Reviewed: 10/23/2003


Like most Dreamcast games, and especially Dreamcast RPGs, Time Stalkers is a game that never really got a high measure of attention. Somehow, it’s odd graphics, unique gameplay concept, and fresh story weren’t enough to push the game into the public eye. Nonetheless, the Dreamcast’s first RPG still passes the ultimate test, and proves a worthwhile title by way of the items that ill be discussed in this review.

The game opens with the main hero, named Sword, being attacked by an unknown blade-wielder. After chasing him into some ruins (which feature a creepy clock tower), he happens upon a book that, when opened, changes everything around him. At first, things still look mostly the same, but once Sword leaves the ruins, he sees he is no longer in the world he knew. The world of Time Stalkers is a strange one, which is constantly growing. New landmasses will appear with large crashes, and becoming a new part of the floating-island-type world. For example, the beginning chuck is comparable to a simple, small town. But later, a place will appear in the likeness of say, a jungle community from somewhere near the Amazon, followed by a section like unto Asia, and so on.

While in this one-of-a-kind (because it’s every kind) world, the player is treated to some serious, sometimes hilarious characterization. Watching the culture, attitude, etc. of the citizens gradually change with time is a very fun, satisfying thing to see. What’s sad is that it sometimes seems like there is a tad more character put into certain NPCs than a couple members of the main cast. But, as a whole, the cast is neat, and very diverse. Almost all of them do something to give the plot its own unique stamp in the RPG world.

Unfortunately, this plot, fresh as it may be, can be hard to follow in the mid-late stages of the game. For example purposes, let’s say finishing the game takes you 40 hours (which it can easily exceed). After get the feel of the game for the first 2 hours, you could find yourself hooked. After 12 hours, the addiction will probably remain strong. After 20 hours, you know the score for sure, and are very well seasoned it the art of Time Stalkers dungeon crawling and world building–it’s still cool, but something inside you wants more. By the 30-hour mark, you start to wonder when the game is going to be over–not because you’re not entertained, but because the plot is starting to become old news at this point. The last few hours start to pick up the pace again, but can’t quite get back up to the level of the climax, which was around the 7 hour mark.

Despite the later-term semi-staleness of the story, one can always find some something to occupy the mind when playing Time Stalkers. There are a ton of minigames and possible sidequests available for the on taking. In fact, getting a character to the max level and collecting all of the capturable monsters can consume over 100 hours. Accomplishing those feats is done by braving the randomly-generated dungeons. Players can take control of one hero at a time, while the two other companions must be captured monsters. While this is certainly a different game formula, random dungeon generation just doesn’t cut it in offline RPGs. While yes, each dungeon looks different than the one before it, the differences are generally in the walls, or sometimes the floor looks a little different. If one’s not paying attention, the could switch from a volcano-based dungeon to one in a castle and not notice the change, because random layouts can only feature so much diversity.

A busy part of town

On the bright side, the battle system, while it may not sound so glamorous, is well done. The concept of only using one main character at a time was originally a turnoff, but the player quickly sees that a lot of strategy goes into choosing which beasts to bring into certain dungeons, and it adds it the all-important “fun factor” of the game. The battles are very straightforward and easy to learn. The characters will always be level 1 at the beginning of a dungeon, and as s/he progresses, the monsters slowly get harder, and more skills become available for use. The only (very small) downer is that, once in a while, a battle starts in which an enemy might be located around a corner. With the games grid-based battle layout, you won’t see them unless you look for them. The game does always tell you how many enemies are in a battle, though, so smart players can simply check the map for the foe’s location. This is only a very small gripe, but it did happen more than twice, so I feel it should be mentioned.

The graphics are quite nice. The character models are all nicely detailed, and the game radiates a very warming fantasy feel. They are pretty to look at, feel right, and when you consider the time the game came out, all the more respect is demanded for this game’s visuals.

Time Stalkers‘ music packs surprisingly high quality. It often blends into the background very well, and certain tunes have even made me consider looking for the soundtrack, if such a thing exists. In addition, most of the characters’ themes fit them well. The sound effect are kinda lame, though. Many of them are very basic and sometimes annoying. Perhaps with such good graphics (for the time) and music, the development team didn’t really have a lot of time to focus on sound effects.

With the technical aspects done well, a unique plot concept, solid music and a memorable gameplay scheme altogether, Time Stalkers is one that many cult RPG players will find worth the trip.

-Heath Hindman

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Very Good
Story Average
Graphics Very Good
Sound/Music Very Good
Replay Value Excellent
The Verdict: 6