Tag Archives: Beyond the Beyond

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Beyond the Beyond

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Let me say this right up front: Beyond the Beyond is a terrible game, and an even worse RPG. I know this, you know this, and the world knows this. And yet, I still wish I hadn’t traded in my copy all those years ago, as it was one of the first–and maybe the first–RPGs I got on my original PlayStation, and since there was not a lot out there at that time, beggars couldn’t be choosers, and so I played Beyond the Beyond because I rented it and and paid money for the end product, not because it was fun.

Here’s how bad the story in Beyond the Beyond is: I had to look it up. All of it. Had to look up every single detail about the story out there because I couldn’t remember a lick of it. And normally, I can at least unsurface a detail or two, a plot twist, a character’s name, etc.–but nope, not for this one. I mean, that makes sense when you have plot summaries like this: The forces of darkness have broken an ancient treaty, and those who uphold justice and goodness must stop them from bringing chaos and destruction. Oh wow. That sure tells me a lot. Not like I’ve ever played a good character fighting evil before in a videogame. Well, we can get more specific: Beyond the Beyond is about a young apprentice knight called Finn who gets caught up in an ancient war between the Beings of Light and the Warlocks of the Underworld. With the help of a number of other adventurers, he is tasked with protecting the fate of the kingdom of Marion. As generic as it gets, unfortunately.

Prior to Beyond the Beyond, I had dabbled in some RPGs on the SNES, like Mystic Quest and Breath of Fire, and NES, but not enough to really know what to expect from another anime-style RPG from Japan that had been translated for U.S. shores. Yes, I wouldn’t run across a copy of Lunar until much later in life. But upon first looking at Beyond the Beyond, it’s clear that the leap from earlier consoles to the quote unquote power of the PlayStation 1 was more like a tiny bunny hop. Featuring discolored and uninspiring 16-bit graphics, the game was not a piece of art to gaze at. Remember how in games like Suikoden and Suikoden II when the action would zoom in during combo attacks and get extremely pixelated to the point of impressionistic? That’s what all the battles look like from the get-go, as evident from this blog post’s header image.

Combat. Alas, that’s the one area where Beyond the Beyond tries to stand out…and doesn’t. Things slip into 3D, with a “rotating camera,” and some light strategy involves maneuvering your characters around, trying to outflank the enemy or move somewhere safe. In truth, the combat is standard hack and slash, but turn-based. There was a system called Active Playing System (APS), which had characters performing secret moves at certain moments. Such as right before a character attacks or defends. Rapidly pressing a combination of buttons increases the chance of more attack/defense power though it was never a guarantee and did little to make the fights more exciting.

I don’t remember much about Beyond the Beyond‘s soundtrack…except that it didn’t sound astounding. Not for its arrangement, but rather the way it was recorded. Evidently, the game relied on MIDI format songs rather than pre-recorded red book audio, which made everything sound tinny and less than great. The soundtrack was composed by Motoi Sakuraba, with five tracks later being released by Antinos Records in May 1996, and it seems like those are much more appreciated than the original tracks.

All that said, and I’ve touched upon this in other iterations of GAMES I REGRET  PARTING WITH, I kind of want to play it again, today, in my current mindframe, with so much more knowledge about what games a good RPG and what makes a bad, bland one. I certainly hold no nostalgia for Beyond the Beyond, but I fear that I was perhaps too quick to judge it and write it off as unarguably terrible back then. I suspect it’s still absolute garbage now in 2014, but that’s only a suspicion, and I would like to actually confirm it for myself.

One aspect that I do appreciate about a sub-par videogame called Beyond the Beyond is that it opens up a thousand doors for clever wordplay, like “below the below standards of what a good RPG should be like.” If anything, we got that.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

For the love of spritework

I’ve been thinking about sprites lately–no, not those kind–and why I absolutely love them, mainly to the point where a new game in 2011 with classic spritework is much more appealing to me than, say, just another modern title with all the latest tech, such as fancy lighting, particle effects, draw distance, and so on. Yup, even more than Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It’s hard to say if it’s all based on nostalgia or if it’s the artist in me appreciating that these moving images and interactive items on-screen were hand-crafted to be as is, to be simple yet recognizable, to still be able to stir emotions.

For nostalgia’s sake, I definitely grew up on sprite-based games. Earthbound, Super Metroid, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Secret of Evermore, Mega Man X3, NHL ’94, Breath of Fire II, Secret of Mana–really, the list could go on. Blame this on the fact that the SNES was my first console ever, and that I ate up a lot of games on it. It’s where I became a gamer, grew my skills; I knew only sprites, and I had a hard time letting go. I think a lot of us did.

One of the first games I ever played on my PlayStation 1 was Beyond the Beyond, a strangely named RPG that I had rented for a few days. It tells the story of Finn, a young, unexperienced knight caught up in an ancient war between the Beings of Light and the Warlocks of the Underworld. Fairly traditional, and not just in story–the game, despite being released on an advanced console, looked like something one would play on their SNES. I was excited about this. I wasn’t ready for the future, for 3D gaming, for stuff like Battle Arena Toshinden and movable cameras. It wasn’t a great game, but it looked like what I had already learned to love, and that was enough for me to give it a try. I also fell hard for Suikoden and Suikoden II on the PlayStation, both of which feature gorgeous spritework paired with fantastic tunes.

When I moved on to the PlayStation 2, there were significantly less sprite-based games for that system. Maybe because that console had finally gotten a strong grasp on 3D gaming. A few still got my attention. Odin Sphere was repetitive as hecktown, but dang is it a beauty to behold. Marvel VS. Capcom 2 got a lot of play at friends’ houses. Can’t really think of others, unfortunately.

I’ve recently picked Chrono Trigger back up on the Nintendo DS and am enjoying traveling through time again, even if I’m rubbish at it. This is a game that’s eternal. It looks fabulous, just as it had when it released in August 1995, just as it will in twenty more years, and another thirty after that. These sprites are colorful and charismatic, eye-catching, easy to get. Only can sprites make a giant tick-boss look freaking amazing.

And now, in the current era of gaming systems–Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS/Nintendo 3DS–I’m still always on the lookout for good ol’ sprite-based games. And they are still coming out, especially on the handhelds sideline. Really looking forward to Professor Layton’s London Life, which is a bonus add-on for Professor Layton and the Last Specter, coming out this October. It’ll be unlocked from the start, promises over 100 hours of gameplay, and basically screams, “Hey, you like Earthbound? Here’s a new Earthbound!” Mmm mmm, looks delicious.

I dunno. Maybe it is just the artist in me appreciating art over connect polygons. Maybe it’s seeing something that can last a lifetime and beyond. Maybe I just miss being a kid, holed up in my room, a SNES my closest and most constant friend. Do you love sprites or new games still rocking sprites? If so, why? Speak up, Grinding Down readers. Maybe we can get to the bottom of this.