I’m always searching for new RPG’s to play, and this one caught my eye pretty quickly for it’s low price tag and bit style graphics from the old days. Archlion Saga is self-dubbed as a pocket-sized RPG developed by Hit-Point Co., LTD and published by Kemco for release on the Nintendo Switch in July 2019.
The story is the usual RPG fluff; legend of the Archlion Kings sealing away the serpent of darkness every 1000 years, and surprise, citizens of the world are sick and bearing the mark of the serpent, a symbol that precedes imminent death. Your mother receives he mark, makes a rash decision, and your off to the races.
I think that the one thing that you have to keep in mind, is that the game calls itself a pocket-sized RPG. I didn’t really know what that meant until starting, and then finishing the game less than two hours later. There are five chapters, including a very short prologue that takes up one of those chapter slots. Each chapter usually is comprised of a town, gaining a party member and then completing a dungeon.
There is no over world. Once you complete a chapter, you’re brought to the next location. Locations aren’t personal. Instead, the first village sign reads as “a village in the western extremes.” You’ll soon reach the “dangerous cave” and “eastern capital” among others. The result is that nothing feels memorable.
Because of it’s marketed tag, you always have a map available of the current area and chests waiting to be opened as well as a tracking feature which puts arrows onto your screen and shows you exactly where to go for your next objective.
Directional movement proved to give me issues during the short play time. Using both the Joy-Cons and the Nintendo Pro controller, I regularly had the main character just stop dead in his tracks if I were switching from moving forward to left or right. With that, the screen was very jittery at times when making transitions. At the beginning of chapter 2, you are being dropped off via carriage to the next location. The screen moves with the carriage and with keeping forward momentum, the screen pops back and your character is now outside of the carriage. It’s jarring, and it happens often.
One aspect that I felt was unique was the star system. As you play through the game, or just by finding them, you gain stars. These stars are required to open certain chests but can also be used for other things such as guaranteeing a critical hit on your next attack or doubling the experience earned after a battle, useful for completing boss battles in particular. In a sea of mediocrity, this was the shining…star, ugh.
The main thing you will notice after gaining a second party member, is that every turn you have, you only complete one action. If you want to attack, you attack with both (or three or four) characters at once. This also means that any equipment you are wearing gets applied to the group. Enemy groups also share the same mechanic. Instead of individual HP numbers, you and the enemies are just hitting at one pooled HP number.
Each character has a set of special abilities that you can use. They each have a cooldown and usage requirement. For example, you can heal a large number of HP to your party, but can only use it every four turns. Other abilities can limit use until you’re below half health as another example.
The pacing and progression of difficulty of Archlion Saga felt really off as well. Your first battle is the boss battle of the prologue, and it was fine. You learn how to attack, defend, use special abilities and your healing item in the pendant. As you begin chapter 2, right after this battle, you are led right into one button victories. Get into a battle, press the attack button, done, enemy dead. Groups of enemies would have around 48 total HP and I would be hitting for over 600, it was just strange.
This type of play would continue throughout the end of the game. In the final chapter, I would defeat a boss without an issue. Attack a few times, heal and repeat. The next battle I jumped into was a group of normal enemies and I struggled just to defeat them. After passing this area, I went right into another boss fight that provided no challenge or critical thinking to defeat.
Archlion Saga is rough around the edges. I’m usually someone who can say that I appreciated the experience of playing a game even though I didn’t like the game overall. I can’t bring myself to get there in this case. It’s not that the game is short, or stock story-wise in terms of RPG, I’ve played a ton of those and still left feeling fine about the experience, it’s the lack of any originality. I do appreciate the star system, and there is a section of chapter 3 that I enjoyed playing through, but the rest is a bit of a slog.
At the time of this review, Archlion Saga is listed at $4.99 for roughly two hours of gameplay. Shadows of Adam is another RPG on sale for $14.99 and gives a much greater return on investment. Battle Chasers: Nightwar is another on sale for $13.19, a game that I logged in over 40 hours with. There are better options out there if you’re looking for a quality game experience.
Check out my other RPG reviews here for the Nintendo Switch;
Dragon Sinker: Descendants of Legend