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Game Profile
FINAL SCORES
7.4
Visuals
7.5
Audio
6.5
Gameplay
8.0
Features
7.0
Replay
6.0
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox
PUBLISHER:
Microsoft
DEVELOPER:
VR-1
GENRE: Action
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
January 22, 2002
ESRB RATING:
Everyone
IN THE SERIES
Nightcaster II: Equinox

 Written by Leigh Culpin  on March 21, 2002

Full Review: Has night fallen for VR-1?


More of an arcade game than anything else, Nightcaster is VR-1's first action game, and it turned out pretty darn good. While the game's camera view is far more than an annoyance, and by far the game's greatest downside, the gameplay can be very fun and challenging, if repetitive at times. Don't try this game expecting a 3D, Zelda-like RPG, because you won't find it, but on its own Nightcaster's something to take a look at.

Something you'll notice throughout the game is that Nightcaster has a lot of unexplored potential in a variety of areas. You'll go through thinking ?If only they had implemented this,? and ?It would've been so much cooler if they'd just done this a different way,? but despite that, it is an enjoyable experience. You are Arran, a novice wizard, whose family has been overtaken by the Nightcaster, one of evil's dark minions. The story throughout is somewhat shallow, and you'll find yourself skipping the cutscenes opening each level to get right into the action. While there is a slight learning curve, Nightcaster employs a very interesting battle system and it works fairly well. You start the game with 4 spells, one from each school of magic ? fire, water, light and dark. As the game progresses you'll gain new spells, 4 for each school, with each spell having three ?levels? which you can obtain as you play through side quests or simply by searching remote areas of the levels. The spells work best against opponents of the opposing school, identifiable by their colour. They generally look cool and animate well, with the more powerful spells being more visually impressive by far than their younger siblings. The spells are the main weapons in the game, your only alternative being your staff which is virtually useless and practically never needed.

In the very first cutscene you meet a glowing, floating, talking orb, which you'll use to aim your spells ? moving the right thumbstick moves the orb around you, and automatically switches you to an overhead view. The only other available view is an over-the-shoulder look, and while it shows of the game's graphics - which are nothing spectacular for the most part, but still cartoonishly satisfying ? it is also virtually useless, as your spells are cast either directly on top or you or the way your facing. Additionally, the camera tends to get stuck in stupid places, such as in front of you, so you can't see what your trying to hit without resetting the camera. The overhead camera also suffers from this flaw, but it lacks a decent reset button ? often you'll need to hit the map button briefly to re-center on Arran's back.

The sound is also somewhat forgettable, with the voice acting mediocre at best and the music decent but repetitive and often not fitting of your surroundings. The game isn't really 3D either ? you can't jump, and you don't really ever shoot up or down, just in front of you, behind you and to your sides. The textures can be slightly muddy at times, and while Arran's character looks good, it's not really required, as you'll play the game from over his head. The enemies aren't anything spectacular either, many seemingly non-descript blobs or bugs. While this doesn't necessarily detract from gameplay, it's one area that could have been improved upon. The save-points are also few and far between, which takes away from the game's ability to let you just drop in and start playing right away ? you'll find yourself progressing but saveless, forcing you back tremendous distances should you die.

Bottom Line
Overall, Nightcaster is a lot of fun, and a great tribute to arcade games, but it's nothing really out of the ordinary thanks to an awful camera view, limited replay value, virtually no story, and lots of unfulfilled potential. Don't go buying it without renting it, but it's certainly a fun game that anyone can play.


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