Gauntlet Legends Preview

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The Gauntlet series has had a bit of history, from the first coin-op in October '85 to the latest incarnation on the N64. Not surprisingly, after the coin-op success of Gauntlet Legends, a sequel is in the works called Gauntlet Dark Legacy. Now word has come from Atari that a Dreamcast version of Gauntlet Legends is on the way that will also contain elements of Gauntlet Dark Legacy. The recent changes at Atari include coin-op veteran Philip Swett's move to manage the Dreamcast side of things, while Nintendo 64 Producer Scot Amos continues on the now-internal Gauntlet PlayStation version. Swett first started at Atari back in '94 when he came on board as a designer for a Beavis and Butt-head coin-op that never saw the light of day. More recently, he was an associate producer and game designer for California Speed. There's a lot of logic in having a coin-op veteran working on the first home machine that can faithfully re-create the arcade experience.

The first plan of action, according to developers, is to port the original Gauntlet Legends over to the Dreamcast - a task that is estimated to take no more than two months. The N64 version featured more storyline and the use of in-engine cinematics for plot progression - neither of which were in the arcade version. Also, the player-selectable inventory system added a lot of depth. These elements will also make the trip over to the Dreamcast.

What will make it over from Gauntlet Dark Legacy is still being discussed. Atari is in a curious position. Traditionally, the company does what it calls "port pluses" of their coin-op titles. This means that the port of San Francisco Rush has new tracks or that there is a new quest mode in the port of Gauntlet Legends. This is because the coin-drop dynamic of the arcade game is not the same as the needed depth in a home system. Therefore, an N64 and an upcoming PlayStation version were planned when the Gauntlet Legends arcade game was in the works. No Dreamcast version was planned at the time. However, the success of the Dreamcast has prompted Atari and its owner, Midway, to make the decision to bring Gauntlet Legends to the Dreamcast. The power of the machine allows an arcade perfect port but the N64 material must also be added in.

All fair enough, but normally a coin-op sequel would not follow a home port so quickly. The sequel to Gauntlet Legends, Gauntlet Dark Legacy, is due in the arcades in Spring 2000. The decision has already been made internally, according to Atari, to do N64, PlayStation, and Dreamcast versions of the game when appropriate, yet the team working on the Dreamcast version of Gauntlet Legends will have access to some of the early material for Dark Legacy. Therefore, some of that early material will be placed in the Dreamcast version, but most will appear in the enhanced home versions of Gauntlet Dark Legacy within a year. As Swett says, "All the flavors of Gauntlet will be represented one way or another in the DC version of Gauntlet."In charge of the development of all Gauntlet titles, Mike Hally is one of the real veterans of the business, with more than 20 years at Atari. Mike let us in on some of his plans for Gauntlet Dark Legacy, which, summed up, will be bigger and better. Four new characters will join the traditional Barbarian, Elf/Archer, Wizard, and Valkyrie. These are the Dwarf, Jester, Sorceress, and Knight, and each will have his own world, so there will be eight worlds, total. There will also be many new enemies and bosses. The Ice World from the N64 version is being totally redesigned and will feature the Yeti as the main boss. While not confirmed by Mike, here is an example of a feature from the N64 that could, via the Dark Legacy arcade, find its way into the Gauntlet Legends Dreamcast.

Overall, Swett figures the game will have "More than 35 and less than 45! We'll cram as much in as we can," he added. The six-person team - part of the 30-person-plus Gauntlet team for all platforms - is currently working away on the straight port. However, Philip already knows that he can take advantage of the Dreamcast power and controller. "We will be able to run the game at a higher resolution than the arcade version," he said, "and there are a couple of control enhancements that we're thinking of trying out. I've got 75 percent of the programmers' time committed to making this game dazzle the player with outstanding special effects, lighting effects, shadow effects, and dynamics. The graphics will be enhanced wherever possible to make this game Dreamcast-worthy."

Gauntlet Legends Dreamcast is in the peculiar position of being halfway between two coin-op releases, but it sounds like Hally and Swett have figured out how to bring the strengths of the past games into play. Gauntlet Legends Dreamcast should be out within the first six months of 2000. Look for further information soon.

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