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Vay (Sega CD) artwork

Vay (Sega CD) review

"While you can only venture as far as the plot will allow, you never really feel restricted because of the ramped up difficulty in each new area. For example, you can’t pass through Danek-infested Fort Gilan without Pottle to reveal the secret passage. But once you enter it, the monsters within grow significantly in strength. You’ll likely die often just trying to raise levels, but, like any RPG, the path becomes manageable once your skills have improved."

Vay does not begin happily. Prince Sandor of Lorath can’t even celebrate his wedding day. Mechanized units from the distant kingdom of Danek interrupt the ceremony, level his castle, kill his parents and kidnap his bride. Amid a storm of grief, Sandor must first seek out the sage Otto, who tells him to find the five orbs of Vay, which serve as the seal to the Legendary Armor that had terrorized the planet millennia ago. If Sandor can control the Armor, he’ll be able to defeat the technologically proficient Danek forces attempting to conquer the world, and hopefully rescue the woman of his dreams.

This task isn’t easy, but the prince isn’t alone. Throughout his travels, he’ll meet new friends, many of whom join his quest. The first is Otto’s apprentice, Pottle, a young elf with a childish sense of humor. His antics serve as comic relief in a plot suffused with dark undertones. He’ll crack lame jokes and tease fellow party members, often at inappropriate times. In an apocalyptic setting where death frequently occurs, such amusement is necessary. But sometimes the humor feels a bit too prevalent, detracting from the solemn story.

In fact, Vay clearly knows it’s a game, and isn’t afraid to break the fourth wall to prove it. In the neighboring land of Kerzalt, we learn that the castle’s interior matches Lorath’s because of the bond of trust between the two nations, but also because the designer wished to save space on the CD. While funny, jokes like this make it difficult to take the game seriously most of the time. This is especially true when such goofiness covers plot advancement. In order to reach Magmal Island to obtain the Orb of Earth, you need assistance from the Wind Fairy, but there’s a catch. Her farts kill people. Anyone equipped without a filtration mask will go insane, steal everyone’s possessions and die, forcing you to reload your last save.

To be fair, I love games with quirky senses of humor that frequently make fun of themselves or their genre. Prodding dogs earns clever responses such as, “Woof! What did you expect me to say? I’m a dog!” clearly poking fun at RPGs that let you interact with anything that moves, regardless of its use. Things like this amuse me greatly, but when the game’s premise supposedly deals with the destructive potential of military technology, I’m inclined to question the developers’ motives.

Adding to the sense of dual intentions are short, animated clips with complete voice work. These commemorate important events such as the acquisition of new party members and the retrieval of an orb or other vital story item. However, they’re relatively few and the videos are so brief that they largely seem unnecessary. When the king of Kerzalt orders the magician P.J. to accompany Sandor, she reacts well enough without the inclusion of such excerpts. Sure her flirtatious thoughts and outward blushing over the prince are amusing, but they’re also unneeded as she had already joined the party and said everything she was going to say about it through text. I truly feel that, with some exceptions, the animated segments exist only to show off the Sega CD’s superior processing power and the achievements of video game technology to that date. Even so, those scenes that are relevant do a good job in hitting their mark. Many of these are quite tragic, making the player consider again just how serious the plot is meant to be.

Regardless of my mixed sentiments on the storytelling, exploring the world and battling your enemies as you discover ancient secrets can be quite fun and challenging. While you can only venture as far as the plot will allow, you never really feel restricted because of the ramped up difficulty in each new area. For example, you can’t pass through Danek-infested Fort Gilan without Pottle to reveal the secret passage. But once you enter it, the monsters within grow significantly in strength. You’ll likely die often just trying to raise levels, but, like any RPG, the path becomes manageable once your skills have improved.

Fortunately, death from random monsters decreases greatly as the game progresses. Your characters grow stronger, acquire potent healing magic and earn enough money to afford better healing items as well as the best equipment for defense. Enemies themselves become easier to defeat as you discover and exploit their weaknesses to certain spells and weapon types. Bosses, however, remain challenging throughout. While they’re often prone to the same weaknesses as other beasts, their sheer size and power frequently require level grinding and considerable magic to defeat.

By far the toughest boss I ever fought was the Wind Elemental that guarded the Orb of Wind. Virtually resistant to all forms of attack, including magic, the fight dragged on for hours. I died at least three times because I didn’t have enough healing items with me. While his physical attacks were easily treatable, his spells could obliterate my party. High-level thunder attacks dealt enough damage to cut everyone’s health in half. Once beaten, I heaved a sigh of relief, but I was also grateful for such an immense challenge. While I never experienced such hardship with any other boss, there were certainly many that kept me on my toes.

At times, Vay may seem a bit confused in its intentions, but it’s a great, if somewhat traditional, RPG that provides an enjoyable experience. While excessive humor may compromise the plot’s seriousness occasionally, that seriousness is never truly lost. You’ll find numerous references to it, whether in dialogue or diplomatic, political and military situations littered throughout Sandor’s journey. Furthermore, the sheer challenge and intrigue of exploring new areas should attract anyone who might not otherwise appreciate the story.


wolfqueen001's avatar
Community review by wolfqueen001 (December 28, 2009)

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Suskie posted January 03, 2010:

Oh, my fault! You asked a while ago for feedback on this one and I sort of forgot to do that.

I don't know -- my own Vay review scored well in the Alphas a couple of years back, but when I read it today I think, "Wow, here's a guy who really wanted to win a contest." It just seems over-dramatized to me. I like your straightforward approach better. You hit many of the same points, albeit without the pretentiousness. You also tackle the game's goofy sense of humor, which I remember distinctly enough that I'm wondering why I didn't mention it in my own review.

So, yes, I like this. And I still think you're too hard on yourself :)
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wolfqueen001 posted January 05, 2010:

Thanks! I'm just seeing this now as I haven't been online probably since I mailed you about this, so I'm glad you liked it. I'll still say I like yours better, regardless of how pretentious you think it is, but then again, I'm hard on myself as you say. I will add that your review is probably better suited for winning a contest than mine, but I'm glad mine is still effective despite its perhaps less-interesting style.

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