Dine and Smash
Zwei’s release schedule has certainly been interesting, to say the least. Last October, gamers worldwide were finally able to play Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection; a previously Japanese-exclusive PC game that originally released in 2008. And now, in January of 2018, we’re seeing the first-ever worldwide release of its prequel, Zwei: The Arges Adventure; a game which, aside from also being previously exclusive to Japan, debuted all the way back in 2001. After looking through XSeed’s localization blogs, I found out that there were actual, legitimate, reasons for the this happening. Quite a few of them, really. Even with all of that, though, I still think that it’s kind of funny.
I guess that it doesn’t much matter when it was that Zwei: The Arges Adventure was released, just that the fact that it was released at all. And I’m glad that it was. While it may not be as polished as its sequel, The Arges Adventure still adds up to a solid adventure, filled with fast-paced combat, secrets galore, and just as much dining and dashing as you’ve come to expect from this series. And, while this isn’t something that directly affects gameplay, it’s got one of the best instances of what I’d deem “creative localization” that I’ve seen in years.
Zwei: The Arges Adventure‘s story begins like many other video game stories out there. Nestled in the middle of the small, floating continent of Arges lies Puck Village — a cozy little settlement that, although not the most exciting place, ensures that its residents enjoy a peaceful and comfortable life. But it seems as though not everyone is content to let Puck Village be. One day, a mysterious and powerful warrior breaks into Puck Village’s shrine, and makes off with all six of the shrine’s idols. These idols, although seemingly useless, hold a great amount of sentiment to the people of Puck. And, because of this, many of the villagers desperately want them back — one such villager being an eclectic, and incredibly rich man named Pneuma.
This is where things begin to get a little less orthodox. Inevitably, Pneuma did what he does best — throw money around. Word spread quickly around the village that there was a 100,000 penne reward for whomever could retrieve all six idols. With it being such a difficult task, however, no one was really up to it. No one except step-sibling Pokkle and Pipiro (who were also there to witness the theft in-person), that is! Drawn to the scent of money and, to a significantly lesser extent, adventure, the duo quickly accepts Pneuma’s offer, and sets out on an adventure that would end up taking them across their entire continent.
To be blunt, the story’s on the blander side of things. To be fair, it did originally debut almost 20 years ago. And, because of that, I can sort of let that slide. Still, I wouldn’t call The Arges Adventure‘s narrative one of its strong points. What I can compliment it on, however, is its writing. Kind of weird, I know, but stick with me. Although the “travel around and save the world” trope is one we’ve all heard of (although the money being the driving force is kind of funny), the script itself is superb. Someone was obviously having a lot of fun translating this thing — and it shows. The game rarely takes itself seriously. There are jokes, puns, and memes everywhere — some of which even manage to break the fourth wall — and multiple references to things that I know weren’t originally in the game (like social media).
Of course, not having played the original game myself (or even being able to read Japanese), I can’t say just how far this game deviated from the original script. I’m sure that there’s not anything so extreme as re-writing personalities and whatnot. Still, it’s very obvious that the English version of the game tries to ham it up as much as possible. Personally, I wouldn’t be a fan of something like this happening in a more recently released game. However, I think that it was a very good choice for a game like this. Since it’s older, it doesn’t bring anything too surprising to the table in terms of mechanics. But, through making the script as entertaining as possible, The Arges Adventure manages to create and maintain an air of silliness that entertained me to no end.
Zwei: The Arges Adventure is a dungeon-crawling RPG, and it plays out pretty much like you would expect it to. As with Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection, gameplay takes place within a series of large dungeons. Each of which are then broken up into separate levels (and are also all very nice to look at). These levels can be completed one at a time, and can also be completed in any order that you wish. …Provided that you can actually access them, of course. The end result of the game’s level-based layout for each of its dungeons is an adventure that gives the player a little wiggle room. But only a little. Although the game appears to let you go through things how you’d like, most levels either require the player to have a certain item or skill in order to be accessed.
The frequently locked levels that you encounter within each dungeon means you’ll end up doing a lot of back-and-forth between them. After having played The Ilvard Insurrection, I went into The Arges Adventure expecting it to be at least at least somewhat straightforward. No such luck, however. With the way this game plays out, you’ll ultimately only play through one or two levels within each dungeon. After that, you’ll need to head off to a completely different one. Now, I can’t say that this is all bad. The Arges Adventure only has a handful of dungeons to begin with. Many levels feel a bit same-y as well. By refraining from making them a “one-and-done” type of deal, the game manages to shake off potential monotony. And with a good degree of success, too.
Unfortunately, “not all bad” doesn’t mean “flawless”. Although The Arges Adventure‘s consistent dungeon-swapping means that you probably won’t be somewhere so long that it becomes boring, running around also means that you can get lost kind of easily. Keeping track of your progress throughout each dungeon can get a little confusing if you aren’t paying attention. Getting the correct items can be somewhat frustrating, too. Yes, The Arges Adventure does give you most important items through natural story progression. But there are a few items here and there that are hidden — and not in a fun way, either. By accidentally skipping an unassuming treasure chest, or failing to buy a pair of oven mitts which grant you inhuman strength, you can cause yourself a major headache. The inconsistency of these less-than-conspicuous key items has the definite potential to become frustrating.
Combat in The Arges Adveture is incredibly straightforward. In fact, you could almost describe it as a slightly more complex version of the “bump attack system” found within the original Ys games. For the most part, fighting is as simple as mashing the attack button. There aren’t any real defensive maneuvers to speak of (although Pokkle can absorb certain magical attacks by directly attacking them), meaning that most of your fights end up being about endurance rather than skill. Because of this, there isn’t a whole lot of strategy going on. That doesn’t mean that battles are decided as soon as you start, though. There are still a few things that you can do to ensure that you have the edge over the many opponents that you come across in the game.
Magic is your first “line of defense”. By equipping the correct elemental stone (all of which are required through normal gameplay progression), you can augment Pipiro’s magical abilities. Each of Pipiro’s spells works differently. Water magic, for example, shoots a burst of bubbles which, although short/mid-range, have a good spread and hit count. Wind magic, on the other hand, allows Pipiro to scatter a number of green orbs in every direction — making it a great choice for when you find yourself surrounded. On top of that, enemies also have elemental weaknesses. By finding the correct element, you can dish out even more damage than normal. These magic stones can also enhance Pokkle in combat, although his actual method of attacking remains the same. It’s also worth noting that you can switch your characters on the fly, which is great for setting up combos.
If a slew of attacks just doesn’t cut it, you can also start stuffing your face. In Zwei, you don’t level up in a normal way. Instead of killing enemies for EXP, you instead level up (and heal!) by eating whatever food they drop. Naturally, more powerful enemies drop better food, but that’s still not the best way to go about doing things. You can also trade in 10 of a food item for one new piece of grub. That might sound like a scam, but it isn’t. While you may be getting a smaller quantity, the quality of your new food is higher than all 10 of whatever you traded in. Knowing when to hold onto your food and when to chow down is not only rewarding if done correctly, but it also serves as a fun, and surprisingly unique, way of leveling up.
Good Enough to Eat
Zwei: The Arges Adventure may be a little rough around the edges in certain places, but I feel like you can largely chalk that up to its age. Despite any of my gripes (none of which were terrible), I still had a lot of fun with this game. I also very much appreciate the fact that XSeed and Nihon Falcom have been going out of their way to bring older games like this to a wider audience. If you enjoyed The Ilvard Insurrection, or want an RPG that’s easy to pick-up-and play, then I recommend that you check this game out. Doubly so if you enjoy ridiculously punny scripts!
FINAL VERDICT: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: XSEED Games, Marvelous USA, Inc. ; Developer: Nihon Falcom ; Players: 1 ; Released: January 24, 2018 ; ESRB: N/A ; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Zwei: The Arges Adventure given to Hey Poor Player by the Publisher