Galerians: Ash (PS2/Enterbrain)
by brandon sheffield
Hmm. Been putting this off for some time now. Why you ask? Well itís like my momma always said: "if you canít say something nice..."
Galerians for the PS2 was probably a good idea on paper. A follow-up to a moderately successful PSX game which spawned an anime license and other miscellaneous merchandise. But oh my, was it poorly executed.
You play as Rion, a Galerian. Galerians are beings with psychic powers who were created by the supercomputer Dorothy when she became autonomous, learned of the concept of God, and decided to become one. These Galerians are like her children, and aside from Rion, these kids all want to destroy the humans so they can live on their own. But Rion wonít have it because seeÖthereís this girl he likes.
So the storyís your basic cyberpunk affair, not unlike something William Gibson might come up with. Not bad, but ultimately hokey and predictable, complete with an equally predictable Ďtwist ending.í And the voice acting isnít awful; itís your basic dub. Cut scenes are done with some nice CG, of which there are 60 minutes throughout. Never mind the fact that peopleís clothes have a tendency to change form from CG to realtime.
The music and sound are uninspired. The opening scenes of the game make you think that there might be something in here worth listening to, but thatís just your faith in mankind showing through. Toss those notions out the window.
Gameplay. This is what I was trying to avoid. Galerians is a game written around its battle engine, as battling is really all you do in terms of Ďplayí. But the engine is awful. You have to charge up your psychic meter in order to unleash an attack. This tends to take about 3-4 seconds depending on the type of attack youíre using. Thatís more than enough time for some enemy to come take a swipe at you (naturally you canít move and charge at the same time Ė you must depress the button and remain static in order to charge). You cannot punch, kick, or anything like this. All of your enemies can. This is disconcerting. Thereís one style of attack which allows you a quick burst to force an enemy back, so that you may charge up and counter them. But this does not hit 60% of the time, for one thing, and for another, it doesnít knock them back far enough to really allow much of a counter attack. You can block, but itís not really effective until you level it up twice. And even then, it doesnít work particularly well against close combat attacks, which are what all non-boss characters use.
On top of this, whenever you use your psychic abilities, an addiction meter goes up. When this peaks, you steadily lose HP, become slow, and must use a pill to cure your condition. If you have none of these pills, you just slowly walk around until you die. Incidentally, you may not purchase these pills, you must find them. And theyíre not in treasure chests or anything, but scattered about the world, only revealing themselves to you when you get very close to their location. Not a good idea.
You must monitor the levels of every one of your five (after you acquire them all) abilities with pills as well, and these are found in the same way. In fact, the two new skills you attain later in the game are practically useless, given the tiny number of pills the game throws at you.
This is the same with health. Enemies are often very strong and love to corner you. When thereís more than one enemy on you and your backís against a wall, thereís nothing you can do buy try to escape. The battle system simply does not allow for taking on more than one enemy at a time in close combat. And the only way to get health is to either find it lying about, or to acquire it from downed enemies. What do you do when you run out? Why you start the game again from the beginning. Smashing!
While weíre on the subject, letís resume this 'escaping enemies' thing. Rion does not run, he walks. Well itís sort of a power walk, but whatever it is itís certainly not very fast. The quickest way to get anywhere is to keep hitting the Ďrollí button, which speeds you up just enough to keep you from going insane. Rion can roll only in a straight line, and will lose all momentum if absolutely anything blocks his path. So if you happen to knick a corner while rolling, heíll just stick there, rolling against what appears to be a completely clear corridor. This makes 'escaping' difficult. You can stick on enemies too Ė itís a clever trick getting out of a corner.
The camera is not there to help you out of this situation either. Itís favorite place to hide when you get in a jam is behind your leg, stuck in a wall, inside an enemy, just about anywhere that will not allow you to see what youíre doing. And it only gets better.
The game is home to many Ďpuzzlesí, the likes of which youíve no doubt seen in the Resident Evil series for one. But these are far more inane than your Ďget the blue gemí puzzles. You have to find the generator key to turn on the generator. Hmm, where would they leave the generator key. Oh of course, on that box at the end of the corridor on the other side of the map! Then find the cable to complete the circuit. You find this cable very early on, but are not able to take it until you see that itís missing. Then you have to go all the way back and get it. If I find something Iíll need later, let me pick it up now!
Iíve tons of minor quibbles as well Ė once you get a machine working or whatnot, you have to engage it again in order to turn it on. I mean seriously - I didnít just get this thing working so that I could stare at it, Rion should turn the damn thing on when he turns the key! Utterly foolish.
And he canít jump. Everyone else can, but not Rion! Your enemies, the bosses, they love to get above you. Hereís why: apparently Rionís psychic abilities work exclusively on the horizontal plane. Any time somebody gets up above you theyíre in the clear and primed to do some damage. Agh.
Boxes!!! At one point in the game you can clearly see an exit that would lead you where you need to go much faster than the roundabout way the game wants you to take. What prevents you from reaching this exit? Four cardboard boxes strewn across the floor. Oh no!! Boxes!!! How will no-jump Rion get past them? Well he wonít, quite simply.
So whatís good about it? Well the manual is pretty. One of the nicest Iíve seen in a long while, giving you a great amount of back story, and featuring some very nice art and character design.
The first boss battle has some cool visuals, and is a decent amount of fun. Spider webs burning, floating freely in the air, itís got some good atmosphere. But I played through the rest of the game, just waiting for another cool battle like that. Never got one.
Galerians: Ash is not a good game. I was really hoping for something good to come out of this, given that Polygon Magic was involved. Theyíre the quirky developers of Incredible Crisis and Slap Happy Rhythm Busters. I expect good things from these guys! Hope and expectations dashed, this is what weíre left with; a poor battle engine surrounded by amateurish hunt and grab exercises. And itís too damned hard! Play it in easy mode if you must play it at all. Youíll get a few more items this way and might not have to resort to tedious wall crawling for your health fix.
Itís like they made the game from a handbook. Thereís no love, no soul, no angst, no feeling at all here. Itís sterile, mechanical and utterly flawed. Stay away from it, if you know whatís good for you.
brandon sheffield hates to do this to Polygon Magic...