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Lupin the 3rd: Treasure of the Sorcerer King (PlayStation 2)

66
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3.9
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Written by  :  Terrence Bosky (5235)
Written on  :  Jan 03, 2005
Rating  :  2.86 Stars2.86 Stars2.86 Stars2.86 Stars2.86 Stars
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Summary

Not a Treasure, but not terrible either

The Good

Lupin the 3rd is a world renowned thief, master of disguise, and quite the ladies' man. He's also the star of popular anime and manga titles and Treasure of the Sorcerer King marks his first appearance on this platform. Licensed titles tend to suffer when they jump mediums, but Treasure of the Sorcerer King almost benefits from lowered expectations, presenting a game that's almost as fun as it is awkward and unwieldy.

Lupin begins his adventures aboard a train that carries the Pitcher of Honor. Theresa Faust (love interest) has lent the Pitcher to Theodore Hannewald (bad bad guy) and it's such an obvious target for Lupin that Interpol Inspector Zenigata (good bad guy) is on the scene to make sure the Pitcher is secure. The train is heavily guarded with police, many of the cars are locked, and Zenigata is on the prowl, luckily Lupin has some tricks up his sleeve.

Treasure of the Sorcerer King is a pseudo-stealth game in which players control Lupin (and occasionally sidekicks Jigen and Goemon) from a third person perspective. There's plenty of cover for Lupin to use to remain unseen, but the only real way to pass through the levels is to don a disguise and bluff your way through. Disguised as a cop, Lupin can pass through cars undetected; offering quick salutes to suspicious officers while getting close enough to them to pick their pockets. There's some timing involved, since Lupin has to salute before their suspicion rises too high and there's a small window in which to pick someone's pocket. If Lupin's timing is off, his confidence becomes shaky, making it harder to bluff or alerting the police completely.

If stealth isn't working, Lupin can always knock out guards with a sleep cylinder gun or a frying pan or outrun them and hide until they lose interest. Lupin can duck into crates, mimic statues, or simply hide behind a couch. Radar shows enemies and their alert status, so Lupin knows when it's safe to come out.

Most of the game's puzzles involve opening doors. Lupin may have to spot combinations hastily scrawled near the lock, decipher cryptic notes, or use some inventory item to progress. As such, it's important for Lupin to be equal parts explorer and thief. Often guards will have important clues on them or near them, or something important might be under a couch or behind a bookcase.

As the game progresses, Lupin gets off the train sans Pitcher and learns that the real one and its sister is at Hannewald Castle in Goldengasse. Without giving too much of the story away, Lupin learns that it's equally as important to get both Pitchers for himself as it is to keep them away from Theodore and the Raven Kreuz ninjas who keep attacking Lupin and company.

There are a few all-out combat sequences, beginning during the second half of the game. Some missions allow the player to blow enemies away (in a bloodless, quickly disappearing corpse sort of way) as Jigen or be the Samurai descendent Goemon and wield the deadly Zantetsu sword (again bloodless). Lupin himself has his share of gunplay once he learns of the stakes involved in what was to be a simple heist.

Graphically, Treasure of the Sorcerer King resembles the low detail second wave Japanimation style of the classic anime series. The opening is a high quality rendered sequence, but in-game graphics and cutscenes look like straight 3D conversions of the series. Voice acting is done by the American voice cast, which is what it is and presumably what you are used to. Music is also straight from the series (I'm told)—a wonderful 70s era theme. In-game effects are less impressive, with a horrid clopping noise for footsteps.

Treasure of the Sorcerer King has a player-friendly save system. You can't save as you go, but there are plenty of save areas per level and multiple check points. If Lupin dies or is discovered, he can use a dummy doll (the idea being that it wasn't really Lupin who was killed or captured, but a manikin) to return to the last checkpoint. Lupin starts out with three dummy dolls and can collect many more as he goes.

The Bad

Here's the short version: Treasure of the Sorcerer King is an okay stealth game, a mediocre action game, and a pretty good puzzle game.

Treasure of the Sorcerer King could be a pretty good stealth game if Lupin controlled better—once he's squatting, he's stuck in that orientation. In terms of game play, it really doesn't matter if Lupin carefully eludes the enemy and it really ends up working against him, since he's supposed to be in disguise and pick their pockets. If it wasn't for the pocket picking, Lupin could dash through the game, clubbing opponents who spotted him.

The stealth aspect disappears in the second half of the game as Lupin is thrust against enemies who want to kill him rather than apprehend him. Once again, he can (and should) run past them rather easily. Except for a few boss fights, Lupin can avoid killing most of the enemies he faces. The clumsy controls hamper Lupin's style, but switching to a first person mode makes combat easier if the player wants to fight.

Regarding the boss fights, I was actually pretty happy with these, but they are lumped together too close to the end—which brings me to level design. Treasure of the Sorcerer King uses the design concept that life is a series of rectangles. Lupin runs from one rectangular room to another with a few square rooms thrown in between. These rooms use the same wallpaper, so there's not a lot to see. Combining these complaints, it's annoying how much of the game takes place in Hannewald Castle as Lupin covers the same area by day and then by night.

The Bottom Line

I'm not familiar with the anime or manga versions of Lupin, but when the story switched from Lupin's quest for the Pitcher of Honor to his attempt to thwart an ancient cult by defeating rock monsters, I felt a little lost and a little cheated.