Same planet, different worlds.
One of the first role-playing games for the Dreamcast was Evolution, a lighthearted, no-frills dungeon romp. After the Dreamcast went the way of the Dodo, we find ourselves in another age with new creatures vying for evolutionary dominance.
One such creature is the Gamecubica Purplius, as it takes on the Playstationae Deus and the Exius Boxus. In a repeat of history, Gamecubica's first traditional RPG is also Evolution. Gee, I hope that isn't a grim portent of things to come. Evolution Worlds ports part of the original Evolution and Evolution 2 into a merged one-disk adventure.
Boy adventurer Mag Launcher might be shorter than Gary Coleman, but he has great heights to live up to. Mag is the last of the Launcher legacy, a family line renowned for their great explorers. In order to prove his mettle, Mag sets out to find Evolutia, the legendary cyframe.
In his quest for Evolutia, Mag will visit randomly generated dungeons, collect stuff, beat the tar out of a dungeon boss, and spend his hard earned dough back in town for the newest in armor and weapon upgrades. And then it's back to the dungeons.
The dungeons are an all or nothing effort. The entire dungeon must be braved through to reach the save point right before the dungeon boss. If Mag is too under-equipped to take on the dungeon challenges, he can exit out upon completing a floor. There's another option, but it's a bodybag. All things considered, there really isn't much of a chance to take a breather.
Thankfully, Mag isn't alone. He's joined by friends with equally goofy names. Mag's party of three includes the quiet and demure Linear Cannon and a third selectable member. This third wheel can be chosen from a small pool of locals including Gre Nade, Mag's stuffy butler, Chain Gun, a tomboy from an opposing family line, and Pepper Box, an outspoken, big-haired blond.
Battles are traditional turn-based affairs, but location plays a role in the strategy. The party starts the battle lined up in a center row. Individually, each character can spend a turn moving forward and backward one space. Characters within the first row will have stronger attacks, but weaker defense. The back row reverses that, with stronger defense and weaker offense.
Row strategy isn't heavy handed, translating to familiar meat and potatoes turn-based fighting for most battles. Deviating from the classic formula, the battles aren't random. You will be able to see the enemies and usually run away to avoid them.
The graphics are average for the Dreamcast, with nothing added to this Gamecube update. Most of the game looks a little fuzzy and lacks sharpness, but the battle scenes look slightly improved. The characters are round and cute, but the dungeons all look the same.
The original Evolution did not have the ability to switch into a straightforward third-person viewpoint. Evolution 2 added this feature, and Evolution Worlds keeps it in use for the entire game. This "tunnel vision" isn't especially useful, though - it feels too claustrophobic, and the render distance is limited.
Camera rotation has been mapped to the L and R buttons, yet there is no analog control. These buttons have to be pushed all the way down until they click in order to turn the camera. It's less tactile than what we've become used to, and the C-stick (the fallback camera control for most GC games) is left completely unused.
The Japanese voices of the Dreamcast games have been dubbed into English, but they aren't half-bad. There's a comical tone to them and most of the characters feel properly cast. The sound effects also have a humorous touch.
Though Evolution Worlds' tale of Mag and friends can't compete with a more mature RPG, the lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek story and straightforward gameplay can be appreciated for its easy, pick-up-and-play value. If you have a free hour, you can just trek through one dungeon. Playing more than one dungeon at a time will become repetitive, though.
As the first traditional RPG for the Gamecube, Evolution Worlds sticks firmly to its past and provides short bursts of decent fun, but a repetitive full-fledged experience. Better than pond muck but not quite bipedal with opposable thumbs, Evolution Worlds is a decent trek fit for the first time adventurer.