Evoland Legendary Edition
Reviewed by: Shaun Hughes
Developed By: Shiro Games
Published By: Shiro Games
Category: Action, Adventure
Release Date: 07.02.2019
This is evolution
Gaming has evolved at a rapid rate in my twenty plus years enjoying this truly wonderful art from. From humble beginnings playing FIFA 96 on the Sega MegaDrive to being able to compete against other footie fans from across the world. From the original Grand Theft Auto with its birds-eye view to an open world expanse as long as the eye can see. I could go on, but gaming has evolved in ways one could have only hoped. To remind us of this, Shiro Games have worked to create a gaming series which is steeped in gaming history.
With previous releases of Evoland and Evoland 2 gracing many a platform from iOS to Android and Windows, the series now seeks to stake its claim on the major consoles, the Nintendo Switch being one of them. The Legendary Edition package comes with both the original and the sequel in one digital download, and is categorised on the eShop as:
“two great and unique RPGs, with their graphic style and gameplay changing as you progress through the game!”
Proud evolution, proud
Evoland’s evolution from mobile download to home console is almost as impressive as the history it tries to replicate, as the game was conceived during Ludum Dare – one of the world’s largest and longest running Game Jam events. Every four months, a jam is run which challenges game developers to create a game within 48 hours. In the 24th Ludum Dare, Nicolas Cannasse created Evoland Classic which was crowned the number one game out of the 1400 strong competition. Reaching 300,000 players within a few months, it is understandable why it is now downloaded to my Switch today. For a brief spot of gaming history, you can still play the game in its original form here.
As a creature of habit, I had to start with the original Evoland before I could try out the second, and I am glad that I did. Evoland stays true to its attempts to showcase the evolution of gaming over time, with clear influences from the Legend of Zelda titles and Final Fantasy. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost, much of which I will explain below.
“Evoland is a journey through the history of action/adventure gaming, allowing you to unlock new technologies, gameplay systems and graphic upgrades as you progress through the game. Inspired by many cult series that have left their mark in the RPG video gaming culture, Evoland takes you from monochrome to full 3D graphics and from active time battles to real time boss fights, all with plenty of humor and references to many classic games.”
Evolution, nonstop evolution
The game begins much like a GameBoy title from the late 1980’s, with 8-bit graphics and no colour. As the game progresses, a series of chests unlock elements of gameplay and design which were subsequently released over the years. From the introduction of colours and textures, to game mechanics and camera angles, Evoland does a fantastic job of reminiscing about games of old – there was even a certain point where Evoland had me reaching for my bank card to make a Final Fantasy IX purchase. I am unsure as to whether that is the games intention, but what we can be sure of is that the developers have a lot of love for the games of yesteryear and the direction they were taken in.
Unfortunately, replicating tried and tested designs of games of old means that there is less opportunity to put your own stamp or mark on a title, and the original definitely suffers somewhat in that regard. It is an interesting journey, and I was always excited to unlock the next chest and see where it would take me and the game, but I often felt I was going through the motions. To the developers credit, this seems to have been acknowledged as the amount of game time the original offers compared to its superior counterpart is adequately proportioned: Evoland can be completed in under four hours whereas Evoland 2 can take anywhere between 15 and 20 hours depending upon your play-style.
“Evoland 2 graphics style is changing as you travel through time and its gameplay evolves as you move along the storyline. It is also a real RPG at heart, with a deep scenario based on time travel: explore different eras and change the history of the world. But are you sure that the consequences will not make things worse?”
Talkin’ about the evo-lution
The aforementioned sequel is where Shiro Games does more to justify its price point, and provides the personality and charm that the first was lacking. It is designed in much the same way as the original, beginning in a similar vein and highlighting all the changes in action-adventure games over time as the first did. Where it differs however, is in the gameplay experiences that are crafted and the much more detailed battle system and inventory. The progression within the game is more enjoyable and is used to compliment the gameplay, and not just as its own party piece.
It is difficult to evaluate the successfulness of the sequel in its own right as its unique selling point is its historical game references and humour – to take it away would be to take away what makes it what it is. What is worth noting, however, is that if this was a title released without those references, it would still hold up well enough to deserve a playthrough. I found it interesting, beautiful and well-crafted, and it often made me ponder how this game design could be utilised in the future.
Evolution of sound
Whilst a lot can be said for the visuals in this title, the sound plays just as important a role. It showcases the same evolution over time, with the games beginning without sound altogether and the game slowly building to modern day RPG-style music. I found this to be just as engaging as the gameplay model itself, and emphasised once again how far we have come. The moments of nostalgia were enhanced through the auditory offerings, and I applaud the developers for being so attentive to these finer details.
As an action RPG hacker-slasher series, Evoland Legendary Edition is a mixed bag. Acting as an ode to all that has gone before it, it often finds itself too closely matched to the originals and it loses elements of what made those inspiring titles so good. Whilst this is more accurate about the original, thankfully Shiro Games have corrected this in the sequel and provided a meaty take on the RPG that carefully balances historical gaming references to provide a current gaming experience that young and old can enjoy.
For those looking to make a purchase, I would highly recommend playing the games in order. Playing the sequel first would only serve to make the original redundant, and this would be a travesty to both Nicolas Cannasse and the history of gaming as a whole.
3.5 out of 5 stars