Review by Tenshi No Shi
Reviewed: 11/01/99 | Updated: 07/05/02
This year's must own Playstation game.
I cannot believe this game finally made it out! I mean, how long was it delayed, a year? A year and a half? What ever the case may be, the sequel to Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain has finally made it to stores for vampire enthusiasts and would-be vampire hunters to get their grubby little hands on. Much as the original gave Playstation owners something new and different, so to does Soul Reaver add something never seen before on this console. 'But', you might justifiable be asking yourself, 'was the effort worth the wait?'
Soul Reaver has something you rarely see in a video game: a great continuing story. Now, before anyone jumps all over me with this statement, think about what I've said. There are a lot of great stories for video games, but they almost never have a sequel that has anything to do with the previous game. Take the Final Fantasy series for example, not a single one has anything to do with the previous game. Sure, there are some continuing story lines to be had, such as the Tomb Raider series. But there's really no continuity between each game except the same character always searching for treasure. Wow, there's a knock-me-down thriller. To be honest, there are only two series of games that I can think of that had good plots that continued from game to game. They would be Wing Commander and Metal Gear. Each time a sequel game out, it picked up where the previous one left off, even to the point of tying together characters from past games. That is what I call excellent story telling. Now that you understand my views on what is a great story is, you can better appreciate what I am about to say on this game, and that is: Soul Reaver's story kicks ass! If you didn't play the first game, let me give you the low-down. In Blood Omen, there was a man named Kain who was betrayed and murdered. Rather than just dying, he was spared and transformed into a vampire to have revenge against his enemies. Kain stalked the land, feeding on the blood of the innocent while he sought out his betrayers. Basically, Kain gets his revenge, gains power, and seeks to rule the planet. The story is far, far more complex than that, but you really need to experience it for yourself in order to appreciate it. Now Soul Reaver picks up a millennium later, with Kain having gained full control of the planet. Humans are all but vanquished, serving as nothing more than slaves to their vampiric gods. After Kain had his revenge against the people who murdered him, he raised from the spectral plain six souls to serve as lieutenants. One such soul is Raziel, the hero of this tale. Being of such great power, Kain always received the gifts of evolution first. He would gain a special ability and a hundred or so years later, his minions would follow. However, things do not always happen as they should Raziel was the first of his brethren to receive the gift of flight. When he presented himself before Kain and revealed his new ability, Kain become furious and rips out the support bones of Raziel's wings. He then has Raziel cast into the vortex; a swirling mass of water that is eternal death to vampires. After suffering for an immeasurable amount of time, Raziel is rescued by a being known as the Elder. The Elder strikes a deal with Raziel (not that he really has a choice) and thus our adventure begins. Again, its much more in depth than I have described it, but you get the idea.
Achieving a level of previously unheard of detail, Soul Reaver's graphics, animation, and special effects push the Playstation to its limits. If you were impressed with Metal Gear Solid, this game will floor you. I'll be honest, when I first started playing, I thought, 'Oh great, its Tomb Raider with a vampire' but once I got past the first hour of play, I found myself immersed in a world full of huge buildings and structures peppering wide open landscapes. While its still somewhat closed in, you still are given the sense of freedom that no Playstation game has before achieved. The animation is also leaps and bound above current Playstation standards; each of Raziel's movements are just full realism and his tattered wings fluttering in the breeze is truly a sight to behold. Finally, the special effects are simply breath taking. Never has a fire effect impressed me so much, or the incineration of one's enemy looked so real. There are, however, a few minor flaws. Some enemies, while still well animated, aren't nearly as animated as Raziel. Granted, you'd hardly even notice as they still look impressive, but I thought I should point out that small flay. Also, the polygons of an enemy when he is on fire looks a tad rough. One final note: some areas in the game are too dark, and there is no gamma control built into the game, which can lead to a little disorientation. On the plus side, the camera in Soul Reaver is damn near perfect. Not once has it caused me any problems except for hardly-noticeable lag.
So you say graphics aren't your thing, you're more impressed by the sound effects and music of a game. Well then you too are in for a treat. Soul Reaver's sounds are a delight to the ears. Effects like ambiance and spatial echoing are found within, adding to the clear samples that were created for this game. The effect is quite haunting. So what of the music? Well, it too is good, in a modern sort of way. While its didn't bowl me over in its style, the effect of scaring the crap out of me was certainly there. I can't quite describe it, but if I had to, I'd say its sort of gothic sounding but it leaves and electric 'aftertaste' in your mind. It does enhance the mood of the game, so I can't complain about it when it does its job.
Control is absolute perfection. I say this about very few games, but when I do, I mean it. Soul Reaver controls much like a Tomb Raider game, except a hundred times better. Raziel has a long list of moves at his disposal, most of which are easily executed. In fact, there may be too many different commands to remember, but when you get used to it, you really fell like you have total control over your character. As you progress through the game, you will obtain new abilities that are just as easily used as any of the other moves. The controls themselves are laid out as best as they can on the Playstation controller, while the execution of said controls are quick, tight, and very responsive. My only complaint is the digital controls are a little too forceful and the analog controls are a little too quick. However, this is something that is quickly adapted to and you forget all about after the first thirty minutes of play.
A completely whole and well-designed game all around. In fact, the game reminds me so much of the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time its creepy. In battle you have an auto-face button (auto-targeting); you collect pieces of a medallion to enhance your energy (heart containers); you gain use of glyphs that effect things in different ways (tunes on the ocarina); you have to manipulate blocks in various fashions to solve puzzles (exact same thing in Zelda); you have the ability to shift between two different planes of existence, each plain having different enemies and different weapons (time travel); the list is quite long and lengthy. I, however, have no complaints about the similarities between the two games. Zelda is one of the best games I have ever played and I'm glad to see more games like it. Aside from the parallels to a certain green-clad elf, Soul Reaver sets its self apart with unique environments and game play. There are dozens of ways to slay the bloodthirsty undead, and finding them all is half of the fun. In fact, you are penalized for not finishing off a vampire. Make no mistake about the 'Teen' rating this game received; Soul Reaver is a bloody, bloody game.
I haven't found any secrets as of yet (though I really think it would be cool to play as Kain once you beat the game), however, there are plenty of bonuses. Much like Zelda, you can level up Raziel's energy by collecting pieces to a medallion. There are also Glyphs to be found and new abilities to be received, all of which better your chance of survival. Oh yeah, wait until you get the Soul Reaver weapon, it kicks ass!
In my opinion, there are only five games that should be mandatory bought by every Playstation owner: Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, Tekken 3, Resident Evil 2, and Final Fantasy VIII. Well, add one more to the list because Soul Reaver: Legacy of Kain is about the best you can get for the Playstation. Get is immediately, if not sooner!
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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