There’s a narrow alley tucked into a corner of the industrial castle town, hidden behind the bustling Arena Square. Armorsmiths and swordcrafts crowd the path, talking shop and hawking wares to passersby in a gaunt corridor of tiny workrooms. In the alley’s only empty corner, a lean brute presses an elderly shopkeep against the grimy concrete and slyly demands a cut of profit.
It’s a place foul with sweat and industry. It swelters with forge and struggle. A stroll from end to end offers a glimpse of the desperation that is life for these lower class tradesman. They fight for survival, crammed into a corner of the last thriving city on the last prospering island in a rotting world.
The locals call this slum strip Artisan’s Way. It has an effortless narrative density that's so refreshing to see in a JRPG. The Last Story could have been about this place. It’s not. The Last Story is about a vampiric meteor that shoots giant lasers.
It has been a long time since we covered a classic game here at the First Hour. Not since Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts in March 2010 have we played the first hour of a game more than a decade old (not counting remakes, such as Dragon Quest IV). This used to be a pretty common occurrence, but that was back when it was just me writing and I didn’t have access to any of the newer systems.
Illusion of Gaia has been sitting on my game queue for quite a long time now, I had heard of the game during its initial release but never played it, and then my roommates in college loved it but I still didn’t give it a chance. I decided it was finally time to sit down with this action RPG Enix release on the Super Nintendo.
Released in 1994, Illusion of Gaia seems a bit like Enix’s response to Squaresoft’s Secret of Mana, with both having similar action-based gameplays with some stats playing in behind the scenes. Illusion of Gaia was actually developed by Quintet, who also created ActRaiser, Robotrek, and Soul Blazer. Hearing those names brings up a lot of nostalgia, so let’s get to the game’s first hour before we’re overwhelmed.