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Galerians: Ash
Review By:  Joshua Fishburn
Developer:  Enterbrain
Publisher:  Sammy Studios
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Adventure
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  4-1-03

If there is one thing I have learned through years of playing video games and the few anime films I have seen it is not to piss off the mother computer. Better yet, in the case of "Galerians: Ash", donít create the mother computer in the first place. High jacking the plot from various anime and game plots, the game distinguishes itself by providing a unique and creepy weapon and powerup system, downright evil adversaries, and a fairly interesting story (much of it told through awesome cinemas). I should also mention that it is a direct continuation of "Galerians" on PSOne, which I have not played. Aside from these perks, "Ash" unfortunately also features annoying camera problems and questionable gameplay and sound design in places.

The intro and instruction manual do a great job recapping the story of the first "Galerians", and you even spend the first part of the game playing through the end of the first gameís story. It goes like this: Dorothy, the mother computer in charge of Michelangelo City, questioned her existence and who her masters are. Her creator, Dr. Steiner tells her, that humans created her and must do as they tell her, much like humans do as God commands of them. This seemingly quelled Dorothyís confusion, but under the surface she was setting out to become a God. The frightening conclusion of her philosophical inquiries was called the "Family Program". By running gene experiments on people at the hospital, she created a group of people all her own with special psychic powers: these were the Galerians.

Seeing Dorothyís uncontrollable behavior prompted Dr. Steiner to create a virus program, and a launch program for that virus, that would destroy Dorothy. He then implanted the launch program into his son Rion and the virus program in to his research assistant Dr. Pascalleís daughter Lilia. Dorothy learned of this virus and murdered Rionís parents and kidnapped him. She decided to use Rion to hunt down Lilia by turning him into a Galerian. He lost his memories as a result, completing Dorothyís plan, or so she thought. After destroying most of the Galerians and making his way to Dorothy, Rion ran the virus program and consequently his brain crashed and he died. Just before the virus program was loaded, Dorothy ran the program to create Ash, the Last Galerian, whose singular purpose is to destroy all humans. "Ash" takes place 6 years after the events described above, with Rion revived and hiding out in a military base. Michelangelo City has been destroyed by nuclear war and the army base is the only place for Lilia and Rion to hide out. The goal of the game is simple: destroy all the Last Galerians and prevent Ash, the Last Galerian, from reviving Dorothy. Seeing that Ash is a walking nuclear reactor that chomps Uranium for fun, this will not be an easy task!

You will spend a lot of time walking in this game. You will also spend some time dispensing of monsters, some of them former people mangled by Dorothy or one of the Galerians. Actually, the gameplay consists of walking, talking to people in the military installation, and vanquishing foes. You will collect PPECís (Psychic Power Enhancement Chemicals), some randomly placed around the environment, others dropped by defeated foes. These chemicals are your method of attack, defense, and "leveling-up". I say leveling up because Rion never actually has a level, but collecting red PPECís will increase the maximum of his HP, AP, or an individual attack PPEC. The attack PPECs range from a machine-gun like attack (called Nalcon) that targets an individual foe to a broad-range lighting storm attack (Breakaron). There are five attack PPECs in all. Along with these, there is a shield PPEC that will defend you against enemy attacks. These 6 PPECs can each be upgraded to level 3 (they start at level 1) by finding Skips (dropped by bosses and more powerful enemies). Increasing the level of the attack PPECs makes them more powerful/faster. As for the shield, it covers more of your body as you increase its level. The actual way you use these powerups, by injecting them into your body, adds a sort of frightening dimension to the game.

The AP gauge is also interesting. Think of it as being poisoned, and when that poison reaches a certain level your body just overloads. Although this overload gradually destroys you, it also releases all the dangerous substances in your body thereby destroying any being around you. So, you get the idea. It adds an element of strategy to the game: when does it help you to be "shorted", as it is called, and when would you rather use your standard weapons to defeat enemies? The Delmetor PPEC can be used to reduce the AP meter to zero, while the Appolinator PPEC raises it to its maximum level. Appropriately, the AP meter increases when you use your attack PPECs, but also increases when you are in an anxious situation, such as facing a large group of enemies or a boss, or when you are in an area of high radiation, or while using your shield.

So, the powerup system is cool, but how does the game play? Not as good as I had hoped, unfortunately. Although this game is sort of a "survival horror" type game, the control is much more like Silent Hill than it is like Resident Evil. I felt in good control of Rion throughout the game, but I couldnít shake the clunky feeling of the game. It is not unbearable; there is just something I canít quite put my finger on that makes it feel sluggish. Also, as with a lot of 3D games, there are pretty frequent camera issues. I often found myself looking at Rionís face while trying to target enemies off screen. This is not such a problem with regular enemies, but when this happened fighting some of the tougher Galerians it resulted in an essentially instant death. I found the challenge of the Galerians to be welcome, but some gamers may be put off by the inconsistency of it. The difficulty of the Galerians correspond to their personalities, e.g. Spider was the easiest to defeat because of his quiet and reserved personality, as opposed the Parano the super-freak.

Much worse from the problems listed above, the pacing of the game was quite slow and often boring. Although the story motivated me to play on, I cannot say that I enjoyed much of the gameplay. It consists of a lot of running around mixed with some battling. Unfortunately, this running around is compounded by the fact that you must do certain events in a specific order to advance the game. This is nothing new for games, but I have never played a game that felt so much like this was done exclusively to extend the gameplay. For example, in one section of a game you will be searching for a key. By checking a service log, you can find out who has this key, but if you talk to him before you check the service log he will not give you the key. HmmmÖmaybe I am over-reacting, but this kind of thing really gets to me when playing a game. Fortunately, Lilia offers up hints as to what to do next, so go to her if you are lost. The only particularly exciting parts of the game were the boss battles. The bosses all have a variety of attacks and finding a good time to attack will be the primary challenge in facing them. Most of the bosses were challenging, with some of them requiring me to restart quite a bit before I beat them.

"Galerians: Ash" has pretty average graphics, with the highlights being the cinemas and some of the special effects. All of the cinematics are great, especially the ones featuring the Last Galerians, who just ooze personality. Although the graphics are average, with bad aliasing problems and just an overall bland look, the special effects pick up the slack and add some style to a lot of the environments. For example, the first room you see in the game has a reflective floor that is interesting and symbolic if you consider what is in the room. The battle against Spider is also very impressive looking, with webs across the room and dust particles falling from the ceiling. These effects definitely help spruce up the game.

The sound design is another hit or miss aspect of the game. While the ambient effects are chilling and well done, they are over-used. For a large percentage of the game, the sounds in the background will suggest an urgent situation that is not reflected in the gameplay. There should have been more of a distinction between the really critical moments in the game and the times that you are simply wandering. Also, some of the sound effects chosen for the menu are totally inappropriate. While transitioning between sections in the menu screen, there is one sound effect that I can only compare to someone banging loudly on a cooking pan. I think that people will agree with me when I say that sounds made from selecting options should be relatively neutral, not in your face and annoying.

HIGHS:

  • Intriguing story
  • Creepy atmosphere and slick style
  • Cool powerup system and character leveling
  • Challenging bosses

LOWS:

  • Dull gameplay
  • Frustrating camera problems
  • Some translation problems (in game and instruction manual)
  • Strange menu sounds

FINAL VERDICT:

After seeing the cover of the instruction manual for "Galerians: Ash", I had high hopes for the game. "The instruction manual?", you are probably asking. Yes, it is definitely one of the coolest covers I have seen. So, in spite of all the negative hype I had heard about the game I thought: "This might be a pretty awesome game". To be sure, the game has a very well done cyberpunk style, a well thought out story, and good presentation overall. The most important thing that the game lacks is engaging gameplay. Is the story really worth trudging through the often-stale game? It might actually be, depending on how desperate you are for a cool futuristic story or if you become engaged by the interesting Last Galerians in this plot. For most people, I would recommend a rental to decide if this game is really for you. Good music and sound compliment a game that just needs more polish and better pacing.

Overall Score: 5.5

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