Sunday, May 19, 2024

Developer: Amble Publisher: Bandai Release: 06/28/96 Genre: Action RPG

Anime licensed games in Japan back in the 16-bit era were usually fighting games or generic platformers. When you need to get a game out as quickly as possible to cash in on a hot license the path of least resistance is the most favorable. A few tried to be different and dare I say it ambitious, but the results were usually mixed. Kūsō Kagaku Sekai Gulliver Boy is an obscure anime that never left Japan and so few know about it. Its world is interesting. But the various games based around it less so.

Gulliver Boy takes place in an alternate Earth where magic exists. The empire of Spain, led by the evil Judo, plots to find the four blue stones and take over the world. Their opening gambit is an attack on Venice Italy where they kill its king and flood the city. The lone survivor is the king’s son Gulliver, who was away at magic school to learn how to control his powers. Together with his friends Misty and Edison Gulliver plans to find the blue stones first and get revenge on Judo. This one never left Japan but a fan translation makes it accessible to everyone. The question is should you bother.

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The gameplay in Gulliver Boy is slightly similar to Secret of Mana. Within the first few minutes your party of three is assembled and you can switch characters at any time. Gulliver is your brute force attacker and will be your main character most of the time. Misty uses stat boosting magic for the most part until close to the end of the game. Edison attacks using bombs that are slow but powerful. Truthfully most will avoid using him unless absolutely necessary because of this. For Gulliver the strength of his attacks use a meter like Square’s game which can be annoying. Edison’s bombs are not unlimited; you have a set number and once used up they need to recharge. Switching characters makes them recharge faster which also applies to Gulliver’s magic and Misty’s ring ray. This is one of the ways the game enforces teamwork though it is slight.

The action RPG component of Gulliver Boy is minor. There are no shops or even currency. You will not collect new weapons and armor either. Your inventory of items is incredibly small to the point you might forget it even exists. The few items you do collect such as the discs for Gulliver do not factor much in the gameplay either. Each disc grants a new spell but you will equip the newest one and forget about it. Magic is almost not worth bothering with as the game is so easy but more on that later.

The story and gameplay of Gulliver Boy move at an insanely fast clip. After the intro Misty is captured but a few minutes later you rescue her easily. Once you move on to the next location the trio is captured but once again in a few minutes that situation is resolved and you move on. This pattern continues on every stop of your worldwide journey and honestly I do not know why the game is in such a hurry to shuffle you from one point to the next. The dungeons are a few screens long at most with only a few toward the end having anything resembling level design. That is the problem with the game. It has a number of good ideas but does not give them room to breathe. The game’s manic pacing is especially noteworthy as Gulliver Boy is one of the shortest action RPGs out there.

Gulliver Boy is around three hours long. If you can believe it the only reason it is even that “long” is due to grinding. Enemies drop experience that is color coded to each character randomly. Only that character can collect it meaning you must switch and level everyone individually. Even though you are grinding it goes by very fast and amounts to ten minutes in each location before it is not worth it anymore. I wish the game were longer as its elements can be fun. Switching characters to manage meters adds a cool element of strategy, especially during boss battles. With more time to focus on that this could have been solid. It is not like there was not enough anime content; the game only covers the first half of the anime. But I guess the desire to strike while the iron was hot trumps making a good game.

In Closing

Gulliver Boy is disappointing. It has its good points but does not give them time to grow. What is here is not particularly great so it is easy to skip this one for one of the many better options available for the SNES/Super Famicom. Close but no cigar.

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