Obi takes a journey through THQ's hack-and-slash RPG for the GameCube. Is it a fantastic voyage? Read the review to find out.
Although Summoner: A Goddess Reborn has a new name, it is not a new game. It was previously released on the PlayStation 2 under the name Summoner 2. But, to avoid confusion among consumers, who would think the original Summoner might be available on Gamecube, they renamed the game. In Summoner you control Maia, the queen of Halassar who is pulling double duty by also being Laharah, the reborn Goddess who brought life to the world. Maia is on a quest to heal the Tree of Eleh, which will fulfill her prophecy as the Goddess reborn. Throughout your journey, you will also be able to take control of other characters.
Summoner is an action RPG based mostly around combat, though you will also find some slight puzzles scattered here and there. Your party consists of up to 3 characters, and you can switch between any of them at any time. While you control one character, the others are controlled via artificial intelligence. It’s important to use certain characters at the right time because their specific skills, such as stealth assassination, can come in quite handy. Your party adventures all around the world, romping through dungeons and hacking everything in sight into tiny little pieces.
Of course, slicing up baddies has its advantages. As you mince your foes to bits, you are rewarded with experience points. Once a certain amount of experience points are acquired, your characters level up. At each level-up, you are given skill points that you may distribute over each character’s individual statistics. It’s a nice change of pace from most RPGs, where your characters’ stats just automatically upgrade. In Summoner, you are given more customization of character attributes. When some skills are upgraded, you learn new attacks which can be executed with certain button combinations. Other skills will boost your damage-dealing capacity with certain weapons, or cause your character to dodge more attacks.
Attacking is accomplished by pressing the B button. Pressing the button with the right pacing will yield a combo string of attacks. Pressing right on the directional pad will bring up an item/skill menu which you can use to assign any item or skill to the Y button. Back in combat, the Y button will execute whatever is mapped to it. Enemies are pre-placed in the levels, but if you wait around too long after they die, they’ll regenerate. Sadly, combat devolves into simply finishing an attack combo and pressing the L button to guard until you have another open shot. It becomes very repetitive after the first few missions.
Of course, the game is called Summoner for a reason. Throughout the game, Maia gains the ability to summon, and thus transform into, various creatures. These creatures are usable for a certain amount of time, which can be extended by upgrading Maia’s Summon skill. They’re quite useful, especially when you’re stuck in a tough spot and need to take out a ton of enemies. On top of being useful, they look really cool.
The controls in Summoner: A Goddess Reborn are good for the most part, though there are some issues. Movement is smooth and there is never a problem in executing attacks or other commands. The A button is context sensitive and will respond to whatever icon is floating over Maia’s head, such as opening doors or talking to various characters. The big problem with the controls lies in the analog sticks. The sensitivity on the sticks is set way too high. While running about and cutting your foes to bits, everything is fine. But in first-person mode, which is used to fire long range weapons, it is very difficult to move the targeting reticule slowly; it often zips across portions of the screen. This problem also shows up in the menus. Quickly tapping the stick to go from one menu option to the next very often results in completely skipping over the option you want and moving on to the next one. Thankfully, the directional pad is also usable in the menus, so the problem is not nearly as horrible as it could have been. Also of annoyance is the camera. It simply does not zoom out far enough. It’s impossible to get a good read on where enemies are in relation to you.
Graphically, Summoner performs fairly well. Being a port of a PlayStation 2 game, it obviously doesn’t stand up to some of the more graphically impressive GameCube titles out there. But, for what it does, it looks very nice. The colors are rich and vibrant and the texture work is solid. Summon effects look particularly cool with tons of flashing light and a myriad of colors soaring about.
While Summoner may not do anything fantastic with its graphics, it does show off in the sound department. The music fits the game very well, though often times you’ll forget it’s there while you’re busy taking on the evil horde. The real star here is the voice acting, as it’s quite well done. All of the voices fit the characters very well and the voice acting itself is fantastic.
Overall, Summoner: A Goddess Reborn is a good game. It’s not anything special, but what it does, it does well. One down side is that while the game features 3 party members questing together, there is no option to play though the game with multiple players. With the kind of experience this game provides, a multiplayer aspect would be very enjoyable. The story is engaging, though the combat isn’t to the same degree. Anyone in need of an RPG would do good to pick up Summoner, especially considering that the retail price is only $40 USD (as of this writing).