Growing with up with adventure RPGs in the late ’90s and early 2000s was a great time for the genre as a whole, but it also was a time that I would find myself playing more obscure titles on the Super Nintendo and PC. There’s been plenty of modern games that wear this badge of influence from these older titles, but I have never had the pleasure of playing one quite like Reverie.
At its core, Reverie is a top-down retro RPG adventure game that draws heavy inspiration from titles such in the Zelda series and Earthbound. Mechanically, the game plays almost exactly like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which is not a bad thing as this was one of my all time favorite SNES games. Thankfully though, Reverie maintains its own identity, while also bringing back waves of nostalgia.
Taking place in a fictional island off the coast of New Zealand, there are various tidbits of New Zealand culture scattered throughout the game which added a lot to its overall charm, especially since the creators of the game, Rainbite, are based there. While playing Reverie, it’s pretty easy to see that the creators of the game have a deep love for their country as well as for this particular genre of game.
The main story is a play on the legend of Maui (referred to in this game as Heke) who fished up the island only to be cast away by his jealous brothers whom he curses in return. The brothers’ spirits become angry and cause all sorts of misfortunes around the island which means that it is up to the protagonist to quell the angered spirits to bring peace and order to the island.
Gameplay involves players exploring the overworld and talking to NPCs for clues and items that are needed to enter various dungeons on the island. Each dungeon in the game has unique gimmicks and puzzles that need to be solved in order to progress. These puzzles range from pushing rocks onto platforms or hitting switches to find dungeon keys which unlock the path to get to the boss. Each dungeon ends with an epic boss fight which is normally a creature that is being possessed by the spirit of one of the brothers. After clearing a dungeon and defeating the boss, the spirit of the brother is put to rest and you are sent off to go find the next dungeon.
Overall the premise is very simple and straight forward, which actually makes for an enjoyable experience. Reverie takes what was so great about retro adventure and RPGs and boils it down into a more short and sweet version that makes it easily approachable in this modern landscape. The entire game is kept light-hearted and charming which extends into the boss battles themselves such as fighting against a washing machine at the beginning of the game or with a fugitive octopus.
Reverie also has some side objectives for players to complete such as collecting feathers of various New Zealand birds which are scattered around the Island. There are also additional minigames such as shooting darts in a shooting gallery and playing air hockey. These mini-games also reward the player with certain feathers.
While these side quests aren’t necessarily part of completing the game, it is a fun addition that helps give a nice break between dungeon crawling. I’d also like to point out the game’s achievements also make references to video games and pop culture which brought a smile to my face more than once.
Through all of its fun and charm, there were some parts where Reverie came up short for me. Hitbox detection seemed a bit off at times and the controls themselves can feel a little clunky. This was particularly noticeable when attempting to use the dart gun weapon. Aiming proved to be difficult since your character would move in the direction you are trying to aim which made it hard to be precise.
I’d like to add that the overall difficulty of the game seemed a bit too easy. The game rarely challenges the player’s skills and this is noticeable since the puzzles were rather simple and the boss fights weren’t particularly challenging. I also wished there were more interesting enemies to fight against since most of what you encounter is rats, bees, and other wildlife creatures.
Reverie is a charming and lovable game that despite its flaws is still worth picking up. The game does a good job of paying respect to the titles that inspired the genre, and it also adds its own charm and personality that makes for a fun heartwarming adventure. While the game isn’t particularly difficult or long, it still takes you on a fun journey that is worth experiencing.
In the end, I found Reverie’s retro appeal to be just what I needed after playing more modern takes on the adventure RPG genre. There are moments of gameplay where I couldn’t seem to put down the console because I was eagerly awaiting what was coming up next and that is enough for me to recommend this to all fans of the genre.
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