Golvellius: Valley of Doom



The man skirt never really caught on, did it?



She’s one head turn away from becoming a pillar of salt.




DEVELOPER: Compile (port by Sega)


RELEASE DATE: 08/14/88 – (JP), 12/88 – (US), 1988 – (EU)


Golvellius owes its very being to The Legend of Zelda. From the top-down perspective to the wherever-you-may-roam exploration to the caves with old people who give you junk. The influence (or idea theft, depending upon your point of view) is impossible to ignore from the first few moments of the game. At the time of Golvellius‘s release on the original MSX, Zelda was barely a year old in Japan. Talk about a fast turnaround! The Master System wouldn’t see a port until 1988, but the extra time spent was worth the wait. Rest assured, Golvellius is one of the console’s true gems, an action/RPG that expands upon Zelda‘s original genre template.


Golvellius - Valley of Doom (UE) [!]001

Yes ma’am.


You play as Kelesis, a name you will likely forget throughout your journey, since neither the story nor the hero are of much importance. In fact, the supporting characters take on as great of a role as the Kelesis himself. There’s the Wise Woman who gives you items of great importance, often at great cost. I believe she dresses like a hobo just to troll you. Randar is a blue Lolo-esque figure who refills your health and any spare potions you have for a measly 150 gold. He’s adorable and incredibly helpful. Finally, Winkle, a psychic fairy, will give you an embarrassingly long 32-character password that you will write down and use. Inputting said password she provides will bring you back to where you turned off the game with all your items in tow. Failing to do so means restarting the game from the beginning. The password system is one of the game’s major flaws. After all, Phantasy Star had a battery backup and that game debuted a year prior. But as with other retro games, you either grow accustomed to the quirks or you use emulators and save states. Problem solved!


Golvellius - Valley of Doom (UE) [!]006

These guys give ya lots of gold, and they’re surprisingly chill about being killed.


Golvellius‘s gameplay amounts to two things: grinding for gold and uncovering caves. To grind for money, you kill the enemies that appear on screen. Kill them again and again because they won’t ever stop regenerating and you need the money any way. Snakes, boars, moles, frogs, spiders, bees, crows and others all provide varying amounts of gold upon death. Because of the Wise Woman’s highway robbery pricing for most items, there will be numerous times when you are forced to sit on one screen and hack away at dozens of enemies until you have enough gold for a certain item.


Golvellius - Valley of Doom (UE) [!]003

Side-scrolling dungeons, platforming, lots of snakes: Golvellius thought of everything.


Caves are where you go to spend your hard-earned ducats. For example, when you see the Wise Woman, bust out ye olde coin purse (and if you don’t have enough money, prepare for some hilarious olde English insults). She sells everything from potions (the equivalent to additional hearts in Zelda), sword and shield upgrades, aqua boots (walk on water, son), and Bibles (not the Bible, but increasingly large purses with which to hold more gold). She may be wise and wrinkled, but she drives a hard bargain. If you want what she’s selling, you’re gonna have to grind for days. The items are always worth it, though. Bonus fact: when you buy a special item, like a new weapon, the music changes. Since Golvellius has one of the best soundtracks on the Master System, you’re gonna want to get all the items in order to hear the game’s themes.


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I hope she doesn’t represent all angels.


There are two kinds of dungeons. The first is a side-scrolling kind, similar to the type found in Zelda II – though far less frustrating, thanks to Kelesis’ extended sword. These dungeons are linear and usually have easy puzzles, like destroy the false block, or hit the switch here. Some additional puzzles and atmosphere in these side-scrolling dungeons would have been welcome, but they’re enjoyable for what they are. The second far more interesting dungeon is the top-down automatic scrolling kind. Here, you’ll have to keep up with the scrolling screen while killing bats and butterflies. I want to say I’ve seen another game do this, but I can’t remember the name. And until I do, Golvellius earns my respect for this innovation. Unfortunately, the dungeon bosses are rarely if ever challenging. I beat four of the game’s eight bosses without doing much more than walking up to them and stabbing them. No special items needed here, like in Zelda.


Golvellius - Valley of Doom (UE) [!]005

Get out of mine way, ye winged wastrel.


But the last boss, Golvellius, is an interesting beast. After you defeat him, he repents of his evil ways and joins your party. How many bosses can you say have done that? Presumably, Golvellius would have been a part of your party in a forthcoming sequel. Unfortunately, no sequel ever arrived, though Japan did get a weird spin-off called Super Cooks. Visit the link or just take my word for it that the game is as strange as they come.


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But can he tame her heart?


Zelda may have been the game that popularized the action/RPG genre, but Golvellius is the better game. To many, this will seem like blasphemy, but hear me out. I respect The Legend of Zelda more than I enjoy it. I love the dungeons. I’m lukewarm on the layout and design of Hyrule. As a kid, there were times when finding a dungeon in Hyrule felt like happenstance, due to the world’s seemingly endless amount of shrubbery and mountains. Golvellius takes Hyrule’s lacking design and adds much needed personality. Golvellius‘s world has deserts, cemeteries, meadows, oceans, caves, forests. They are colorful, creepy, vast. They inspire emotion. They feel like a living world, not just a blip on a map. Golvellius‘s world obviously doesn’t lessen Hyrule’s initial impact, but I couldn’t imagine exploring the latter now without thinking about how much better the former is. For those that doubt, I say, try the game for yourself. Golvellius may not have kicked off a systems spanning franchise, but there’s no doubt it took the action/RPG amalgam to new peaks of excellence.



Posts created 76

16 thoughts on “Golvellius: Valley of Doom

  1. I recently played this game wih my 9 and 4 old sons, the first time since I originally played it back in ’89. What a joy it was! I didnt use an emulator, and experienced the “fun” of inputting a tedious password that I captured with a quick photo on my phone (just wait until you review Spellcaster, which has upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols for the save password!).

    I never played the original Zelda, but I know Golvellius is special. My kids absolutlely loved every second of it and they couldnt wait to play it again. Old games can age very well and my boys only play newer Wii U and ipad games, so they have been spoiled by nice graphics and music.

    What really drew us into this game were the action dungeons and bosses, the excitement of searching for the hidden caves on almost every screen, and finding special items that would unlock new areas to explore, or allow you to go back to previously explored areas and find new items. We also had a map I printed out from the internet which made exploring really fun. I cant imagine back in the 80s trying to get through the game trying to draw your own maps or rely on memory.

    This game never got the recognition it deserved. There was an ios release a few years ago, but it has since been removed from the app store, which goes to show you the short lived state of digital games.

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been a lurker for some time, But when this game came up for review, I just had to come comment.

    1. That’s a great story Jason. I have a 9 year old son too and he loves playing SMS games with me. I bought him a bunch of games on the Virtual Console on his Wii and he loves most of them. It’s great to pass on some of these classics to the next generation. Wonder Boy III is probably his favorite right now.

      1. Yes playing these games with younger generations is about the only way their legacy will be preserved. Right now we just finished Spellcaster. Next up, Golden Axe Warrior!

  2. I couldn’t have said it any better my self. This is probrably my second favorite SMS game. I had tried the original legend of Zelda. I didn’t really care for it. But I absolutely fell in love with this game. It just looked so nice as well. I had totally forgot how the music changed when you upgraded your weapon. It really added a sense of progression to the quest as the music got more and more epic. I can’t tell you how much I pined for a sequel after the ending screen showed you walking away with the final boss and promised a sequel, that never came.

    As far as the dungeons. I think what hooked me is they were more action oriented. It was like a side scrolling platformer and overhead shooter combined with Zelda. In retrospect, Zelda’s Dungeons were probrably better from a puzzle solving perspective. But I still appreciated this games dungeons for being different. Congratulations for making it all the way through. I didn’t think it was super hard, but it definetly took a time investment. Which says a lot if it can keep you engaged enough to finish it today.

    1. The sense of progression in Golvellius is top-notch. It was hard for me to stop playing, if I’m honest. I really wasn’t expecting much from this one, but I love being surprised.

  3. Nice review Dylan. This is a very fun game. My first experience playing this game was when I rented it for the weekend as a kid. I loved the game as it was my first experience playing a RPG. I still hadn’t played Zelda yet. I always wanted to play it again but I never bought it. Then I saw it on the iOS App Store last year and played through it. It was a lot easier without having to deal with the password save.

  4. This was another rental back in the day. When I first played it I really did not like the side scrolling action part. It just seemed strange how the player could not turn back.
    Once I put a few hours into the game I turned off the game because I new I needed to have this game in my collection and did not want to spoil it for when I got a copy. Once I finally purchased the I played it non stop until completion.
    This is one of games that really made the Master System special and I will always have happy memories playing it.

    Great review

  5. Though most of us know Golvellius from the Master System it was on the MSX first and was developed and released alongside Zelda so shockingly Zelda is not an influence on this game. It’s one of those coincidences where people have the same ideas around the same time.

    1. They are very different. Only the overworld exploration is similar. Ok so this version was reprogrammed by Sega. It has all new graphics,enemies, music, and dungeon/ overworld layouts. It is not really the same game. This is more or less the definitive version. Although compile re ported this version back to the MSX, jeeping a lot of the SMS changes, and changing even more stuff. The HCG-101 article details it best. This would be like if Sega liscenesed Mario and made their own different Super Mario Bros.

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