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Developer:
Amaze
Publisher: Vivendi
Platform: GBA
Release Date: November 14, 2006

by Jason Ferguson




Celebrating the release of the movie, you can find a version of Eragon on pretty much every platform. The Game Boy version doesnít seem to be getting a lot of attention, which is very unfortunate because itís probably the best out of all of the versions.


It often seems to me that when a game is released on multiple platforms, itís the handheld ones that stink. They generally seem like quick ports made to satisfy little kids and their GBAs. Thatís why I was so surprised when Eragon on the GBA proved to be a deep and interesting experience. Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that movie-based games almost always suck. Wow, this game breaks all the stereotypes!


The game follows the adventures of a young boy named Eragon. While hunting in the woods, Eragon comes across a strange blue stone. Not knowing what this stone is, Eragon takes it back to his home in hopes of selling it for some food. Needless to say, Eragon is startled when the stone hatches and reveals a young Dragon inside! The Dragon, Saphira, and Eragon bond, but itís soon discovered that the evil Emperor and his henchmen are on the lookout for the Dragon egg. After following clues that lead them to Eragon, the Emperorís cronies kill Eragonís uncle, Garrow, and disappear. Along with the wise and mysterious Brom, Eragon and Saphira begin a quest to avenge Garrow.


If youíve read the book, then youíre already pretty familiar with the story, and you already know far more than youíll get out of the game. The story in the game seems to move relatively quickly, so things arenít always going to make sense, and some things arenít given as much attention as they deserved. Still, it gives some insight into a great story without totally ruining it for anyone that still wants to read the book or is anticipating the release of the film. The game's story manages to be compelling, so as long as you donít expect it to compete with the novel, you'll be pleased.


Throughout your journey youíll travel across the kingdom, exploring new cities and battling many enemies during your ventures on the world map. When in a dungeon or city, you can see your enemies coming at you on the screen, so should you wish to avoid combat, all you have to do is escape from the enemy. You canít do that during battles on the world map, but you can still try and flee once battle starts.


Combat is largely standard for RPGs: You have a part of three characters, and fight it out in turn-based fashion. However, Eragon introduces several things that spice things up! You attack by pressing the A and B buttons. Different combinations of these buttons will result in you performing various combos that have special effects, like dealing extra damage or stunning your opponent. As you progress, youíll be able to chain a larger number of attacks together, and unlock even more powerful combos. This helps to keep battles from being boring because it adds more interactivity to it. Thereís also an added level of strategy because youíll have to decide which combo to use in each situation.


Eragon also features defensive moves during combat. When attacked, you can block or attempt to dodge. These moves aren't always successful, and even when they are they donít always totally nullify the damage you take, but they can help out a lot when youíre facing a tough foe. This helps to keep the gamer more involved in the game, making combat less repetitive and boring than many turn-based games.


Aside from your normal weapons, like swords and bows, you have a variety of magic abilities at your disposal. These spells have a range of effects, from healing allies to damaging enemies. However, casting Magic drains some of your HP. If you time it correctly, your spells will drain less HP, but theyíll also be less powerful. Eventually youíll grow strong enough that your spells wonít harm you as much, but until then magic is somewhat worthless in this game, particularly when it comes to healing.


Fortunately, you should have plenty of items for healing at your disposal. Throughout the game you will collect ingredients that you can use to create potions, to heal, resurrect party members, or cast status effects. These ingredients grow back, so you shouldnít have any shortage of healing items to keep your party alive. The only catch is that you have to have a high herbal skill in order to gather some of the gameís ingredients and create powerful potions, so having a balanced party is important.


Your party can also enhance their weapons at a forge. By taking your weapons to a forge, you can power them up with oils and sharpening stones that youíve collected. These stones and oils can increase the strength of your equipment, such as the defense, damage, or speed.


Each character has a variety of skills, such as herbal, hunting and endurance. When you level up, you gain points that you can distribute among these skills to increase their power. Or you can choose a focus that will automatically distribute these points to whichever skill you are focused on, so you donít have to hassle with distributing the points. This allows you to highly customize the abilities of each of your characters.


Eragon offers many side quests, from seeking out missing children to taking care of local thugs, along with plenty of ruins on the world map to explore. These quests can get you some really great weapons, and the bad guys you fight along the way can help you level up pretty quickly. The game is actually fairly lengthy, so expect to get your money's worth out of it. Considering this is a handheld title, itís great that you can save at any time, so you wonít have to worry about quitting in the middle of your journey. Considering the amount of quests and the gameís length, a quest menu of some sort would have been really helpful. I was constantly forgetting what I was supposed to do next!


I canít say a lot of great things about the graphics, but they do the job they need to do. The game is simple looking, but definitely not ugly. This is a GBA title after all, so expect GBA-quality graphics. The sound is at a higher level than the graphics, but itís still not going to stand out. There is actually some decent music in the game, which was a delightful surprise. Despite the shortcomings the GBA brings along with a game's presentation, I canít help but feel the GBA is ideal for RPGs. While the graphics arenít advanced, RPG fans are used to putting up with sprites. And the few buttons on the GBA work perfectly for a turn-based RPG that only requires a few buttons. The controls are really straightforward, and youíll catch on in a matter of minutes! Thatís not to say the game lacks depth.


Eragon probably isnít going to blow you away, but youíre more than likely going to have fun playing it. From the creation of potions to the combo attacks, Eragon offers a surprising amount of depth that will please any RPG fan. Itís also a great way for fans of the novel to get a closer look into the fantasy world of Eragon, and the perfect opportunity for those who havenít yet been introduced to get a first peek.


Final Grade: 80%




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