The characters are still broken down by color and "profession." You get your wizard, warrior, valkyrie and archer in one of four "ethnic" flavors that correspond to the different color schemes of red, green, yellow, blue. You can upgrade each of them into their animal counterparts like minotaurs and tigers once you build up enough experience and skill. For information on each character's Turbo Attack you can click here to check out our feature story on that subject.
The most important skill, as it was in Gauntlet and Gauntlet II back in the '80s, is attacking and clearing out areas of bad guys and generators without taking any damage. There's no depleting energy timer to keep you on edge like there was back in the day, but there are a wide variety of enemies that attack you in seemingly endless waves. These waves of enemies work together to set you up and hit you high and low at the same time so that there is some skill required to get through levels nice and healthy. Early on you'll come across enemies that will shoot arrows at you or lob cartoon style black bombs at you from the other side of a wall while their cohorts run up and engage you so that you can't move. You'll have to learn to attack the hand-to-hand fighting enemies quickly and move around so that you can keep them off of you and avoid the air attacks at the same time.
Some gamers may not feel the same sense of urgency in trying to survive since it is a console game and you don't have to spend any quarters should you get killed. While there isn't this natural incentive to play efficiently, you'll still want to do your best since starting a level over after you've died is a pain in the butt and going up against the Dragon bosses requires a ton of health later on. The cool shopping feature allows you to buy everything from increased player attributes to super shots to health, but you have to stay alive long enough in each level to collect enough money or other valuable power-ups to trade in for these items. So it just may work out for you.
The game is non-linear in spirit but you will have to accomplish certain feats to unlock other levels. Getting to the boss levels is a bittersweet experience since it's so hard to get there and you'll most likely get killed when you do.
The single player missions in Gauntlet can be a bit of a numbing experience especially early on or if you're already familiar with the game. Opening up treasure chests to find scrolls with clues written on them can cause you to roll your eyes often since that's 2 seconds of your life that you'll never get back. The A.I. does take it easy on you when you're by yourself with fewer enemies and manageable placement of generators. Most games rely on a strong single player experiences, but Gauntlet is literally a game that can only be enjoyed when you play it with companions.
The N64 doesn't have many fun cooperative games so Legends may have a slight advantage as a change-of-pace game. The fact that you're on the same screen for once doesn't hurt either. If you can appreciate getting together with friends and rolling out to correct some great cosmic wrongs, then Legends should touch you in a special way. Getting a nice mixture of wizards, warriors, vals and archers to work together as one cohesive unit can make you feel all warm and tingly inside if you've just completed a particularly complicated level or killed a dragon. This is the only way to get the full enjoyment out of Legends.
Working together should be one of the more enjoyable parts of the game. It may take a little reconditioning since most of us are use to attacking each other in various deathmatches, sports or fighting games, but it can be done. In fact if there was a way to get eight or 12 players into one cooperative game that would be one hell of a co-op experience. As it is though, using strategy is the way to go in the four player match. Sending your warrior forward to hold the line and battle through the grunts with a valkyrie at his side while archer and wizard attack from a distance to keep the baddies off their backs takes a certain coordination and respect for the enemy. Plus it's the best way to get through a tough level with enough health to fight the dragons.
The dragons are as tough to defeat and deal with in Legends as they were 15 years ago. You'll have to take your time and stay at it for awhile and hope you have enough health to weather the storm of fire, rocks and other crap that's being hurled at you. There's not strategy for killing these bosses beyond quick thumb action and nerves of steel.
The bottom line is Gauntlet Legend's gameplay will be very familiar to you with a few console only twists thrown in but your opinion on it won't be too different than your opinion of the original Gauntlet arcade game or last year's updated standup machine.
The characters themselves look a lot different than the ones in the arcade game. Their animations are more varied and so they've been made to look a little more bland than, say, the zombie farmer enemies. Sometimes there's a little clipping with the projectiles if you see them from the wrong angle. The warrior's spinning battle axe becomes a glowing sliver when you're looking from directly in front of or behind the shot. This is in line with an overall lower level of detail on the N64 version when compared to the game that was in arcades.
The camera moves quickly and intuitively enough to be used to your advantage or disadvantage just like you're used to in a Gauntlet game. You can trap members of your party behind walls with a Death right next to them, or move so that the camera swings around and shows you that door trap you've been trying to find for the last half hour.
The framerate is good until you get a situation with all four players on the screen doing complicated things against hordes of enemies. Not that you can avoid these situations but you'll notice some chop when there's a lot happening on the screen.
Again there's not much in the way of sound that wasn't in the arcade game. The background music is all organ-ey and medieval flavored but we wouldn't recommend getting a tape of it. It's part of the Gauntlet experience but it can get a little irritating after 12 hours. Give us the endless loop of the classical Bach tune from the 1980's Gauntlet game.