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Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (Dreamcast)
MSRP: $49.99
Number of Players: 1
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Eidos Interactive

Rating:
****1/2
out of
*****

Already considered something of a classic on the PlayStation, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver has made the jump to the Dreamcast. Since there is a relative dearth of this type of adventure game on the Dreamcast, the timing couldn't have been better. The fact that Eidos has significantly improved the graphics and control of the game over its PlayStation predecessor serves to make its appearance on the Dreamcast even more appreciated.

The plot revolves around the world of Nosgoth, where Kain and his minions rule over the humans. Kain, who's initial exploits were documented in the PlayStation game, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, recruited a legion of vampires to aid him in his quest to rule Nosgoth. They triumphed over the humans and began to shape Nosgoth to Kain's liking. The vampires were subservient to Kain but, while standing before Kain, Raziel grew wings. Kain took this as an insult and had Raziel tossed into the Lake of Lost Souls. As Raziel's flesh burned away in the lake, he heard the voice of "The Elder," who offers Raziel a chance at revenge against Kain. By slaughtering the remaining members of the vampire legion and Kain himself, Raziel will get his revenge and "The Elder" can reclaim the human souls trapped in the bodies of the vampires' human victims.

The game is played in a third-person perspective, ala Tomb Raider, with the player taking the role of Raziel. Raziel can jump, climb, glide on his broken wings, as well as push, pull and flip objects around. Raziel also has the ability to move between the material realm and the spectral realm. The combination of moving objects and moving back and forth between realms is crucial to the puzzle solving in the game.

The game begins with an introduction to Raziel's basic moves. The tutorial is an excellent way to set the mood of the game, as well as teaching the player how to move about in Nosgoth. When the player saves a game -- which can be done anywhere -- he will restart in the lair of "The Elder." From there, Raziel must use a warp gate to return to the area where the game was saved.

Because Raziel is a vampire, he cannot die. To replenish his energy in the material realm, Raziel needs to suck the souls from his victims. If Raziel's energy is depleted in the material realm, he will simply transport into the spectral realm. If he loses all of his energy while in the spectral realm, he returns to the lair of "The Elder" and must restart his journey. By using the warp gates, it's relatively easy to get back to the area where you lost your energy.

The game has no load time per se because the levels are loaded on the fly while you move from one to another. You'll hear the CD being accessed as you move about, but there is no waiting involved.

The graphics in Legacy of Kain are superb. The action is rendered at 60 frames-per-second and stutters only slightly as new environments are loaded. Raziel's movements are fluid and lifelike. It's cool to watch him pull a giant block or push against an immovable object and see how his body reacts. The enemies also move with grace and speed.

Although the game controls rather well with the analog stick, the camera angles sometimes get intrusive. The player will sometimes find the camera swinging around to face Raziel when it should be facing in the opposite direction. Most of the time though, the camera is doing what it should be. When it's not, you can manually move it to a view that's more to your liking. However, doing so does break up the flow of the action, which blows the atmosphere the game seems to be working so hard at creating.

The mood of the game, which is dark and brooding, is adequately reflected in the sound and music during the game. The clicking of the Zephonim Vampires, for example, is enough to send dread into your heart as you race around trying to solve a puzzle.

If I can find any fault with the game, it's that some of the puzzles are a little on the vague side. Without the aid of a strategy guide, I might still be stuck fighting the first boss. However, as you get deeper into the game, you become accustomed to the designers' knack for putting things together and the game becomes slightly more logical. Still, it wouldn't have hurt the game to make the puzzles a little less cryptic.

If you've got a Dreamcast and are starving for an involving, action-packed adventure game that's guaranteed to keep you glued the screen for hours, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is your game. Even if you've played the Tomb Raider games and found them less-than-appealing, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is for you.

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