Since Diablo, the gaming industry's taken note of the fact that sometimes all a player wants is a monster-slaying, item-getting, dungeon-crawling hack and slash. Developer Sting certainly recognized the need for such a gaming experience on a console system, and the then industry-leading Sega Dreamcast seemed the perfect target for a 3-D RPG with randomly generated dungeon-crawl elements. The game, called Evolution, was released to a lukewarm reception, and the sequel was lukewarmer. The Evolution series, not faulty by any particular aspect, took the whole experience to bring them down, and soon, that experience will be available by way of a two game compilation for the Nintendo GameCube.
Since any experience is only a result of the sum of its parts, it's essential to understand the parts that will comprise Evolution Worlds. Evolution and its sequel, Evolution 2, were released less than a year apart, and as such, bear great similarities.
Main character Mag Launcher is quite a nuisance, and always causing trouble. The fact that he's perpetually in debt also helps to rationalize his actions of the first game. During the first game, Mag explores dungeons around the town of Pannam, collecting artifacts to pay off the debt he has to the Society, an archaeology faction. It seems innocent enough, but the fact that the rare Evolutia CyFrame carried by Mag's companion Linear is being hunted adds an element of urgency and danger. A quaint enough storyline should lend nicely to a sequel, but instead, in perfect cookie cutter fashion, Sting dropped locations mimicing the original exactly into the holes, and brought the enjoyment to be had with the sequel down quite a lot.
Both games follow a very predictable town - dungeon - boss, town - dungeon - boss pattern for the entirety of the gaming experience, and as such, the gameplay tends to wear thin quickly. That's not to say that any aspect of the gameplay is particularly lacking the turn based battles are to be expected, and the ability to use power-enhancing "CyFrames," which can be enhanced, combined, and equipped simultaneously to provide more skills and abilities to each character, adds a somewhat original element to what would be an otherwise terribly bland battle system. The cute graphics seem to fit the storyline, and the music seems right at home. That's exactly the problem, however. Nothing's lacking, but nothing's great. The games are beautifully, gloriously, deliciously par in every sense of the word, except maybe the average-score-for-a-golf-hole sense.
That's not to say, however, that the compilation will necessarily suffer the same bargain-bin fate as the two Dreamcast titles -- new voice acting is allegedly begin recorded for the compilation, and the increased graphical power that the GameCube offers will undoubtedly bring to life more vividly the world of Evolution. Loading times will be cut, new difficulty settings added, and the developers may even throw in a few extras for the dilligent players to find.
Evolution Worlds hits the streets on September 17th. Only then will it be known whether or not the Evolution series will find new life on the fledgling GameCube -- or if it should have stayed on the defunct Dreamcast for eternity.