New Impressions: Rare has had plenty of time to craft this fantasy platformer that will launch with the Xbox 360, and if recent media and information are any indication then there will be at least one strong reason to pick up MS's new console at launch.
The journey has been seemingly endless for Kameo: Elements of Power
, but come this November it might finally see the light of day. Originally planned as a game for the Nintendo 64, Kameo moved it's way onto the Gamecube and many thought the game would finally arrive. However, a hiatus and more changes to the gameplay caused a delay for that version of the game and it was once again moved to another platform, this time onto Microsoft's Xbox. However, further delays pushed the game back, and it was finally decided to release the game on the upcoming Xbox 360. It's safe to assume that the game will
release this time around, but up until recently, gamers hadn't really had a lot to get behind for the game's release ? this is not the case anymore. With a recent slew of information and media, particularly from the Tokyo Game Show, Kameo has easily moved up from a game that had wavering potential to one that now possesses the chops to really make an impact for the Xbox 360 right off the bat.
While some of the visual style and game mechanics have changed through the development cycle of Kameo, much has remained the same. You will play as the titular character, a spunky elf-girl who possesses the ability to shapeshift into various creatures that are based on elements (fire, ice, etc.). Kameo must defend all of the realms in the Enchanted Kingdom from an onslaught of trolls, a group that is lead by the evil (and very large) Thorn. A good portion of the game will be based on exploration, conversation, and general platforming, but this will be supplemented by combat sequences, including boss fights. Each of the various regions in the Enchanted Kingdom will be accessible by Kameo, but certain puzzles and obstacles will only be conquered with the help of the creatures that Kameo becomes. The trick is that these creatures must be rescued from the areas of the game world, and then their powers must be upgraded and utilized. Saying must
in regards to upgrading these powers is bit of a misnomer, as you can apparently play through the entire game without fleshing out of all of the creatures' powers, but you will need a lot of their basic abilities for completing many tasks, and the advanced skills make combat much more dynamic and enjoyable.
The recent media and information divulged about Kameo at TGS 2005 explained a lot with respect to whom the ?shapeshiftable? characters are and how they can be used (in some cases, in conjunction with one another). There are five elements represented in the game: ice, fire, water, earth, and plant. The last one may seem a bit odd, but it does make sense in relation to the game, especially since all of these ?elemental? characters need to move around and do things in a very organic world. Each elemental has two characters to represent it, and each of those characters offer various abilities based on that particular element. For the element of ice, there is Chilla, a Yeti with powerful projectile attacks, and 40 Below, who skates around leaving ice trails and has some good attacks that freeze opponents. Fire is represented by Ash, a small fire-breathing dragon, and Thermite, a tiny fire ant that carries a large molten egg on his back ? this guy can really devastate with egg bombs and a sucking ability that vacuums trolls into the egg and then spits them out. Water comes to life in the form of Deep Blue, a large octopus-like creature that can shoot water hoses (eventually gets upgraded to oil-slick ink) and attack from beneath the water, and Flex, who has the ability to walk on water and dispatch of enemies with his flexible water limbs. The rocky ?earth? element is brought to life by Major Ruin, a spiky armadillo that can roll into a Metroid-style ball in order to create havoc, and Rubble, who uses the rocks in his body to shotgun enemies; this leaves him with only a tiny head that moves very slowly until the rocks return to his body ? cool effect. Finally, the ?plant? element comes from the Rocky Balboa wannabe, Pummelweed, who bashes the trolls with his spiky fists, and Snare, who is a serpentine Venus flytrap that devours trolls whole.
The list of characters does indeed look impressive and extremely powered up, but that's because it truly is. Kameo is meant to power up as the game goes along, and the discovering and upgrading of these creatures will apparently serve towards this building sensation of power. The TGS media really showed how well the characters do work when used in certain situations, especially when used in quick succession ? a sort of tag-team effect. For instance, if you have a large area to cover, you might want to use Major Ruin or Thermite, as they can both roll into a ball and cruise around the landscape at high speed. Of course, you may have to engage in fast-paced combat so Pummelweed or Rubble might do the trick ? both of these characters have fast attacks that can affect multiple enemies. The intriguing thing about Kameo is that all characters seem to be useful and interesting to use; none of them will be able to do everything, but they will be able to handle themselves in most situations quite well. In this way, you'll be able to pick a couple of favorites and focus in on them or just use everybody if you like. The aforementioned tag-team moves can be quite useful for certain situations. Say you're facing off against multiple trolls, well, you could just bash on them with Chilla, but a more stylish way might be to spray Deep Blue's oil all over the ground and then get Ash to light in on fire? well, you know the result of that.
The tag-team fun doesn't stop there, as boss fights will almost always need cooperation and abilities from various creatures in order to win. In one instance shown at TGS, a giant Knight-ogre was bested by having Snare throw various explosive bugs, found in the environment, at him, and then having Chilla use his icicle projectiles to detonate the bugs on the ogre's body. A large jellyfish-like water creature required the use of both Major Ruin and Deep Blue in order to knock him underwater and then attack him when he was weak.
It really is great how the combat and elemental dynamic is coming along. The way in which the trolls are affected by the various attacks seems very unique and fun for each creature, and this will add some real replay value and variety to the title. The fact that the enemies actually get burnt, frozen, cut, bashed, mashed, tripped, and generally abused by all of the different attacks really shows that attention was paid to make each character truly ?fit? into the game.
Of course, all of this elemental action isn't to say that Kameo herself doesn't get some of the love. A lot of the talking and exploration in the game will be done with her, and she even has access to a horse in order for her to be transported around the game world, especially through the troll-infested Badlands. Definitely one of the most impressive sequences seen recently, the Badlands showcases thousands of trolls, ogres, catapults and other machines of war battling it out in open field. The sight of 4000 trolls duking it out with another 1000 elves, all the while having Kameo run through in her horse to cause some carnage is truly epic. Rare has also hinted that there may be some unlockable based around the Badlands so one can assume some sort of battle arena mode may be possible in order to fight off scores of trolls.
The game has looked visually impressive ever since it migrated to the Xbox 360, but recent media has shown vast improvement in the lighting, effects, and textures within the Enchanted Kingdom and on those who inhabit it. Obviously, the sheer scope of characters (as in the Badlands) is something to behold, but the detail present on the trolls, Kameo, her elemental creatures, and the bosses is quite startling and evocative. We're getting to a stage where the detail looks like something of a cousin to visuals found in 3D-animated movies like Toy Story or Monsters, Inc. This isn't to say that everything looks that smooth and ?realistic,? but the detail in Kameo is apparent on the first look. There are quality visuals everywhere in the game, whether you're looking at the ?heat haze? effect from fire or the sun, bump mapping to make rocks and hills look eerily real, or true-to-life water physics to make each ripple and wave look and feel real when Kameo is swimming. Truly, the environment and characters are shaping up to look suitably ?next-gen? and one can't help but hearken back to quality titles like The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time
or Super Mario 64
in terms of this game's epic scope and visual style.
Sound also looks to match the impressive visuals with Rare's first-ever fully recorded dialogue (no more odd beeps and burps ala Banjo-Kazooie
) for every character in the game. Additionally, the music, from what has been shown, seems to appropriately accompany dramatic battles and then move into more subtle tones when following the more light-hearted sections involving exploration with the plucky heroine. As for sound effects, they seem spot-on so far, and it seems safe to expect a high level of quality given Rare's past successes in this department.
Kameo: Elements of Power
is truly shaping up to be a strong contender for consumer's money when the Xbox 360 arrives in late November. Rare has promised that that the game will be 20-30 hours long, plus additional time can be factored in for side quests and the like. Additionally, 2-player splitscreen co-op has been confirmed for the entire game (both players would play as Kameo), but Xbox Live functionality in this area ? or others ? has yet to be announced. Look for more on this promising game at the X05 event in early October.