Thursday, 22 July 2010

Dark Savior [PAL-E] Saturn Review

My God, this review has been a struggle and a half to finish.  Currently my feelings towards this game are not good, as I will go into in a little bit, but I shall try to be objective as possible.   I’ve owned this game for years and years, and when I decided to choose it for my next review I decided to play it all the way through again from start to finish.  That didn’t quite happen... Frustration has taken the best of me and I will not waste any more of my time on this game.   I did actually get right to the end of the game, but a glitch left me trapped and unable to finish the game properly RIGHT AT THE END! Not good is it Climax?... 
I've fully completed this game before, so I will try not to let the glitch taint this review as I'm sure it's a rare occurance.

For those that don’t know, Dark Savior is an action adventure (RPG-ish) game made by Climax Entertainment, the developers responsible for famed Mega Drive RPG, Landstalker.  This game is often mistaken for a sequel (or spiritual sequel if you will) to Landstalker, but in reality Dark Savior is a very different game.  A real sequel to Landstalker was actually released as Lady Stalker for the Super Nintendo and was only released in Japan.

Dark Savior is played from an isometric viewpoint and in that respect plays similarly to Landstalkers.  You play as Garian, a bounty hunter sent to escort the evil Bilan to Jailers Island to be Carbon Frozen.  When the monser escapes, you must run as fast you can to find Bilan and stop him.  From this moment a timer appears on the screen.  Dark Savior is unique in that there are actually 4 different versions of the game to be played (known as parallels).  Depending on how long it takes for you to reach the captain’s cabin, a different outcome will occur.  The game will then take a different route.  When you’ve completed the parallel, the game will save and restart to back to the ship in which Garian will awake from a dream.  The aim is to complete all 3 parallels and then the final 4th parallel will commence straight after the third parallel.  This makes the game very interesting to play, especially since references will be made between the 4 parallels, but you won’t get the full story until you play them all.  It’s definitely quite an original concept and adds replay value to the gamer.  Each parallel differs slightly in length, but none are more than about 4 or 5 hours.  In total the game is about 12 – 15 hours long, so unfortunately isn’t too long despite the multiple stories.

In terms of the gameplay, as previously stated, this is an isometric 3D action adventure game.  Isometric games can be quite an acquired taste.  Those who find them frustrating will most likely find this game suffers from the same problems.  Dark Savior is heavily platform oriented and often you will be jumping from platform to platform.  This can be incredibly annoying as one wrong move can lead  to you falling to your death.  With an isometric viewpoint it can be difficult to calculate exactly how to jump to next platform, especially if you’re on one of those pesky platforms that will quickly collapse under your feet unless you move fast.  Luckily, with this being a 32-bit era game, Climax did consider this issue and added a camera control feature.  Dark Savior makes good use of the 3D controller, with the analogue stick being used to move the camera around the player.  The L and R triggers are also used to move the camera.  This does help the problems at times, but it by no means solves them.

Unlike many similar games that preceded this, Dark Savior has a unique combat mode.  It may be unique, but it’s not particularly good.  Instead of engaging in combat similar to that of Landstalker, Light Crusader or Zelda, when you are approached by an enemy, you enter a fighting mode.  This has the camera zoomed in on the players and you must fight the enemy much like how you would in a beat ‘em up.  Whilst this is a novel concept, it doesn’t really work too well in practice.  It’s not terrible, but it could have been put to better use.  The main problem is it’s incredibly easy and very simple.  Basically you have A as your attack button, B is jump and you use the direction button to move.  If you hold down A your special bar will gradually fill and once full you will be able to perform a special attack.  This makes battles both repetitive and a chore.  Variety is added by the ability to capture enemies to later use in battle (think Pokemon), but the simple control system really does let the combat down.

Graphically, Dark Savior is quite attractive.  The game is made up of a mixture of 2D sprites and 3D polygons.  Most of the time the mixture of the 2D and 3D animation works tremendously well together considering the mixture of graphics, but at times it can be fairly ugly.  When you are engaged in combat, the camera zooms in and the character sprites are particularly jagged and ugly.  In addition, the mine cart scene in the game doesn’t look the best.  When Dark Savior does it well though, it does it well.  For example, the Silver Castle level features numerous platforms in the sky and the depth is phenomenal.  You have to see it to believe it.  It’s definitely one of the best parts of the game.  Adding to the mood of the game, the music and sound is also above average.  Although it is nothing groundbreaking, the sound is never bad and at times can work really well.

Overall, Dark Savior is a good adventure game, but it is let down by frustrating controls and awkward combat.  The story, despite being cheesy at times (in particular the dialogue), is generally very good.  Although one of the redeeming features of the game is the story, unfortunately some of the parallel endings are a little naff.  There's also a bonus (secret) 5th parallel that can be unlocked, but it's just a simple fighting game (which can also be played 2 player).  In my opinion Dark Savior is worth playing (especially if you’re a fan of Climax Entertainment’s other games), but you might want to try it before you buy it to see if you can put up with the game’s shortcomings.

Gameplay:          7/10
Graphics:             7/10
Sound:                  7.5/10
Longevity:           7/10
Originality:          7.5/10

OVERALL:            7/10


  1. I'm a bit confused on the parallels bit. Let's say you start on parallel 3. Once you have finished, and you return to the ship, if you get to the cabin on time to trigger parallel 3 again, do you just play that same one again? Will you just have to keep beating the different parallels until you have beat them all?

    Thanks for the clarification.


  2. Yes, you're right. I think I understand what you're asking.

    Basically it is ideal to play the parallels in order (and it's unlikely not to), but it doesn't have to be that way.

    If you get to the ship before 2 minutes then you play Parallel 3. If you get there after, but before 3 minutes 30, then you play Parallel 2. If you get there after 3 minutes 30, then you play parallel 1. It is very unlikely on your first game that you will be able to get there quick enough to play parallel 2 or 3 though.

    Parallel 4 starts straight after Parallel 3. The aim is to basically complete them all, yes.

    I hope that's a bit clearer. I'm not the best at trying to explain it sorry.

  3. No worries. I just wasn't sure if...
    1) it was possible to keep playing the same parallel over and over
    2) if all parallels had to be finished before the game was 'complete'. Or if one could simply get parallel 3 from the beginning (maybe it's not even possible) and then finish the game without doing 1 and 2.

    So if you are really horrible at the game and keep getting to the cabin too late, would you just play parallel 1 over and over again?

    Maybe items you get in the parallels help you get to the cabin faster when you 'start over'. I've only played the game for the first few minutes and the guides don't seem to be very concise.

    Thanks again. And thanks for the review, by the way. This game is next up on my list after I finish 'Virtual Hydlide' (currently playing through all English text RPGs on the Saturn).


  4. Ah I understand what you're asking. Yes, it is possible to play the same parallel over and over again. You can also just skip straight to 3 and 4 if you want, although I would advise against it personally as it's better to see the full story first.

    It's really easy to get to the cabin quick enough to start parallel 3, but it's unlikely you will on your first go. Not unless you've read excessively about the game (and if you have, you'd probably want to start on parallel 1 anyways). The reason for this is, because :
    1) You probsbly won't be aware about the parallels system properly
    2) You won't have played before, so the ship will be a completely alien location to you.
    3) To get to the cabin quick enough for parallels 2 or 3, it's pretty much mandatory to take the various shortcuts, many of which are fairly hidden.

    Basically, I advise you just get familiar with the layout of the ship on your first go. Take your time. Then you should start with parallel 1. Afterwards you can either read a guide to find the shortcuts, or you might have discovered a lot on your first go. You can keep resetting the game though until you manage to get to the cabin in the desired time limit. That's what I did I believe.

    Good luck with the game and thanks for the comments. You're welcome for the review, I hope you enjoyed it. Please continue to read my blog, I should have some new posts coming at some point. If you have any more questions or feedback to offer, then feel free to comment. Thanks again.