Last year ESP/Sting gave Dreamcast players a taste of their first RPG offering, Evolution. While the conventional 3D graphic engine, anime-esque themes, and a mild approach to the RPG genre...the experience left many eager adventurous gamers wanting MORE. More in the sense of exploration, challenges, and most importantly - game duration (no one enjoys playing through a game and beating it within a mere day or so).
Despite these minor shortcomings, as expressed in my impressions review last year, I found an adequate level of appeal with Evolution. Thus I was looking forward to examining first-hand how ESP/Sting would improve in their second RPG endeavor. Evolution 2: Far Off Promise executes in similar fashion as the original, boasting an improved 3D turn-based battle system, added camera modes (first-person, and isometric angles respectively), and animated cut scenes which contains the original Japanese voiceovers (oddly a feature which mimized the intergrity from the first Evolution title).
The story picks up a half a year after the riot with the Eighth Empire. The Society field office in Pannam Town have received a message from the Society museum located in Museville; requesting for the aid of Pannam's finest adventurer - Mag Launcher. The game unfolds with young Mag Launcher and his friends Gre, Chain Gun and Linear embarking a train to Museville. Uncertain as to the true intentions the request, Mag will encounter a fate where he must choose between his dream of being the world's greatest adventurer or saving Linear from a mysterious lifeforce known as Yurka.
Immediately, during the first half hour of gameplay, I discovered that the sequel carries a more dramatic tone, with a casual degree of humour sprinkled about. The added voiceovers truly gives the characters an added degree of personality. Once again, the exploration factor will seem limited to players as the townspeople only serve to add novelty to the story which unfolds, most providing hints as to power up Mag's Cyframe or to acquire experience points. Overall, the dungeons are a mixed bag of fixed and randomization.
A new addition featured within the dungeons you encounter allows characters equipped with Cyframes to perform special functions. For example, Mag can destory poles, boxes and walls to reveal hidden rooms, Pepper can attract the attention of enemies by shooting empty blanks, and Chain possesses the ability to increase movement speed throughout the dungeon. Monsters also have a slightly higher degree of AI, responding to sound and will even pursue you if you're in their direct field of vision. Another feature added, known as the Linear Watch which makes use of your VMU allows players to view Linear's actions as time passes. Each press of the A button will cause her to react. I am uncertain though if this has any direct effect on how the game is played, specifically if new abilities or weapons can be acquired.
While Evolution 2 makes some substantial improvements, most players will still conclude the entire experience is too short. Though reflecting on the theme of the entire saga, it would seem justified that the series would be of such length. Players who are craving another RPG until the anticipated Grandia 2 may find an exceptional level of entertainment as the contains a significant degree of drama and depth and the characters are easily likeable and memorable.
· · · Bahn