PC game. Septerra Core is part of the genre known as Role-playing Games or RPGs. However, Septerra Core is unlike most PC RPGs. It has no character creation system--instead, you are given a group of pre-generated characters. In addition, the story is quite linear, much more so than most such games. In this respect, Septerra Core is much more similar to a Japanese console RPG, such as Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star, or Chrono Trigger. Indeed, the goal of the creators (Valkyrie Studios) was to create a PC game similar to a console RPG.

The world of Septerra Core is a unique one, consisting of seven, concentric shells of floating continents. While floating continents (and islands, cities, castles and so on) are common in console RPGs, it's rare to have an entire world made up of them. Each shell is different--the top one is occupied by an advanced, biotech-using race, and has a very organic feel. The shell below it is a scrap-filled desert, like something out of a Mad Max movie, with a wild west area. Below that is a green, fertile, medieval-looking world, and so on. The core of Septerra (the namesake of the game) is a powerful biocomputer.

Septerra Core has a rather diverse cast of characters, including a couple of robots, a wierd alien guy, and a teenage girl with a big wrench. However, the main character is Maya, a girl with blue hair (yet another sign of the Japanese influences on this game) who is a Junker. That is to say, she salvages scrap dumped in the desert where she lives. Sorta like a Jawa only more cute. In a break from tradition, she wields, not a sword but an automatic rifle which can be upgraded with such accessories as a grenade launcher.

Combat will be a surprise to those unfamiliar with console RPGs. Most PC gamers are more accustomed to turn-based, D&D-style combat, or real-time, Diablo-style combat. Septerra Core's combat is more akin to that in the later Final Fantasy games, or in Chrono Trigger. You cannot control the movement of your characters (which is actually a bigger problem than in most console games, as position of characters is actually important in some ways). Your options are, generally, to attack a foe, use a special ability (each character can get 9, although three of these are regular attacks of varying strength), use an item, or use magic. In addition, you may choose to attempt to flee combat. During combat, each character has a meter that fills up in real-time, depending on the character's speed. When this meter reaches one of three levels, certain attacks and special abilities become available. Thus, you may choose to make a lot of weak attacks, or wait a bit longer and make one more powerful one. Different choices work best on different kinds of monsters. Special abilities are sometimes attacks (often with the ability to affect multiple foes) and sometimes "utility" abilities such as repairing mechanical allies, or obtaining status on a foe. Abilities other than the three levels of basic attack drain Core Energy (the game's equivalent of magic points). Unlike most games, the entire party has a single pool of Core Energy, rather than separate pools for each character. There are generally enough options to make combat interesting, but in my opinion, most combats are simply too slow. It doesn't necessarily take too many hits to finish off a particular monster. It's just that the characters' meters fill up so slowly that most of the time is simply spent waiting for your next attack. In particular, the crab monsters are annoying to fight. They generally take minimal (i.e. one hit point) damage from even the most powerful attacks, so fighting them is an exercise in attrition (and patience).

The magic system is quite clever, however. It's based on Tarot-style cards, with images based on the mythology of Septerra. The cards have various magical effects when used alone, and the magic can be combined, in a manner somewhat similar to the combination moves in Chrono Trigger. For instance, the Fire card inflicts fire damage on a foe. Fire plus Summon calls forth an elemental creature of fire (which does more damage, but costs more Core Energy, and the summon animations are lame compared to those in Final Fantasy games). Fire plus All inflicts fire damage on all foes, and so on. You gain new Fate Cards (as they are called) at various points in the game, sometimes after defeating a boss, sometimes as gifts and sometimes hidden in treasure chests and the like.

One of the ways in which Septerra Core is better than most console RPGs is in interaction with non-player characters (NPCs). In most console RPGs, you simply walk up to the character, press the "use" button, and the character spouts off his single line of canned dialog. However, Septerra Core] has a conversation system similar to that used in some Lucasarts games such as The Dig and Sam and Max Hit the Road. While talking to characters, you have a set of icons representing topics you can talk about. In addition, you can have specific party members talk to the NPC. This, combined with a limited ability to pick up and use non-combat items, makes it feel like a graphic adventure game was grafted onto Septerra Core. However, I feel that the game benefits from this, as it allows the player to interact with the game in more ways than just by killing things.

As for the storyline, it's the typical "Stop the Evil Empire" plot popularized by Star Wars (The Emperor's name is even "Aspartine" which sounds like a cross between Palpatine and Nutra-sweet), but the unique setting makes it seem a little less stale than it would be in a more straight Science Fiction or Fantasy setting. In addition, the characters are much better developed than in most PC RPGs. Some of the party members even hate each other's guts, and won't work together unless some event (in a side-quest helps them get over their differences).

In all, Septerra Core is a fun game, especially if you like console-style RPGs, and anime. It may not be much, graphically (while the characters are 3D models, they were pre-rendered into sprites, and the game itself is entirely 2D), and the combat may be slow, but the story's interesting, and it's often fun just to explore the strange world that is Septerra.

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