In Riviera: The Promised Land for Game Boy Advance from Atlus you take on the role of Ein and his party of adventurers in their quest to save Riviera from total destruction. Riviera has been peaceful for a thousand years since the gods defeated the demons in the Ragnarok war, but now that peace is threatened as signs of the demons’ return are eminent. The Seven Magi, proxies of the gods, have selected two Grim Angels, black-winged agents of death wielding Diviners, to actuate The Retribution that will defeat the demons but may also destroy all of Riviera. You are one of those Grim Angels, named Ein, and your quest to rid the world of demons will allow you to travel to many different places and meet many people that will help you.
Riviera: The Promised Land’s storyline is involved and entertaining and I don’t want to give too much away, but you should enjoy it if you are into role-playing games, anime, and fantasy worlds. The game should take you at least 30+ hours to beat according to Atlus’s website, but it actually took me closer to 45 hours to complete and I still haven’t unlocked everything. Some of the extra content you can unlock is as follows: computer graphic images used in between levels to move the story along, facial expressions of the characters in the game, a bonus chapter, and more. Riviera also has multiple endings, so once you beat it you can play it again to take a different path to see a different conclusion. I really enjoyed Riviera’s story and characters and it is probably one of the best Game Boy Advance games I have played in a long time.
Now, just because I liked it doesn’t mean everyone will. True diehard RPG fans may not like the simpler controls of the game and not having the option to choose which enemy to attack during battles. Riviera is probably the perfect starter RPG and if you have never played a RPG game before this one would be a great place to begin. It doesn’t give you all the elaborate menus and options that some other RPGs have that are kind of overwhelming to the rookie RPG player. You don’t have to add experience points to your character’s different stats or combine items to make a more powerful weapon. You basically just go through the game battling enemies, unlocking weapons, and revealing more of the storyline.
Using different weapons during real or practice battles allows you to gain experience with the weapon and unlock new special moves for certain weapons and more experience for your character. Battling with new weapons and unlocking their special moves, called Over Skills, is the only way to also increase your characters’ hit points, magic ability, and vitality. This does make the game simpler, but if you don’t find new weapons then you can’t upgrade your character’s stats. Also, it is hard to win battles without using the Over Skill of a weapon, so you may find yourself having to use the practice mode to unlock the Over Skill option of the weapons and upgrade your characters’ stats before you can move on in the actual game. I guess this isn’t that bad and other games may do the same thing but instead of calling it practice they just have more enemies and screens for you to visit within the actual game.
Speaking of screens and your movement in Riviera: The Promise Land, don’t expect to actually move your character around on the screen like you would in the Legend of Zelda or Final Fantasy X. Instead you just select if you would like to go to the next screen above, below, left or right. You can also look at some predefined items on the screen and some of them you have to pay TP points to see and the only way to earn TP points is to win them by battling enemies. This control scheme also leans more towards the easier side of gameplay but I didn’t mind it at all. The controls in Riviera are easy enough that you can actually play one-handed if you like on your Game boy Advance SP.
The screens that you travel on and the battles that you engage in are nice to look at and fit well with the whole story of the game. The backdrops and characters are all hand-drawn and if you enjoy anime or manga style animation and art, then you will like Riviera’s graphics also. There are a bunch of still frames of the characters in the game with multiple facial expressions that are used when they are talking to each other. There are also computer art images used for in-between levels that look nice and detailed. The character animation in the game is also decent and battles have animation similar to other RPGs you have probably played on the GBA. All-in-all, the art and animation in Riviera is well done and enjoyable to look at throughout the game.
The music, sound effects, and voice acting are also well done. The soundtrack is similar to other fantasy role-playing games you might have played and it includes synthesized instrumental tracks that are light-hearted, exciting, moody, dramatic, and more. The music in Riviera: The Promised Land is enjoyable and they even have a soundtrack on CD available in Japan for the game and you might be able to get it online at an import CD store if you are interested. The sound effects of your character delivering and receiving damage sounds as expected and the different special move sound effects fit the weapons they relate to nicely. There are also some spoken words in the game but they are usually just brief messages before, during, and after the battles. They are also well done but most of the dialog in the game you will have to read.
Another thing that is nice about Riviera: The Promised Land and may cater to the rookie RPG player is how it handles continuing after you lose a battle. The battles are fun and enjoyable and you get to select up to three characters out of five and four weapons/items to take into battle out of the fifteen you can carry at one time. After you have selected the characters, items and weapons you want to use you begin the battle and choose different weapons to attack with and items to protect or heal your characters. But, if you find that the enemy is too strong and you lose it is game over with an option to continue. The best part is that if you continue you will notice that the enemies don’t have as many hit points as before and they are a little easier to beat this time around. Plus, you will begin with more of your Over Skill meter filled each time to help you in battle. This is a really nice feature in the game and it allows you to move forward after a few battles with the same enemy even if you are not strong enough to beat them at their default hit points settings.
Lastly, as you travel through the world of Riviera you will sometimes come across treasure chests that contain items or traps when you open them or you may have to avoid something that comes into your path. These types of scenarios lead to mini games that have you performing different button pressing combinations, rapidly hitting a certain button or Dance Dance Revolution style timed button presses as a meter goes by on the screen. All of these mini games are stressfully fun and add some variety to the game that would’ve been just a basic RPG without them.
Where did Riviera: The Promised Land come from and will a lot of people ever even know it exists? I had not heard about it until Atlus sent it to us for review and even then I didn’t know what to expect. When I threw it in my Game Boy Advance SP for the first time I thought it was nice but nothing special. Then I played it some more and got hooked and couldn’t put it down until I beat it. I truly began to like the characters in the game and wanted to know what would happen to them and how the whole storyline would conclude. I don’t know if I have played a RPG game this much since Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast and I don’t think I have played any GBA game this much in a long time. It might have simpler controls and not as many options related to the character development and weapons as other RPG games, which should be perfect for beginner RPG players, but it is a fun game to play. Riviera: The Promised Land is the sleeper hit of the Game Boy Advance this year and if you can find it and like role-playing games, anime, manga, and fantasy worlds I highly recommend it.
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