"The cold truth is that Beyond the Beyond would suck regardless of when it was released."
Being the first game of a specific genre released on a new system does not excuse one from criticism. Special allowances can be made if it’s a new genre altogether, such as Baseball Mogul games, or if the genre’s only other alternatives are of similar quality, like NES pinball games. When a genre has already been well-established on previous systems, there is no excuse for producing an inferior game on an advanced system. A shift in hardware formats should not change the established rules of success.
Beyond the Beyond wants you to ignore the fact that it sucks simply because it was the first RPG released for the Playstation. This is ludicrous. Graphical glitches and bugs would be signs of adjustment difficulty. A stereotypical story, insipid battle system, and legendarily bad planning are signs that Beyond the Beyond would have been a flop regardless of what time period or system it was released on.
You are quiet young hero X, with sweet young girl Y and rambunctious pal Z. Your goal is to save Country A from the perilous Villain F! Along the way, you have help from legendary hero S and that thief/pirate with a heart of gold, T. At the end of your journey, you have learned about togetherness, love, compassion, blah blah blah... Name any other cliché you want to, like “grateful king,” and it makes an appearance somewhere. Joy.
Beyond the Beyond is utterly incapable of providing any entertainment whatsoever due to a mind boggling amount of frustration. The battle system is sloppily thrown together, with the traditional RPG market of hit points split into two categories - life points (LP) and vitality points (VP). Whenever you’re hit, your VP will go down. Lose too many, and you become stunned and lose LP, in addition to that round of combat. You die when both VP and LP are completely drained. The problem is that LP is not replenished when you use restorative items. Therefore, unless you constantly heal yourself, you will not be able to fully restore outside of inns. Also, when you lose LP, you automatically become stunned, but enemies are afflicted by no such condition.
All aspects of Beyond the Beyond reek of poor design. Due to the “stunning” problem, a party of enemy mages can continually pound you with party wide spells. The enemy encounter rate is set too high, as it seems like you run into something every two steps. There is no world map, so simply finding the next area to visit can be an unending crusade.
However, the most maddening design flaw is the curse which afflicts one of your characters the entire game. He is cursed for about half the game. He will either be unable to move or will receive damage from it for half of his turns. You must constantly keep an eye on him since you can not rely on him to attack enemies of heal himself. The only practical purpose he serves is to absorb damage, since he has the highest VP and LP early in the game. Any in-battle strategy is dependant on the whim of his curse. Being forced to carry a crippled party member is one of the most frustrating gaming experiences I’ve had to sit through.
Although every aspect of gameplay is exiled to the scrap heap of oblivion, the graphics are not horrible relative to their time of release. It’s a step above Super Nintendo quality, with a wide range of color used to paint a bright and colorful world. Beyond the Beyond wisely decided to avoid the early Playstation graveyard of horrible looking polygon modeled characters. The only nifty feature of Beyond the Beyond is also visual, in the form of graphical portraits of characters who are speaking. It’s an underutilized trick that I had only seen in Sega Genesis games (Phantasy Star 4, Shining Force 2) which helps to breathe in some life to the typically tired realm of RPG conversations.
Being first isn’t a cop out for being crap, especially when there are past models of excellence (Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 6) to build upon and mega-games (Final Fantasy 7) lurking in development. Simply producing a festering pile of dung without regard to quality to fill a niche will not move units. The cold truth is that Beyond the Beyond would suck regardless of when it was released. Time period is no excuse for this insipid swine of a game.
Staff review by Stephen Greenwell (August 30, 2003)
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