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I got my start with the Nintendo. My mom didn't get me an Atari, because she was afraid I'd succumb to the video game lifestyle; not playing outside (meaning soccer), losing my eyesight, and becoming overweight and lazy (Boy was she wrong!…ahh hem).
Anyway, so she got me a Nintendo. From there it was "game on" so to speak. Sega Genesis came after, then the Super Nintendo shortly after. The reason why I got the SNES was for one game, and one game only. No, it wasn't Super Mario, nor was it Legend of Zelda (although I did have it…still do as a matter of fact). It was Illusion of Gaia.
I was a huge history buff when I was a kid. I wanted to be an archeologist, so I can travel the world and discover new places that have yet to be discovered, and walk through hallways, castles, pyramids, and cities that have long been abandoned. When the pictures of Illusion of Gaia came out in Nintendo Power, it showcased many of its epic levels, which were actually real places; Angkor Wat, The Great Wall of China, The Great Pyramids of Giza, the Tower of Babel, and a mythical recreation of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
I was hooked from the very beginning.
It was 1994, I was 13. At that time I was only in to action games. Mega Man, Ninja Gaiden, Streets of Rage, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Battletoads occupied my time in those days. I didn't get into RPGs because to me, they were too slow and I wasn't so much into the "fantasy" aspect of them. I didn't care for magic spells or going to weird places with weird names. So when Illusion of Gaia came out, and I saw and read what the game was about, I didn't care that it was an RPG, I wanted to experience it, like I was really there at those places.
I didn't realize that after beating that game, it would change the way I play video games, and feel about video games as well.
Will, just a boy going to school, and who loves hanging out with his friends more so, is thrust with a destiny that one would never wish on a kid his age; to save the world from an impending comet of doom. Will and his rag tag of misfits (it's an RPG, they HAVE to be misfits) must travel the world to many of the world's ruins to find Mystical Statues, which when combined is supposed to unleash a firebird that is supposed to attack the comet, and destroy it.
This comet is said to be an ancient weapon, and is destined to hit the planet and destroy time itself, and change evolution as we know it. Once destroyed, the world should be fine…so it seemed.
I'll leave the rest up to you to find out…
Back Row: Lance, Seth, Neil, Erik
Bottom Row: Lilly, Will, Kara (and the pig Hamlet!)
nice job ICE0208, from deviantart.com
These are your mates. Will, the one in the middle being fought over, is who you play as. The other characters play great roles in the plot, but are never controlled by you, the player. Kara, who is a princess, runs away from the castle because apparently life is better outside the castle (Har! What a sheltered little bra….sorry).
Lilly, the one groping Will, is a member of the small and ancient Iotry tribe. She tags along, and becomes quite smitten with Will, however it is never meant to be as throughout the game Will and Kara grow a complicated relationship, from hating each other to loving one another and saving the world at that.
The Memorable Moments…
I really didn't know how to play RPGs. I hated managing my items and characters, but I was surprised at how easy this game was. For starters, you only control one character; Will. His attacks are basic melee attacks, and he can also transform into two other forms; Freedan, a strong knight, and Shadow, a mass of energy…or something.
The game eschewed the traditional leveling up system for a more streamlined action game. Your character grew stronger by clearing areas of enemies, and gaining stat upgrades (stronger attack power, defense, more health, etc.)
I never knew I would become so engrossed in a video game story such as this. Not only was it cool to visit these ancient sites I longed to visit in person, but I was also enveloped in the plot, and the excellent character development. Each character had something to bring to the storyline, both exciting, helpful, and sad.
Illusion of Gaia was the first game to make me cry (I was 13!). In one scene (spoiler alert!) you and your crew have been captured by a cannibalistic tribe (pretty mature for an SNES game!) You are tied up, and as the members perform their ceremonial dance before carving you up like thanksgiving turkey, Kara's pig Hamlet comes out of nowhere, and stands before her.
Kara: "Hamlet, why such a sad look? It's almost as if we will be parted forever…"
Hamlet sacrifices himself for the good of the party, and becomes food for the hungry villagers.
Hamlet was very much a part of my party, and although he was a pig and unable to convey emotion, much less speak, his personality shined. I didn't expect to see him commit such a senseless act (he is a baby pig after all), and it shocked me as much as saddened me. (spoiler end!)
There are many moments in the game that convey such emotion, such as getting lost in the Seaside Palace. After your crew's plane crashes in the middle of the ocean, you get lost in a mystical Palace (Atlantis reference?). You suddenly feel a sense of loneliness and despair as you are frantically trying to find the rest of your friends, and yet all you see are specters of this Palace's former residents. They themselves are not very helpful in your quest, and often speak very cryptically. I think at the time this place scared me more than made me feel lost.
Nothing's spoiled here, so I'll be brief with this. This ending was about as obscure as the Final Fantasy VII ending. You've done what you could to save the world, and by the end, you've forged a strong bond with your characters. You feel like they were your friends in real life.
It isn't what you'd expect, nor is it what you wanted and worked hard for during the entire 10-12 hours you put into it.
Going back and remembering this game brought back some fond memories of the days of video game yore. I even went back and watched some clips of the game on YouTube while writing this piece. The game, compared to some of the RPGs of today, seems like a "been there, felt that" kind of affair, but at that time Illusion of Gaia not only excited you with a fast paced action RPG, stellar graphics for the time, a brilliant plot, and a fantastic music score, but also pulled a few heart strings along the way as well.
During that time no game has ever done that, nor would anyone have thought that a video game could tell a tale so powerful and meaningful. I encourage you to pick up this game and play it for yourself, especially if you have never played it before. They don't make 'em like they used to!
Don't worry, the game's not entirely in French…this was the best pic I could find!