Gauntlet Series Retrospective Part 6: Gauntlet Legends

Gauntlet Series Retrospective Part 6: Gauntlet Legends
Gauntlet Series Retrospective Part 6: Gauntlet Legends

Insert Disk collects Gauntlet Legends for the PS1.

Today’s retro game review is Gauntlet Legends for the PS1. This retro gaming classic is the focus of part 6 of the 10 part Insert-Disk Gauntlet Mini Series Where we will take a look back at Gauntlet, Gauntlet The Deeper Dungeons, Gauntlet 2, Gauntlet: The Third Encounter, Gauntlet 3, Gauntlet 4, Gauntlet Legends, Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, Gauntlet: Slayer Edition as well as a bonus look at the Gauntlet origin story in Dandy and Dark Chambers.

Welcome to the Gauntlet retrospective part 6 of 10.

Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. It’s part 6 of this Gauntlet Mini series. Welcome to the Gauntlet! So far we’ve traversed the classic era of Gauntlet games having examined the initial releases in the 2D world of dungeons, dragons, adventure and Mr Death. We left the last episode on a rather sombre note. The demise of Atari and the end of an era in the awesome swan song that was Gauntlet 4. Now, it’s a fact of gaming that nostalgia sells. Mario, Sonic and Zelda are all still household names and all have either reinvented themselves over the years or have been rebooted in various guises. Gauntlet was also set for this treatment back in 1998. However, the idea that gamers would sit around playing 2D games was waning and 3D was this flavour of the era. As such Gauntlet was reborn as Gauntlet Legends.

The Gauntlet label still held some equity with gamers so was prime for a revival. Beating Gauntlet 4 in a head-to-head though would prove impossible. The formula had already been perfected. However, the PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast would all receive a conversion of the arcade version of Gauntlet Legends. The new polygon based experience from Atari games and Midway. I’m looking at the Sony PlayStation version here but it is worth noting that the N64 and Dreamcast editions do have a few various differences in presentation. I have the budget release here as it can be found very readily in the bargain buckets of the retro gaming world. The physical presentation is acceptable but nothing to shout about.
The story is setup by letting us know that a mage called Garm has summoned a demon called Skorne. The players must defeat the bosses of the underworld to finally take on the challenge of defeating him. Good to see are the inclusion of the Warrior, Wizard, Archer and Valkyrie. Their appearance has had a bit of an update but nothing too extreme. You’ll start off in the tower and work your way through several levels via the portals unlocked each time you complete an area. So, it’s at this point I think most of us are wondering how the game translates from 2D to 3D. Well, not as bad as you might think in some areas but also not a success all round if you’re a bit like me and have a deep attachment to the classic era games. To get the elephant in the room out of the way let’s talk about the graphics. Personally I find them quite out of step with the series as a whole. We’re no longer in a dank dungeon which is not an issue in itself but somehow the settings seem quite bland. In top down outings of the series by their nature you get to see the world around you. With Legends you very much just see a portion of the map and even then you’ll be mainly following a fixed path with some doubling back to collect missed items. Instinctively this makes Legends feel unlike a traditional Gauntlet game. Ask yourself if you removed the Gauntlet title could this not have been just any other generic button masher?

It’s not all doom and gloom though. The spawners are in here, the mobs of enemy, keys, potions, food and even Mr Death himself makes an appearance so it’s not as if Midway abandoned the legacy of Gauntlet here. A lot of the elements that make a great Gauntlet game are present. As a fan of the classic era I can’t help but have that nagging feeling that something went a bit wrong here though. The game introduces new elements such as gaining experience points to level up your character which I think actually works quite well. If you enjoy the grinding aspects to these games then you will get on well with this one. To this day I’m still quite conflicted about this game. On one hand I want to hate it because it really doesn’t deserve the Gauntlet badge. On the other hand it is the first 3D outing so it’s perhaps too much to ask to be universally loved by the fans. At its heart Gauntlet Legends is a pure button masher, you’ll need little intellect to get through the game and personally I found that the fun dried up reasonably quickly save for a few breakout moments with the bosses. Interestingly I’m sure that gamers discovering the 2D Gauntlet games may have the same criticism of the original. After all that was also repetitive button bashing. Somehow it just felt more epic though. I’ll leave you as the gamer to decide which style of presentation you prefer.

On a positive note Gauntlet Legends has new environments, the sound is decent and the game wasn’t a disaster by any means. It also has plenty of fans so definitely worth investigating if you enjoy this type of game style. It certainly kept the Gauntlet name alive and for that we can be thankful. For my tastes the game graphically looks a bit of a mess in places and you can certainly find better games on the original PlayStation hardware. I’m going to give this game a bit of a free pass though, it is average at best but still worth a look for the curious retro gamer. It’s inexpensive and does have some fun factor too it, just don’t expect too much in the way of long-lasting game play.

What Gauntlet Legends did though was open the door for a sequel. The Legend was about to become a Legacy, a Dark Legacy. Join me in the next episode to see how the PlayStation 2 looked to rework the formula once more to continue our journey through the Gauntlet series.

The quest continues…

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