Fear Effect

Year: 2000
Platform: PlayStation
Publisher: Eidos
Developer: Kronos Digital Entertainment
Genre: Action/adventure
Rating: ****

This game is extremely cool. When the enigmatic daughter of a wealthy Chinese businessman disappears, three mercenaries (Hana Tsu-Vachel, Royce Glas, and Deke Decourt) go after her in hopes of getting a sizeable reward for her safe retrieval. However, her father doesn't want their help, and goes out of his way to dispose of them. The story swiftly changes gears as sorcery and Chinese mysticism get added to the mix, which ultimately leads our anti-heroes on a journey to Hell.

The look of the game is superb, and the atmosphere and tone set by the graphics are wonderful. The anime styled characters are colorful and full of personality, which perfectly complements their surroundings. Additionally, the story is extremely well crafted and so compelling that you'll have a hard time putting the game down. Similar to the "Resident Evil" series, you guide your character through a series of prerendered animated backgrounds that utilize various different camera angles. The gameplay mechanics are similar as well, except that you have to select inventory items in real-time which can be a serious hassle when you're being gunned down by bad guys. This results in a lot of frustrating instant death scenarios. Another annoying element that the game borrows from "Resident Evil" is that you have to play multiple characters throughout the course of the game, when I would much rather have exclusive control of Hana. Fortunately, Hana's partners have an endearing goofiness about them that doesn't make them too annoying. Another plus is the "mature" rating. The game is unapologetically bold and racy, but never has to resort to gratuitous cheap thrill exploitation which is a refreshing change from the norm.

Unfortunately, where the game really falls apart is in the difficulty level. I made an honest attempt to play the game without any help and made it through half of disc 1 before it become ridiculously difficult and I was forced to cheat for the rest of the game. (thankfully there ARE cheat codes, unlike the "Resident Evil" games...) Fortunately, the story and the characters are so fascinating that cheating doesn't diminish the gameplay at all, and actually enhances it since you can pay attention to what's going on instead of constantly dying (and waiting for your last saved game to reload over and over...). As far as the characters go, Hana is a female action fan's delight. She's full of attitude and conviction, and has a great "look, but don't touch" lethal sex appeal about her. Whew! Highly recommended for fans of female action, survival horror, and Chinese mythology.