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The Mass Media

The Video Game Connoisseur

Video Game Connoisseur
Video Game Connoisseur

Koudleka/ Publisher: Sacnoth / System: PS / $??.??/ ESRB: M (Mature)

Koudelka should have been big. Koudelka should have been more popular. Koudelka should have been cheaper on EBay. Let me go back in time to a more peaceful age; before the Iraq war. Released in early 2000, Koudelka is a combination survival horror/ tactical RPG that died a quiet, lonely death.The game had three major things going against it. First, it acknowledged that it was a compromised product. Arguments between the developers over whether it should feature an action based combat system much like the Resident Evil series, or a turn based combat system like those featured in Squaresoft games nearly broke the company apart and resulted in a compromise between the two styles. Second, the game was a critical failure. It was ignored, received poor reviews from critics and got very little word of mouth. Lastly, it was released near the end of Playstation’s lifecycle. People were more interested in the upcoming PS2 and Dreamcast. These factors caused the game to more or less vanish back into the darkness from whence in came. It wasn’t until Sacnoth, now under the control of Aruze, got its act together and created the Shadow Hearts series of RPGs that Koudelka became a collector’s item amongst fans.

While not directly connected with the Shadow Hearts series Koudelka serves as an indirect prequel of sorts, with the main event of the game and some of the characters either appearing or being mentioned in the Shadow Hearts series.The plot of Koudelka is rather simple: you play as Koudelka a wandering gypsy/psychic/witch (any of those terms serve as a good description of her) and investigate strange going-ons at the Neamton Monastery in Wales, England. As you explore the Monastery you are joined by adventurer Edward Plunket, based loosely on a historical horror and fantasy writer of the same name and Father O’Flaherty, an investigator from the Vatican. Since you will probably never ever play this game here are some spoilers: The Monastery was bought by a rich man and turned into a private home after his wife died. He then used the Monastery to conduct unholy rituals to bring his wife back to life, but instead brought a demon back. Now the place is overrun with monsters that threaten England and the rest of the world; a pretty standard horror survival plot.

For the entire duration of the game you are inside the monastery going from room to room looking for clues, weapons, and the various stereotypical keys needed to move on to the next area. Combat is a turn-based affair, taking place on a grid requiring to move next to your target in order to attack them. Compared to other tactical RPGs of today it’s extremely basic and has nothing to make it stand out, except the ability to change weapons in the middle of combat. Unlike most RPGs when you level up instead of your stats increasing automatically like most platform RPGs you select which stats you want to increase. In some games this would be interesting, but in Koudleka you can just out everything into strength and bash your opponents to death without any strategy at all. One interesting addition is that Koudleka will turn her head to look at places in the room that ‘stand out’. Basically where she looks you should look.

Koudelka had two things going for it though-It was fully voice acted (no dialogue boxes here) and was critically lauded as being high in quality cut-scenes. The quality of the cut-scenes explains the game being 4 CDs while having a relatively short playing time.Although it wasn’t the greatest voice acting in the world it rivals many other Playstation games and some PS2 games.While the combat is slow and annoying the cut-scenes and plot events make up for it. If you want to find a copy of this game you’ll need to go on EBay and may have to pay a fair amount for a copy in good condition. I paid $35.00 plus shipping for a used copy. I have to say I only recommend this game for survival horror enthusiasts, those who need to play every RPG, and Shadow Hearts fans. Not the greatest game ever, but it has potential.

That concludes this installment of Games You Will Never Play. Join me next time when I go dumpster diving for a copy of “Mario is Missing”.