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April 30, 2006
The Sword of Etheria - PS2 Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
158KBDolby PLIIYesYesNoneNo

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Yep, hack and slash it is.
While Sword of Etheria may have appeared to come out of nowhere, the game has previously been on Atari's release schedules for some time as Oz. No, the game is not based on the brilliant TV show set in a prison - if you haven't checked that out we suggest you do - but rather an entirely different fantasy world.

Our hero is a young boy named Fiel, raised by his sister Dorothy, having lost his parents at an early age. Although they are human, Fiel and Dorothy can tap into their world's magical power, Etheria. They also own a special cat named Toto, able to transform itself into a sword. Fiel and Dorothy share their ability with spiritual creatures call Katina, employed by the Gods to tyranise mankind. However, Fiel has been able to liberate two of them from their divine shackles, bringing them under his own command. They now fight together to rescue their world from the God's control, and reclaim the life-living power of Etheria.

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Performing combos is the key.
The games story is told through a series of dialogue windows with text overlays. Unfortunately the text is so overblown and long winded that you'll soon be heading for the start button to skip it. I mean yar, it's nice to have a story, but if I want to read a book I'll do that - and not play a video game. At least games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest have something interesting to say, unlike this game. What is annoying is that if you skip a conversation you'll occasionally have to answer a question - but without the previous bit of dialogue you have to 'guess' the best response to a question which you won't know.

Enough of the story though, let's look at the game. Essentially The Sword of Etheria is a third person hack and slash title in which up to three characters (one controlled by you, the other two by the CPU) fight enemies side by side, but can help each other out by combining their talents to create team based moves. While the smaller enemies can be defeated with basic hack and slash attacks by learning combos, being able to toss enemies into the air and skilling up you will certainly be able to progress further into the game. Bosses occasionally make an appearance and really do liven up the battles. Some will take a bit of a beating and while they aren't the scariest we've seen in a video game they at least break up the steady flow of sword fodder through the levels. As you progress through the game you can use collected points to craft new items or provide the characters with new skills. One neat twist is that rather then dying when you run out of energy you can hit buttons quickly to restore some energy, and thereby continue the game.

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Effects are pretty nice.
This game isn't perfect, far from it in fact. My main gripe is simply that it becomes too repetitive too soon. Sure, you can upgrade your characters but essentially you don't change the gameplay style, and it remains very much a fact of hitting the buttons at the right times to block or attack and so on. Also, for a team based game I was also very disappointed in the lack of multi-player. It would have been perfect to have either split screen, single screen or certainly online multi-player but it was not an option taken up by the developers at Konami.

Graphically The Sword of Etheria is a mixed bag. Some of the cut scenes and presentation is quite superb with some wonderful anime/manga styled character design, and also cut scenes. The game does also include some pretty glorious effects in places. Unfortunately some of the in-game graphics are pretty average with mediocre texturing, and also some low polygon enemies.

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Surrounded by enemies.
I must say that the music in this game is quite impressive - very impressive in places in fact. Not only does it have some wonderful melodies, but also sets the tone for battles perfectly. Less impressive is the sound effects which, while still adequate are merely that, adequate. There's nothing here that really leaps out and grabs your attention.

Perhaps the biggest indication that this game isn't as good as it could, or should, be is that despite the game being released in Japan in June last year, we believe the Sony America declined to allow Konami to release The Sword of Etheria in that territory. Why Konami decided to still bring it out in Europe I don't know but The Sword of Etheria certainly isn't a game that will shift in big numbers. There's much better available then this very average title and it's only one for hardcore hack and slash fans.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version).
GRAPHICSVaries from quite pretty, to quite ugly. Overall we expect more.
SOUNDThe music is surprisingly atmospheric and effects fairly solid.
GAMEPLAYRather bland hack and slash, really needed some multi-player modes.
VALUEThere's a lengthy game here, but certainly not worth $AU99...
OVERALLThe Sword of Etheria is a disappointing title that adds little to the hack and slash genre, has mixed production values, and is really only one for manga/anime fans who are bored with their current game collection. Average at best.

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