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Zwei: The Arges Adventure Review

Falcom's recent PC Port may be more low-key compared to their recent worldwide success with Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. However, players who love old-school dungeon crawling should definitely checkout Zwei: The Arges Adventure! Filled with classic JPRG battle mechanics and a unique levelling system, players will feel refreshed and relaxed enjoying the adventure the awaits them.

Zwei: The Arges Adventure Review

Zwei: The Arges Adventure Review was originally released on PC in Japan in 2001, PS2 in 2004 and PSP in 2008. Finally, English-speaking gamers finally got an English localized release just January of this year, 2018. Developed by Nihon Falcom and published by Xseed Games, the game is an action-RPG with real-time combat mechanics. Being a port of a game released originally in 2001, Zwei: The Arges Adventure holds heavy JRPG dungeon crawling elements. 

The game is now available on Steam!

STORY

The plot of the game is quite simple and typical when it comes to Japanese Role Playing Games. The two nameable main characters are step-siblings by the names of Pokkle (the brother) and Pipiro (the sister).

Zwei: The Arges Adventure Review - Mystery Man
The game begins with an introduction into their boring and peaceful lives in the small village of Puck, in which the two siblings live alone without their parents. They take classes at the local church from a nun named Sister Raspberry until one day a mysterious stranger comes into their village and steals all 6 of the village’s goddess statues or idols. Pokkle and Pipiro then embark on a quest to retrieve the statues for the village.

Dialogue

Although the plot is nothing ground-breaking, what is unique about the game’s story is the funny, punny, and over-the-top dialogue between the comical and quirky main characters and the villains and other NPCs they meet. The in-game dialogue is strange in the sense that the dialogue shifts from modern English to old English seemingly at random which sometimes clashes against it's fantasy setting.

As well, the two main characters can shift abruptly from using childlike phrases such as "you wouldn't stand a chance against Masky McMaskface" to mature profanity like "this is such a pain in the ass", giving the characters a strange sense of disconnect or unrelatability. This creates an uncanny feeling which some players may hate or others may enjoy. However, the wacky dialogue and characters certainly give the game a unique quirky accent.

GAMEPLAY

In Zwei: The Arges Adventure like many JRPGs the grinding can be tedious and difficult at first. However, after gaining a couple levels and increasing your stats, the dungeon crawling battle mechanics are a lot smoother and much more enjoyable. The game employs a real-time action-RPG combat system reminiscent of Falcom’s Y’s series or even Nintendo’s Zelda titles.

Zwei: The Arges Adventure Review - Dungeon Crawling

In the beginning, until the player reaches level 3 or 4 the battle mechanics are quite clunky and outdated. The battle mechanics revolve around pressing the attack button constantly with no change in attack animations, damage, or excitement. When your characters are in their first two levels, there is no variety in attacking abilities or magical spells and literally all the player can and must do is spam the attack button taking off 1 or 2 HP at a time from enemies. Even at low levels the enemies have around 10-20 health points and when the player must defeat dozens of enemies in each dungeon it’s easy to see how quickly this can become tedious and uninteresting.

On the other hand, once the player climbs the ranks and reaches around level 4 the dungeon crawling becomes a lot smoother, quicker, and more enjoyable. Players can KO enemies with 3-4 hits and the player gains abilities like charging physical attacks or magical attacks that can damage multiple enemies at one time. However, the way in which players gain EXP and abilities is unorthodox compared to other RPGs.

HP & EXP

Zwei: The Arges Adventure Review - Food
In most RPGs, characters gain experience points based on the amount of enemies they kill and the levels of said enemies. Such is not the case for Zwei: The Arges Adventure. In the game, players can only gain experience points from consuming food which also recovers health points. Thus, throughout the game enemies will drop penne (the game’s currency) and occasionally food after being defeated. The only way to level up is to gain experience points by consuming said food. The game therefore combines both health recovery and EXP gaining in a quite unorthodox way, giving it a unique touch which is both refreshing and interesting.

While common food items can restore a large portion of health points, they generally have low value in terms of experience points. However, instead of consuming common food items one at a time, the player can collect ten common food items to exchange at the town bar for a higher level food item that can both restore a greater amount of health points and grant the player an exponentially higher amount of experience points, usually ten or twenty times the amount of EXP from a single common food item.

Companion/Pet System

The player can only control one character at a time, either Pokkle or Pipiro, but control of each character can be switched on-the-fly with the single click of a button. However, the player can set paradigms to determine how Pokkle or Pipiro will act in battle (healing focussed, battle-focussed, or half-and-half). In addition, the player will also find a pet trapped at the bottom of a well, which becomes the second companion in the game.

Zwei: The Arges Adventure Review - Pets
The pet can either accompany you in battle or be sent off on its own quests which the player can monitor in a small overlay in the top corner of the screen. The pet is quite useful in battle, however, because after enemies are defeated, penne coins only last for a short period of time. Instead of having to walk over every coin, your pet will do this automatically for you if you select to have it follow you into the dungeons.

Tools/Items  

Unlike most JRPGs, there is a limit to how many items your characters can carry which gives the game a sense of realism. Characters have a quick item menu in which you can store healing items to use quickly in the heat of battle, as well as battle equipment. Tools have a significant effect on your attack and defense levels. So when the player needs to use an item like strength gloves to move heavy objects, their attack or defense may be affected. Thus, it’s best to equip the tool, use it, and then unequip immediately before engaging enemies.

Difficulty and Dying

In terms of dungeon crawling the game is difficult and unforgiving like many JRPGs or games of past generations. Games in the current generation have been criticized by retro gamers for being too easy. Rest assured, Zwei: The Arges Adventure falls into the former category. If the player runs out of healing items, the player can use an escape item to return to the town.

However, the player will then have to restart the dungeon from scratch going through every room, floor, and puzzle to get to the point they escaped from. Some dungeons can take 30 minutes to an hour to complete, so having to do so multiple times can drive players crazy! But in that sense the game does not hold the player’s hand and demands the player be attentive to their HP level at all times and attack enemies in the safest way possible rather than going in guns blazing.

On the other hand, the game is slightly forgiving in terms of death. When dying the game automatically cuts to a GAME OVER screen and the player has only two options: return home, or continue from last save which then serves as a checkpoint. Both options interestingly don’t eliminate past progress. You will keep your experience points, level, and any items you acquired up to that point. However, the one catch is you lose 600 penne each time you die and revive. If you don’t want to lose the coins, you must quit the game and restart from your last save.

Lastly, the game is dated in the way that it lacks a guidance system. With games like Skyrim, or Fallout players are blessed with a menu list of quests to be completed and how to complete them. These days, games will show you directly on the map where you need to go and what you need to do. Zwei: The Arges Adventure is old-school in the way that there is no such hand-holding If you missed the dialogue of what you need to do (sometimes there is none at all), you will wander aimlessly until you find the right dungeon or wander into the correct area to trigger a cutscene. Some players will enjoy this freedom, while others may feel a lack of direction.

GRAPHICS AND AUDIO

The game employs vibrant and vivid colors with cute character sprites reminiscent of the art from Legend of Mana on PS1. Everything from the battle animations and cutscenes to menus and dialogue boxes the graphics look incredibly polished to the point that the game doesn’t seem like a port at all.

Zwei: The Arges Adventure Review - Graphics and Audio
With older RPG PC ports like Final Fantasy 7 nothing really changes in terms of the graphics department. The game would look exactly like its PS1 predecessor. Such is not the case for Zwei: The Arges Adventure. The game’s graphics have been refined to serve PC hardware and the menus and overlays have been slightly redesigned and altered.

The soundtrack is overall light and upbeat which fits the game’s tone perfectly. The sound effects are well done and executed pristinely from the sound of your sword being driven into enemies to the simple sound of feet moving on the ground. Overall, the area in which the game shines brightest is its beautiful art and character design as well as its sound effects and soundtrack.

CONCLUSION

For fans looking for something simple and easy to pick up and play, Zwei: The Arges Adventure is the gaming equivalent of a nice and casual summer read. The story is simple and typical. The battle mechanics are easy to learn yet fun and enjoyable. Just like with novels, sometimes people don't want something so heavy. Sometimes gamers just want to be able to sit down and turn their minds off for a couple of hours. If that's what you're looking for, Zwei: The Arges Adventure is a perfect game to help you unwind.

PROSCONS
+ Quick and easy to pick up and play– Typical plot
+ Simple and enjoyable combat– No guidance system
+ Unique levelling system– Occasionally tedious dungeon crawling elements
+ Unique pet system
6.9
Fair

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I think Zwei, as well as a lot of Xseed and Nihon Falcom games, are so endearing and loveable. The dialogue in these games is infectious and makes up for the somewhat bland combat. I look forward to trying this game out (I played the sequel that was released first XD).

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