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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.