Review by delateur

"I hated it, I liked it, then I hated it again!"

Yeah, that's pretty much how it went. First off, a little background. I have a Gamecube, no Gameboy Advance, and no friends who are around regularly to play games with me, so take this with a ''single-player'' slant. I can guess what multi-player might add, but without firsthand experience, I'm only going to be vaguely sure of what I'm talking about, at best. ;)

Background: Miasma covers the planet. Caravans must go out in search of myrrh (magical liquid) to replenish the crystals scattered around the planet to fend off the encroaching darkness.

Story: 7/10 - For an action adventure game, the story is quite good. The English translation is pretty much spot-on, and the dialogue, while unspoken except for introductions to dungeon areas, is good. Does it sweep you away like a true RPG? No, not even close, but it holds its own and gives you a reason to stay together when you're playing multi-player (the container you collect myrrh with creates a small protective ring, step outside of it, and you start dying rather quickly).

Gameplay: 5/10 - Yep, here's the score killer. The sad part about this is that action adventure games are completely dependent on gameplay. I mean, think of the originator, Diablo. Did you care about the story all that much? No... it was just filler to point you to the next dungeon. While I think our expectations have increased over the years, this game does nothing to raise the bar aside from some interesting multiplayer implementation that I think could have easily been done without encouraging people to invest in another handheld gaming device. It turns what might have been a pretty solid mainstream title into something of a niche title. And from all I've seen and read, the game doesn't really benefit a whole lot from the addition of the GBA interface. So let's go down the list: 1) Commands are awkward and clunky, and this ties directly into the inventory, which has no management features to speak of (it autosorts when you engage a shopkeeper); 2) The gameplay becomes very repetitive, because the weapons are basic, with very little to distinguish one from another.; 3) the leveling system through artifacts, while interesting at first, becomes very tedious and a bit frustrating, as you have to go through the entire dungeon just to gain on a few points to ONE ability. This seems a tool to build in replayability and game length overall rather than a cool idea that works well in reality; 4) all the characters play pretty much the same, so there's no real sense of customization, not to mention that the only thing that changes on your character is their weapon. There's probably more I'm missing, but those are the main lowpoints in the gameplay. Honestly, if the world itself wasn't so endearing (the movements and artwork are superb), I doubt I would have played it as long as I did (two days). So, you might be wondering, is ANY aspect of the gameplay fun? Well, I'd say tolerable is about the most praise I could give it. Sorry. :(

Graphics: 10/10 - I rarely give tens in my reviews, but the graphics in this game really impressed me. It wasn't just the effects, but the backgrounds, the smoothness, the animation of the characters, all of it. Completely immersive and wonderful. If the gameplay had been on par with the graphics, this game would have easily been one of the best games of all time. I do wonder, though, how they came up with the varied races. One looks like a total ripoff from FFXI's tarutaru race (which in this game, oddly enough, are the warrior race, while in FFXI, they're more suited to mages). The selkics are my personal favorites, as their outfits and body proportions are more like FFIX. They added a rather noticeable bounce to the selkic girls, who have very outlandish (in human terms) proportoins, that I think will have most of the guys smiling in appreciation. :p There is a bird-like gangly race of mages that I found to be extremely creepy, and a ''human'' race that basically look like adolescent teenagers. With the exception of the selkics, none of the other races really appealed to me, but I still appreciated the artistry that went into each one.

Sound: 9/10 - I thoroughly enjoyed the sound. The voice acting for the various dungeons was well done. A soft female voice with an unplaceable accent seemed appropriate to the music. Although the music DOES get repetitive after awhile, it's not a bad score, so you shouldn't find yourself too irritated by it.

Bottom line: If it's just you and your Gamecube, you owe it to yourself to rent this one before you buy it. I really don't see enough in the single player game to warrant going through it once, much less going after all the artifacts and best items. It's simply not that much fun.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 02/18/04

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