Before I get into the good stuff, allow me to give you a behind-the-scenes glance at the world of game reviews. I'm a freelancer. I've never seen the inside of the PlanetDreamcast offices. Never met BenT. Never had a preview copy of a game to review. I have to go out to the mall and throw down my own cash for my review copies. I then devote several hours of my life to playing the game in question non-stop.
I think this style of game review is probably best. That's because I'm in the same boat as you, the reader and potential purchaser. I've thrown down $40-$50 and made my way home the same way you will. To me, that adds a bit more gravity to my review than, say, some loser who gets all his games for free and only has to stop downloading monkey pr0n long enough to inform you that he did or did not like said game. Sure, I get a paycheck for doing this... but I want you to understand that my reviews are written from as close to the standpoint of the typical customer as possible. This becomes important later on.
First, George Freak'n Takei provides the voice of the first character you encounter in the game. Captain Sulu himself, baby! Yeah! GEORGE FREAK'N TAKEI! Anything that causes myself and my friends Lynn Dog and T-Bird to talk like George Freak'n Takei is a good thing. When that inspiration is George Freak'n Takei himself -- even better.
The scenery is nice sometimes, although that yellow haze sort of makes you wonder.
The game has some very pretty textures. This is one of those games built for screenshots. Almost every single portion of the game world is postcard perfect. Honestly, the first words out of Mrs. Mad Carl's mouth upon seeing this game was "That's a pretty game." (Mad Carl Jr., bless his three-year-old heart, was quite excited that Daddy was playing a game with a sword in it. He ran to his room and found a toy sword a friend of mine had given him and proceeded to hack and slash away.)
The mapping feature always keeps you up to date on where you are, where you're going, and where you've been. This is the single best feature of the game, as it lets even newbies to the "hack and slash" / "role-playing lite" genres get a handle on what to do next.
The boss monsters are a blast to fight. A lot of skill goes into parrying the attacker's shot with your shield and getting your own hits in when they let their defenses slip. Unlike a lot of games, you cannot simply slap the attack button over and over again while fighting the bosses. There is also no pre-set pattern to the attacks. You must study your opponent and learn his style of fighting. Are they slow on recovering from certain swings? Do they turn their back at inopportune times? These are important factors in fighting the boss monsters.
Elves get to live in elaborate treehouses.
very nifty combo system is worked into your sword attacks. By pressing different directions on the analog stick while attacking, you get different swing styles. As mentioned above, this is very important during the boss monster fights in order to land your attacks. By doing a series of specific attacks, you will do more and more damage to a target. The third in the series will activate a super move of sorts, which does a lot more damage than any previous attack, and usually gives you the kill.
There are two playable characters: one that is able to use magic early in the game, and one that has to wait until later. While the quests remain exactly the same, and fighting is still relatively unchanged, it is nice that you get a choice of whose ass you want to look at all the way through your time with D:CotW.
The game's GD-ROM fits nicely inside your Dreamcast. The convenient round hole at the center of the D:CotW disc is perfectly sized to snap into place inside your Dreamcast unit. In fact, when you shut the door of your Dreamcast and press the power button, the well-designed form of the GD-ROM pays off once again. It is of the proper size and shape that the data stored upon the disc is easily read by the Dreamcast's laser.
The jewel case is of standard size and can be used to store an audio CD should said audio CD's jewel case become broken. I will be doing just this. For a long time now my copy of They Might Be Giants: Lincoln has been in dire need of a new, clear, jewel case. Thanks to Draconus, my copy of Lincoln has a happy new home.
The disc is also quite aerodynamic. I got it most of the way across my backyard before an overanxious squirrel dove from the tree and attacked the shiny object. Then the squirrel realized it had attacked a copy of Draconus and fled back into the tree from whence it leapt. After the gardener brought the GD-ROM back to me, I discovered that it would go nicely with Industrial Spy: Operation Espionage and my import copy of Godzilla Generations. Yes, I'm amassing quite the set of drink coasters.
Finally, D:CotW helped me pass away about sixteen hours of my life. I figure since we're all being slowly poisoned by the toxins that have been pumped into every corner of our planet, D:CotW was a nice way to kill time while the cancer cells develop in my colon. Maybe during the inevitable surgery to remove that cancer thirty or forty years from now, I'll play D:CotW again to remind me that it could always be worse.
Next: The Bad and The Final Word