You step into a large ruin. There is a mushroom here.
(You have used 1 TP) The mushroom is small, and looks edible.
The ruin opens up to reveal the blue sky above you. There are three women here. One is dressed in red, one in yellow, and one in green. They each are holding various weapons. They turn to look at you as you enter the room.
>Kiss the girl in green.
“Wait a second!” You pull out the box and double check. No it isn’t Leather Goddesses of Phobos. The game in question is Riviera: The Promised Land. This RPG was recently translated and released by ATLUS, purveyor of many unusual titles from Japan. Riviera lacks many of the RPG standards such as experience, random encounters, and running around a world map. This is where you should stand up in disgust and say “But how does that make it an RPG, Tom?!?!”
It may lack all those items, but it still has many of the standard fantasy trappings, but they are bound up in a new package. This package takes some really nice artwork, and uses the old concept of text adventure games in new ways. We will work through each sectiion step by step and check our score carefully. The hope is that the end product is a winner.
You wait. Time passes.
Now hold on a second. You actually have to read on to learn more. I’m not going to make it that easy for you.
You have stepped from the ruins into a series of dark paneled hallways. On the walls are large paintings, each illuminated by it’s own individual light.
Each piece of art is simply done, but vibrant in color and style. They seem to watch you as you walk along the halls.
I don’t understand.
>look at the art, you ninny!
Featuring art by Sunaho Tabe, the characters and monsters in this game come to life with very simple but vibrant designs. Some of the style reminds me of what Nippon Ichi used for Disgaea and Phantom Brave. It has crisp, clean art, and each character has its own style that is recognizable regardless of the size of the image. Even the monsters have their own impressively large art portraits for some of their attacks. The battle and field animations are done completely with sprites. Well, if you’ve played the game, it could be argued that the animations were done with sprites controlled by demons. Of course, this would be stretching anyone’s sense of humor too far. These are not Dragon Warrior animations. Each attack clearly shows the weapon or item you are using. They also contain enough detail to bring the characters to life. I’d like to bring up one concern I have about the art. Each area has its own series of backgrounds that tie it together. Heaven’s Gate uses an Ancient Ruins style of background with broken rubble strewn about. Lacrima Castle is moonlit and looks like it could be straight out of a Castlevania game. Just like the other art, there is a lot of detail here. I would be singing more praises to the art team if not for one problem. You see the same art in an area too much. Some of the rooms are repeated so often, I would be lost if it weren’t for the map. Thankfully, it is the only real downside to the artwork in this game.
Hah. Thought you could get me to stop yammering on about the art. Nope. You’re getting the verbose version. On to the sound!
You have entered a large room dominated by a pipe organ. This organ has the standard multiple keyboards flanked by the controls for pumping the air into the system. With a few quick levers being changed, it is ready for use. You reach out to hit middle C and are greated with an underwhelming squeak.
I originally felt that the music was very limited, and I had stated so in my short take of the game in our forums. With more play time wrapped up in the game now, this opinion has changed. Because of the GBA’s limit on music (due to the speaker) the music is not ground breaking. It is well done and I have found myself almost humming it on occasion. It has been awhile since someone has found the magic theme music formula, and Riviera gets really close to it. I think they would have hit it straight on if the GBA hadn’t limited them. I tested the music out on my GBA Player but it wasn’t much improved. With all that said, it is far from being painful to listen to, and only a little repetitive. The game also uses digitized voices for special attacks and small parts of the scenes. Mostly they are heard during battle…if they could be heard at all. I didn’t realize they were in there until I was playing before bed with the sound turned up all the way. They are there, just really quiet. The voices are very clear and can be understood once you know to listen for them. Another valiant attempt on their part, further hampered by the hardware.
This room is dominated by large clockwork gears and levers. It is hard to hear anything in here. There is a door on the far side of the room.
>Go through door
You have entered a small white room lit from above by the sun. In the middle of the room is a pedestal with a cross and some buttons on it.
With a single button press, the walls change from white to show the world from high above. Further manipulation of the controls allows you to zoom in and watch the occupants of the world closely.
Riviera went with the less is more concept of controls. You use the D-pad to select hotspots on the screen. The A button is used to switch between move and look mode. Select is the universal menu button, and the R shoulder button will bring up detailed information. These buttons combine to bring you into the world. Like commands used in the old Infocom text adventures, they are simple by themselves, but complex when combined.
The game also frequently has skill tests, such as when avoiding a trap. All of these skill tests occur out of battle. Pad the Clock, Pad Pad Revolution, Button the Target, and Which Treasure would A Like form the list of tests. Pad the Clock has you enter a series of commands using the d-pad and A/B buttons before a timer runs out. Pad Pad Revolution has you enter commands much like the well loved dancing game, while a bar moves beneath them. Miss one and you fail. Button the Target simply has you hit A while an arrow moves along a bar. Time it to hit the small target zone and you succeed. ‘Which Treasure would A like?’ simply has you hit the A button while a list of treasures flash rapidly. You get one of them. The only downside to these minigames is that the Gameboy Advance controls are inadequate for them. Whenever I saw one coming, I had to change my grip on the GBA so that I could rapidly press buttons.
>Skip reflex based minigames
Nice try, but that is not going to happen. The good news is that these minigames are geared during cutscenes and exploration. They help determine if you lose a percantage of HP, or find a special treasure. Failing them will not lose you the game in the long run, but will make it harder. Being good at them…well, I’ll discuss that in the next room. Walk with me please.
>Follow nutty game reviewer.
The pedestal you discovered earlier allows you to move easily and quickly to locations all over the globe. Simple pushes of the cross shaped section guide you across the cities and farms. But you have discovered that you didn’t simply observe the world in action.
Like a good book, Riviera is a series of adventures into the different parts of the world to complete Ein’s mission. This also where the game departs from traditional RPG elements. There is not a world map for you to pick your destination, nor can you revisit previous areas for monster encounters or events you missed. This is a very linear game that focuses on your score, events, and number of turns taken to rank you on how well you did. Levels, experience, and random encounters have all been thrown to the wayside.
The game moves from the main town you are in to a dungeon area. A dungeon will be divided up into areas of five to nine rooms. These rooms are populated with monsters and events that you will encounter. I have yet to discover a random event in my two passes through the game. You will work your way through each dungeon and evntually face the demon at the end. Once the demon has been defeated, you are scored and ranked for that level.
Another aspect of the game that is very unique is the battles. When you enter a fight, you pick which three characters you want to go into battle with you, then you must choose which four items you wish to use in the fight. When any of your character’s turn come up in the battle, they choose which item they are going to use. This reduces the item’s durability and forces you to choose wether to use the low durability, high attack magic wand or the basic sword with tons of durability. Each character has their own preferred weapon types that they like to use, and by using these weapons they learn special moves called Overdrive attacks.
I did mention earlier that levels were thrown out. This is quite correct. Characters don’t have numeric levels showing how powerful they are. Instead, as they use these preferred weapons and master the Overdrive attacks, their statistics increase. Ein likes to use swords and has them as his primary weapon of choice. If he wants to learn any of the sword special attacks, it takes eight uses of that weapon for him to master it. Once it is mastered, he can use the overdrive attack in the next battle and he will get a stat increase at the end of the current battle. Fia has swords as her L1 weapon choices (the lowest) and it only takes her three uses of that weapon to master it. Now the attack she will learn will be different, because it is not the same level as Ein’s ability. Thankfully, there is a practice mode for you to use. When you are in practice mode, using the items doesn’t decrease the durability, although some monster attacks can affect it. The game was much harder until I discovered this mode to build up my characters in.
You step back from the pedestal and look over the globe. You have explored every nook and cranny, and watched its inhabitants. Or have you?
I know that during my first run through this game I did not succeed at all of the events or discover all the different locations in the game. By finding items during a play of the game, you can unlock a sound test, art collections, and more. You can also challenge yourself by trying to complete the game with a better score, or less turns. I can definitely see myself playing this again, just to see the different endings. Don’t expect major changes if you play through it again though. The game is linear, and I have yet to determine if any events are random.