy. It has its faults, but it’s one that deserves some more attention.

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With an excellent title screen, a wonderful usage of colors and generally superb detail, Golvellius presents quite well. The color scheme is vibrant with a lot of variety in scenery with everything from rivers and lava flows to graveyards and maze-like forests. Your character is animated well, though I find his sword slashing weak. It looks like a simple line, a rapier at best, and clearly does not suggest the thick, cleaving weapon on the cover. Even aside from this it just doesn’t look very good, too simple. Based on the title screen, I think they should have worked on that little aspect since you see it all the time.

The basic enemies are a mixed bag. They all look fine, but some are a little too simple for my tastes. Now, of course, they were in Zelda, but they also had simplicity that fit the scenery and action. In Golvellius, some of the creatures look like they were programmed a little sloppy or simply look silly depending on where you are in the game. The bosses are a nice display of the graphical potential of the system, though some of the animations are choppy. I was also unfond of the cavern segments, especially the horizontally scrolling ones, because your character’s animations just don’t look right. They’re not bad, it’s that the way he swings his sword and moves around doesn’t really get you into the action. Lots of detail, however, especially on the characters you meet in various caves.

Now the sound category is where Golvellius really shines with some of the best music I’ve ever heard on the SMS. Like Zelda, there is a repeating track depending on the area you’re wandering about, and then a few others for the various characters you meet. The first theme is lighter than the others, and almost seems to give that feeling of beginning, which is exactly what you’re doing. As you progress and get important items, the theme changes to be more intense. I really liked how they changed the music depending on the sword you find, armor or what not, works well and adds variety to all of the searching you have to do.

The music for the final boss level is what really caught my attention, probably one of the best songs I’ve ever heard for an 8-Bit title, nicely done. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the sound effects. Some of them are great, such as the wooshing sound when you find hidden caverns or the sound while you bash enemies. Others, however, some of which are integral to the overall feeling of the game are out of place. Your sword slashing unfortunately sounds more like someone cleaning off a mirror, I really can’t describe it any better than that and this should tell you something. Because of similar issues, I need to bring the score down a bit, but I can say the music is excellent all around and manages to keep this category fairly high in spite of the effects.

Golvellius plays essentially the same way as The Legend of Zelda for the NES with some features of its own, different items, a different plot and so forth. There’s no denying the influence since it plays so similar to Zelda in many respects, but this doesn’t mean it’s not without merit. I wouldn’t say it’s as spectacular and epic, but it’s definitely worth a look for RPG and adventure fans because it has plenty to offer. The plot definitely caught my attention. Golvellius, an evil king, has introduced demons and other creatures into a valley the city of Aleid uses for its water supply. Because of this, no one can go into the valley and it becomes called the Valley of Doom, thus the title. The king becomes so depressed from the problems facing his city that he grows ill, his daughter goes into the valley to find a medicinal herb to cure him, never returns, and then you, the warrior Kelesis, vow to find her and find Golvellius, if he exists, to destroy him. Essentially it’s similar, but I found it really unique how they worked with the plot and made it seem more realistic instead of simply evil guy take girl, go get, kill, uhhhhhhhhhhh. Of course, you have to collect something along the way, but don’t think it’s just to stop Ganon or something like that, there’s a really good reason you need to collect the crystals, it’s not just the programmers copying all of the basic format without a reason. You’ll find out when you play it….

Anyway, so Kelesis can attack with his sword, collecting gold from each kill without having to pick anything up, move around, find secrets, talk to characters to uncover mysteries in the game, collect items and so forth. In terms of mechanics, it’s essentially the same thing as The Legend of Zelda with its own items, all of which help you get closer to Golvellius. I did like the fact that the items you collect can not only help you progress further in the game, they also can be used to go way back to areas you were unable to traverse earlier, finding new items and new secrets. That’s one thing I didn’t like about Zelda, you get an item and use it here and there, but never enough where it’s that integral to the game. Here, when you get an item, expect to be using it all over the place. I must say that some of them could have used some effects though. For example, the aqua boots enable you to walk on water. Cool, that’s cool, but couldn’t you guys program the game so my feet make little splashes or something on the water? It’s a little too obvious you just tweaked the code a bit so he moves over it. Come on, do a bit extra for that little oomph of detail.

Aside from some faults like this and the obvious fact that it’s lifted Zelda’s format almost entirely, Golvellius is really a great game and definitely a lot harder. It takes awhile to uncover everything and find all of the bosses, not to mention the fact that the environment you move around is almost two times the size of the world in Zelda, with a lot more variety in many respects. It’s obvious when the designers were trying to be different, like how you have to collect bibles to increase your gold and especially how you have to go through these action levels before fighting the boss. These are strange and somewhat annoying. Some are vertically scrolling, and if you don’t move fast enough and get trapped, the screen catches up to you and you have to start it over again. Or, some of them are horizontal but you control the movement.

The enemies on these levels are generally weak and almost unnecessary, along with the partial secrets to get to the end of these segments. It’s clear they wanted to do something different than the classic labyrinth introduced by Zelda, but I’m not too sure what they decided upon was the best option. Get to the end of these and you fight the bosses, which are generally very challenging and thankfully each one is different. No pallette swapping or swiping of regular level enemies for bosses. And of course, the biggest problem this game has unfortunately, the controls. They’re very awkward at first and take some getting used to because your character doesn’t seem to move as responively as he needs to. I looked around and found several reviews commenting on this, so it’s definitely not me this time. Be prepared for a bit of learning with it. At any rate, in spite of mimickry and somewhat questionable controls, the fun factor here can’t be ignored.

Here’s where I need to be a little harsh. Golvellius is definitely a fun game, but creative it is not. It’s generally stripped everything from The Legend of Zelda and made very little attempt at doing anything different. What has been done differently is obviously forced, because it seems to me the designers felt they had to do something different, but weren’t sure exactly where to go so they just came up with something and went with it. There’s no reason to collect bibles so you can gather more money, all that does is force you to look around more to find the damn things and thus makes the game longer. And why the character Dina, who sucks some of your blood (energy) for cash? Ummm, no, I’ll just sit outside your little cave here and collect money by killing monsters instead of partially harming myself for hardly anything.

The action levels before the bosses are pointless as well, they should have just stuck with the labyrinth idea because it’s obvious they were struggling to do something different and this is all they could come up with. Of course, it makes sense to have to go through a cave before fighting the monsters, but why have them vertically scrolling and why have you start over again if the screen catches up with you? Are these magical caves? Why during the horizontal ones, when I touch the left side of the screen I go outside again? More magic, or were you trying to annoy the piss out of me? In some instances, it should be known, you need to do this because you sometimes come to a double path, one up and one below, and one of them leads to a dead end, so you have to start over. Fine, but do you know how annoying that is? It’s much more fun to play a game like this using skill on the spot instead of guessing where I need to go and then remembering when I go through it again and again and again. It just doesn’t make any sense until you realize they were just trying to be innovative. Sorry guys, I can tell you were trying to make another Zelda for the MSX to compete and then Sega figured hey there’s a game already for us let’s take it, can’t give creative credit for that. It has some creative aspects, but not enough.

Though it has its faults, Golvellius is an entertaining title and I’d definitely play it again in the future. I was half tempted to start it over after I beat it for some strange reason. With an excellent ending sequence and tons of areas to investigate, this is one game you’ll play more than once. In addition, look to be playing this for at least three weeks. Keep in mind I managed around that playing about an hour a day with a map to see where I needed to go, without it could easily lead you to be playing this one for a few months, which is great for this kind of game. High marks in this category.

In conclusion, I must say I was happy with Golvellius: Valley of Doom after I completed it. I’ve been picking at this game here and there in the past, never really taking too much time to get too far into it and then when it came time to finally do so I was very impressed, even considering its faults. There weren’t too many games like this back in the day, I assume because tackling the genre basically started or at least revolutionized by The Legend of Zelda was a daunting task for anyone, let alone a competing company. Clearly it wouldn’t have been easy to duplicate the format while being original, but I do think they could have fixed a few issues such as those I mentioned above. Still, if you’re looking for an introductory title for the Master System’s library, this is definitely one to check out.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 7.5
Creativity: 3
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 7.8
Written by Stan Review Guide

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