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Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
Platform:  Playstation
# of Players:  1
Developer:  Crystal Dynamics
Publisher:  Eidos
Features:  Dual Shock analog & vibration
Ratings:  Everyone
Memory Req.:  
The much-delayed sequel to 1996ís Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain has arrived, and right off the bat (pun not intended), you see a simple black screen with white text that states: "Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain created by Silicon Knights Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver created by Crystal Dynamics. To most of you out there, this means not a thing, but one look at the two games will have much more meaning. The first game was a top-down action/RPG with a deep, disturbing story and well over 50 hours of gameplay, if you had the skill to track down all the hidden secrets (my time was 63:39). The sequel takes place in a full 3D world that is amazingly rich in detail, and the story is even more disturbing, with all its shocking twists and turns. Those of you who canít deal with the idea of playing as an undead character who kills mercilessly without remorse in order to gain revenge against a far greater evil (and heís the "good" guy!), should probably stick to "safer" games, like Spyro, or Crash Bandicoot.

One thousand years after the vampire, Kain takes over the world (the "bad" ending from the first game), he picks six lieutenants to assist him in keeping order. One of his minions, Raziel, makes the "mistake" of evolving to the point that he grows a set of wings- this so angers his master that he punishes Raziel by tearing the wings from his back, and having him thrown into the Lake of the Dead! About 100 years later, he awakens, and the actual game begins. The first thing you notice after the amazing graphics, is how easy it is to control Raziel. The analog control works just as well as the standard D-pad, and the camera system is the best that Iíve used in a 3D game to date- you can adjust it manually, or let it automatically swing around to follow the action. Youíll probably find it best to use both methods to get the most out of this game.

The gamesí designers had promised early on that Soul Reaver would have no loading times, and theyíve delivered on this promise in a rather clever way. There are dozens of mini cutscenes here using the in-game graphics, which means you get to hear lots of amazing voice acting, as well as get set up for the next scene. The transition is flawless, and you can really see the care that went into the creation of each creature and the various environments.

Combat is also handled excellently, with auto targeting and grapple buttons, as well as the ability to pick up and use assorted weapons, such as pikes, rocks and torches. The enemies tend to hold their own in battles, and being careless will just send you back to the Netherworld time and again. Thatís right, since youíre a vampire, you donít die in this game- upon depletion of your energy, you end up in a "spectral plane" of sorts, where you can slay monsters and draw out their souls in order to regain access to the material plane (The funny thing is , this play mechanic reminds me of the Sega Genesis game Haunting, in which you played as a restless ghost driving a family out of assorted houses!). You can also use a wide variety of magic spells and magical weapons, as in the first game, but here, they are a lot more impressive. You can also use a spell to alter the environment youíre in to reach hidden objects and areas that you canít reach with your limited flight capabilities. This adds to the adventure, as you never realize just how huge this game really is, until you start seeking out all the areas!

Thereís a lot more that I can say about this game, but time and space is short, and Iíll leave it to you to actually go out, buy and play the game, so that you can disCover all it has to offer on your own. I canít say enough about how much I love this type of adventure game, that is a fully realized character in a even more fully realized world that is so huge, you can spend hours exploring, just to see whatís around the next bend. The subject matter is also a draw, since one thing the Playstation (and every other platform out there,) is lacking , is a variety of games for adults. By "adult", I donít mean lots of nudie cuties, cursing or never released violence for violence sake garbage like Thrill Kill. Great games like Silent Hill, Tecmoís Deception, Metal Gear Solid, the Final Fantasy games Clock Tower, Echo Night, Persona, and a couple of others that challenge the playerís imagination, as well as their dexterity. Buy this game, and pick up the first part, if you havenít already. You wonít be disappointed.

Greg Wilcox

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