Review: Illusion of Gaia

Hello, readers! I, Daniel “Deimosion” Flink, once again return to bring you the latest and greatest reviews of games that are almost two decades old! This week’s victim is Illusion of Gaia, Quintet’s second entry in the loosely related Soul Blazer trilogy. Released on the SNES in North America in 1994, Illusion of Gaia is a distant sequel to Soul Blazer and the predecessor to Terranigma. Quintet’s SNES trilogy is generally well-regarded by classic gamers, with Terranigma in particular generating massive praise from fans of classic RPGs. Based on the trilogy’s hype, Illusion of Gaia has quite a bit of hype to live up to, but unfortunately, falls flat.

Illusion of Gaia, like Soul Blazer before it, is a 2D Action RPG with no party or currency system. Unlike Soul Blazer, however, Illusion of Gaia entirely does away with experience points; leveling in Illusion of Gaia is uniquely handled. The player gets a boost to strength, defense, or HP every time a room is cleared of enemies. Enemies do not respawn once a room has been emptied. The gameplay aspects of Illusion of Gaia are decent, and combat is fun. Illusion of Gaia does suffer heavily from linearity in a sense: the individual areas are not linear, but the game itself is. Once finished in a dungeon, town, or other area, returning is usually impossible. This creates problems with the game’s major sidequest, as collecting the jewels required to access the bonus dungeon can become impossible unless the player uses a walkthrough to ensure that all of the jewels are found. Illusion of Gaia‘s linearity and inability to backtrack significantly hamper the game, but the dungeon designs and combat make for a decently fun gameplay experience. Unfortunately for Illusion of Gaia, the story and characters do not enhance the experience.

Or Legend of Legaia.

Not to be confused with Use Your Illusion

The story of Illusion of Gaia is, put generously, lacking. Illusion of Gaia tells of Will, a boy living in the small town of South Cape with his grandparents. An average boy of indeterminate age, Will was left living with his grandparents after his father went missing during an adventurous expedition. Though it almost never comes up in the story, Will is a psychic, and can use telekinesis to move objects around. For some unexplained reason, Will can enter into “Dark Space” through gateways in the game, wherein he can transform to a sword-wielding warrior named Freedan or a strange figure known only as Shadow. The cast of Illusion of Gaia is comprised mostly of forgettable teenagers, with Kara the princess being the only interesting or dynamic member of the otherwise unremarkable group of characters. Illusion of Gaia‘s plot is a boring, nonsensical mess; the narrative makes no sense and lacks direction. For almost all of the game, there is no driving villain and no given motivation for Will or for any other character. Additionally, the game fails to give a decent explanation for who or what Freedan is and why Will can transform into him.

Seriously, if Will is psychic, why is pulling objects the best he can do?

''It seems like Will is able to to use psychic powers whenever it would be convenient for him to do so!''

On a technical level, Illusion of Gaia is fairly average. The graphics are standard sprite-based SNES fare, and not particularly memorable. The backgrounds look decent, and Mode 7 is clearly frequently employed. Illusion of Gaia‘s graphics are not very noteworthy for the most part, and they suffer from one major problem in particular: the font used for text within the game is distractingly ugly. The game’s music is about average as well; it is neither good nor bad, and largely forgettable. The technical aspects of Illusion of Gaia are middling; the graphics and music are not memorably good or bad, but they do work well, which is more than can be said for the story or characters.

Overall, Illusion of Gaia is a rather disappointing game. While the gameplay of Illusion of Gaia is solid, it does not stand out from among the many 2D Action RPGs that are out today. While cult classic games are usually worth a playthrough, the enterprising gamer would be much better off skipping this one. Illusion of Gaia is an okay game, but with the thousands of games that are available, a game must be simply more than “okay”. Illusion of Gaia, sadly, is not. What do you think, readers? Am I wrong in my criticisms of Illusion of Gaia? Is the game actually much better or deeper than I am willing to give it credit for? Comment on this post and let me know what you think!


  1. Lusipurr
    Posted 2011.07.14 at 12:35 | Permalink

    Played it when it came out, thought it was forgettable and below average.

    Clearly, I’m not the only one who thought that.

  2. evilpaul
    Posted 2011.07.14 at 12:52 | Permalink

    While heights get me dizzy in real life (and Portal 2, for some reason) jumping off stuff in that first town is pretty fun.

    Gaia also has the most magnanimous swine to grace any 16bit action RPG. I thought that Kara’s pet pig was probably the most memorable character.

    In general, I have to agree with 7th Circle’s assessment that an Action RPG is just a shitty action game with RPG elements stapled on, but I found this and Terranigma to be two of the better examples of the genre. The gameplay is fun and works. If somebody asked me to recommend one Illusion of Gaia would be at the top of my list.

  3. Lusipurr
    Posted 2011.07.14 at 14:44 | Permalink

    @EP: Secret of Mana is the much better game, and more memorable. Why Illusion of Gaia? It is like the poor man’s alternative to SoM.

  4. Deimosion
    Posted 2011.07.14 at 15:04 | Permalink

    @Lusi And SoM isn’t good either!

  5. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2011.07.15 at 12:58 | Permalink

    I once played this for about ten minutes, and then put it down.

  6. evilpaul
    Posted 2011.07.15 at 15:40 | Permalink

    I prefer the Quintet combat to SoM’s. It’s much more actiony with no wait several seconds between attacks. SoM was also a buggy, buggy mess.