After Midway revamped Gauntlet on every major console platform, it
became only a matter of time as to when Game Boy Advance owners would
see the Midway classic ported to their handhelds. Gauntlet: Dark
Legacy introduces little in terms of mechanical changes. Indeed, Dark
Legacy goes a long way to preserve its heritage: the keys, the locked
doors, monsters spawning from their abodes and the hack and slash
What changed in Dark Legacy is the addition of the world motif to the
old arcade standby. It's not so linear anymore, although the individual
levels themselves are still pretty linear. But this isn't entirely new.
We saw worlds back in the days of Mario on hardware that is much older
than any of the machines Dark Legacy will be gracing. It's a welcome
addition, though, since it lets you travel back to simpler worlds so you
can level up, gain more potions or health. Dark Legacy is not an RPG
per se. It features many of the common character classes and races
found in a fantasy RPG. However, it plays like an arcade action game.
Power-ups and bonuses are purchased with the fruits of your hard work.
You hack more, you get bonuses.
Gauntlet titles always seem to maintain a sense of claustrophobia.
You're moving from the starting point to the exit but along the way,
you're trapped, with your backs against the wall, being attacked by wave
after wave of enemies. It didn't feel that much different on the bigger
consoles but the Dark Legacy that made its way to the Game Boy Advance
seems big. One screen is hardly enough to contain the width of the
terrain and that's an achilles heel because the extra space tends to
promote a feeling of, "Hey where am I supposed to be going next?" If
the developers zoomed out a bit more, the game would flow much better.
One of the reasons why the developers might zoom so much is to give you
a good look at the monsters. Typical of Gauntlet titles, there all
manners of fantasy RPG monsters are pilfered. None, however, are
meticulously constructed. On a dark Game Boy Advance screen, they look
like inarticulate sprites. Your persona doesn't fair all that much
better. He or she has more animated frames but the wind up animation
for attacks and moving around seems so jerky it's like seeing a wind-up
toy with the screw stuck in overdrive. All in all, the visuals weren't
that great to begin with on the mainstream consoles. On a handheld,
their style looks severely crimped.
The combat is simplified too. Fighting consists of nothing more than
walking towards your enemy or pressing the fire button. Whatever
happened to combos, special moves, Dark Legacy's own turbo meter,
combined tag team attacks and other additions developers have made to
fighting titles since the days of, well, Gauntlet? None are found here.
Admittedly, much of Gauntlet's allure lies in the ability to play with
friends. Gauntlet was one of the first games to promote non-competitive play and this mode is still incredibly fun, not only at
the coin-operated arcades but at home in front of the television too.
The critical and popular success of Hunter: The Reckoning earlier this
year, a relatively simple and derivative game in and of itself, is
testament to that appeal. Just don't expect to play it like this on the
Game Boy Advance because the multiplayer portion is conspicuously
missing. Maybe the developers were thinking of another franchise that
didn't derive its fun from smashing monsters together with friends.
Multiplayer on the Game Boy Advance is, even by the wildest optimistic
Nintendo fans, not exactly an event where you'd pick up the telephone
and ask your friend to come over for. It's more like a spur of the
moment thing that accompanies your daily tea at three. So I make it a
point not to unintentionally bash games for including hastily
implemented multiplayer modes. Nor should I criticize developers for
not including them altogether. Some genres simply don't lend easily to
multiplayer. And even if they do, how many times do you think you could
play your handful of deathmatch maps on the diminutive handheld?
However, the multiplayer is quintessential to the Gauntlet franchise --
I'm not sure how it could survive without it. With anemic gameplay,
less than stellar visuals, something is found wanting in Dark Legacy.
And in the final analysis, you can be sure the only legacy left here is
a long shadow cast on the next Gauntlet title, which will have to work
double time to redeem itself to fans here. If you want to cuddle up
next to friends for Dark Legacy action this holiday season, seek out one
of the console versions. But if you're scrooge and you like to play
alone, maybe Dark Legacy on the Game Boy Advance is for you.