Reviewed: July 7, 2000
Released: June, 2000
Gauntlet Legends is the latest incarnation of the Gauntlet series that started back in 1985. The original was one of the first arcade boxes that allowed up to four players to play simultaneously, and it quickly became a favorite all over the country. In true Dungeons & Dragons (tm) tradition you could pick your character class which either had combat or spell casting abilities (or some mixture thereof) and proceed to battle countless hordes of monsters in a top-down dungeon setting. The original spawned several sequels and has appeared on many home platforms, so it was inevitable that this latest sequel would arrive on the SEGA Dreamcast sooner or later.
I remember seeing/playing Gauntlet Legends at the arcade back in early 1999 and was fairly impressed that this series was still alive. I was even more impressed to see that the arcade box was boasting the 3DFX logo and featured some truly amazing 3D graphics. No more 2D levels or sprite-based characters here - oh no! Gauntlet Legends now ranks right up there with any 3D game currently being released.
The main premise of the game is still intact. You still have up to four players and can choose among the Warrior, Valkyrie, Wizard, or the Archer (who now replaces the original Elf character). Treasure chests, food, monsters and those famous monster generators are all back along with the level-sucking Grim Reapers, teleporters, and other old power-ups.
Midway has loaded this newest version with many new features including stunning 3D graphics and levels. Gone are the days of wandering through endless mazes and dungeon corridors. Now you explore rich 3D landscapes full of detailed terrain and obstacles. Your characters can now advance so the more you play the better they get. Earned experience points increases your character attributes such as Strength and Speed, and you can also augment these abilities by purchasing upgrades between levels with the gold you have acquired.
Gauntlet Legends features four large worlds to explore and a secret 5th boss world you can unlock if you are good enough. Also new to this version are bosses, hidden characters and 35 new power-ups. There is now a strategic element to the combat. Previously you would just back yourself into a corner and fire endlessly until all monsters and their generators were destroyed. Now you have special movies and combos and a Turbo button that can be combined with magic attacks for some incredible fighting moves. The monsters also get progressively more difficult as you venture into the later levels.
The back-story is told through gorgeous pre-rendered movies and you actually have a goal in this game. You must collect all 12 Rune Stones to unlock the final level and defeat the boss demon to win the game. Rune Stones are hidden as well as heavily guarded and you may find yourself in need of a strategy guide or at least some online hints to successfully win this game.
Gauntlet Legends is truly the ultimate in arcade-to-home conversions. Not only has Midway captured every nuance of the arcade version and perfectly reproduced it; they have even added some tweaks that make this the best version available. The graphics are enhanced beyond the capabilities of the Voodoo2 engine driving the arcade version. Control is perfect with the analog stick giving you precise and accurate control over your character.
The solo experience is excellent and typical of most any RPG/adventure game. There are plenty of battles to win and puzzles to solve including some devious hidden buttons that raise/lower bridges and walls to allow you to continue. Secret areas are hidden all over each level and you must look closely for discoloration in the textures to locate crumbling walls that you can smash through to find the really good items.
Multiplayer is now a blast and much better than the arcade. No longer are you required to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your friends while beating on the arcade console. Now you can take your Dreamcast controllers to opposite sides of the room and relax on the couch for those marathon sessions of monster slaying that are sure to come.
There is no true online (modem) play in Gauntlet Legends and it is sorely missed. I'm not a programmer so I don't know all the ins and outs or reasons this wasn't done but it would have been spectacular and I can only hope that the next installment; Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, features modem support.
Multiplayer has always been one of the key elements in the success of the Gauntlet series. It was one of the first games to offer 4-player action and even today that is still considered a unique feature. There just aren't that many action games that support 1-4 concurrent players and Gauntlet Legends serves up some seriously multiplayer action making it one of the best party games since South Park: Chef's Love Shack.
However, there are a few multiplayer glitches that get annoying early on and carry through to the end of the game. The first thing is character movement. Your direction of travel is limited to that of your entire party so if you have one person on the far left edge of the screen and you want to open the chest just off the screen to the right you cannot until the player on the left moves toward the right. This can become extremely annoying when you start taking damage from an unseen enemy, get trapped on a ledge, or cannot reach a power-up or food until someone else moves their characters.
Teamwork is essential. There is nothing worse than playing with a group of people who are all out for themselves. If you are on the verge of death you don't want your party members quaffing up all the food or healing potions. It's only common courtesy to allow those "in need" first dibs on such items. When you combine your efforts your party can go far. Strategic planning and organizing your attacks on the hundreds of creatures and the difficult bosses are essential in completing Gauntlet Legends.
Gauntlet Legends looked good at the arcade and it looks amazing on the Dreamcast. The levels are colorful and rich with detail and dynamic lighting. The characters and monsters are all very detailed and well animated. Special effects are plentiful and magical combat is truly breathtaking. Explosions, starbursts, flames, and smoke are all presented in glorious detail and add to the excitement of medieval combat.
The colors and textures have all been improved over the arcade version making this the best looking version of the game on any home or arcade platform. The pre-rendered movies look amazing and keep the story progressing through the many levels of this game.
The voice acting in Gauntlet Legends leaves much to be desired. In fact the voice-over and music during the opening title screen sounded incredibly bad - almost 8-bit. I'm not sure if this was done on purpose as a carry-over from the game's early years or what. Once in the game the music is excellent, both in composition and quality and serves to propel the intense action.
Each of the many levels are small to medium in size but there are many levels per world and with four worlds plus the bonus level you can look forward to many, many hours of enjoyment with Gauntlet Legends. There are tons of secrets, hidden characters, and of course those 12 Rune Stones that could take a lifetime to locate without the aid of a strategy guide. If you have any friends who enjoy console gaming then stock up on pizza, chips, and soda because they won't be leaving your house anytime soon.
There are plenty of reasons to replay this game either in solo or multiplayer mode. There is way too much to see it all on your first or even second pass. The fact that you can play as any of four character classes immediately gives you sufficient validation to play the game four times right out of the box. You can also build-up your character differently each time you play giving Gauntlet Legends some stat-building elements and virtually endless replay potential.
Gauntlet Legends is pure arcade gaming at its very best. Even though many will condemn this title as a mindless shooter, there is just something about this series that is pure "fun". Perhaps it is the fact that almost anyone can pick up the controller and start having a blast with no steep learning curve. The game itself promotes multiplayer action and teamwork in a party-like atmosphere.
The Dreamcast version of Gauntlet Legends is by far the best version available, and the money you'll save in quarters/tokens at the arcade will easily pay for the game and a few extra controllers in no time at all. If you've purchased the N64 or PSX version of this game and you own a Dreamcast then you will certainly want to trade in this title for the Dreamcast version.
Even if you decide not to purchase this title it is definitely worth the price of a rental. The solo adventure is a blast and can easily keep your occupied for a long weekend. The multiplayer capabilities of Gauntlet Legends make it a great party game. Just make sure you don't invite more than three friends over or you may have some battles for the controllers.