Monday, March 9, 2015

EVO: Search for Eden (Super NES, 1992)

Time to look at a true classic from Enix. ...and by classic I mean a somewhat overrated grind-fest that is hard to play now. Despite that, there's something appealing and cool about this game that made it a lot of fun back in the day, and today I'm going to show you what that is.

The translation of this game is one of the weakest aspects. It gives us some weird gibberish about how the sun gave birth to a solar system and gave them names. It's weird because on one hand, the game seems to go for authenticity with the various historical eras and the various evolutionary paths. On the other hand, it throws in this weird mythological stuff.

Also, way to have all the planets spinning around the sun in close proximity. YOU'RE CONFUSING KIDS, ENIX!

It gets worse. Earth has some sort of guardian goddess that watches over it, named Gaia. She pops up to lecture on about... I'm not exactly sure what, but it sounds like life needs to develop on the planet. Okay, go away.

And that life... is YOU. Yes, YOU. She starts you out as a fish.

We begin in a Global Warming hellscape where everything is underwater. This is the first of five chapters, and all of them are very distinct from one another (aside from perhaps chapter four and five, which sorta blend together).

The overworld. Each chapter has a different overworld. This one is all underwater, but you can see the point of a land mass. Much like walking on land may have intrigued the creatures of the era, that land mass intrigues the player.

The game itself is a side-scroller...and a very slow-moving one. You go around biting other creatures until they die, then eating their meat for experience points. Sorta a side-scrolling RPG. I do like the mechanics of playing as a fish, though, and I have zero doubt that this first chapter is BY FAR the high point of the game. Too bad it's so short compared to the rest. Do yourself a favor and play through the first chapter of this game, you won't be disappointed. The overpowered chapter 1 boss might obliterate you, but so it goes.

These jellyfish are dicks!

After quickly murdering them, I take a look at the evolution menu. Here you spend your experience points on a variety of upgrades and downgrades!

Jaws are almost always the most important thing to evolve. They directly affect your biting power. Other than jaws, it's good to save experience for a while and go for top-of-the-line upgrades rather than getting mid-line upgrades in the meantime that sap your exp for marginal improvements. Jaws are the only thing that I'd say should be upgraded incrementally. You always want better attack power so you can get experience quicker for everything else. In this case, they make it very simple for you by giving you a significant attack upgrade for a mere 200 exp. This can be attained very quickly with some grinding. The other upgrade is something you want by the time you fight the boss of the chapter.

Wait, did I mention "downgrades" before? Yep, there are downgrades hidden in here. Not yet, but in later chapters, some of the evolutions make you worse off. The game doesn't give you any real insight as to the stats of any particular evolutions, so you never really know what you're getting until you take the leap and evolve a part.

My fish leaps out of the water, YEARNING to fly. Leap, you magnificent bastard! LEAP!

There are certainly some odd evolutions you can undertake in this game, which is a huge - probably the biggest - part of the appeal. You can create some pretty cool creatures by mixing and matching parts.

If this were a thing in real life, I would transform into Seth Rollins with one part from Val Venis. And so would you.

Meanwhile, Japanese schoolchildren the world over would give themselves cat tails, while American Pokemon fans the world over would turn themselves into Japanese schoolchildren.

It'd be a madhouse.

Behold! We have the same jaws!

These gossiping seaweed need to shut their damn yappers! ...wait a minute, they don't have yappers! Is this game implying that plants have telepathy? That...that would make some sense. If it's true, I doubt it's telepathy in the advanced way that we're thinking of. Probably more of a slow process, like Ent Morse Code or something.

The world boss is SHARK! SHARRRRK!

This thing is REALLY hard to beat if playing this game for the first time. He's extremely overpowered and can kill you in a couple of bites, even if you're fully-evolved for the chapter. The way to win is to dodge his charge in a way that causes him to crash into a wall, then BITE 'EM ON THE ASS. Then run for your life. Then repeat.

After winning...nay...SURVIVING that struggle, our hero flops out onto land. Instead of simply dying as expected, he magically digital digivolves into an amphibian right there on the spot. This is, of course, the work of Gaia.

You're playing God, Gaia! I've seen Nazi scientists with more respect for nature than you!

Chapter 2 takes us to the land of Pangaea, a time before continents. This is where the game takes a steep nosedive into not-as-fun, because let's just say playing as a land creature is like playing as a boulder.

I miss being a fish already. The starting amphibian form has no upgrades and slowly crawls along.

This is as high as it can jump, too. To say this is a jarring transition from the water stages would be an understatement.

The overdramatic first boss here is probably the easiest boss in the game, but you're fighting it with a severely-underpowered character at this juncture.

DEBUSTEGA attacks with a huge belly flop. Get outta the way, amphibian! ...dammit! Get...out...of...the...and he's squashed. Man, this character is slow-moving. Time to grind out some upgrades.

The upgrades take a turn for the wildly expensive at this point...and the grinding begins. Increasing body size makes you an easier target, but it also gives you more HP and attack power. Armor Body is the best defensive upgrade to work towards...and it takes a while. There are other evolvable parts, like hands/feet/tail; these make you move quicker and jump higher which is also crucial now.

After evolving quite a bit, I manage to slay Debustega. Moving on, I encounter a family of lizards who beg my mighty chimera for help.



Moving on, I devour roaches as the battle for evolutionary primacy continues! Give me the exp!

Our hero finds a dying amphibian who has been impaled by some sort of stinger. The game makes sure to let me know that he had a family... HE HAD A FAMILY, DAMN IT.

The perpetrator? King Bee. This bastard has been killing amphibians in an effort to deliver the world to the insects. Kinda like how Comcast throttles internet bandwidth for services like Netflix so that people will give up on all the buffering and either order faster internet, watch cable instead, or watch un-throttled services that don't give them grief. Controlling the direction of what people watch is some scary shit, and Comcast should be ashamed of themselves. But they're not, because this stuff makes them richer. In summation: Fuck you, King Bee.

King Bee responds by MURDERING our hero. Let me just say that it's pretty awful to pit my super-slow, unwieldy character against a super-mobile flying opponent like this.

I barely manage to defeat King Bee (ProTip: Lure him into striking where you're not, much like the shark, then jump and attack, then flee). Out in the desert, I encounter... his wife. Uh oh.

Queen Bee is even worse. This is the hardest fight in the entire game, aside from maybe the final boss. She soars much higher than the King Bee, so you can't even reach her most of the time as she pummels you with stingers.

After surviving that one, our hero gets transformed into a reptile and leaps onward to the next epoch. Gaia throws down a time-door to advance me forward. And yes, this means it's back to level 1, essentially.

Chapter 3 looks a bit different. This is the era of dinosaurs, which is kinda cool. All in all, this might be the most memorable chapter aside from the first. However, it shares all of chapter 2's problems.

...namely, you start out insanely weak, and tons of grinding is required to gain any kind of power or agility. Starting out with zero exp or power at the beginning of every chapter is probably the weakest aspect of this game, but I'm not sure how I'd do it differently. Letting the player bring over unused exp from the previous chapter would encourage players who grind heavily at the end of chapters while screwing over players who played normally. Maybe I'd just give the player a thousand exp to get started at the beginning of a chapter.

The first thing to go for here, as usual...jaws. Brosaurus Jaws are a significant upgrade to the toothless starter. Wait... Brosaurus? I know they mean Brontosaurus, but that's hilarious. Once you have Brosaurus Jaws you can one-shot all the weaker enemies and quickly work towards Tyrasaurus Jaws.

Tons and tons of grinding later, I get Tyrasaurus Jaws. With these, I can defeat Brontosauri before they go into attack mode (they give you three free hits before they notice you're there and smash you). These things are basically exp-pinatas, and let you quickly farm exp for all the other upgrades. It's amazing how fast the exp goes by at this point. The only really tedious part is that early point where you need to farm for jaw upgrades.

The weeks go by as the grinding continues. Enemies often go to sleep at night, letting you get the drop on them. It's cheap, but By God nature pulls no punches!

The next boss is the nefarious Prime Frog.

He unleashes HELL by sending his tiny frog minions to jump all over you while he prepares his Five Star Frog Splash.

One of the things you can evolve is a Horn. I tend to not fool with this very much, though, since it's usually a mistake. For instance, the Swordfish Horn in chapter 1 actually plummets your biting power. At this point, horns do a fair amount of damage (when charging), but they can randomly break. Here, I lost the best horn available after THREE uses. That...was not worth thousands of exp.

There's a high mountain to climb in the middle of chapter three, and I painstakingly flop my giant reptile to the top. Why? Because if you leap off the left side of the cliff to certain death... evolve in mid-air. Unlike the chapter transformations, this is completely optional; it means Chapter 3 is basically the era of reptiles AND birds. Optional or not, it's advised.

...and I'm back at level zero! NO! NOOOOOO!!!

That said, bird is probably the coolest form in the game overall. It also leads to a side-stage that you don't want to miss; your character flies through a thundercloud maze.

Emerging above the clouds into...some kind of asteroid belt, I get a temporary shot of Ultimate Bird Evolution. This form is super-formidable.

In a UFO, our hero finds an alien shooting a lizard with some kind of ray. What in the blue hell is this?

Returning to Earth, he becomes less lizard and more bird as the evolutions go by. I will say that farming Tyrasaurus Jaws AGAIN was not my favorite. Again, though, bird is far superior to reptile. Why build up reptile at all then? Because you have to get through Prime Frog to get to bird, unfortunately. And Prime Frog demolishes un-upgraded reptiles.

The boss of Chapter 3 is actually a bunch of foes: A squad of Tyrasaurus. Yes, it means Tyranosaurus. Why did they change all of these names? Were they afraid the dinosaurs would sue?

After defeating eight of them, meteors begin to fall on cue. Flee! FLEE!

After our hero gets warped out by Gaia, the meteors fall, killing everything in Chapter 3. Well, this is depressing.

My...My God.

This...this is dark. Wow.

On that note, let's wrap it up for today. I'll cover the last two chapters later.


  1. Well crap, a cliffhanger.
    In any case, I wonder how the world will evolve now that it', you know.
    So I assume the thundercloud and UFO portion are completely optional? No impact on the story whatsoever, they're just there? Alright...

    1. Yep, those are optional as far as I can tell. All of the bird-only content is more or less a side-story to the main game. You can go all the way to the end in bird form, too, though I usually continue on to mammal. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

  2. I guess Pluto was disowned.

    "You always want better attack power so you can get experience quicker for everything else." Like Dragon Quest. Once you have the copper sword you can one-shot starting area enemies.

    There's not much difference between amphibian and reptile in this game.

    Bro jaws!

    Evolving in midair? How dramatic!

    What an ending.

  3. What an ending. But it fits with what's interesting about this game, which is that it pretends to be all hippie and Mother-Earth-loving but it's damn straight with you that evolution is about killing everyone else.
    I can definitely see why playing as a fish and a bird are best. Those give you the most freedom of movement.