Elemental Gearbolt

January 13, 2020

Elemental Gearbolt is about a prince who wants to remake the world to his own design using powerful computer technology. Two Elemental forces are on the way to stop the prince. Today Elemental Gearbolt has a rabid cult following and is highly regarded for good reason. The game has a mixture of science fiction and fantasy elements. The game was developed by Alfa System and was published by Working Designs. Its a mixture of JRPG elements and also on rail first person shooter arcade game. 

In Elemental Gearbolt, a prince named Bel Cain wishes to reach “Godhood” by sabotaging the neural network computer, an advanced technology that keeps the world in balance. The Neural Network contains the souls of all those who have died and the souls become elementals. Bel Cain wants to stop the class war once and for all. He aims to conquer the world and also prevent the king, his father, from killing his mother. Bel Cain was once friends with Nell and Seana and he has split his amulet as a promise to reunite with them. 

You play as two recently turned elementals Nell and Seana who are out to “save” humanity from the prince. The story is told by Tagami, a mysterious figure who talks about the momentous events that caused the destruction of the world. Nell and Seana were once rebels who were caught and executed. They were resurrected at the start of Bel Cain’s conquest due to a self destruct initiation caused by a glitch in the neural network computer. 

The atmosphere of the world its strange and futuristic and it is much more somber and downbeat especially compared to the typical JRPG. The state of the world is so corrupt that it seems beyond saving. The story was very poignant and engaging from start to finish. The story shows the consequences of class warfare between the two races the Audo and Sulunakan. The Audo is the ruling class and many secret groups are working to fight against the Audo but none is strong enough to challenge the status quo openly. The Sulunakan are descendants of a fallen magical empire long before the events of the game. 

You can choose 3 different difficulty levels easy, medium and hard. Since its an on rail shooter, the enemies are preset and the pace of the game is pretty fast. Unlike in many on rail shooters, you have infinite ammo and you can easily switch weapons instantly at any time. You wield a magical weapon called the holy gun. There are 3 types of ammo from which to choose: blaze phoenix a high powered single shot, thunder tiger, an electric spread shot and water snake, a rapid fire shot. Precise accuracy is required so your aiming speed is limited. 

There are many varieties of enemies and you can find environmental hazards to take advantage of to wipe out enemies. At the end of each stage, you fight a boss where the main goal is to drain the bars of health as fast as you can before it kills you. The game has a combo system where the more enemies you kill, the higher your score will be. You will be killing multiple enemies at a time so you are going to have rely on quick thinking and superhuman reflexes. You can find pick ups such as health potions or coins to increase your score 

The game has a trade off system; as you rank up and become more skilled elementals, you can choose either to level up or to get the highest score possible. As you level up you gain more health and your powers increase. There is a large amount of replay value. You can re-watch the cutscenes and listen to the music. You can also look at the concept art. Keep in mind beating this in normal or hard is how you can unlock it. 

The control system is pretty straightforward, just use the dpad to move the cursor and select the triangle button to instantly switch the weapon. You can use either a guncon controller or a dualshock controller to use during combat. You can play with a friend if you have another controller. Remember guncon controllers can only work with certain tvs so if you have a CRT tv in excellent condition, you can play it on that otherwise you are going to have to use a controller. 

The animation is done by Madhouse studio and it is directed by Rintaro, the same director I mentioned in X/1999.  The story was written by Yuri Shibamura of the Marginal Operation and Gunparade March fame. It is really well done and every scene looked very nicely drawn and smooth. Even looking at it today, it still looks incredible. The characters and art design by Hitoshi Yoneda are captivation to look at. The 90s voice acting is generally good and the dialogue fits the setting of the game. The graphics goes well with the art style. I also enjoyed the bleak visual style. The musical score is a mix of electronic sci fi and orchestral fantasy and its perfect for the sci fi fantasy setting. Each of the environments in the game accompanied with its somber music gives a sense of dread and sorrow. 

The western version has titles which lists your achievements over the course of your playthrough and there is a secrets system which has you finding stuff that’s hidden in your playthrough. Pixies give you bonus points when you find them. 

The game suffers from the same thing that happened in Lunar Silver Star Story Complete where Working Designs had the nerve to make the game artificially hard by buffing the stats of the enemies and decreasing your own personal stats. 

If you are going to play this game on easy, keep in mind that after you reach the third stage, the game ends so it forces you to play the full. In total there are about 6 stages in the game which is pretty common for on rail shooters but it still does a good job fleshing out the story. 

The Japanese version had a side story which was an audio drama that really helped expand more of the Elemental Gearbolt world but in the western version, its outtakes of the dubbing process. You can at least find the backstory in the manual (If you still have it).  

I played this game on a HD tv with a converter with a 1080 or 720 upscaler  to play either wii or ps2 games and also to keep in mind that you need a CRT tv to use the light gun or find a 3rd party guncon that can work with a HD tv. 

For my second ps1 game that I have played, I really had an excellent time and thoroughly enjoyed the game. 

it gets 5 stars out of 5. 

If you can find a copy, then you are really going to like this game. I’m going to be off topic for a bit but this does relate to the game itself. 

There was a contest back in the late 90s where various game magazines and E3 held contests to see who can get the highest score in the game. The winner gets a gold plated lightgun controller that came with a case and a letter congratulating the player. Having that in my personal game collection would be really cool to have so if you have a complete case with the light gun and if you would like to send it to me feel free to send me an email with pictures that you do actually own it and its excellent condition. So that it will be good hands and I'll be sure to examine and do a blog post detailing the history about obscure games, anime and accessories and have it documented. A full anime adaptation by Madhouse with Rintaro directing it and also even a complete remake of this game would be really interesting to see. 

 

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