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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
From Software
PLAYERS:   1-2
May 27, 2002
Lost Kingdoms II

 Written by Ilan Mejer  on April 16, 2002

Fisrt Impressions: I must admit I preferred the original Japanese name of "Rune."

The title once called Rune, developed by the company that brought us Armored Core and King's Field, has been receiving more than its fair share of press in recent months. Lost Kingdoms, as it has now been dubbed here in America, was first unveiled almost a year ago at Nintendo's Japanese tradeshow, Spaceworld. The game garnered so much attention early for two reasons, its dark graphical style, and its decidedly role-playing slant. Lost Kingdoms intends to meld the card battling and role-playing genres into this unique GCN experience. Activision has recently taken up the rights for Rune's localization, and the game is scheduled for an early June release, according to NoA's web site.

Generations ago, a dark force swept across the land destroying all traces of human life and civilization it encountered, before being banished by the unmistakable power of a slender, seemingly harmless card. This artifact, one seemingly inconspicuous, but bound with magical and mysteries energies will once again help decide the fate of the country. In the time since it was last employed for the good of land, humanity has flourished and now inhabit five kingdoms throughout the sprawling continent. Along the western edges of the continent, a black mist reaches out from amongst the deepest forests, hungrily consuming entire villages before the alarm is raised. Princess Katia Gerber of the Kingdom of Orange embarks on a desperate quest to gather the powers of the magical cards, in order to come to the aid of her ailing people.

Exploration is going to be competently accomplished in three dimensions. Once an enemy is encountered, players will be treated to a beautiful water ripple effect as the immediate area is closed off to form the battle arena. It appears that the world will shift into an even more fantastical setting that mirrors the area that Katia was exploring before combat began. The actual fight will take place in real time, a departure from the classic turn based gameplay expected from a card battle game. Four cards from Katia's deck are immediately accessible by hitting one of the four GCN face buttons.

The cards will have the ability to execute a magical attack, heal wounds, and summon companions to help Katia fight, or to summon giant creatures. Of the monsters that can be summoned, some will have the initiative to fight on their own while the rest must be given commands by Katia. The huge beasts, which include mammoths, reptiles, and dragons, appear for one all-encompassing magical attack before retreating from whence they came. Hitting one of the action buttons will cause Katia to fling the corresponding card to the floor, even causing extra damage should it be successfully targeted at an enemy, before its magic is be unleashed. Once the enemy force is overcome, experience points will be tallied, eventually strengthening Katia and transforming her into a more powerful card master.

Right now, the technology behind the game is not looking particularly impressive. The graphics are fairly underwhelming as far as polygon counts and texture quality is concerned. However, the game is already exuding a dark, gritty, powerful, and highly fantastical aura, one that is very welcome so soon after the GameCube's release. The game is pulling off some very impressive visual effects, such as the water ripple effect discussed above, the magnificent creature summons, and the pretty particle effects strewn about and we are looking forward to seeing how the final product will come across. The truth is that the game could probably have been executed on the Dreamcast, with little to no graphical compromises, but manages to look respectful in its own right on a more powerful system.

Final Thoughts
I have a few concerns about this game, primarily the emphasis on character and story development. I have heard reports that the game's battle system could be disorientating and redundant as well, but hopefully it will see a few balancing tweaks since these early reports. This game has the potential to become a sleeper hit on the GameCube, when it hits shelves this summer. I have high hopes that in the long run, the game's exploration, combat, and story progression will all merge into a highly satisfying and unique GameCube experience.

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