Title: Riviera: The Promised Land
Developer: Sting, Atlus
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: PSP
Download: 477 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes
Riviera: The Promised Land is a name thrown around with RPG gamers and in most high esteem. This is more common in the handheld world as Riviera has always been a handheld game. It originally released back on the Game Boy Advance, and got a lot of fans, then. Sting has a lot of reputation as an RPG developer, and a great deal of it came from this game, back on the GBA.
We aren’t going to talk about the GBA game today, though. I may be covering all handhelds now, but maybe that should be all “current” handhelds. After all, there’s no way for a 3DS or PS Vita to play this particular GBA game.
That’s where today’s game comes in. Riviera was ported and enhanced onto the PSP during last generation, and that is a game that both the PS Vita and PlayStation TV can play. So, that’s what we’re going over! Here is my retro review of the PSP version of Riviera: The Promised Land!
The plot revolves around the war of Ragnarok, where two entities fought to the death. This war was between the Gods of Asgard and the Demons of Utgard. After a long war was fought, the Gods sacrified their lives to create the Grim Angels to fend off and eventually defeat the demons. Afterwards, the remains of Utgard became known as Riviera.
A thousand years later, an angel named Ein is traveling under orders to attack Riviera, but is instead swept away into the land on his own. After awakening and exploring the land and learning of its true history on his own, he works against both surviving Demons and others to stop a greater evil that threatens the world.
The story of Riviera has long since been praised. It has a typical Good vs Evil story that heavily takes inspiration from Ragnarok from Norse Mythology. The bright spots of the story are that it takes this typical black and white plot and adds a lot of grey to it. Much of the story has you discovering grey areas of the story that shows that it’s not as black-and-white as he was led to believe.
Riviera is very difficult to place and describe other than by calling it an RPG. But just calling it a normal RPG really doesn’t do it justice. It’s like a Strategy RPG, but it’s kind of like a normal turn-based RPG. And it’s also kind of like a grid-based RPG like the original Fallout. It’s a bunch of RPG elements thrown into one with a bunch of ideas and a system that RPGs rarely visit and implement.
Exploration is kind of like a grid where each chapter has several stages you can visit. Exploring them is done by a more of point-and-click menu style than free exploration. On each stage, there’s an area you can move to or investigate by hitting a button. And they’ve also got a discovery feature built in where you can use Trigger Points you earn from combat to find optional locations, battles, and items.
Some of these locations also have puzzle elements thrown into the mix. Some locations will hurt you or help you, and you can choose what to do, like whether or not you save a fairy or not can affect your stats. You also have quick-time events that appear very quickly in certain areas. These have button inputs that you put in very suddenly for various reasons. It could be to avoid a guard and skip a battle or avoiding a trap in a chest that you find. For those that know, I would directly relate it to the input style of Firion’s EX Burst from the Dissidia: Final Fantasy series.
Then comes combat. Combat is interesting from the start. You can take 4 items into battle with you, including weapons. Ein’s weapon is a special weapon that can be used an infinite number of times, but most others’ weapons instantly break upon use. These weapons serve as items and come in bulk. So for a 3-character party, three of the four items you can bring into battle could be weapons for each character, leaving only a single item for support, armor, offense, etc. That’s where the first part of the strategy comes from.
When combat starts, it plays out like a normal turn-based RPG. Your party can be arranged in two rows: Front and Back, and you take part in turn based battles with enemy parties where no one moves around. The only exception to this is when certain attacks are used that can flip the arrangement and formation of a party.
Fighting is in the form of choosing an item to use during your turn, including weapons. If you choose another character’s special weapon, you’ll instead try to cast a spell. The idea is to know what to give to what character each turn based on their position and the enemy they choose to combat each turn. That issue is in and of itself more of the strategy. You can’t manually choose which enemy gets attacked. The game chooses that for you.
You don’t gain experience in battle for level ups. Instead you gain more points for each weapon as you fight and you’ll eventually gain new skills. When this happens, your stats will increase, so this is the game’s version of leveling up. The same type of outcome happens, but there aren’t really “Level Up” screens.
Since you don’t really get to explore (unless you’re in a town) and every new stage advances the story, you don’t have the opportunity of exploring dungeons and grinding for levels if things start to get hard. This is noticeable pretty early in the game as the difficulty for some battles increases pretty quickly. Thankfully, the game has a Practice Battle option in the menu that you can use to fight previous battles. In these battles, you still gain points towards Skill Learning and status increases, but items don’t diminish as you use them here.
The only problem here is that stages give you prompts when you’re headed towards bigger battles to save your game. This can help but also hurt. Some stages have large boss fights or harder fights in general that you may not be prepared for. Some of these stages allow you to return to previous stages before the battles spawn. Many do not, and spawn the battles whether you’re ready or not. There are many areas where you can get stuck with no way to go back from a save file and in a battle you’re ill-prepared for to either restart the game from the beginning or hope you get extremely lucky after failing so many times.
The only other thing to say about progression is that each chapter is basically a set of these stages. Once you finish them, you get a little screen about your scores regarding discovering items and Trigger Points earned. Then, you’re set to go to the next chapter. You continue this until the end of the game. Overall, I would wager the game lasts around 30-35 hours, give or take.
Point-and-click progression. How hard can it be, right? It’s not all that hard to navigate the game and the intro chapter does a really nice job of explaining it to you. Now, this is a PSP game, so don’t go in and expect touch controls or anything. Just the normal controls. And the R and L trigger buttons working on R1, L1, R2, and L2 on the PlayStation TV.
Whenever a button is required, the option will have a little symbol by it to clarify which button is needed. During exploration, the D-Pad will be used for selecting where to go and what to investigate. It’s also used for navigating the menu. The face buttons are more or less used for battle menus, but you can also use X and Circle to navigate different types of Exploration Menus, like investigation and moving. The L and R triggers are used for pulling up enemy information as well as skipping text in scenes.
The visual presentation of Riviera holds up surprisingly well. My first thought on a GBA to PSP game would have low enough visuals to be a blurry mess on the Vita and especially the PlayStation TV. To my surprise, it still looks quite good. Obviously, it has 2D visuals, so those not a fan of those may turn away, but for those that like them, it looks quite good.
I have no quarrels with the performance of the game. The load times are longer than the GBA release, but never exceed a few seconds. By PSP and Vita standards, it runs quite well and there’s nothing to really complain about here. It even has a bunch of Voice Acting that the original didn’t have.
Riviera: The Promised Land is called a classic, and for good reason. Aside from a tricky save system that could get you stuck without using multiple saves, this is by far, one of the most unique and different RPGs to grace the handheld world. Any fan of Sting or JRPGs in general should definitely give it a go