This is a weird review for me to write because it’s so personal. It’s as if I need to reach into my head and rip out a page from a diary I never wrote to really explain what this game means to me. I feel sheepish even tackling it. Regardless, EGE is Russian Roulette, and it is my God (or, since I am the scheduler, self)-given responsibility to talk about Illusion of Gaia, so here I go.
My first experience (there are two) with this game was during those tender formative pre-high school years where every game is precious (usually because it’s the only one you have the ability to play for a while; there’s no good Flash games, yet, emulators don’t run as well as the real thing, rentals are frequently outside of your childlike budget, and the mod chip is the thing of sci-fi fantasy). That’s not what I’m here to write about, though; the phenomenon of shitty games being awesome to 90s kids is something that’s well-documented (and a topic I’m saving for a game that I have less to say about). The game had a powerfully lonely essence to it, which I immediately empathized with; my small town meant a dork like me was short on friends, aside from the ones I made online (in 1997 I was in mIRC with the Icybrian.com kids every week). The main character’s name was Will; I didn’t go by will which I would one day end up doing (I went by a rather embarrassing, Scottish short form for my middle name back then. But for the record, this isn’t why I decided to go by my first name; the main reason was the aforementioned embarrassment). It was escapism, pure and simple; someone with (basically) my name was presented in a wonderful fantasy land filled with entirely surmountable challenges, and the power to overcome even the worst strife.
Fast forward through high school, where I played relatively few videogames (mostly due to cash). Real life happened. At some point, I remembered this game. It was weird, though; I mena, I alreadyk new that the main character was Will. But what about the other stuff? The girl who Will urns away with is named Kara. My high school sweetheart is named Cara. The girl who helps you escape prison is named Lilly. That’s the name Cara used to call herself when she hated her name growing up (I called myself Voco when I was four. I have yet to see THAT in any fiction). Kara has a pet pig named Hamlet; one of the most memorable high school memories I have with Cara was when we made a video Independent Studies Unit for her English class. Guess which Shakespearean play we were adapting?
Yep… more than a little weird. I mean, there are plenty of characters that don’t match up to anyone I know. And there are many games I’ve played. And Will isn’t exactly an uncommon name in video games (probably because it’s so awesome). And Kara was changed from Karen in the original script, apparently, which is a pretty popular name for English people in Japanese things, if I remember correctly. Still… it’s eerie.
I bought the game on eBay to play again (after I beat Earthbound, I guess, in which I have still not passed the weird trippy fourside mirror place). I imagine that it will be that much more amazing to me, with its eerie foretelling of my future (at least, in names).