RPGs tend to tackle big subjects. Go through the classics on the Super Nintendo and you will find them taking on subjects including war, racial disparity, evolution and several other big life issues. One game that dives deeper than most is Illusion of Gaia. It asks a lot of existential questions about the meaning of existence. At the same time, it also manages to be a very fun action RPG.
The Role You Play
You play as Will, a young boy with psychic powers. He carries a flute that he can use ou play melodies that affect the world around him. It also serves as his primary weapon. He can also use his powers to pull objects from a distance.
One of his other main abilities is to enter a dark space and change his form into the Dark knight Freedan. Freedan has slightly different abilities than Will. He fights with a sword which gives him slightly longer range and he does slightly more damage in combat.
There are a lot of strange plot points throughout Illusion of Gaia. There is a comet that is heading for Earth and needs to be destroyed. Will is told by a voice in his flute to gather six mystic statues to gain the power to destroy the comet. The game also takes will and his friends to plenty of different areas from the Incan valley to the Great Wall of China to locate the statues.
The big problem is that there really isn’t enough to connect the plot points into one cohesive story. You end up just bouncing from one plot point to another with an occasional bit of exposition thrown in. It ends up feeling very random and nonsensical at times and needs more explanation to tie it all together.
The combat in Illusion of Gaia is very action RPG-centric, but it doesn’t make up the entirety of the actual gameplay. The real objective is making your way to the end of each stage, with a puzzle-solving aspect that changes with each stage. One aspect that is pretty unique to this game is defeating certain enemies can potentially clear different obstacles in the level. Getting past other obstacles will often involve changing between Will and Freedan to use their unique abilities to get from one area of the stage to another. With each new stage, you encounter new challenges and new abilities to help overcome them.
There are various levels of indulgence that can be taken with all aspects of Illusion of Gaia. The worlds are very detailed and filled with a lot of extras that are worth exploring every nook and cranny. The dungeons also reward you for defeating all of the enemies on the screen with a stat boost, even though doing so is optional. The boss battles can also be tough and can take multiple attempts to complete. With all this in mind, Illusion of Gaia can take anywhere from 6-10 hours to complete.
Illusion of Gaia is an adventure in every sense of the word. The world it takes place in resembles an ancient Earth and there are a lot of locales similar to ones from the ancient world. There are caves, castles, Incan ruins, a sky temple and a lot of different small towns. With each new location, there is a lot of music to match each varied location. Additionally, the tone of the adventure is all over the place. Sometimes it’s calm, other times it’s action-heavy, and other times the music makes you stop and think about the bigger picture in the world.
Visually, Illusion of Gaia may be one of the most beautiful games the Super Nintendo has to offer. It has a lot in terms of its depiction of simple things like mountains and oceans. While the graphical capabilities of the Super Nintendo are limited, this game makes the absolute most of it. It also does so in the most subtle ways. You can notice it in the way the scenery moves or the way the characters’ hair blows in the wind.
The Talking Parts
When there are conversations in this game, they do so much more than what you would expect from a game like this. The subject matter is very important and there is a lot of weight to what the characters say. Throughout the game, characters are talking about such important topics as love and the meaning of existence. It happens throughout the game, but the conversations have meaning and depth that add a lot to the overall value of the world these characters live in.
Z…We’ve Reached the End. Anything Else?
There are some aspects of this game that have not particularly aged well. Though they have been gone for centuries, the depiction of the ancient Incas is a bit questionable. They come off as a bit generic and their representation is not as accurate as it should be.
However, the worst aspect is the rather casual depiction of slavery. In one of the towns, there are multiple slave traders, and they are not exactly depicted as being bad people. Everyone else in town just accepts that they’re there and that they do what they do with little consequence.
Illusion of Gaia is a one-of-a-kind game that does so many things better than many of its peers. If it had been just a little more carefully thought out, it would be thought of less as a classic and more as a masterpiece. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, but it is still a great game worth checking out.
Final Score: 8/10