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Mysterious Song
(Darkness Ethereal)


"A life whose truth springs alive like music"

2002 QB Gaming Gold Award Winner for Best QB Villain: Grimm
2001 QB Gaming Gold Award Winner for Best Original Graphics, Best Music, Best Sound, Best RPG, and Game of the Year

In the human world, every being is governed by a simple nature shrouded in fear and weakness. It is these notes that manipulate mankind, making one person as predictable as the next, like the harmony of a song... is this principle that young Spear must learn in full to leave Taren Castle and rediscover his childhood. The songs that guide humanity are the key to the new evils that eat upon the land, the love that remains hidden, and the reality as mysterious as the fates from hence they came.

Graphics (n.)
The use of animation and visual effects to stimulate the senses
From a technical standpoint, Mysterious Song is brilliant. The game scrolls with no sign of jerkiness, the monster battles carry on with no sign of flicker, and the entire game carries on without a hitch. It was obvious that Darkness Ethereal wanted to make sure that this game did not carry a single bug to tarnish it's polished look.

In a more artistic light, the detail taken to make the worlds in Mysterious Song are impressive. The somewhat tileish, Tecmo/Taito RPG look of this game is enhanced by well-rendered tiles. The battle sequences are also a thing of beauty, with carefully drawn backgrounds. The animation during the battle sequences added to the game's graphics, but I would have liked to see a little more movement from both the enemies and the spells casted by your party in the game to match the game's detail level.

Sound/Music (n.)
The smooth blend of atmospheric sounds and original harmonies
(Very Good)
Darkness Ethereal has done a solid job again in the music department. Darkness Ethereal RPGs tend to accentuate on a single instrument the way Final Fantasy games work so diligently on the subtle sounds of the flute and harp. In Mysterious Song, Darkness Ethereal's musicians paid homage to the piano.

The BWSB music immediately makes an impact on the game's feel, and the selection of each tune was very careful. In times when the story takes a tragic twist, the music slows down to a painful series, and stirs up again especially when Spear meets the abominable Grimm. There are no sound effects, but somehow this RPG manages. What do you expect? By the title of the RPG, this is where Mysterious Song is supposed to shine, and the music does not disappoint.

Gameplay (n.)The precision of control and involvement of character within its universe vvv
I was caught off guard by Mysterious Song's controls at first because they required use of the arrow keys and the Delete and Enter key. Whether I used the delete and enter key to my immediate left or the keys to my right, I felt like my hand movements were somewhat restricted.

But once I got used to it, Mysterious Song started to take shape. The world where Mysterious Song takes place seems to center around Illus Pass, making every new place you find relatively close in terms of walking distance. Around each of these new section you find characters who join your party, and challenges that will take you one step closer to who you really are.

The battle format and the way the towns are set up are very similar to Dragon Warrior. Expect having to visit towns for the best bargains in weapons and armor. Also expect a pretty lengthy set of caves with enemies abound, and a linear storyline that throws its occasional challenges but can be conquered with a little extra patience.

Story (n.)
The creativity and presentation of the game's critical plot
One of Darkdread's favorite games must be Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Two prominent features in the Playstation Game (protagonists with long hair and music references) are in an absolute surplus in this game. Yet somehow Darkdread is able to take all of these medevil elements and come out with a villain and a plot that is so refreshing that his storytelling skills were able to surprise me yet again. Great job.
Replay Value (n.)
The timelessness of the gamer's delight, such that the experience can be repeated again and again
One reason Mysterious Song is worth playing again and again is because it really is Darkness Ethereal's most polished effort. There are no graphic glitches to get in your way, and once you're used to the unusual keyboard configuration it's easy to play this game in two-hour segments the way people play their Playstation RPGs.

The other reason is that Mysterious Song presents an interesting challenge in the form of a horrible dragon that rests in the upper right of the universe. The fact that there is a creature so incredibly strong in this game gives you the incentive to work a few extra level up in the same fashion as Super Mario RPG or any other classic where there's a "super boss" 100 times more powerful than the game's end boss. 

Challenge (v.)
To strike the mental nerve in such a way as to stimulate human thought and reflexes
Mysterious Song is challenging in a sense that you may not expect. The key to beating this game is knowing what each of the NPCs you have in your party can do to help you proceed in your quest. For example, certain characters will have access to spells that will be critical in beating certain foes. You'll even have to manipulate your surroundings sometimes to reach the next part of the game; it's impossible to solve this game with a one-man party, and you have to let Mysterious Song's story take its natural course.

For the most part mazes range from easy to moderate. Most of the battles will not be a challenge, as long as you have plenty of ethers stashed and the strongest armor your monster-slaying efforts can buy.

Fun Factor (n.)
The overall entertainment value as maintained throughout the adventure
Despite all of Darkness Ethereal's efforts to combine sound, gameplay, and replay value seamlessly into Mysterious Song, it turns out that the final product lacks some of the Fun Factor that Darkness Ethereal games usually have. I think of "Secret of Cooey", which issued about half the technical brilliance of Mysterious Song, and yet Cooey receives twice the fun factor points that Darkness Ethereal received. Why is that so?

The reason for this phenomenon is that the tempo of Mysterious Song is relatively slow compared to other Darkness Ethereal games. You can't just storm in from castle to castle like you would a Final Fantasy game. Mysterious Song requires some good-old fashioned experience gathering. This is the reason the game could take 10 hours if you're not careful, as patience will be essential to make sure that your experience levels are always high enough to forge ahead. Yet this change in pace is probably by design, since Darkness Ethereal intended to mimic the Dragon Warrior style of play instead of their usual trend to make sure their games have a Final Fantasy-style pace. It's no secret that Enix gives their Dragon Warrior games a slower pace than Square's story-clad RPG series.

However, Dragon Warrior games tend to compensate this slower pace with a deeper battle system. In Mysterious Song, I didn't quite get that feeling; I always banked my offensive magic for the bosses while I saved my curing spells sparingly unless my HP was depleting at a horrible rate. There wasn't really that variation in gameplay or that addictive feel in battle that is the strength of Dragon Warrior style games.

Don't get me wrong though; Mysterious Song is a great RPG. It's currently one of the best RPGs out there, and if you're looking to satisfy your RPG-dwelling urges, Mysterious Song will more than do it's job and keep you entertained well into the end. 

Players 1 player Genre: Role Playing Game
Rating To solve: 3-5 hours Final Rating: 23/35

To download this game, click here.
Installation Tips
wIf you're unzipping this program in DOS, you may have to use the -d option.
wMake sure you run "SETUP.EXE" first to get Mysterious Song's sound settings.
wTo play Mysterious Song, unzip the file and run "MSONG.EXE".

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