NOISIA Co., Ltd

Rune Caster’s uniquely stylised logo. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

Rune Caster’s uniquely stylised logo. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

It can hardly be surprising that the Japanese Dreamcast library contains a number of obscure titles many of which being from equally unknown or first-time developers & publishers. The reason why they decided to develop software for SEGA’s next-generation system is also largely undocumented. Partly this can be attributed somewhat due to the legacy of SEGA’s hardware influence in the Japanese market but realistically it was probably due to the aggressive promotion of their system pre-launch. It’s clear SEGA recognised the importance of software support would play a key role in ensuring their upcoming systems success and engaged with previous third-party studios as well as making a concerted effort to engage with potential new licensees to support the system.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that all these new studios which either developed or published titles for the Dreamcast were eventually successful in their endeavour. The Japanese market was much more conducive for studios looking to publish their titles for SEGA’s system. This is keenly demonstrated by the nine years the system received official releases for in the domestic Japanese market compared to the scant three years it was a viable commercial platform in the western regions. Many of these new smaller studio’s titles were generally, undocumented by specialist media outlets outside of Japan. This situation occurred for a variety of reasons which could include the particular title’s genre, lack of promotion or language barrier which can all conspire to leave many of these games languishing in obscurity outside of their domestic market.

The purpose of this article represents one such developer which can be rightfully claimed as an obscure studio even in their native Japan. Much debate exists about them which is apparent beginning with the studio’s name as while the development studio was entitled NOISIA the publishing label of the same company was called VISION. What little information that exists about either company is surrounded by much confusion with both development studio and publisher being used interchangeably for each other. Personally, i’m not sure how this state of affairs has manifested as the game’s official archived entry on SEGA’s Dreamcast catalogue lists to contact Vision Co., Ltd. While also clearly stating that the games copyright belongs to © 2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

Still the issue probably persists in-part due to their Dreamcast title and its admittedly uniquely stylised rendering of the company logo which when inverted during the introduction movie displays both VISION & NOISIA. But just to confirm that VISION was indeed the publishing label for their affiliate NOISIA’s Dreamcast title is provided by the games included registration card which clearly states Vision corporation & their address for correspondence. Also, the rear of the games manual clearly states VISION Corporation should help settle the argument conclusively.

Usually when writing an article, about a particular title the best source of information is usually the company’s official site. Unfortunately, it seems VISION’s homepage amounted to little more than having basic information about their Dreamcast title. It is very unusual that a consumer studios homepage doesn’t feature any sort of company information or corporate history. In fact, it seems that the only presence that they maintained on the internet was this official site for their game which was only seemingly operational for an incredibly brief amount of time being opened in August ’00’. It seems that this limited online endeavour was a marketing strategy to coincide with their upcoming titles release and a scant six months later this official site was seemingly defunct with visitors seeing the message displayed below.

A scant six months after their game had launched visitors to the company's official site for the game were met with this message. Apart from the game's entry on SEGA’s Dreamcast catalogue this was the only other online resource for the game.© NOISIA 2000 All Right Reserved.

A scant six months after their title had launched visitors to the company’s official site for the game were met with this message. Apart from the game’s entry on SEGA’s Dreamcast catalogue this was the only other online resource for the game. © NOISIA 2000 All Right Reserved.

While i can’t conclusively state it’s the case i’m personally, convinced that this represented not just the end of support for NOISIA & VISION’s Dreamcast title but both companies themselves. Unfortunately, simply due to the complete lack of information about either company it’s currently impossible to confirm if this was indeed the case. With the demise of their official website i’ve been unable to find any trace relating to them after this date but i don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that they ceased operation around this point in time. None of the usual reports of bankruptcy or other financial issues have been documented during my research in to both companies it’s as if they seemingly just vanished without a trace.

It’s not often you can confidently state that the most inventive thing about a game is the way the games logo has been designed but this sadly is true in Rune Caster’s case. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

It’s not often you can confidently state that the most inventive thing about a game is the way the games logo has been designed but this sadly is true in Rune Caster’s case. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

What can be confirmed is that NOISIA’s Dreamcast title was the first from the studio which i would hazard a guess an assume VISION had entered the consumer game software market as a secondary business concern. I have to admit that this is pure speculation on my part as no information on VISION has been uncovered during my research into the company but personally, i believe that they like many other companies had decided to expand in to new markets with consumer development being one such option. Given this situation i had initially missed at first that it was reported as being announced as an up and coming title to be released in ’99’ and it had a very small team being allocated for its development. This was probably the reason it was so delayed from this date arriving to basically zero fanfare almost a year later.

It's sad to say but this inventive aspect of displaying the two respective company names using a single block of text is by far the most inspiring design decision that was implemented in to Rune Caster. ©2000 NOISIA All Rights Reserved.

This inventive aspect of displaying the two respective company names using a single block of text is by far the most inspiring design decision that was implemented in to Rune Caster. ©2000 NOISIA All Rights Reserved.

I have absolutely no information about VISION whatsoever and nothing really relating to NOISIA apart from the development team for Rune Caster featuring twelve members according to the game’s credits. When viewing these it’s clear the main driving force was the games designer who was also behind both its story & 3D graphics. Probably in part of being such a small studio necessitated team members to work on multiple aspects of the game depending on what was needed to be done. Surprisingly the credits just list one sole member of the team dedicated as a test player which perhaps with hindsight might not have been the best decision for the game which will become readily apparent later on when i discuss Rune Caster’s gameplay.

The fact that Rune Caster only had one dedicated tester arguably didn’t really help its case. The small development team was probably too involved in its development to see some of the more common issues the game features. It's also entirely possible that they were so numerous that they couldn’t be resolved without a significant investment of time & effort which simply wasn’t possible. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

The fact that Rune Caster only had one dedicated tester arguably didn’t really help its case. The small development team was probably too involved in its production to see some of the more common issues the game features. It’s also entirely possible that they were so numerous that they couldn’t be resolved without a significant investment of time & effort which simply wasn’t possible. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

NOISIA’s one & only confirmed consumer title was a Japanese Dreamcast exclusive ルーンキャスター / Rune Caster which was released on the 24th of August ’00’. The games official designation is listed as a fantasy war simulation. which while sounding impressive sadly doesn’t really detail much about the type of game Rune Caster actually is. I’d personally, describe it as a tactical spell-casting RPG title as that’s what it really aspires to actually be. Given the dearth of official information about the game the best source about it in my opinion is the titles archived entry on SEGA’s Dreamcast catalogue which will provide you with some basic technical information and you’ll find a link to it below. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED. ©SEGA

https://web.archive.org/web/20140804142353/http://sega.jp/dc/000814/

While is subjective to personal interpretation I have to admit that personally, i feel that NOISIA’s title doesn’t really incorporate either a unique or impressive design. All most every aspect about the game just very bland and poorly done as the games title screen demonstrates. While the Rune Caster does contain dragons, I've not yet actually come across any green in the game ones so far. © 2000 NOISIA All Right Reserved.

All most every aspect about the game is just so very bland and overall, poorly implemented. The games title screen ably demonstrates this. While Rune Caster does contain dragons, I’ve not yet actually come across any green ones in the game so far. © 2000 NOISIA All Right Reserved.

A well-designed cover can be alluring to prospective purchasers which in Rune Caster’s place its clear it has immediate issues relating to its overall presentation in a retail environment. Initially at least in my case i had nostalgic pangs as the cover artwork evokes memories of SEGA’s own seminal Golden Axe II cover artwork specifically the Japanese Mega Drive release. I suspect the main issue relates to the games title which to be perfectly honest due to the font used is more akin to an extreme metal band’s logo rather than what you’d expect from a consumer title. Despite having a title prominently written in English i assume that like myself many native English readers when simply glancing at the games name would have to take a second look to actually be able to read it. I do wonder how potential Japanese patrons would view the title as while having a Japanese translation underneath its very small in size and equally hard to read against the bright red background. 

For some inexplicable reason the resolution of the Rune Casters introduction movie is exceedingly low. Another strange occurrence is a number of sites and online retailers claiming the game features an impressive animated intro. Clearly the exact opposite is true and they have never actually played the game as they are most likely referring to Hudson’s title Rune Jade. © 2000 NOISIA All Right Reserved.

For some inexplicable reason the resolution of Rune Caster’s introduction movie is exceedingly low. Another strange occurrence is a number of sites and online retailers claiming the game features an impressive animated intro. This couldn’t be further from the truth as you can clearly see above. © 2000 NOISIA All Right Reserved.

Perhaps not really as relevant as they once were but a game’s opening cinematic should by their nature inspire you and set the tone for the particular game in question. I’m sure many of the readers of this article can instantly recall memorable introductions to certain games which despite the advancing years still resonate with them. Unfortunately, from the earliest opportunity Rune Caster disappoints never mind the actual graphic fidelity of the pre-rendered footage but its inexplicably in a much lower resolution than almost every other Dreamcast game and arguably on par with VISIT’s ザ・心理ゲーム opening cinematic. Which until Rune Caster set the rather unfortunate bar for the incredibly lowest resolution introduction to a Dreamcast title.

The way the introduction movie has been directed is overall unintentionally comically poor combined with exceedingly low polygon modeling relating to the characters featured. This is compounded with equally poor & loud composed music and stock sound effects. I suspect that it wasn’t designed to have such poorly scripted elements but given its completely pre-rendered the actual visual quality is disappointing at best & inept at worst. One strange anomaly that has since permeated in western articles about the game is that many Dreamcast sites & online retailers when discussing the game heap praise on its animated introduction movie. Obviously, they are clearly wrong as the game doesn’t feature such an introduction being pre-rendered and in 3D. I suspect that they’ve likely confused Rune Caster with Hudson’s superior Rune Jade with the similarity between the names and that title does feature an impressive animated introduction.

The characters found in the games introduction cinematic not only are very angular but only feature incredibly limited animation. The overall resolution being so low might even work to the games benefit as if it had been rendered in a higher resolution it arguably would’ve looked even worse. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

In this screenshot it looks particularly bad but honestly in motion Rune Caster’s introduction movie isn’t much better but it’s also mercifully very brief.  The overall resolution being so low might even work to the games benefit as if it had been rendered in a higher resolution it arguably would’ve looked even worse than it already does. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

Before i discuss the gameplay of Rune Caster it would be remiss of me not to give a brief overview of the games general story which unfortunately, is threadbare. It is perhaps unsurprising to find the game uses the well worn fantasy genre trope of two peaceful kingdoms now at war. Two hundred years of previous stability have recently been thrown into conflict with skirmishes taking place in the boarder region and reports of strange monsters appearing on both sides.

That’s pretty much the sum total of exposition as you can glean from the games manual and in-game story. You play the protagonist Jeremy which you can freely rename who has a romantic interest in one of the other main characters i only mention this as not much else is noteworthy at the start of the game. Each main character is given a very brief cryptic paragraph to explain their motivations in the games manual i assume this is to foster some sort of mystery about them which would be elaborated on during the course of the game. But it’s all so slight and basic in its ambition it really doesn’t make much difference when all things have been considered the lack of a compelling narrative is the least of Rune Caster’s many problems.

This is you the protagonist you can edit the name as you see fit. Rune Caster features a partial English alphabet which is slightly odd so i just kept the default name of Jeremy for my play-through. ©2000 NOISIA All Rights Reserved.

The protagonist is by default named Jeremy and as in similar titles you are free to rename him almost as you see fit. A strange quirk is Rune Caster only features a partial English alphabet so it’s entirely possible, you’ll find it impossible to actually be able to choose the name you intended. © 2000 NOISIA All Right Reserved. 

The premise of the game is sound on paper but less so in execution mainly relating to Rune Caster’s raison d’etre which is undoubtedly its spell casting system as this is the most important aspect of the game. It would be quite understandable if the game showcased this component from the beginning and featured a clear progression learning different spells and working your way through the various levels. This could allow for increasingly more spectacular magic & summoning powerful creatures to aide you which would seem to be a logical choice. Unfortunately, NOISIA decided to forgo this approach and the way in which the magic & elemental summons are introduced is lackadaisical at best. A prime example of the poor implementation of the games general systems is found no further than the first tutorial mission.

This the first battle you'll encounter while playing the game. Notice how all the geometry is placed in the centre of the map & also take note of the vast space either side of the path because in-game it simply doesn't exist. To be honest i'm not sure why NOISIA decided to give the impression that it was a large map as players will instantly be able to tell its not the case. © 2000 All Right Reserved.

This is the first battle you’ll encounter while playing the game notice how all the in-game objects seem to be placed in the middle of the map. The vast space either side of the path simply doesn’t exist with only a thin sliver either side of it being navigable in reality. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED. 

Before you can experience the gameplay for yourself there’s a surprising amount of dialogue to negotiate and this narrative element is told in a style reminiscent of a visual novel. To be completely fair to NOISIA this particular style is a common trope of the genre so to see it employed in Rune Caster is somewhat expected. What will strike you immediately however during these sections is the very naively drawn character portraits which feature no animation whatsoever and the incredibly basic background artwork which accompanies them. To compound this apart from very infrequent panning shots these are also completely static. To be honest this graphical element of the game ably demonstrates just how basic overall the ambition & execution of the visual presentation found in Rune Caster actually is.

Unfortunately, during these story interactions not only is the graphical presentation substandard but they also feature terrible stilted dialogue. Thankfully, any important information or player choice is highlighted during these segments as they are far too drawn out simply i suspect to pad out the paper-thin story. Tellingly many of these interactions are little more than single sentences where you reply in kind with generally little interaction. It’s sadly obvious that the script lacks a compelling narrative as well as poorly handled background expositions on why events are occurring in the first place doesn’t really help make for a compelling or engaging story.

During the story segments information or choices are highlighted so you can’t really miss important information. The script isn’t particular engaging and sometimes after events things just progress in a very matter of fact manner. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

During the story segments information or choices are highlighted so you can’t really miss important information. The script isn’t particularly engaging and sometimes after events things just progress in a very matter of fact manner without concern for what has just occurred. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

One aspect that i don’t see mentioned enough is the games audio probably for good reason as during these interactions for the story portions it displays a level of technical proficiency similar to the visual presentation. I can’t conclusively state that it’s the case but I suspect the entire Rune Caster soundtrack is made from low quality midi tracks. Their composition is particularly basic in nature and unlike many of Rune Casters genre contemporaries which feature dynamic soundtracks the game is completely devoid of such a feature. The budget audio design as compounded even more by what appeared to be looping compositions during the story portion of the game. I’ve tested my theory by leaving the dialogue window open and shortly afterwards the music abruptly stopped and just restarts again. In all honesty this is quite disappointing that they just unceremoniously start & stop this means realistically, there’s not much ambiance to be found in the game’s soundtrack.

Probably the most complete element of the game is i suspect the most overlooked portion of Rune Caster. The game features a comprehensive glossary which has information on every aspect relating to the game. Unfortunately, given how complete this is compared to the actual game is something of a misnomer if you expect the gameplay to be of a similar level. If you intended to spend any time with Rune Caster i do think it’s worth familiarising yourself with this resource as it might provide some clarity especially about the magic & summoning system in general. Given the game revolves around spell casting it’s not really as intuitive as you might expect or hope and indeed need. Being perfectly honest it’s not particularly exciting to actually use but at least the tutorial provides some context about this aspect of the game.

To give the game credit it does feature a comprehensive guide to the various elements that make up the gameplay. ©2000 NOISIA All Rights Reserved.

To give Rune Caster credit it does feature a comprehensive guide to the various elements that are found in the game. Clearly some thought was given to this aspect by NOISIA it’s just a shame the actual gameplay never received the same level of polish.  ©2000 NOISIA All Rights Reserved.

As you can imagine progressing through the game allows you to access new magical abilities & summons which just that simple sentence makes it sound more impressive than it actually is. The truth is you need to equip certain spells on some levels to have any chance of progressing through the quest and if you don’t happen to use the exact one the particular mission requires, you’ll fail. The only other viable choice demonstrates actually how poor the gameplay mechanics are in the game as you can choose not to participate with any sort of gameplay no matter what NOISIA had actually intended. Simply ignore everything that you are meant to engage with and set the objective marker and single mindedly move towards it to complete the mission. Almost all the missions can be passed using this method apart from some which force you to fulfil set conditions. To readers unfamiliar with the game this clearly isn’t fun but it’s actually more preferable than trying to play Rune Caster the way NOISIA intended.

To be honest many of the levels are intended to engage you with various obstacles many designed for you to use your acquired magic but there's no actual point. Many levels can be completed by simply placing the waypoint marker and just running to it to complete the particular mission without attempting to engage with any of the games systems. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

To be honest many of the levels are intended to engage you with various obstacles many of which are designed for you to use your acquired magic but there’s no actual point. Many levels can be completed by simply placing the waypoint marker and just running to it to finish the particular mission without attempting to engage with any of the games systems. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

The eighteen summons in the game are in reality simple support characters or magic abilities that are generally overpowered or completely useless probably why you can select any you’ve unlocked. Some are necessary to complete a specific level and then you’ll never realistically use them again. Sadly, like most aspects of Rune Caster their implementation and graphical effect that accompanies them are particularly underwhelming and not worth the effort unless compelled to use. Given this is the games main selling point you can see that this doesn’t really bode well for Rune Caster i can see the concept behind the game but the overall execution has been so poorly realised. It might seem disingenuous to state that all the main gameplay systems found in Rune Caster are generally broken and not intuitive to use to the end user.

The first mission you’ll encounter sets up a situation which i suspect is designed to allow you to get a feel for the control scheme and basic systems Rune Caster employs. Ultimately this will prove to be a frustrating experience as this immediately exposes the multitude of issues that inhibit the game. The first of which is when surveying the map for the first time you’ll notice all the various in-game objects such as fences, rocks & trees will be all contained in the middle of the level with vast open spaces on either side. This however is actually somewhat of a false perspective as the levels are all in fact incredibly small with the wide-open spaces shown on the map not actually existing in reality. As you can imagine this comes as a strange surprise especially if you planned to use the space to your tactical advantage.

If you’ve never played Rune Caster, you’d be forgiven for thinking it's quite a large map to explore and plan a strategy but this will soon disappoint as only the area between the road and the immediate area is possible to move in. The other 75 percent of the map is enclosed by invisible walls and your starting position is right next to all the enemies & most of the objects means it's not fun at all. © NOISIA 2000 All Right Reserved.

If you’ve never experienced Rune Caster, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s quite a large map to explore. You might intend to plan a strategy accordingly but this will soon disappoint as only the area between the road and the immediate area is possible to move in. The other 75 percent of the map is enclosed by invisible walls and your starting position is right next to all the enemies & most of the objects means it’s not fun to even play. © NOISIA 2000 All Right Reserved.

After the spatial issues the most Immediate aspect you’ll notice is the incredibly blurry low-poly graphical elements that the game uses and the very limited frames of animation featured by those models. These sadly are compounded by the terrible framerate that inhibits all aspect of the gameplay this is best exhibited by the incredibly laggy control scheme which i ‘d describe as completely broken especially relating to movement. Despite being a three-dimensional title NOISIA has decided that it would be best to use the D-Pad for movement rather than the analogue stick. This isn’t really preferable but since the control scheme is so horribly broken it doesn’t actually impact the gameplay. Thankfully button prompts are reasonably responsive which is hardly a selling point that they function as intended but it highlights just how bad the controls of Rune Caster actually are.

One issue that I've probably overlooked more than I should is the games camera which tries its best but given the very confined area during the various battles it can struggle a lot. This is noticeable by the way the effects in the game obscure the action frequently. Combined with unresponsive controls, terrible game logic and poor collision detection doesn’t make for a fun game. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

One issue that I’ve probably overlooked more than I should is the games camera. Which tries its best but given the very confined area during the various battles it means it frequently can struggle a lot. This is noticeable by the way the effects in the game obscure the action which combined with unresponsive controls, terrible game logic and poor collision detection doesn’t make for an enjoyable time. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

During normal gameplay pressing the start button will allow you to place a waypoint marker that you and your troops if applicable will attempt to move towards the key word being attempt as if any in-game geometry is in the way it will be impossible to implement. Even being near any object will result in disaster as either you or your troops will find yourself snagged on them even if there’s a clear gap and you’ll find yourself resolutely stuck. Initially it might be hilarious to find that you can frequently find yourself stuck on your own companions and you’ll basically rotate on the spot till the collision detection allows you to actually move away from each other. This is negatively enhanced by the actual movement speed of everybody in-game which is more akin to wading through treacle which combined with the terrible A.I means it’s a struggle to implement any sort of tactical strategy.

Sometimes a combination of the camera being obscured and the games A.I scripting & poor controls can honestly leave you unsure what exactly is happening at certain points. It’s entirely possible your character or troops can’t be seen at important moments as they masked by various effects. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

Sometimes a combination of the camera being obscured and the games A.I scripting & poor controls can honestly leave you unsure what exactly is happening at certain points. It’s entirely possible your character or troops can’t be seen at important moments as they are masked by various graphical effects. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

These flaws would be quite damming on their own but the game’s collision detection i’d describe as dynamic as it alternates between useless and unusable. Even when despite the game’s best attempt to hinder your ability to marshal your troops you’ll find that your attacks frequently miss time after time even through their lined up perfectly. Another strange quirk is the fact your character will move out of range of their own accord of course, it’s more out from your opponent’s general vicinity rather than any realistic range. As i’ve previously mentioned you can also count on being trapped by your own troops or a newly summoned magic character just at the most inopportune time which can be very annoying and is almost guaranteed to be a regular occurrence.

Generally, most titles you can gage the range of your attacks but this is impossible as the game logic randomly decides if you are in range or not. Another strange issue is you can find yourself being pushed away after attacking and rotating around your opponent. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

Generally, most titles you can gage the range of your attacks but this is impossible in Rune Caster as the game logic randomly decides if you are in range or not. Another strange issue is you can find yourself being pushed away after attacking and rotating around your opponent. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

Despite ostensibly being a three-dimensional title released in late ’00’ the game NOISIA strangely decided to use the directional pad for movement. With the previously mentioned A.I & framerate issues i’m not overstating it can take a full second to stop moving after you’ve finished pressing the directional control. Also, the game display’s a quirk that’s hopefully has been long since consigned to history and that’s the awful running or turning on the spot animation in which your character rotates around other in-game objects. Nothing is worse when either your character or troops don’t respond to commands and the game descends into something of a farce when the enemy also gets stuck in an animation loop next to your squad and everyone is either rotating or repelling each other.

On first impression it can be hard to actually work out what's happening here. But were all stuck in either an animation loop or the games broken collision detection is causing us to move as one. This sadly isn’t an isolated event and you’ll encounter it frequently. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

On first impression it can be hard to actually work out what’s happening here. But we’re all stuck in either an animation loop or the games broken collision detection is causing us to move as one. This sadly isn’t an isolated event and you’ll encounter it frequently during the course of Rune Caster. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

While i’m aware my impressions haven’t been positive so far unfortunately, the other aspects of the game are sadly similarly just as disappointing as those i’ve previously discussed. Overall Rune Caster’s graphical presentation is if i’m being honest simply not up to the standard of a Dreamcast title released in late ’00’ or even a Dreamcast title at all. The 3D elements resemble more an early PlayStation title and i don’t mean that as a derogatory remark but as being similar to many early three-dimensional titles on that system that exhibited technical & performance issues. Much of the game seems to have the look of an in-development title which still appears to have many placeholder elements & objects with preliminary textures yet to be replaced.

Either 2D or 3D Rune Caster’s graphical presentation is awful featuring low polygon models, basic geometry with poor texture maps applied. One element that is particularly bad even by the games own standard is the horizon boundary which you can see behind the enemy in this screenshot. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

Either 2D or 3D Rune Caster’s graphical presentation is awful featuring low polygon models, basic geometry with poor texture maps applied. One element that is particularly bad even by the games own standard is the blurry horizon boundary which you can see behind the enemy in this screenshot. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

Suffice to say the 2D portions which make up the narrative sections of the game arguably fair even worse as these are very naively drawn character portraits & bland amateurish backgrounds with no animation. I would’ve thought that while these are static it would’ve been better to try to have more engaging backgrounds and the game definitely needs more in general as they are reused constantly. When navigating these sections, they suffer not just from an artistical perspective but from what i’d assume is a technical issue. There appears to be some sort of blur filter used which i suspect was to try and marry the foreground characters to the background layer. I do understand that the development team was small and seemingly inexperienced in consumer development but the Dreamcast had even smaller studios that made more technically competent titles which displayed an impressive graphical fidelity on their respective games.

It's too easy to be dismissive but the games graphical presentation simply isn’t up to the standard of what is usually found on the system. The game doesn’t support VGA which normally is disappointing but in Rune Casters case it actually works to the game advantage. The story segments are quite blurry more than the actual battle portions of the game the reason why this occurs was seemingly a design choice by NOISIA. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

It’s too easy to be dismissive but the games graphical presentation simply isn’t up to the standard of what is usually found on the system. The game doesn’t support VGA which normally is disappointing but in Rune Caster’s case it actually works to the games advantage. The story segments are quite blurry more than the actual battle portions of the game the reason why this occurs was seemingly a design choice by NOISIA. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

The truth is most of Rune Casters issues including its graphical problems are down to either poor design choices or ideas which have been badly implemented. The game exudes a budget feel which i personally, found to be enhanced with the overly generic design that despite being a fantasy genre title it’s so nondescript in its scope and overall ambition. Many games of this particular genre feature a common European medieval setting but they embellish this with unique & interesting character designs complemented with beautiful background artwork all of which are distinctly lacking in NOISIA’s debut title. 

As strange as it might look this is what I'd describe as a dramatic backdrop in Rune Caster. Many backgrounds found in the game are simple walls, doors & landscapes which as well as being drawn badly are also architecturally bland. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

As strange as it might look this is what I’d describe as a dramatic backdrop in Rune Caster. Many backgrounds found in the game are simple walls, doors & landscapes which as well as being drawn badly are also architecturally bland. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

As i’ve already touched on the audio aspect of Rune Caster is similarly plagued with a variety of its own issues. I’m convinced that the music in the 2D sections of the game are MIDI looping samples which honestly aren’t atmospheric or particularly well suited to the game’s genre. I’m not proficient in audio design by any means but i’m sure it can’t be that hard to cue tracks to play at the right time as some in the game appear to loop and start & stop at inopportune times. I don’t think they’ll be much argument against my opinion that the various music tracks featured in the game simply don’t foster much of a cohesive ambiance especially when interacting with the various characters & situations which arise during the games story.

The bland script re-laid by poorly drawn character portraits on equally simple backgrounds means these interactions feel almost obtrusive as you just want to simply advance. To be truthful the battle segments are equally as bad but I forced myself to play Rune Caster to give a fair opinion about the game. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

The bland script accompanied by poorly drawn character portraits with particularly unsuitable looping music tracks doesn’t inspire much hope. To be truthful the battle segments are equally as bad but with all the issues in the game you tend to be so frustrated you don’t actually notice the music as it’s so generic. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

The actual 3D battle sections of the game are arguably even worse in the audio department than the dialogue sections but while they too suffer from technical problems it’s their actual design which conspires against this aspect of the game. Once you manage to engage certain enemies through sword combat, you’d expect to hear steel against steel or a metallic sound but Rune Caster uses a futuristic laser blast sound effect instead. The game is full of these odd audio cues which only serve to remove you from what little sense of immersion you might have had and this gives the impression of the sound effects being something of an afterthought. Overall, the game’s soundtrack & audio effects are uninspired and ill-suited to the fantasy genre in general.

The audio is frankly terrible and also has some strange design choices. I can only assume the sound of swords hitting amour isn’t something the audio designer was familiar with so they just sound effects that they thought would be a good substitute. When your troops strike armored enemies, it sounds like a laser blast and is accompanied by a blue flash. This pretty much sums up the state of the Rune Casters sound design. © NOISIA 2000 All Right Reserved.

The audio in general is frankly terrible and also features some strange design choices. I can only assume the sound of swords hitting armour isn’t something the audio designer was familiar with so they just used sound effects that they thought would be a good substitute. When your troops strike armoured enemies, it sounds like a laser blast and is accompanied by a blue flash as seen here. © NOISIA 2000 All Right Reserved.

There’s always the possibility that Rune Caster just never clicked with me certainly i’ve not managed to complete it yet and nor have i enough motivation to try to continue on after playing it for this article. I have however spent many hours with NOISIA’s game in an attempt to give a balanced opinion about it which unfortunately hasn’t been a positive experience simply down to the numerous technical issues it exhibits. Frankly these technical problems are hard to surmount given the sheer amount of them to be found which combined with a monotonous story where you have little to no engagement with the characters you encounter means playing the game is a particularly tedious affair. Even the main spell casting mechanic is cumbersome & summoning is an anti-climactic element to the game which could’ve been implemented in a much more intuitive manner overall with better results.

The reward for completing missions is experience points which you can spend on two choices either your characters overall experience or their magical ability. It’s a very limited system with only the brevity of most of the missions which allows you to upgrade significantly. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

The reward for completing missions is experience points which you can spend on two choices either your characters overall experience or their magical ability. It’s a very limited system with only the brevity of most of the missions which allows you to upgrade significantly. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

Generally, the Dreamcast’s catalogue doesn’t have a large amount of genuinely terrible games and most of those that are known are from western studios or publishers who have a reputation for poor quality titles. So why is it that Rune Caster isn’t known as a title which unfortunately, should be included amongst these poorly review titles? The main answer is simply no-one actually bought the game as its recorded sales almost a year after it had been on sale was less than five hundred copies allegedly sold. Realistically this means almost no-one outside the games domestic market will have likely experienced the game for themselves. In a way its obscurity has meant it’s been precluded from the notoriety it probably would’ve received if it wasn’t so unknown.

This is jill who like most of the characters you’ll encounter in Rune Caster tend to be very economic with their dialogue. Unfortunately, the games script is generally underwhelming in its ambition and is padded out wherever possible. In my opinion is not really compelling and is best skimmed through as its quite laborious to wade through. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

This is jill who like most of the characters you’ll encounter in Rune Caster tend to be very economical with their dialogue. Unfortunately, the games script is generally underwhelming in it’s ambition and is padded out wherever possible. In my opinion its not really compelling and in all honesty is best skimmed through as its quite laborious to wade through. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

I don’t think it’s entirely fair to put every criticism squarely on the game itself as NOISIA & VISION weren’t seemingly able to promote their game in anything like the way comparable studios were. Obviously, this will have affected the sales potential as it’s clear from researching the game it had very little pre or post promotional support unless you had pre-ordered Rune Caster its likely you wouldn’t even be aware of its existence. Arguably, a new unknown studio’s first title that at best is considered decidedly mediocre by the few periodicals which reviewed it doesn’t make for an enticing prospect for potential owners either then or now. I suspect that the trial version found on SEGA’s Dreamcast Express Vol. 7 disc didn’t really endear it to potential purchasers either. Coming from a western perspective i certainly can’t recall any information about the game being featured in any western Dreamcast publications or indeed any media whatsoever. It’s obvious that no-one would consider acquiring the game for a western release just on its domestic sales figures alone.

With the small size of the maps found in the game its strange just why so much of the game is so bland everything is basic from the character designs to the backgrounds. I can only assume it’s down to a lack of technical proficiency by the development team features the same level of polish. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

With the small size of the levels found in Rune Caster its strange just why so much of the game is so bland with everything from the character designs to the backgrounds being so basic. I can only assume it’s down to a lack of technical proficiency by the development team as the entire game features the same level of polish. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

I want to provide some balance and post some thoughts from others who have actually played the game but this has been unfortunately impossible to achieve. The only source of information apart from the games long since defunct official site was from Softbank’s Dreamcast Magazine who covered the game in a preview & subsequent review. The score they gave it surprised me as the three reviewers gave it a four, four & a six out of ten. Many of the complaints i had they also highlighted in their review with issues with the game’s graphics, movement & A.I being noted as being of a significant concern. The general text from the three reviewers seems to be substantially more negative in tone than the scores suggest but again it was one of a very small number of publications to even cover the game. With hardly any coverage about Rune Caster I suspect that this review also contributed to the lack of enthusiasm at retail for those that were intending to purchase the game.

Imagine just after a major battle which you’ve lost stumbling across a famer whose chickens are being harassed by dwarfs yes this is the sort of weird tangent that the story exhibits. Yes, you learn a new summon but it's pretty much to do this task you need to use or do this in this example to procced and this is what the gameplay consists off mere minutes at a time. © NOISIA 2000 All Right Reserved.

Imagine after a major battle which you’ve just lost stumbling across a farmer whose chickens are being harassed by rampaging dwarfs yes this is the sort of weird tangent that the story in Rune Caster provides. Generally, battles last mere minutes if that at a time and usually devolves in to placing an objective marker on the map & snapping the camera back and running to it to complete the level. © NOISIA 2000 All Right Reserved.

Rune Caster can genuinely be considered as an obscure Dreamcast title with hardly any information available during its launch window with currently almost no information existing about it in either English or indeed Japanese. Despite this fact the game is certainly not anything like a misunderstood or even an overlooked title worthy of reappraisal but rather a highly flawed game in which many aspects relating to it are simply fundamentally broken. This is even more apparent from a modern perspective as many of the basic systems it employs have two decades of refinement or been completely replaced with better implemented systems. Of course, it’s unfair to compare the graphical & audio presentation of a twenty-year-old title to a modern equivalent but many Dreamcast titles still look impressive due to their design while Rune Caster didn’t look good on release and the intervening two decades certainly haven’t been kind to the game. 

It’s almost poetic that even the enemy characters know the game isn’t worth playing certainly not the way NOISIA designed it and approve of my tactic of ignoring the actual gameplay. Simply press the start button wait for the waypoint marker to slowly cross the map then struggle with the A.I, collision detection & slowdown as you try to just avoid playing the game and (very slowly) running to the objective. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

It’s almost poetic that even the enemy characters know the game isn’t worth playing certainly not the way NOISIA designed it and approve of my tactic of ignoring the actual gameplay. Simply press the start button wait for the waypoint marker to slowly cross the map then struggle with the A.I, collision detection & slowdown as you try to avoid interacting with the game as little as possible and run (very slowly) to the objective. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

One aspect of Rune Caster I haven’t touched on is the games two-player mode which I have honestly never experienced and I’m certain the amount of people that have actually played this mode must be infinitesimally small. Given how bad all the various systems in the game functioned I don’t expect much from this mode and doubt it would be even enjoyable to even attempt to try to play. I’m not being cynical but i can’t help wonder if this modes inclusion was more for an attempt to market the game to a wider audience but its clear if this was the case this strategy didn’t work.

I suspect it's impossible to find two people who have actually played Rune Caster’s two player mode. I certainly haven’t and couldn’t honestly persuade anyone else to even attempt to do so as the main mode is so unappealing to engage with. So, since I've not had any hands-on experience with the game, I've reproduced the page from the manual relating to the multiplayer mode. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

I suspect it’s impossible to find two people who have actually played Rune Caster’s multi-player mode outside of the development team. I certainly haven’t and couldn’t honestly persuade anyone else to even attempt to do so as the main mode is so unappealing to engage with. So, since I’ve not had any hands-on experience with this portion of the game, I’ve reproduced the page from the manual relating to the multiplayer mode which gives some indication of what it entails. ©2000 NOISIA ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

It’s likely that Rune Caster is probably now quite hard to find simply due to only receiving a single small print run of which it only sold a tiny portion. However, I can’t honestly in good conscience recommend this title to anyone apart from those dedicated Dreamcast collectors who are trying to acquire every title in the library. Even then i’d advise caution especially if you find a used copy and intend to actually play the game as i’d significantly lower your expectations as truthfully it wasn’t a good title upon its release and the Intervening twenty years certainly hasn’t been kind to NOISIA’s title. 

 

 

T-40001M Rune Caster

 

Front

 

T-40001M Rune Caster front cover

T-40001M Rune Caster front cover

Rear

T-40001M Rune Caster back cover

T-40001M Rune Caster rear cover

 

SAMPLE T-40001M Rune Caster

 

Front

 

SAMPLE T-40001M Rune Caster front cover

SAMPLE T-40001M Rune Caster front cover

Rear

SAMPLE T-40001M Rune Caster back cover

SAMPLE T-40001M Rune Caster rear cover

 

(NOT FOR SALE) 非売品 discs & other media

 

NOISIA’s title is one that strangely i’ve always been looking for material relating to it over the intervening years since its initial release just because it’s so obscure. As i’ve previously elaborated Rune Caster never received much pre or post support before NOISIA/VISION seemingly became defunct so the potential for items relating to the game is almost nothing. Given this situation you can be forgiven for thinking no disc-based media would’ve been produced in support for the game but rather surprisingly two of SEGA’s NOT FOR SALE promotional media discs actually contain content relating to Rune Caster.

Dreamcast Express Vol. 7 which contains the playable trial of Rune Caster. © 2000 SEGA © NOISIA 2000 All Right Reserved

Dreamcast Express Vol. 7 which contains the playable trial of Rune Caster. © 2000 SEGA © NOISIA 2000 All Right Reserved

First, i’ll discuss the playable incarnation of the game which is found on the Dreamcast Partners exclusive Dreamcast Express Vol. 7 disc. Sometimes games featured on these partner discs have very different builds of their respective titles as they had to be submitted some three months before the disc was to be pressed. So, given the relative lack of material about Rune Caster i was keen to see what this trial version of the game entailed. Unfortunately, the demo of Rune Caster contained on the disc is fundamentally the same as the opening portion of the retail release which considering how long winded this initial period of the game is doesn’t make for an engaging experience.

The title screen is exactly the same apart from the text denoting that it's a Trial version. While it would've been nice to find a different title screen the majority of Dreamcast trial versions use the same as final version so it's not unexpected. © NOISIA 2000 All Right Reserved.

The title screen is exactly the same apart from the text denoting that it’s a Trial version. While it would’ve been nice to find a different title screen the majority of Dreamcast trial versions used the same title screen as their retail incarnations so it’s not unexpected to find this is the case here. © NOISIA 2000 All Right Reserved.

Sadly, as i’ve already stated the trial version is basically the first part of the game which is saddled mainly with long ponderous dialogue and terrible gameplay which hardly inspires much enthusiasm from potential purchasers. Personally, I think this is something of a missed opportunity to try to showcase the game in a more positive light as I’d have thought it might be better to feature a much later part of the game. Ideally a custom level would’ve probably been the best way to showcase Rune Caster but it simply just wasn’t logistically possible to implement. To be completely fair to both NOISIA & VISION many other companies submitted similar trial experiences so it’s hard to be too critical of them for following the usual trend. 

Title screen from Dream Preview Vol. 8. The alpha footage of Rune Caster contained on this disc is very interesting to actually see © SEGA ENTERPRISES, LTD, 1998, 1999

The title screen from Dream Preview Vol. 8. The very early footage of Rune Caster contained on this disc is very interesting to actually see. © SEGA ENTERPRISES, LTD, 1998, 1999

The second trial which is found on the Dream Preview vol. 8 disc while being non-interactive is actually much more interesting as this disc is showcasing titles intended for release in October 1999. Given that Rune Caster wasn’t released till almost a year later its inclusion was a surprising addition to find which features a very early build of the game. It has test footage of the game’s introduction cinematic which actually has many of the same character models when compared to the retail release of the game. The animation looks very low perhaps just single frames on some of the moving characters. I’ve already described that the final released version of Rune Caster features an incredibly low-resolution introduction movie which after watching this footage clearly shows that the development team simply built upon this foundation shown in this early footage for the final version of the game’s opening cinematic. 

The footage contained in this build is clearly very early which highlights just how different it is from the final retail release notice the SOFTDEC name (Dreamcast video codec) in the upper left corner. This believe it or not is the dragon from the games introduction movie it almost looks more akin to a super deformed style character model rather than the more realistic rendering found in the released game. © SEGA ENTERPRISES, LTD, 1998, 1999

The footage found in this particular build is clearly very early which highlights just how different it is from the game’s final retail release. An important thing to note is the SOFTDEC logo (Dreamcast video codec) in the upper left corner. © SEGA ENTERPRISES, LTD, 1998, 1999

Strangely i can’t think of any trial or indeed GD-R disc which uses footage still displaying the SOFTDEC codec logo throughout the duration of its running time. For those unfamiliar SOFTDEC is the Dreamcast’s video codec which was designed by CSK Research Institute who were part of the CSK group and were also SEGA’s parent company at the time. The footage displayed in this non-interactive demo is stark due to just how basic it actually is. It appears to be test footage probably relating to how the hardware displays pre-rendered media. While the footage is very early it does mirror the game’s opening movie almost exactly so clearly this build was simply reused & repurposed for the final retail incarnation of Rune Caster.

Most of the footage shown in this brief video is mainly based on what would be Rune Casters introduction. This video only has basic animation and very simple geometry but it’s clear this was refined and improved and changed little in its initial design throughout its development. © SEGA ENTERPRISES, LTD, 1998, 1999

Most of the footage shown in this brief video is mainly based on what would become Rune Caster’s introduction movie. This video only features basic animation and very simple geometry but it’s clear this was slightly refined and improved but changed little overall in its initial design throughout its development. © SEGA ENTERPRISES, LTD, 1998, 1999

It still is somewhat odd that they even submitted this to SEGA to be included on the disc as the whole video doesn’t honestly really showcase the game very positively at least in my humble opinion. I do understand that there would’ve been time constraints and a limited opportunity to be featured on this disc so they were put in the position of simply submitting what they could to SEGA for inclusion. I have to wonder if a simple slideshow with high resolution artwork might not have been a better choice. Certainly, some other studios chose this method to either announce or showcase that their title was currently in-development. While perhaps not being entirely representative of the finished game i have to think it would’ve been better than the footage NOISIA actually did submit.

Many of the systems of this build were never implemented in the final game. The character portrait's shown don’t correspond to any in the retail release. It might be the low-resolution of the footage but I personally, think these designs are superior to those that eventually made it to the final version of Rune Caster. © SEGA ENTERPRISES, LTD, 1998, 1999

Many of the systems of this build were never implemented in the final game. The character portrait’s shown don’t correspond to any in the retail release. It might be the low-resolution of the footage but I personally, think these designs are superior to those that eventually made it to the final version of Rune Caster. © SEGA ENTERPRISES, LTD, 1998, 1999

I’m grateful to you for taking the time to read this article about NOISIA as well as their one & only known published consumer software title Rune Caster. As you can appreciate given the lack of concrete information about the company and their affiliate Vision Corporation it has been something of a struggle to research almost anything about either of them in any sort of meaningful detail. This has the unintended effect that much pertinent information relating to these companies is sadly lost to time so if anyone can elaborate or add anything please get in contact either directly by leaving a comment on this article or through Twitter @dreamcastcollector or Instagram dreamcastcollector

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