<insert Back to the Future pun here>
As a gaming father, one of my most heartwarming moments was when my son first started getting into video games. The feeling of pride when he played his first Zelda game brought me back to a long time ago when I would come home from school, watch an episode of Transformers and Masters of the Universe, then play some of our Atari 2600 or NES. I'm glad I held on to my old systems, so he could experience the same games that I grew up with.
I do feel somewhat bad for today's young gamers, though. They are starting their hobbies with games that look true to life; amazing experiences and works of art. Growing up in the early days of consoles, I got to experience firsthand the evolution of the industry. From characters that were literally a square (I'm talking about you, Adventure), to the days of 8-and-16-bit gaming, to the revolutionary 3D-era, being a part of the growth of video game technology was something I was truly privileged to have lived through.
Why do I mention this? Good question! Due to the miracles of modern technology, gamers can now live through the evolution of gaming – from Game Boy all the way to the original PlayStation – all in one retrotastic game! Enter Evoland: Legendary Edition for the Nintendo Switch.
Title: Evoland: Legendary Edition
Developer: Shiro Games
Publisher: Shiro Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Release: February 7, 2019 (Switch Release)
Evoland: Legendary Edition packs two games into one package: Evoland and Evoland 2. Each game is designed to guide you through the history of gaming, while still providing an enjoyable (and cheeky) RPG experience.
The Tip and the Top
Let's start with Evoland 1. This game was actually released for the PC back in 2013, and only hit consoles recently. Evoland puts you in the shoes of a warrior, and plays much like a classic RPG. Drawing heavy influences from The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Diablo, Evoland adopts several gameplay styles throughout its campaign. You start off with classic Game Boy graphics, and every treasure chest you find changes the world – literally. From adding music and sound effects to the game, to changing the color palette and graphic style, the game changes around you as you play.
The gameplay also goes through some evolutionary changes, too. You start off playing the game similar to the original Legend of Zelda, with an overhead view. As you find more chests, the game adds more elements: a life bar, weapons and armor, and specialized attacks are all acquired to show off how games progressed. It's also as if the game is being developed as you play. It's a very fascinating and wholly original concept, and I found it to be very enjoyable to watch history unfold in front of my eyes.
Evoland is not all flash – there's a halfway decent amount of content in the game as well. By the time you finish, you'll have played the through a traditional turn-based RPG, action-RPG, and dungeon crawler. The different styles into each other pretty smoothly, and you don't really miss one gameplay style when you switch over to the other. There's also exploration elements, as you can find hidden stars, as well as playing cards that can be used in a mini-game (which in itself is a ton of fun).
Evoland 2, interestingly enough, actually feels like an evolution of Evoland 1. It carries a lot of the same elements of the first game, only much more refined. Whereas Evoland 1 wears its heart on its sleeve and is a direct homage to certain games, Evoland 2 is a full-fledged game with a deep story and improved gameplay elements.
Evoland 2 mostly plays like action-RPG games, with some turn-based RPG thrown in. Instead of unlocking different worldly elements, the characters travel through time in Evoland 2, both literally and figuratively. The “present” time period looks like a 16-bit game, whereas the “past” has an 8-bit aesthetic and the “future” looks more modern. Again, it's a fun and interesting concept, and does not get old. Evoland 2 also takes the RPG elements further. Yes, you can level up in both games, but Evoland 2 features a deeper RPG system more akin to a traditional video game.
Evoland 2 features many of the humor that made the first game so enjoyable, and a lot of this is deeply rooted in the game's many throwbacks. You will be playing the standard-fare Zelda-esque gameplay, but there are also parts in the game where it changes to other genres, such as a beat-em-up, shmup, or even a fighting game. It's hilarious to see the game transition to these modes, and even makes sense within the story.
Evoland 2 also includes the aforementioned card game, Double Twin. I wanted to make sure I pointed this out, as this game is way more fun than you would think. If the developers made their own digital – or hell, physical – version of Double Twin, I would buy it in an instant. Before I knew it, I was spending over an hour just playing the card game. And even more fun, is that you can find some of the best cards in the wild. I highly recommend getting into it, as it makes this fun game that much more enjoyable.
The Flip and the Flop
Evoland: Legendary Edition does have a few concerns, and they mostly fall within the first game. The first is the length of time. I was able to beat the first game in two hours and 30 minutes; and I'm sure I could half that if I raced through it. Evoland 2 is a much deeper experience, and will take about 15-20 hours to complete. Evoland 1 is also very difficult at its onset. If an enemy hits you one time, you're dead, and have to restart. I'm not sure if that was to add to the classic, hard-as-nails experience, but it did get aggravating to get game over because of one little bat.
The music in the first game is also pretty basic. It's the same 30-second song looped over and over, and you can also hear where it resets. It does take away from the game's enjoyment a bit, but nothing serious. There were also a few graphical glitches in both games, but again nothing that made them feel broken.
Final Grade: B+
If they ever offer a college course on the history of video games, Evoland: Legendary Edition should be a required read (or play). It's a fun title that takes you back through time and provides an interactive guide through the development of gaming from then till now. While the first game in the series is a fun, albeit short experience, the real enjoyment comes with its sequel. It's just a fun (and hilarious) experience that anyone who just wants to chill will find a lot of enjoyment with. I won't spoil all the surprises and throwbacks featured in these games, but anyone who grew up playing classic games will quickly find themselves grinning from ear to ear.
Review copy provided by Shiro Games