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SummaryA good balance between good and bad until the last hour
The GoodThe presentation is insane, especially during the sections between the temples. during those sections there are thousands of sprites on the screen at the same time and some of the vehicles look amazing, there was a section somewhere halfway with a few dozen battleships that made my jaw drop. It feels amazingly satisfying to plow through the enemy ranks with a horse or to drop a few mortar bombs within the horde.
Kameo doesn't use items, but instead travels around the world to gather elemental warriors. Once she finds one she can transform into that warrior in order to use its abilities to solve puzzles or to fight enemies. The best thing about these elementals is that they are all look different and their abilities are exclusive to them, so I was always wondering what the next creature would look like. My favorite was probably one called Thermite that had a massive cannon on his back.
The temples are rather short and nicely balance puzzles and actions, the problem I have with a lot of the Zelda games is that the dungeons take between one and three hours to complete and most of the obstacles have to be solved with puzzles, but here it will take maybe ninety minutes maximum. It's also pretty cool that the puzzles in the dungeon require you to use all your elemental warriors instead of just the one you unlocked right before you arrived at the temple.
The fights with the shadow trolls were the highlight of this game, it's all a one on one between Kameo and the monster with no magic powers. The goal is to kill one of the respawning enemies and use his soul as a projectile, hitting the troll three times will kill him, but he will use all his powers to stop you. Every shadow also had his own moves, so you could never prepare a tactic on your first playthrough.
Kameo doesn't go to the temples in order to obtain an item, but she is after her family members which I thought was a lot more interesting. Each family member also reveals part of Kameo's back-story, so as you go along you slowly puzzle everything together. The boss-fights are also pretty nice and look a lot like those in Zelda (sorry, but comparing this game to Zelda is required), you avoid there attacks while looking for a way to open up their weak-spot and finishing it off by using the attacks the boss is vulnerable to.
The Badthroughout the entire game there is a clear balance between good and terrible which made sure that the game was average, but never terrible. However the final boss-fight with the Troll king was just a huge "ugh". I hear a lot of people complaining about boss-fights that are too easy, but at least an easy boss-fight allows you to finish the story and see the ending. This troll king is just insane, his health bar goes down one pixel at a time, his attacks are incredibly strong, he is immune to almost everything and Kalus keeps spawning more enemies. The worst though is that some of the attacks give a very poor indication that you're doing damage (or not) and you only have two seconds of every minute that allow you to do damage before he becomes immune to everything again.
The story is very poorly told and aside from Kameo's back-story there wasn't a single interesting bit, the opening cutscene briefly tells you who you are playing as and that you have to safe your family and when gameplay finally started I knew even less then before the opening. There are also a lot of races in this magical kingdom, but aside from the trolls and the elves I couldn't figure any of them out. You had these plant monsters which at first glance looked like enemies, but after spending roughly an hour in their village I still didn't know the name of their race or anything about their behavior and culture.
Buying items and upgrading your attacks is not as vital as the game would make you believe it is, it keeps telling you to do so, but all the elemental warriors start off with the attacks required to finish the story, so trying to figure out what to upgrade is just a massive waste of time. This is also one of those games where it rains money and there is just nothing to spend it on instead of bigger wallets and health potions.
Let me tell you why I keep mentioning Zelda, this is a Rare game and I remember Rareware for copying Nintendo games and giving it their own touch (see also "Banjo and Kazooie" which was a lot like "Super Mario 64"). The problem is that Rare's own touch is nowhere to be found in the game and instead we just get more Zelda. Kameo already looks a lot like Link, but the design of the world and the structure of the story was also identical. There is also not a single shed of humor, which might just be the killing blow for this game.
The book which gives you advice was also annoying, the bloody thing works a lot like Navi, Talt, Midna and the King of Red Lions, meaning that he will signal you when he has something to say. The problem is that he speaks and his advice is always wrong. It's very annoying when you are trying to think and this guy keeps nagging you to listen to him (and unlike Navi he isn't very interesting, cute or funny). What I mean with "wrong advice" is that most of the time he doesn't give you a hint, but instead just tells you what to do straight away. I just hated it whenever I was close to figuring out what to do and the book just spoiled it.
The Bottom LineThe problem is this: The game lacks the humor required to be a successful Rare game and it lacks the polish and writing to be a good Zelda clone. The worst thing by far is that it's pretty decent, but I just can't beat the final boss and finish it. I tried for hours, but the second the big stone soldiers come into play you might just shut the console off.
Sadly I can't really recommend this game to anyone because finishing it is limited to the psychotic people and hackers. Though, if you really can't wait for the next Zelda game to launch (Skyward Sword!) then it may be worth giving a try.