reviews\ Jul 13, 2005 at 8:00 pm

Riviera: The Promised Land - GBA - Review

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. When, during the time of Ragnarok, the gods of Asgard were on the brink of being overwhelmed by the demons of Utgard, they broke a taboo, and sacrificed their own lives to call forth the Grim Angels, furious warriors armed with godly weapons called Diviners.  

The Grim Angels were able to defeat the demons and seal them away, and so, too, were the gods. However, before their departure, they left their powers on the heavenly island of Riviera.

A thousand years have passed and the demons are once again coming. And they are not pleased about their previous defeat. Now, the Grim Angels are reborn and the Seven Magi, proxies to the gods of Asgard, have actuated the Retribution, an event which will destroy both Riviera and the demons. But before that can happen, much more must take place. And it all begins with the journey of two reborn Grim Angels.

Atlus is the publisher behind the Game Boy Advance title (the developer is Sting), Riviera: The Promised Land, a game that relies on turn-based combat, pop-up monsters, and a lot of text to propel the story along. Ignore the text and you are faced with a typical turn-based adventure. Read it and you will be lured into a solid story that provides plenty of reason for the game’s action.

The game does have some role-play elements, and when you enter a battle, you are tasked with selecting exactly which equipable items you will use. As there are only four slots, selecting what to equip is a tiny cerebral exercise. Of course, you will need a weapon, and taking health potions is also wise – simply because you are usually facing multiple foes.

While the game is very linear in design, there are elements that will mark it as a different take on the classic anime-style RPG turn-based adventure.  

First, the graphics are hand-drawn. There is not a lot of animation here, and the game sports frame-advanced effects, a lot of dialogue from characters that pop in from the sides and superimpose over the main screen. That element is not so different from other similar titles, but the fact that the game does not give that real-time motion, marks it as a different visual experience.

Then there is the turmoil of the Grim Angels, in particular the male – who is lured by both sides and must make some choices along the way, choices which can affect the outcome of the game (there are, purportedly, five possible end scenes).

And leveling a character is handled differently, as well. You don’t put points gained through combat into attributes, rather you master weapons. And items have limited number of uses and will vanish from your inventory once they are used up.

The game also forgoes the intense battle sequences for the more cerebral exercise of deciding what route to take. The controls also are there to ask you to think a little. Movement is not with the D-pad. This is a guided experience, and you turn each page of the game with the A button. If you run into a dead end, you simply hit the A button to swap from the Move option to a look option, which may reveal another way to move.

The game stumbles in repetitious environments, and sound that is typical for the genre and console platform – not truly inspiring but more generic than much else and, again, repetitious.

Riviera is an RPG that looks good but challenges players, not only with the gameplay, but also in making decisions that could affect the outcome of the game itself. This is a thoughtful game, and with a dearth of quality RPGs recently in release for the GBA, this is a title that should be looked at.

Review Scoring Details for Riviera: The Promised Land

Gameplay: 7.0
This is a very linear experience, with a simplistic control scheme. While the opening levels are more tutorial than anything else, get past this instructional element and you will find a game that will have you thinking as you play through, not just punching buttons.

Graphics: 8.5
These hand-drawn graphics look very nice. There is repetition in environments and scenarios, but still, the game has a nice style.

Sound: 7.0
Nice, but not particularly inspiring.

Difficulty: Medium
The game really does not offer new challenges to players familiar with the genre, but even so, with the ability to determine a different path through the game hanging in the background over each text choice you make, this game can have you thinking.

Concept: 8.0
Story-driven plot, but linear gameplay would seem to be at odds, but Riviera does give choices that will lead the game in different directions.

Overall: 8.0
Simple game mechanics, wonderful visuals and a good story all give Riviera compelling elements that should delight RPG fans.



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