VrE Online
Beyond the Beyond from Camelot Co.
A closer look reveals that it should keep on going.....

Rating: graphics 81, sound 75, interface 82, fun factor 78, overall 79

Ages ago the Earth was the battle ground between light and dark. Those who fought suffered hardships, those who didn't perished. After decades of fighting and several more of negotiations, a treaty was drawn up ending the needless fighting. Beings of the Light agreed to live above the Earth and the Warlocks of the Underworld would live below in the caverns of the dark. Now after so many years there have been sightings of unusual beasts and creatures stalking the Earth. Finn, a young lad who's training for knighthood was on his way to his guardian's home, Galahad's. Unbeknownst to Finn, this trip home was just the beginning of an adventure which would change him forever.

Beyond the Beyond (BtB) is a CRPG (Console Role Playing Game) where you take on the persona of Finn. In your journeys across the world you will be joined by many friends and together you'll fight a dizzying array of enemies. Like any good RPG, BtB has good dialogue and an interesting storyline. While there is a _lot_ of combat, the combat system itself is an interesting take on turn-based fighting. The graphics are average most of the time, occasionally accented with a touch of excellence. The music is average as well, but fits the environment it's played in. The interface is simple to learn, but can be tricky to master when trying to gain an advantage in combat.

Beyond the Beyond Beyond the Beyond's strongest trait is it's storyline. The dialogue is no award winner, and even the over-all plot isn't anything original, but there are times when there is a plot twist that catches you off guard and capture your interest. There are also the obligatory sacrifices that characters in your group will make, and the characters who go off and do their own thing against your will.

The graphics in Beyond the Beyond are unfortunately average 98% of the time. You start the game out in the town of Isla and you see the events from top-down. However, it would have been nice if the view were a little closer to the action because everyone you see on your TV screen is so very tiny. I'm impressed with the amount of detail one can squeeze into such a small sprite, but I would have been much happier with larger people. (Maybe they're all midgets?) The close-up face shots that appear when someone is talking in a non-interactive sequence are well drawn, but you don't get to see them that often. When you travel outside a town, you're presented with a decent looking 3D environment upon which your tiny 2D sprite travels. It was a bit disappointing. It's only when you go into combat that you get to see everyone with more detail. Everyone is still a 2D sprite, but they fight in a 3D "battle arena". The fact that your party is defined by sprites is fine, it's the fact that they get blocky when the camera gets close to them that bothers me. It wouldn't have taken up much room on the CD to create larger, more detailed sprites for the combat.

The combat arena is where the 2% of great graphics can be found. In some of the attacks and all of the spells that can be cast, your eyes are treated to a special effects bonanza. It wasn't until a couple hours into the game that the very cool special effects came into play. I'm sure the spells become more spectacular as the game progresses, but I'm still in the middle of it! (It is a long game--40+ hours!).

Speaking of combat in Beyond the Beyond, I was at first frustrated and later annoyed by the designer's decision to make combat a random occurrence. When you first leave a town you'll be fighting some kind of foe. You'll take two steps and be fighting again, and again, and again. This does make your character go up in experience faster, but it also makes the game tiring and overly repetitive. I would have been much happier if a graphical representation of the monsters were shown on the dungeon and world maps. Without the monster graphics, the world feels a bit empty. Also I could avoid encounters when I wanted to instead of being forced into them. As it stands, you're lucky if you can move 7 spaces without going into battle. This is especially irritating when you have to explore a dungeon. Just as you start to explore a new area you're forced into a fight. Sure the game is stretched out by having so many encounters, but it could have been stretched just as long with more quests.

Beyond the Beyond The combat system puts an interesting twist on standard turn-based battles. You can choose to control everyone in your party or you can let the computer play the rest of your group. Either way, you can directly affect the outcome of every battle even if you're not in control. When a character begins to attack the enemy you can press a sequence of buttons. If you press the correct combination the current party member will attack with exceptional ferocity dealing a blow that is usually two to four times more powerful than normal. (I've found that if you press the X button repeatedly while pressing one of the direction pads twice you can improve your chances of winning. However which direction to press is chosen at random by the computer.) This technique of blending real-time and turn-based fighting is surprisingly refreshing. It gives you a chance to directly affect the outcome of the battle when it's not your turn to fight. I love it!

Music and sound effects are average. There is the sense of majesty in the title music and there are the beautiful chords of music in the towns but it does get repetitive after a while. The battle music gets you ready for combat but doesn't stick in your mind and is, thankfully, easily forgotten. While the victory music is appropriate and sounds good, you'll hear it at least 1000 times before the game is over because of the absurd number of battles you'll fight. As a result of having so many battles, you'll also grow tired of the sounds and music during fights.

Missing from the American version of Beyond the Beyond is the introduction movie. I felt gypped because it could have been converted to English, or even sub-titled! I want my movie! What's even worse is that the movie file is _on_ the CD, the game just doesn't play it. Everyone dropped the ball on that one.

Beyond the Beyond is a mediocre CRPG. While the storyline is entertaining, it's nothing new. The graphics are average most of the time with a spattering of coolness every now and then. The music and sound effects are okay but again, nothing spectacular. The worst part about BtB are the inordinate number of fights that you must suffer through when all you want to do is explore your environment. If there were fewer battles, I would have enjoyed Beyond the Beyond more. Nevertheless, until another RPG is released, this is what I'll be playing.

-- Louis Stice
-- louis@psyber.com

Players: 1Password: No
Memory Card: Yes, 1 BlockLink-Up: No
ESRB Rating: Kids-Adults

Victory in battleFront Door

Copyright VrE Online 1996. No portion of this review may be copied or reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from VrE Online. All product and company names are Copyright & Trademark their respective owners.