Riviera: The Promised Land - Staff Review  

An RPG Made For On the Go
by Jesse Cherry

Click here for game information
Easy to Medium
20 to 30 hours
Click here for scoring definitions 

   This is not the first time Riviera: The Promised Land has been available on a handheld. The original version came out for the Game Boy Advance back in 2005. While the game has not been rebuilt from scratch and carries the same gameplay from before, there are some elements that have been added to the PlayStation Portable version that make the title more enjoyable.

   One of the things that the PSP has over the GBA is horsepower. Riviera's artwork was gorgeous before, but the graphics have been redone to fit the PSP's widescreen. This is most noticeable in the backgrounds, which now support a much cleaner and crisper look. Sprites are very similar to Their GBA counterparts, but still look fine for a portable game.

   The story is not groundbreaking, but it is able to transcend the clichéd themes it uses through humor and likable characters. The player takes control of an angel, Ein, who starts off on a quest of misled destruction, but soon discovers the truth and has a change of heart. Ein soon finds himself in the minority as he is teamed up with a group of female-only heroines. This is the typical story of good versus evil and how the power of friendship conquers all that we see in most Saturday morning cartoons. Even with a mediocre plot, if games concentrate on character development the story can still be enjoyable. What really helps create a lovable cast in Riviera is the added voice acting. The voices fit the characters perfectly and gives the game charm that wasn't there before.

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   Due to the added voice acting the PSP must spin the disc quite often, resulting in many pauses during the game. While it usually lasts for no more than a second, it can become somewhat bothersome. Other than these little hiccups the game has relatively short loading times.

   The game utilizes Ein's bachelor status and fortunate lady situation by adding in a dating sim mini-game. Now granted the player does not hand out roses or marry the chosen one only to divorce them one month later, but he does get to play the field. Often the game will ask for Ein's reaction to events, questions or other situations, and depending on how it is answered, the female companions will have different reactions. It is not crucial to the gameplay, but provides humor and helps flesh out characters' personalities.

   Much of Riviera has simplified mechanics, streamlining the entire experience. Exploration is broken up into two modes, look and move. In move, players pick what four directions they wish to go and then their avatar moves there. In look mode, the player can explore their surroundings using TP, which is gained through battles. Players can then open chests, dig for loot and other things that treasure-seeking adventurers do. Most chests and other events have mini-games attached to them. These are easy to accomplish, but fun to play. The one issue with the look mode is that sometimes investigating certain objects will result in negative effects and stat reductions, and there is no logical way to predict when this will happen. The game encourages the player to touch everything, but sometimes it gives an out-of-nowhere slap on the wrist for doing so. This does not make the game overly difficult to play, but does send a mixed signal on what the game expects the player to do.

   Combat is also simplified in terms of execution. When going into battle, players can only choose four weapons and three characters. Once in combat, the items are the key factor to which enemies can be hit. Some, like swords, mostly hit front row enemies, while bows hit the back row. Not being able to control who the character attacks will turn off some, but it is actually handled quite well. Depending on the formation of the enemies, this will influence which items the player uses. Most of the strategy is done before combat, not during. Going into the battle with the wrong weapons tends to result in failure.

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   Since Ein is an angel, he is equipped with a divine weapon bestowed upon him from the gods called a diviner. This weapon possesses magical strength and is an essential piece of equipment to success in the game. Aside from the diviner, all of the weapons and items have a limited number of times they can be used. Weapons cannot be repaired and in many games this just results in frustration over losing favored items. Riviera is able to avoid this by constantly providing players with new weapons to choose from. Much like the iPod, when it does break, there is a better version out there to use.

   The only way players can level up is through use of their equipment. A character will gain a stat increase after using an item a certain number of times. Only certain characters can equip certain items. Since chests are random, players may find themselves getting the same item over and over again, and without new types of equipment it is impossible to level up. This does not always happen but some may find themselves reloading a saved file until the chest gives them what they need.

   Upon losing a battle the game does not punish the player by sending them to a game over screen, resulting in cursing and an hour of life gone, but instead, it gives the option to retry the battle. Selecting retry does not punish the player in any way, it only lets them hit the rewind button. This is a small feature, but one that should be implemented in more games.

   The music will not blow anyone away, but it never becomes grating. The themes of the tracks fit appropriately into the level design. That said, when using a first-generation PSP, the disc will spin so loudly at times that it will interfere with the sound, so a nice pair of headphones is suggested.

   Riviera: The Promised Land isn't a sandbox title that gives freedom, but provides a fun streamlined experiance. The combat and exploration are performed with simple commands that are easily executed when riding a bumpy subway. There is an added chapter and the game will clock in around 25 hours for most. Even with this added content and the much-welcomed voice acting this is not a game people should purchase again if they already own a GBA copy, but for those that missed Riviera the first time around, this version is worth a look.

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