By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
As a child of the 80s, I grew up with some pretty intense, deep, well-written roleplaying games. Some more than others, admittedly; Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy IV, Chrono Trigger, all with their own merits and idiosyncracies. However I have long-since given up on the notion that the style of deep games with more simplistic art designs were ever coming back, save on cartridge and the occasional disc. Evoland 2 is not a direct successor to Evoland, which was not a commercial success that I’m aware of. Instead, it’s more of a spiritual successor to it, and everything that has come before it. This is a throwback, a shrine to the plethora of great games that came before. While at its core it is a top-down action RPG, a’la Secret of Mana there is much more going on here. This game has quite literally something for just about everyone: A fighting game section, a Bullet Hell section (Galaga, Raiden Trad), platforming side-scrolling action, Professor Leyton and Lufia-esque puzzles! It also calls back to the Chrono Trigger style turn-based RPG; there’s no way you can go wrong here. You do not stick to any one style of game the entire time, and it does not hold your hand, not even a little bit.
It’s more than just mixing up game genres, though! This is a tale of time travel, and each world looks a little different. PS2 style graphics, Game Boy (Tutorial), NES, SNES RPGs! It’s a tale of time travel through styles of game and genres, and while it’s a spiritual successor to Evoland, it also definitely feels like a tribute to Chrono Trigger, arguably the greatest time-travel game to be released to the public. It has deep, heart-wrenching moments, and comedic tributes that made me laugh till my face hurt. Evoland 2 is a game I didn’t know I wanted till I saw it. Then I knew I couldn’t live without it. The difficulty can prove ridiculous and scales in really weird places, especially if you are bad at puzzles or platforming. But if you are looking for a challenge, while still being entertained, look no further. Evoland 2 will make you groan and swear, and not a moment later you will be grinning, thinking back fondly to games of your youth. And for gamers who are not familiar with older style video games, think of it as a history lesson in disguise.
Evoland’s title is pretty clever in its own way. The theme is Evolution, even if it’s not expressly told in game. One can see it simply by playing the game. Art, Combat, Music, even Comedy are evolving constantly and it is shown succinctly in the game. Comedy acts like Monty Python and the Holy Grail (the Prophet who constantly yells “Ni!” before I knocked the snot out of him in a fighting game mode), the “Number of the Beast,” RE: the Great Destroyer was 42, a throwback to one of my favorite writers of all time, Douglas Adams. But it’s not just comedy. There’s a story here, of Demons versus Humans, of races being obliterated, tragedy and desperation. It has attention to detail that I just don’t see in single player roleplaying games these days. Though this is not to say the game is perfect, not at all; not everyone appreciates nostalgia, and that’s really what this game is: A tribute, a reminder of where we have come from as gamers.
The changing of game styles might bother some people; I can see why that might be the case. Not everyone is good at/enjoys fighting games, even if it is only a few scenes. Others might hit a brick wall when faced with the top-down bullet hell, where you face off against a good four or five bosses, and steady, infuriating waves of bullets, screaming at your character to move faster or more precisely in all directions. But he’s the silent protagonist, the everyman, accused of being a hero, a pirate, the Great Destroyer. He doesn’t complain, no matter what wacky situation he was pitted against, though the player might. If you aren’t good at puzzles, the Library will drive you insane, and there are no hints to solving the puzzles required to move forward. That’s one of the biggest drawbacks to Evoland 2: It will force you to play styles of games you might not have played/aren’t interested in, and it’s not optional. In this way it is also unique, not letting the player get too comfortable in one style of game mode before switching to the other. It’s the heart and soul of what an RPG ought to be though. It’s got an intriguing story and is far less linear than its predecessor. But Evoland 2 will try its hardest to get you as the player out of your comfort zone; it even calls to mobile puzzle games and 2 shooters.
As you progress through the game and travel through time, you will see how this world you are on changes and evolves; you do not travel to other worlds that I have seen, but you do get to see how villages, castles, and caverns change as eras in the world pass you by; in a way, it really makes you think about the world around you, how our own planet has changed as Earth has turned its way around the Sun. You are not alone in this strange land though: The Protagonist has three allies who join him throughout time periods, and each has their own special power they bring to the world around them. You do not play as them but summon them to use their powers in a plethora of ways akin to an advanced version of utilizing Pokemon HM abilities. Fina strikes forward and can hit switches (to and fro, denying physics), Menos (who I renamed Manos in a humorous callback to Manos, the Hands of Fate) drops down or shoots forward and punches the snot out of hard-shelled enemies, bricks, blocks and flying creatures. Velvet, the one I just acquired, is very much like Lara Croft, an explorer. She shoots blasts of ice to freeze and break obstacles, and is the source of knowledge on the Magi, which we as players are trying to understand so maybe we can return home. And save the world. That’s a part of it too, I suppose.
Tale As Old As Bytes: 4/5 (Great)
This game probably won’t be for everyone, I understand that. But it’s really got a lot of different things going on all at once, provided with balance and flair. Evoland 2 is unique in a whole mountain of ways, and though as of this writing I’m not finished, I don’t plan on stopping where I am. I love the descriptions you acquire throughout the game, and the snark and sass that the game has in general! It’s funny and many of these moments really poke fun at the gaming industry at large.
It’s a terrific, fun game and it’s got clever humor, throwbacks to past games, solid gameplay and is overall just fun. This is what roleplaying games ought to be: Fun, while still telling a tale that keeps the player enthralled. Sure, the gameplay style swaps can be jarring for players who aren’t expecting it/want just one style of rpg, I don’t think it would be such a negative that it will push it away. Shiro Studios put together something magical here, and I hope everyone who plays it will grin as wide as I did at the tribute to the roots of gaming, as well as gaming technology.
Do you want more Evoland 2? Need a little more convincing? Then come check out the Let’s Play/Review of Evoland 2 by myself and Colton of “Bottom Tier”! Like what we’re doing? Like, follow, subscribe!
Even the NES and Gameboy inspired graphics were glorious; clean sprites, everything visually made sense, and were true tributes to what their roots were. Even in the Fighting Mode, where The Protagonist battles The Prophet, who does a fluid Raging Demon (Akuma, from Street Fighter) and changes into Oni (another “form” of Akuma), that really brought it home for me. It might not be Fallout 4 style graphics, but it doesn’t need them to tell the story.
For the most part, I loved the controls. My personal grievance comes from how awkward the controls were on a PS4 controller. I do not know if it is different on an Xbox One controller, but I got over it and learned how to get the game moving. The fighting game motions were smooth, and the Bullet Hell controlled well enough to weave through pixels. The platforming sections, which were in abundance while challenging, were not because the controls were bad.
There are so many different styles of game here that it’s about a dozen games in one, with a concrete story that doesn’t waver. The puzzles range from “Tricky/Challenging” to “Sonofamotherasdfasdflh!!!”, and even though some frustrated me, I appreciate the challenge and being made to think outside of the box.
The soundtrack while mostly original does have some snippets here and there that made me think of other games, from the Lufia series, to Zelda and Metroid. I love the music in this game as much as I do the art style, and in some cases found myself whistling some of the overworld music.