reviews\ Dec 13, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Gauntlet Dark Legacy - GBA - Review

Just about anyone who is my age can remember going to the arcade and shoveling a ton of quarters into the Gauntlet machine playing through endless waves of ogres, ghosts, demons, death, and so on and so on. Recently, there have been a couple of reincarnations of the classic coin op title for consoles, including Gauntlet Legends and most recently … Gauntlet: Dark Legacy. Well, Midway and Pocket Studios have decided to release the popular hack and slash title on GBA, and the result is one that seems to unfortunately have taken a couple of steps backwards in the series.


Gauntlet: Dark Legacy puts you in control of one of the four original characters … warrior, wizard, archer, or valkyrie as you embark on a mission to travel to 5 different realms and reclaim 13 runestones. You must do this to open a portal and defeat Skorne and his master Garm once again and restore peace to the world of Gauntlet. As if you hadn’t noticed, the story is a direct port from the consoles, and yes … the Gandalf look alike Sumner is back again as well to lend a little advice and cheer you on as you try and save the world once more.


First off, the 5 worlds to travel through in your quest to reclaim the Runestones were taken directly from the consoles. You’ll be running through areas like the mountainous Dagger Peak and the Castle Armory again, this time a little different graphically and of course a little smaller to look at. Along the way, you will pick up keys, items, and potions to make sure that you can progress, all while hacking your way through a sea of foes that pour from generators and attack relentlessly. The A button attacks, the B button uses potions, the L button blocks, and the R button strafes. The controls are pretty easy to learn, and you won’t have much difficulty there at all jumping right in.


Now, the game overall seems like a nifty little port of the Gauntlet series, but ultimately has a bunch of problems that won’t make it a “must get” for you Gauntlet fans out there … much less non fans. First off, there is no turbo attack in this version, which of course can be important to taking out a large foe. The game pretty much revolves around throwing your weapon, as it did back in the arcade, and using potions occasionally to knock a few enemies out or kill death if he came near. The items themselves help out a little, and some can be quite useful … like 5 way shot … but another big downer for me on this version was Sumner himself. He kind of stood in as an item shop in the console version to sell you some well needed items or “level up” points, but now is nothing more than a stationary figure on the screen. You still pick up gold in Gauntlet, but now it’s pretty much useless.


Another issue that came up was the sheer confusion in some of the levels, mostly caused by the dull and repetitive graphics in some of the stages. For example, the mountains are pretty much made up of some geometrically shaped patches of grass broken up by the occasional bridge and of course are surrounded by rock walls. Well, go through four stages of that same setup and an increasing play area, and soon you start wandering around lost … and bored … and since there is no in game save turning it off means you have to start the stage over again. On a brighter note, the game is nice enough to show you which stage had a runestone that was missed if it gets overlooked; the problem is that you may have randomly and luckily found the exit and don’t feel like playing the stage over again.


A big headache I had with this version is speed. The turbo button, which I discussed earlier, could also make your character run faster. Well, now each character … even the archer to an extent … seems to just plod around the screen like they are running through mud throwing weapons and fighting hordes of, well, super slow moving monsters. Orcs, trolls, and undead painfully and slowly inch towards you as you keep killing them looking for the generator to stop them from moving. After X stages of this, it gets real old real quick. The smaller creatures like scorpions move a little faster, but not enough to help the overall game itself. The boss battles were surprisingly disappointing as well, and while each monster looks pretty accurate to its console counterpart, they are extremely easy to beat which kind of leaves you with an empty and non-challenging feeling. If you’re good at pathfinding, this kind of thing will also make this game fly by and be way too easy to beat. 


Graphically, Gauntlet: Dark Legacy could have been done a lot better. Each stage is filled with a various assortment of items like tables, weapon racks, or even stone statues … but each set of stages within a realm looks almost identical. For example, moving through the castle will put you through a number of stages that look almost the same in doors, walls, and floors and will get really boring to look at after the first couple. Keep this up through 5 levels of this, and it just adds to the repetition. The monsters don’t look too bad, even if they get repetitive also and move a little choppy, and the characters aren’t awful but a couple of them can move a little weird … like the warrior who will shake violently back and forth if he stands still.


The sound to Gauntlet was very disappointing to me personally, since text boxes have now replaced Sumner’s voice. In addition, each stage has its own theme song … which plays throughout each level that you go through and probably will get turned off. Since the background noise is just whooshing of thrown weapons and some smashing or splatting sounds, there’s really not a lot you need to worry about hearing anyway.


Overall, this was a really disappointing game for me, considering that I loved the console series going back to the N64 days. I would only recommend this title to die hard Gauntlet fans that are on the go and can deal with a lot of the problems that will be found. Even if you are a Gauntlet fan, there’s no need to buy this if you still own the console game since it’s a watered down version that has about half of the flare of the original game. If you must buy … buy with caution. 


Gameplay: 5.6
There are repetitive levels and some really confusing environments. Each character still retains its own unique look, but overall doesn’t seem to stay true to its stats. Leveling up doesn’t seem to decrease how many hits that an enemy takes, and they move so slow it probably won’t matter too much anyway. The blocking and strafing is pretty much useless and will quickly be forgotten, and the boss battles are way too easy.


Graphics: 5.4
These are repetitive as well. Each stage has a number of levels that all pretty much look the same, despite some decorations thrown in here and there. The monsters are a tad choppy in places, but not too bad, but what the heck is up with the warrior and the seizure thing? Lighting effects are pretty non existent, and there are some collision detection problems around doors … not to mention the fact that you cannot shoot weapons over a river or off the side of a bridge due to some invisible wall glitch.


Sound: 5.3
The music is dull and the same song plays throughout every stage that you go through in each of the levels. It will probably get turned off after a while, and the rest of the sounds are just whooshing and slashing sounds of weapons or dead enemies.


Difficulty: Hard
There are three difficulty settings, each one increasing how many hits it takes to kill monsters. Due to the repetitive and bland graphics, it can be really confusing to navigate through some of the areas.


Concept: 5.0
It’s Gauntlet, but it’s not improved and not even up to the standards of the console versions. Since the GBA can put out some graphics almost to PSX standards, I know that this could have been done a lot better. To quote the voice from the arcade … “This game series needs an overhaul … badly”.


Multiplayer: N/A
Gauntlet with no multiplayer is like trying to drive a car with no tires. What the heck is up with that?


Overall: 5.2
Well, as much as I have loved Gauntlet since I was a kid, this game was definitely a huge disappointment to me and I’m going to pretend it never happened. If you are a major fan and are traveling, it’s not too bad to kill some time. Do not buy this just because you like the console version and want to make sure you have all the different ones that are out. Buy with caution, and make sure that you can return it if need be.   


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