(Editor’s note: This review was originally published in 2003 on Dreamcaster’s Realm, mine and Graham’s very first SEGA site. Aside from fixing some formatting and spelling or grammatical errors, this review is presented in its original, crappy form.)
Time Stalkers was one of the first RPGs for the Dreamcast and was released March 28, 2000, and was published by SEGA and developed by Climax Entertainment.
The game thrusts you into the role of Sword – a young, cocky warrior, who, at first, never wants to help anyone out. Time Stalkers starts off with Sword walking through a forest when some big, friggin’ guy chunks an axe at you and runs off. What a wuss. So our hero chases him to a castle where things really get crazy. As soon as he gets in, the walls start changing and doors suddenly turn into walls. You’ll soon meet your attacker, and after disposing of him, you’ll find yourself leaving the castle and walking into a different world altogether.
After talking to a clichéd old wise man, you learn that you have passed the test and are therefore considered a hero – a hero who has been summoned to save a world that is dying. It might be important to point out that this isn’t your average world. It seems that some divine power has been taking chunks of different worlds and molding them together like Play-Doh. You’ll also be given a house of your own and your own butler named Mutton, which is pretty hilarious considering he’s a sheep.
Shortly after you’re introduction into the world, another chunk of landmass comes crashing down into your new world. This one is a volcanic island with a native on it. The other pieces of the world seem to be some kind of futuristic space ship, a floating turtle with a rabbit living on it and a chunk out of present-day Japan. I gotta say this is a cool idea. I won’t go through explaining the entire game for you because that would ruin too much for you, and I’m just too lazy.
Eventually, you’ll meet up with a beastman, a thief, a fairy and a few other so-called heroes who will join your quest as you progress through the game.
Considering this is 2003, this game shows its age. You can actually see lines in everyone’s joints, and the characters, while having great personality, are not that impressive. Plus, I can’t tell if Sword has a mustache or if it’s his mouth.
One thing that is kinda cool is that the weapon you equip is shown on your character.
While inside dungeons, you can rotate the camera 360 degrees with the trigger buttons. I have to say that this is a blessing because if the camera was fixed in one position, you’d be stumbling around like a blind man.
I also have to tell you about one thing that gets on my nerves. The clipping in this game is horrendous. You can be running against a wall and half of your body is on the other side of the wall. This is really unacceptable, and while I know that it is a small gripe and doesn’t affect the gameplay, I hate it nonetheless.
I’ve got to point out one the most glaring weakness in the game, and it was something that could have been easily fixed. I don’t know if the game’s director was out sick this day when this decision was made or what but as soon as you beat a dungeon, which the only way to gain experience is killing enemies in dungeons, you revert back to level one. I don’t understand the logic in this.
Part of the coolest areas in RPGs is leveling your party into a kick-ass killing machine. But in Time Stalkers, you will always go back to the lowly level one after you work to beat a boss. (Nice incentive, eh?) The only reward for beating a dungeon is getting a new title added to your name. At first, you begin as “Weakling,” but these get much cooler as you go on. Still, it doesn’t make up for the inability to retain your experience.
Speaking of the dungeons, let me talk a little about the fighting system. The game gives you the normal RPG commands of attack, defend, magic or items (By the way, I don’t think I have ever used the defend option … EVER!). But Time Stalkers adds another option to make things a little interesting. A Capture command is available and when you use it, the player you’re controlling throws out a capsule and depending on the enemy’s Capture Rate, you might capture yourself a little buddy (a la Pokemon). This really adds a cool touch to the game.
After you beat the dungeon, you can release your captured creatures into a small building. From there, you can add up to three creatures to round out your group. It’s really fun to build your creatures up to higher levels. But you have to watch out because each one has a loyalty number, and if the number is too low, it will probably not listen to you in battle. That can make the difference between victory and defeat.
While attacking, you have a few different fighting abilities depending on the weapon you have equipped. Basically, it’s like a light, medium and heavy blow. Each of these uses a certain number of vitality points. If you use up all of your vitality, you will have to wait until it recharges or you can always eat a vitality apple to speed things up.
I would have also liked to have been able to hold a few more items while in dungeons, too. Far too many times have I been walking through a dungeon low on health and had to drop another item just to pick up an apple to restore my hit points.
Please make no mistake in thinking that you are picking up a Grandia 2 or Skies of Arcadia. This game, while entertaining, just doesn’t have the engrossing storyline of those games.
I have already laid out the opening sequences of the game, but as I progressed through it, I rarely thought to myself that I cared two-shits if this world was obliterated and the game ended right there. That may be a little harsh, but when playing an RPG, you should care about the characters, and sadly, you probably won’t feel that manly connection that you might have had with Cloud.
I know that this game came out early on in the Dreamcast’s life, but it could have used some voice acting instead of the same boring, old text that was the standard at the time. But when I’m looking at a Dreamcast RPG, I want the most realistic game I can get.
Sadly enough, the music isn’t anything to write home about either. Only when you get into the dungeons, is there anything worth mentioning. At times, the dungeon music helps lay out the mood of what may happen next.
Other than going through the game and buying some nifty little VMU games, there really isn’t any replay value. As far as I know, there are no alternative endings or secrets that you can unlock.
One of the more fun VMU games is a dungeon crawler that looks a lot like the old NES Wizadry games. This is pretty cool too, but wouldn’t ya know that once you stop playing, you lose your God Da*n Mother F**king, Sh*t-head, P8*sy-sh**ing experience, just like in the main game!!! IS THERE NO END TO THIS MADNESS?!?!
If you are an avid DC fan, then you’ll probably want to pick this game up for your collection. And people are practically giving it away on eBay. When I bought mine, I paid $4 shipped. Don’t be surprised if you can pick this game up for about the same price. (Note, the prices have changed quite a bit since this review was published.)
But if you are someone who is new to all things Dreamcast, you might want to look into Grandia 2 or Skies of Arcadia; two absolutely stellar games. You will most likely have to pay about $10 to $15 more for them than Time Stalkers, but it’s worth it.