Name: Illusion of Gaia Format: Super NES Developer: Enix Publisher: Quintet Year: 1994

Aka Illusion of Time.

The second RPG game in the Soul Blazer trilogy, the first being Soul Blazer and the last being Terranigma. This game was different in style from both the other two, but has more in common overall with Soul Blazer's Monster Lair based dungeon play. In each room of a dungeon in this game, pressing start displayed a screen showing rough location of, and numbers remaining of enemies. Defeating all the enemies in a room got you a jewel which either increased your HP, DEF or STR. This meant that there could be no re entering rooms to gain more and more EXP, a staple tactic of many other similar games. Once you have killed the enemies in one room, there's nothing left to do in it, except move on.

That was an innovative feature, and it's not alone - temporarily transforming from Will (The main character) to Shadow and Freedan (who had the skills needed for solving certain puzzles, or defeating certain enemies) put an interesting twist on the dungeons, as did different attacks (or at least, more types of attack than Soul Blazer) and the ability for Will to spin his flute, creating a vacuum which sucked far away objects across chasms to the player and special moves named "Dark Powers". Music was also heavily featured in the game, with you learning songs which could bring someone's memory back, or make a secret door appear, and this is a system which was mirrored years later in the phenomenally successful The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and it's sequel, Majora's Mask, on the N64.

Graphics were reasonable considering the time the game was made. Notable was an interesting, if not entirely successful use of perspective inside houses. It did make me kind of wonder why houses were square on the outside and trapezium shaped on the inside. Not as bad as Soul Blazer's woeful graphics, thankfully.

The locations were varied, but since the game refused to let you wander randomly around, you had to visit them all when the storyline demanded it, and not at all after that. This led to frustration for many players, because the game's secrets system revolved around collecting Red Jewels. There were 50, stashed all over the game, and you could exchange them for prizes such as strength upgrades, etc. However, to get the ultimate prize you needed all 50, and some were stored in areas which you couldn't return to. This could leave players in a situation where it is impossible to get the ultimate prize. Annoying? Yes, quite possibly.

The game however does redeem itself with an good plot (Will must find his father who disappeared while exploring years ago) and, like it's bigger brother there is a compulsion to kill every last monster in every room, and more importantly, a reward for doing so. After the first few dungeons the game really does pick up, and when the memories of Soul Blazer start coming, you know this is good game. Worth playing because it's the middle of a great trilogy, but even if it weren't it'd still be great.

Similarities between Illusion of Gaia and it's sequel Terranigma:

  • Yet again, Turbo the dog crops up to help you.
  • Magirocks in Terranigma were hidden in the same sort of way as the Red Jewels in this game.
  • Different attacks made their first appearance in the series - Will could perform a jump attack. Terranigma expanded upon this with jumping, sliding, dashing and grinding attacks as well as the normal attack.
  • Ark uses different kinds of spear in Terranigma, Will uses a flute which is similar in shape.
  • Both games seem to have a similar "Save the world" feel about them.
  • Both use Mode 7 world maps, although in Illusion of Gaia you are simply given menu options about where to go. Terranigma let you wander around the world map yourself, and has a gnarly "tunnel" effect when you are in the underworld and a "barrel" effect of the map when you are in the overworld. If you play it you will see what I mean.

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