Game: Riviera: The Promised Land
Platform: Nintendo GameBoy Advance
Release Date: JP: 11/25/04, NA: 06/28/05
Story: 1000 years ago, the world was going to end. Utgard and Asgard began to battle, and the gods realized that this battle would bring about Ragnarok. Choosing to save their world, the gods sacrificed themselves to create the Grim Angels. The Grim Angels defeated Utgard 1000 years ago, but now it is returning, and Ein, a novice Grim Angel, is drawn into a larger plot than he realizes.
Battle System: Riviera's battle system is somewhat unique in that only through items can characters increase their statistics. Each item has a finite number of uses (except for the Grim Angels' Diviners) and will shatter after those uses are exhausted. Each character uses each item in their own way. For example, Ein's attack with the Einherjar (his Diviner, a sword) is a slash that strikes all opponents in the front row, but Fia can only throw it at a random target with reduced accuracy.
In order to succeed during battles and increase statistics, it is important to properly manage your inventory. Characters learn overdrive skills from items and use them in battle with great effect. When an overdrive skill is learned the characters stats are improved, and the stat raise is retained at all times: even when the item is dropped from your inventory altogether. Regardless of the party members or chapter only four items can be carried into battle so it's important to know who can use what effectively. Fighting quickly and intelligently will grant you a higher battle rank. The ranks range from D (you didn't die) to S (you kicked butt and took names). Higher ranks mean more prizes and points.
Overworld Gameplay: Riviera's overworld is broken up into segments correlating to the size of the GBA screen. Enemy encounters are scripted or triggered, and it wouldn't make sense to do it any other way. Ein walks where the programmers told him to; you just tell him which direction. Exploration is handled through what are known as Trigger Points (TP). Default movements from room to room cost 0 TP, but inspecting a statue or opening a chest cost 1 TP. TP are gained after each non-practice battle. The higher your rank, the more TP you receive. Minigames are common as well. If you open a boobytrapped chest, you'll need to complete a series of button presses to claim your prize unscathed. If you mess up you still get the treasure, but your Hit Points (HP) take a hit (usually 5% reduction).
Relationship System: What would a quirky Japanese RPG be without a relationship system? Ein interacts with his party members quite a bit, and his choice of responses to their queries and the events of the game affect how each of the girls feels about him. The girl that likes Ein the most at the end of each chapter is featured on the end of chapter card, and the relationships play a role in determining the ending of the game (of which there are five).
Graphics: Riviera started its life as a WonderSwan Color game, and you can tell. Riviera doesn't push the limits of the GBA hardware, but it's nice to look at. The colors are bright, and the contrast is good. Character sprites are of decent size, but they lack a variety of colors (one character is green, another is yellow, etc, etc...).
Sound: The sound quality is good. You'll find yourself humming along with the battle music, and it never seems annoying. Being as this is a GBA game, voice acting is minimal. The voices present, however, are very well done.
Overall: My favored video game genre is RPG (SRPG particularly), so take my opinion with a grain of salt if RPGs aren't your thing. Riviera: The Promised Land is light, fun, easy to pick-up and play, and I would recommend it to anybody with a GBA.
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