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Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Developer: Pocket Studios | Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 09/25/02 | Genre: RPG

I have played my fair share of Role Playing Games. To me, this is the greatest genre of gaming. In the past, I have experienced countless battles, saved a multitude of worlds, and watched incredible story lines unfold before my eyes. Since an RPG is a type of game that has deep storylines and character development, it would seem to be a logical fit for Black Label Games to deliver their Game Boy Advance version of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Based on the classic novels, unlike the EA versions--which are based on the movies, what at first appeared to have much promise quickly turned into a mediocre title. The sad part is that this is a much better game than the Xbox/PS2/GCN versions...

The game begins with the option to start a new game or change some of the sound options. First off, don’t worry about changing the music and sound settings. Turn down your Game Boy Advance volume all the way and do not listen. Lord of the Rings provides some of the worst audio I have ever heard. For example, there is one main song that plays as background music. During “keyâ€? moments in the game, the background music turns off and only silence is heard. Even when entering into a battle, the same music plays! A little variety would have been nice here. While I understand that there is limited space on a cartridge, Nintendo hasn’t had a problem converting all of the awesome sounds and music from their classic SNES games when they were ported over to the GBA.

A nice feature of the GBA version of Lord of the Rings is that the game plays very faithful to the book. As the storyline progresses and text appears on the screen, a portrait of the character is shown. While the portrait is not very detailed, it looks far better than the small sprite characters on the screen. They are very blurry and no detail can be seen. Worse is that fact that during scarier moments--like when you first encounter the “dark riders,â€? they don’t appear to be very menacing. Your characters hide or just announce to the player that “we can’t walk this way because the dark riders are there.â€? This takes out any chance that the players could be caught and the game will end.

The game features a 3D like world. Unfortunately, since this isn’t true 3D, controlling your characters can pose to be a difficult task. This is especially true when trying to navigate yourself to an object on the ground. To assist the player, the developers added in the ability to hit A when close to an object to pick it up or hitting A when near a character so you can speak to them. Moving around, you use the D pad. Each direction you select will always move you in that way. This can be a little frustrating if you are trying to walk on a narrow path or walk into a small door because you can’t quite move your character in the right “angledâ€? direction. Overall though, the control scheme does work pretty well.

The game is very linear and the toughest challenges you will face are in the battles and knowing where to go next. Most of the time, you will wander around looking for the “predetermined pathâ€? the developers have left for you to walk on. It is a shame they didn’t leave many bread crumbs to help you find the path. The problem with the battles is that the combat is absolutely horrible. Your characters are usually very weak compared to the enemies. At times, when I had one enemy left on screen with just a few life points, it took me countless rounds until someone would finally put the “final blowâ€? on them. While this was going on, the enemy managed to do plenty of damage to my characters.

Overall, Lord of the Rings is a very disappointing GBA title. But it is far more enjoyable than the other Fellowship of the Ring titles Black Label Games has put out on the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube. However, this does not mean the Game Boy Advance version is a good title. If the developers spent just a little more time fine-tuning the product, this could have been a really great game. But after seeing what Black Label Games has done with the Lord of the Rings franchise, I sincerely hope they cancel all plans at developing The Two Towers and Return of the King.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 12/29/02
ESRB Details: Mild Violence
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Screenshots for Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

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Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers