Gauntlet Dark Legacy is four-player fantasy dungeon romping & stomping, big, bold, sassy and brassy! Come see how it stacks up.
Gauntlet has always been simplicity in itself. Chose a class, then embark for level after level of monster smashing and treasure hunting. Dark Legacy continues the formula in 3D, adding enhanced moves and RPG elements. Best of all, it’s the only GameCube game you can play co-op with four players. Unfortunately, the game suffers from a little slowdown not found in the PS2 version and doesn’t come close to fully utilizing the GameCube hardware graphically.
Contrary to my G: DL impressions, there is in fact a story. In the realm of Gauntlet, an evil mage Garm summoned the demon, Skorne. Skorne broke free of Garm’s control, unleashing his evil upon the eight realms & scattering 13 rune stones across the land. Sumner, a good wizard in a yellow hat (who is the game’s booming narrator & Garm’s older brother,) has returned to his tower to learn what has happened. True to his name, he summons heroes from the eight realms to help defeat Skorne. Those who undertake this quest must venture to each realm and recover the rune stones. It’s not much of a plot but certainly much more story than Gauntlet games traditionally have had.
Players choose a class and embark for adventure. Each class has a certain advantage and unique special abilities, which are awarded at higher levels. There are secret classes, though regrettably, they are essentially different skins to the existing classes opposed to offering much of anything new. Using Sumner’s tower as a hub, gamers can teleport to the eight realms, provided they collect enough crystals to unlock each one. Along with crystals, golden items, rune stones and magic shards are scattered across the realms and must be found. Although there is lots to collect, everything is easy to find and rarely hidden. Levels also contain plenty of monsters, monster generators, traps, treasure and puzzles which are encountered as you fight toward the exit. In between levels, money collected can be used to purchase power-ups and health.
The eight realms are variations of the standard levels: cemetery, lava, ice, desert, but there are some pretty cool level designs, especially close to the end. Every one realm has a different theme and corresponding set of baddies. The first realm is the Forsaken Province and thus has zombies, maggots and ghosts. The second realm is set in the mountains and contains orcs and rats. Although some enemy types appear in more than one realm, setting & enemy type usually vary level to level. In fact, some realms will introduce new enemies in later stages. There are also generals, who are bigger, badder and actually have the AI put up a good fight.
The control scheme offers a variety of attacks that prevent things from being mindless button hammering. There are quick attacks, slow attacks, turbo attacks magic, blocking, strafing and turbo. Quick attacks are fast but less damaging while slow attacks are slow but painful. Hitting A & B together produce a powerful turbo attack. There are also elaborate & damaging two player combo attacks.
The game is repetitive but doesn’t get monotonous, unless you play for extended sessions. Gameplay doesn't require much thought, but it’s fun to look for treasure and hidden goodies, smash baddies and level up. There are some pretty cool boss battles, which are nothing spectacular, but provide a great chance to earn gobs of experience & money. Hidden in the realms are sacred items, which work as a powerful weapon against each boss, which is a neat feature.
It’s not all good though. If you’ve played any recent version of Gauntlet, some levels and cinema scenes will seem a little too familiar. What’s worse, they’re all compressed and grainy which makes them look quite ugly. It’s almost like Midway slapped the arcade games into console versions and built upon it. Aside from the occasional choppiness, Gauntlet: DL plays very smoothly but the graphics seem dated. Despite a nice soundtrack, sound effects are muffled and somewhat sloppy. Still, despite such flaws, I was compelled to play to end & had a good time doing so.
Playing with four people is an absolute blast and a highlight. Navigating the levels and slashing monsters down with your friends is a great time. Communicating will be necessary though, or it will become disastrous. You’ll strategize, you’ll laugh, you’ll quarrel over treasure… It’s a hoot. There are even levels with puzzles designed for more than one person.
Gauntlet Dark Legacy is a decent remake of a classic and an entertaining home version of the arcade action, but it’s truly just a bit above average by today’s standards. Even worse, it’s ported shoddily which is a real shame. Still, if you can overlook its rough edges & have pals to play it with, Gauntlet: Dark Legacy can be a great romp.