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Two of my all time favorite game franchises are The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy. A Link to the Past and Final Fantasy VII are true gems of days gone by. Going back to those titles today is a nostalgic trip with some harsh realizations: these games don’t always play as well as I remember. Final Fantasy VII, in particular, feels distinctly old school in its’ design. Still, both series have seen great advancement over the years and are, for the most part, better for it.
When I first spotted this game on Steam, It looked like a game that took a trip down memory lane – starting off in humble 8-bit form and wrapping up in a 32-bit spectacle. What I did not expect, however, was the attention to every little advancement within the genre.
Every little “feature” is unlocked. When you start the game, you can only walk ‘right’. Conveniently enough there happens to be a treasure chest directly to your ‘right’ which opens when you make contact with it. What “treasure” does this chest hold? The legendary ability to ‘move left’. Just…wow. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. Luck would have it that there is also a chest directly to your left. Using this newfound ‘power’, I approach this chest and unlock an even greater power: the ability to move freely in four whole directions.
Now don’t be fooled into thinking this is a super mundane game that celebrates super mundane things. Each moment of this game presents these small advancements as treasured abilities. You’ll unlock color graphics and sound effects, 16-bit graphics and music, and eventually full HD 3D visuals and high-fidelity soundtrack. The pace at which the game presents these things keeps it from ever becoming a bore.
But this game is more than a simple trip down memory lane. Eventually, you unlock turned-based battles which integrate with the main action-based combat nicely. Each form of combat has its’ own place within the game and it is quite refreshing to see these styles mesh together in this way.
One of the more intriguing features comes about half-way through the game: the ability to switch between 16-bit sprite graphics and 3D polygonal graphics. But this isn’t a simple visual change. This is a time-warp. Imagine you are navigating a 3D forest when you come to a tree that is blocking your path. With this time warping mechanic, you are able to switch to a 16-bit mode which, in turn, reverts the tree to an earlier state – in this case, the tree becomes a sapling and can be walked over with ease. Adding further depth to this mechanic is the ability to set this 16-bit tree sapling on fire, effectively eliminating it from the modern 3D world. The game does a great job of making use of these mechanics and keeps the experience fresh throughout.
One thing I can’t forget to mention is the absurd amount of popular references in this game. You’ll see references to the creator of Zelda himself, Shigeru Miyamoto, the famous Final Fantasy villain, Kefka, and even the long-standing airship pilot Cid of Final Fantasy fame. These are just a few of the references to be found in Evoland. Anyone who has been gaming for as long as I have will find a lot to love here.
That’s not to say that the game is perfect. The opening is rather punishing since enemies can kill you in one hit, though this falls in line perfectly with games that Evoland attempts to emulate. And the random battles can happen far too frequently and thus become quite difficult. But again, this falls in line with the type of games that Evoland is attempting to emulate so I’m not sure I can really call these a legit “problem”. One thing that could have been better is the story. It is really minimalistic and full of generic characters. Sure, this emulates games of yesteryear but I’m just not sure it was necessary. Maybe if the story started off generic and became something greater – maybe then I could forgive it. But as it stands, it just feels lacking. Luckily the nostalgia trip that is Evoland motivated me to press forward – if only to see what other goodies the game had in store for me. Which brings me to my next point: Evoland is short. Like really short. Most gamers could knock this game out in an evening. The game does offer a simple card game but I found its appeal to be limited. Overall replayability isn’t terribly high with Evoland.
Evoland is a great game if a bit flawed. The nostalgia trip alone is worth the asking price in my opinion. If you haven’t checked it out yet, Evoland can be found on Steam, GoG.com, iOS, Android, Linux, and even Mac!
Have you played Evoland already? If so, what did you think of it? Let us know in the comments!