Over the past thirty years, video games have changed dramatically. From simple blocky sprites on a green LCD screen upon the trusty GameBoy, through the 8 and 16-bit console wars, and into the age of 3D gaming on more modern consoles. Sure, games have changed dramatically in terms of the visuals as more powerful hardware will undoubtedly lead to more ambitious projects, but that’s not all that’s changed. Over the years, each genre has seen numerous enhancements and tweaks here and there in order to create a new experience to keep it fresh, Evoland is a homage to this (and also technically a parody).
Evoland Legendary Edition contains both of the Evoland games in one package at a great price on modern consoles. The first game feels more like a proof of concept, or a homage to the visual styles throughout the ages, yet Evoland 2 is one of the best RPGs I’ve played in a while. So, grab your nostalgia glasses and come with me as we take a closer look at the Evoland Legendary Edition...
As I stated above, the original Evoland feels like a proof of concept which was put together with the game created as an afterthought. I’m not saying the game is bad, it’s just rather short, clocking in at around three hours, and it seems to shove visual and mechanical gimmicks into the gameplay more than a solid story. I’ve played this game before and replaying it on the PS4 brought back a lot of fond memories. You begin the game as a blocky GameBoy sprite who can only move right. Upon obtaining a chest, you can now move left, then up and down; soon you’ll be moving from screen to screen with per-screen transitions followed by smooth scrolling. It’s like ‘the history of RPG games’ in one package!
That’s where this game thrives and stands out from the crowd of ‘retro-like’ games, it doesn’t try to be old-school, it literally IS old-school as it recreates the original styles. Each time you find a new chest in the world, you’ll unlock a new mechanic or art style. You’ll find things like 16/256 colours, a 3D map, random encounters, music, a backstory, NPCs, and even pre-rendered backgrounds like we saw in games such as Final Fantasy VII. The funniest has to be the DVD drive. That’s right, upon unlocking the pre-rendered backdrops, the game adds in loading times between screens, something we all had to put up with back in the day. However, purchase a DVD drive and the loading times will vanish – pure genius!
There is a story buried within this first game but it doesn’t really stick out. You’re a guy who meets a girl and you end up on a mini-adventure together as you chase after the guy who attacked her village. It’s a nice straight forward quest which doesn’t require much thinking even though you will have a few puzzles to solve along the way. Some of these puzzles are really intuitive as you must swap between PS1-style 3D graphics and flat SNES-like visuals. You switch between them because the various visual styles all have different perspectives on the environment – a stone which blocks you in SNES mode may actually only be a small slab which you can easily walk over in 3D mode, for example.
For the trophy hunters out there, Evoland 1 is rather simple. There’s a card game, which is a lot like the one in Final Fantasy VIII, with a bunch of cards to find throughout the world, as well as stars to collect, money to save, enemies to slay, and other random tasks which are all non-missable from what I can see. Also, as the game has been out for many years on PC, there are a number of guides out there should you need a helping hand in finding some of the more obscure and hidden items.
After playing the first game and completing it in one sitting in around three hours, I wasn’t expecting much from Evoland 2. I’d not played this one before so I was expecting another three to five-hour adventure based on various visual effects hidden in chests. However, what I ended up with was around 15 hours of a much deeper and well thought out RPG game which appears to have its story and mechanics first and the visual gimmicks second! To say I was shocked and highly impressed would be a massive understatement.
The story of Evoland 2 is much more structured and apparent – you’re an unknown protagonist who is taken in by a young girl and her father when they come across you one day (think The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening). As you explore your surroundings, you come across the girl as she is under attack by some punk-demons. After a brief rescue, you both investigate a nearby magical stone and find yourself whisked back in time by fifty years!
You see, in the year 950, Demons and Humans were at war with each other and history took a turn as the humans overcome the creatures and won the war. The year 999 is where our protagonist and new companion begin their story together, at the dawn of the 50th anniversary of the victory. Later on, you’ll also scoot forward another fifty years to the year 1049 as you uncover a dark and sinister event which is about to occur during the celebration back in 999.
So, you must travel back and forth through time as you join up with new allies, take down terrible foes, solve time-altering puzzles, and try to steer history in the right direction. As I said, it’s a much better story and technically a much better game than the first outing.
So, Evoland 2 is all about time travel, a mechanic in which your actions in the past affects the future and the visual styles alternate accordingly. For example, in 950 we’re treated to cute NES-style visuals, 999 advances into SNES-like graphics (similar to Chrono Trigger), and the game turns 3D with smooth edges in the year 1049. That’s about it in terms of visual changes (except when you go way back into the GameBoy era), Evoland 2 doesn’t unlock new styles as rewards for opening chests as we saw in the first game, Evoland 2 is all about the evolution of the gameplay mechanics.
As a total flip to what we saw in the first game, this 15+ hour adventure will take you on a journey of excitement, action, intrigue, and suspense as you never quite know what’s going to happen next. Just a few of the various gameplay styles you’ll experience are: 2D side-scrolling, Endless runner, Shmup, Tactical RPG (Fire Emblem), Professor Layton puzzles, and Action-Adventure. Sure, the first game had a few of these as well as styles such as Diablo-like segments, but this second game feels like the mechanics fit the situations a lot better.
Both Evoland 1 and 2 are oozing with gaming and movie references and parodies. The second game, in particular, has so many that I lost count whilst I was playing. There’s even a segment where you come across a few heroes which you may recognise in the image above… almost every dungeon you enter or NPC you talk to will have some sort of reference to other games you’ll most certainly recognise.
Seriously, you’ll fend off parodies of the Minecraft Creeper, Gooma and Piranha Plants from Mario, Summon the mighty Bahamut from Final Fantasy, Visit Cid and obtain his flying machine, use bombs ala Bomberman, Play Pong and Space Invaders, look at Mewtwo being incubated, and many more.
When I reviewed Asterix & Obelix: XXL2 a few weeks ago, I stated that I thought that game had the most puns and references I’d ever seen – well, Evoland Legendary Edition has basically taken that spot with no contest!
I can’t praise the Evoland Legendary Edition collection enough for its graphical eye candy and nostalgia oozing pixels! As I’ve stated a few times, you’ll progress through various visual modes throughout both games which change either based on the time period you’re in or the area you approach (based on the game).
The art direction in the game pays homage to the classic titles of the past such as the original Legend of Zelda, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VII, The Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening on the original GameBoy, Diablo, Double Dragon and more.
The only negative I have is that the UI remains rather blocky with pixelated Avatars in the second game, even when you entered the future and everything else was 3D and smooth – it really stands out and I’m not sure why it didn’t adapt to the new art styles.
The audio in both titles is yet another perfect homage to the games they are imitating. From chiptune to Final Fantasy VII-like Midi files, the music encapsulates the visual direction and adds to the overall charm and intuitive gameplay which the collection delivers. There is no voice acting, as it’s trying to stick to the respective past formats, but it would have been nice if the future mode had introduced some narrative mumble, groans or one-liners.
One other thing, the first game didn’t really have an intro – as it’s a chest you have to find in order to get a scrolling screen of ‘backstory’, but the second game had a really nicely drawn out intro sequence – I would have liked it if more of the game had cutscenes like that as it looked great, but alas, it didn’t.
Okay, time to talk about the negatives I have with the game, not from an opinion view but from a technical point.
First up, Crashes. I’m playing on the PS4 Pro (which may be the issue) and both Evoland games are very unstable at the moment (not yet patched). Initially, I had my PS4 Pro on my 1080p TV with Supersampling enabled and the final boss battle in the first game would crash every single time I almost beat him. Thankfully the game hadn’t crashed up until this point, but still – every single time it would crash. My solution, disabling Supersampling seemed to allow me to kill him and finish the game
However, this trick doesn’t work within Evoland 2. That game would crash whenever it felt like it. Although the majority of my issues were as you faced off against a shadowed version of yourself – it crashed approx 15 times on me there until I was able to move on. But, it also crashed in other areas as I was just exploring or within the heat of battle. The game does autosave on every new screen you enter though, so you’re never having to backtrack a lot once you load it back up.
The second issue I had, and the strangest, is the houses within Evoland 2 in the main city of Genova. Upon entering any building, your character (and any NPCs) are placed under the floor! You can see your shadow as you move around, but your physical body is under the floor. You can still interact and advance the game as normal, it’s just really hard to see where the NPCs are which you need to talk to. This has been reported and is being looked into by the developer.
The Evoland Legendary Edition is an innovative and creative new old-school RPG. If you’ve grown up with multiple systems ranging from the 8-bit consoles to the 32-bit generation, then you’ll simply love all of the nostalgic references and nods which you’ll immediately pick up on and smile at, every single time.
For the price, you’re getting two rather unique and enjoyable games. One is short but contains some great ideas and concepts, the other is much longer with a more solid story and vision. The Evoland Legendary Edition collection is a modern take on old-school visuals and mechanics which have been implemented perfectly to create a artificial nostalgic experience around a modern game.
- - A great modern take on nostalgic mechanics and visuals
- - Evoland 2 has a great story with ever-changing mechanics which makes every new area a surprise
- - The music used in both games is perfectly matched to the visuals
- - Despite it's short length, Evoland 1 has a lot of interesting concepts and events within it
- - I've never felt so nostalgic about a modern game before in my life
- - There are a few issues with Evoland 2, such as walking under the floor and a lot of crashing
- - The first game feels like it's more of a concept with the game added afterwards, unlike the second which was much more immersive and entertaining
- - No way of tracking which items you have and haven't picked up, thus making trophy clean-ups after you finish the game much more lengthy
- - As a side note (not score affecting), the first game is quite brutal as there's no autosave and you die really easily