Reverie originally came out in 2018 for the PS Vita and PS4. However, I will be basing my review on Reverie: Sweet As Edition, the Switch port of Reverie that came out in 2019. Changes in this version include a "nightmare" difficulty, item select wheel, new sprites, updated dialogue and a new mini-game.
Although it's nice to get a break, posting every two weeks has me feeling a little rusty on writing and I'm excited to be back and shake it up a little bit by changing the format of my reviews a bit. I'll be talking about yet another game that I had time to play mostly during the wonderful holiday break. Reverie is a an adventure game about a boy restoring peace within the feuding brother spirits of the island. Reverie gives a powerful sense of environment and a deep-seated legend telling of forgiveness and family, however, the gameplay doesn't stand on its own and merely reminds of games that inspired it.
The trailer drew me in due to its colorful style very reminiscent of Earthbound. Only a little while into playing, though, I realized it's much more of a a Zelda-like game with an Earthbound skin. From the very beginning, you're introduced to the setting with a sort of legend. The legend tells the dark history of how Toromi island came to be. You play a young boy named Tai who's taking a vacation to Toromi Island, an island in New Zealand. He's supposed to be spending time with his grandparents and having a fun summer, but instead he has to investigate why there's monsters everywhere and the island is being strange. Once you're done getting to know the townspeople, you set off on your way to explore the dungeons on the island in order to appease the feuding spirits.
I don't think I've played a game that establishes its setting (in a real world location) so strongly using national symbols, dialect, and customs as Reverie does - I could perhaps compare it to the very "British" feel of Pokemon Sword/Shield. There's New Zealand flags set up around the island, native animals, regional food, and other specifics that I had to look up to fully understand. I enjoy how this game confidently places itself in this time and place. As a non-native of that region and knowing very little about it, I feel like I learned a lot. It'd be great to see more games that immerse you in a real-world culture that's far away from your own. The feathers that you collect along the way, too, feel like a deep look into a plethora of wildlife I've never seen.
Even though Reverie is not Earthbound-like at all in its fighting mechanics, it ironically mimicked the type of repetitive frustration you feel from endless random encounters. For some strange reason, even if you defeat a whole screen of monsters, they spawn back immediately after leaving and coming back to that screen. Basically, you can't walk away from an area on accident for a second without coming back to a full screen of monsters again. I'm not sure if it was on purpose, but I found it unfamiliar and a little annoying. Your primary weapon used against these monsters for the entirety of the game is a bat. You eventually gain other projectile weapons, but no weapon that does more damage. I would've been way more willing to do the collectibles quest if they gave you a powerful weapon in exchange as a nice boost. Except for about one or two exceptions, all enemies are defeated the same way - just slashing enough times. The bosses, although they had their in-dungeon mechanics that you should use against them, could mostly be killed by slashing enough. It's kinda ridiculous that you have to equip the snorkles to swim, even though you don't need to press the button down to swim. It could've easily just been a non-equip item that gives you the ability to swim.
The dungeons proceed as you would expect, rewarding you with new items to help take down the specific challenges you're going to face. Interestingly enough, the item that I at first found useless later turned out to be my favorite inventory item. Not gonna lie, when I first opened that dungeon treasure chest and got "a pet rock", I was thrown. I was waiting for an item that could perhaps move heavy objects or allow me to jump, but I got this little lump with googly eyeballs. It took me a little while to realize I could use it to create a wall from the lasers, but it took me even longer to realize I could whack it with my bat to make it fly across the room where I needed it to be. Unfortunately, this weird little rock friend still has a downfall. I found myself soft-locked and having to either kill myself or exit the game multiple times, especially in the fire dungeon. If you happen to knock the rock out of the way and you're behind a laser, you're stuck there. The lasers don't just hurt you, they block you from moving forward. The fact that you can't respawn your rock to you by clicking it again really leaves you in a sticky situation.
The music is the type to get caught in your head, reminiscent of a SNES-era sounds, but not particularly impressive at any point. My favorite was the music in the Crypt, somewhat eerie and suspenseful. Each region of Toromi Island had a different flair and color style to it, not always the typical "water, earth, fire" type of element. Exploring a new area was visually exciting and mysterious, each with more feather collectibles to seek out.
I think I judge Zelda-likes more harshly than I do other games, unfortunately. When games come close and then fall flat, I tend to think of Zelda games I could be replaying instead. I enjoyed the origin story of Reverie that includes characters who change and grow. It didn't take itself too seriously, having some humor even within the island spirits, but it motivated you to go from dungeon to dungeon to fix this long-standing family quarrel. I'd recommend it as a cute adventure game with a rich sense of culture and interesting world, but it's not particularly surprising or impressive in the ways it unfolds and gameplay is presented.
Reverie: Sweet As Edition is available on Nintendo Switch
Reverie is available on PS4 and PS Vita
Played on: Switch
Playtime: 7 hrs