Saturday, February 2, 2013

Golvellius (Master System, 1988)

Behold, a game that no one played. This was Sega's answer to Zelda... but how good was it? My last couple of posts (Gradius and Legend of Zelda) were pretty long-winded about the gameplay. For the next few posts I'm going to be a bit more to-the-point about these games and what I thought of them. There will be jokes. Punch and pie.

The top screenshot in this post is actually the title screen for the MSX2 version of Golvellius. Here we see the Master System version. It's... a bit of a step down, and completely lacks sexy women. Unless the protagonist counts, since he's androgynous enough to be a Final Fantasy character idolized by cosplay-thusiasts.

Our hero is the pantless wonder, Kelesis. Gotta say, it's a fairly unique name, so points for that. He's on a mission to find Rena - who is, I believe, a princess. Well, at least they didn't call the game "Legend of Rena". Though they did name it after someone besides the main character: Golvellius is actually the villain of the game. A curious choice, but hey.

Right off the bat, our hero gets outfitted with the first sword. How about hooking him up with some pants while you're at it, lady?

Immediately, we're thrown into a side-scrolling dungeon. Interesting. They differentiated this game from Zelda by having it be a side-scroller for half of the dungeons (and a vertical auto-scroller for the other half). Said dungeons don't have any puzzles or items to find, you just go in one direction and eventually fight a boss. This means the dungeons are very, very short. The vast majority of the gameplay in Golvellius consists of grinding money in the overworld. More on that later.

Here's the first boss. The cartoony-ness of it is pretty incongruous with the rest of the designs in this game so far. It seems like the game had multiple graphic designers who weren't on the same page.

The first taste of the overworld. This is where 90% of the game takes place. It's small and divided into six or seven "zones".

It's amazing how leaving out " 's Castle" suddenly makes a sentence like this much dirtier. And why aren't these pixies wearing pants? It's pretty clear right now that Golvellius is the TRUE pioneer of the Great Fairy Whore that would later show up in the Zelda series.

Wait, what? We go from pixies and Zelda-esque landscapes to this Pac-Man refugee? Again with the rapidly shifting art style...

The other recurring boss (besides the red snake) is this giant bat. In a way, the two of them are just minibosses. After sufficiently building up in each overworld zone, you battle these guys en route to...

...the big bosses of the game. Here's the first one. Why is "GOLDmax" necessary to have onscreen during boss fights? A life meter for the bosses would have been tremendously useful in this game, since they take many, many hits to bring down.

When in need of a heal, you generally need to go fork over a bunch of dough to one of these Ferengi-like cherubs. The struggle to get more gold is the real timesink of this game; you need TONS AND TONS of it to get all of the powerups. It probably took me around 4 hours to beat this game, and I'm pretty sure it would have been more like an hour and a half without the gold grinding.

Anyone who plays this game better be ready to see this a lot. Kelesis may be the hero of the realm and the only one who can save Princess Rena from the dastardly Golvellius, but By God he better pay up if he wants any items!

Key to victory is finding relatively safe spots like this where you can lurk and pick off enemies as they approach. Foes spawn infinitely on the overworld, so one can literally just stand in a spot like this and spam the attack button while watching old episodes of Miami Vice from 1988. Think Crockett and Tubbs would have been fans of this game?

More gold grinding; here's an even better spot. Unlike boss fights, the overworld actually IS a place where seeing your gold total at all times would be really useful... and yet it's nowhere to be found.

The various relics/weapons/armors in the game are obscenely expensive. You also need to worry about buying Bibles (to, oddly enough, increase your gold-carrying maximum enough to get those aformentioned equipments) and Heart Containers Life Bottles (to increase your maximum life).

One of the toughest parts of the game is the graveyard, a maze with some nasty foes.

STOP TAKING ALL OF MY MONEY! Alternatively, one could just not get upgrades, but that... that would be silly!

Another boss. The boss fights in this game are actually fun and challenging. While Zelda's boss fights were generally underwhelming (and done faster than a 16 year old boy in a Batman-themed holodeck three-way with Selina Kyle and Talia Al-Ghul), the fights in this game go on for a bit and the bosses actually have a variety of attacks.

::sigh:: You know what, sure. Just take all of it.

Those latest boots give Kelesis the power to walk on water. Get this: most of the enemies can't walk on water, meaning you can now stand off-shore and slash away with impunity at enemies that endlessly spawn and home in on you. This means that money-farming is suddenly incredibly easy - yet even more time-consuming since expenses just keep going up and up. I, no joke, watched several TV shows while pressing the attack button over and over in this game to build up money (which I'd then promptly lose all of with the next necessary upgrade, upon which I'd repeat the cycle). Indeed, 75% of the 4-5 hour runtime is spent like this.

This dead forest is the worst area of the entire game, as far as I'm concerned. The birds here are nearly impossible to avoid, and they... they go right for Kelesis' unprotected balls.

CAN THIS MAN GET HOOKED UP WITH PANTS? Anyway, Animal Control got called, and I...I don't want to talk about it.

The next boss is some kind of beast with a female upper body. It's like Atma Weapon from FFVI fused with Goddess from the same game.

Water-based enemies start popping up before long, which means the seas are no longer safe havens. ...Unless you go back to the places where they are and farm away. They should have called this game Goldgrindius.

These twin rhinocerous-men are, in my view, the hardest battle in the game. For some reason both of them can outmaneuver Kelesis pretty easily, despite his lack of pants.
Forgot to mention - this game has a password-based save system. It definitely loses ground to Zelda there, because the password is long and grueling. Still nowhere near as bad as the passwords in Lord of the Rings: Volume One, at least.

Best sword in the game or not, FIFTY THOUSAND GOLD?? Welcome to Obama's America.

The second-hardest fight in the game is this ring-firing bastard. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if hardly any players got past the previous boss to even see this one, though... still, have to give credit to the game for the boss fights.

What in the blue hell are these things supposed to be? One thing is for sure: they are menacing, and they take no prisoners.

The last boots of the game allow you to "fly over trees" which again puts you in the position of being able to attack most nearby foes with impunity. The fact that the gold grinds in this game are so easy just makes it seem even more tedious. It's a shame because the game has some good ideas, a unique look, and actually improves on Zelda in a number of ways. I just get the feeling that there were too many cooks in the kitchen for this one: too many different art designers, too many different concepts and game types at work. There just isn't any cohesiveness here.

Here's Haidee, the boss of the last overworld zone in the game. This may well be the easiest boss, which is bizarre after the previous two fights were so rough. I literally just stood in one spot and slashed away until the fight was over. It was like fighting a Legend of Mana boss. Think "Haidee" is a bad translation of Hades?

I forgot to mention all this time that the goal of the game is to collect the seven crystals. One of them becomes available after every boss... in the store. That's right, you have to GO BUY THE CRYSTALS, and at exorbitant prices no less. Luckily, this isn't as much of an issue as all of the other purchases the game forces on you, because the bosses give up more than enough gold to pay for their crystals.

At the final dungeon, complete with a full repertoire of Heart Containers Life Bottles. Here you battle the RED SNAKE OF DOOM no less than five times en route to...

...evil king Golvellius himself. He's a physically imposing foe, and a suitably challenging fight. Best of all, he doesn't turn invisible for the entire fight like Ganon did in the original Zelda. Why create a big bad final boss if he'll immediately turn invisible?

Kelesis, seen here looking like a rave-hopping transsexual, is finally reunited with Princess Zelda Princess Rena.

You know what? I'm going to stop you right there, game. Was it really necessary for Kelesis to be completely pant-less? I get that they were going for a Link vibe here, but...come on.

As our heroes are making their escape, Golvellius STRIKES AGAIN! NO! Well, figures that he'd have a second form-


At this point the "cutscene" does some pretty big summing-up of the "story". Golvellius is suddenly a good guy for no apparent reason, Kelesis "journeys on", and Rena follows him. I guess she has nothing else to do, which figures since she basically has no character at all in this game.

Golvellius... joins them? Wow. Okay then. It is pretty clear that this game is setting up Golvellius II. Sadly, it would never come to pass. Chances are that the designers of this game ran out of money before they could make the sequel, which would be pretty fitting.

Wait, what? Kelesis has a sister? It's awfully nice of Rena and Golvellius to want to help him go find her all of a sudden. And notice how they're both riding Golvellius' shoulders? That's a lot of trust considering he was just the villain for the entire game.

Except...not. So what did I think about this game?
When it comes to Golvellius versus Legend of Zelda, I have to give the presentation edge to this game. It really does look good and play well. However, the incessant gold grinding really drags it down. This game is longer than Zelda, but that length seems very artificial in comparison. Legend of Zelda wins.

The Three Decade Project game list

Similar posts from around the site:
The Legend of Zelda Retrospective
Legend of Zelda (NES)
Any comments, positive or negative, on Golvellius, this post, or the site in general are welcome below.


  1. Noble fighter! I wilt give thee some fine pants!.... for 999,999 gold!

    Want/Don't Want

  2. Sounds like the reason for Golvellius becoming good was lost in the translation.

    It was supposed to be that Golvellius was a good-hearted demon to begin with, but that his heart was sealed in the 7 crystals by another demon. Upon Golvellius' defeat, the crystals merged with him and restored him to his former self.

  3. The theme song of this game:

    Thanks for giving us a well-balanced assessment of this game. I'd never heard of it before. ("IDIOT! YOU DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO BUY A MASTER SYSTEM?")

  4. Very informative blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Keep writing.

  5. "Very good post! We will be linking to this particularly great post on our site.
    Keep up the great writing"

  6. This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing blog that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free.
    High School Diploma