Review of Alcahest
Alcahest was released on the Super Famicon in Japan in December of 1993. It was developed by HAL Laboratory and published by Squaresoft. Although Alcahest never left Japan, in August of 2002 it unofficially became available in English. This is thanks to the efforts by Akujin, David Mullen, Frank Hughes and Dark Force. These people are well known in the translation scene. A few years after, I interviewed Frank Hughes; you can read my interview here.
Alcahest feels and plays a lot like an arcade game. It also has some influences from The Legend of Zelda. It's divided into 8 top-down perspective stages. Special items need to be obtained in order to proceed further into every stage. For example, a hammer to break walls and a torch to light up dark rooms. After certain boss fights, you gain the abilities of one of the four elemental Guardians. In the beginning or middle of every stage, a character joins you and fights alongside you.
Your health decreases when attacked. MP are used to summon Guardians in battle. SP (Special Points) are required to execute a partner's special attack. Items can also be found to restore your health, MP, and SP. At the end of each stage, your health gets an increase.
You attack enemies with a standard sword attack. If you hold down the attack button, you can charge your sword for a special attack (which doesn't consume any MP or SP). Your special attack is different depending on the elemental Guardian selected.
Being an arcade-style game, you gain points by defeating enemies and bosses. After gaining a certain number of points, you earn an additional continue. You're given passwords at the beginning of each new stage.
The distant past, the remote future... both are indefinite periods. An ominous star's radiance appears in the sky, bringing a looming doom. The demon god Alcahest appeared, bringing chaos and ruin. In this time of despair, a single swordsman stood in defiance. The four powers that protect the world, “The Guardians”, sought out the swordsman. Borrowing the Guardian's power, the swordsman finally slew the demon.
A thousand years have passed and a new battle ensues. A ruthless emperor leads his troops towards world conquest. The kingdom of Panakeia was able to defend itself with the aid of its knights. Once again, an ominous star shines in the sky, hinting at the demon's revival. At this sign, an envoy from Hell is called to this world. Will a hero rise to the cause once again and save us all...?
Ever played the arcade game, Magic Sword? Alcahest has a great deal of inspiration from that game. In both games, your partner attacks every time you attack.
I love Alcahest so much. The graphics are good. The soundtrack is excellent. The stages are put together well. The story is pretty general, but it keeps things interesting by throwing in plot twists regularly. I love the wide variety of attacks: you have your 'charge' attacks, your partner's attack, your partner's special move, and then your Guardian summon. Alcahest is an incredibly fun game. Hal Laboratory did a great job with it. I recommend it!
As mentioned earlier, the fan-based English translation for Alcahest was released in 2002. The English translations for Final Fantasy V, Seiken Densetsu 3, and Tales of Phantasia were already released then. At this time, the popularity of SNES emulation and fan translations were at an all-time high and growing steadily. Alcahest's release was yet another reason to intensify everyone's interest in fan translations.
I fell in love with Alcahest immediately, but not everyone did. It got some heat for being 'overrated' just because high profile companies were behind it. Alcahest may not be as popular as Seiken Densetsu 3 or Tales of Phantasia, but it's still fondly remembered as a quality game with a quality fan translation.