"Based on the hit anime series of the same name, Neon Genesis Evangelion for the Nintendo 64 would initially appear to be what every Eva fan could ever want: a stunningly realized action game, featuring more giant robot action than you could possibly shake a Progressive Knife at. "
The history books tell us that in the year 2000, half the world's population perished in what has became known as Second Impact. Officially, this disaster was caused when a massive meteorite collided with the Southern Polar icecaps, knocking the Earth off its axis and raising ocean levels all over the world. And it was in the wake of this destruction that the Angels first made their presence felt, their sudden appearance seemingly pulled straight out of scripture, as if to prepare the remnants of mankind for a coming Armageddon. In order to sidestep fate however, the remaining governments of the world came together in the formation of the Evangelion Project, an initiative designed to ensure the future of humanity and prevent the occurrence of a possible Third Impact...
... except, the history books were wrong, and someone had been playing God.
Cruel Angel's Thesis
Based on the hit anime series of the same name, Neon Genesis Evangelion for the Nintendo 64 would initially appear to be what every Eva fan could possibly want: a stunningly realized action game, featuring more giant robot action than you could possibly shake a Progressive Knife at. Forget those countless years of playing mahjong with Rei Ayanami and cast aside ye worn out dating simulators, what we have here is the sole action game the license has ever produced, and from a certain point of view at least, it's not all that bad. Take for instance the impressive visuals that place Neon Genesis Evangelion 64 in a league of its own, the full motion video and wonderfully scripted action sequences seemingly out of place on Nintendo's cartridge based system. Furthermore, the Nintendo 64's trademark murky textures and dull color palettes have gone the way of the Dodo, in their place players can now expect to find nothing but the finest of visual finesse.
Those that manage to pick their jaws up off the ground will find further delight with the rich assortment of BGM pieces, each of which carries an extreme sense of authenticity. Of particular note is a wonderfully orchestrated rendition of "Cruel Angel's Thesis" played through a wind pipe to the soothing background hum of a low key organ. Beautiful would be one way to describe it, fittingly perfect could be another. All this grandeur and aplomb aside though, one can't help but believe Neon Genesis Evangelion 64 was meant for greatness. The opening sequence alone proves to hype expectations beyond all belief, an impressive mix of full motion animated video and in game 3D models looking every bit something right out of the future of licensed gaming. EA did it with the Lord of the Rings in 2003, yet here's little old Bandai recreating an encounter with the third Angel Sachiel four years previously to stunning effect. Wow, just wow indeed.
Then reality kicks you in the head...
As hard as it might be to imagine by this stage of the review, the actual core gameplay experience isn't all that. Heck, it's not even fit to share the same cartridge. The graphics are still there and the sound is as good as ever, the first sign that something's not quite right however comes in the guise of some slow-motion controls. Urgh, these robots used to move so much faster on TV, what on Earth happened here? The first stage begins as shock sets in, presenting players with little more than a basic one-on-one fighter... and yes, we should have seen this coming. Shinji's EVA stands on the left, Sachiel poses on the right. And any sense of excitement you may have felt has quickly fled the room. You lumber your EVA up into attack range, then struggle to erect an AT field before Sachiel draws first blood. A throw here, a grab there, and the limp wristed punch, punch, action.continues. What happened to all the good stuff?!
From time to time however, Neon Genesis Evangelion 64 begins to mimic a scene straight out of the TV series. And when that happens, all the pain and suffering you've experienced thus far becomes worthwhile. Watch as EVA-01 takes a beating only to come unplugged from its umbilical cable, then look on in wonder as a brief 1 minute cinema sequence finally picks up where the opening left off. The EVA roars, it gnashes its teeth, and jumps at Sachiel with surprising ferocity. A scream then fills the air as EVA-01 goes berserk, snapping the Angel's limbs as if they were mere twigs to its animalistic fury. Buildings shatter and the earth shakes, all the while a fine shower of dust and debris clouds the action and builds suspense. Then the game goes back to normal... punch, punch... grab, throw...
Depressing isn't it? To think we had come so far only to find gameplay that for all intents and purposes, couldn't even excite a child. And then to add further insult to injury, we were forced to play through such tripe in order to finally reach the good stuff. I know... I feel it too. Some salvation though can be found in the amount of variety each stage offers as thankfully, they're not all as bad as that first one. In fact, only 4 of the game's 12 stages take on the guise of a one-on-one fighter, for the rest of the time players are exposed to a series of simplistic mini-games, each successfully capturing the visual style of the series. One minute you're playing a simplistic Dance Dance Revolution clone, the next a basic first person shooter, and finally Bandai tosses in a little button mashing for good effect. Oh well, such variety is always nice.
It's odd though, here at the end of the review I find myself both wanting to recommend Neon Genesis Evangelion 64, and at the same time lambaste it for all I'm worth... yet I can do neither. When it's good, it's truly out of this world amazing... the bad however is downright disgraceful and for that Bandai need to be shot. It's not often that one comes across a game such as this, sporting all the right ingredients yet none of the fun. The sad thing is that it had to happen here, with Evangelion's sole trip to the action genre. As a collectors piece, potential players can at least rest easy in the knowledge that Neon Genesis Evangelion 64 is highly desirable, as a game though it's just meh. Seven different shades of meh in fact, all dressed up to look their Sunday best. If you can tolerate the bad, including a woefully short challenge, then by all means, drop the money and add it to your collection. Otherwise I guess you should be passing it by, waiting until the day when justice is finally served...
* There's a healthy variety of mini-games to play
* Bandai were quite literally ahead of the curve when they designed this game
* Incredible, jaw dropping graphics
* An authentic soundtrack fuels excitement
* The moments of authentic EVA action are out of this world
* As a collectors piece, Neon Genesis Evangelion 64 is highly desirable
* Sluggish controls
* The mini-games are overly simplistic
* Much of the action is too slow for its own good
* Button mashing, button mashing?! Would someone please explain
* Neon Genesis Evangelion 64 can be finished in under an hour
* No matter how good it looks, you can't help but feel the wasted potential
Staff review by Michael Scott (June 03, 2005)
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