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Illusion of Gaia

Action RPG
Soul Blazer
  • 1994-09-01
  • 1994
B+ 13 total ratings
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Telekenetic Archeologist's Kids have all the fun

An Illusion of Gaia review Author: Wiegraf Published: May 13, 2005
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Illusion of Gaia is a game that most people are probably not familiar with. In fact, most serious RPG players have probably experienced more of games such as Seiken Densetsu 3 and other such ROM-based imports, rather than a game that WAS actually released on our shores, by Enix midway through the SNES's life cycle.
As a matter of fact, I have a story about the lack of love for Enix's forgotten cart: a local game store was selling old SNES cartridges. The only two RPG's I found were Illusion of Gaia and Lufia II. IoG was going for 9.99; Lufia II was a steal at 45.99. This makes for a crap game, right?
Definitely not. If anything, Illusion of Gaia is a grand example of 'the one that got away.' It doesn't do anything particularly amazing, but it does just about everything plenty well enough to make it an entertaining and fun game to play (and in the end, isn't that what's important?)
Time to set the scene. Illusion of Gaia begins with a simple quest: Help the young resident of South Cape, Will, to find his lost archeologist father in the ominous Tower of Babel. Simple enough, right? Ah, but here's the rub: this will take a long time to get there, and not because of a deficiency by the developers. One part that excites me about the game is the fact that there are so many different elements in its storyline. Of course, you'll get the trademark "save the princess" and "save your idiot companion" scenarios, but interspersed are several other stories that are unlike any other RPG I've played. You'll find yourself sailing on an ancient Incan ship, saving an underground city, and even playing a russian roulette-style drinking game (and who couldn't love that?)
Now, for the gameplay side of things. Will can not only hold his own, he also is able to use his connection with Gaia (a godlike figure through the story) who allows him to turn into two seperate forms: Freedan, a dark knight with a powerful sword; and (near the end of the game) Shadow, a fireball-spitting being of pure energy. All three of the playable characters have their own abilities which you'll need to use to go forward. For example, the long reach of Freedan's sword can hit a switch that Will couldn't; this allows a path to fall later in the level that Will can traverse. This adds a puzzle element to the game (it's not exactly rocket science, but nice touch). Also added (to Will and Freedan) is a telekenetic ability, allowing them to move objects to clear paths or block enemies.
The battle system also shines. The game features no random battles, as action takes place in real-time. Add to this the fact that destroying all enemies for the first time on a map gives your character a permanent HP, Attack, or Defense increase and you now have a reason to look high and low for every baddie. End this with challenging (but not insane) boss fights and you have yourself a game with a good storyline, gameplay, and battle system. So what's not to like?
Well, there are a few gripes I have. For one, the battles do get kind of boring due to the fact you're doing the same move (Slash, slash, slash, mcslash slash) 10,000,000,000 times during the course of the game. Also, no offense to Enix, but their production values can't match Square--the graphics look dated at times and that 'Enix font' and slow message speed that's also on the other two games in this "series" (Soul Blazer and Terranigma) can wear on you after a while. Finally, the backtracking to switch characters to open the way forward is a nice touch, but it is backtracking, and later in the game can become quite tiresome.
However, these flaws aren't enough for me to saddle Illusion of Gaia with a bad rating. I think it is truly a diamond in the rough.
Editor's Grade
dotted line "They made a game about a boy who uses a flute not suck. I am in awe of these people."
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