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1995-2000
GamesFirst! Magazine

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by Agetec

slide1-01.jpg (4870 bytes)It’s generally accepted knowledge that it takes a great deal of time to get a good RPG on a new system. I don’t know why this is so, but I’ve seen a lot of RPG launch titles , and I’ve never seen a really good one. It seems strange when you consider the magnificent racing, fighting, action, shooter, and adventure titles that are readily available after every launch. It took Sony over a year to produce a decent RPG on the PS, and sixteen months after its launch, the Dreamcast is only beginning to turn out first rate RPG titles. Nintendo is largely a RPG flop, with a total absence of traditional role playing games, and only the Zelda franchise’s RPG/Action left to redeem the system. So it is no surprise to me that Sony’s PS2 RPG line-up is thoroughly mediocre.

slide11-01.jpg (4739 bytes)Tearing into Evergrace with tooth and claw is tempting. It’s antiquated graphics are an easy target. It’s camera is weak and often makes simple navigation unnecessarily dangerous and cumbersome. The voice acting is horrible, but it’s good enough to make the pathetic writing sound like Shakespeare. The "combat system" consists almost entirely of running behind the enemy and smashing one of your two attack buttons until the enemy is dead. The puzzles are difficult primarily because information is withheld, as opposed to being cunning or subtle. Because all of this is true, devouring Evergrace, spitting out the remains, and calling them a waste of time is tempting. But I have decided not to do that because it leaves out one critical piece of information; Evergrace somehow manages to be kind of fun.

slide18-01.jpg (4672 bytes)In the spirit of Zelda (read, Zelda wanna-be), Evergrace is an action RPG that allows characters to advance in skill, while navigating a 3D world in the 3rd person. Unlike traditional RPGs, there is no special combat screen. Instead, battles are fought in real time, as you encounter enemies, much like Resident Evil (although I hate to suggest a comparison), or any similarly designed adventure title. You employ two attack buttons: regular attack and special. Each blow depletes an amount of energy corresponding to how hard you hit the button (analog buttons, anyone?), and your energy meter is equal to your life total. The force in which you hit the attack button is proportional to the amount of damage you deal. For example, if you are at fifty percent health, the hardest you will be able to hit will be at fifty percent damage. By tapping the attack button instead of pressing it completely you can make weaker attacks that do less damage, but allow your energy bar to replenish faster. Running also depletes your energy bar, so much of the strategy in Evergrace is in running behind opponents with enough energy left to get a good whack in.

slide2-01.jpg (4731 bytes)Graphically, Evergrace has some serious issues. While the 3D landscape is for the most part passable, the cut scenes are totally horrendous. Word has it that Evergrace was originally going to be a PlayStation title, and it shows. Animation sequences feature blocky characters with knees and elbows that periodically end in long dagger-like points. After the initial animation sequence I moved into the first battle, where I promptly attempted to hit all the enemies with a viscous knee attack, mistakenly assuming that my knees were some sort of devastating mutant weapon. I soon learned that they were in fact poorly rendered, but otherwise mundane knees, so I switched to the more traditional weapons such as the bow, and had much better success.

slide24-01.jpg (4613 bytes)In additon to the graphics, the cut-scenes suffer from god-awful voice acting, and even worse dialogue. Suffice it to say that neither has any redeemable value; unless of course you have a morbid sense of humor, in which case laughing at the cut-scenes is not only possible, but likely.

slide25-01.jpg (4683 bytes)Easily the most impressive aspect of Evergrace is the complete character customization. As you change weapons, armor, boots, helmets, and accessories, your character displays these changes to a remarkably satisfying effect. In the beginning stages your character may well be a sorry looking chap with a pot on his head and a stick in his hand, but better equipment will be purchased before long. As a result your character will be in a constant state of change as new equipment is acquired or old equipment succumbs to damage and breaks apart. Rewards can be found for the fashion conscious, as certain combinations work together in surprising ways.

slide26-01.jpg (4630 bytes)Equipment can also be upgraded by your friendly neighborhood equipment dealer , who incidentally lives inside big glowing crystals scattered conveniently throughout the game. This retailer sells everything you need to survive, and upgrading equipment is the only real way to stay strong enough to vanquish the various monsters. These shopping centers also serve as save points, and allow you to switch between the game’s two characters.

slide3-01.jpg (4498 bytes)Which brings me to the second satisfying aspect of Evergrace. Two characters, Darius and Sharline, undertake separate adventures. Either may be played first, and you can switch back and forth between the two quests at will. This is far different from playing the same adventure with another character, as both characters have different adventures and travel to different places. In addition, each character uses different equipment and weapons.

slide6-01.jpg (4512 bytes)Here’s the thing. Running around whacking monsters with your fully customized, perhaps bizarre-looking, character is an enjoyable, if not terribly exciting, experience. This is basically a pretty mundane game that manages to be entertaining despite numerous and extensive flaws. If you’re hungry for an RPG on your shiny new PS2 then you could do worse, but (unfortunately) you can’t yet do a whole lot better. Look for Evergrace to be an enjoyable distraction that may take the edge off your RPG hunger, but if your expectations are too high you’re gonna get burned. A good alternative for the wary is to rent first.

Jeff Luther

Snapshot

Ups: Cool character changes to match equipment upgrades; fairly involving in spite of flaws.

Downs: Subpar visuals; awkward control; monotonous combat.

System Reqs:
Sony PlayStation 2

 

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