Illusion of Gaia is a game I’ve attempted to start playing a few times but never really could get myself to play very far into it. This game was developed by Quintet as the second part of the Soul Blazer series which includes Soul Blazer, Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Quintet’s games, including ActRaiser, but I’ve never given any of them a proper play through until now. So the question remains of why I couldn’t get stuck into this game and give it a proper play through.
Illusion of Gaia follows the main character, Will, and his friends as they travel the world and collect ancient artifacts known as Mystic Statues. While Will’s friends are almost always present as they skip from town to town, they really don’t do much other than exist. Where in a traditional RPG friends will be brought along to aid the main character, Will’s friends aid him very little, if at all. I’m not sure why they’re even a part of this game, beyond pushing the narrative forward in some ways.
This game has a lot of the hallmarks found in other good SNES RPGs, but it’s still missing things that would normally draw me in. The graphics are good, the colors are bright and everything about this game seems right, but the game feels a bit unorthodox to me. Perhaps a lot of aspects some people would call tedious I find desirable, when it comes to an RPG. Things such as weapons and armor are gone. Traveling from town to town and even backtracking to towns over and over again to unlock something it gone. Spells, leveling up and epic boss battles are all gone.
I can forgive Final Fantasy II’s (the real FF2, not the US version) leveling system, but in Illusion of Gaia it feels too linear. The game seems to hold your hand and say here you go, this is what you wanted because I say so. I guess since the game centers around kids the weapons and armor aspect might feel odd. Maybe. Spells could have been useful though, but not even a hint is made about them here. The one thing that really kind of ruins this game for me is the lack of a leveling system. There are a finite amount of things to kill in each given section and once they are all dead you earn a small upgrade in health, defense or offense. This is the only way you can grow stronger in this game, and it just feels like the game is holding too tightly to the player’s hand. I like to grind out levels and make sure I can take down the upcoming boss.
Speaking of bosses, none of them really posed much of a problem. I guess if you make the bosses easy to kill you don’t really need much of a leveling system, but I’ve found it’s more of a think and rethink my strategy type situation rather than brute force. Believe me, thinking and rethinking is a heavily used aspect in this game. It seems a lot of the traditional RPG challenges have been removed, the upgrading your stats system is doled out by the game at its discretion and everything boils down to figuring out a puzzle. Now, I don’t mind puzzles in RPGs, as a matter of fact I think it can be a great aspect of a game if used the right way, but to me Illusion of Gaia seems to strip away everything that makes an RPG an RPG and replaces it with puzzles.
Ok, if I allow myself to free my mind of the frustration brought on by everything that makes this game feel so linear I can say that this game is pretty ok. Like I said the graphics are nice, the controls are responsive and there are some pretty good puzzles, and upgraded attacks too. With as much as I dislike some of the elements of this game I still don’t think it’s as rough around the edges as poor old Lagoon. After a while of playing Illusion of Gaia I kind of accepted it for what it was and got into it. Did I love it? NOPE! Did I enjoy my time playing through it? Kind of. Am I glad I gave it a proper play through? Yes, so I can say I did and I will most likely never play it again. Although, nothing is definite.
This post is lovingly dedicated to the memory of Hamlet and his selfless act of giving his bacon for peace. Oink oink little Hamlet, Oink oink!