Format: Super Famicom
Developer: Halken / Hal Laboratory
The distant past, the remote future...
Both are indefinite periods
An ominous star's radiance in the sky...
From the World's Edge, the Demon god Alcahest appeared, bringing chaos and ruin.
In this time of despair, a single swordsman stood in defiance. And...
The four powers that protect the world...
Borrowing the Guardian's power, the swordsman finally slew the demon...
1000 years have passed...
And a new battles ensues.
A ruthless emperor leads his troops towards world conquest.
THe kingdom of Panakeia was able to defend itself with it's Knights
Once again, and ominous star shines in the sky, hinting at the demon's revival.
At this sign an envoy from hell is called to this world... - From the game's opening sequence. Stop yawning you at the back there.
Alcahest is an Action RPG in the vein of The Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past. As with a hell of a lot of RPGs made in Japan it was never translated into English by the developers, but luckily our talented friends at the Alcahest Translation Project have released a patch which makes the game perfectly playable for english speakers (besides, it wasn't too difficult to figure out what was going on, even when it was in Japanese). The game plays very much like Zelda but has much more sophisticated graphics, bringing a much darker feel to the game. The plot, as you can see, is not the most complicated thing in the world, relying on a fair share of tired old recycled plotlines. However, it provides a reason for killing, which is sometimes all that is necessary. It involves a hero called Alen (sic) who is the swordsman who is destined to defeat the demon Alcahest.
I haven't actually played the game that far through, but it's pretty obvious that is what's going to happen, isn't it?
The game begins with the hero being set upon by the "Envoy from Hell" who seem to plan on making your life just that. He sends some Lizardmen after you, but you are saved by the local Guardian, who tells you to rescue him to gain his power. After a trip through a dungeon accompanied by a wizard companion, you beat a boss and are rewarded with the power of the fire Guardian. You then move on to the next stage, with your new found fire related powers.
The game plays reasonably well, with some elements that are original. For example, a lot of the levels have platforms separated by sheer drops, and the only way over is to find one of the green blocks, which when struck with a sword reveals a panel with an arrow. This arrow points in the direction that you will be fired if you step on the panel. This means that you may have to trek around a level for ages just to find the right panel which takes you to a block of land, right next to the entrance. The main character can also use special attacks (which are a tad useless) and a charge up spin attack - this is so similar to Zelda 3 that it hurts.
Although Alcahest is a reasonably accomplished game, it is not as good as it could have been. Graphics, while OK for 1993, are not outstanding. Some of the gameplay concepts (I have just been told that to get into the temple to save the princess I will need a key. Apparently one has already been taken, but "There should be a duplicate in the sewers." What kind of royal family keeps backup keys in a sewer populated by monsters?) do not stand up the slightest bit to being thought about. The swordplay is not as much fun as it could be.
Playing the game