This review is part II in my "Blasts from the Past" series on early Saturn games. Many readers have been requesting reviews of the older titles that have suddenly reappeared in the bargain bins of major retailers. Dark Saviour has been on the Saturn market for three years, so how does it measure up by today's standards. Let's find out...
The story line of Dark Saviour centres around a futuristic bounty hunter named Garian. At the game's opening we learn that Garian and his pals have recently succeeded in capturing the world's most dangerous criminal, a horribly mutated creature that has been killing everything in it's path. One of Garian's best friends was killed in the fight so our hero has made it his personal duty to escort the beast to Jailer's Island where it will be executed. En route to the island, however, the villain escapes from it's cage and begins rampaging through the ship. This is where the action begins. As the only man left alive, Garian must save the day.
The graphics in Dark Saviour are a mixture of polygon back grounds with high res sprites for the characters. This system works fairly well but detracts somewhat from the realism. The sprites do not always line up properly with the 3D objects they come in contact with. Also, the game will zoom in during fight scenes to give a better view of the action. This tends to make the sprites pixelate. Aside from these minor detractors, however, I was pleased with the graphics overall. They are well rendered and make good use of colour. It's looks a little dated by today's standards, but it's not too bad either.
Sound / Music
The music in Dark Saviour is of average quality. It suits the atmosphere of the game, but the Saturn is definitely capable of doing much better. Ditto for the sound effects. They get the job done but there's nothing extraordinary about them.
The control in Dark Saviour is typical of an action RPG game. You can walk or run in four directions, jump and execute a sword slash. All of these actions are performed on the digital pad. If you own an analogue pad, however, you can use it to rotate the view. This can be very handy in some places. It allows you to see behind objects or around corners before you actually go there. My only complaint with this feature is that you cannot lock the camera angle. Once you let go it automatically swivels back to it's naturally 3/4 overhead perspective. The same functionality may be achieved on a standard digital pad but it's slightly more difficult to do (using the R and L buttons).
Moving Garian around his 3D world is fairly simple but can also be somewhat disorienting at times. Perhaps it's just me, but I find that the 3/4 perspective makes it difficult to line up my jumps sometimes. It looks ok, but when you actually do it you miss the platform completely. Of course this is what the rotating camera option is for. In some of the more difficult sections you'll find yourself checking and rechecking to insure that you really are in line with that ledge before you actually leap.
By far the weakest part of the game is the fight sequences. When you meet an opponent they will taunt you for a moment and suddenly you're in a Street Fighter style brawl. I applaud Climax for trying something new, but it wasn't very well done. Your actual fighting moves are very limited and somewhat repetitive. Most of the enemies are not very intelligent and can be defeated easily. I only recall having problems with three or four of them. There is a trick which allows you to capture your opponents abilities for use in later battles, but I was never able to do it properly. Overall I would say that the fight scenes are really just an annoyance that you must suffer through in order to continue with the real fun of exploring.
The difficulty in Dark Saviour is moderate. The world of Jailer's Island is not very big and you could probably complete the game in a single weekend. One interesting point is that the game is not a continuous story, but actually comprises three parallel story lines. Story 1 is pretty easy, but when you finish it you are suddenly thrown back to the beginning and the game takes a different path. At some points you'll find yourself crossing the route you took through Story 1 and seeing the same events from a different point of view. This is an ingenious way of reusing the same locations without making the game repetitive. Even with the three different endings, however, the game is still a bit on the short side. I beat it in about 14 hours.
Whether or not you will enjoy this game depends on how you approach it. If you are looking for an intense RPG you'll be very disappointed. The role playing elements of the game are minimal and the fighting scenes are boring. If, on the other hand, you just want a good platform action game then Dark Saviour may be a game worth investigating. I enjoyed it.
Review By: Sheridan Hortness