Game of the Month March, 2003:
Illusion of Gaia

System: Super NES Developer: Enix/Quintet
Illusion of Gaia is often touted as being one of the best adventure games for the Super NES. Although I wouldn't say it's near the very top of my favorite games list, I do think it's a great game worth many hours of entertainment. In this Zelda-style adventure romp, you play as young Will, who is on a worldwide quest to solve the mystery of his father's disappearance. Will has strange telekinetic powers that allow him to move small objects from far away and converse with the mysterious Earth spirit, Gaia. As you travel the globe and solve mysteries, you will gain new powers from Gaia, such as powerful attack moves, and even the ability to change form. The two superforms you are given are that of a super strong dark knight named Freedan, and a liquid-like figure named Shadow who can dilute himself and sink into the floor. Unlike most RPGs and adventure games that take place in fantasy settings (ie, Zelda, Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior, Phantasy Star, etc.), in Illusion of Gaia, you visit video game representations of real places around the world, such as the Nazca Plains, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, and Angkor Wat. Illusion of Gaia also has a somewhat entertaining plot, although at times it gets a little difficult to understand.

While everyone else in town was ordered to face west, Will just had to be different.

Finally, Freedan discovered the source of the annoying flute music coming from his giant mushroom garden that was keeping him awake all night. One thing that's interesting about Gaia is that, although there are many puzzles to be solved, the game has more of an "arcade" feel than the average adventure game like Zelda. For one thing, it is much more linear. Dungeons may be large and take time to fully explore, but you can't freely roam to anyplace you want on the world map, since you must follow the story. The game also emphasizes a lot of enemy fighting over the puzzle-solving. You don't need to build levels, but destroying all enemies in an area will increase either your strength, defense, or hit points. Many of the bosses in Gaia are extremely tough, but the first one was the hardest one in the game for me. Some of the puzzles are rather clever and devious. It took me a particularly long time to get through the land of Mu. Mu is an area that is partially underwater, and you must find ways to make the water sink, causing more of the land to become accessible. Other areas include logic puzzles, and I thought Ishtar's "Memory Test" was particularly neat.

I have to admit that there were a few things I did find somewhat disappointing about Illusion of Gaia. First of all, the game is rather easy. I can only recall a few times I got stuck on the puzzles, and once I solved them, I easily blew through the rest of the area. Later areas don't have as many mysteries or puzzles as the earlier ones. Some of the bosses were super-tough, but it would've been nice if the difficulty had been more balanced (the first few bosses are the hardest; the last few are the easiest.) I also didn't think the story was quite as good as Nintendo Power magazine claimed it to be.

Will wondered why using the old 'stand still amongst the statues' trick never worked for him in games of Hide and Seek.

Despite all of that, I do think the good points of Illusion of Gaia outweigh, or at the very least, balance out the bad things. Another point I should mention is that the play control is excellent, so much so, that it makes performing many of the moves a lot of fun. Some of the music and the graphics are pretty good, too, although it's not exactly "mind-blowing". But if you've been wanting to play a more action-based Zelda-style game, and you don't mind that the level of challenge is somewhat erratic, then Illusion of Gaia could be the game for you!

Illusion of Gaia Links

  • My Illusion of Gaia Review - A complete review of this fantastic game.
  • My Illusion of Gaia Red Jewel FAQ - Don't miss a single Red Jewel in the game with this handy FAQ.


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