Back in the 80’s Gauntlet was a coin guzzling powerhouse, taking allowances from hoards of teenagers, but over the years Gauntlet games haven’t gotten the same sort of reception. People hear the name Gauntlet and immediately remember the days of a good old ‘Hack n’ Slash’ with a couple of buddies, but this upgrade/expansion of the Gauntlet Legends series gives this gamer a ‘Love it or Hate it’ feeling deep in his heart. Gauntlet Legends took the world of Gauntlet into 3D but, got a lukewarm reception on the PS and N64. Dark Legacy builds off of Legends by using some of the same levels and monsters, but the addition of new content doesn’t really make this one much better. If you’ve played Legends then you’re not going to be surprised by much here. It does capture the ‘hack n’ slash’ mentality of the originals, but the gameplay gets pretty boring and repetitive quite quickly. Don’t get me wrong, this is the deepest Gauntlet game to date, but the sparkle of this game fades quickly as weak AI and repetitive, shallow gameplay fades the luster of Dark Legacy.
The characters and their upgrades are an improvement on previous iterations in the Gauntlet series. Players choose from 8 different character types (wizard, warrior, dwarf, archer, valkyrie, jester, sorceress, warrior) each with their own attributes (strength, armor, magic, and speed) to lend some variety, but all are fairly balanced. Each character levels up throughout play with small changes in appearance happening over time and players getting a vibrant color to help differentiate characters.
There isn’t much of a story to follow, you and your hero buddies are sent out to rid the world of an evil wizard named Garm so that his brother (Sumner, your wizardly overseer) and rightful ruler can return to power and everyone can be happy. There’s not a lot of story to tell or wade through so don’t expect a novel here.
But let’s not forget the bread and butter of the Gauntlet series. Dark Legacy is best experienced playing with four players and was actually quite difficult playing solo. There really is no other way to play this game though; I’d tell you to run with scissors before I’d recommend playing this game alone.
The controls are fairly simple which is a blessing and a curse at the same time. Each character has a strong and a weak attack, magic, blocking and turbo, and a combo or two, but all combat really boils down to is mashing on the two attack buttons. That’s the Achilles Heel of this game; combat becomes quite boring when playing for expended periods of time and that certainly is not good for a game that mainly consists of fighting. On the bright side there is plenty of content to run through with your buddies, gems to collect, cool potions, hidden characters to unlock, and a couple of new levels not in Legends to attack.
Even though Dark Legacy is an upgrade from its previous entry, it seems that everyone at Midway forgot to upgrade the graphics and audio while porting this one over. The graphics in Dark Legacy seem like a beefy N64 game; in fact I think I may have seen better graphics on the N64. Much of it presents a poor frame-rate and blurry graphics offering little excitement and less immersion. Most of the graphical elements feel flat and painted on while the repetitive animations don’t let Dark Legacy even get off the ground.
The audio gives an equally dull experience offering decent eating and yelping sound bites while giving you sub par music and ambient sound. A lot of the battle sounds are decent, with weapons hitting and explosions of barrels, but the ambient noises sound poorly recorded and the music leaves much to be desired. The best part of the audio comes from the booming bass voice of Sumner belting out, “Yellow knight needs food!” and “Red wizard is about to die!”
Overall Gauntlet: Dark Legacy seems archaic and primitive considering what the Gamecube is capable of and it won’t be hooking many new fans into the Gauntlet series. While it does hold true to the ‘hack n’ slash’ mentality of the originals, it feels rushed and poorly executed. The amount of content and exploring don’t really make up for the button mashing. It is almost as if Midway didn’t feel like making something fresh and exciting and simply decided to port a four year old arcade title instead. This title has more low points than highs, but can still offer some four player fun. I’d recommend spoon feeding this title a little bit at a time in order to keep the monotony to a minimum.