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Baroque: Warped Delusion (バロック) - Saturn / PSOne / Playstation 2 / Wii (1998)


Saturn Cover

Japanese Wii Cover

Japanese Wii Playstation 2 Cover

Baroque is an attempt to create a survival horror RPG. By combining some of the post apocalyptic themes of Shin Megami Tensei with some of the visual and audio style of the Silent Hill games, Sting has created an extraordinarily unique game, although its gameplay is definitely bound to put people off.

In the near future, a massive heat wave has wiped out most of humanity and essentially destroyed the world, leaving only ruins and strange mutated creatures. One of the only things left is the Neuro Tower, a gigantic building which may hold the key to understanding why the world has been destroyed. Although you awaken with no memory, it's up to you to explore the tower and uncover the mystery.

Characters

The Hero
This is you. You never see yourself outside of a few cutscenes, and you never talk. You also have all kinds of crazy delusions as you dig deeper into the Neuro Tower, which is how most of the plot plays out.

The Archangel
The Archangel mostly stays in the Outside World, the area surrounding the Neuro Tower. He seems to want to help you, as he supplies you with weaponry each time you talk to him.

Eliza
One of the strange ghosts you'll encounter as you explore the tower. Her vision seems to flee as you come closer to it. She seems to be calling out for "clean water".

Alice
Another strange girl that you'll have hallucinations of in the Neuro Tower, although she seems to want to fight you. Much like Eliza, she seems central in uncovering the story. The instruction manual calls her "shortcut girl".

Tendou Angel
Another character found in the Neuro Tower. She claims her name is Doctor Angelicus, and used to work as a secretary for the Archangel. However, she's since been branded as a traitor and kicked out. Looks pretty cool.

In the original PSOne/Saturn release, Baroque is viewed entirely from the first person perspective. Unlike similar looking dungeon crawlers like Soul Hackers, the movement is not grid-based, and all of the action occurs in real time. This puts it closer to something like Kings Field. The whole game is set up like a Rogue-style game, with (mostly) randomized levels and item placements. The idea is to see how far you can get before you're killed or stumble upon a new plot point, at which you're stripped of all of your experience and items, and need to start climbing again.

There's very little real action in the original PSOne/Saturn release of Baroque. If you're not equipped with any weapons, you can't even see your attacks, and trying to hit anything with swords or guns is pretty awkward. And since your character moves incredibly slowly, trying to actually dodge enemies attacks is pretty impossible. Most of the gameplay involves getting up close to foes and hacking away, hoping that you have enough strength to take them on. Although your HP regenerates slowly, your vitality is constantly dropping, which can only be replenished by restorative items or little bulbs dropped by enemies. The randomized element can cause a lot of frustration, especially in the lower levels - if you're not given a decent weapon or can't find many healing items, you're pretty much doomed.

Exploring the Neuro Tower is a lot like wandering through an abandoned factory - most of the game is pretty dark (partially due to the short draw distance), with lots of chain link fences and dilapidated concrete rooms. It's not quite as visceral as Silent Hill, but it instills the same sense of overwhelming dread. The monsters are just plain freaky, especially the fat jumping monsters which seem to fart blood in your direction, which in turn causes temporary blindness. You actually eat bones and hearts of various creatures to increase your health or vitality, which is a bit disturbing.

Much of the sound design has also been lifted from Konami's famous series, featuring lots of thumping heartbeats, distorted wind, grinding noises, and other things to creep you out. Although most of the music during your exploration is pretty minimal, there are a handful of really awesome songs mostly played during storyline segments. Most of these consist of heavy industrial music combined with electronic synth vaguely reminiscent of Vangelis, along with some beautiful piano melodies that work in stark contrast with the darkness of the rest of the score. The soundtrack was composed by Masaharu Iwata, usually known for working alongside Hitoshi Sakimoto on Ogre Battle and Final Fantasy Tactics. The only blemish is a crappy vocal song featured in one of the games' intros, sung by a group called Baroque Mode, which may have been created specifically for the game.

Baroque succeeds in creating a darkly fascinating world that's definitely worth exploring, despite being somewhat sloppy on the technical level. But the sluggish combat and frustrating dungeon crawling aspects will undoubtedly turn off all but the most devoted gamers. The original version was released on the Saturn in 1998, and was ported to the Playstation in 1999.The PSOne version adds a character that acts as an item warehouse, there are minor tweaks to the game balance, and there's a gallery to view all of the movies. Other than these changes and an added subtitle ("Warped Delusion"), the games are pretty much identical.

In 2007, after years of creating portable games, Sting released a remake of Baroque for the PS2. Ditching the first person perspective of the original release, the PS2 version uses a third person perspective and controls quite similarly to Phantasy Star Online. The game also has several difficulty levels, and while it still maintains some of the unfriendliness typical of the dungeon crawler sub-genre, it's also far less difficult than before. Part of this is due to the fact that it's much easier to attack or run away from enemies.

It's pretty clear that Sting isn't exactly proficient with the Playstation 2, because the visuals are pretty low budget. The environments look about as cool as they did in the original version, but they still aren't exactly impressive, especially compared to the PS2 Silent Hill games. The game is still pretty dark, and the draw distance isn't very far either. The enemies look pretty cool, but the human characters are sparsely detailed. Even though it's definitely a step up, part of the appeal of the Saturn/PSOne was its choppy, low tech creepiness, which is kinda lost in this conversion. The 3D rendered intro and cutscences have been replaced with avant-garge anime-esque cinemas reminiscent of Persona 3, which are at least pretty stylish. However, the absolute worst aspect of the remake is that the music has changed completely. The new music, composed by Sting mainstay composer Shigeki Hayashi (who also composed for Riviera and Yggdra Union) seems want to emulate the dark industrial rock feeling of Iwata's soundtrack. It's not nearly as spooky or even remotely as memorable, but in game, it's not too bad.

Outside of this, the plot and structure are pretty much the same as before, which means it's still obtuse but kind of interesting. One has to wonder exactly why Sting picked this game to remake - maybe to fix some of the offputting issues of the original - but while it's more playable, it's definitely lost something in the conversion.

n March of 2008, Sting released their remake of Baroque for the Nintendo Wii (strikingly renamed Baroque for Wii). By this time Atlus had already picked up the remake for publication in the United States. Less than a month later, Baroque was at last available outside of Japan for both systems.

The translation is impressive, as the game's script is intentionally obtuse and this comes across clearly (or more appropriately, not clearly at all) with the English script. The US release also has a full English voice track that is very good. Only the Coffin Man character becomes grating, though this has more to do with a gimmick of the character's writing wearing thin than it does with the voice actor. A few names have been changed, though no radical alterations have been made. Tendou Angel/Dr. Angelix has appropriately become Doctor Angelicus. Furthermore, in Japanese, the strict translation of the main dungeon (the "shinkeitou") is the "Nerve Tower", while it's now called the "Neuro Tower". This change is more interesting since it's born from general cultural perceptions of eastern and western medicine. In the west, "Nerve" more often refers to emotions or physical reflexes rather rather than brain activity in east. To that end, the more specific Neuro is more efficient in an English translation of the game for evoking the original name's intention without drastically changing its sound or structure. Interestingly, the vaguely presented story caused the game to only receive a T rating from the ESRB despite the nature of the game's plot and its surreal, infernal visual design. While not a one for one comparison, it's notable that this is still one level of severity higher than the B rating the game received from CERO in Japan. Not bad for a game where you're commanded to consume the hearts of your enemies to keep from getting tired.

From the Playstation 2 to the Wii, from Japan to the US, few things have changed. The Wii and US PS2 version give you an option to play the game from the first person perspective like the original. The Wii version also lets you play with the Classic Controller; otherwise, one plays with the Remote and Nunchuck simultaneously. Sting and Atlus wisely opted not to shoehorn a motion based control scheme onto the game, with shaking the Wii Remote to perform a special attack being the only function that can't be duplicated with other controllers. The only disappointment with the first person perspective is that the viewpoint still automatically centers at all times, so you can't use the right analog stick of the game pad (or digital pad on the Wii Remote) to look around freely like in most games with dual analog control configurations.

The Baroque remake also contains various galleries displaying the game's artwork, its enemies, a cutscene viewer, sound test, and even a replay list of almost every voice over in the game. All of these extras have made it to the US. Finally, the Wii version offers both 480p output over component cables as well as a 16:9 display setting for wide screen televisions.

MP3s

PSone / Saturn Version

Great Heat 20320514
Eliza
One Foot in the Grave
Hold Baroque Inside

PS2 / Wii Version

Sinful Eyes PS2/Wii version
Voice from the Abyss PS2/Wii version

Baroque (PSOne)

Baroque (PSOne)

Baroque (PSOne)

Baroque (PSOne)

Baroque (PSOne)

Baroque (PSOne)

Baroque (PSOne)

Baroque (PSOne)

Baroque (PS2)

Baroque (PS2)

Baroque (PS2)

Screenshot Comparisons

PSOne

PS2

View all "Baroque" items on eBay

Other Baroque Games

Baroque Shooting - Windows

Baroque Shooting is your typical overhead shooter, similar to the type popularized by Cave and Psikyo. You play as one of those creepy Angel Bug things, and fight off against many other enemies from the Baroque games. It's approximately on the level of many doujin shooters, which is to say, nothing too spectacularly interesting. Kind of an odd-tie in, if you ask me.

Download the Trial Version

Baroque Shooting

Baroque Typing - Windows

Sting also made a typing tutor involving Baroque - very strange. Various words, phrases and enemy names scroll on to the screen, and you need to type them to get points. You can also create combos if there are multiple instances of the same world on the screen. Certain words also have items attached to them, which grant various bonuses if you type fast enough. You can choose to play as different characters, and bits of the soundtrack are played while you're typing. It also includes a little desktop companion version of the Archangel, who will tell you the date, ask if you want to play Baroque Typing, and little else.

Download the Trial Version

Baroque Typing

Baroque Syndrome - PSOne

Baroque was popular enough to spawn a manga named Baroquism Syndrome, which ran in Sega Saturn magazine. The storyline detailed all of the events that led up to the great heat wave destroying the world. Apparently Sting liked this idea and commissioned a game based off this story. And thus Baroque Syndrome was produced, which plays nothing like the original game and is actually more of a visual novel. It's very similar to Radical Dreamers for the Super Famicom, in that there's lots and lots of text imposed over dark, sparse backgrounds. There's no real gameplay outside of selecting some multiple choice actions from a menu, and there's not even any really interesting visuals, so the whole game is pretty much useless if you're not fluent in Japanese.

Baroque Syndrome

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Solid Runner
Treasure Hunter G

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Baroque

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Evolution

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Riviera

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Yggdra Union

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Knights in the Nightmare

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