NIS America is releasing another game onto the Nintendo Switch from their RPG catalog next week and it’s a fast-paced action-rpg containing two games in 1 package with additional exclusives only to the Nintendo Switch such as new art, characters (Exemplars), monsters, bosses and challenges. Developed by YYT Games (YummyYummyTummy), Fallen Legion: Rise To Glory contains both previously released Fallen Legion: Flames of Rebellion (PlayStation Vita) and Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire (PlayStation 4). There are unavoidable gameplay design obstacles needing to be hurdled over, but the unique & fast-paced battle system which is also driven by its pleasing visual design makes for a fun experience.
Just as a coin has two sides, so does any story. And as that coin falls, only one will be written once it lands. Players have the choice to choose between which story to play through, even side-by-side since switching between the two versions can be done, but ultimately it’s about how you spin the coin. Players can choose between the brilliant tactician on the frontlines of the Fenumian War, Legatus Laendur (Flames of Rebellion), who wishes to take back the empire and, Princess Cecille (Sins of an Empire), who inherited both the throne to the land of Fenumia as well as a grimoire (an all-knowing talking book offering presumed advice) which has been gifted to her by her father, the king who had just passed away.
Each game tells the story from both of their perspective. The stories are intertwined, but much of the dialogue and cut-scenes are tied to their own games. However, there are events which take place that can be found within both of them and play out similarly when they involve the cast from both versions to be in the same scene, but in those shared scenes still contains additional dialogue to each of the versions.
One new feature to the western release of Rise To Glory is the option to have Japanese voice overs for characters. It’s certainly a bonus for anyone who prefers to hear the Eastern tongue for their RPG’s, but is the option which also offers the most to enhance the audio experience. The English voice overs are decent in quality, but only apply to either two protagonists and are limited to select scenes often where the protagonists speak to themselves. Most of the text will be accompanied by delicate tick sounds instead.
Every main character and NPC will be voiced in the Japanese audio option. This also applies outside of cut-scenes during actual gameplay segments where peasants, guards and others who may stop you at points and have something of interest to say. It’s too bad the amount of voiced dialogue in the English option pales in comparison, but what’s there gets the job done. It just makes you want more from those actors. Luckily, the Japanese option holds up and matches the style of the game very well. With the press of the Y button on the title screen, the language can be changed, but also be changed in the menus on the map screen.
Rise To Glory’s plot heavily focuses on either of the protagonists where little-to-no attention, aside from their closest advisers, is given to other characters you come across or are mentioned. The story begins easy enough to understand and where much of the dialogue can be seen as cliche, there are some good liners to be found here. It isn’t until the deeper you dive into your campaign where new names get thrown left & right, often coming and going without leaving an emotional impact, where it feels a bit like convoluted filler. Rise To Glory does take an approach to its storytelling where players are able to change how it unfolds, however, adding to its replayability. Your course of action alters what happens next, thus providing paths which may be unique to that single playthrough. Not only that, the subtle story beats presents itself during levels to show the results of the decisions you’ve made.
At least once and up to a few times per stage, often in a row, players will be presented with 3 choices in-between fights. These impact the game more than what meets the eye. A handful of gameplay elements are all tied to the decisions you make and affects your playthrough. During these moments, players must choose wisely and quick as it is a timed sequence. Subplots are also explained during them. An example of this could be that a nearby village is in dire need of food and beg you for some, yet at the same time it’s been explained that you and your soldiers are also low on food rations.
Do you ignore the situation? Do you execute the beggars? Do you share what little you have? Any choice made might have a positive outcome in one area of the game, but also a negative one as well. You may receive a nice permanent stat boost at the cost of your reputation. Your choices constantly buff or de-buff your characters depending on your motives and your squad’s Morale is always being factored in. But who makes up your squad? A number of Exemplars. And perhaps some secret ones to unlock if you play your cards right. A higher Morale also heals your Exemplars more after each choice made.
With little explanation about them, Exemplars seem to be folk legends who you can summon to fight on your behalf. Whether playing as Laendur or Cecille, they will always lead Exemplars into battle… from the back. Playing out in an on-rail fashion and to put it into basic RPG terms, they are essentially mages who are able to summon actual soldiers – known as Exemplars – from another plane of reality. Some have a higher defense and fight with melee weapons while others use long-range weapons. One Exemplar named Winchester uses a long-barrel rifle and can target enemies who are furthest away and out of reach from the melee Exemplars. Not only so, she’s able to silence magic users from using spells for 10 seconds. All Exemplars are certainly unique and stand apart from each other. Where they are similar is the battle system itself.
Laendur and Cecille are always in charge of spells by pressing X. Switching between which spells to use is done by holding either Up or Down on the d-pad. Up+X revives a fallen Exemplar while Down+X heals all Exemplars with a 10 second regeneration effect, although the latter can be changed to a different spell eventually. However, they can only use spells as long as they have mana and in order to generate mana for spells, which each keep track of their own amount, attacks need to be performed with Exemplars. As you can see, all of their actions are mapped to one button and it’s no different for each of the exemplars, as they are mapped to Y, B and A respectively. Their basic attacks costs 1 Attack Point (AP) and each Exemplar has a total of 3 and refills with time. Players may choose which input to use for Exemplars before starting a stage; as well as their Deathblows.
Deathblows are special moves with certain abilities to give you a benefit during battles and additional ones can be unlocked for each of the Exemplars. In order to execute one, an attack must be performed on a glowing blue node in the chain combo gauge shown in the bottom portion of the screen. Attacks made in succession without being hit chains a combo and the Exemplar who attacked on the correct node will perform the Deathblow they are equipped with. These specific nodes could be placed anywhere on the chain. If an Exemplar has been attacked, however, the chain count resets. Luckily, players can guard from attacks by pressing L. Guarding plays a large part in Fallen Legion. Doing so enabled all three Exemplars to block at the same time and decreases incoming damage as well as reset your chains. However, raising your guard just at the correct time before a blow from your enemy hits you performs a Perfect guard which not only nullifies damage but also counts towards your combo meter. It’s also good to leave enemies defenseless and stunned as attacks cause more damage. If your front Exemplars have been taking too much damage or are nearing death as indicated by them flashing red, pressing ZL will change the positions of your Exemplars. Keep in mind the inputs they are mapped to remains the same.
Certain Exemplars compliment each other especially with their abilities. Players can perform a link attack by first performing a perfect guard against an attack with one Exemplar and then immediately attacking with another. These are more powerful versions of standard attacks. At the cost of all 3 AP if they are available, an Exemplar may also perform them by holding ZR before attacking. Perfect guards are nearly required for overcoming some of the toughest battles, if not most of them. They essentially are for many of the boss battles you encounter. Sometimes that perfect blocking is all you need to gain the upper hand. Often that’s all it takes, deflecting a spell right back. Should all three of your Exemplars fall in battle, Desperation takes over requiring your to mash X to recharge your mana rapidly. Spells may be used when each has enough mana, but ultimately it’s about reviving an Exemplar as soon as possible. Should you fail to do so in time, one hit to the Laendur or Cecille will cause a game over. If a stage has a boss and you fail to reach it before you die, you will be forced to restart from the beginning of that stage. However, meeting with a boss will allow you to continue from their battle should you die. If you’ve earned a Relic during stage and as a reward from a choice made, they can be used to turn the tides by pressing R. They destroy when used and are only good for that stage only.
There’s also has pretty good music. Some tracks hit emotional points while others are more fast-paced arcadey-guitar tunes because of course they are. The audio paces along with the action happening on the screen. Ambiance should also be noted here. The sounds of cow bells and goats fills the air in village stages, a hammer hitting an anvil in towns, water drops in buildings and the sounds of nature in forests. They don’t leave an everlasting impact, but they’re a subtle enough detail worth noting. The game also has nice colors on display with the art having smooth shades in the stages and background layers. The Exemplars look decent enough, but they aren’t as strong as the various humanoid and beastly enemies and bosses. They might not leave you saying “wow”, but it’s easy to acknowledge just how well they actually look. With so much happening at once, the animation quality doesn’t take much of a hit. It also has little details such as seeing farmers who you bump into on the road who dare to fight you with a pitchfork because of the choices you’ve made, but they are fragile and tremble, showing the effects of your actions.
Fallen Legion: Rise To Glory offers pretty visual effects which happen on-screen as well as an exhilarating battle system that’s simple to understand, but offers some depth to it as well. Unfortunately, those positives also creates a bit of downfall leaving the full experience feeling it needed more polish. There’s so much to keep track on during battles, but it’s not the difficult part if you’ve gotten the rhythm down for battles, albeit still challenging. It’s the unfairness caused by the unbalanced design choices. You see, there are so many effects on-screen that during some points they completely block what’s going on making it difficult to read an attack and perfect guard. Piling on top of that is enemies often sticking close to one another and/or completely blocking their visibility not making it easy to see them at all. Factor in camera shifts to enemies who are further away and straying away from your own party while all of this happens makes it a complete aggravation during some of the most intense moments. Often you’ll need to read your enemy’s attack and time your guards perfectly which makes it trial & error. Some enemies just have harder reads which may seem unfair because the animation before one of their two different attacks looks completely the same and knowing when to perfect guard them is a complete gamble on its own. Clutter the screen with enemies and effects and it’s easy to lose track. I don’t feel like this was or should be an intentional part of development, but certainly one that was overlooked, despite still being wicked fun to play.