Game Over Online ~ Gauntlet Dark Legacy

GameOver Game Reviews - Gauntlet Dark Legacy (c) Midway, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Gauntlet Dark Legacy (c) Midway
System Requirements Game Boy Advance
Overall Rating 50%
Date Published Thursday, January 2nd, 2003 at 06:11 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

After Midway revamped Gauntlet on every major console platform, it became only a matter of time as to when Game Boy Advance owners would see the Midway classic ported to their handhelds. Gauntlet: Dark Legacy introduces little in terms of mechanical changes. Indeed, Dark Legacy goes a long way to preserve its heritage: the keys, the locked doors, monsters spawning from their abodes and the hack and slash gameplay.

What changed in Dark Legacy is the addition of the world motif to the old arcade standby. It's not so linear anymore, although the individual levels themselves are still pretty linear. But this isn't entirely new. We saw worlds back in the days of Mario on hardware that is much older than any of the machines Dark Legacy will be gracing. It's a welcome addition, though, since it lets you travel back to simpler worlds so you can level up, gain more potions or health. Dark Legacy is not an RPG per se. It features many of the common character classes and races found in a fantasy RPG. However, it plays like an arcade action game. Power-ups and bonuses are purchased with the fruits of your hard work. You hack more, you get bonuses.

Gauntlet titles always seem to maintain a sense of claustrophobia. You're moving from the starting point to the exit but along the way, you're trapped, with your backs against the wall, being attacked by wave after wave of enemies. It didn't feel that much different on the bigger consoles but the Dark Legacy that made its way to the Game Boy Advance seems big. One screen is hardly enough to contain the width of the terrain and that's an achilles heel because the extra space tends to promote a feeling of, "Hey where am I supposed to be going next?" If the developers zoomed out a bit more, the game would flow much better.

One of the reasons why the developers might zoom so much is to give you a good look at the monsters. Typical of Gauntlet titles, there all manners of fantasy RPG monsters are pilfered. None, however, are meticulously constructed. On a dark Game Boy Advance screen, they look like inarticulate sprites. Your persona doesn't fair all that much better. He or she has more animated frames but the wind up animation for attacks and moving around seems so jerky it's like seeing a wind-up toy with the screw stuck in overdrive. All in all, the visuals weren't that great to begin with on the mainstream consoles. On a handheld, their style looks severely crimped.

The combat is simplified too. Fighting consists of nothing more than walking towards your enemy or pressing the fire button. Whatever happened to combos, special moves, Dark Legacy's own turbo meter, combined tag team attacks and other additions developers have made to fighting titles since the days of, well, Gauntlet? None are found here.

Admittedly, much of Gauntlet's allure lies in the ability to play with friends. Gauntlet was one of the first games to promote non-competitive play and this mode is still incredibly fun, not only at the coin-operated arcades but at home in front of the television too. The critical and popular success of Hunter: The Reckoning earlier this year, a relatively simple and derivative game in and of itself, is testament to that appeal. Just don't expect to play it like this on the Game Boy Advance because the multiplayer portion is conspicuously missing. Maybe the developers were thinking of another franchise that didn't derive its fun from smashing monsters together with friends.

Multiplayer on the Game Boy Advance is, even by the wildest optimistic Nintendo fans, not exactly an event where you'd pick up the telephone and ask your friend to come over for. It's more like a spur of the moment thing that accompanies your daily tea at three. So I make it a point not to unintentionally bash games for including hastily implemented multiplayer modes. Nor should I criticize developers for not including them altogether. Some genres simply don't lend easily to multiplayer. And even if they do, how many times do you think you could play your handful of deathmatch maps on the diminutive handheld?

However, the multiplayer is quintessential to the Gauntlet franchise -- I'm not sure how it could survive without it. With anemic gameplay, less than stellar visuals, something is found wanting in Dark Legacy. And in the final analysis, you can be sure the only legacy left here is a long shadow cast on the next Gauntlet title, which will have to work double time to redeem itself to fans here. If you want to cuddle up next to friends for Dark Legacy action this holiday season, seek out one of the console versions. But if you're scrooge and you like to play alone, maybe Dark Legacy on the Game Boy Advance is for you.


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