Hidden Gem Review: Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring
Reviewer: Cliff Davenport
1998 was a monumental year for the gaming industry, bearing witness to the debuts of such legendary titles as Baldur’s Gate, Gran Turismo, Half Life, Metal Gear Solid, and StarCraft, each of which influencing or founding entire genres of their own for years to come. Little known, however, is the existence of another game, released the very same year, whose underappreciation can hardly be overstated. I refer, of course, to Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring.
If you recognize this, your childhood was awesome.
Directed and designed by Seiichi Shii, of Tekken and Virtua Fighter fame, Ehrgeiz
is a three-
Now, that said, I can proceed no further without addressing the spikey-
Let’s face it, if you played this game before reading this article,
these characters are why.
As gimmicky as these characters’ inclusions may be, their presence belies the surprisingly deep and impressive level of quality gameplay present throughout Ehrgeiz, the likes of which is rarely seen in games past or present. Multiple gameplay modes allow for a wide range of gaming experiences, from a traditional fighting game’s mandatory arcade mode to varied challenge modes and minigames, including contact sprint races, circuit races, and a mode I can only describe as a gloriously twisted blend of cage fighting, checkers, and Connect Four.
The star of the show, however, is, of course, the arcade mode. Right away, Namco
If only Aeris had a box to hide behind…
Balance wise, Ehrgeiz delivers fairly consistent abilities amongst its varied roster, though several of them, notably guest characters Vincent and Yuffie, of Final Fantasy VII, are little more than model swaps of original characters Godhand and Sasuke and their movesets. A small handful of characters, especially those lacking in ranged attacks, can lag behind the majority of the cast, especially at higher difficulties, Dasher Inoba chief amongst them, but one look at the man will probably kill any interest you had in playing as him anyway.
Now, picture this man in a speedo. That’s Inoba’s default appearance in-
Now, mull over the fact that he’s a wrestler. Have fun with that.
Namco’s cooperative influence can be felt throughout Ehrgeiz, though never perhaps
more obviously, or favorably, as during its animations, both in-
What’s more, Ehrgeiz also includes an entirely separate, stand-
“Killing creatures I’ve never met for a sword I’ve never seen for
reasons I don’t quite understand!”
Dungeoneering is hungry work, however, as Ehrgeiz’s developers saw fit to remind
players of. Constantly. Yes, this mode also features a food, hunger, and starvation
system, which, beyond requiring players to replenish their constantly draining stamina
throughout the game, also factors into the mode’s two characters’ leveling progression,
as different types of food promote increases to different stats. As if tactical
nutrition management wasn’t enough, this mode even includes, amongst the merchants
of the safe-
Cthulhu commands it! Bring more Zinfandel!
You won’t be breezing through this mode in an afternoon, either. With dozens of
floors to clear between town and the dungeon’s deepest level, punishingly difficult
enemies therein, and an addictive quality that will sap hours at a time from your
life, “The Forsaken Dungeon” is several days’ worth of game all by its lonesome.
Thankfully, it’s kept from becoming the chore that it easily could have been, as
multiple shortcut mechanics prevent players from needing to retrace their steps through
the dungeon each time they return to town. Hidden doors and wells in town skip down
to the lower levels of the dungeon, though beginning players take these routes at
their own peril, and consumable “dragon’s wing” items act as immediate, two-
Should players die, their bodies explode in a laughably dramatic shower of lost loot,
and their partner character, either Koji or Claire, must then recover their bodies
and equipment before the dead character may be revived. Lose’em both, and it’s game
over for good, so it’s important to keep both playable characters properly leveled
and equipped for emergency tag-
Admirably aware of itself as a game, Ehrgeiz sports a myriad of such aforementioned
nods and references toward other titles and characters that came before and alongside
it, but does so in an unobnoxious fashion that simply rewards those in the know with
periodic grins and chuckles, but manages not to take away from the experience of
those who aren’t in on the jokes. To name a few, character Koji Masuda, of the “Forsken
Dungeon” mode, is a clear hat-
You’re welcome. Now you owe us.
As much as I love it, however, Ehrgeiz is only so human after all, and it does have its own share of flaws. Chief amongst them, as so many fighting games are guilty of, is the game’s utter lack of a coherent narrative or character development, or even proper exposition, for that matter. I only know as much as I do about its characters and story by reading its instruction manual (remember those?) and the now ancient strategy guide that I bought for the game back in the late 90s. Good luck tracking one of those down these days, and likewise, good luck getting at all invested in these characters that you’ll never really know anything about.
Combat too, for all its innovations, is also cause for frustration at times, as Ehrgeiz sports some of the most complicated and exacting attack controls I’ve ever encountered in a fighting game, rendering it difficult to execute many of the game’s more interesting special moves and combos, especially when facing foes diagonally across the screen. Also, it’s worth noting that, outside of the usual grunts, groans, and impact sounds of combat, some of the game’s sound effects, particularly those associated with navigating its menus, are inordinately loud. Seriously, if you want to hear the normal gameplay at all, don’t play this game if someone’s sleeping in a nearby room.
Or, pause, crank the volume, and place a speaker next to their head.
Resume, and enjoy.
All told, Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring claims no pretense to originality or exclusivity
in its experience, and in fact, pokes fun at itself constantly, but in so doing,
it achieves those very things by game’s end. There is literally no other game like
it on the Playstation console, and I challenge readers to name a comparative title
on any console before or since, for that matter. The closest titles that come to
mind are Soul Calibur III, with its disjointed, pseudo-
While imperfect, of course, Ehrgeiz is a game, much like Mount & Blade and Final
Fantasy: Dissidia 012, whose quality demonstrates a clear emphasis not upon pretty,
Controls & Mechanics: 7
Atmosphere & Experience: 7
Entertainment Value: 9
Consoles: Arcade, (PS1), PSN
Publisher: Namco/ Squaresoft
Release Date (U.S.): Apr 30, 1999
Release Date (U.K.): Feb 8, 2000
Release Date (JP): Dec 17, 1998
Last Level Press © Copyright Cliff Davenport Est. 2013. Links | Legal Notices
Share this page: