The two reviews posted on RPGFan already do serve the game its right justice, but I decided a few hours ago, upon completing Albert Odyssey, that I just had to review it. So dig through your closets, dust off your old Sega Saturn, and be prepared to set your browser to eBay, people. Don't get where I'm going, yet? Just keep reading.
I'd like to start off by saying that Albert Odyssey for the Sega Saturn is a "gaiden". This, for the Japanese-ignorant, means 'side-story'. It is nothing more then a side story based off a series released only in the Land of the Rising Sun for the Super Nintendo, yet Working Designs pulled out their magic wands and little fairy hats and transformed a simple side story to an epic adventure.
The story begins in a village bursting in flames. A man walks into his household and warns his wife that it is not safe, and they must go. He then grabs his sword, Cirrus, and converses with it (yes, the sword can talk. The sword tells her master that she will serve him in any way she can and to use her well. The man then gathers up his wife, who is carrying their child, and they rush out their door.
Outside, they are greeted with the sickening sight of grotesque ogres rampaging through and destroying their village. They head north to escape, but are cut off by ogres. After many attempts to find a way out of the village, they are cornered by the enemy. The man goes to attack to protect his child and wife but is slaughtered. The woman begs for mercy but is killed in suit. The child is thrown aside and just as the ogres are about to go and kill him, the sword Cirrus bursts out a bright light.
What appears to be not long after, you see the village on your screen yet again. This time, however, the town is no longer in flames - it is smoking after its destruction. The child, Pike, is on the ground crying, and the sword is pushed into the ground near his side. Just then, a beautiful woman with wings flies down from the sky and lands near Pike. She gently takes him into her arms and, after grabbing Cirrus as well, she flies off.
Ten years later... Pike wakes up in his bed and walks over, grabbing his faithful sword, Cirrus. He walks downstairs and Laia is waiting for him. She is the beautiful woman who saved him in the village not but ten years ago. It turns out she is of the Harpy race, basically flying humans, to be blunt, and you now live in the Harpy village. A few events happen in the Harpy Village; Laia asks you to find her brother, for instance, and then she asks you to go fetch some water. While you are fetching the water for Laia, Cirrus notices some strange figures in the sky. Suddenly, a mysterious man riding a dragon lands down in front of you and orders that you tell him where this is. While you try to maintain bladder control, Laia suddenly appears and demands that the stranger leave. Of course, this he will not do. After stealing a precious item from the village, he turns both Pike and Laia into stone, and flies off.
Cirrus, thankfully, is able to use her magic to restore you back to life. However, she is unable to save Laia, as her magic is only strong enough to heal you. Laia's brother tells you that they need the power of a human to save Laia. Since none of the Harpies can leave the village, Pike is forced to go on his quest to find someone who can save his mother/sister, and thus the adventure begins...
The graphics in Albert Odyssey are one of the games greatest features. The graphics (at least, the characters and backgrounds) are all hand-drawn and are, put quite simply, beautiful. The characters are detailed well in and out of battle, as are the enemies; just go into battle and win, and then watch Eka. Look at her very closely.
The spells, as well, are hand drawn, and this - while it was a new concept to me - really is a beautiful thing to see. Despite the fact that Albert Odyssey came out around the same time as Final Fantasy VII, it's graphics we're breathtaking nonetheless.
The music and sounds of Albert Odyssey are... well, let me explain. First, the sounds... Albert Odyssey has voice acting, but it is not plentiful. Not counting the three Narrator scenes (the old man speaking), there really is not that much voice acting aside from the characters' "Ha!" in battle as they go to slash and Lulu Saliban speaking when you purchase items from her. Random characters laugh and/or make a sort of noise upon attacking, both in and out of battle, but other then this there are no whole scenes narrated.
The music, however, is very good. Some of the themes (the one in the village where you meet Eka, for instance, and also the Harpy Village) are very catchy and beautiful. It is a good thing the battle theme is good, because of various reasons. Let me explain.
One of Albert Odyssey's downfalls is the load times. I'd like to comment on this, however, and mention that Working Designs did a very good job lowering the load times from their almost seven-second long predecessors in the Japanese version. But still, it averages around three seconds to get into battle, a second between each attack, and three more seconds getting out of battle. Even if you only have to attack once, that's still quite a bit of load time. I'm not really complaining that much, as it didn't really bother me after awhile, but if you really cannot stand load times, this game is certainly not for you.
Another of the odd features about Albert Odyssey is the way characters follow you; they walk in twos behind you: first the two females, then the two males. However, the way they are placed, they tend to hide behind each other and look odd if you walk at the wrong angle. This is why I gave Albert Odyssey a rather low Control score. You may think it was a little harsh but I take little things like that into heavy consideration.
Albert Odyssey has many great things about it. It has a quality - and very perverted - story line, thanks to Working Designs. It has some beautiful themes and wonderful voices (well, what you can get.) It has a nice, traditional battle system. It has memorable characters. It also has many touching scenes that'll stay with you for awhile. You'll fall in love with the ability to decide whatever Pike chooses to say. And for those of you not into Working Designs' "American" translations, it tends to simmer down during the second part of the game so don't despair.
I recommend this game to anyone with a sense of humor, a little perversity, and a Sega Saturn. All in all, it is a wonderful and exciting game by Working Designs. Now grab your credit cards and run to eBay.com. Trust me, it's worth the money. Just don't buy a Japanese Import.