Reviews: Illusion Of Gaia

Likeability eclipsed by ineptitude

I vaguely remember tinkering around with this game way back when I was a teenager... ,my not having vivid memories of a game is a rare occurrence, and consequently a very bad sign. Still, I chalked it up to maybe just being a little underwhelming compared to the litany of life-changing RPG experiences I had around about that time in my life. Regardless of which: out of sight, out of mind.

Illusion of Gaia crossed my path again as part of some random (might've been whoisthisgit or somebody like that, but I ain't putting no money on it) retro game list video binge on YouTube. I was feeling a little nostalgic, and having just played through Soul Blazer (its kinda-sorta-a-little-bit predecessor in a loose "trilogy" of a sort) I decided, "what the hey." Some few hours of playtime later... aaaaaaaaand I remembered. I forgot it because it was as bland and underachieving a mainstream SNES RPG as you could possibly conceive. Moreover, it feels like the slow-brained country cousin of the legendary mid-'90s RPGs released on its platform.

Maybe in the NES era this could've gotten off easier, but the progress train passed it by long ago and ever so far away. And you can't really blame it all too much on the hugely incomprehensible translation. The complete lack of knowing what I was supposed to do half the time brought back PTSD from my time blind playing Zelda II!. Romances and plot development alike comes completely out of nowhere. Despite averting the non-verbal mid-'90s video game protagonist trope (whose dialogue is hilariously inconsistent about being internal or external, by the way) the main protagonist has less personality than Gogo! And this is a shame, because like the entire Enix SNES trilogy does, its ending and ultimate message is a hopeful and galvanizing one; ultimately, it's got more on its mind than Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI.

The gameplay is fun... for the first hour or three (just a little less than half the game, by the way) due to repetition. The hitboxes are hard to get a handle on. The game's balancing is poor; you can easily waltz your way through an entire dungeon without getting hit once, rendering you very unprepared for the boss fights. Switching between characters, especially in the latter stages, grinds the momentum to a halt. The Seiken Densetsu series... hell, even Soul Blazer did action RPG better and with more finesse.

I want to like Illusion of Gaia, but it either completely lacks ambition, or the aptitude to execute its concept to any particularly satisfying degree. Bad translation or no, aside from a few unique moments that really are less trouble to just watch on YouTube, it has precious little to offer that other games do not. Still, it was borne of good intentions, and I vastly prefer its affable clumsiness to the soulless aura of so many of the mainstream RPGs of today.