Time Stalkers is a terrible mess of an RPG.
This game in alot of ways reminds me of Azure Dreams or even Tao's Adventure. You capture monsters for your team, and run around boring randomly generated maps going from floor to floor. So yeah, this game isn't very good. I love the cutscenes, but they're only used during the most important dialog scenes, which would be the opening and ending of the game.
The actual game itself is completely boring. All the dungeons are exactly the same and most of the monsters are the same aswell. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses, but that's about you'll need to use Sword most of the time anyways. The game can be kinda difficult too since you can only take a few items with you inside of a dungeon, and if you need another item, then you have to pray your little heart out that it randomly appears on a floor. One little mistake can cause you to die aswell, usually you're about 10 times more powerful than the enemies, and they can only cause you about 1 HP in damage, but there's traps that can weaken you, or take out 20 HP of damage, or the worst of all, monsters that curse all your weapons and armor, take two turns to attack you, and dodge all of your attacks. I've died MANY times because of these things. While the game is short, it can be completely frustrating at times.
Time Stalkers is a basic turn based RPG. From the first battle in the game til the last, there really isn't much variation and you won't learn much from the game. Basically, you have 4 meters you need to watch, the HP and MP meters which are obvious and your Vigor meter, each time you attack you lose some of your Vigor, so in order to use effective attacks you need to keep your Vigor up. The last one is your Hunger meter, this one just slowly drains as you run around and search for traps, it was often so slow that I never had a problem with it. If your Hunger Meter runs dry, then your HP will slowly decline.
All monsters are visible on the screen before attacking them. You can initiate the attack, or just run past them, but if the monsters are agitated then they will run after you or start the attack. Once the battle has started, you will fight on the same plain as the dungeon, like Azure's Dream or Tao's Adventure, or even Chrono Trigger. Each character and monsters have their own skills, but for the most part, they each have an Attack, Defend, Magic or Item option.
The game is very strange in some ways. You gain a level for each 100 experience points, like Final Fantasy Tactics. You gain experience points for each monster you kill like most RPGs. Your skills boost after each level, and even your magic attacks gain levels too, each time you complete a floor you get to distribute some bonus skill points as well. The strange thing about this game is after you finish off a dungeon, you start back to square one with level one. Also you can't enter a dungeon with more than 4 items at a time, that means you have to sell almost everything in your inventory or put them to Master at your house.
Leveling up is easy, monsters are easy and fast kills, so it's never a chore to get strong in the game, it's just really stupid that they would do this.
There's six main characters in all, but you can only play as one a at a time. Otherwise, you can have a party of 3 characters at a time, so you have 1 main character and 2 enemies that you captured. You can enter a dungeon solo, and add a monster to your party later in the game, but they always start at level 1, while the enemies on the floor might be at level 15. This can work to your advantage, and got me through a few hot spots in the game. If you put your level 1 monster on a later floor and he survives the first monster attack, then he will gain a buttload of experience, and so will your main character too. The first time I did this was on accident, so I was fighting solo, on the 8th floor and wanted to see what the monster buddy could do, so I fought four enemies and my monster survived. My character, Sword gained around 50 levels and my monster gained around 60 levels, making my characters invincible for the dungeon. While this works out great, it can be a hard thing to do and really depends on luck.
----------Characters / Story----------
You start the game as "Sword" a sarcastic kid that was attacked in the woods, as he chases his attacker inside of an old castle, he finds a magic book that warps him into a different time zone or dimension. As he finds out, there's others that fell for the same trick, so he goes on a quest to escape from this new dimension.
As you progress through the game you'll meet the other people that fell for the trap, some are good, others are worthless. The dialog is really cheesy in this game, but it's more than most games offer. Each time Sword beats a dungeon, he unlocks new worlds and friends. Also this unlocks new houses and shops. More areas unlocked, the more NPC show up, and they have plenty of personality atleast.
The game features characters from other Sega games, including Nigel & Friday from Land Stalkers, and Pyra from Shinning in the Darkness. It's a cool concept, similarly used in the Nintendo cartoon, Captain N, or Squares Kingdom Hearts.
There's no full blown CGI cutscenes, but all the cutscenes use the in game engine, and it looks nice I guess, not quite on a Skies of Arcadia level but almost close. The character models are highly detailed, but they're really blocky and almost look like an advanced Playstation game. On the bad side of it all the camera angles suck. The dungeons are randomly generated and look like crap in the process (although I think the dungeons look more impressive than Evolution). The enemies look generic too. All the special attacks I've seen have been very basic and unimpressive.
There's no voice overs at all in the game, no battle cryies or grunts or anything. The sound effects are pretty lame, but the music is catchy, but it's all mostly keyboard driven and gets repetitive after a while. Each character has their own theme atleast.
The world map is just a small island with dungeons surrounding it, similar to Brave Fencer Musashi. After you beat a new dungeon, another piece of land forms on your island making it bigger, and another dungeon will appear. You then repeat the cycle until the game is over.
Inside the dungeon you get to pick between 2 maps (small / big) and two camera views (overhead and 3rd person). The dungeons are randomly generated and feel cheap and lazy to me. The dungeons remind me ALOT of Evolution 1 and 2 (or Evolution Worlds for the Gamecube), the dungeons have the same camera angles, you run into traps, find random treasure and run around looking for the next floor. Luckily though Time Stalkers features really really small floors, unlike Evolution.
----------Time to Complete Game----------
The game doesn't record your time at all. I hate games that do this, but if I had to guess, I would say it is a 15-25 hour game. After you beat the game you can go through any dungeon again if you want, and gain more skills, find more weapons or capture more monsters. Each character has their own unique ending, but they're nothing special and really short, although Nigels was kinda funny.