Review by MasterVG782

Reviewed: 08/05/02 | Updated: 01/07/03

Sony is steadily surprising me as a developer now..

Having heard nor seen anything on this game, I had absolutely no clue what type of game was in store for me. At first, I was never going to get the game, but seeing it in action completely changed my decision. It were the first two levels that made me decide that I wanted this game as soon as possible.

GRAPHICS
At first, the in-game graphics didn't impress that much although they definitely grew on me during my play of the game. The environments are very lush and varied, with jungles, ruins of a building in a winter setting and even inside a volcano. What really impressed me were the hand drawn segments that told the story along the way. They're actually drawn in as the story segment is told; it's pretty amazing to see it all come together. If I have any gripe at all with the graphics department of the game, it would have to be the limited animations for the stealth kills. The graphics are topnotch with a definite Disney feel to it.

GAMEPLAY
This is where the game really shines. You start out with nothing but a sword and as you progress through the levels, you'll gain more weapons for your arsenal. The fighting system is simple enough, as the game uses a lock-on system called the Focus Beam. The right analog stick is used to control the focus beam and as it passes over an enemy, either the Square, X or Circle will be assigned to that enemy. Pressing one of those buttons while it is assigned to an enemy will make Rau attack that enemy. At first only one enemy can be assigned to each button, but as you get more melee weapons, a total of 3 enemies can be assigned to each button (for a total of 9 enemies, for the math impaired).
Of course, just going up to every enemy you can encounter looking for a fight will get you a quick and painful death. That's where stealth comes in handy. By not equipping a weapon, you have the ability to sneak up on an enemy and do a stealth kill. This area of the game is kind of like Metal Gear Solid 2, meaning the more stealth you use, the better off you will be.
You have a spirit guide, in the form of a bird named Kuzo, that helps you out on your quest. You can use him to scout out ahead, so you know exactly what you can expect. This is definitely a very helpful addition.

CONTROLS
The controls for this game are excellent, although they are sometimes a little clunky in very few spots in the game. As previously mentioned, the Circle, X and Square buttons are used to attack and the right analog stick is used to lock on to enemies. In addition to normal melee combat, your character also has the ability to disarm enemies and kill the enemy with his own weapon. The only fault I found within the control system is that sometimes when Rau has an enemy locked, it's a little difficult to maneuver around the enemies.

SOUND & MUSIC
The music is nothing to talk about, but the sound effects are phenomenal. The music picks up during melee combat or when an enemy spots you, and even though those are pretty much the only times in the game where you hear music (that I can remember) and it is well done. As I said before, the sound effects are amazing. The sounds that are made when your weapons clash with the enemies are excellent. Also, the environmental sounds are high quality as well.

REPLAYABILITY
There's more to this game than meets the eye. Included with each level is a list of challenges to fulfill. Completing all challenges on a level opens up an arena. The arenas basically give you two challenges, a time trial and a body count. Completing both of these objectives unlocks new outfits for Rau and some movies and art. I can tell you that doing all these things is not easy and will take you a little while to do. Otherwise, the game is pretty short and leaves you wanting a few more levels.

Overall, this game is fantastic and definitely warrants a purchase. The $40 price tag is even more friendly, for those worried about affording the onslaught of games coming this fall.

Rating: 9

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