From Software's Evergrace was all too typical of the quality of launch software. Though the game had a distinct style and a few innovative ideas, the end product was hobbled by its sloppy execution, threadbare plot, and shallow gameplay. It couldn't have helped matters that the game first began as a PlayStation 1 title, but From has decided that there was enough promise in the first game to warrant a sequel, designed from the ground up for the PS2. Evergrace 2 will, in fact, be a prequel, taking up the story of Daruis before he was transported to the Lost Empire of Rieubane of the first game.

Our heroes

  Those who remember Darius (Yuterald in the Japanese version) from the first Evergrace, will recall that he was on a quest to find his adopted sisiter Sharline and exact revenge on the man who killed his family. The prequel will pick up the narrative sometime earlier, but the overall quest remains the same. The reunion with Sharline took place in the first game, where she was a playable character, so Darius will instead be joined by by two new companions: his childhood friend Ryana and a mysterious amnesiac girl named Fillna

   The expansion of the cast will also have an effect on the prequel's gameplay. The first game let players swap freely between the Darius' and Sharline's separate quests, but Evergrace 2 will feature all three characters in the same party. The game remains an action RPG, however, and players will have some control over all three simultaneously. It's not clear at this point exactly how this will work in execution, but the early media displays each of the characters assigned to a different button on the controller. Whether this unique control scheme will pan out is unknown, but it should bring some depth to the simplistic button mashing that plagued the first game's combat system.

  Dressing up is fun!
Iron Chef

   A retooled version of Evergrace's most intriguing feature, the "dress-up system," returns for the prequel. As before, new equipment will appear directly on the character, and choosing the right clothes for the job at hand will be the key to unlocking special abilities and solving puzzles. In addition, the heroes dress will affect not only their statistics but also how other characters react to them. Equipping the right gear also grants the fighters new Palmira Actions: spells and other special attacks.

   While Evergrace may have an unusual equipment system, its story is about as standard as they come. The game is set on the continent of Edinberry, which features four villages: Stolta, Secrue, and two yet-to-be-named settlements. Darius was born in Stolta, but his parents were murdered when he was young. Adopted by a friend of his father in Secrue, he begins training as a swordsman to avenge his family. Soon after, a mysterious girl named Fillna wanders into the village and is adopted by the same family. When war erupts, Darius, Fillna, and Darius' adoptive brother Ryana set out on a journey to avenge the death of Darius' parents and discover the significance of the strange crest on his right hand. As both these goals were unfulfilled at the start of Evergrace, it's more likely the main plot will concern the enigmatic Fillna and her strange recurring dreams.

Evergrace 2.0
Three way battle

   Hopefully, From's rethinking of Evergrace will extend to the graphics as well. Even as a launch title, the first game was technically disappointing, with bland environments and widespread slowdown. The early media from the prequel displays a considerable leap in detail, but Evergrace 2 will be competing with the second generation of PS2 games. From is obviously committed to establishing Evergrace as a continuing franchise -- they've even commissioned two novels based the games -- let's hope the final product bears evidence to this.

   Evergrace 2 is due out this summer in Japan. While Agetec has not yet announced a North American release, it seems a given -- the company has translated many of From's games, including the first Evergrace. An official announcement of the title's U.S. status may come at this year's E3 in May.

Preview by Fritz Fraundorf and Zak McClendon, GIA.
Evergrace 2
Developer From Software
Publisher From Software
Genre Action RPG
Medium DVD-ROM (1)
Platform Sony PlayStation 2
Release Date  06.21.01
 Fall 2001
E3: Agetec announces Forever Kingdom
37 screenshots
2 character designs
US box art