Septerra Core is a Japanese-console-style RPG for the PC developed by Valkyrie Studios, published by Monolith/Top Ware Interactive, and released in 1999. Modeled after the prominent JRPGs of the era, it features 2D sprites over pre-rendered environments and cool CG cutscenes. It takes place in a cleverly designed, multi-tiered world on the verge of a great prophecy. While a zealous elite from the topmost world shell seeks out the prophecy for himself, the game centers around a determined young lady named Maya. She lives on the second world shell and makes her living salvaging the junk deposited from the first world shell. Like any good RPG narrative, Fate's hand pulls Maya out of her menial existence and into a grand journey across myriad world shells beyond imagination.
What I like best about Septerra Core is the world itself. The creative design of a world consisting of multiple layers (like an onion) rotating around a core is neat, and every world shell is unique. From the lush natural shells to the seedy urban locations, every place is an absolute treat to discover and explore. Equally unique is the diverse cast of characters, some of whom do not get along at all. They attack each other during battles unless the player does special sidequests to make them see eye-to-eye. The East-meets-West visual design for world and characters is colorful without being too gaudy and over-the-top. Seeing a believable female protagonist wearing full body armor is a refreshing change; Maya is one of the better female protagonists I've seen in an RPG and a personal favorite. The writing and voice acting are very good as well. The game has its flaws, such as a slow ATB-style battle engine, minimal music, an unbalanced magic system, some overly lengthy dungeons, too many palette swapped enemies, and no gamepad support. But despite those flaws, I was still drawn to the world and its inhabitants.
So why does Septerra Core deserve a sequel? Well, for starters, the game left off with an ending that sets up a sequel or two, so if that is not the best reason for another installment, I don't know what is. Sure, Maya and company's story wraps up nicely, but there are new worlds out there waiting to be explored and a mythos wide open for expansion. I can see future installments where a hero or heroine reveres the legendary hero Maya, almost like how Alis Landale is revered in Phantasy Star IV. Speaking of Phantasy Star, I would love to see Septerra Core become an interplanetary epic akin to the pre-Online Phantasy Star games. After seeing the world of Septerra, I'm curious as to what other kinds of worlds the developers can imagine. With all the complaints nowadays of RPG worlds being one-note or overworlds being non-existent, the vibrancy of Septerra Core's world would appeal to players now.
A sequel could also tweak some of the rookie flaws from the first game. First and foremost, a game like this screams for gamepad support. Yes, the interface is very user-friendly in its current form, but gamers who would typically play this sort of game would undeniably want gamepad support without the need for external software like XPadder. Secondly, the game also screams for more and better music. The atmospheric overworld themes are fine, but the battle themes need more punch and the towns and dungeons, despite having stellar sound effects, could use some music. To improve the diversity of the environments, the sequel would need a more extensive variety of enemy types. To make progression less sluggish, increasing running speed and making running the default speed could help dungeons feel more manageable. Some gamers may even wish to see dungeons shortened a hair. Speeding up ATB bars for characters, or just switching to a straight turn-based battle system, would make battles play out more quickly. And finally, rebalancing the magic system could turn it into the useful and strategic element the creators intended it to be.
Despite the game's flaws, I still respect the aspects it gets right and maintain a soft spot for the game due to its potential. And as the old saying goes, where there's potential, there's possibilities. I'm not looking for a Septerra Core sequel to reinvent the wheel. What I really want is an expansion of the universe and mythos set up by the first game with some of the aforementioned gameplay tweaks to make overall progression feel less lethargic. I think there is room in the industry for traditional Japanese-style RPGs like this, especially since we in the RPGFan community still enjoy the genre. Even better is when we have games like Septerra Core and Anachronox that add a unique perspective to the JRPG narrative owing to their developers' non-Japanese roots.
Many players regard Septerra Core as the right game on the wrong platform, maybe even at the wrong time. The turn-based play mechanics and Japanese inspired style may not have sat as well with longstanding PC RPG players as they would with console RPG players. Those same console players who would have eaten up the game probably said, "Yeah, this game looks cool, but I think I'll wait till it comes out on Dreamcast or something." So although I believe that this game sorely deserves a sequel, it may not happen since not enough people played the first game, and we haven't heard from Valkyrie Studios in a while. That being said, Septerra Core can be found for $5-$6 in legitimate online and brick-and-mortar establishments so it's definitely a stellar value for the money. Check it out and maybe you'll agree with me that this is a game whose universe definitely deserves to be revisited.