reviews\ Mar 18, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Gauntlet Dark Legacy - GC - Review

Anyone who frequented arcades back in the 80’s remembers the addictive and coin gobbling game, Gauntlet. Midway had recently re – packaged and re – released this top down classic as a 3-D hack and slash adventure called Gauntlet : Legends on PSX and Dreamcast, and now has released Gauntlet : Dark Legacy for the PS2 and most recently … the Gamecube. What’s the big difference? If you are referring to the 80’s version, a lot.  If you are talking about Legends vs. Dark Legacy … not much at all. PS2 vs. Gamecube? Almost nothing.  Before reading this review, please understand that the recent Gauntlets have either been a love or hate relationship with the gamer, and this one is no exception.


The story revolves around an evil mage who performs a ritual to resurrect a powerful demon in a quest for power named Skorne. Skorne is brought to the world and kills the mage who brought him to the material plane, imprisoning the magic user’s soul in hell and thus preventing any means to immediately send him back. Dark and evil creatures are released to wreak havoc and enslave humanity … and the end seems near for the world. In a distant tower another mage by the name of Sumner learns of the threat which has been released and begins planning to destroy the demon and send him back to the Abyss from whence he came. In order to do this, a circle of runestones need to be collected in order to open the portal and allow access to the monster. He calls upon eight mighty heroes to venture out across the different regions and restore peace to the land once more … and here begins your quest.


You start the game by picking one of the mighty 8 … Archer (formerly the elf), Warrior, Wizard, Valkyrie, Dwarf, Knight, Jester, or Sorceress, all of whom have their own personalities and animations.  Each character has varying levels of strength, magic, defense, or speed based on class, . For example, a warrior or dwarf will have lots of physical strength to deal damage, but will be very slow in running or throwing their weapon. A jester or archer will have a high amount of speed, but their attacks aren’t quite as powerful and it takes more hits to dispose of certain enemies. In a perfect world, this would be apparent, but I really didn’t see a whole lot of difference in one or the other since it took 1 – 3 hits to kill most enemies regardless of who I was using. The speed and magic factors can be detected though, and can make a difference as you progress through the game.


Gameplay consists of running through mazes to find the exit (80 of them scattered throughout 8 different worlds), gaining levels,  and hacking your way through an assortment of monsters, golems, dragons, and mutant humanoids which pour out from generators scattered around which can be anything ranging from a rotted animal carcass to a cave entrance. Destroying a generator stops the monsters from coming out, and gives you the opportunity to explore your surroundings. Pretty much the same story from both the 80’s coin – op and the Legends version, and done in 3-D. While dungeon running, you will pick up a various assortment of  items, treasure, and food to aid you on your quest such as giving you more powerful attacks or refilling your “Turbo Meter”, which can be utilized for either running from a bad situation or setting off a very damaging attack and clearing out the path in front of you. Each realm also contains a “legendary item” which is used in the boss battles at the end of each of these realms and make it easier to defeat whatever big, nasty being awaits. The legendary items aren’t a necessity though, and you’ll probably be able to beat the boss without it when you’ve progressed to a higher level. 


That being said, this is where the “like it or hate it” issue can be found. The creators stuck to the original formula which made this popular back in the 80’s … which is hack and slash. Nothing more, nothing less. I have seen people pick up and play this game for 9 hour periods, while others will play it for 10 minutes and never mess with it again. Since you have the same goal throughout each and every level, which is kill monsters, find treasure, eat food, find the exit, then do it over again in the next stage, some may find it to be the most tedious and repetitive thing on the market today. Others, like myself, are die hard Gauntlet fanatics who will sit and play this game until our eyeballs fall out. I found complete enjoyment looking for that one door in each world which unlocks a new secret character, like an Ogre or Unicorn, or rejoicing when my Wizard hit Legend status by going to level 90. I also enjoy watching my characters level up which will change their outfits, make them and their weapons bigger, and eventually give you a familiar to fly over your shoulder and launch an additional attack. This takes away the repetition and makes it a lot of fun …and very addictive … to play.


Graphically, the game has gotten a high – rez makeover from the PS2 version. While the overall cartoony – looking characters don’t look any different, they look a lot cleaner. While this is a good thing, there wasn’t a whole lot there to begin with and improve on in the first place. Some levels look very well done and have a lot of environmental layout, while others can be very bland and boring. For example, the desert stage contains pyramids, sphinxes,  statues of heroes, and other things which really add to the overall look. On the flipside, you will wonder where everything went when you head into the polar region and see nothing but snow, ice, and an occasional mine cart track. Most of the enemies look really impressive, like zombies which carry two handed saw-like weapons, and a lot of detail went into their animations and overall look. Once again, where there is good there is bad, and when you see how they did others … like ghosts which look like glowing Kleenexes floating around … you’ll probably wonder what they were thinking. Still, the main characters look very good, and will change appearance depending on what level they obtain. They start out looking very ordinary or weak, then will grow to look like a powerful and downright intimidating presence. Soundwise, you will be assaulted by very minimal and generic sounding tunes which are broken periodically by an explosion or jingle when a secret area or item is found. The character voiceovers are pretty bad, and consist of grunts or “Mmmmmm” when you find food somewhere (my personal favorite was the Dwarf’s loud belch after he eats something). The mysterious voice which was found in the original Gauntlet arcade game now has a body, which is the “Gandolf from Lord of the Rings” lookalike wizard, Sumner. It’s funny, because his voice doesn't really fit his presence at all.


Overall, this game could be a great purchase, or it may be a terrible purchase, depending on your taste. If you are a Gauntlet fan from the old school you will definitely feel right at home. If you like a fast paced dungeon crawler with non-stop action, endless “hit the switch to open the door” puzzles, and straight hack and slash gameplay,  you will definitely have hours of fun and replay value with the multiple levels and multiple characters to level up and watch become more and more powerful with each swing of the axe or flash of a fireball. Even if you aren’t any of the above but have a group of friends who just need a co-op multiplayer action game, this one can definitely be a winner. If you like a little more structure or actual RPG element to your medieval dungeon romping, I suggest you pass this one up and leave saving the world from Skorne to some other group of  armchair heroes. 




Gameplay: 7
Easy to control, easy to pick up, and for some … hard to put down. Getting to watch your existing character grow and change in appearance as they level up is pretty neat, and having 7 others and 8 additional secret characters can really add to the experience and fun. This definitely won’t get beat in a couple of days, and many will find themselves playing over and over again to try and find everything and level up as many characters as possible. Some will find it dull, mindless, and tedious however, and will probably wind up returning it for something else. Definitely for the hack and slash gamer.  


Graphics: 7.8
Some really good polish over the PS2 version, but still not a whole lot which really stands out. Most environments and monsters look great, while others are just kind of “there” and don’t look like they got a lot of attention. Overall, not bad though … and I’ve definitely seen worse.


Sound: 5.6
Definitely below average. The music is repetitive. Character voiceovers are pretty generic and some are funny because they are so lame. Other times sounds will come out of nowhere, like streams which are completely silent until you walk up to them and they’re suddenly at full blast. Bad … bad … bad.


Difficulty: 8
Easy to pick up and play with or without the instruction manual. Challenging enough for adults, yet easy enough for kids. The controls are very simple to figure out and definitely make it easy to get into. The game will get harder as it goes on, but the characters will level up and gain the strength to meet the challenge. 


Concept: 7
Definitely a nice modern port of an 80’s arcade classic. It’s similar in gameplay style to games such as Baldur’s Gate or Diablo, but definitely goes it’s own direction and offers something a little different. If you own Gauntlet : Legends though, there’s probably not enough new flash or gameplay elements here to really keep you interested.


Multiplayer: 8.5
Definitely the high point of the game. Playing as a one player game may tend to get a little boring after a while if you’re not really the high speed slashing type. Throwing two to three other people into the mix definitely adds a new twist and can be one of the best multiplayer experiences out there today.  


Overall: 7.3
While it’s hard for me not to give this game a 9 because I enjoyed it so much, I report the facts and call it as I see it out of respect for you gamers out there. I definitely don’t want you all running to the store and picking it up, then hating me for the rest of your lives because you didn’t like it, so buy with caution. If you are more into structured RPG’s or adventures with a little more plot, story, and character interaction … you may want to run to the video store for this one and see if it’s for you. Keep in mind … this is Gauntlet as it has been and always was, which is hack and slash fun of the 80’s with a modern graphical look. .  


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