July 23, 2007 - It seems Atlus has taken a page from Square Enix's book. Despite having already rereleased a perfectly good game on the GBA and calling it a day, Atlus thought their popular RPG title Riviera: The Promised Land needed another facelift. Thus, they tweaked the graphics, rearranged the soundtrack, added a few cutscenes, included dual language functionality and reworked the configurations all for the PSP port. Unfortunately, it sounds cooler than it really is.
That's what you think, you ugly armadillo.
In case you're not familiar with the game, Riviera is yet another RPG that lightly touches on Norse mythology, using terminology like Asgard, Utgard, Valkryie (known as Grim Angels) and Ragnarok. Long ago a war between Asgard (land of the gods) and Utgard (land of the demons) took place, resulting in a win for the good guys, thanks to the Grim Angels, who are sworn to protect Asgard at all cost. When the demons were defeated, they were sealed away and their land was turned into Riviera, a peaceful island in the sky where Sprites and Magi go about their daily lives. A thousand years later however, the demons threaten to reemerge and take over their former land, and it will be up to two reborn Grim Angels to stop them, even if it means destroying Riviera and all its peaceful inhabitants.
It's not easy being blue.
Like any RPG, the quality of the title is determined by the core gameplay, which essentially means the battle system. Unfortunately, battle is a real drag in Riviera. Each fight is hedged in by a number of annoying rules (you can only take three people into battle and one must always be the main character, you can only use four items in battle and almost every item has a limited amount of use, etc.) and fights are extremely time-consuming thanks to both monsters with ridiculously high HP and the disc drive's struggle to keep up with all the flashy animation and endless text that appears on screen.
Another issue with gameplay is the very streamlined dungeon system, which limits your ability to freely explore your surroundings. In fact in order to do anything other than move back and forth, you need Trigger Points, which are consumed every time you want to open a chest or study an object. Trigger Points are won in battle, but how many you receive depends on how well you do. If you don't fair so well in a fight, you get one measly point and you'll miss out on a lot of valuable weapons and items. Of course this dungeon system is made even more frustrating by the fact that many chests come with a trap that requires you to smash the D-pad in different patterns in a vain attempt not to be poisoned or shot by arrows.
There's also a lot of pointless chatter in this game. Characters tend to state the obvious or repeat themselves, and in case you miss something a narrator will recap events after you've finished them -- but because it can take a half hour or more to get through a dungeon, maybe that's a good thing. Luckily, you can use the game's configuration menu to skip some of the text and even turn off the voice option, which is nice because the Japanese and English voice acting isn't all that good (it doesn't help that the language translation is supremely clumsy).
By now, Riviera fans may be feeling defensive of their beloved game, so it's probably time to mention what does work in this PSP port. There are indeed more cutscenes, and the art (the game is known for its hand-drawn style) is rendered beautifully. The soundtrack is also new, featuring clearer sound and a few rockin' tunes that work well in battle or while exploring. The storyline has also been extended, so fans of the game have more to enjoy.
Unfortunately, there's nothing like ad-hoc mode or any kind of multiplayer feature, so Riviera fans hoping to swap items in their inventory (which would be invaluable in a game like this) or team-up to kick some Amazon tail will be disappointed.
In short, while the game looks good and sounds great (err ... the music sounds great anyway), the PSP port doesn't have a lot more to offer than the GBA version. There's still no online features, the battle and dungeon system are still a point of contention, and the storyline is still generic, even with added cutscenes. All of which is too bad because Riviera on the PSP sounded so promising.