I return to the Master System once again and i have been looking forward to playing this game for a while. Golvellius is an action-adventure game developed by Compile for the MSX in 1987 and then reprogrammed and published by Sega on the Sega Master System in 1988. Compile went bankrupt in the early 2000s but they made some quality titles in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. They created Puyo Puyo, a puzzle game that became vastly popular around the globe. They also created some very solid shooters like Gunhed(Blazing Lazers), the Aleste series and the Spriggan games.
Out of the bunch the best game developed by Compile might be Golvellius, a game that plays a lot like the original Zelda but it is so much more than just that.
I started playing Golvellius at the perfect time. I played the original Zelda a few weeks ago, and i just started to run out of interesting things to do in Zelda: Breath of the Wild (after a good while). I was still hungry for more action-rpg-adventures and Golvellius: Valley of Doom was perfect for sating that hunger.
In Golvellius you take control of Kelesis, an adventurer who happens to wander by the Valley of Doom where the princess of the nearby kingdom has gone missing while searching for a cure for her ill father. The problem is that the Valley of Doom is now under the control of Golvellius and his evil minions. Kelesis has to defeat 7 boss baddies and get their crystals before taking on the evil Golvellius himself who the game is named after.
You are greeted right away with a familiar scene when an old woman hands you a sword and a pair of boots before you can enter the hostile Valley of Doom. The similarities with Zelda do not end there because the top down perspective and the overall atmosphere of the game is very similar to the original Zelda on the NES.
You walk around, slay monsters that spawn endlessly with your sword and on every screen a hole(or a cave) is revealed. In these holes you can find faeries or old women who give you advice(some more helpful than others), you can find creatures who give you health in exchange for gold, more old women who sell you max health potions and bibles that increase your max gold capacity.
You get gold from monsters and you need that gold to buy better boots and stuff to advance in the game. So you are going to have to search each screen for bibles and key items as you fight off monsters. Eventually you will find a hole that will take you to a cave with either the sideview perspective or a vertical scrolling top-down perspective. The sideview sequences are pretty mediocre, you just run forward and hit whatever is in your way with your only attack. They are super easy until the later stages of the game when you can get stuck if you go in the wrong direction or when you meet a fire magic snake.
The vertical scrolling sequences are a bit more fun. It is kind of like you are playing a vertical shooter as you move forward and bats and shit starts to fly at you. You can also get stuck in these sequences and start at the beginning. These two sequences are not really anything amazing but it is a good change of pace and a welcome variety in gameplay.
At the end of those caves you will find the bosses of that particular area. The boss fight are pretty good for a game made in 1987 but they are maybe halted by the fact that Kelesis also has one way of attacking and that is by swinging his sword. He has no bombs, boomerangs, bows or anything which is a shame.
The controls are very responsive but you can only move in 4 direction which is kind of a bummer and what is worse is that it seems like Kelesis is on rails and sometimes he has to move a bit forward before he can turn. This is especially annoying when you want to turn and swing at an enemy but you won’t turn because Kelesis isnt positioned correctly on these “rails”. This is kind of difficult to explain with text to here is a small video to demonstrate.
In the MSX2 version of the game Kelesis can move in 8-direction so this trouble is non-existent in that version. (I played the MSX2 version a bit and found that the cutscenes look great and the controls are improved but somehow the gameplay didn’t feel as good and i prefer the Master System graphics.).
The best thing about Golvellius is not solid controls or great combat but rather the same thing that makes the Original Zelda and Breath of the Wild great games. Exploration, finding new items, discovering the hidden lairs of your foes and stuff like that is what makes Golvellius fun. Finding a cave with a bible or a max health potion is fun and satisfying. Checking every nook and corner, check every stone and trees for secrets and getting immersed in the Valley of Doom is what makes Golvellius fun and that is why Golvellius was such a perfect follow up for BotW and the original Zelda for me.
Golvellius is not open world in the same way as the Zelda games. In the earlier stages of Golvellius you usually have to clear one area in order to gain access to the next. Later the world is more open when you get the Aqua Boots and can traverse on water and over rivers.
Some might say the game is “cryptic” like is often said about Zelda and Metroid on the NES but there are plenty of hints in game and Golvellius is the kind of game you might want to have the manual next to you as you play and then it should not be so bad. If you get impatient you can find a map on the internet. The game is plenty long, probably around the same as the original Zelda so there is plenty to do here in the Valley of Doom.
It does not hurt that Golvellius looks great and is a prime example on how the Master System was able to outperform the NES. Sprites and backgrounds have a lot of detail and the game is very colorful but at the same time it can look dark and ominous.
The music is also fantastic. It has some great melodies and really gives you the feel of adventure. The FM sound chip can make the music sound even better if you have the means to make that happen.
Overall Golvellius: The Valley of Doom is not a game that knocks your socks off with great gameplay mechanics or controls but it makes up for that by being a fantastic Zelda like adventure. The game is however much more than just a Zelda clone with its sideview stages and vertical scrolling sequences. The Valley of Doom is a vast world and it is a fun world to explore since there is plenty of useful stuff you can find. It looks fantastic, sounds great and matches the original Zelda in vastness and game length. Sadly it lacks the secondary items and great controls of Zelda.
Still, in its own right Golvellius: Valley of Doom is a very good game.
Lasting appeal 8,5
Is it fun? 8,5
Overall 8,5 a very good game!
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