Mento's Alternative to E3 2019: My Passing Interest in Falcom-ry (Day 1: Zwei)

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Posted by Mento (4262 posts) -
E3 Day -1: YsE3 Day 0: The Legend of HeroesE3 Day 1: ZweiE3 Day 2: XanaduE3 Day 3: Everything Else

For 2019's Alternative to E3 series, we're looking at a bunch of Falcom games! I've loved this RPG developer for a while and have been searching for an excuse to talk more about them, so that's what we're doing this year instead of poring over E3 trailers and news. Be sure to check Day -1 for more information via the table of links above.

Day 1: Zwei!!

E3 2019's begun in earnest, but I don't care (much). Instead, we're moving this five-day Falcom retrospective into the unknown by trying a few of their lesser known franchises; specifically, ones that I have no prior experience with. The first of these will be the Zwei!! franchise.

Zwei!! is a two-part game series, appropriately enough, that compromises The Arges Adventure and The Ilvard Insurrection. The first, The Arges Adventure, follows the adventures of brother/sister team Pipiro and Pokkle (they can be renamed by the player too) as they track down a masked thief that stole their village's six holy idols. Pokkle is spurred into action by his love of adventure, while Pipiro is suddenly more motivated when she hears there's a hefty reward for their recovery, and so the duo take on the various dungeons in the local vicinity of their bucolic floating island home. (There's technically a third game - Zwei Online - but that's some weird Korean MMO so I didn't count it. I know people love MapleStory though, so no tea from me.)

Like many Falcom properties, Zwei!! is a top-down action-RPG with a fast pace, with the duo - Pokkle is your close-range melee character, Pipiro is your ranged magic-user - quickly moving their way through dungeons full of monster encounters, treasure, traps, and switch puzzles. Each dungeon area of the game has a number of different routes, many of which are gated by progress-enabling mechanics - elemental magic, keys, new techniques - and a recommended level. The way levelling and items work in the game are just a few of the unusual quirks of the game, which is definitely on the lighter and more comedic side than most of other Falcom's properties. Despite originally releasing for PC in 2001 - hence why it looks like an early PS2 game - it wasn't until 2018 that international Falcom fans could check out The Arges Adventure for the first time. Curiously, the localization for its sequel came out a few months earlier, around the end of 2017 - I've yet to play The Ilvard Insurrection, but given there's a seven year gap between the first and second Zwei game, I imagine it's considerably different.

Gameplay

Screenshot time! There's a few mechanics I wanted to show off here, as well as the game's overall adorable look and tone.

You get to name the two protagonists, but this is the only pre-game choice that matters. (There are dogs too.)
You get to name the two protagonists, but this is the only pre-game choice that matters. (There are dogs too.)
The game makes it clear in the opening cinematic that you're a little detached from the rest of the world: the land of Arges is a floating island that can only be reached by plane. It's also relevant to a story point later on.
The game makes it clear in the opening cinematic that you're a little detached from the rest of the world: the land of Arges is a floating island that can only be reached by plane. It's also relevant to a story point later on.
In case you were wondering who the Demon Lord Vesper that the above track was referring to.
In case you were wondering who the Demon Lord Vesper that the above track was referring to.
And here's the two idiots.
And here's the two idiots.
I named the girl Pepsi. She's the lazy, disingenuous, slightly insane one.
I named the girl Pepsi. She's the lazy, disingenuous, slightly insane one.
Coke, meanwhile, is the studious dork that loves puns even more than I do.
Coke, meanwhile, is the studious dork that loves puns even more than I do.
I skipped most of the early story stuff, but a guy with a cool mask slips in and steals the village's treasures. We're going to get them back. That's the plot. (Also, can you tell this localization was a recent thing?)
I skipped most of the early story stuff, but a guy with a cool mask slips in and steals the village's treasures. We're going to get them back. That's the plot. (Also, can you tell this localization was a recent thing?)
These splash tutorial screens - presumably added for the localization, since it refers to itself as an
These splash tutorial screens - presumably added for the localization, since it refers to itself as an "old-school game" - are really charming. Like something out of a Yoshi game. In fact, the whole game has this delightful hand-drawn quality to its backgrounds.
Kite's the local retired hero, and gives us a bestiary to log monster info that I immediately lost somewhere. I didn't think you could lose a bestiary but there you go.
Kite's the local retired hero, and gives us a bestiary to log monster info that I immediately lost somewhere. I didn't think you could lose a bestiary but there you go.
Exploring outside the village, the siblings soon come across their beloved new pet calico, Mr. Pibb.
Exploring outside the village, the siblings soon come across their beloved new pet calico, Mr. Pibb.
The pet can do one of two things, as this splash screen informs us: become another AI partner, or left to wander around and find stuff.
The pet can do one of two things, as this splash screen informs us: become another AI partner, or left to wander around and find stuff.
A demonstration of the in-dungeon action, and the kitty adventures in the picture-in-picture. It's sort of like that Final Fantasy VIII PocketStation Chocobo thing. I'm sure everyone remembers that.
A demonstration of the in-dungeon action, and the kitty adventures in the picture-in-picture. It's sort of like that Final Fantasy VIII PocketStation Chocobo thing. I'm sure everyone remembers that.
Every area of the game has these convenient level minimum requirement plaques on the floor - most of the higher level stuff you can't even enter because you need the right items or abilities. I don't know if there's a reward for skipping ahead, but you get useful story tidbits and other goods by exploring each one.
Every area of the game has these convenient level minimum requirement plaques on the floor - most of the higher level stuff you can't even enter because you need the right items or abilities. I don't know if there's a reward for skipping ahead, but you get useful story tidbits and other goods by exploring each one.
Also, every dungeon also has a save point on the top floor. Convenient!
Also, every dungeon also has a save point on the top floor. Convenient!
Case in point, reaching the end of the first dungeon in this region - Pavel Gardens - introduces us to this pair of veteran treasure hunters and a hint that there's more dungeon to come, should we find the right item to unlock progress. It feels like the kind of game for which you'll want to take constant notes.
Case in point, reaching the end of the first dungeon in this region - Pavel Gardens - introduces us to this pair of veteran treasure hunters and a hint that there's more dungeon to come, should we find the right item to unlock progress. It feels like the kind of game for which you'll want to take constant notes.
So let's get to one of the stranger game design decisions: food is the only way to earn XP. Some real risk vs. reward mechanics going on here, but what this screen neglects to mention is that food items are also curatives: in addition to hanging onto food items to make a stronger composite version, you also have to decide when to chow down - when you're ready to move onto the next dungeon, or when you need a quick heal in the middle of same.
So let's get to one of the stranger game design decisions: food is the only way to earn XP. Some real risk vs. reward mechanics going on here, but what this screen neglects to mention is that food items are also curatives: in addition to hanging onto food items to make a stronger composite version, you also have to decide when to chow down - when you're ready to move onto the next dungeon, or when you need a quick heal in the middle of same.
Single food items can drop from enemies or breakables, but the best source I've found are chests. A chest can occasionally explode and drop between eight-to-ten food items, allowing you to upgrade them as soon as you're out. These flans - worth four XP each - will turn into a food item worth 60 XP when ten are combined, producing a 50% gain (which I believe is the same percentage for every other composite
Single food items can drop from enemies or breakables, but the best source I've found are chests. A chest can occasionally explode and drop between eight-to-ten food items, allowing you to upgrade them as soon as you're out. These flans - worth four XP each - will turn into a food item worth 60 XP when ten are combined, producing a 50% gain (which I believe is the same percentage for every other composite "master" food item).
Since we're done here, it's time to teleport home with a conveniently cheap town portal item. I don't know if the dungeons are procedurally generated (they could just be a pretty generic assortment of rooms) but the game does feel Diablo-ish so far. Maybe a little more wholesome, though.
Since we're done here, it's time to teleport home with a conveniently cheap town portal item. I don't know if the dungeons are procedurally generated (they could just be a pretty generic assortment of rooms) but the game does feel Diablo-ish so far. Maybe a little more wholesome, though.
I regret everything.
I regret everything.
At the end of the second dungeon, which is also the one you saw earlier, there's no evidence that the path continues. However, you do earn a new ability from this mysterious person: it's a radar upgrade that shows you nearby monsters. I'm guessing other dungeon paths also lead to dead ends with tangible rewards.
At the end of the second dungeon, which is also the one you saw earlier, there's no evidence that the path continues. However, you do earn a new ability from this mysterious person: it's a radar upgrade that shows you nearby monsters. I'm guessing other dungeon paths also lead to dead ends with tangible rewards.
At the end of dungeon two, we're swamped with new food items. The riceballs are the only things we can exchange, though: the rest goes into my storage chest at home, since I'm paranoid about dying and losing more items.
At the end of dungeon two, we're swamped with new food items. The riceballs are the only things we can exchange, though: the rest goes into my storage chest at home, since I'm paranoid about dying and losing more items.
OK, I think we're done here.
OK, I think we're done here.

Next Time On "Mento's Alternative to E3 2019: My Passing Interest in Falcom-ry"

From the silly to the (relatively) serious: we're going to delve into Falcom's roots with Xanadu and its modern incarnations. I swear there won't be any musical rollerskating.

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#1 Posted by Relkin (1181 posts) -

I played through this some months ago; I thought it was alright. The leveling method takes some getting used to, for sure.

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