An in-depth story, great cinemas, eye-pleasing graphics, and strategic turn-based combat. If you were to ask me for Septerra Core in a nutshell, that would be it.
The story in Septerra Core is deeply illustrated within the game, but unfortunately the instruction manual goes to no great pains to immerse you in the history of Septerra Core. In fact, the jewel case booklet was the only instruction manual with the game and it contained nothing about what I was getting into. The publisher's website had an *amazing* amount of information. Why this wasn't put into a printed book is beyond me, as much work went into the website. The absence of a printed manual aside, the storyline *was* immersive and well fleshed out. I did not find it hard to get "into" the game itself.
Cinema cut-scenes are really becoming an expectation in most games, especially RPGs, and Septerra Core does not disappoint. Watching the cutscenes in Septerra Core was akin to watching anime, and it's easy to notice just how inspired the game was from the popular japanese cartooning style. I experienced some sparotic choppyness while playing the cinemas (in full install on a Celeron 500), but many I spoke with that have played the game reported no such lag. The cinema cutscenes both look and sound amazing.
Graphics in Septerra Core are nothing revolutionary, but are still well-detailed and nice to look at. It is unfortunate that the game utilizes a 2D graphic engine, but the characters still shine with an anime-inspired look. The backgrounds in Septerra Core are *very* nicely done and incredibly detailed. The colour scheme sometimes detracts from the background, but it is hard to miss the intricate level of design that went into them.
The voice acting in Septerra Core is amazing, and the mouths actually move with the voices! Unfortunately, the sound effects used in the game *REALLY* get on one's nerves after a short while. As well, background music is completely missing from some parts of the game, and you'll find yourself trekking along in absolute silence. Mood setting music throughout the game would have definately kept my attention better and on the edge of my seat.
The combat in Septerra Core requires strategy more than anything. Characters all have special abilities and three different types of attack (heavy, medium and light). The key to being successful in fights is to piece your group together with a mix of strong fighters and resourceful groupmates. While weaker party members will lack the brute force, they'll make it up in their special abilities and attacks. This brings me to my next point.
The 'magic' system in Septerra Core is quite interesting and is based on "fate cards" which players collect throughout the game. Cards hold spells ranging from aggresive attack spells to protective or healing spells, and can be combined to create new spell effects. Each spell requires 'core power', which you get more and more of as you gain experience and levels.
Finally, the gameplay itself is fun and really gets you into the game, but the game itself really runs on a solid path. If you've ever played any King's Quest, Space Quest, Quest For Glory, Police Quest, or pretty much any early adventure game, you'll recognize the 'you didn't trade the man your hat for a key, now you can't get into the door' scenario. You really have to take things one step at a time, and aside from a few sub-quests, you really don't have the freedom you do in say, Baldur's Gate. The storyline *IS* enjoyable, you just are not given much leeway to explore.
When all is said and done, Septerra Core is a good game.. and a very brave little title. With established games like Final Fantasy as your competitors, you've really got to give something a little bit different and special, and Septerra Core does.
Graphics: Anime-inspired and well-done. Backgrounds are absol-flippin-lutely amazing!
Sound: Superb voice acting, boring special effects and not enough music.
Enjoyment: The crowning glory of an RPG: great and immersive storyline, and an interesting cast of characters.
Replay Value: Not much room is left to go back and explore. You may find yourself bored after you know all the secrets and the plot no longer has any twists.
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