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Thread: Illusion of Gaia -- I don't know how to put it...

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    ServBot (Level 11) Edmond Dantes's Avatar
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    Default Illusion of Gaia -- I don't know how to put it...

    I was at Gamestop recently, and talked with an employee (in my case I got a really nice guy who knew games and even told me that Gamestop's retro program is BS). Discussing this product which is boxes shaped like oversized SNES carts that hold tee shirts, I told him "you know what's wrong with these? They don't come in Earthbound... or Illusion of Gaia."

    He was impressed to hear anyone mention Illusion of Gaia (Illusion of Time for you peeps in Europe), because apparently its one of the more forgotten SNES action-RPGs. Indeed I remember years back, when Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana sold for $50-$80, Gaia was more in the $20 range. This may have changed since then.

    And its kind of amazing that this game is so forgotten because, in some ways, its.... not what you'd expect.

    I mean, right up front it looks like a Zelda clone, and is stylistically (though not plot-wise from what I can tell) the sequel to Soulblazer. The action itself doesn't do anything too out-there--your player character, Will, moves at a brisk pace and attacks in quick swipes. He gains special moves which often have a utility purpose in addition to being powerful attacks, and also the ability to transform into other things with their own sets of moves. The new moves are meted out by the plot (for the most part--I think a few are missable). Your stats are upgraded the first time you kill every monster in a location (I say it like this because there are cases where you can leave the dungeon, and monsters will respawn if you do this... but they won't be worth a stat upgrade this time), and its balanced so your three major stats each get an even amount of upgrades. Like Soulblazer, there is no money, almost all items are just found in treasure chests or given to you for whatever reason. There is no concept of changing equipment, except for currently selected item.

    (One touch I like: If you've got an herb selected and you accidentally press the "use item" button, the game will actually ask you if you're sure you want to use the herb)

    Basically, as far as the gameplay alone is concerned, its a very pick-up-and-play action-RPG.

    What makes Illusion of Gaia stand out is the narrative.

    It starts out rather typical. You are a boy named Will, son of an explorer. Two years ago, Will and his dad were both exploring the Tower of Babel when... something... happened. Will's father was lost, Will himself (now carrying a flute which he knows how to play and which also serves as his weapon) somehow made it back to his hometown and was just being a normal kid... as normal as you can be when you have some psychic powers and limited telekenesis, anyhow.

    Then one day a princess shows up in his life, and her father calls Will to the castle, but it turns out the King is a corrupt tyrant and throws will in jail for not having the "crystal ring." In jail, the voice of Will's father mentions that there's this strange comet coming and it'll be bad, unless Will collects six mystic statues and goes back to Babel.

    Okay, so far it might be a typical RPG setup. Get the six magic things and stop the destruction of the world.

    Thing is... almost immediately the game makes it clear it is heading something else. That corrupt king barely plays a role in the narrative, instead you visit landmarks such as the Nazca Lines, or a city populated by... not quite ghosts, but former humans who are in a ghost-like shape due to the "light of the comet." Indeed its brought up that the comet isn't actually evil.

    There is a lot of discussion throughout the game about philosophical concepts, though admittedly some of this is hampered by the translation, which is shoddy in places. Even so, I remember it going right over my head when I was a kid, and now that I'm old enough to read between the lines a bit, well... the best I can say is this is the kind of story I would expect from the PS1, but its on the SNES, and doesn't come off like its trying to be artsy or pretentious.

    One other thing is that the game makes it clear the journey takes a long time--a rare feat for RPGs or Action-RPGs which often make it feel like the heroes are doing everything in one day. Will sometimes takes the role of narrator and mentions things like being on a raft for a month, or his party going through a long tunnel so long they lose track of time. One of his friends, Kara, goes from complaining about the long walk to commenting on how quickly she got used to the difficulty.

    It's... honestly hard to explain what kind of things this game is sending through my mind, because one I want to avoid spoilers, and two I honestly don't have words for a lot of it. At most, I can kinda say "Why has it been so long since I revisited this game?" All of Enix and Quintet's games tend to have some high ideas, but Illusion of Gaia may be the best representative of them.

    It probably does need a retranslation though.

    So, who else remembers Illusion of Gaia? And what were your thoughts?

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    Pretzel (Level 4)
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    I played it on either a ROM or a SNES cart a while back. I didnt get very far. Maybe half an hour into it
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    Cherry (Level 1) WulfeLuer's Avatar
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    Don't remember exactly when, but I got my hands on it fairly reasonably used at a store (think it was Play N Trade), since I heard it had been compared favorably to Secret of Mana. It started off clichéd but alright, then got a little surprising, though for me it was more that I got a 'dark' powerup than anything else.

    I was having fun and played for a few hours, then got stuck somewhere and had to put the controller down and the game went back into stack. I had been hopping between games a lot at the time so I figured I'd go back and realize what I did wrong fairly quickly. Then I sold the SNES and games for super cheap like an idiot for bad reasons soon after.

    Anywho, I stumbled across references to it a few years back, and read the HG101 article and got more intrigued. I have a SNES again, so I need to pick it up again.

    HG101 had drawn some sort of connection between this game and Granstream Saga, so that's sitting in the stack at least.
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    I remember this as one of my surprise favorite rentals from the 16-bit era. I enjoyed how it references real world locations and things (the crystal skull is one I remember), but still has such a fantasy realm feel about it. Great atmosphere. Unfortunately, my attention span has eroded to the point that recently I tried to start from the beginning, but gave up before even getting as far as I did during my childhood rental period.

    I usually only hear this title referenced as "the game in the trilogy that preceded the superior Terranigma".

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    ServBot (Level 11) Edmond Dantes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WulfeLuer View Post
    I was having fun and played for a few hours, then got stuck somewhere and had to put the controller down and the game went back into stack. I had been hopping between games a lot at the time so I figured I'd go back and realize what I did wrong fairly quickly.

    HG101 had drawn some sort of connection between this game and Granstream Saga, so that's sitting in the stack at least.
    Gonna need to pick up Granstream Saga myself...

    On that note, one of my few gripes with Illusion is that (in part due to the translation) sometimes it doesn't explain itself very well--the "Spin Dash" technique for example (you're supposed to keep alternately pressing L and R until you get a prompt for what direction you want to go in). There were a couple of periods where the only reason I went to a dungeon was because it was available on my map, without much having indicated that I had a story reason to do so.

    This game really needs one of those fan retranslations like other games got.

    .... I never played Terranigma (except I think I tried a ROM once). Considering I also loved Soul Blazer, its odd I was never compelled to finish the trilogy.

    EDIT: One more piece of advice for Illusion of Gaia--if your inventory is full, you can use the Red Jewels to make them automatically fly to Jeweller Gem (he'll give you the rewards next time you talk to him). Apparently a lot of people never figured this out.
    Last edited by Edmond Dantes; 06-08-2019 at 02:07 PM.

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    Peach (Level 3)
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    Great game. I got it for Christmas (with the shirt) and played through it many times as a kid. I like it as much as Soul Blazer. I later played through Terranigma and thought it was just OK.

    All three games have excellent music and some of my favorite tunes on the SNES.

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    Illusion of Gaia is one of my favorite action-adventure RPG on the SNES.

    It's the middle-game in what is known as the "Quintet trilogy", which consists of Soul Blazer, Illusion of Gaia/Time and Terranigma. Most gamers will claim that Soul Blazer and Terranigma are both superior to Illusion and, with hindsight, I tend to agree.

    I played it a lot. The graphics and music are what stand out the most to me. Illusion is superior to Soul Blazer on the technical level for sure. Some sprites are surprisingly large, everything is colorful and the tunes are truly memorable. I find the overall narrative to be intriguing, but as OP says most of it must have gotten lost in translation. It feels like the more interesting concepts lack development and the game is always prodding you to the next progress point. To the extent where exploration and backtracking are completely removed from this game.

    The more "human" aspects of the scenario are average at best (the love stories, the memory loss, stuff like that) and seem forced. But really that does not deter from the overall experience. Everyone should play this.
    Last edited by Montrealer; 06-12-2019 at 01:06 PM.

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    ServBot (Level 11) Edmond Dantes's Avatar
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    I've been replaying Soul Blazer and while I like it, I'm not sure I can say its better than Illusion.

    Mainly for two things. One is Soul Blazer's story is far more basic without really much in the way of philosophical grounding, just "greed bad" (though it is interesting how it treats all life forms as equals... but somehow Angelfish are a thing you have to rescue yet Manta Rays are enemies. Rokay).

    But the thing that really bothers me is the game structure, the having to eliminate enemies so the generators turn into switches you press. Very often I find each combat becomes a scenario of standing in the perfect spot where you swat a succession of enemies who all do the exact same thing. It gets very repetitive.

    I'm not entirely a fan of the structure of "go to empty location, hit switches to restore the place a bit at a time, then move on and do it all again." I know Actraiser did the same thing and that was brilliant, but Actraiser was more involved and rebuilding the town went faster.

    Soul Blazer is still worth playing, but Illusion made some smart changes.

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    I bought this game around 2001 - 2002 from a video rental store which was clearing out its 16-bit catalog of SNES and SEGA Genesis hardware and software. I bought about 3 SEGA Genesis'es and 1 SNES from there plus a lot of games for both including ones that are worth quite a lot for the SNES now. Illusion of Gaia was one of those games. While I never played very far into the game, I managed to make it to the point where the protagonist escapes the evil king's castle.

    It is a good game, but somehow it didn't "click" with me very much at the time and I moved to other games. However, Illusion of Gaia was one that I liked and wanted to return to, and even though it has been over fifteen years since I last played it, the game and its differences compared to other games have stayed in my mind. It certainly deserves a good reputation and I am surprised that no fan translation of the game exists. Yet at least there is a dedicated online community at https://www.terraearth.com/ so you know people care about its series a lot.

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    Still (and probably forever) my all time favorite video game. Never been able to specifically say why however - just play it.

    A re-translation would be nice, but aside from Riverson being a deformed translation of Leviathan, everything else has just added to discussion about the game over the years - how people interpret different events, when exactly the game takes place, etc. I've also love how the game doesn't completely connect every dot for the player, especially with some of the side stories. This not only requires the player to talk with everyone, as is standard in an RPG, but to make connections on their own - the global slave trade being the most direct example of this, "There are people everywhere who live this way." It truly is one of the darkest games of its era if you really think about it.

    There's an excellent analysis of the game here: https://johnfriscia.com/2014/11/17/t...usion-of-gaia/

    Honestly anything I can say about the game will pale in comparison to what that gentleman wrote.
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