Title  : Gauntlet Legends
Platforms  : Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation
Publisher  : Midway
ESRB Rating  : Teen
Game Rating  : 8.2
Review by  : Ken Gagne

"Red valkyrie needs food… badly!" 

If that disembodied voice brings back any memories, then you're sure to enjoy Gauntlet Legends. The arcade game sequel to the four-player game from the Eighties is now available on Nintendo 64, PlayStation, and Dreamcast, courtesy of Midway. [N64 version reviewed here] 

Long ago, the incompetent mage Garm released the demon Skorne, whose reign plunged the world into darkness. Now, Garm's brother Sumner, trapped in his wizardly tower, has summoned a band of heroes to travel through his magical gates to the worlds of Ataria, searching for the mystic runes which will once and for all banish the devil Skorne. 

Players take on the role of those heroes in this overhead Dungeons & Dragons-type action-adventure game. Classes available are Warrior, Wizard, Valkyrie, or Archer (a class similar to the Elf of yesteryear), with other hidden characters, such as the Minotaur, becoming available later. 

Gauntlet Legends looks very different from its predecessor, but the gameplay is similar. Hounded by swarms of monsters, heroes will need the aide of potions and amulets as they search the levels for various runes and obelisks. 

What's new are the levels themselves. No more mere dungeons: Gauntlet's worlds range from a fallen castle to a volcanic pit to a yeti's ice cave. Between levels, players can exchange gold for items and health, or save progress to a memory card. As players defeat enemies, their experience level goes up, just like a real role-playing game. 

The graphics are a big step up from the original Gauntlet. The worlds are richly detailed, and populated with a variety of colorful characters. Animation is extremely fluid, and the special effects (with all the magic, you can bet there are plenty) make special moves all the more thrilling to watch. Though without the RAM Expansion Pak, your mileage may vary. 

The soundtrack is medieval in theme and appropriate for the setting, but never daring enough to take center stage. Instead, the sound effects and speech samples are heard and enjoyed. The dungeon master (identified as the wizard Sumner) offers helpful tips and warnings, while the characters express their approval ("I like food!" says the valkyrie, as she picks up a health-giving steak) or disappointment (a death scream, naturally). 

With over thirty levels, players will have a hard time walking this Gauntlet. Some puzzles and traps require much backtracking, all the while plodding through horde after horde of demons. Levels may need to be explored several times to find all the necessary items, and the monster generators regenerate between visits. Once that task is complete, there are still the worlds' lords to contend with. These bosses have extremely powerful attacks and take damage lightly. Either spend your hard-earned gold on power-ups or grab a friend, because you'll need all the firepower you can get. 

The one-player game is fun, but lacks the lasting appeal of multiplayer. Grab a few friends and form a band of adventurers for a some real hack'n'slash. There are more enemies, more treasure, and more fun – provided you don't kill each other first. 

Gauntlet Legends is a fine amalgamation of classic gameplay and modern action. Excellent level design, smooth graphics, and great voice-overs make for a good one-player game, and an even better multiplayer game. The gauntlet has been thrown down; I suggest you pick this one up.


This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 11-Oct-99