- Posted by Carl Lyon
- On September 2, 2015
- 0 Comments
Shiro Games’ Evoland was a high-concept nostalgia trip through the history of RPGs, with players starting out with a monochromatic prototype that slowly added various audiovisual and mechanical elements before settling into its final form: a full-fledged Japanese-style RPG with 3D graphics. While it may not have electrified players with a stirring narrative or innovation, it was a fun, linear journey that was much more about the trip than the destination.
Its sequel, Evoland 2, ups the ante by leaping across entire genres, and eschewing its more linear progression for a tale that leaps back-and-forth between time periods and swapping out its graphics accordingly. Heading back to the past? The game becomes a pixelated, 8-bit romp. Leaping forward into the future tarts the game up with crisp, 3D models and bold palettes. It’s an impressive sight, with each of the styles managing to feel like natural extensions of each other, and it all comes across as surprisingly genuine. This isn’t just obvious nostalgia-fodder: the game’s design feels like the most natural form of presentation, and not just pixel-art for pixel-art’s sake.
The narrative is also vastly stronger than its predecessor, even if it’s little more than a JRPG-style melodrama involving war with a race of demons and Chrono Trigger-flavored temporal acrobatics. The game’s story is peppered with winking in-jokes and sly genre nods. Sure, some of them fall a little flat (a chibi-fied Lara Croft analogue is especially blatant), but there are plenty of smirk-inducing moments and a few genuine mind-blowers here and there, some so subtle that I didn’t even realize they were happening until a Steam Achievement let me know.
Of course, all of this window dressing would be for naught if the game wasn’t fun, and for the most part it succeeds. Evoland 2 speaks its own language, based off of the tongue of its ancestors, and it does an admirable job at crafting its own dialect. The main push of the game is still a simple RPG–it’s more Crystalis than Final Fantasy–but there are countless forks from the path that keep things fresh. By the end of the game you’ll have engaged in Metal Gear-ish stealth, a bullet-hell shmup, extensive platforming segments, and even a brief foray into fighting-game territory. Hell, there are even a few nods towards Professor Layton and his logic puzzles. The forays are mostly brief, but no so brief that it harms the rhythm of the game. The vertically-scrolling shooter does wear its welcome out, but for the most part each of the various genres is handled competently.
Therein lies the rub: each of the sub-games is competent, making Evoland 2 a jack of all trades, but a master of none but its RPG core. The various diversions from the path become more novelty than genuine enhancement, which does little to elevate Evoland 2 to much more than a fun romp through gaming history, much like its predecessor. However, if you accept the game for what it is rather than what it could be, there is a hell of a lot of fun to be had.
Evoland 2 is available now on Steam
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