Evergrace Preview

You try to collect as many weapons and pieces of armor as you can while fighting monsters, which aren't too bright due to some lackluster enemy AI.

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Evergrace for the Sony PlayStation2 is an action-RPG from From Software, the creator of King's Field and Armored Core. Initially, the game had been designed for the current PlayStation console, but the developers believed they could do a lot more with the PlayStation2 hardware. So far, their decision has been a good one, as the graphics are a dramatic leap from those in the original PS version.

You can select from one of two characters to play as in the game: Yuterald or Shalami. Yuterald is one of the four Swordsmen of Storta, who, after long years of training, has mastered his skills in sword fighting. His parents were killed by Morea assassins when he was young. Seeking revenge, he pursues the remaining members of the assassin's clan in the Billiana Forest, but during his pursuit he gets magically transported into the territory of the Ryuben Empire.

Sharami is a neighbor of Yuterald, kindhearted and sort of an older sister to Yuterald. She was supposed to have been killed by assassins in the PlayStation version, but she was brought back to life and turned into a main character for the revamped PlayStation2 version. She is transported to the Ryuben Empire when Yuterald triggers his crest power to avenge the murder of his parents by the Morea assassins.

Palmira is a jewel that lets a character use magic and improves body conditions. There are three types of Palmira- the physical type, which lets characters perform special attacks; the magic type, which lets characters cast magical spells; and the support type, which gives characters protection from elements, such as fire, or lets them perform action-related stuff like destroying blocks in dungeons. In the PS version, you could only equip the Palmira jewel to enhance your character's status, but in the PS2 version, you can actually magically merge your weapons and armor with the Palmira jewel to create magical weapons and armor. For example, when you magically merge a long sword with a fire Palmira, the final product will be a flame sword.

When you acquire weapons and armor, the graphics of the characters in the game will reflect the equipment you've gained. In the PlayStation2 version, the shield is no longer a part of the equipment list, so you must now rely more on your controls rather than just use the shield to block off enemy attacks. The game will feature a fashion critic, and you will receive discounts for buying or repairing weapons and armor if the critic gives you a good rating. Enemies may occasionally drop rare weapons and armor, adding more gameplay for hard-core players.

Ike's Hands-on Impressions

Yuterald starts out after being blown away into a part of the world he does not recognize. He soon meets a mysterious creature by the name of Forim and sets about his adventure. As for Shalami, she begins by waking up in a stranger's bed, a young woman named Sienna who has been taking care of her. She tells Shalami not to leave the house since she has someone waiting outside. Two powerful magicians, Bagragera and Billhorg, then blow up the house, injuring Shalami. Sienna apologizes to her for involving her in the incident, and she and both magicians disappear. Shalami has a longer introduction, and you can't skip the dialogues, unlike Yuterald's, which you can actually fast-forward through.

Unfortunately, from what we've seen of the game so far, it seems pretty substandard. We had hoped that some improvements would be made to it before its release, after playing it at the PlayStation Festival and Tokyo Game Show. You try to collect as many weapons and pieces of armor as you can while fighting monsters, which aren't too bright due to some lackluster enemy AI. You'll feel as if you're playing Eternal Ring or King's Field in a third-person perspective, as the "strafing in circles and then approaching the enemy to slash at him" formula works in Evergrace as well.

It's quite tough in the beginning since you have very limited weapons and armor and little money to purchase them. Also, monsters generate randomly, which makes it all the more difficult to get around. Since there are no level-ups in this game, there really is no incentive to battle these monsters too often. The save point will also let you purchase items and even change main characters. Swapping simply switches from Yuterald's scenario to Shalami's and vice versa. Both characters start out in separate locations, and they eventually meet up later in the game.

The graphics in the game show that it certainly was planned as a PlayStation game at one point. Though the resolution has been beefed up, you'll notice slowdown at certain points. What makes for a good recovery is the music in the game. Unlike From's past works, the characters have an extensive amount of dialogue that may add life to the game as well. However, we've noticed that the audio tends to skip, but we do not know whether this is caused by the PlayStation driver 1.00. We'll try it with the 1.01 and report back soon.

Hopefully there will be some surprises in the game as we progress, but so far it has been disappointing.

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