Genre: Action, RPG
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: XSEED Games, Marvelous USA, Inc.
Release Date: Jan 25, 2018
Edited by KnightAvenger
Back in the early 2000’s, RPGs were known for being on a grand scale, spanning tens, if not hundreds, of hours to grind and complete a game to a maximum. Some games, however, tried to break this mold, and, while many failed, those that succeeded left their mark on the world, so how does a game of this caliber hold up years later on PC? That’s where this RPG takes us: Zwei: The Arges Adventure. Zwei: The Arges Adventure is an anime-themed, action RPG, developed by Nihon Falcom in 2001, released by XSEED Games and Marvelous USA, Inc., for PC in 2018, that, while it keeps many of the classic charms that make it a memorable blast from the past, gain new problems on the PC platform.
Waking up from a cream puff-filled slumber, the story of Zwei: The Arges Adventure is simple in concept, making it easy to understand and connect to, yet also shows its age with that same simple plot. We, the player, control two step siblings by the name of Pokkle and Pipiro, who, one day, after getting their lessons from the leader of the local church by the name of Raspberry, see a strange man walking through the village. The two decide to follow him, as Pipiro thinks he has her fashion magazine due to arrive in a week’s time, but find that when they approach the local temple, the man has knocked the temple guard unconscious and is stealing the six holy artifacts. The two enter, where Pipiro attempts to hit the mysterious man with a blast of magic before disappearing via teleportation and resuming back in the church, where the mayor, Sister Raspberry, and the siblings now talk about the events that occurred. They get interrupted by another villager, who brings news of a 100,000 penne reward for whoever can get the artifacts back, which starts our young heroes on their tale of glory, adventure, and mystery. I will end the synopsis here, as the story can get more complex as it goes, leading to spoilers, but I will admit that the simple start left me wanting more.
Story-wise, I found it was quite good but, unfortunately, moved more towards alright as it went on, usually with showing its age more than anything else and a few issues where it made no sense. The first problem I found with the story overall was just how bland it became as the adventure went on. At first, I thought the idea of going on this grand adventure, each sibling for different reasons, to recover the six artifacts was interesting because the game only gives you so much information, via in-game characters, to work with and decides how you want to progress. This quickly turned south, as the vagueness only got worse when the true events of the story came into effect and felt more like a partial open world than a full-fledged tale. The only other problem I found in the story was the siblings and the constant butting of heads. Pokkle goes into this, thinking only of what is good for the village, whereas Pipiro is all about this one hundred thousand penne prize, similar to that of a paid mercenary. Because of this, the two are seen butting heads in later cutscenes frequently, as one wants justice while the other wants to be paid.
Dashing over and over in quick fashion, the gameplay of Zwei: The Arges Adventure is one of the sillier, but easier, elements to adapt to, not excluding its problems from a gameplay standpoint. As per usual, I will be talking about only the elements that I found made the game unique from other RPGs, as they all share a general style. Starting off, I want to talk about the leveling system, which has to be one of the more unique variants of a leveling system I personally have seen in games thus far. In Zwei: The Arges Adventure, your level and ability to level up is all based on food, as each food item gives a set amount of XP you gather and level once you hit a certain amount. This is interesting, as the game does contain a fair number of enemies. You would think they would do a more traditional XP system, but, instead, you kill them for their food, purposefully taking damage so you can heal as you eat. The next system I want to speak about is the combat system and how your XP gain affects your overall damage. Combat in Zwei: The Arges Adventure can boil down to firing bolts of magic or slamming into enemies with your spear for the most part in the game, which does make the game’s overall combat feel lackluster prior to getting new abilities, but what is interesting is that the damage scaling on your weapon changes with your level in the game. At first, your weapons will hit for one or two damage at most, but once you hit level two, it jumps from six to eight. This odd amount of scaling makes for some interesting combat scenarios, especially against bosses later in the game.
The last big mechanic I feel needs to be spoken about is more of a criticism of game physics, the stun bounce mechanic. In combat, you can stun an enemy by hitting them enough times, putting them into a state they cannot attack back. However, it is the bounce mechanic I have issues with. See, when you stun an enemy, the more you hit them, the higher they bounce, even if your attack doesn’t physically hit them or land on them. In the case of your magic attacks, it still bounces them. This bothered me, as, when I was playing the game, I had to force myself to stop attack them after they were stunned, just to get past this idea the physics in this game’s universe were set to zero gravity for no reason. Add to this, the monster, even if it was high in a bounce, still took the full damage from the attack. If the target is not getting hit physically, why are they taking damage for no reason? It felt like an odd choice on the developer’s end and not in the best way.
Walking in the past, the presentation of Zwei: The Arges Adventure is one of a cutesy, but with a detailed, animated art style and a soundtrack to match with a more chiptune vibe, although the issues only show more in the options of the game. Artistically, Zwei: The Arges Adventure is definitely a blast from the past with its very cutesy and hand-drawn style of art while still keeping it detailed where it needs to be. The backgrounds are vibrant and colorful, even with the darker tones like in the dungeons or rocky caves being grimy to match the scenes. It is the monsters and character art that stand out the most for me here, as these models do their best to show expression as a foresign, specifically in the monsters, on when to expect an attack. These models, while not the most detailed, are all original in design and make you feel like an artist put in the effort to keep the creative uniqueness of this game throughout.
This is where I have to go away from the good things, though, as I have a glaring issue that felt like a complete lack of consideration for the player. When you first boot up the game, it appears in this tiny window, but when you go into the options menu to try and fix it, there is not a way to just select a size window you want and go. Prior to a patch, the only known option to make the window bigger was to click the fullscreen option, which did solve most of the problems, but it did not fix the quality, which they had to do a patch for and they didn’t make it known, as it is not a click in the options menu feature. Instead, you have to zoom 2x, zoom 3x or zoom 4x in windowed mode to make the window bigger, which is just more work honestly than a player should have to do for a proper windowed mode size.
Popping in with a blast of chiptune beat, the soundtrack of Zwei: The Arges Adventure is reminiscent of a time when mixing chiptune with other instruments was the norm, which works well for the game’s favor. Musically, Zwei: The Arges Adventure does not feel dated in the slightest, something I was concerned about due to the game’s age. The use of the chiptune beats, mixed with the simple chords of guitar, set the tone nearly perfectly for most scenes; only for a few scenes did it feel out of place. The sound effects, while simple, were what they needed to be. Not overdone but not overpowering the soundtrack it accompanied.
Overall, I found Zwei: The Arges Adventure was a nice throwback to an era of RPGs where simple was effective, but, ultimately, this version has some flaws that, even as a reviewer, I can’t ignore, as it takes away from the overall experience the game has to offer players. The simple, but effective, storytelling, alright writing, unique leveling mechanic, classic hand-drawn animated visuals and an excellent chiptune soundtrack make this game, despite its flaws, worth a look.
- Simple but effective told story
- Unique food-based leveling mechanic
- Use of the hand-drawn art
- Excellent chiptune soundtrack
- Great throwback to RPGs of old
- Story loses interest quickly
- The weird bounce and damage mechanic in the game
- No option to set your window size through the options as a feature
DarkLunarDude gives Zwei: The Arges Adventure a Drastik Measure 7.3 out of 10.0 (73)
For the price of $19.99 (USD) on Steam, I can recommend Zwei: The Arges Adventure to players of its sequel, as this was released after it on PC, as well as to those who want an RPG with some unique mechanics to boot, but I will warn that the lack of a sizing option for windowed mode can cause issues with some systems.