I recently was watching a conversation evolve on Twitter about how reviews are essentially subjective and regardless of how you go about being objective there will always be an essence of the reviewer included in a review. This reminded me of how Evoland Legendary Edition is going to be very different depending on the experience of who’s playing it. Fairly obvious statement I know but if your first Final Fantasy game was 14 and you only know of Zelda through Hyrule Warriors your mileage is going to drastically change. That being said, this review is from this gamer’s point of view who still has a copy of Final Fantasy 7 and recently went back to the 3DS to play some Zelda.
Evoland Legendary Edition is a bundle of Evoland 1 and Evoland 2: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder into a package with a new title screen and the ability to switch between them using – so let’s break this apart and see if either hold up now they’re on a handheld more suited to their theme than a PC.
If you’ve ever played an original Zelda game then you’ll already know what to do here. Evoland at its core is a top down action explorer title where the objective is to search every nook and cranny of every level to progress and upgrade the game until it’s functionally more modern than it started. As you progress from basic sprites to 16 bit and eventually 3D you will unlock the ability to use bombs and arrows but your main weapon will still be the trusty sword. Don’t expect any boomerangs or interesting changes to the formula, this is as basic as it gets and never really progresses. Evoland 1 does remain incredibly clunky throughout, forcing the player to slowly canvas every area and interaction to simply open a chest that will either be a pointless collectable or necessary plot point.
The visual style of Evoland 1 was what drew me to the game originally and for the most part it’s simply functional. There’s just never anything interesting or new with what it has to offer. The game wipes and shifts from 2D sprites to 3D and low res to high res but everything feels the bare bones and nothing has any real character or polish. Everything feels a little slapdash with repeating textures and images that feel less like a labour of love and more a textbook exercise in how to make games. The visuals eventually start causing problems where returning to 2D areas in 3D, it makes some sections look accessible but they are blocked off by invisible walls. It’s all so empty, full of large open spaces of nothing and the more you play the more disappointing it gets.
Sounds are functional with the appropriate bit tune and effects but nothing stand out and the music is passable but it’s all criminally too short. You’ll find yourself exploring an area to unlock a chest and hopefully progress but as you do the music just loops and loops and loops and loops. I found myself regularly turning the sound off just for a moment’s respite as I searched the forest or replayed the same horrific lava puzzle again. There were the occasional “oh this is just like” moments but they quickly get trampled down by the music looping around again in another area that requires everything to be checked at least once.
Evoland 1’s biggest problem at its heart is its own lazy designs. Until a good chuck of time in 1 hit will result in a Game Over and that takes you right back to the title screen. There’s no difficulty here or shield. Explore and slip up? That’s it. Evoland 1 is constantly full of obscure logic and terrible non-jokes that aren’t as clever as they think they are (“haha guess what this key is for?” ) Once you have the 3D perspective it actually makes it harder to gauge where you are in proximity to anything and there are plenty of enemies that are more of a grind than a challenge. Everything becomes ridiculously frustrating, with simple fireball traps becoming nearly impossible. The only time an interesting puzzle room showed up in the entire game there were 2 monsters in there to ruin it.
There is a turn based combat system in Evoland 1 but it’s so fundamentally broken it’s not worth being included in the game. There are random encounters on the overworld but it’s nothing more than a visual novel with no words. The game has no MP gauge and until further into the game there is no EXP system (This would an interesting mechanic but Evoland 1 literally forces you to grind at the combat for coins before unlocking it) Most combat situations go like this: Tap to attack, tap to select magic for Kaeris, Heal, tap to attack. Repeat until tedium sets in and you wish you were playing something else.
The fact you unlock a feature that is primarily there to annoy you called, “that annoying noise” when your health gets low sums up this games mentality from start to finish. Punish the player and make them think of older (and better) games. It feels like Evoland 1 doesn’t have a single original moment at all. This would be ok if it understood what made the games it copies good or even had a good take on classics but it gets to the point where the games biggest ‘shocking moment’ isn’t shocking at all. It’s so eye rollingly bad I had to check I could still see after.
Evoland 1 would be fantastic as a portfolio piece to get a job showing skills and talents but not a finished product and definitely not a good way to show someone you know how design works. It’s best summed up with its final boss that not only feels like it was lifted straight from Sonic Rush but somehow manages to be worse for it. A collection of odd little moments that are not enjoyable for more than a few seconds at most.
3/10 – Needed to evolve more.
We’re not off to the best of starts here. Evoland 1 was so painful and horrible its very addition to this set is bringing down the quality having it here. That being said Evoland 2 (or its ridiculous full title of Evoland 2: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder) starts off with an option for difficulty so it’s already starting on a stronger footing.
Not only does the game start of with a difficulty option but a clear HP and EXP gauge from the get go. You still experience a basic tutorial about movement and combat but it doesn’t overstay its welcome. If Evoland 1 was themed around better console games of yonder, Evoland 2 is clearly themed on Gameboy and portable games of the same genre. You have a lot more than the simplistic Zelda combat as well, the game occasionally shifts to a side scrolling perspective and by the time the 3D mode is unlocked you’ll have experienced a lot more attempts at other genres along the way.
Visually Evoland 2 is a lot more polished than 1 with various Professor Layton puzzles, a mixture of JRPG stylings and the same Zelda aesthetic at its core again. It’s strengths lie in the visuals of the past when you stand still the game looks fantastic but when it runs that’s another story. The 2D game runs fine but there’s the occasional stuttering and surprisingly obvious framerate dips when your deep in the 3D sections. It seemed to be marginally better when the Switch is docked but it was still surprising to see. The text is easy to read and the character portraits are nice but they don’t change throughout, so if you’re in the ‘future’ 3D world expect to see the classic GBA text and images when characters interact.
Evoland 2 starts to show the same problems as Evoland 1 throughout. Tedious repetitive actions masquerading as puzzles. You are forced to explore areas of generic landscapes to the point where it’s supposed to invoke the feeling of what it’s parodying but just reminds you that they did it better. The text is extensive and I really wanted to like the story with its attempts at handling an epic but the dialogue is incredibly flat and generic. You can expect plenty of characters to act exactly as you see them and almost always force you to go and talk to another in a less natural and more ‘go see what we created’ kind of way.
There are just far too many frustrating moments in Evoland 2, the long and ludicrously tedious stealth section goes on for far too long and the mix of trial and error gameplay with exploration doesn’t really click in a 2D environment. The humour falls flat again moments that are just another case of look it’s a thing! You recognise the thing right? Laugh now. It’s poor throughout and just reminds you again that you could be playing better games. Evoland 2 is also full of yes/no dialogue choices where it doesn’t influence anything and it can get incredibly frustrating in such a text heavy adventure.
Evoland 2 is one of those games that’s big but just for the sake of it rather than adding anything to fill the space. It has mini games that just don’t understand the original game they were taken from. Cook serve delicious but no character movement speed increase, talking to lots of NPCs within a timer but when it’s complete the music stops and the area goes back to normal with no reset and Double Dragon but with more mashing buttons. It’s the best example of a game that is sufferingly short of quality of life improvements. The same “I made stuff go look at the stuff” mentality throughout with no empathy with a player trying to progress the story or enjoy the game at hand.
At its core Evoland 2 is less a classic JRPG homage and more a classic NES hard game like Evoland 1 where the player is constantly punished for not having the exact same logic as its creator. There are flourishing ideas here but they become worn down over and over until it’s just another tedium. The best way to sum up Evoland 2 is the Haunted Forest. It’s a small level where you have to find 6 ghosts to progress and essentially kill a monster’s friends. I loved the Castlevania style music but after 40 loops I grew to hate it. I loved the artwork but there are ghosts hidden off-screen through gaps in invisible walls. I loved the 2D side scrolling area but filling it with water made it impossible not to get hit. When I had finally combed everything and progressed I didn’t feel joy for completing it, I just wondered why I was wasting my time when I could go and play Stardew Valley instead.
4/10 – Progress but not quite evolved enough
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