Bantross promised us something different for this disc, and as soon as I picked up Eldorado Gate Vol.3‘s case it was obvious we really were going to get it. The cover shows Kanan front and centre – the girl whose life (as well as her sight, hearing, and voice) was ruined by another’s desire to obtain the power held within a set of cursed masks. Maybe this poor young woman’s going to find some relief this time around? We can only hope.
The back of the package only lists two chapters instead of the three present on the last two discs: Maybe they’ll be the same short length as the previous chapters? Maybe they’ll spend that absent third story’s extra time on the other two, expanding on their tales without making the overall experience any longer (or more expensive to create)? Either way is fine by me, as both approaches indicate Capcom are prepared to press onto disc only as much of anything as is necessary, rather than making things up to hit a quota.
Inside the manual it’s all pretty much business as usual, and once again includes a note letting everyone know this disc can be played as a pair of capsule stories if you like (the thorough reference section covering everything from in-game gods to major plot points returns from Volume 2 in updated form). In spite of the commitment Capcom are ideally asking of anyone brave enough to dive into Eldorado Gate’s world, a genuine attempt has been made to make all volumes released so far work as standalone adventures.
The seventh scenario does indeed focus on cover star Kanan, and opens with her being magically whisked away from the Land of Destiny after hearing a familiar ominous voice reach out to her in her dark internal world. This naturally causes everyone else to panic and rush to find her, kicking off a quest that sees the remaining four playable characters soon split into two sequentially-controlled groups as they try to find a way to drain the water in the underground cave separating them from their cursed friend. In spite of the seriousness of the situation it’s a fun romp with the same “Let’s get straight to the fun parts” attitude as the previous volumes, our parties encountering temporary giant snake friends, truffle-snuffling pigs, and battling giant bubblegum-pink crabs for a giant pearl (which Radia steals for herself along the way, with some amusing consequences later).
I especially enjoyed Kanan’s reactions to the voices dripping poison in her ears in this scenario. Her friends – including two people she doesn’t actually get to meet for the first time until the end of the chapter – may be rushing to her aid but when push comes to shove Kanan fixes Kanan, resoundingly rejecting these mysterious dark gods without any extensive soul-searching or melodrama. Far from being an abridged fix for a literal soul-destroying problem, this straightforward solution is what more trouble RPG characters need. It’s been more than obvious to everyone, players and characters both, that these masks are bad news and if Kanan didn’t also see that digging in deeper would be a terrible idea after one and a bit discs spent in her magically sealed shell then she wouldn’t be some sad broken hero in need of a personal revelation but an idiot choosing to perpetuate her own misery. Best of all the end of her scenario is a wholly positive one (once the giant bio-mechanical octopus – yes, really – is out the way) as she secretly peeks through the door of her family home and sees they’re all safe. Content with this knowledge, she then chooses to stay with her newfound friends, much to their delight.
The second (and this time around, final) scenario on the disc concerns newcomer Pamela. Pamela has lost her memory – or more accurately, sealed them away inside a box which was entrusted to her faithful dog Thomas during a deadly ninja-based pursuit. Everyone’s job is to find this dog – and for the first time ever we get to make our own party. Radia leads, but the remaining slots are an entirely free choice. It’s at this point we get to see how well balanced the characters we’ve met so far are: Gomez’s monstrous strength is hampered by his low speed and minimal magical talent, Elishin’s a very fast character capable of casting decent-ish spells, and so on. There’s a good reason to take anyone you like, and because everyone draws from the same pool of magic stones to cast spells there’s never any moment where you think “Oh but if I take them I won’t have a healer” or “But what if I need to cast ice magic later on?“.
You may be wondering at this point how well a hypothetical new starter without seven stories worth of gear and zenny to draw upon might do in this situation. Well, as someone who rushed off the instant I’d made my team and forgot to pull even a single coin out of storage, let me tell you: You’ll be fine. Even with literally no money to my name and a team carrying almost exactly the wrong elementally-aligned armour and weapons for the task ahead (and all bought a disc ago anyway), I still cleared the entire first half of the scenario without any great issue. It wasn’t as easy as it could’ve been, but it never felt unmanageable either. I wouldn’t recommend going into the second half unprepared, but then again everyone – including those who have never played Eldorado Gate before – will have walked through several chest-laden dungeons and also have easy access to at least three different shops by then, so there’s no reason to go anywhere in the wrong gear or without a stash of magic stones unless you choose to.
Pamela’s story did take a little longer to get through than any of the others so far, but not by a large margin and only because there was more going on in it: Her adventure has us visit a secret lab, recover stolen memories for friends and foes alike, go on a ride in a submarine, fight our way up a tower full of martial art masters, recruit temporary canine party members, pose our way into secret hideouts, and then ends with a final boss fight against a terrifying doll. It was a wild ride that again ended on an uplifting note, Pamela moving on from the drama that led her to this point with the rest of the playable gang by her side.
This volume did seem to move beyond the intro>hardship>recruit (or not) structure used (to good effect) in the first two discs, and that gave us the chance to experience a more rounded and relaxed version of the characters we’ve come to know away from their more immediate personal concerns. The cast were more vocal with other people and each other, and the world was fleshed out with meaningful subquests that had a direct (and optional) impact on future events (such as agreeing to help out an NPC who then returned the favour by giving the party the tools to take an alternative route through a dangerous area), as well as references to future and past characters (Robo-Bud makes a brief appearance at one point before zooming off again). The magic system is no deeper than it was before bar some spell-inclined characters able to cast higher-tier sorcery (the animation is as impeccable as ever) and really, that’s what I want to see as far as the mechanics go – the elemental system and the magic stone combo idea are already working well, so leaving them alone is the only sensible choice. Another happily untouched feature is Yoshitaka Amano’s artwork, which seems to only get better as Eldorado Gate goes on. Some of the art – even just for common enemies – is so good I’d honestly love to have it hanging on my wall, and much of what’s shown in these two chapters is completely new to boot.
Three discs down and ten scenarios to go, Eldorado Gate is still something I look forward to. Apparently we’ve got a rather sassy fairy coming up next…
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