RPG Review #51: Illusion of Gaia


Here we go, past the #50 mark, back to the SNES for this game which I have been itching to play for quite some time. It was one of the first games I thought of when I first got into RPGs, and putting it on my wait list was kind of a dumb move at first. But of course, I'd get to it eventually, even if I had to play Soul Blazer first. Yes, for those that don't know, Quintet made a trio of action RPGs, of which Soul Blazer was the first and Illusion of Gaia was the second. Terranigma is the third, and I'll get to that some way some how. But for now, enjoy my Illusion of Gaia outlook.

Gameplay: As I said, an Action RPG. But it's quite different from Soul Blazer in many ways. There's no experience to gain, no equipment to use, well, technically. Our main character can equip items though, as well as have several different attacks, unlocked through the story. Without experience, how to gain levels in Illusion of Gaia? This game emphasizes completion, and by that I mean getting to kill everything. Enemies stay dead when you kill them, and killing all awards the player with an augmentation, to HP, strength, or defense. Also of completionist note, the Red Jewel item. There are 50 of them in the game for unlocking a bonus dungeon. However, considering how linear this game is, it's easy to miss things, and you can't go back to previous areas! That's actually a mark against this game.

Enemies drop orbs when you kill them, and the L/R buttons allow telekinetic powers to be used. That serves two functions, the first is to bring orbs to you, the other actually functions for blocking small projectiles which is a good tactic. Anyways, these orbs add up, and after 100, you get a "life" of sorts. Basically if you die you respawn close to where you die if you have free lives. Healing is hard enough, since there are a whopping 12 herbs in the entire game. The only other method of healing is at save points, which are cool portal like things. They also serve to transform the main character into alternate, more stronger forms with better abilities. These are detailed in the Characters section. Grade: B-

Characters: The main character is Will, a boy setting off on an adventure and armed with a flute, which can actually be used in combat. He's weak in combat, but his alternate forms are much stronger. The first is Dark Knight Freedan, a knight in shining armor with the long reach of a sword, and can also shoot balls of light at enemies. The final form is Shadow, which is a humanoid mass covered in aura, and can melt through floors to escape. His attacks have excellent reach as well. So that's what we see from the main character Will. He's not necessarily a silent protagonist like Soul Blazer's protagonist, talking to his closest friends like Erik, Seth, Lance, Lilly, Kara, and cousin Neil. All of them join Will's quest as NPCs, some leave at points and what not. Some decent character development throughout. Grade: B+

Plot: Will, Lance, Erik, and Seth are all students in a school in South Cape, based off of South Africa's Cape Town apparently. The setting of this game actually has landmarks from the real world as dungeons, so this game takes place on Earth. Except the world map resembles nothing like it in modern day (Terranigma's world does resemble the real world though). The four friends want to go on an adventure, and Princess Kara, a spoiled girl, escapes from her tyrannical father. Also there's a flower girl Lilly that joins (she actually transforms into a dandelion petal at times).

Meanwhile, there's this comet that was a leftover apparently from the setting Soul Blazer was in, though I really don't recall anything about that when I played Soul Blazer. Will is the one to stop it, with the help of the others, who each have their own sub-adventures. Like Seth who gets eaten by a fish, Lance and Lilly being a couple together, Will's cousin Neil inheriting his father's company, and Erik learning the importance of holding it as far as bathrooms go. Okay that last one probably doesn't count but whatever. Near the end of the game, Kara's basically the last one at Will's side when it comes to stopping the comet. Will's father, in spirit, guides the two, and the mystic statues that were collected as the games go become the ultimate weapon, the Phoenix, or firebird in this game. Also the two merge into a Shadow form and defeat Dark Gaia, the final boss. However, everyone's memory of the journey is wiped, so it's kind of sad, despite the fact that everyone is fine and the world is now the modern world we know today. An interesting story of kids going on an adventure and saving the earth. Grade: B

Music: Quite an underrated soundtrack. The dungeon themes crave spelunking, and they do it well. Many of the other themes are fine. My favorites are the Pyramid and Ankor Wat theme. Grade: B

Overall Grade: B

Despite highly wanting to play it, this action RPG turned out just okay. Certainly a lot of changes from the previous game, Soul Blazer, with a decent plot and characters. It's not that hard either. Might be worth a check out.