Hands-On: PlayStation Koudelka

The gothic-adventure RPG from Sacnoth, Koudelka, is looking quite impressive in its early development.

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SNK of America dropped by today to give us a first look at the gothic-adventure RPG, Koudelka, for the Sony PlayStation. The demo we played was only 30 percent complete, but so far the game looks quite impressive.

The game starts with a beautiful CG movie, where Koudelka Iasant rides a horse across an open field. She arrives at a monastery and looks up at the rooftop, trying to figure out a way to get inside. She climbs up to the roof using a rope and when she finishes her climb, she looks down at the interior garden of the monastery.For a moment, she loses her grip and falls but manages to land safely. On the ground, Koudelka meets a badly injured young man named Edward, who is lying by a wall.

A tall grotesque monster sneaks up behind Koudelka, and she immediately turns around, managing to slash the monster. The monster screams and swings its arms, flinging Koudelka a few feet away. Edward, barely holding on to his life, grabs his revolver and takes a shot at the monster.

Most of this FMV sequence has already been shown to us during the Tokyo Game Show '99, but it was still nice to see it again in its entirety. From this point, players will be able to control Koudelka.

Koudelka's controls are not like those of Resident Evil, as players move the characters the way you see them on screen. So, if you need to move to the left, you press the left on the D-pad. It is not like Resident Evil, where the directions don't correspond to what you see on screen. This is certainly a big plus for a lot of gamers who suffered with the controls playing the Capcom survival horror titles. You can pick up items - either for events or for battles - that could either be lying on the floor or on top of a table. The game's field maps, similar to games like Resident Evil, Final Fantasy VII, and Parasite Eve, feature 3D polygonal characters and beautifully rendered 2D graphics backgrounds. The movements of each character run at a higher frame rate and look much smoother compared to other adventure RPGs.

Players won't be able to see the enemy on the field map, so enemy encounters happen randomly. The transition from the field map to the battle sequence is very similar to Final Fantasy VII with a sudden twirl of colors. Battle sequences are reminiscent of simulation RPGs such as Shining Force, Arc The Lad, or Vandal Hearts.

You have three characters in your party - Koudelka, Edward, and James. The battle incorporates the grid system, where players move their characters from one square to another. You can attack enemies from far away if you are using weapons such as revolvers or magic. In this version, Koudelka was able to cast powerful magic such as Blackhole, Flamewave, Healing and other magic. After defeating the enemies, your characters will gain experience points and, sometimes, items. When a character advances to the next level, players get a certain number of bonus points, and they distribute them to different attributes of the characters, such as strength, agility, piety, intelligence, and others.

The demo of Koudelka we received was 30 percent complete, yet it left us with some great expectations for the final game. The soundtrack to the game is impressive, adding to the mood of the game nicely. The director and composer of Koudelka is Hiroki Kikuta, who also composed music to Square's Seiken Densetsu (Secret of Mana) series.

Koudelka is scheduled for a release on December 16 in Japan and Q2 2000 in North America.

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