4 out of 5 Stars!
Evoland II isn’t just an homage, it’s a love letter to a decade and a half of gaming. It draws its inspiration from such classics as Chrono Trigger, Legend of Mana, and even Double Dragon. For someone like myself, who has been gaming since the 80s, I found this game to be an absolute joy to play through even if the whole package makes a few missteps along the way.
Like any clichéd RPG your main character awakes to find their memories erased and quickly thrust into a time traveling adventure. The main crux of the game takes place between different time periods; specifically the past, present, and future. Each period is marked with a different console generation with the past in NES graphics, the present in SNES, and the future designed to look like a PS1 classic.
This clever mechanic plays into the design and puzzle elements of the world. In the past, for instance, enemies are smaller and easier to dodge, a nod to sprite size limitations in older consoles. It’s these little attention to detail that really charmed me. The game is full of little touches that show that the developers really care and understand the games they are paying tribute to.
Graphically the game is an impressive feat. Each area is rendered exactly how you would expect it to look for the era. It was fun to see how your main cast looks in different time periods and to use their special moves just to see how they are portrayed. The music also changes appropriately. Moving from chiptunes to more modern sound scores that really gelled well with the aesthetic changes.
The story is a strange amalgamation of several mid 90s RPGs. Involving mysterious figures, traumatic memories, and an ever evolving cast of strange creatures and story arcs. I actually found myself drawn into this weird story and creating my own theories on how this time travelling story wraps up. Which, whether by design or poor planning, is left a little too obtuse. By the end of the game several story lines felt unfinished and I was left with more questions than when I started. It feels like this game intended to have multiple endings to explore and were cut due to time. But don’t let the distract you too much, the story was fun to get into.
My absolute favorite part was the variety of the game. Each area isn’t just a new gameplay mechanic but even a different genre. You will find yourself in everything from a tactical RPG, to a side scrolling platformer, or even in an overhead shmup (think 1942). A big part of the fun is seeing how far the developers can push the game and my examples above don’t even come close to the variety in this game. This really kept the game moving forward and I looked forward to seeing what the game would throw at me next.
However, like the old adage goes, “Jack of All Trades, Master of None”. Evoland II can be a mixed bag on the quality of each genre. Some of the areas go on a little too long and begin to wear out their gimmick and there are a few cases where the genre fails to deliver. I am especially reminded of a very poorly done Street Fighter battle I could have done without. Thankfully the game leans more in favor of quality and the more annoying levels are over quickly.
This is obviously a game designed for the old schoolers so I doubt that newer players would get the same enjoyment out of it. There are mechanics left in to each genre that are really products of their time and if you didn’t grow up with the likes of Bomberman and Secret of Mana, the mechanics can seem overly obtuse or even clunky. While this is intentional if probably won’t win over those raised on the new generations.
Evoland II is a wonderful trip down memory lane. Full of surprises, Easter Eggs, and Homages to gaming’s legacy. I had an amazing time with Evoland II and if you are looking for something both a little old and a little new I fully recommend you give it a shot. Then join me on the message boards so we can figure out what the hell is really going on here.