#67: Golvellius (1988 Sega)

067golvellius

We’re now entering the home stretch of 1988 and we’re greeted by another attempt by Sega to bring their own version of a competitor’s classic to the Master System. With Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda continuing to burn up the sales charts Sega enlisted Compile to present their own take on the top-down action/adventure theme and decided to go with this port from the MSX computer in Japan. While Golvellius is in fact a Zelda clone at heart, a few unique features were tossed in to keep it from being too blatant of a copy, and it may even remind gamers of another famous Compile game, the Guardian Legend. The result may not quite knock Zelda from the top of the heap due to a few annoyances, but it certainly gives a strong effort while giving SMS die-hards their own fun quest.

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Link wasn’t available for this mission, so this is who they sent instead.

This game puts you in the boots of a young lad named Kelesis who’s out to do what all adventure game heroes do, and that’s rescuing princesses and slaying evil demon lords. In this case he’s searching for Princess Rena after she traveled to a dying river valley in search of a special herb to help her ailing father King Aleid but ended up captured by an ancient ruler named Golvellius and hidden somewhere in the so-called ‘Valley of Doom’. Naturally Kelesis embarks on a quest to rescue Rena but must first search for seven mystical crystals which are hidden throughout the monster-infested land, plus Golvellius has dispatched seven demon underlings to guard the different regions. So obviously Kelesis has to find and kill the demons and obtain the crystals before he can duel with Golvellius himself.

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We don’t like your kind here, kid.

Much of your quest takes place on the ‘overworld’ which is divided into seven regions including swamps, deserts, forests, graveyards and others, and uses a Zelda-style setup to document your travels. Basically you make your way across the land screen-by-screen killing the different monsters found in each screen to earn gold. Eliminating a certain amount of creatures or striking the correct object will also cause a hole to appear that serves as an entrance to a cave. Most of the caves contain old wise women who are ready to sell you helpful items such as stronger swords, shields to ward off enemy projectiles, potions to increase your health meter (not unlike Zelda’s heart containers) and other items, as long as you have the money to purchase them (otherwise the woman responds with a snarky remark and orders you to leave). You do have a limit to how much gold you can carry at the beginning, but the max can be increased by purchasing ‘bibles’. Other characters can be found, such as fairies that either give you hints or spout some nonsense, and a wizard that can record your progress. Compile’s unofficial mascot, the Blue Lander (known as Randar in this cart) also puts in an appearance and will refill your health and potions for a small fee.

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Geez, sorry, lady.

Eventually you need to find the special dungeon which contains the boss of each region and once you enter the game switches to one of two types of underground segments that are alternated. The side scrolling stages are simple platforming challenges as you dash through the cave eliminating the creatures that cross your path. Thing is you can only go forward and can’t backtrack or even face the opposite direction, and if you go off the left side of the screen you find yourself back on the overworld and will need the start the stage again. Unfortunately the game forces you to do this if you run into a dead end, and it’s also slightly unfair to restart if an enemy knocks you backward and out of the tunnel. The other dungeons are overhead vertical deals that feature automatic scrolling as you march forward cutting down anything in your way, feeling much like a shooter. Once again if you’re forced off the bottom of the screen it’s back to the start of the stage, which results in lots of annoying trial and error attempts since dead ends often appear without warning. If you somehow make it to the end of the level you battle the boss one-on-one and defeating it will open the path to the next region but you first need to locate and purchase the crystal before you can proceed to the next area.

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Indy would have a heart attack if he had to come in this cave.

The overworld segments have a few flaws of their own that can be a bit of an annoyance as well. The sword is your only weapon throughout the entire game and you don’t have any ranged secondary arms at your disposal, so you have to always fight in close quarters. Odds are you will most likely take damage, especially since enemies respawn endlessly and can easily overwhelm you, and you also have to worry about flying foes that come at you from many different angles. In addition most of the important quest items are quite expensive so prepare to spend some time killing lots of creatures to earn the necessary funds. Once you do spend that cash it’s time for more grinding for more money for the next item, which gets pretty time-consuming. When you die you have unlimited continues which lets you restart with all your items but you must begin back at the mouth of the valley every time. Fortunately boots can be purchased that enable you to walk on water or in the air which open up shortcuts between each area. Also the game relies on an inconveniently long password system to record your progress instead of a battery.

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This is why you don’t leave the screen door open at night.

But that’s not to say Golvellius isn’t a good game, in fact the positives manage to far outweigh the issues. The game offers a large world to explore with plenty to find, especially once you open the path to each new region, and the dungeon segments are a nice change of pace to the action. Once you have the boots and the ring that enables you to break rock it’s fun to go back to previous areas to discover new secrets. The characters you meet in the caves also have a nice touch of personality to them, especially the old women. The graphics are very good, certainly better than Zelda’s visuals, starting with the well-drawn scenes for the intro and ending as well as the portraits for your cave-dwelling allies. The various terrains do a solid job fleshing out the overworld with its good use of colors and textures, and the in-game character sprites are also nicely done and detailed, especially the bosses that have some cool designs. The one knock is the game does rely on palette-swapping quite a bit to pad out its beastiary. The background music is nicely den and fits with your questing, and in fact it changes with every new sword or shield you acquire. As usual the sound effects are hit or miss but nothing too terrible.

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You need a haircut, hippie.

So when all is said and done, even with all its warts Golvellius is still a top-notch and enjoyable cartridge which does a great job of giving Sega players their own Zelda experience while adding its own twist on the formula. While the game would have benefited from some polishing up, you still have a fun quest that will require a good amount of hours to complete. The ending is also worth the investment in time, though it promises a sequel that never got made. Overall definitely give this game a shot.

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