Release Date: November 8, 2005
Buy 'KAMEO: Elements of Power': X360
Kameo: Elements of Power was one of the first next-gen games that Microsoft used to showcase the power of its new system, and not surprisingly, it was one of the most complete titles we saw at this past year's E3 expo. Ever since then, Kameo has taken the spotlight over other first-party titles such as Perfect Dark Zero, and with good reason - Kameo is the game that Rare fans have been waiting for.
Kameo took a long time getting to this point, and at one time, it wasn't clear whether the game would ever see the light of day. Kameo was originally announced while the Nintendo GameCube was still in development, but even after the console was released, the title was nowhere to be found. After a host of delays, the unthinkable happened: Microsoft announced its purchase of the Nintendo-only developer, Rare Ltd.
Most people assumed that Kameo and all other current Rare projects would be moved over to the Xbox, and we were right … for a while. A few short months before its Xbox release, Kameo disappeared from all release lists. Thankfully, it was simply moved to Microsoft's next-gen console, and Kameo for the X360 has finally made its way to stores.
So just what is Kameo: Elements of Power? Kameo is the name of the main character, a female elf who has the power to morph into different creatures known as "Elemental Spirits" which she collects throughout the game. The story centers on Kameo and her evil sister, who has teamed up with Thorn, the no-good king of the trolls. Together, they have captured Kameo's family and stolen the Elemental Spirits, and it's your job to get them back and stop the destruction of the kingdom.
As soon as the game boots up and finishes loading the first level, you are tossed directly into battle without any sort of directions or help. You are surrounded by enemies and have no clue what's going on, but you eventually figure out some of the basics and work your way through the level.
Kameo really starts after you finally reach your sister and are treated to a cut scene that established the storyline. You then wake up in the Enchanted Kingdom, where you are greeted with a tutorial and then shown the gameplay basics. I really didn't like how the game started off by simply tossing you into the heat of battle with no guidance whatsoever. Needless to say, the opening sequence can be quite frustrating and painful, but after that, the game takes on a much better and more familiar pace.
After you complete the tutorial, you pick up your first Elemental Spirit, a living book named Ortho. He serves many purposes and is accessed by an in-game menu system. From there, you can select which three Elemental Spirits you want to map to your controller, view your inventory, upgrade your Elementals, and a few other useful things.
When you're actually in the game world, Ortho acts like a hint guide and will talk to you if you're having trouble on a mission. When you open the book for help, you are given a pretty detailed outline of what needs to be done to get past the next obstacle, whether it's a boss battle or you're simply trying to find your way through the level.
Ortho is a great guide and can be very useful at times, but when you are having a lot of trouble with something in the game and you want to figure it out on your own, he will speak up and tell you exactly what needs to be done. This doesn't happen too often, but there is also no menu option for turning off this behavior. It can be quite annoying when it does occur, as Kameo isn't really very difficult to get through, and when Ortho tells you exactly what to do during some of the harder segments, the game can feel a bit too easy.
Although you play the role of the title character Kameo, she is actually the person you use the least. She is pretty much useless in combat and only offers a weak flip kick. She has small wings that let her fly around and hover close to the ground, which makes for some quick traveling through the levels, but generally, you spend most of your time in one of her elemental forms. There are 10 of these Elemental Spirits in all, once you collect each of them by defeating enemies or getting them as special rewards throughout the game. The characters are all balanced and control very well, with the exception of Deep Blue, an underwater fish-like blob that is a pain to control. Thankfully, you only use him for a brief portion of the game, so these control issues don't really affect the overall experience.
The whole world of Kameo was designed with each of these Elemental Warrior Spirits in mind, and there is a time and place for each of them. Some can be used almost anywhere with great success, while others can only be used in certain areas. You can also mix and match their abilities to create some really powerful effects. For example, one of the Elemental Warriors you morph into has the ability to shoot streams of oil on the ground, which by itself doesn't do much damage to the enemies. Afterwards, you can morph into a dragon and shoot flames to set the oil ablaze, starting a huge inferno that can be quite devastating to your foes. The concept and execution of this gameplay element is outstanding; you don't get just one or two different characters with which to play through the game, but 10 fully unique characters which you can activate at almost any time. This really keeps the gameplay fun, fresh and exciting.
Rare has done a great job in creating a beautiful and very interesting fantasy world that will instantly bring back fond memories of some classic games. The world itself is split up into three main areas: Enchanted Kingdom, Badlands, and a world composed of a bunch of smaller "worlds." The Enchanted Kingdom is your home base and acts as a sort of hub to all the other areas of the game; gates will transport you to other areas, which makes traveling quite easy, as the game's world is pretty expansive. There are no enemies here, and it's a safe place where you can talk with the townsfolk or explore some of the buildings.
The Badlands is like the big open area in Zelda on the Nintendo 64. This area is in the middle of the game world, with all of the other sub-areas placed around it. There is a massive battle going on here, with knights from the Enchanted Kingdom battling against the invading troll army, which Kameo is trying to defeat. While this area is mostly used for traveling, there are a few times when Kameo must help out her friends and partake in the massive battles that have many thousands of enemies on the screen at one time.
The last areas in the game world are the ones in which you spend the most time. These are the actual smaller "worlds" that fit together to make up the one large world. Each one of these has its own theme, such as a dark forest or winter wonderland. In these worlds, you have small towns which are (mostly) safe, have many creatures to interact with, and contain lots of buildings and other things to explore. The further into the worlds you go, you will find the heart of the platforming and action areas, where you'll do most of your battling and puzzle solving. The whole world feels so seamless and alive; each one of the smaller worlds you go to is filled with its own unique life and offers a different experience than the last.
Graphically, Kameo is one of the best-looking X360 launch titles and really heightens your senses. Don't let the colorful art style fool you; the world of Kameo is filled with extremely detailed textures that use a host of new mapping techniques such as Parallax Mapping, which creates fully 3D-looking details in the textures themselves. This is complemented by some outstanding high dynamic range (HDR) lighting effects and depth of field blurring. Surely the most impressive visual aspect of Kameo is the 6,000+ character models on the screen at one time, each engaged in the massive battle and each with its own AI.
Overall, I was incredibly pleased with Kameo and highly recommend it to anyone who's managed to get an Xbox 360 and enjoys a good action/adventure platformer. Kameo has all the charm of the old Rare classics on SNES and N64, but mixed with exciting gameplay elements. Kameo has ideal combination of gameplay components culled from different genres; the elements were simply good on their own, but when combined together, they make for a great game.
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