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Everblue 2

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The original Everblue was one of those releases, which was overlooked by many, despite offering many redeeming qualities. The fact that the press immediately dismissed it as slow, outdated and niche didn’t help greatly. Fortunately Akira and Capcom have seen fit to release the sequel, although it must be said that Everblue 2 represents a continuation of the story, and honing of the game dynamics, rather than any dramatic improvement or new direction.

Before discussing the story line I should layout what Everblue exactly is, and why I find the diving simulator (as dubbed by Capcom) series so refreshing. On dry land the game takes the form of an old point and click PC RPG, similar to Broken Sword if you will. Here you are confronted by pre-rendered backgrounds and various characters to talk to. This aspect offers nothing revolutionary, but does drive the story well, with new areas becoming available as you make progress. The main advantage is in terms of use, as everything is available within a few presses of the controller.

The second aspect, and most important, is diving underwater. This is a total contrast visually and dynamically to the RPG ethos on dry land. Through diving you can build up your own personal statistics, scavenge the sea for booty and sell your findings to finance new equipment. The first person viewpoint allows you to really feel as if you are underwater. There are many things to consider whilst in this state; obviously air and depth, but also weight and the possible dangers, which include sharks, jellyfish, sea snakes and other marine life. Your sonar can be equipped with different elements (glass, wood, metal) to help you locate certain items. The underwater map includes a variety of habitats from the beautiful coral, to the abyss with its strong currents. Put all these elements together and you have a game that is hard to pigeonhole.

There is no need to worry about missing out on the story of the first game, because only the main character and his sidekick return. Thanks to being washed up on a new island you find yourself having to start again from scratch whilst entertaining new dangers. Joining with a local diving team (The Amigos) you soon start to salvage wrecks for business, despite the small size of the team, provoking an unfriendly response from a professional salvage firm. Other aims include repairing your boat and finding the sacred monument that your father failed to locate. Even on this distant island your reputation for being an excellent diver proceeds you. However you will have to gain the trust of the various individuals that you meet. This is achieved by performing tasks, exchanging information and locating various objects on the seabed. Once a level of trust has been achieved the individual will present you with a seashell to symbolise this – a local custom.

Everblue 2 contains a strong sense of adventure, as you explore the unknown, but also fear of what you might exactly find out there. At various stages of the game you will not be looking for an item, but rather an actual wreck. Each comes with its own dangers – especially if your equipment is not ideally suited to the dive. The highlight for me was looking for the wreck of a sunken liner, which loomed out of the darkness, once eventually discovered. Swimming inside a wreck brings its own dangers, but imagine trying to find a particular item on a ship of such size, whilst balancing your air and stamina, even though you are on the very limits of your range. The sense of scale is well handled and because of the pitch black conditions and effective audio, becoming traumatised is all too easy.

A great gaming moment for me was swimming into a huge room inside the liner, and realising that the object confronting you was a chandelier. I was now at the top of a huge room, and to reach the lower levels you would have to dive down, into the darkness with only a torch to guide you through the eerie environment. This single moment possessed more atmosphere than the majority of games, which set out to scare and shock players today.

For all the positive aspects of Everblue 2, you soon realise that this sequel will do nothing to attract anyone new to the series. It repeats the formula of the original and therefore the slow pace. There is no combat, scantily clad females or evil empires to conquer, and games that shy away from such commodities tend not to fair well. It’s an unfortunate scenario, but all too familiar in today’s blockbuster climate. There are no FMV sequences, stunning or otherwise and the presentation has a minimal quality, although a 60hz option is included. The most noticeable improvement is the increase in the variety of marine life that you will come across, which help to brighten up the drab seafloor. Visually the marine life is still second best to the excellent Sega Bass Fishing series on the Dreamcast, but I didn’t stick around for too long to inspect the sharks.

A new feature is the ability to build buildings or boats, once you have the relevant plans. This is simply achieved by salvaging the necessary parts and purchasing the labour. It opens up new avenues in the game but isn’t as fully developed as one could have hoped for. In fact this feature is extremely limited in comparison to Dark Cloud, and more expansion would be welcome if a third instalment is released. Although the story is linear, it is well hidden through the use of sub-stories and increasing the potential diving area. I would have preferred a more open-ended approach; similar to that seen in Skies of Arcadia, where you could explore for lost monuments, hidden islands and other treasures outside of the main story. Investigating the history behind wrecks, then trying to deduce their location would make for a stimulating game. What Everblue 2 offers is a small snapshot of what may be possible, but I would like to see even more ocean and even more wrecks contained within.

Everblue 2 is a release, which deserves to find a market, but as with other quality Playstation 2 releases such as Ring of Red and Project Zero it will probably fail. Many will view the diving aspect as an oddity, but its new experiences such as this that are sadly lacking today.