Climax Landers i s the first role-playing game to hit the Dreamcast, and it already shines with some impressive graphics and an intriguing story line. You play as a young boy, Sword, who must travel through space and time solving riddles and gathering clues in locations ranging from medieval Europe to Japan in the 1980s. To heighten the gameplay, Climax Graphics promises both turn-based and real-time fighting sequences throughout the game along with six main characters to encounter, including a sorceress and a warrior.
Another unique feature is CL's Automatic Random Generation. Each time you step inside a dungeon, the layout will change to constantly present new challenges. The game will also sport separate monster missions and sub-games designed especially for the Dreamcast's portable Visual Memory Unit If Climax Landers' gameplay can live up to its great features and poppin' graphics, Sega's first RPG for the Dreamcast will make an immediate impact on the genre.
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Climax. The name is famous for its outstanding Genesis/Super Famicom/Saturn titles in the form of LandStalker,LadyStalker and Dark Savior. Members of that team went on to produce Alundra for the PlayStation, and even more bizarrely, Runabout (Felony 11-79 here) for the PlayStation. Well, now they are back to their roots with an RPG that is widely anticipated for the Sega Dreamcast. Delayed more often than Climax would care to remember (it was supposed to be released around launch in Japan), Climax Landers is often quite similar to the Dreamcast's other RPG, Evolution. Filled with randomly generated dungeons, the challenges in Landers are slightly different every time you play. But more on that later.
At the start of the game, the gamer is treated to a cinema (rendered in real time using the game engine), which introduces us to the hero of the game, a fella by the name of Sword. He's talking trash to some chick and subsequently causes her to burst into tears. What a cad! As a result of this affront, Sword gets caught napping (not literally) by some varmint all suited up in some red armor. Well, this rascal soon learns the error of his ways when Sword sends him packin', and from there, you're off on your grand adventure. Your first challenge is a dungeon, five levels deep, which introduces you, immediately, to the basic battle engine. As you make your way through the randomly generated level you'll find that your potential enemies can be clearly seen ahead of time. At this early stage in the game, they tend not to attack you unless you choose to do so from a menu. Should you opt to whack-a-mole, you'll soon discover that not only can you attack with your sword, but that you also have some magic spells at your disposal as well. After your first few battles, you'll find that you "level-up" fairly fast, and with each few levels gained, your magic options increase.
While making your way through these dungeons, you are assisted by an auto-mapping function that clues you in to the upcoming paths available in the labyrinth, or in an alternative mode, reveals the layout of the entire floor. The camera is adjustable via the shoulder buttons on the controller, although this doesn't seem to be of much help. During your travels you will find all manner of item strewn about the dungeon floors: fruits, weapons, armor, etc.
Once outside the underworld, the similarities with Evolution come to an end. Whereas Evolution had a a small town to explore, and nothing else save for the dungeons, Climax Landers has a fairly extensive over-world, where you can interact with a large collection of N PC's. There are a lot of freaks to be found in the world of Landers: a bondage-inspired grandpa and Playboy bunny companion, a purple-suited superhero wannabe, a tribe of aboriginal indians, a mad scientist, you name it, it's in there.
Each funky character has his or her own locale, with the aborigines residence being a floating island filled with volcanoes and trees, and the superhero's being a funky futuristic platform. The interesting thing is how all of these disparate locations are connected by little paths in close proximity to one another. There are six or seven of these areas available from the outset, with a couple more waiting to be discovered. Perhaps the most interesting area is the giant floating turtle suspended with a fleet of giant balloons.
Developed by Climax founder Ken Naito (who was at one point or another, responsible for the previously mentioned LandStalker, LadyStalker, Dark Savior, and even some of the Shining titles for the Genesis), Climax Landers is practically a greatest hits collection of his previous games' lead characters. Aside from the new characters like Rao the lion-man and Marion the Marionette, Lyle and Lady, respectively of Land and LadyStalker, return, as does Marlin the Elf from Shining In The Darkness.
Of course there are many other characters you will meet throughout this strange adventure, but it's certainly nice for a developer to acknowledge his past creations and to integrate them into a brand-new game such as this. While not as famous as Final Fantasy, Climax's past works speak for themselves and give Sega fanatics reason to be excited for its impending U.S. release.
Graphically the game is a pleasant blend of high-resolution textures and colorful environments. While the characters are a little simple (read: blocky), it looks as good as anything that has come before it. The frame-rate boils along at a smooth 30 frames per second, without hitch. While screens of the game may indicate a Zelda-esque approach to the gameplay, you should be warned that combat and other battle functions are conducted in an old-school turn-based format. Attacks, defensive choices and item management are all conducted via a clear-cut menu selection.
Gamers wondering when exactly they would be able to use their VMUs for doing something other than raising those damn Chao from Sonic Adventure will be happy to hear that Climax Landers features 10 brand-new VMU games for you to play. How's that for value? Unfortunately, Climax Landers won't make it to our comfy shores until the second quarter of 2000, meaning that Evolution will be Dreamcast owners' only RPG option for the foreseeable future. However, with games like Climax Landers, Grandia 2, Black Matrix, Eternal Arcadia. Baldur's Gate and Phantasy Star Online (and eventually ShenMue) scheduled for release in the Dreamcast's future, the Dreamcast's RPG library seems like it will be filled with triple-A titles fairly quickly, which is more than you can say about the N64 in its three-year history. Whether this is a must-have or a must-try remains to be seen, but from the evidence at hand, it seems as if Climax Landers has the DC's RPG library headed in the right direction. Thank god!