Illusion of Gaia (ガイア幻想紀|Gaia Gensōki|lit. "Records of the Illusion of Gaia"), known in Europe as Illusion of Time, is an action-RPG video game that was released on September 1, 1994 for the Super NES. It was developed by Quintet. Enix published the game in Japan, and Nintendo published it worldwide. The Australian PAL release was in fact a North American localization and was converted to PAL60 format and released in Australia as Illusion of Gaia, a rarity for Nintendo Australia which usually rely on European PAL versions. Illusion of Gaia was scored by Yasuhiro Kawasaki. Moto Hagio the influential manga artist is credited with the character designs. Novelist Mariko Ohara worked on the story.

Gameplay

While Illusion of Gaia has a large cast of characters, Will, Freedan, and Shadow are the only playable characters in the game. They each have unique abilities, and certain areas are impassable without a specific character. The characters gain techniques as part of the story. Will's techniques are all based on reaching new areas with incidental combat applications, while Freedan's techniques are more combat-oriented. Shadow arrives late in the game, but he is such a powerful character that Freedan becomes basically obsolete with Shadow's arrival.

Combat is relatively simple. Characters share the same health and defense scores, but have different levels of strength. Freedan, for example, does noticeably more damage, and has a longer reach than Will. In turn, Shadow does more damage than Freedan. Attacks are almost exclusively melee, using Will's flute, Freedan's sword, or Shadow's pseudopod. Enemies' health bars appear upon attacking, displaying as a series of red spheres that represent hit points. Bosses cannot be revisited, and enemies do not reappear unless Will loses all his lives or completely exits an area and then returns.

Illusion of Gaia has a general design that is uniquely simple as RPGs go. The game eschews the experience system of typical RPGs; instead, the game has a more novel system for advancing the player character's statistics. Defeating all enemies in a room earns the player a permanent stat bonus in the form of a jewel. These jewels increase attack, defense, or health power. While returning to a cleared area will cause enemies to reappear, the bonuses for defeating them again do not. Also, after an enemy is killed, it will leave a stone - either a small or a large one. Collecting 100 of these allows you to restart closer to where you died with all enemies still defeated.

Also, the game has no currency or equipment systems. There is only one healing item (herbs), and only a small number of those in the game. Unlike most games of its type, previously visited areas become impossible to revisit almost immediately after the story progresses beyond them until the last third of the game, though areas from the first two-thirds of the game remain unaccessible. The only side quest in the game, finding Red Jewels, then becomes impossible to complete if the player fails to find them before advancing the story.

Like most RPGs, the game has only one difficulty setting. Saving is accomplished at 'Dark Spaces' located throughout each level -- including areas without enemies, such as Will's hometown. Will can recover lost health within the Dark Spaces, and occasionally change forms or gain new abilities.

Setting

Illusion of Gaia is set in a partially historical but mostly fantasy-based version of Earth. The game contains several real-world sites, such as Incan ruins, the Nazca lines, Angkor Wat, the Great Wall of China, and Egyptian pyramids. Each of these ruins hold a piece to the final puzzle, unveiled at the top of the infamous Tower of Babel.

It is firstly believed to be the age of exploration (a period roughly corresponding to the 16th century; Christopher Columbus is mentioned at least once), and explorers have begun scouring the world in search of ancient ruins and the lost treasures and secrets within. Many return with nothing, and some are simply never seen again. Will, the protagonist of the game, is a survivor of one such ill-fated expedition. He accompanied his father, a famed explorer, on a sea journey to uncover the secrets of the Tower of Babel, but the explorers met with a mysterious disaster. Somehow Will managed to make it back to his home town, but he doesn't remember how.

Plot

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When the game begins, Will stumbles into a "Dark Space," where he meets a strange being called 'Gaia'. Gaia tells Will that he must leave his home and save the world from a coming evil. A comet is approaching, and it will bring ill fortune to the world. As he travels, Will gains the ability to change into other forms, each with special powers: Freedan, a dark knight, and Shadow, a solid form of energy.

It is later revealed that the comet is in fact an ancient weapon used during the last Blazer War, and has the power to change the shape of the world. In the ruin of Ankor Wat, it is discovered that when the comet approaches the Earth this time, the comet's light will change the world into that of the modern world.

Will and his friends travel the world and collect artifacts known as "Mystic Statues". At the climax, Will and Kara reach the Tower of Babel, where it is then revealed that Will is the Dark Knight, and Kara is the Light Knight. The two knights join to form Shadow and use the ancient statues to release the ultimate power, the firebird.

Attacking the comet directly, which soon manifests itself as Dark Gaia, Will and Kara manage to destroy its power, returning the world to normal. The spirits of Will's parents inform them that the world will return to normal and that no one will conserve any memories of the adventure. Saddened by that fact, Will and Kara join one last time as Shadow to return to Earth.

The final scene is left ambiguous. All of Will's friends are depicted in what appears to be a modern-day school, implying that even if they forgot about their time together, they remained friends in the "real" world.

Setting

Illusion of Gaia is set in a partially historical but mostly fantasy-based version of Earth. The game contains several real-world sites, such as Incan ruins, the Nazca lines, Angkor Wat, the Great Wall of China, and Egyptian pyramids. Each of these ruins hold a piece to the final puzzle, unveiled at the top of the infamous Tower of Babel.

It is firstly believed to be the age of exploration (a period roughly corresponding to the 16th century; Christopher Columbus is mentioned at least once), and explorers have begun scouring the world in search of ancient ruins and the lost treasures and secrets within. Many return with nothing, and some are simply never seen again. Will, the protagonist of the game, is a survivor of one such ill-fated expedition. He accompanied his father, a famed explorer, on a sea journey to uncover the secrets of the Tower of Babel, but the explorers met with a mysterious disaster. Somehow Will managed to make it back to his home town, but he doesn't remember how.

Characters

Main article: List of Characters in Illusion of Gaia

Illusion of Gaia features only one playable character at any time - either Will, a boy who develops psychic powers after surviving a shipwreck during an exploratory expedition with his father, or his alter egos Freedan and Shadow. However, a large group of non-player characters accompany Will from region to region. Included are Will's classmates and friends known collectively as the seaside gang: Lance, a bold, adventurous boy whose father was lost in the shipwreck that Will survived; Seth, a studious, bespectacled boy with a troubled home life; and Erik, a naїve boy that seems younger than the others, but has a courageous spirit. The other characters that join Will are Princess Kara, a spoiled royal on the run from her increasingly cruel parents, and her pet pig Hamlet; Lilly, a member of the mysterious Itory tribe who has the power to transform herself into a dandelion puff at will and float amongst the winds; and Neil, a brilliant inventor responsible for the telescope, the camera, and the airplane, among others.

Will and his friends face many enemies in their journey to uncover the secret of the Tower of Babel - both those who protect the clues to the mystery, and those who seek its power for themselves. A number of powerful demons guard the priceless treasures of lost civilizations, while the human but power-mad King Edward and Queen Edwina contract Jackal, an assassin, to tail Will and Kara through their journeys. Neil's parents are the driving force behind the Rolek company, which is also the driving force behind the World's slave trade. Later it is revealed that they are replaced by members of the Moon Tribe. The Tribe themselves, are encountered numerous times throughout the journey, being living shadows that lost their corporeal forms after being subject to the comet's light. Will's other notable encounters include Sam, a slave who helps him give Lance's memory back, as well as his adoptive guardians, Lola and Bill.

Development

A pre-release English version of Illusion of Gaia has been leaked onto the Internet in the form of a "ROM" file. It contains a number of differences in presentation and translation. First and most apparent is that the prototype has a different title screen, based on the original Japanese one. It features small sprites of the main characters running on the surface of the comet. The final US instruction booklet contains one picture of an early title screen, which still contains the characters at the bottom, but has the correct title. In the leaked prototype, the title is given as Soul Blazer: Illusion of Gaia. Another noticeable difference are the name changes of most of the characters. The main character's name is Will in the final release of the American game, whereas in this Beta version, his name is Tim. Kara is Karen, and some of the other children have different names. In the final release of the game, the character who stalks Kara and Will on their journey is named The Jackal. However, in this build of the game, his name is The Black Panther. Most people assume that his name was changed due to the American political party The Black Panthers. There are also a few script errors in this game, and some of the script is even changed, making some of the characters more sinister, such as the Jeweler Gem. Nintendo is not listed on the title credits. It appears that the prototype was developed before Nintendo of America decided to publish and market the game for the US region. When Nintendo decided to be the US publisher, the title was changed and a logo was specifically redesigned to resemble the logo of Nintendo's popular Zelda game franchise.

Merchandise

Nintendo released a bundle pack in America that, while supplies lasted, included a "one size fits all" T-Shirt that featured the logo, Freedan, and Shadow. As a Nintendo-published title in the US, the game received special attention in Nintendo Power magazine and additional merchandise was sold in the Super Power Supplies catalog for Nintendo Power subscribers.

Reception

Quintet reported that Illusion of Gaia sold 200,000 copies in Japan, 300,000 copies in North America, and 150,000 copies in Europe.

It was rated the 186th best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list.

The online magazine Hardcore Gaming 101 (published by GameSpy) has referred to Illusion of Gaia and a few other Quintet games as the Soul Blazer series, pointing a few common themes between the different titles.

Video

External links

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