A stagnant gene pool.
The launch of the Dreamcast back in September of '99 was quite a disappointment for Sega RPG fanatics. Not a single RPG title was released at that time and fans of the genre would have to wait months for one to come along. Eventually, a nice little title called Evolution: World of Sacred Device bounced onto the scene and gamers finally had an outlet for their unsatisfied role-playing hearts. While it certainly didn't make many waves, Evolution turned out to be a pleasant RPG that gave Dreamcast owners a taste of what their super machine could do.
Ubi Soft has now released the sequel to Evolution, entitled Evolution 2: Far Off Promise. Mag Launcher, Linear Cannon and the rest of the cutesy anime gang are back to bring you everything you liked - and disliked - about the original.
The story picks up approximately six months after the conclusion of the original game. Mag has earned the title of "best adventurer" in Pannam Town and is being sent south per a request by the Society's (an adventurer's guild) main headquarters.
Those who have played the first Evolution will be immediately comfortable with the surroundings. The great graphics are still very much a part of the sequel and the characters are just as spunky as ever. Our new home base of Museville is much larger than Pannam Town and is filled with sights that will shock and amaze you. That is, if you were expecting something really different. If there is one word that can describe Evolution 2, it's familiar.
The gameplay is basically the same as in the original. You run through several multi-leveled, dungeon style mazes initiating fights with monsters, beating them, and gaining some sort of artifact, thus completing the mission given to you by the Society. Then you return home. Pretty repetitive stuff, much like the original. No real surprises here.
The cool Cyframe system is also a part of Evolution 2's battle mix. Cyframes are basically customizable weapons that give users special powers or new attacks. Parts for Cyframes can be found in the mazes along with expansion kits that can add more slots to your character's frame. The special attacks that are enabled by these weapons are entertaining to watch, as bad guys get pummeled in ways you've never thought of before. Gre nade (the fighting butler) has some ridiculous food attacks. I never knew a bowl of soup could prove so deadly.
The skills system from the original is also intact. As you gain experience points, various skill options become available to choose from. Like Cyframes, these skills give you additional powers that are used for even more insanely cute anime monster butt-kicking action.
One of the nifty little additions that Ubi Soft threw into Evolution 2 is the original Japanese voice acting (with English subtitles, of course). It's great having some voice to go along with a RPG even if it's in a language you don't understand. I'm still hoping that RPGs in the future will have more voice acting to give the games more personality and cut down on the irritating task of wading through an encyclopedia's amount of text.
Another addition is a close-up, over the shoulder view that can be toggled with the standard overhead view. While it's nice to be able to look at Evolution 2's beautiful environment from a pseudo first-person perspective, it's really difficult to navigate correctly while running around. After just a few minutes of this, my eyeballs felt like they were going to pop out of my exploding head (I hate it when that happens - Ed.). Still, this camera angle is useful for those rare occasions when your overhead view is obstructed.
Just like its predecessor, Evolution 2 seems oriented towards the beginning RPG player. Commands are user-friendly, storylines are simple and absolutely everything is easy to comprehend. The graphics are solid and the characters are loveable. But the fact of the matter is that this just won't challenge average gamers, and hardcore RPG fans will be disappointed by the repetitive nature of it all. However, anyone who feels like trying out a RPG for the first time may be pleasantly surprised.