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Game Info:

Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection
Developed By: Nihon Falcom
Published By: XSEED Games
Release Date: October 31, 2017
Available On: Windows
ESRB Rating: N/A
Genre: Action Role Playing Game
Mode: Single Player
MSRP: $29.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you XSEED Games for sending us this game to review!

Falcom is one of Japan's oldest game developers. They go all the way back to the early 1980s, and have released some incredibly influential games in the ensuing decades. These include Dragon Slayer, The Legend of Heroes, Xanadu, and Ys. In the early 2000s, they released a new series called Zwei!! that did well enough for a sequel, which is this one here. As Falcom's last PC exclusive title, Zwei II (which we now know here as Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection) was originally released in 2008, just as their PSP era had moved into full swing. (For those not aware, all Falcom titles since then have been developed for PlayStation platforms.)

Not content to just leave great games (especially Falcom ones) to wilt away alone in Japan, XSEED Games chose to localize this gem into English, while tweaking the game to work better on modern PCs. XSEED actually has committed to porting over both Zwei games, but they chose to do this one first, since Zwei!! is based on a much older game engine that was full of challenges of its own; this game was much quicker and more straightforward to localize. Not only that, but they explain that this game is also more friendly to modern gamer expectations. Thankfully, while there are references to the first Zwei!!, the games are basically otherwise standalone, and can be enjoyed in any order.

Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection
Highlights:

Strong Points: Incredibly charming characters, world and atmosphere; wonderful soundtrack; great voice acting; fun action
Weak Points: New Game+ makes you get almost everything again
Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence; lots of magic use, by both the player and enemies; vampires, demons, and other dark creatures are not shown as inherently evil; goddesses referred to, in particular the dark and light goddesses; curse words used include 'sh*t', '*ss', 'd*mn', 'b*st*rd', 'hell'; some suggestive language (though received obliviously); some visible cleavage (though low detail enough that it's hardly noticeable); one female character is mistaken for a male; bathhouse scenes played for laughs, where you see a girl in a bikini

Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection (Zwei II for short, and yes that was intentional) is an action RPG with some similarities to the Ys series, though also different enough to be its own thing. It is an overhead view, 3D rendered action game where you attack with your Anchor Gear as Ragna, or with magic spells as Alwen. Each character can be switched to with the press of a button, and what I really like is that you can even set it up to auto switch with the press of the ranged or melee attack buttons, rather than using a character switch button; I find this much faster. The battle system here inspired the transition to a party system for Ys Seven, and in some ways, I like the Zwei II implementation better.

Ragna decides to go on a journey to Ilvard, where he has a package to deliver. Being an aeroplane junky, he flies in confidently, and with style. As he approaches, he is shot down by some rather unexpected foes riding on what appear to be dragons. After his crash, Alwen, a local vampire, chooses to save his life, and asks for his help in recovering her castle, as she needs a warrior to aid her. Ragna, ever one to pay his debts, agrees, and there the dynamic duo sets off to recover her powers and free her castle from its unexpected visitors.

Both the game world and characters ooze personality. Each non-player character (NPC), like in many Falcom games, has their own life stories that you learn about over time. Everyone, from the local shopkeeper, to mysterious faeries, has something to say that changes after each story event. The most characters exude unique traits, from Ragna's swagger, to Alwen's reserved dignity, to Gallandeau's awesome muscles – there is far more than enough fun and bluster to go around. If Zwei succeeds at anything, it's the characters and fun world.

The action is also quite entertaining, as battles are an interesting mix between Ragna's powerful juggling combos, and Alwen's very strong ranged attacks. Alwen tends to do much better than Ragna against most bosses until very late in the game – where Ragna just chews through everything, if you get his very difficult to find final weapon. (Hint: Do NOT feed the odd food to an animal!) Battles are very fast paced, with a decent but rarely overwhelming number of enemies on screen. Things can and do get pretty tense, but thankfully there is always a snack nearby. But do be careful, as food management is a major focus of this game.

The reason food is so important is that it plays a double role – both as healing items, as well as your only means to earn experience, which helps you gain levels. You see, as you eat, you gain both HP and a certain amount of experience. But, if you collect ten of a certain kind of food, you can trade them in for their next level version. You can actually do this four times – so that the final level of food can give you hundreds of thousands of experience in one very hearty meal, rather than the tens from a base version.

Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 90%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 70%
Violence - 6.5/10
Language - 5/10
Sexual Content - 7/10
Occult/Supernatural - 6.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

As you can imagine, levels have a pretty big impact on how much damage you give and receive. So juggling your health, trade-in bonuses, and a rather constant risk-reward of holding back on chowing down is a constant consideration as you go through the game. Thankfully, each area, as well as many bosses, have suggested level plates in front of them so that you know about what level you should be before giving that area a shot. You can ignore it to a point if you have the skill to compensate, but I wouldn't expect to beat a level 1 run anytime soon (though it may or may not be possible).

Graphics have never been Falcom's primary focus, even now, but it gets the job done well enough. The music is awesome as usual, and deserves a spot on the playlist for dedicated game music fans. The English voice acting has far more voiced lines than the Japanese version ever did, and they did a fantastic job in both casting and getting the characters to feel right. I have really enjoyed the obvious love that the folks at XSEED have had for this game, as they went well above and beyond even what Falcom did with voice acting.

From an appropriateness perspective, Zwei II is overall very lighthearted, and comes across that way, but there is still some content to note. For one, there is the obvious fantasy violence that you find in most action RPGs. Various creatures, from animals to goblins to forms of demons and undead, are all defeated in large quantities in Zwei II. Alwen is a vampire, and some of her friends are faeries and witches. Demon Lords are generally considered bad or evil, but that is not always the case. There is quite a bit of ambiguity on what is considered evil. There is also mention of two goddesses, one of light, and the other dark. There is a nun to the light goddess that is incredibly disrespectful and even smokes in church.

There are curse words used, like 'sh*t', '*ss', 'd*mn', 'b*st*rd', and 'hell'. There is no outright sexual content, though there are some situations where others think there might be – though Ragna is always a gentleman. There are a couple of scenes where girls join him in a hot spring; he is shocked and does nothing, but the player sees them in a bikini. He confused a girl for a boy, and much embarrassment ensues. A few characters show a lot of cleavage, but the graphics are generally low detail enough where much is left to the imagination.

Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection is an absolute gem and a joy to play. I wouldn't say it's my favorite RPG release of 2017 or anything, but it also doesn't have to be. It's a very enjoyable, lighthearted game that continuously brings a smile to your face with its fun setting, dungeons, and characters. Though not without flaws or appropriateness issues, I enjoyed it a whole lot, and I highly recommend action RPG fans to take a closer look at it.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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