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Riviera: The Promised Land (PSP) artwork

Riviera: The Promised Land (PSP) review


"Believe me, it's worth the constant resetting and reloading."


As you approach a treasure chest, one of your party members squeals about a frozen gas trap inside of it. You ready your thumbs just then and begin a short QTE that involves pressing buttons in the correct sequence within a time limit. You succeed and earn a rose whip, which is one of four weapons this chest offers. Unfortunately, you already have that particular item, and really hoped to nab the wand this box contains.

Reset. Reload.

You approach the same chest, only this time there's a bomb rigged to it. You fail to complete the QTE associated with this type of trap, which is a rhythm-based mini-game. The chest explodes, harming you and destroying its contents.

Reset. Reload.

You complete another QTE and get a sword you don't need. Reset. Reload times twenty. Finally, you secure that wand. You mosey onto the next area, save your progress and investigate a strange crack in the wall, costing you one "trigger point" and a turn. A brief, useless cutscene ensues, and you earn nothing.

Reset. Reload.

Reset. Reload.

RESET.

RELOAD.

Look, I like Riviera: The Promised Land as much as the next dude, but I got tired of resetting and reloading throughout its campaign. Doing so can be crucial, too, because you can't backtrack. You can easily miss sweet content thanks to that. For instance, you might biff it on a quick-time event and pass up a unique sword. Or perhaps you'll accidentally select the wrong dialogue path during a cutscene. That mistake could cost you something useful, such as an event item that you can use at the game's hub town. You also can't revisit completed dungeons, and any "untriggered" events within them are permanently lost.

It's not as though you can just walk right back to previously visited areas, either. This title doesn't allow you to control your characters directly, but uses a menu- and prompt-based system in regards to movement. Whether you're exploring some ruins or strolling around town, you can only move by selecting an on-screen label. At any given moment, you only receive two to four different options. Often, you'll run across segments that are permanently barred off, preventing you from engaging any events they might've previously contained. Your only recourse would be to keep an alternate save file and reboot it when necessary.

Sometimes, goodies appear after a long string of events. After you've battled a few monsters and spent some time grinding, you might chance upon an missable opportunity. If you fail during this segment and miss the associated prize, you might not be inclined to reload and redo all of those previously completed activities. Who wants to win a hard fought fight against a powerful dragon and complete a demanding QTE, only to take the whole mess from the top because of a poor dialogue choice? Not this guy...

In order to interact with these scenes, you need "trigger points" (TP), which you gain from winning non-training battles. Any time you open a chest or so much as look at the sky, you use one TP. Sometimes you burn a point examining a piece of the environment, and all you get is needless chatter from your allies. Occasionally, though, someone finds a "shiny thing" and you gain a new piece of equipment. There's no rhyme or reason to this process, either. Checking out a bush or a pond could damage you, ruin some of your equipment, yield a healing item or disturb a nearby enemy. The game doesn't indicate what your likeliest outcome could be, so experimentation and a willingness to reset and reload are necessary.

You may not realize it immediately, but the items you nab and the things you say affect your progress. Unlike other RPGs, you don't gain experience through butchering monsters and leveling up. Instead, you need to unlock a character's skills by having them use certain items during combat. For instance, one girl named Fia learns a technique that allows her to turn herbs into potions. She accomplishes this by using herbs twice during combat, thereby netting her a new skill at the end of the conflict. On top of that, any time a combatant learns a new skill, they also gain permanent stat boosts, which makes acquiring new skills essential.

As you might've guessed, all of this experimentation and resetting and grinding skills and carefully selecting dialogue isn't for nothing. When you lump busywork like this on players, they expect a payoff. Thankfully, Riviera delivers on that end...

You see the boon of your slogging and retrying when you unsheath a powerful katana after plowing through a side quest. You witness the outcome of all your hard work when your characters unleash powerful spells and techniques that do more than lightly chip away at your adversaries. In my own playthrough, I had a witch named Cierra who was strong enough to strip off more than a quarter of the final boss' hit points with a single spell. Granted, I had to wait until the boss switched its vulnerability to a certain element, then fill up a combo meter to cast that spell, but it was nonetheless a glorious moment.

This adventure becomes increasingly challenging, yet it remains balanced. You seldom bump into spots where your foes completely annihilate you. Of course, they aren't slouches, either. They'll nail you with special attacks of their own, fueled by a rage meter that fills up with each blow they sustain. Most of your late-game fights will remain doable, but they will require patience and planning. Ultimately, you'll encounter even standard conflicts filled with drama and desperate moments.

Outside of these fights lies a world begging to be explored. Though you can't control your party directly, there are still plenty of hidden avenues to check out and side areas to explore. Each dungeon presents you with numerous sections perfect for experimentation, offering various dialogue routes or environments to inspect. Yeah, these are the sections that cause you to reset and reload the most, but it's still neat seeing where each road could take you. You get a feeling of Christmas present-like anticipation every time you decide to check the slightest thing, because you think that even the tiniest, most boring detail could lead to a worthwhile item scuffle with a hidden mid-boss or a puzzle that gives you a unique weapon.

That's why it's a shame Riviera doesn't allow you to backtrack. There's a lot of terrific content on offer, but you can only experience so much of it. That's the game's only real drawback. I'd love it if we could see another title like this, or perhaps a true sequel (that is, a continuation of this installment's world and mechanics, and not a loosely connected game like Yggdra Union or Knights in the Nightmare). It'd be great if we could see another menu-based RPG like this one, but with addition exploration and freedom.

And maybe a smooth reload feature would be nice, too.

4/5

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (June 07, 2019)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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