Saviors of Sapphire Wings / Stranger of Sword City Revisited Is A Real DRPG-light!
You know, it’s kind of funny that the developer behind the games that I’m reviewing today is called “Experience” because, more often than not, you’ve got to have some when it comes to playing through their DRPGs. Most of their games take a “firm, but fair” approach to gameplay, and some of them, like Stranger of Sword City Revisited, border on being cutthroat. But that’s why I love my experiences with Experience (if you’ll pardon the pun) so much. Every game of theirs that I’ve played has been a legitimately fun time, and I always end up feeling as though I’ve polished up my DRPG skills at least a little bit. And, wouldn’t you know it, that holds true more than ever when it comes to the one-two-punch that is Saviors of Sapphire Wings / Stranger of Sword City Revisited.
Saviors of Sapphire Wings / Stranger of Sword City is a two-for-one bundle of previously released Experience DRPGs that, as a whole, is unique and exciting for many reasons. Not only are these both upgraded versions of their originals, but, technically speaking, Saviors of Sapphire Wings is an entirely new game for us in the West, as the original game, Students of the Round, was never released over here. It’s also unique in how complimentary these games are toward one another—in terms of both gameplay and story—and how Experience managed to use them to create something entirely unique. I probably shouldn’t be burying the lede like this, but, all-in-all, it’s a pretty great time.
So Many Stories, So Little Time
Both titles within this duology are relatively simple and to the point. In Saviors of Sapphire Wings, the player takes on the role of the Xeth, the leader of the legendary Knights of the Round, who, after being defeated by the evil Overlord Ol=Ohma (I promise that’s spelled correctly), finds himself resurrected 100 years later where he must seek out new Knights of the Round, forge strong bonds with them, and put an end to the darkness which has been threatening the world for the past century.
In Stranger of Sword City Revisited, you take on the role of the one person you (assumedly) know best—yourself—as you wake up post-plane crash in the mysterious floating world of Escario. Before long, you’re told that you, like some of the other humans who ended up here, are a “Chosen One,” and it is your duty to use your newfound powers to fight powerful monsters known as “Lineage Types,” collect the Blood Crystals that they drop, and give them to the leaders of one of three factions—thus awakening their corresponding god and determining the fate of the world.
Experience. Listen. I know what you did here, and I think that it’s genius. Originally only having played Stranger of Sword City Revisited, I simply believed Escario to be a strange and somewhat scary take on a fantasy world. And I still believe that it is. However, now that I’ve played Saviors of Sapphire Wings, I can finally see what the devs were going for in SoSCR. While I can’t go into too much (unfortunately), for fear of spoiling things, I’ve come to realize that, while SoSW is akin to your typical “heroes save the world” fantasy trope (which I’m not bashing, to be clear), SoSCR seems to be, at least in part, a deconstruction of that.
While being part of the Knights of the Round unifies everyone in SoSW, the title of “Chosen One” does anything but for the few who have it in StoSCR. There are also several other, very obvious instances where the narratives of these two games clash, especially toward the end (Alm’s ending in SoSCR being one of them), and I don’t think that I’ve ever quite seen anything like this before. I’m not sure if that’s part of the reason why these two games were put together in this way, but I’m so glad that they were, regardless.
A Dungeoneer’s Delight
As far as gameplay goes, Saviors of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City Revisited aren’t too terribly dissimilar from one another. They’re both DRPGs that focus on both exploration and combat, and both demand that the player remain aware of their surroundings at all times should they wish to successfully complete any and all of their adventures.
I would consider Saviors of Sapphire Wings to be both easier and more straightforward between the two games. While the dungeons are, technically speaking, larger in this game than in Stranger of Sword City Revisited, they’re not nearly as difficult to navigate. You do have to deal with the occasional gimmick or hidden path, but, even then, the game is almost always willing to give you some kind of hint (or just outright tell you) regarding what to do or where to go next.
On the other hand, Stranger of Sword City Revisited‘s dungeons takes a more “compressed” approach. Except for a few places, such as the Mausoleum of Fire, SoSCR‘s dungeons feel smaller in scope overall. That absolutely does not make them easier, however. While Saviors of Sapphire Wings will casually and steadily throw an occasional challenge at you, SoSCR is constantly doing everything in its power to ensure that your dungeon crawls are not anywhere nearly as leisurely as SoSW‘s are. The game isn’t so punishing as to brutalize the player for no reason—if you pay attention and plan ahead, then you should be just fine—however, I don’t personally consider this to be one of the hardest DRPGs that I’ve ever played for no reason. And, yes, that’s absolutely a compliment.
Fighting with Heart and Soul
When it comes to combat, Saviors of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City Revisited are very similar to one another. Almost everything overlaps between the two games, with SoSCR only being slightly more mechanically complex than its predecessor. Despite that, however, these two games, once again, feel very much apart from one another due to how they treat the player. Imagine you’re sparring with someone, and they knock you down. If that person was Saviors of Sapphire Wings, they’d smile, maybe chuckle softly, and offer you a hand. If they were Stranger of Sword City Revisited, they’d sneer at you and kick you in the stomach. That’s basically what we’re dealing with here.
Regardless of which DRPG you’re playing, a lot of setup goes into fighting because a full party consists of a whopping six characters—three in the front row, three in the back row. With that many characters available at once, you’d think that the games would absolutely be overflowing with classes. Surprisingly, neither of them is. Truthfully, this did bum me out a little bit (at least at first), as I felt like a game like this was totally primed for letting players go crazy with class experimentation. However, the further I got into both of the games—especially Stranger of Sword City Revisited—the more I realized that having a smaller number of more concrete classes to pick from was the way to go.
While this might not directly relate to actual combat itself, I’d like to mention that there’s a very obvious difference in how both of these games handle encounters. Specifically, boss encounters. Saviors of Sapphire Wings is, by and large, a traditional RPG when it comes to fighting bosses. It’s easy to see them coming and to prepare for them. Stranger of Sword City Revisited, however, is a borderline boss-fighting simulator, and, because of that, there are some pretty unorthodox encounters. While there are traditional boss battles that you can prepare for, you can, and absolutely will, get jumped by bosses—specifically the Lineage Types—in this game.
While running away is an option, finding some of these big, bad brutes can be difficult, so it’s important to be able to fight them as they show up. Personally, that was part of the fun for me. While bosses in SoSCR were always somewhat terrifying, finally getting to the point where I could tackle something that I wasn’t 100% prepared for was an incredibly fun and rewarding experience (again, no pun intended).
Double the Dungeons, Double the Fun
I may have already played through one of these two games before, but that didn’t stop Saviors of Sapphire Wings / Stranger of Sword City Revisited from being an absolute blast. While the punishing difficulty curve of SoSCR might be enough to put off those who don’t want to invest too much time into their dungeoneering experiences, SoSW is much more approachable and acts as a happier, easier version of its grittier counterpart. You’d best pick this two-for-one treat up if you’re even remotely a DRPG fan. You’re totally missing out, otherwise!
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed); Publisher: NIS America; Developer: Experience, Inc., Codeglue; Players: 1; Released: June 1, 2021; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $49.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Saviors of Sapphire Wings / Stranger of Sword City Revisited given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.