Back in 1994 when Enix was still just Enix, they released a game known as Illusion of Gaia (known in Europe as Illusion of Time). It’s now 2010, and I still don’t get what this game is about. But if there’s one thing I know for sure – it’s that this game is loads of fun to play. Set in what’s supposedly our planet in an ancient era (despite the land formations not looking at all like Earth), some of the landmarks in the game resemble those of past civilizations.
The story? Umm, well, as I said – I don’t get this game. The story really makes no sense at all. If you don’t believe me, watch the first few minutes of this Let’s Play of the game just to see how ridiculous it is. All I know is that it’s about a young hero named Will who wields his mighty… flute… to battle demons, and somehow eventually saves the world from a giant comet that’s in the sky for no apparent reason. The historical accuracy of the game’s setting is well – not accurate at all! For some reason, this game takes place in an era where Angkor Wat, the Great Pyramid, the fictional kingdom of Mu, and the Tower of Babel all existed at the same time. If that’s not ridiculous enough – there’s 20th century technology in the game… because we all know that airplanes existed when the Tower of Babel was built, right? But enough ripping on the story and this game’s terrible attempt at relating to the real world…
As ludicrous as this game may be, it’s still a very enjoyable experience. You control your character in an overhead view and battle enemies in real-time, on the main screen. There’s no separate battle screen or menus, just plain old press-the-button-to-attack style fighting. There’s no experience points – instead, after clearing a room full of enemies, Will (your character) will gain a bonus to either his max health, strength, or defense. Save points are scattered throughout the game and at some save points, Will can transform into an alternate body. One of these bodies, Freedan, wields an actual sword (phew!), which naturally packs a bigger punch than Will’s dusty old flute. You’ll constantly switch between these two bodies throughout the majority of the game, though you do get a third form much later on. Each of these forms have their own series of abilities that can be performed. Some of these abilities are purely for attack or defense, while others are important for solving the game’s various puzzles.
Unlike most traditional RPGs, there are no shops in this game. Healing items are few and far between, and there are a limited number of them in the entire game. Use them sparingly, because you don’t want to be caught at the final boss battle without any restorative items! You don’t upgrade or purchase new weapons and armor either. Illusion of Gaia is about as basic as an RPG can get. The only reason I call it an “RPG” is because Will gets stronger as he fights enemies, albeit it not being via EXP or traditional level-gaining. Truth be told, this game actually more closely resembles an adventure game.
This game’s graphics aren’t the best seen on the Super Nintendo, but they were still above average considering the time and platform. The game’s music is definitely worth noting, as it contains many memorable tunes that I still recall to this day.
As insanely ridiculous as the premise of Illusion of Gaia may be, that’s no reason to shun it away. It’s fairly short in length, and isn’t too difficult, making it perfect for casual gamers (the instruction manual even includes a walkthrough… of the entire game!). This often forgotten game never reached the “golden classic” status that many RPGs of the time did, but it still makes for some great casual fun without the frustration found in many other RPGs.
Illusion of Gaia is available for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.