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Archlion Saga (Switch) artwork

Archlion Saga (Switch) review

"Bonus food metaphor: Archlion Saga is a decent JRPG snack that could very well leave you wanting more."

Archlion Saga is a small RPG from a similarly small team at Hit-Point. The studio is already well known for crafting short and simple RPG experiences on behalf of publisher Kemco, but this new release takes that habit to a new level. Players should be able to easily clear the campaign within a few hours of play, even if they're relatively new to the genre. The game also retails for $4.99 on the Nintendo eShop, so it's not all that expensive. But is that reason to buy it?

Archlion Saga (Switch) image

Whether I'm spending 3 hours with an RPG or 200, I like to know my time will be well invested in an experience worth caring about. Archlion Saga is so brief that you might suppose it would have difficulty telling an interesting story, but to my pleasant surprise, that's not entirely true. The plot centers on a young boy who lives in a world where tradition tells of an all-powerful Serpent looking to plunge the world into darkness. Opposing that entity is the Archlion King, who returns in a new body every 1000 years to wage battle and save mankind. As the young hero, you are clearly the latest manifestation of that returning being. Rather than allowing your mother to make a noble but fatal sacrifice for your people, you embark on a quest to vanquish evil. Along the way, you meet up with three allies. Together, the lot of you race toward your final confrontation.

Much lengthier games (such as entries in the Dragon Quest series, which I love) feature an overall quest with similarly grand elements, and they relate numerous smaller stories along the way that further establish the world's lore, develop the characters, and make more epic their struggle against that which would end them. Archlion King eschews the bulk of that. The tale is divided into five short chapters. Each of the first four of them introduce a hero and tell an origin story, and the final chapter pits them against their adversary. The setup resembles the one seen in Dragon Quest IV, but it is much briefer and your POV character remains constant.

Archlion Saga (Switch) image

The world you struggle to save is no doubt meant to come off as much larger than the tiny portion of it you actually see. Chapters essentially consist of a single dungeon apiece, and those dungeons are almost entirely linear with few branching paths that might cause any confusion. If you do play and find yourself lost, you can toggle off and on an arrow indicator that points you toward the exact path you need to follow to proceed. I avoided using this aid, except in one dungeon where I reached an apparent dead end with small ledges and decided I must be expected to find my way along invisible paths to proceed. I was right.

Dungeons aren't the only thing that's bite-sized. Character evolution is similarly limited, with each party member learning as many as three special abilities they can utilize in combat, assuming you level them up enough. Weapons and armor are usually found in chests or stolen from enemies, and I went through more than half the game without realizing I could equip them from the "Status" menu. I also refused to grind and didn't even explore some of the obvious forks branching off from the main path, but I still beat the game with my characters at level 59. This is not an especially difficult game.

Archlion Saga (Switch) image

Combat is streamlined, but it allows for just enough complexity that you can't simply auto-battle your way through the tougher foes. The first character you meet possesses a powerful healing spell she can use every three turns, and later an ability that lulls enemies to sleep for a few turns besides, so your life meter will rarely be at risk. Even if you do fall in battle, you can use an item to restore your lives and keep fighting or you can "Retry" it from the beginning. Characters are lumped into a single entity, and any one of them attacking or using an item or ability ends your turn. The same holds true for your opponents. Therefore, combat is just a matter of the two sides taking quick turns whittling down their opponents' single life meter.

Music and visuals are kept simple, but they're sufficiently effective that I got through the campaign without muting the volume or tiring of the old school visuals. Enemies are drawn vividly and environments have just enough personality that it all mostly works and feels like a not-especially-pretty JRPG from the SNES days. I'm not sure who might fall into the game's precise target audience, really. Those who appreciate old school presentation in their RPGs will probably prefer more complex titles to challenge their ingenuity, while newcomers who might enjoy the simple setup would tend to hold out for more modern presentation. When it streamlined the RPG in the SNES days, Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest boasted an exemplary soundtrack, beautiful dungeons and lively combat. It held its own compared to much of its genre's leading competition. This newer game can't really say the same.

Archlion Saga (Switch) image

In spite of a few shortcomings, Archlion Saga is decent across the board. It features a surprisingly intriguing story (that doesn't get a chance to properly develop but still manages to entertain), dungeons that are fun to explore, streamlined combat, old school visuals and accessibility features that should help to eliminate most frustration a player may encounter while clearing the campaign. If it were expanded and enhanced, it might be even better, but as a bite-sized introduction to the JRPG, it's still a generally pleasant reminder of simpler times that ends before most players will have a chance to really tire of it. I've spent $5 on much worse experiences, and I'd wager you have too. But is all of the above a good reason to buy it? Probably not, and yet...


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (July 23, 2019)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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overdrive posted July 24, 2019:

I think this was the last Kemco game I downloaded and, for mobile devices, I think it either is free or they at least released a free version first (might have ads popping up from time to time on the free version, but I'm not sure).

My impression is that this was supposed to be the first game in sort of a serial RPG experience. At least I know that Hit Point did release a second game along this one's lines.

Always cool to see someone else on the Kemco express, if for no other reason than to watch someone else find new ways of saying that a game is decent and reasonably fun, but doesn't actually match up to the games it was derived from.
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honestgamer posted July 24, 2019:

Kemco has been bringing a lot of its games to Switch, and I have been buying them as I could. I do plan to go back and fill in the gaps I've missed a bit later, as well. They tend to make quite decent RPGs that mimic interesting classics from the genre's past, and while they don't always nail the finer details, I have enough fun with them that they're in generally a pretty safe purchase for me. Having them on Switch is worth paying the extra price up front. It's enough better a device for games in general that if I'm going to spend a few hours with a game, I'll enjoy it enough more on Switch to justify the difference.

As for the mention of it potentially being a series, that's my impression too, though there was nothing in the game itself to point that way and Kemco or Hit-Point may have subsequently had a change of heart. Thanks for reading!

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