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Summoner: A Goddess Reborn Package Art
 GENRE
  Action-RPG
 DEVELOPER
  Cranky Pants Games / Volition
 PUBLISHER
  THQ
 NUMBER OF PLAYERS
  1
 CONNECTIVITY
  no
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Summoner: A Goddess Reborn

As we rewind a handful of years and look at the Nintendo 64 from afar, it is easy to point out that the system had a complete lack of Role-Playing Games. As year after year floated on by, this fact was well known by fans of the genre as well as die-hard fans of Nintendo itself. Taking a closer look, however, a couple of “RPGs” can be spotted. First, there’s THQ’s Quest 64 which was released fairly early in the system’s lifespan back in 1998. Quest 64 was so disappointing and horribly formulaic that it can hardly be called an RPG. Three years later, the same publisher released Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage which was so bad the “Chronicles” turned into more of a “One-Shot”. As times began to change and with the GameCube throwing out titles such as Evolution Worlds, Phantasy Star Online Episodes I and II, as well as the more recent Skies of Arcadia Legends, RPG lovers can get back into the groove of things. Ironically, THQ brings us Summoner: A Goddess Reborn, but thankfully THQ has learned from their past RPG failures. This one is truly an excellent addition to any gamers’ library, especially for fans of the genre.

Volition’s original effort, Summoner, was released on the PS2 as a launch title thanks to THQ. The title was met with several critical jabs, but was ultimately able to hold its own. After a few months on the burners and a PC release following shortly afterwards, the game had managed to obtain its own cult following. Volition then created a much more ambitious title, a sequel that would improve upon every promising detail within the original game. When it was released on the PS2 just before the big holiday bum rush, it was amazing. In fact, whatever the original did wrong, Summoner 2 made it right again. From the visuals to the combat system, this one was a worthy successor and then some. Volition has managed to do what very few have done: build upon experience.

THQ now brings Summoner: A Goddess Reborn to the GameCube as a revamped version of that title under the helm of Cranky Pants Games. Just as Volition did with the sequel, Cranky Pants is improving upon the title even more-so. Many features have changed, including a brand new model and animations for Maia, the main character, as well as improved lighting effects, smoother textures, and a sharpened framerate to top it all off. For that, both THQ and the development team should be applauded for not just bringing a straight port over to the Cube. This one is certainly a unique treat for gamers and is possibly one of the best RPGs available today.

visuals

As previously mentioned, Cranky Pants has revamped Summoner 2’s look with several changes and improvements. The lighting effects have been tweaked a bit, but nothing is completely noticeable until a few hours into the game. With that said, this title looks and performs much better on the GameCube. Straight off the bat from the opening sequence, it is apparent that this truly does not look like the same game. Maia’s new model looks exceptionally wonderful and her new animations flow just like butter. This is definitely a welcome change as Maia looked far too “moody” to be any sort of “Goddess Reborn” on the PS2. With much relief, Maia looks much more benevolent but still holds that sparky sass of a Queen.

The textures have been smoothed over and look as if they’ve been handled with delicate care and dedication, almost as if they were priceless antiques. Environments look wonderful, water effects look beautiful, and the characters themselves hold so much more personality just with a few smoother edges. The framerate, on the other hand, is quite possibly the absolute best improvement of them all. While playing through the original title, every major encounter was plagued with slowdown and even dragged while exploring a few heavily detailed environments. A Goddess Reborn fixes these problems and improves upon them to boot. During exploration and light combat, the game runs at a silky smooth 60 frames-per-second but may drop a dozen or so frames in heavy confrontations.

The amount of detail that Volition gave to the environments and character design is nothing short of astonishing. Traversing through each environment is its own individual treat. Small details can be picked out from the surroundings such as a beautiful tree or flower. There is so much to be seen in just one small area while looking around, which goes to show how much love went into making the original Summoner 2. With characters like Sangaril and Iari, the character design is just as lovely. Each character is a feast for the eyes as every minor detail allows the player to imagine on their own exactly who these people truly are. Maia’s new design is wonderful and allows her to look much more like the “Child of Prophecy” as well as the “Warrior Queen”. Even the box art looks wonderful and is possibly the best available out of the entire GameCube library (with the possible exception of Darkened Skye's). With all of the RPGs available on the GameCube, Summoner: A Goddess Reborn is easily the best-looking title from the batch.

audio

Every sound effect within A Goddess Reborn is wonderfully well-produced and add to Summoner's overall impact. The sword clashes, magical effects, the battle cries and the whimpering deaths all sound amazing and let the title shine in the spotlight for a moment or two. The voice acting is superb, especially concerning the performances of Sangaril and Prince Neru. Characters like these bring the title one step closer to epic storytelling and the actors should be commended for their work.

The ambient sound is stunning and adds a lot of richness to each environment. Thankfully, not every sound is just the average, trivial nonsense. There are actually sounds that may not seem too significant until you accept the quest for which they are based. This brings the ambience of the title closer to importance than most other role playing games. The music itself is wonderful, but ultimately forgettable. Once a tribal beat is heard, the next seems fairly similar. They are very well done and lend a lot of style to the lands the player will traverse, but fall far from an epic score.

gameplay

The original Summoner, which was released nearly two and a half years ago, featured some rather original play mechanics which left a lot of room for improvement. The combat system was something with which console gamers weren’t well acquainted, let alone PC gamers who received the port. The things left intact from the original were strictly in the wonderful story and mythology surrounding the world. Now that the sequel is available on the GameCube, there are many improvements that have been made while still keeping that truly breathtaking storytelling alive.

The combat system in Summoner: A Goddess Reborn is a complete u-turn from what players were used to in the original. Here, the player chooses a character to control while fighting in real-time battles. There are no turns, “active times” or random encounters in this one. The player uses that controlled character and two allies to lay waste to the ravening hordes. Sometimes it can be too easy, but other times require a specific strategy to to smite the baddies. Otherwise, there’ll be a lot of selecting “Load Game” after dying. Different characters have unique abilities, like healing or backstabbing, that enhance the strategy elements. The new combat system is definitely more than welcome in Summoner’s universe.

What RPG is complete without searching every nook and cranny for treasure and mini-quests? This title is no exception as it offers plenty of each. The great ideal behind this is the fact that searching and scrounging around for treasure doesn’t have to be done by rapidly tapping the action button while hugging the walls of a dungeon. A handy little animated Eye or Chest icon will be displayed above the controlled character’s head indicating that there is something nearby worthy of scoping out. Thank the gods, too, because there is a lot to check out.

While adventuring and traversing the world, you’ll bump into new allies (or possibly foes destined to become new allies) who will be added to your ever-increasing list of “reserves”. You can switch between these characters and your current 3-character party in order to use their unique skills and equipment in effective strategy. When each character gains a level, they’ll be awarded new skill points to distribute amongst the current skills available. This enables the character to learn more powerful spells or simply increase the power of current ones. Some of this can be slightly confusing, but after the first few levels it should be a breeze to make Maia an ultimate healer or Sangaril an invisible stalker.

In order to use these skills, the development team brought in a system that allows the player to select a skill or item from a simple drop down menu. Once that particular skill has been assigned, the player can access and use it at any time with the push of a button. This includes summons, one of the most unique aspects of the title. In A Goddess Reborn, Maia must fulfill a prophecy by collecting as many rune stones as possible. These rune stones allow Maia to summon strange and bizarre creatures with immense, uncanny powers. With a simple flick of a button, plus a handful of Ability Points, Maia transforms into any one of these strange creatures in an elaborate display and can proceed to destroy anything in her path. Once the creature has reached zero hit points, Maia returns to go about her business. This system works wonderfully and is truly one of the best features of the gameplay.

The only discrepancy that bogs this game down is the camera. What else is new, right? It is extremely hard to find an awesome, real time RPG that has a camera without any problems whatsoever. That goes with pretty much every other genre as well. The camera in this one is fairly limiting, especially while traversing areas with a lot of hills. Zapping through different characters, particularly during combat, can be frustrating and bewildering. Not only must the player adapt to a new camera view, but also a completely different stance towards the enemy. Some of these qualms are minor within the game, but are always noticeable while playing through.

multiplayer

N/A

overall

Summoner: A Goddess Reborn is not only a wonderful RPG, but it’s an excellent recreation as well. With over thirty hours of playtime and dozens upon dozens of side-quests, it will definitely keep you busy. While it is not without its faults, the camera set-up in particular, it is easily one of the best RPGs available today. If you love role-playing games and own a Cube, why are you still playing Evolution Worlds? A superb story, wonderful gameplay and plenty of playtime are certainly enough for any RPG lover to own this game. A Goddess Reborn is highly recommended over the PS2’s Summoner 2, for the latter’s framerate problems alone. Can Volition continue to improve and make a possible Summoner 3 even better than this? More importantly, will it slide straight to the Cube? Maybe. For right now, check this one out and enjoy. We’ve got a wonderful year of RPGs ahead of us!

final score 8.6/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Austin Starr
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"If life's not beautiful without the pain / well I'd just rather never ever even see beauty again"


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