It seems like recently we have seen more and more developers bringing back and rejuvenating retro style games, which have proven to still be a very popular genre. With the likes of Axiom Verge and Shovel Knight doing so well on current platforms, we are starting to see some fresh ideas on what the games can be.
Artifact Adventure is a 2D JRPG style game that you can play via Steam. The game was developed by studio Bluffman. The game does a good job of combining vibrant visual style with a large open world to explore. The game feels like a classic NES game and at times it was reminiscent of games from the Zelda franchise. I grew up playing games like Final Fantasy and have even recently been jumping back to games like Contra.
The game is simple in terms of gameplay but it has a good amount of depth, character design and exploration to keep things interesting. You start out by choosing your character as well as three others to join your team. There is a good selection of classes to choose from including the Warrior, Monk, Dreamer and a few more. You can then rename each of the characters in your party to set out on your quest. It would have been nice to have been able to customise your characters look but it’s not anything too much to complain about.
The story here is very unoriginal and doesn’t have much depth to it, but saying that neither does A Link to the Past or many other NES top-down RPG games. The king has requested that you stop the evil swamp from spreading throughout his kingdom. Although the game doesn’t have much of a story, it does offer some interesting choices throughout the playthrough. This is great as it adds replayability to the game, which apparently has over 70 different endings. The first main choice you come across is which one of the three gifts you take from the King. You can choose from a Key of Time, four artifacts or an airship. I loved these points in the game as they truly do impact how the game plays out.
The main focus of the game is to simply explore, interact and talk to people you meet along the way. You will start to collect various items and artifacts that allow you to become more powerful. Again this is a similar idea to what we have seen in the Zelda games. Important items can be obtained in a number of ways, whether it’s from side quests, found in different locations or simply purchased. These abilities you gain help to improve attacks and character buffs. It’s important to note that only the character that picks up the artifact can use it. I had to spend some time making sure that I matched abilities with suitable members of my group.
The side quests are pretty varied and feel interesting, which can often be tricky once you have to do multiple tasks in open world games. I always enjoyed finding out where I was heading and what rewards I would gain from completing these quests. The game has a really good mix of environments to explore, and I especially enjoyed the combat encounters. The game has a classic JRPG combat system. Much like games like Final Fantasy you have various options like attack, use an item, skill or run away. Each of the characters in your group can attack and then the enemy will have their turn. I often feel on the fence about turn based combat in games but it works really well here as it feels fast-paced and satisfying.
If you win a battle you will earn gold and XP but if your team fails, you get sent back to a nearby town. This is where you will need to visit the doctor and pay a fee to restore your team members. I have to say that doing this is very expensive, so it makes battle scenarios far more important to succeed. It’s a good idea to have your team in good condition and have plenty of resources when heading into battle.
I have to say that the game is actually pretty challenging, despite the cute and colourful style. It does take some practice and the game certainly doesn’t hold your hand when it comes to figuring things out. I found it extremely helpful to talk to people throughout the world, as they often help to point you in the right direction. The game has a lot of information to take in and I actually went as far to write down the various quests I was taking on.
The only real complaints I had about the game was the fact that you have no journal, that’s why I wrote things down and you can’t play the game fullscreen which is a shame. Apart from those and the lack of character customisation it’s a great little game. The overall presentation of the game is particularly strong, with obvious representations and throwbacks to classic JRPG’s. The game has an 8-bit pixel art style and it runs very smoothly. I enjoyed the various enemies you can encounter and the designs look great. I also want to mention the sound design and how it suits the game style. The soundtrack is melodic and reminiscent of retro games and the sound effects worked nicely.
Overall this is an awesome little game and a great way of rekindling some of that classic JRPG experiences. The story may feel a little bit on the weak side but the choices you make and the places you explore are truly interesting and impactful. The game can be played in short bursts or longer play sessions, which is nice to have the option. The turn-based battle system feels really satisfying and rewarding. All in all, I really enjoyed my time playing this game and strongly recommend you give it a go if you want to jump back in time and experience playing a classic JRPG.
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