Eldorado Gate Vol. 7, the final disc in Capcom’s ambitious Dreamcast RPG saga, opens not with the usual fourth wall breaking intro from party leader/player host Bantross but a quick recap of the previous disc’s finalé, Razin’s tablet shattered into four pieces and scattered who knows where.
With just two scenarios to go I was a bit worried this was going to be where the story finally stumbled, the plot screeching to a halt for the sake of a dull fetch quest. But the first scenario – titled “Fragment of Truth” – ends after finding just one piece of the broken whole, and although you do then go on to search for and find the remaining three in the final chapter it’s all very much part of an ongoing narrative: This is an emergency that needs fixing now, something the forces of the all-powerful god Dios are reacting to and actively trying to prevent you from finding (oh and if you were wondering: Yes, the does manual still insist you can play this volume all by itself using the built-in encyclopedia as a guide – it’s not wrong, but I wouldn’t recommend starting at the end).
It’s an exciting time filled with revelation: After collecting the first fragment we learn Dios tried twelve times to create humans, and failed every time. His mistakes took the form of various animals and mythological creatures exactly matching those found on the ambiguously “demonic” emblems each of our heroes discovered and reawakened as though they were part of their own souls throughout the story.
Just as this new information seems to be getting through to the nearby townsfolk – the tales imparted by these fragments always manifest in a dramatically divine fashion rather than as mere words on stone – this fundamental truth naturally resonating with them in a way simple stories don’t, Bals, perhaps best described as Dios’ angel of death, appears in a ring of holy light to remind these simple commoners to not listen to the “whispers of demons” and the gang end up driven out of town as servants of the enemy. While the twist isn’t exactly a surprising one it’s an unexpected turn of events in an RPG that hasn’t dedicated its entire length to a Matsuno-style critique of religious oppression, and I felt a quiet sense of despair when it became clear that not even the plain truth straight from the source, not even after all this time and so much hardship, was going to be enough to break Dios’ hold over the populace.
The scenario ends shortly afterwards, Bantross remarking to himself that with the first fragment now in their hands everything’s going to plan…
The final chapter is a direct continuation of the previous one, beginning with everyone back in the Land of Destiny and ruminating on the knowledge that they’re the discarded “failures” of a liar-god. It’s at this point Bantross returns, having learned the location the remaining fragments – unfortunately they’ve landed in the place Dios’ most fervent followers call home, so getting them back’s not going to be easy. The mini-scenarios that follow still manage to introduce new, named, non-combat NPCs and even fresh gameplay elements – there’s a short stealth segment at one point that’s actually fun to play even though the entire series has never done anything like that before – so there’s never any sense the game’s spinning its wheels, desperate to invent a reason why you can’t just get to the ending right now.
Every successful fragment retrieval comes at the highest price, as Bals has a nasty habit of summoning a different terrible being for each (pre-set) team to fight and every single one of these battles has fatal consequences for the characters we’ve spent disc after disc getting to know, brave friends using the last of their strength to send their recovered fragments safely to Bantross. Of course once the final four have been killed off (including everyone’s favourite “Hammer first, think never” muscle-mountain Gomez) the inevitable magical resurrection sequence kicks in. This would normally draw criticism from me for casually undoing what should have been a meaningful sacrifice, a coward’s way out of the corner someone had written themselves into. However Eldorado Gate’s consistently brisk pace gave the scene a different tone: Here the reveal plays out as simply the next page in the story rather than a hollow “Ah, but maybe they really are dead! Don’t you feel sad?Please feel sad, because we’re going to drag this out for a bit to try and make you feel sad.” time-wasting tease, events happily tumbling from one dramatic turn to the next with no time spent dwelling on whatever happened five minutes ago. Everyone was dead and then they weren’t – next!
We learn from these final fragments that humans were only created when Razin and Dios worked together. The “deal” as Razin believed it to be at the time was that the pair of them – these twin brothers – would oversee humanity as equals seeing as they had both shared an equal hand in their creation, but Dios had other plans. He sealed his sibling away for eternity, reframed the initial twelve “failures” as demons, and claimed he was the one true god – an absolute ruler with no equal, solely responsible for all that was good in the world.
These tidbits cast everything you’re doing in an interesting new light: Dios’ original creations are the ones working to free Razin, and Dios cares so much for this lie he’s been weaving over millennia he’s willing to kill them – and anyone else – to keep it safe. Faith and dominance matter more to him than truth, more than upholding a fair and reasonable request.
Another brilliant detail reveals itself only once we reach the final area of the game: Eldorado Gate’s logo, the one that’s been staring us in the face for as long as we’ve been playing, is in fact the seal Dios placed over Razin. Clever touches like that bring everything together nicely, helping to reinforce the idea – one so very important in multi-part adventures like this – that this hasn’t been made up as they go along but planned with care from the very beginning.
And Bantross, the mysterious man who clearly knows too much but never explains enough? We learn to see him differently as well. Bals claims he was once a trusted servant of Dios who rebelled against his divine master long ago. In Bals’ eyes this makes him a filthy traitor and utterly untrustworthy rather than someone who eventually learned the truth and chose, unwavering since the dawn of civilisation, to find a way to do the right thing. Bantross freely clarifies what happened back then to Gomez and admits what Bals said was true – to a certain extent. Bantross didn’t betray Dios because he was promised power or glory; in fact he was once an assassin of Dios’, coldly killing all who opposed him – until the god sent Bantross to kill Razin himself. The plan failed as it was always going to, although this would be the crucial moment that gave Dios the opportunity to seal Razin away. In his final act Razin granted Bantross – the being who had just tried to kill him – the ability to live for thousands of years, asking him to see the truth with his own eyes and revive the twelve.
Bantross recounts this story as he and the wyvern are rushing to aid the cast, the pair of them shattering Dios’ malevolent magical barrier with sheer brute force – and with predictably deadly outcomes for rider and ridden alike. Rather sweetly Bantross slips in a “I kept my promise” amongst all the bravado of his pre-death speech; you can’t help but wonder how heavily this knowledge has been weighing on his mind all this time.
His actions lead directly to the final too-long multipart battle against Dios (it wasn’t as difficult as the awful slip-ups in the previous volume, but there definitely came a point where I just needed it to be over) and during the epilogue Bantross is revived – of course he would be, you’ve just freed a literal god from divine imprisonment – and the credits roll. Mixed in with the surprisingly short list of names are scenes of the gang now living normal-ish lives, either reunited with family or causing exactly the sort of good-natured trouble they always hoped to cause. After all this time spent getting to know them it’s impossible not to smile here, even when the sequence chooses to end on a bittersweet shot of baby Kobud all grown up by Liza’s grave, Robo-Bud’s husk slumped next to her and covered with beautiful flowers, finally at peace.
It’s a satisfying and hard-earned happy ending for the cast, one that paints the hardships they went through as real and damaging, but not so much so they can’t move on from them – not so much so they’re left unable to enjoy the new world they fought so hard to create.
I suppose the most important question is “Was Eldorado Gate worth the effort?“. I’m happy to say the answer is “It definitely was“. Even with modern games turning episodic content and steady updates into something very ordinary and commonplace, Eldorado Gate still stands out as something unusual and experimental. The team behind it should be praised for not only daring to create something so distinct but also for seeing it through to the end – and seeing it through on time too (let’s not forget whoever was brave enough to greenlight the project and then allow it to run to completion either). I can honestly say I’ve seen and done something new every disc, and there was never a point where it felt like the series was running out of creative steam, reluctantly dragging itself towards the finish line on a shoestring budget and exhausted staff.
There really is nothing else like it, and now it’s over I’m honestly sad to leave this beautiful world and all of the wonderful people in it behind. Now then, let’s see if I can find the time to mop up those side quests…