i’ve been really slow about playing N64 games, but i finished gauntlet legends a couple of days ago. i was actually surprised at how much i enjoyed this game. it seems one of the main complaints about the game is that it’s so easy, but after having played some more effortful games recently it was actually nice to have something completely mindless. it was also one of the few games i could not only coerce the bf to play with me once but that he enjoyed enough to play with me a second time.
i haven’t played a whole lot of hack ‘n slash games and no doubt the genre has evolved a lot since the 8-bit gauntlet days, but there was a lot i liked about this, the series’ first 3D iteration. first off, a lot of the elements of the original 8-bit gauntlet (and its sequels) that you know and love are intact, including the 4 characters (warrior, valkyrie, wizard, and archer) who are all still distinct, and the great voice samples (“i like food!” being one of the clear favorites, although we don’t get to hear my favorite line from the 8-bit days which was “wizard has shot the food!” since, thankfully, you’re not able to shoot food in this game).
in terms of additions, unlike the original game and the arcade version of legends the console versions don’t have your life ticking away every second. this of course makes the game much easier, as does the addition of turbo moves (your “turbo” meter continually recharges), a whole slew of powerups, and, most importantly, the ability to level up and buy stat upgrades (i.e. strength, speed, magic, and armor). so although the four character classes have varied starting stats and growths, over time the differences become much less apparent. the game also lets you pick the color of your character, which changes its model, and also includes animal skins of the four classes (e.g. falconess for the valkyrie) which, while not really adding anything, are kind of a nice little addition.
the game includes a world hub where you can choose any level you’ve already unlocked, and so the game becomes trivially easy since you can level up as much as you want before tackling harder levels. but even with its two harder difficulty settings (which didn’t seem that different to me when i took a cursory look at them) the game would still be pretty easy. a lot of this seems to come from the fact you can take out most enemy generators from far away before they’ve had time to spawn many enemies; in this game generators don’t spawn enemies until you get near to them, but i believe in the original 8-bit games they spawned enemies as soon as you start the stage, thus building up oceans of enemies for you to tediously plow through. and if you save the powerups you get and sell them instead of use them, you won’t have to spend much time level-grinding, if at all. i didn’t start off being very methodical about traversing the stages, so i ended up repeating a fair number of the levels because there are hidden items you have to find to beat the game (i.e. “obelisks” which allow you to enter other worlds, and “runes” which allow you to tackle the final boss) as well as optional items (e.g. the secret characters, weapons for use against the bosses). and you’ll find yourself wanting to repeat easier levels just to collect more health. without those repeats the game would’ve been more of a challenge, but the fun of the game really isn’t about the difficulty anyway.
another thing that people complain about is the graphics, which despite being N64-level didn’t bother me at all (although apparently the dreamcast version is better). the game does make use of the N64 expansion pack though. given that the screen could be full of enemies and up to 4 players, all in 3D, the sprites aren’t incredibly detailed, but they work much better than most of the screenshots would suggest. i also found the progression of the levels to be well paced: the first world contains levels that are mostly linear; the second world contains levels that are more maze-like, like the original gauntlet; the third world contains more large open field-like areas where you’ll find yourself surrounded by enemies on multiple sides, along with a fun level climbing up and down the rigging of an airship; and the fourth and final worlds are twistier and generally much less linear with more back-tracking. in the latter levels there are some areas where you’ll be a bit lost, but that generally comes more from the confusion from the graphics and areas looking too similar to one another than anything else. the automatic camera in general also works pretty well, and the music is fine although not particularly memorable. the enemies aren’t quite varied enough, but they’re serviceable. my primary complaint, and one shared by others, is the inclusion of boss battles; they’re mostly pointless, mainly because the bosses all have attacks that are completely unavoidable and unblockable.
so overall this one was a pleasant surprise and has lead me to spending a lot more digital ink on it than many other games i’ve played this year. i actually found it to be more enjoyable than the x-men legends game i played a couple of years ago, i think largely due to it having more variety and level design. there’s a remake with more levels and characters called dark legacy that came out on the gamecube that i’ll def. have to pick up at some point. and if you’re wondering, in terms of the three console versions of gauntlet legends IGN rated them in this order: dreamcast: 8.4, N64: 7.7, and PS1: 7.2. it looks like the PS1 version, while taking the hardest hit in the graphics department, has the inclusion of 4 additional hard levels after you beat the game.
you are now entering the dungeon of links!
– gamespot featured an interesting series of interviews when the game came out described thus: “Not only do these cover the current consumer titles, they also look at the evolution of Gauntlet, from the original coin-op in 1985 through the latest coin-op version – Gauntlet Legends – and onto the N64 and the PlayStation.”
– some cheats and a nice set of videos at IGN
– entry at wikipedia.org
– entry at strategywiki.org
– youtube video of first level (as the yellow wizard)
– pretty good FAQ at IGN and one at gamefaqs
– instruction manual of the PS1 version
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