You could be forgiven for mistaking SoulBlazer: Illusion of Gaia for another "cute" RPG. Enix's delightful follow-up to its 1991 classic SoulBlazer starts out with another mop-topped kid staying after school, playing with his pals, and treating with pigs and princesses.
Blaze of Glory
Sweet stuff, eh? Well, it's a deceptive start. You'll soon realize this enormous role- playing game for the Super NES is comparatively grownup. You're cast as a boy named Tim who's living with his grandparents in the seaside town of South Cape. His explorer father is missing -- lost during an expedition to the Tower of Babel from which only Tim returned -- and Tim has shown a curious ability to move certain objects with his mind. Obviously, he's adventure material, and, sure enough, Tim is asked by the king (who's been acting peculiar) to bring him a relic.
It's standard RPG advice, but talk to everyone, and, then talk to them again should circum-stances change. (If you can't get out of South Cape, you probably need to check in with Lola.)
You're eventually dispatched on a tour of the ruins of the world to collect Mystic Dolls. (Don't ask.) Along the way, there's much traveling (sometimes with a companion or two), much talking, much fighting, some shape shifting, and, happily, much solving of puzzles by brain or brawn (or both).
You can coax the unlucky fisherman on South Cape's dock into pulling up &red gem. Just keep after him and duck into seaside caves and houses in between visits to the dock.
View to a Thrill
Graphically and sonically, this sequel is at least on a par with the first SoulBlazer, and that's good news. The buildings are bright, rich, and solid, the effects are persuasive, and you've got to dig that view from the parapet on the third floor of Edward Castle. The music, ranging from semiclassical to bopping platformer funk, is great. Some of it is actually very memorable.
The most notable addition to the SoulBlazer canon is a travel mode that places your party on a rotating Mode 7 map of the continent, which is more presentation than game play. In another switch, the first game's sideways crab walk has been changed into the ability to break into a run.
The difficulty is nicely pitched. The designers entice you into the game slowly, with simple tasks, and by the time you enter the Inca maze -- the first really tough nut to crack -- you'll be hooked.
The game, however, has sacrificed the central theme that gave the original Soul- blazer (and ActRaiser before it) a distinct sense of direction and purpose an impression that your good works have an ongoing impact on the game world. On the other hand, Illusion of Gaia enjoys a sense of worldliness that SoulBlazer didn't have. The earlier game took a justifiable pride in being a sort of small-town RPG that took you through the same terrain many times. Here, out in the wide world, you never know quite what's coming next, and that's the best thing that could be said about an RPG.