Gamecube Review - Evolution Worlds
Any way you slice it, a messy mash-up of two pretty mediocre Dreamcast roleplaying games does not make for a great gaming experience.
Back in 1999, when the Sega Dreamcast was roughly a year old, it was still in desperate need of a quality RPG. So Ubisoft decided to port over a Sting-developed dungeon crawler called Evolution: The World of Sacred Device to try and fill the bill. Despite fairly mediocre ratings (its average score at GameRankings.com is 68%), I actually kind of enjoyed the game.
Apparently I wasn't alone, as the demand for the title led Ubisoft to port over its sequel, Evolution 2: Far off Promise, the following year. However, by the midpoint of that game, things felt like they were growing stale, and the game was a chore to finish. So when they later announced Evolution Worlds for the Gamecube, I was cautiously optimistic. After all, the grandiose name hinted at a much fuller experience, and they do say the third time's the charm, right? Sadly, it was not to be, as Worlds wound up being nothing more than a poorly cobbled together compilation of the two Dreamcast titles.
The Evolution games tell the story of a young boy named Mag Launcher. In the original title, the gamer learns that Mag's parents have disappeared, leaving him in the care of his butler Gre Nade and saddling him with a massive debt to pay off. In order to earn money, the two of them have to explore ancient ruins in search of treasure, which can then be sold to a nearby historical society. They are joined by Linear, a mysterious girl who never speaks and winds up playing a huge role throughout the game series, as well as several other allies they meet along the way. The stories themselves were never great, but they were passable in the Dreamcast versions. Not so in the Gamecube, where the plot of the first Evolution is butchered to the point where it seems like nothing more than a quick prologue. That's a shame, too, because in my opinion it was by far the more compelling game of the two. Of course, the ridiculous character names (Gre Nade? Chain Gun?) are a bit much to take, no matter what version you're playing.
As mentioned earlier, Evolution Worlds is a dungeon-crawling RPG, which means that you will be traversing level after level of mostly randomly-generated dungeons fighting turn-based battles as you go. In the Dreamcast games, the dungeons were quite challenging, requiring you to grind in order to gain enough experience and acquire powerful-enough equipment to take down each locale's bosses. For better or for worse, that challenge has largely been lost in Worlds, as it takes virtually no effort to breeze through the first game's dungeons and take down what was, originally, a brutal final boss. Casual gamers make like it, but as someone who struggled through the first game, taking on the final boss time and time again until I was finally able to emerge victorious, I was absolutely sickened by how easy they made the fight. For me, at least, the challenge was half the fun of the game!
Graphics and Sound
Evolution and Evolution 2 were released in the first two years of the Dreamcast's life span, and Worlds makes little to no attempt to improve upon the graphics in either same. So needless to say, they don't look exceptional, though they aren't terrible either. Mag and his friends are essentially 3D versions of the cute little super-deformed sprites RPG fans have come to know and love throughout the years, but the environments are a little on the bland side. Musically, the game is solid, and while the Dreamcast Evolution titles featured Japanese voice acting, Ubisoft hired English performers to re-dub the dialogue in Worlds. The acting isn't bad, though whether the change from Japanese to English is a good thing or now is really a case of individual tastes.
It is somewhat tempting to recommend Evolution Worlds, if only because the Gamecube wasn't exactly flooded with good roleplaying games during its lifespan. I can't, though, simply because what Ubisoft has provided here really comes off as a quick cash-in, and Worlds is essentially an inferior version of the whole Evolution experience. Understandably, most people won't have access to a Dreamcast these days to give the original titles a whirl, and if you're looking for a decent, cartoony dungeon crawling experience, you could do worse than Evolution Worlds. You'd have to be a pretty hardcore RPG fan to see this one through to the end, though.