There is a reason behind Nintendo’s Virtual Console titles, the new Rare Replay for Xbox One, and Capcom’s upcoming Mega Man Legacy Collection: these companies know that nostalgia is a powerful thing. Shiro Games’ newest title, Evoland II: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder, shows exactly how powerful nostalgia can be.
Evoland II tells the story of Kuro, a red-headed young man who awakens in a forest with no memory of who he is or where he comes from. From there, he meets a spunky and intelligent young woman named Fina, and together they embark on a time-travelling adventure to solve the mysteries of Kuro’s past, and eventually, save the world from demonic destruction. Along the way, they meet new friends and allies who join the party, each of whom have similar yet distinct abilities to aid Kuro and Fina throughout their quest.
The story of Evoland II isn’t wholly original, but it is fairly compelling and quite interesting. It feels a bit like one part Star Ocean: The Second Story, and two parts Chrono Trigger – with a dash of every other RPG ever. In fact, the similarities between this game and Chrono Trigger are numerous. The time-travelling plot device and Kuro’s appearance are the most immediately noticeable, but the comparisons do not end there. Fina seems very much like a more juvenile version of Marle, and later in the game you meet Velvet, who is nothing more than a purple-haired Lucca. There may be a lot that these two games have in common, but sharing plot elements and characters with an incredible game like Chrono Trigger certainly serves Evoland II well.
In its most basic form, Evoland II is a retro-themed adventure RPG with one of the most interesting gameplay features I have ever seen. The game begins in the past, with Kuro in some sort of forced combat training simulation. During this brief introduction, the graphics and color scheme make it feel like you are playing on an original GameBoy. But from that moment on, as you jump forward and backward through time, the visuals evolve and devolve with each time period you enter. Kuro and Fina travel through worlds of upscaled 8-bit graphics similar to what you’d see on the GameBoy Advance, 16-bit SNES style regions, and eventually full 3D worlds.
The ever-changing appearance of Evoland II is one of the game’s greatest features, because it helps separate each portion of the title and makes every act unique and memorable. Even during the slower moments, I found myself wanting to push forward so that I could see the next visual development. When playing in 8 or 16-bit worlds you feel right at home, as if you’re playing your favorite retro 2D action RPGs. Most of the combat is old-school hack-and-slash action, with occasional reprieves of platforming, and the early gameplay reminds me of the pre-Ocarina of Time Zelda games. When Evoland II opens up and Kuro and Fina enter a full 3D world, however, the game gets really interesting, and introduces not only new graphics, but new styles of combat and gameplay as well.