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Paladin's Quest

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Reviewed by Paul Morelli Paladin's Quest was released by Enix of Dragon Quest fame for Super Nintendo, but unfortunately ended up being lost in the roar of the Final Fantasy games for the same system. It's an obscure game, but a good one. The story goes something like this: Chezni (the main character, whom you control) accidentally activates an ancient machine of destruction called Dal Gren. You spend the game trying to stop Dal Gren and an evil sorcerer, Zaygos, who is trying to use it. The story has some surprising turns, nothing genius, but it keeps you interested. The game plays through like any RPG - battling through caves/towers, fighting bosses, keeping your levels up, etc. You can enlist many different people to join your party, and learning how to use each of them adds some variety.

Graphics 7 out of 10

Well, 7/10 might not be misleading. I give this game a perfect score for the graphics in battles, and maybe a 5/10 otherwise. In towns and on the map, the graphics are pretty mediocre. Your characters, and other people you meet, sometimes look pretty ordinary, and the backgrounds can be repetitive. The backgrounds are bright and colorful too, sometimes too much so and they look a bit cheesy. Even so, people in this game are of many different races, so there's a lot of variety between towns as to what people look like and how the towns are set up, and that's a big plus. The battles are great, though. You see the enemy parties (and some of them are huge) head on, from a first person perspective. You don't see your party, but each of your allies has a box at the bottom of the screen telling you how many HP they have. The monsters look really cool; they're detailed and colorful and there's a lot of variety. Some are huge, some are small, some in between. You don't get bored of fighting the same things too many times. Another thing that's really effective in PQ's battles is how the monsters attack you. Instead of just flashing at you (ahem, Final Fantasy), you see them swing a sword, swipe a claw, fire a cannon, raise their hands to summon a spell, or whatever. Some enemies move, too - an attacking bird flaps its wings to stay aloft, a strange monster has skulls rotating about it, the evil Zaygos has rays of power streaming about him, and so on. Very cool, it gives it a great sense of realism. Backgrounds in battles are also bright and detailed, and most of your spells look awfully cool. Not seeing your party is a drawback, though. Late in the game, you have to fight some battles in black and white, and here the detail of the background will drive you nuts since it becomes tough to see where the enemies are. Nonetheless, I can't stop raving about how cool the battles look.

Music and Sound 10 out of 10

One of this game's biggest strong points, if you ask me. (and since you're reading my review, you DID ask me.) The music tracks are cool, especially as you get farther into the game (early on, they tend to repeat the same few). But the tunes are really cool. You get two different tracks for random fights, one for fights outside and another for fights in caves and similar places, which are cool (especially the outside fight), and really cool track when you fight a boss. I always look forward to fighting bosses just for the music. This game could use a few more tracks, maybe, but is great to listen to. In addition, the sound effects, though not perfectly realistic, are crisp and clear and percussive and come off really well. For example, when a weapon hits it makes a cool swiping sound (which is different for different types of weapons). Spells make great sounds too; protection spells make a cool cymbal-crash sound when they hit an ally, and attack spells have really satisfying sounds when they hit. So many RPGs have such tinny sounding attacks, making the deep, powerful, clear sounds of PQ really stand out.

Game Challenge 10 out of 10

Another big score here. This game is not easy at all, yet moves along at a really good pace and never becomes horrendously difficult or frustrating. The battles do not occur every three or four steps (a big fault of the Dragon Warrior games, I think), but are farther between. This is nice - battle after battle just drives me nuts. PQ, though, really makes you think about those battles once you're into them. Fights take a while in this game, longer on average than any other RPG I've ever played. Usually, a large enemy party (often 8 or more) with 3 or 4 different kinds of enemies will attack you, and the enemies in PQ take a while to nail - they have lots of HP's. This is great if you actually like strategy and planning in RPG fights. (If you don't, go play a shallower game like Final Fantasy 3 that requires none.) The game forces you to use good strategy in fights because they're so long that if you plan poorly, it will catch up to you. Another thing that makes this game challenging is the unusual system of magic. There is no MP in this game, and casting spells just eats up your HP. (I can't decide if I like that idea or not.) And you have to cast your spells often to get them strong - your spells start out weak and gradually (VERY gradually) get stronger the more you use them. This is kind of cool and kind of not - I like the idea, but it takes sooo long to get your magic up, it's kind of irritating. If you get all of your magic to about 3/4 of the way full, you're in really good shape. If you fall behind in levels, the fights quickly become impossible. This game doesn't require too much leveling up between tasks, but if you spend too much time running from monsters, you'll fall behind fast. But as long as you avoid that, the game provides an even, if steep, challenge throughout.

Game Play-Fun 7.5 out of 10

I've spent a lot of time raving about the battles, which I find to be the game's strong point, but there are some things in PQ which could use some work. Here's the big one: the translation stink. It's just awful. Your tasks are pretty clear, but the story never entirely makes sense and the people you talk to word things very badly, in some cases so badly you're not really sure what they're trying to tell you. The characters, even the two heroes, never develop anything even close to a personality. There are no interesting people in this game and that makes the story part of it weak. (Here's where Paladin's Quest could take a cue from Final Fantasy 3.) What drives the characters? The player never finds out. Lack of insight into the story is a big fault of this game, and I'd guess it's this fault that caused it to sell so badly. Other than that, Paladin's Quest scores high for fun. You get to do cool things, not just go-to-this-cave-get-this-item over and over. The game takes you on a twisting journey all over a vast world. Any of you ever played Lufia II? Isn't it awful how the tasks you have to do just seem to be the same task, over and over and over and over and over and ... ? Paladin's Quest is not afflicted with this lack of game play creativity. Near the end of Paladin's Quest, you even take a journey back in time and meet the legendary heroes you've been hearing about the whole game. (When you're in the past, your party appears in color and everything also is black and white. Great effect.) You also meet a lot a soldiers for hire in this game, in fact there are about twenty of them, whom you can hire and fire whenever you please. Each has their own style, their own strengths and weaknesses, so this adds a lot of variety to the game play. Another great thing about Paladin's Quest battles: entering your commands is extremely quick. I can't say enough good things about the way the battle menu is set up. Instead of having to move a cursor to your selection then press a button, with Paladin's Quest you tap the control pad in the right direction. You can enter four people's commands in seconds (the game also makes it really easy to correct one if you screwed up, no need to go all the way back and do it all again), and with only one hand. I can't totally describe the system here, but it's just beautifully simple and intuitive.

Frustration

As stated above, the translation difficulties are the worst thing. The characters have no human feelings, the story is really tough to relate to or figure out. That's the fatal flaw of this game.

Replayability 10 out of 10

I've played through this game a great many times, trying different things. There are so many possible parties you can have at the end since you can hire two mercenaries and for the same reason the whole game can be different every time through. The game is also just fun in general, the battles don't get too repetitive, the sounds don't get old, you won't get tired of this game as quickly as most.

Game Value

Depends on how you see it really. I'd gladly pay $70 for this great game if I didn't already have a copy, but if you're into beautiful cinema scenes and character development and think that's what makes an RPG, maybe you'd disagree. This game is not easy to find now, being a rather poor seller.

Overall 9 out of 10

A great game, ranks right up there with Final Fantasy 2 as my favorite Super NES RPG. If you're tired of games like Final Fantasy 3 and Chrono Trigger and such that require little strategy or thought to finish, Paladin's Quest is for you. It may lack the fanfare of a gripping story, but as an enjoyable and challenging game, few RPGs beat Paladin's Quest.

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