Illusion of Gaia
Box Shot
Illusion of Gaia
Platform: Super Nintendo
Publisher: Enix
Designer: Enix
Genre: RPG
Players: 1
Published Date 1993
Reviewed by: Rupto-pack

Illusion of Gaia from Enix is one of those games that can't quite be called an RPG, but it's not strictly an action game either. You play as Will, yet another young male hero with messy hair. You don't have a party for traveling or battle, but many friends play a continuing part in the story and follow along with you on your journeys. The story is very important to the experience and progression of the game, and Will is one of those rare heroes who actually talks to other characters instead of only nodding or just standing there. During conversations each character has a different color of text, so they're easy to keep track of.

The gameplay in general is similar to another old Enix game, Soul Blazer. In fact, some of the sound effects are exactly the same and the dog Turbo even makes a brief cameo appearance. You open up new areas by destroying every monster in the preceding area, and a door or stairway will appear. Each enemy leaves behind a silver orb which contributes toward an extra life once you've found 100 of them. You also power up by clearing areas of monsters, but this only happens once per area. So you can kill everything in a room and increase your stats, then exit, return and clear the area again, but nothing will happen. You have to reach a NEW area and clear it to gain more strength. This means you can only power up at fixed intervals, making it impossible to get disproportionately stronger than your enemies, and this is part of what makes the game feel very linear. You have to do certain things at certain times, and there aren't really any options.

Though the story can be enjoyable and charming at times, it's also vague and the plot jumps around a bit too much. For example, after freeing slave laborers from a cave you suddenly remember your inventor cousin Neil lives nearby, and he takes you to the desert where you accidentally find a secret warp to the Sky Garden, but you fall off of it only to be rescued by Neil's plane, etc etc, and you never really have much choice in what to do next. There are even points where someone asks a question and if you give the wrong answer they just ask it again. "Should we go to the desert?" "No." "Don't say that! We're going to the desert!" Why did they even bother to ask me? Much of the plot seems to have nothing to do with the game's main premise, which is that darkness and evil are approaching the world in the form of a meteor, and Will must collect six Mystic Statues and go to the Tower of Babel to learn how to avoid doom. So the somewhat jumbled plot elements simply result in Will finding the Mystic Statues.

Because Will is special for some reason, he can see invisible portals to Dark Space, where Gaia - or at least a talking statue of Gaia - will heal you, save the game, occasionally give you new abilities, and let you change into Dark Knight Freedan and later an ethereal warrior named Shadow. Who these alter-egos are and why you can change into them doesn't become clear until the end of the game. The final battle is pretty spacey and would seem more appropriate in a Phantasy Star game than here, and the end boss seems horribly difficult until you figure out what to do. Then it's a piece of cake. The game has its moments, like setting sail on the Aztec's golden ship, or being lost on a raft at sea for 28 days with your love interest. From beginning to end it has a simple and lighthearted storybook quality, and I enjoyed it for that reason. Though it doesn't have the depth or options that a regular RPG would have, it's another pleasant way of spending time with your Super Nintendo.

ruptopack@moonman.com