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.