Dark Angel Preview

Dark Angel takes place 13 years since the Warlord Yagma, lord of the land of Gothos, first came to power after making a pact with the Vampire underworld, casting the people of Gothos into oppression.


Because of the industry consolidation that has been going on in the past 18 months, new publishers have been few and far between. One of the exceptions is a new San Jose, Calif. based company called Metro3D. Founded with private money prior to E3 by former senior Capcom executives George Nakayama and Joe Morici, Metro3D has announced its intent to support Nintendo and Sega platforms in its first year via the Game Boy Color, the N64 and the Dreamcast. Some of the more notable titles include Bubble Bobble for the Game Boy Color and Armada, which is due shortly after the Dreamcast launch. However the most intriguing title in the Metro3D stable is Dark Angel: Vampire Apocalypse, a fast-paced action-RPG.

Considering its title, Dark Angel: Vampire Apocalypse (hereafter DA) is not surprisingly a Gothic fantasy story. It takes place 13 years since the Warlord Yagma, lord of the land of Gothos, first came to power after making a pact with the Vampire underworld, casting the people of Gothos into oppression. Your character is Anna, a young woman of unusual strength and endurance. The implication of vampires and superhuman strength is obvious but not stated. The inhabitants of Gothos are dying from a slow and painful unknown disease whose victims are transformed into hideous gibbering mutants.It is Anna's mission to discover her origin, find out why she has such superhuman powers, and defeat Warlord Yagma.

As is the case with most Dreamcast games, the DA team is building the game engine from scratch, working specifically within the strengths of the machine. Metro3D's engine supports standard 3D collision and physics along with "inverse kinematic components and special effects similar to the sword-slash streaks in Soul Calibur."

Leading the Metro3D team is ten-year industry veteran Mark Jordan, best known for Star Command: Deluxe. His 21-person team is composed of a large number of experienced members, including some ex-Atari and THQ staffers. The team has also worked on Armada, but this is its most ambitious title to date.

We asked Jordan why he chose this particular story. "The story of Dark Angel grew out of our fascination with gothic fantasy, our love of stylish characters, and our desire to make an epic game," he said. "It is what the team wanted to make, a fun, fast-paced game filled with intelligent allies and enemy creatures."

These allies and enemy creatures feature a lot of animation sets. Each monster has roughly 16 of these animations. The standard moves are walk, run, attack, shake (from a hit), and die. The Imp character, however, will also cower in fear, sneak up on you from behind, jump on the back of a large monster and ride it, climb walls, and, when cornered, beg for its life. Mark gives such titles as Diablo, Strider, and Fallout as some of the previous games that inspired the team. This is particularly noticeable in the overall structure of the game. Unlike the many level-based games currently scheduled for the Dreamcast, DA is structured like Fallout in that you can travel to a large number of locations, and save anywhere during gameplay.

The locations in the game run the gamut from indoors to outdoor - with caves, dungeons, forest, oceans, and mountains all being featured. Also, the infected inhabitants turn up in a secret laboratory where a mad scientist tries to transform them into monstrous soldiers. Weather is also an important part of the presentation, with lightning storms are told to be particular quite impressive. Correctly implemented, these weather effects will allow the same landscape to become two different playing experiences.

Gothos is not a static land, and neither are its people. As Anna moves throughout the different locations in the game, events can occur to a place after she has already left it. A thriving city she has visited recently can fall victim to a plague by the time Anna returns. Similarly, the people will remember each interaction with Anna and react accordingly the next time she visits. Better to leave a place on good terms than to cause trouble only to discover that an important part of the story must be resolved in a place you'd prefer not to return to. The game features no specific additional in-game cutscenes, but rather the storyline will unfold during the natural gameplay.

Your view will change depending on the situation; Zelda 64 was cited as a game that changed the player's perspective in a similar way. Similarly, overall weapon combat will have a Zelda 64 or Tenchu feel, if not somewhat a quicker one

There's also a lot of speech in the game and a strong character-interaction emphasis. Again Jordan explains, "There will be a couple hours of speech in the game, but we do not lock up your gameplay while people talk. just talk to you when you are near and fade out if you walk away."

The Dreamcast Visual Memory Unit (VMU) is certainly starting to impact game design. Here, the VMU will let you build up the ability and skill of Anna, along with special items such as new melee weapons, special magic tools, and spells. Multiple spells are available within the game, including those that make Anna a blur of motion or turn her invisible, and the special magic tools feature such items as the staff of healing. There are ten weapons in all, including a shadow knife, soul hammer, demon blade, and skull -cleaver. All these items can also be traded to other players using their VMUs.

Nakayama, who serves as the president of Metro3D, and Morici, who is the company's VP of sales and marketing had an impressive track record at Capcom with the successful launches of such franchises as Street Fighter II and Megaman. Metro3D's ability to understand the market and become a player in the profitable handheld segment, while also investing in new technologies, bodes well for this fledgling publisher. Ultimately, the strength of the product will be the deciding factor. Filled with classic RPG and adventure-game ingredients, such as good vs. evil, epic battles, mystery, and even romance Dark Angel: Vampire Apocalypse has every opportunity to make a name for Metro3D.

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