With the advent of cheaper media, more ambitious game design, and the desire to stand out from the RPG crowd, a number of companies are now planning games to be released in a series of installments. Sega's Shenmue is the most prominent example, but Capcom has its own serial epic in the works: El Dorado Gate, a multi-part Dreamcast RPG originally conceived for the Sega Saturn.

   El Dorado Gate's main plot concerns two dueling gods -- Dios and Raijin. Raijin recruits twelve henchmen to defeat Dios, but, as usual, the good guy wins and chooses to seal Raijin away instead of killing him. Many years later, the Industrial Revolution dawns on the world with the invention of the Stasia Engine, a machine that produces energy from a mineral called Stasia. Raijin finally decides to strike back at Dios and passes the spirits of his deceased henchmen on to twelve modern youths.

El Dorado's cast

   Designed by Yoshitaka Amano of Final Fantasy and Kartia fame, this ensemble cast consists of Raijin's twelve new warriors, each of whom will eventually be the focus of one episode of the game. These twelve are led by a thirteenth, Bantross, who serves as their mentor and narrates events between each episode. The characters themselves are a diverse bunch, which should allow for a good mix of story and gameplay elements throughout the series: Gomez is a powerful but shy warrior who's in trouble with the law, Kanon is a 16-year old girl cursed with a mysterious, unremovable mask that protects her from harm; 14-year-old Radia is the daughter of a legendary thief; Ian is a gregarious cyborg discovered in a set of ruins after several thousand years of hibernation; Pamela is an 18-year-old martial artist; Elisson is a swordsman currently employed as a guard; Manma is a 12-year-old with strength far beyond his peers'; Sophie is a 20-year-old monster hunter; Gigi is a demon-hunting female knight; Lado is a motorcycle-riding 17-year-old; Covad is a beastman raised by robots; and Meema is the obligatory cheerful young girl.

   The first installment of the story, El Dorado Gate will reportedly contain 12 installments at completion, each containing its own set of chapters. As expected, the saves from those scenarios can be loaded into the future installments -- and, apparently, data from later scenarios can even be imported back into the first. A total of twenty-four epsiodes will comprise the entire story; the later, bimonthly releases will contain fewer individual episodes. Players can play the scenarios in any order.

El Dorado Gate
Confrontation in a town

    Though the first episode tells a short (2-3 hours) self-contained story, gamers who return for the bimonthly releases will eventually see those tales begin to intersect. As expected, the saves from earlier scenarios can be loaded into the future installments. Once players complete one of El Dorado Gate’s episodes, they gain access to The Promised Land, a special area where new items can be downloaded from Capcom's webpage or stored for use in any of the game's chapters. A total of twenty-four episodes, spread over eight chapters, will comprise the entire story.

   The first installment of El Dorado Gate, released in Japan in October, focuses on Gomez, Radia, and Kanon, as well as introducing players to the gameplay system. Though the battles are a traditional mix of turn-based fighting and elemental magic, there are a few unique twists. Characters in the game never level up; all advances in power and skill are made by acquiring and combining weapons and magic items. Each item in the game has an elemental alignment, either fire, water, earth, light, or life, and finding the correct combinations can lead to newfound powers and abilities. The battles themselves take place in a first-person view reminiscent of Dragon Warrior, complete with non-animating enemies and simple attack effects. Though the throwback presentation may disappoint some, hopefully it will enable Capcom to keep the enemies varied in each chapter -- it also doesn't hurt that each of the illustrations is drawn by Amano himself.

    The over-all style continues the trend toward the traditional with the use of simple 2-D, hand-drawn art throughout the game. The backgrounds are drawn in a cartoon-ish style similar to Saga Frontier II, but with even more detail and sharpness. El Dorado Gate's art direction is an impressive and pleasant change of pace on a system known for its 3-D prowess.

    While the first chapter is already out in Japan, and the second is expected December 12th, Capcom's continued silence on the matter of El Dorado Gate's localization is a bit troubling. Though usually a strong supporter of the Dreamcast in the US, the company may be balking at the prospect of an ongoing localization, or the art and gamplay may be a tad too old-school even for Capcom. In either case, the series' North American prospects seem increasingly slim. While the lush art and simple gameplay may make El Dorado Gate an ideal import for fans of more traditional RPGs, hopefully we'll hear the definitive word from Capcom sometime early in the new year.

Preview by Fritz Fraundorf, GIA.
Additions by Zak McClendon, GIA.
El Dorado Gate
Developer Capcom / Flagship
Publisher Capcom
Genre Action RPG
Medium GD-ROM (7)
Platform Dreamcast
Release Date  Chapter 1: 10.10.00
Chapter 2: 12.12.00
El Dorato Gate gets date
9 screenshots
3 character headshots