Riviera: the Promised Land is the Roleplaying debut game of the japanese developer Sting, released on the Game Boy Advance in 2005. Riviera actually tries to be two things at once: a classic japanese Roleplaying game on a Handheld system, and something more unique. What Riviera without a doubt manages to do is put down an excellent soundtrack. In fact, the inspiring tunes and tracks are of one of the highest quality music I’ve ever heard on the GBA. That’s good!
Riviera is a turn-based jRPG. In it, the player takes turns and the enemy or enemies take turns. Simple, and nothing new. Before entering a battle however, we first select which items to use in the battle itself. You can only select four items. There’s also a positioning system: you can pick two team members and place them in the frontlines, hoping they’ll protect your weaker mage. So, two team members plus one weaker mage is three. That’s right, you can only employ three characters at a time. There are more in your party though. When you decide to use one of the items in battle (this includes weapons!), their durability counter decreases by one. If the counter hits zero, the item disappears. Here once again you have to carefully plan the powerful item usage (it’s best to wait for the “big” boss). Luckily for us, items do not deprecate when in training modus and your characters do learn new skills and gain experience points. Riviera kind of forces you to learn new abilities through training mode instead of the actual journey, after you’ve found new types of weapons.
Without new skills you won’t stand a chance.
Another new feature is the “Overdrive” bar Sting introduced and also used in their second game, Yggdra Union. After taking hits, the bar fills until all three levels are completely filled. You can perform special moves by depleting a certain level of the bar. For instance, casting an extra-strong level 2 freeze spell will deplete the overdrive bar 2 levels (if it’s enough filled, obviously). The most powerful attacks can even shatter the bar. Enemies can also use overdrive skills but their “bar” is rather limited and simply called the Rage bar. The more you hit them, the angrier they get. During every turn switch, the rage bar thankfully drops down a little, according to who’s turn it is.
Exploring the world
Another quite unique feature of Riviera is the way you can explore all scenes. Instead of freely moving throughout the whole world, you can only move a certain Action Points at a time. You can win points by successfully defeating enemies or completing minor quests. Points are used by executing a set action. For example, in scene #A, there’s a chest. You can either open it (Press UP), search the grass for more treasure (Press DOWN) or go a scene left or right. Every action except moving scenes requires one AP.
The chest you so eager want to open may even contain traps. It can trigger an ugly snake to jump into your party and everyone will be upset. Your characters have a certain amount of affection towards you. If you screw things up, this affection will lower and they’ll be less willing to co-operate and perform certain actions. It’s a neat idea and even well-implemented. Back to the snake: after triggering this kind of trap, you’ll have to get yourself out of it by successfully pressing some buttons. It’s like a mini Wario Ware game, except it’s damn hard to execute without failing.
Riviera: the Promised Land is a turn-based RPG based upon the idea of limitation. You cannot explore everything in all scenes, you cannot carry more than 15 weapons at a time, you cannot even use them more than 40 times. Urgh! Wait, there’s more restrictions, don’t we love them? Maximum three party members (including the main character) in combat. The overall idea of strategy is nicely thought, but most gamers are going to be severely put off by this system after a few hours. Therefore, this is a game not for everyone. If you enjoy manga or anime-stylish turn-based RPG games on handhelds with a few (or rather heavy) strategy elements, don’t hold back. Otherwise, try before buying!
Review-Cat says: Hmmm, maybe.