Finding Your Own Identity
Evoland: Legendary Edition is a collection and console debut of the two games in the Evoland series: Evoland (originally released in 2013) and Evoland 2: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder (originally released in 2015). These games are RPG’s with a very intriguing hook, being that they evolve their graphics as the game progresses. Rather than sticking with a consistent art style, the games start off as simple 8-bit pixel art; more colors are added, then 16-bit graphics take over, then higher quality pixel art, then basic 3D art, and so on. The other unique hook that these games flaunt is a heavy use of parody, both visually and in gameplay. The question is, though, do games that rely on quirks and parody have enough to stand on their own and make their own identity? In some instances, no; but in the case of Evoland 1 and 2, the answer (much more for 2 than 1) is yes.
Evoland doesn’t really give you a chance to ever get sick of what you are playing
Evoland 1 is, primarily, a parody of two game series: The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy. Having a very run-of-the-mill plotline, world, and combat, it chooses to make its originality in its self aware writing and gameplay. Starting off as a simple character, you open chests to unlock more and more game features, like the ability to move up and down, save points, trees, NPC’s, towns, enemies, quests, and even the game world itself. I got annoyed with this at first because of how many times I had to do it; but looking back, it was actually a really creative way to introduce a game world and it is fascinating to watch it grow and evolve slowly. Once the game is created and the main quest is established, you progress through the story with various combat forms. Changing between standard top down Zelda combat for some areas, and turn-based, Final Fantasy combat for others, Evoland doesn’t really give you a chance to ever get sick of what you are playing.
This actually is true for the game as a whole, as the experience constantly changes over its short 3-ish hour length. Herein lies my main issue with Evoland, though; it is just too short for its own good. Not many of its really original ideas get fleshed out well, such as the puzzles that have you change graphical styles which change how you interact with the world. The characters are somewhat interesting, but you don’t get to spend enough time with any of them to get any form of connection other than a base understanding of who they are parodying from other games. (As much as I love some quality references in games, I was getting absolutely smacked in the face with the number of FF7 references).
Similarly, the music is somewhat repetitive and isn’t given much of a chance to make anything memorable, which is kind of a bummer. None of these things are to say its a bad game by any means, I actually had a good bit of fun with it! But by the end of my playthrough, I didn’t feel like I had played a full game, just a proof of concept with good ideas that needed to be expanded. Thankfully, the Evoland: Legendary Collection doesn’t ship with only one game.
Evoland 2 takes everything that was good about the original and expands it to its full potential. Rather than having a story that focuses on being a joke of other series, Evoland 2 tells a long (20-ish hour), detailed, and well-written story that has quality nods to other games and franchises along the way. You play as a unnamed character (that I named “Dude”) that wakes up in a bed in a house in a small town, not knowing who you are or where you came from. What you do know is that it is the 50th anniversary of the Empire’s defeat of the Demons, and this little town is hosting a large celebration. After going on a walk in the woods with the girl (whom you can also name) who found you originally, you accidentally get sent to the past. Trying to find a way back to your future, you discover that things aren’t exactly as the history books recorded, and that you might have the chance to change terrible things from happening to those who don’t deserve it.
Evoland 2 takes everything that was good about the original and expands it to its full potential
Having a good and interesting story right off the bat had me very excited to keep on playing through Evoland 2. Rather than being a game of “HEY LOOK IT’S CLOUD’s SWORD FROM FF7, DO YOU SEE THAT,” it was a nice change of pace to experience a story with stakes and originality to it. I loved the stories that were developed through the time travel, like seeing how villain characters came to be and where event names came from. Having a world of developed and original characters made this one memorable to me and one that I won’t forget for a while.
Now, this isn’t to say there aren’t references to other games at all; it’s just that they don’t smack you with their obviousness as much. I loved hearing about the mischief caused by “a kid in a green tunic that smashed pots”, but I have to admit that I did roll my eyes at a couple instances, like having models of the back of Bomberman, Ryu from Street Fighter, and Sora from Kingdom Hearts randomly chucked in the game. But overall, the balance of originality to parody is significantly better than the original.
Also expanded on from the original game is the variety of gameplay and combat styles. Throughout the story you have standard ARPG story quests, fights with enemies for XP, and will interact with the world and characters in search of key items. What makes Evoland 2 stand out from the pack is the vast amount of different game styles you encounter. There is a traditional 2D Zelda dungeon, Side Scrolling Platformer and fighting segments, environmental world puzzles, Turn Based Combat, a top down “shmup” segment, Bejeweled combat, and even a Street Fighter combat section (complete with the real combos from the game)!
Eeach graphical style represents different eras in the world’s history
This all sounds like too much variety in gameplay, but in a 20 hour game, it actually really helps keep the game and experience fresh all of the way through. Where the game really faltered in pacing, however, was right at the end, where you have the equivalent of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker’s Tri-force shard quest. There are multiple parts you need to collect across the different timelines, and I found this section to be a little tedious and annoying. But, for the most part, the gameplay was fresh and unique, and not much overstayed its welcome!
Also similar to the original, Evoland 2 has a variety of visual styles that you progress through in the story. Rather than it being an evolving world, though, each graphical style represents different eras in the world’s history. For example, 8-bit is the past, 16-bit is the present, and 3D is the future timeline. I absolutely adored the 8 and 16-bit pixel art visuals, as they were full of life and color. I didn’t, however, love the 3D visuals as much. A decent bit of the charm that the pixel art brought is lost with the transition to 3D, and left me feeling like I was playing a phone game instead of a classic NES or SNES game. (Also, on the Nintendo Switch, I experienced pretty significant lag and visual glitches in the 3D era, with the worst glitch being the world map not loading properly about 50% of the time, forcing me to restart the game). The 3D visuals aren’t bad, but I just didn’t enjoy these segments as much as I did the rest of the game.
As I noted before, one of the disappointing aspects of the first one to me was the soundtrack, which wasn’t particularly amazing. Evoland 2, however, had a fantastic and memorable soundtrack. To me, it absolutely nailed the different eras that it was representing, and I particularly enjoyed hearing the overworld theme in each timeline and how they compared to each other! Small towns have fitting calming music, boss music is driving and adds to the intensity, and each other area has its own unique sound that makes them all stand out. By the end of my time, I was whistling and humming along with each song and I plan on throwing certain songs into my regular soundtrack playlist.
All in all, Evoland: Legendary Edition was a really great experience for me. While the first game wasn’t anything particularly memorable or mind-blowing, it still was a fun, short experience that I plowed through. The sequel, however, tapped into the potential of the original and expanded on it in every way. The story is actually really good and engaging, the references are (mostly) toned down and less obvious, the gameplay variety is vastly increased but doesn’t overstay its welcome, the visual quality is greater, and the soundtrack is exponentially better as well. What could have been a bland, unoriginal series thankfully is a fun, well made experience that fans of the classic games will have a blast playing!
Yes, if you:
- Love classics from the NES to PS1 era of gaming
- Like a variety of gameplay styles in a game
- Enjoy classic RPG story structure
- Appreciate nods and references to other games and pop culture
No, if you:
- Want an RPG to stick to one gameplay style the whole time
- Don’t enjoy self aware and referential humor
Evoland: Legendary Edition originally released on February 5th, 2019 and is available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch (Reviewed).
Note: Cannonicity was provided a review key for Evoland: Legendary Edition in exchange for a fair and honest review.