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Sent to explore an old clock tower, our hero Sword stumbles on a mysterious book. Upon opening the book, Sword and the surrounding terrain are yanked from the world and attached to a magical, floating continent inhabited by several other such outcasts. The master of this strange world immediately labels Sword a "hero" and sends him on a quest to unite the other heroes, defeat a great evil, and return everyone to their respective worlds. The story is traditional RPG fare--the kind of average ideas we've grown to accept and even like. Every other aspect of the game, however, falls far short of average.
Free advice to all you budding game developers out there: If you're ever going to make a game that has high hopes of success, please be sure you understand why people like that type of game in the first place. While the story of Climax Landers is passable enough, its contradictory dungeon, battle, and experience systems undermine any chance the game has at being enjoyable.
Climax Landers, like Sting's Evolution, takes a development shortcut and substitutes randomly generated dungeons for actual map design. As a result, all story development must take place in the town, turning the dungeons into endless battle sequences. If Climax Landers offered battles that were actually fun, this wouldn't be a problem. The battle system is as stale as humanly imaginable and even sinks to include ancient interface issues that RPGs had supposedly long forgotten. You can only have one of the main characters at a time in your party, which essentially translates to having only one useful character in your party. To fill the other two slots, you can catch monsters à la Pokémon. When you encounter the roaming beasties in the dungeons, the characters line up to fight. In each area there are four spots for characters to inhabit, leaving one spot open for movement. Each attack has a different range, meaning that the monsters may not always be able to reach their opponents. However, not all monsters can move to another square, so they become blocked by your other characters in a position from which they cannot attack. This, in turn, also prevents the main character from attacking in many situations. Additionally, when you give the command to attack, you are giving the command to attack the location the monster is in, not the monster itself. Thus, if the monster moves before your attack connects, your character will strike nothing but air. This is particularly amusing when you are attacking the back row and the monster moves forward, causing you to run right through the monster, swipe at nothing, and then run back through it. Every weapon has multiple attack techniques users can employ, each requiring varying amounts of vitality points per attack. For the most part, these aren't balanced, and changing weapons can sometimes be fatal to your character as a result.
There is almost no point in gaining experience or developing your character in Climax Landers, because every time you start or finish a dungeon, your level drops to one. So the only reason to go into dungeons is to advance the story and get items. However, chances are you won't be able to use the good weapons and armor at level one. Additionally, characters are limited to carrying four items when entering a dungeon. Thus, the primary purpose of getting items is to sell them. The only permanent improvements you get from completing dungeons are spells and skills. However, many spells and skills can't be used until the characters' stats have reached a certain level. Thus, your characters essentially start over every time they enter a dungeon. Every battle earns experience for the characters, which in turn earns levels that raise the characters' stats. Additionally, upon completing a floor of the dungeon, you can allocate bonus points to your lower stats to let the characters use spells and skills. Like in Final Fantasy VIII, the difficulty of the monsters increases as the hero's level increases, ensuring the game is a constant challenge and never too easy. Given the monster difficulty system that's in place, it's not clear why the developers decided not to let you keep your experience from dungeon to dungeon. With the current experience system, you don't feel like you're ever getting anywhere.
There are plenty of interesting little side quests to do in Climax Landers, but none of them make the game particularly worth playing. Having a lot of excess development time on its hands, Climax programmed 10 VMU games that can be bought and collected. A majority of the games are pretty worthless. The most interesting game is a miniature paint program that lets you draw a picture and display it in the gallery attached to Sword's house. Sword can also upgrade his monster pen and his house, both of which cost a lot of money. You can also sign up for bounties with a leather-clad rabbit on the Wonderland-esque island. --Peter Bartholow
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