Revenant Saga is the latest console port from the highly prolific publisher KEMCO, a name most likely known to anyone who has ever searched for RPGs on the mobile storefronts. Originally released back in 2014, Revenant Saga is yet another game that sticks to the tried and true old-school JRPG formula, but is it worth playing? As with most RPGs of any kind, storytelling is one the most important facets of the game, so that is where we’ll start off. You can expect very light spoilers in the next paragraph, but nothing that you can’t learn for yourself by reading the store description or by playing the first hour of the game. So don’t worry too much about it unless you want to go into the game completely blind.
The tale starts off promisingly enough, and a little dark to boot. Revenants (a type of demon unkillable by normal means) are spreading across the land. The main protagonist is a young man named Albert, who is living by himself in the usual quiet JRPG hamlet. His parents died from a highly contagious, un-curable plague that has been spreading around unchecked. In the first few minutes of the game’s opening, his childhood friend Anna’s parents have also contacted the plague. After hearing the villagers talk of running her off because she most likely has the plague as well, Albert decides to run off to find out about a possible cure that was mentioned to him by a traveling doctor. Instead, the good Dr. Moreau tries to turn Albert into a revenant by summoning a demon to possess him and take over his body, erasing his mind in the process. The ritual is interrupted in the nick of time by the Order of Rystoria, a holy religious group devoted to defeating the revenants. This causes the demon to be trapped within Albert, giving him the ability to defeat other revenants. He then wanders the land, hunting down revenants and looking to exact revenge on Dr. Moreau. I won’t explain the story further than that, but the plot towards the end has some nice twists/surprises.
While the plot is good, the way it unfolds leaves much to be desired. Too often do you get interrupted during traveling for yet another campfire scene full of bland interactions. The characters are genuinely interesting, although a bit trope-y. It’s fun to see them talk and get along with each other, although there is no voice acting in the game, just text, which makes it doubly frustrating when you are simply travelling from one town to the next or passing through a dungeon and you have to stop in the middle to read a brick of text. On top of that, you get the occasional spelling error and odd translation. Nothing too severe, but it is enough to make you take notice.
The graphics for most of the game use a clean, smoothed-out 16-bit style aesthetic, whereas the battles are made up of 3D graphics. The 3D models for the characters look nice, but the battle animations seem a little sparse. Once sword skill for Albert particularly bothers me. He holds his sword in front of him and just sorts of...slides into the enemy. Speaking of which, the monster models are not varied much, either. You run into a lot of the same monsters with re-skins/different color schemes. The soundtrack leaves much to be desired as well. There only seem to be a small handful of tracks and they get old quick, considering the game’s 10+ hour runtime. I believe the lack of music and monster variety is what really holds Revenant Saga back from being exceptional.
The combat unfolds in a typical turn-based, active time battle fashion (ATB). Fastest characters attack first, with the turn order displayed at the bottom left of the screen. The battles are much like every other JRPG out there: you can attack, use items, defend, and use skills to attack enemies or support and heal allies. The only deviation from the standard JRPG formula is that each character has the ability to transform, each having a slew of pros and cons. Transformed characters cannot be healed and if they should die, they cannot be revived until the battle is over. On the plus side, damage and defense are increased, and certain powerful skills can only be used when transformed. To stop people from staying constantly transformed, there is a mechanic in place called the synchro gauge. It steadily increases the longer you stay transformed. The more it fills up, the stronger your attack and defense get. However, once the gauge gets about half full that character gets more unpredictable, and eventually they will go berserk and be out of your control. The only way to lower the gauge is to use a special item, un-transform and guard, or die while in a transformation. It provides a little bit of risk/reward to an otherwise humdrum battle system. There is a handy auto-battle function in place as well, which is nice when you just want to grind XP without too much effort.
While Revenant Saga definitely isn’t breaking any new ground, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a play. The fact that you can take it with you anywhere thanks to the portability of the Nintendo Switch is a nice bonus. Between the optional sidequests and main campaign, you could probably ring about 10-15 hours out of it. It’s hard for me to pin down an exact number, though, since the game timer keeps rolling when the system is in standby mode. If you are in a bit of a dry-spell and looking for a JRPG by the numbers, you might as well give Saga a shot.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 6.5/10
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