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Arcus Odyssey

A number of interesting arcade-style action adventures made their way to 16-bit systems in their heyday. While there were plenty of Zelda clones, various other games tried to do their own thing and bring a unique experience to the table. One such example of this is Arcus Odyssey for the Mega Drive. It was developed by Wolf Team, a Japanese studio that were certainly not afraid to try new things with their games, and players will see that here. The game had an isometric perspective, which was pretty rare on consoles at the time, a good amount of exploration, nice pixel art, enjoyable soundtrack, and four different characters to choose from. It did a lot of things right. While it earned its fair share of fans, the game never caught on to the same degree as others in the genre, and is a bit more obscure nowadays, but definitely worth a play through.

The plot of the game is certainly nothing new. About one thousand years prior to the evens of Arcus Odyssey, an evil sorceress named Castomira was in league with the powers of darkness and trying to destroy the kingdom of Arcus. However, Princess Leaty would have none of that and eventually defeated her. After the final battle, Leaty sealed Castomira in a realm of darkness using a magical sword. Now, one thousand years, later a cult dedicated to the evil sorceress is trying to release Castomira into the world once more. This is where players come in choosing one of four adventurers to set forth and prevent her return.

These characters each had their own form of attack. One was a swordsman with relatively short range attacks, another was a female warrior armed with a flail that she could launch in front of her as well as swing in a circle. There was also an archer who could shoot her arrows over great distances as well as a wizard that was able to create magical projectiles. It may not sound like much by today’s standards, but there’s just enough difference between the characters to keep them interesting. On top of their base abilities, there are various goodies players can find while exploring each level. These include a number of magic items that do things like restore health, cast offensive spells, and provide temporary invincibility. They all come in quite handy, particularly during boss fights, which can be pretty tough.

There’s also a decent amount of exploring in each level. The stages can get quite labyrinthine, especially toward the end of the game. It’s good fun wandering this way or that with no idea what treasures or perils may be waiting for players. About the only downside about this is that enemies quickly respawn off screen. Due to there being a fair bit of backtracking involved with getting through each stage, this can be a nuisance as monsters constantly reappear just off screen despite defeating them moments earlier.

As mentioned earlier, Arcus Odyssey is presented in an isometric fashion, which wasn’t terribly common for the time on consoles. Despite this, it’s still possible move characters in all eight directions, and the controls are quite responsive on the direction pad. Artistically, the game looks pretty good. Characters and enemies are decently detailed and there are some nice, albeit simple, anime-inspired cut scenes from time to time. Wolf Team was never on the leading edge of visuals in their games, but what’s present here is nice. This is probably thanks in large part to Mitsumi Inomata designing a lot of the characters and art. She was already establishing herself in the realm of anime, and was involved in series like Future GPX Cyber Formula and City Hunter. Later she would also be responsible for character design in the “Tales of...” series.

Meanwhile, the game’s soundtrack was handled by Motoi Sakuraba, more well-known today for his work on the “Tales of...” and Star Ocean series. Before these games, he was with Wolf Team for years making a name for himself. Arcus Odyssey was no exception with very catchy tunes that help enhance the action while slashing, bashing, and zapping one’s way through its dungeons. The music played in the outdoor segments of stage six is a particular standout as it feels like Sakuraba was trying to combine as many keys as possible in the piece making it quite an interesting listen.

People who like arcade-y action adventures really owe it to themselves to try out Arcus Odyssey. It’s a very good game. The action is exciting, there’s a decent amount of exploration, and the game looks and sounds quite nice. It’s not quite a hidden gem on the Mega Drive, but doesn’t seem to get the same level of recognition as other games in the genre. Give it a whirl. It’s well worth a look.

- IroIro
October 13, 2019
Platform: Mega Drive
Genre: Action Adventure
Developer: Wolf Team
Publisher: Revolution
Released: 1991

Arcus Odyssey Image 1
Genesis Box Art

Arcus Odyssey Image 2
Ruins of the first stage

Arcus Odyssey Image 3
Character select screen

Arcus Odyssey Image 4
Exploring the watery second stage